McCartney and Critics

 

Mike and Nancy’s great posts about Starostin’s critique of Abbey Road led to a lively discussion about how Paul Paul in the studioMcCartney is viewed and treated by music critics, particularly with respect to his early solo efforts.

This is a great topic and one that I think deserves its own post. Why is it that Macca seems to run afoul of critics?  Is there a particular set of reasons or circumstances we can pinpoint which would explain it?

In their interview with author Tim Doyle, author of Man on the Run, Paul McCartney in the 70’s,  Mike and Nancy asked a similar question:

Why do you think Paul was often treated harshly by critics, especially in the 70s and 80s? Which of his post-Beatles work do you think will last?

I think he was unfairly treated for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he was presented as supremely confident, to the point of slight smugness, in the film Let It Be. Secondly, he was then seen to have “quit” the band. So I think the critics’ knives were sharpened for his next records, and were seen as lacking when held up against the golden light of The Beatles.

Also, it was the era of heavy rock, heavy statements, and so he was seen as lightsome — which in fairness, a lot of his ‘70s stuff was. But the reissue program of his ‘70s albums is certainly painting them in a different light; I think Ram, Band On The Run and even Venus And Mars will be viewed as key albums of that decade.

I find it intriguing that, decades later, McCartney’s early solo albums are viewed more favourably than when they were first issued.  The music hasn’t changed– but something has, and I think it’s the culture of rock itself.

(For your interest, an interview with Geoff Emerick, who sings Paul’s praises–someone has to.)

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129 Comments

  1. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    “Firstly, he was presented as supremely confident, to the point of slight smugness, in the film Let It Be. ”

    I’m sorry… WHAT film? Let it Be? You mean the one where Paul is so depressed he’s abandoned his compulsive grooming habits? The one where he’s practically crying every 5 minutes?
    I call BULLSHIT.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      It’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it. It’s like everyone bought the Lennono story line about pushy Paul (a storyline aided and abetted by George and Ringo at the time), but no-one reviewed the data to see if it was actually credible.

      • Avatar Water Falls wrote:

        Yes Karen, talk about your pretty shoddy journalism. I think Jann Wenner, who worshipped John Lennon at that time, bought “angry” John’s version of events, and used Rolling Stone, to spead the talking points to other Lennon biased rock music critics, smeared Paul with uninvestigated lies to damage his reputation and career for decades. I’m no journalist so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I thought they were supposed to try to confirm the facts and also attempt to show the other side or sides to a story. Did they ever follow up with Paul’s point of view? If so, how long after the “Lennon Remembers” interview? Did they ballyhoo Paul’s pov? Check with George Martin and his engineers? When John cooled his anger at Paul and admitted his less than candid (lies about Paul) rants, did they probe as to why he did it, did they let him off easy with his explanation of “I was just taking a piss out of Paul.”? Seems to me what they did was rushed to judgement of Paul and recklessly stood by what they initially printed about him instead of owning up to their own sloppy, hack, amateur journalism at its worst. It seems the Lennon bias biographers of The Beatles took it up from there. It really pisses me off. SMH.

        • Avatar Michael Gerber wrote:

          @WaterFalls, there’s no obligation for a journalist to confirm an interview subject’s answers to a question — in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. I think there’s an assumption that readers will know this is just opinion.
          .
          In the case of John’s interview, Wenner clearly didn’t challenge him enough — and he wasn’t going to, because until that interview went to press, Lennon had all the power. He could’ve walked out during; pulled it after it was sent to him for review; and so forth. But the moment that interview was published, Wenner then had all the power, and remained in that position for the rest of John’s life. Which is what John was REALLY mad about, not Wenner publishing a book — that was just an excuse.
          .
          The fairest way would’ve been to give Paul space in a future issue to rebut, in an interview of his own. But that wasn’t going to happen.

        • Avatar Ruth wrote:

          I think Rolling Stone’s UVA story demonstrates just how uninterested it is in verifying facts.

          Rolling Stone did eventually publish a major interview with Paul, but that wasn’t until January 1974, after Klein had been ousted. Paul offers a blanket dismissal of “Lennon Remembers” in it, and declares that he’s sure John no longer believes what he said, but that’s about as far in-depth as they go. There’s certainly no effort from the interviewer — Gambaccini, I believe — to address some of the more controversial claims John made in LR, such as he and Yoko using heroin because of George and Paul, or John’s claim to having written “Eleanor Rigby.”

          So far as I know, neither Wenner nor Rolling Stone ever bothered to interview either Martin or Emerick to verify anything John said in LR. Even if they had, given the climate at the time, I don’t believe it would have mattered. Both Philip Norman and Ray Coleman interviewed Martin for “Shout!” and “John Lennon: A Life,” respectively, and Martin’s testimony explicitly identified John and Paul as musical equals and geniuses, both in their interviews with him *and* in his previous memoirs. But both Coleman and Norman ignored Martin’s informed, consistent, primary eyewitness testimony in favor of promoting their own biased views.

          I have never seen an admission from Wenner that “Lennon Remembers” was anything less than the gospel truth, and never expect to. As recently as 2000, he was still describing it, in the re-edition’s foreword, as “*the* statement about the end of the Beatles.” Given that “Lennon Remembers ” was a powerful journalistic coup for Rolling Stone, and that its in Rolling Stone’s best interest to promote it as the defining document of the breakup, it would undermine Rolling Stone’s self-interest to acknowledge that the interview it built its reputation on is really an exaggerated rant by a drug-addled Lennon, rather than a truthful account of the circumstances behind the split. A few authors have called Wenner out on his partisanship: Kimsey in “The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles:” “Wenner hitched his magazine’s wagon to the Lennon-Ono star in 1971” and Michael Brocken in “The Beatles Bibliography”: “Twenty years after Lennon’s death, Jann Wenner was still peddling the absurd and self-aggrandizing myth that Lennon was the heart and soul of the Beatles and McCartney the pop sugar-coating.” But the willingness of so many people, for decades, to swallow what Wenner was selling is, I believe, a huge reason for why Beatles historiography was so skewed and partisan in the 1970s and 80s.

          • @Ruth, I’m no defender of Rolling Stone, especially when it comes to their treatment of Paul McCartney, but there’s a vast difference between allegations of a crime in a piece of serious journalism, and statements made by a rock star about his old bandmate. And even if Wenner had tried to source things like Paul’s bossiness, George certainly would’ve confirmed that, and probably Ringo too.

            Publications do not have limitless time and money, and if a source who should know the truth chooses instead to actively obsfucate the truth by lying, that’s gotta be on them. Lennon Remembers is, in the end, John’s sin, not Wenner’s. And it’s our responsibility to take what John says (and Paul, and George, and George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Peter Brown, and on and on) with the appropriate grain of salt. When John’s talking about Paul, that grain should be so big it’s difficult to carry.

            To me, the interesting issue is why did fans believe John’s version of events, with so much evidence to he contrary? Why do so many people believe it now? What does it confirm or satisfy for them?

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            I agree there’s a difference between the two stories, Michael. But according to numerous books and articles, “Lennon Remembers” was the most important interview that Rolling Stone had ever, or *has* ever, published. It established Wenner’s magazine as a legitimate force in the press, and became a widely accepted part of rock lore, regurgitated by countless authors. In my opinion, the most famous and influential article a magazine had ever published should be sourced, or at least balanced, by offering an opposing POV. And while I agree that “Lennon Remembers” was John’s sin, the continued promotion of it, well after Lennon had privately and publicly denounced its importance, is Wenner’s. Continuing to push the interview as the truth about the Beatles and the breakup, as Wenner has continued to do, demonstrates that he is motivated by partisanship and self-interest.

            As for why so many people believed it, I think Paul created a vacuum with the McCartney press release, shocking and angering the world, and then did nothing, P.R. wise, to fill it. Paul’s P.R. failure in this time period has never really been acknowledged, even though numerous contemporaneous articles discuss how badly all the press reports looked for Paul in 1970/1971. John filled that vacuum with Lennon Remembers, and Klein, George and others piled on with trial testimony. Its very, very difficult to dislodge an Orthodoxy, especially when the current narrative suits the politics of the time, as “Lennon Remembers” did, and when contradictory evidence is not forthcoming. Once it became an Orthodoxy, than it perpetuated itself until it became accepted wisdom. Look at John’s jibe, in LR, that Paul was the world’s greatest P.R. guy. Here’s John, giving a day’s long interview to a sycophantic reporter who is accepting everything John says as Gospel, where Paul has spent much of the last year refusing to talk to anyone in the press. But because John labeled Paul the P.R. guy, it stuck, even though John gave far more interviews during the breakup period than Paul did. Then Beatles authorities like Norman and Coleman accepted the common wisdom and perpetuated it by both reiterating John’s breakup era claims without question *and* by adding further anti-Paul speculation, such as Paul plotting to boot Stu out of the band to get the bass. This narrative built on itself and became so widely accepted that no one dared question it; vestiges of it still remain, and people still accept and want to believe it, because it was either the first version they heard, and believed, or because of confirmation bias.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I read Mike’s comment and yours with great interest, Ruth, because I hold Rolling Stone at least partly responsible for the debacle that is Lennon Remembers.
            .
            By either omission or commission– by not asking the right questions or by asking all the wrong ones– Jann Wenner shaped the interview to get the kind of response he got. That, in my view, makes him at least as culpable as John for the decades-long fallout.

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            Karen, I agree with the argument that Rolling Stone, and Jann Wenner in particular, bears some of the responsibility for the damage wrought by “Lennon Remembers.” Reading the interview, its impossible to ignore Wenner’s sycophancy and his leading questions. Wenner doesn’t just allow John to go off onto a rant unchecked, which is an error in and of itself; he encourages it, by failing to note John’s inconsistencies (“Paul and I stopped writing together in 1962, but we worked really closely together writing “Pepper”) and by asking leading questions seemingly to provoke John into complaining about Paul. When John describes Paul as “stable,” Wenner labels him as “Straight.” Wenner also speculates that Paul’s “McCartney” cover, with a picture of baby Mary, was a taunt by Paul and Linda; “look, we can have kids, and John and Yoko can’t!” He is provoking John to complain about Paul.
            Numerous other journalists have acknowledged how one of the weaknesses of LR is Wenner’s allowance and encouragement for John to exaggerate and vent unchecked and unchallenged, but the reality is that Wenner wanted and encouraged John to shoot his mouth off, and provoked him, numerous times.

            The contrast between what John is telling Wenner in LR and what he’s telling another reporter, Ray Connolly, in the same time period, is a great contrast between partisan and non-partisan journalism. When John told Connolly that he had written “80% of the Beatles lyrics,” Connolly rightfully dismissed it, and didn’t print it, because he knew and realized John’s ingrained habit of exaggeration. (Where Wenner blithely published the lie that John and Paul had stopped writing together in 1962). When John would criticize Paul’s vocals, Connolly would defend Paul’s talent and range, and John would backtrack and admit his admiration for some of Paul’s work. The difference is that, while Connolly liked Lennon, he also liked Paul, and he wasn’t a fanboy the way Wenner was. John had a genius for tailoring his interviews to suit the wishes of the interviewer — to provide them with the particular story they wanted. Connolly didn’t want an all out John vs. Paul war, because he liked both of them, so when John talked to Connolly, he was much more balanced — or about as balanced as John ever got in that time period. Wenner wanted John Vs. Paul in LR; it would help him sell copies, it would establish his magazine as John’s mouthpiece during the breakup; it suited his political and fanboy interests. Ultimately, what John said in LR is his responsibility, but Wenner encouraged him, and displayed (by his own admission) novice attempts at journalism. This irresponsibly helped establish a highly partisan and incorrect view of the breakup and the Beatles. Countless sources have contradicted much of what John said in LR, but Wenner has never acknowledged its flaws.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I want to up-vote your response a million times, Ruth. There’s only one other person I find as detestable as Klein during this terrible and utterly avoidable break-up debacle, and that’s Wenner.

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            Here’s John, giving a day’s long interview to a sycophantic reporter who is accepting everything John says as Gospel, where Paul has spent much of the last year refusing to talk to anyone in the press. But because John labeled Paul the P.R. guy, it stuck

            This is a pet peeve of mine as a Beatles fan. You see it everywhere too, even now. I see it on famous fan blogs that get thousands of hits and I know everyone is reading them, including Beatles authors. And the person writing the blog should know better at this point, but this myth keeps perpetuating itself. ‘Oh look at this You Tube clip…Paul is the only one smiling…Well after all he WAS the P.R. guy! Oh see this picture? Paul has his arm around a fan but John and George don’t. But of course Paul WAS the P.R. guy! Oh look! Paul is standing slightly in front of the others and oh he’s smiling again. But we all know it’s because he WAS the P.R. guy…wow what a P.R. guy he was that Paul. It seems he couldn’t take a breath that was a little louder than the other’s intake of breath without being labeled ‘ The P.R. guy.’ So annoying because there is absolutely no proof (once again) that he was more concerned about P.R. than the others.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I think Paul was much more public relations-conscious and public relations-savvy than John, George, and Ringo–and thank god for it. The slightest misstep had HUGE ramifications for celebrities in the early days (hello John and Jesus). For some reason, being good at P.R. has become synonymous with dishonesty, but that’s nonsense, as we well know.

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            I think there’s a fair share of legitimacy to the image of Paul the “PR” guy *during the band’s functioning years*. Tony Bramwell, Tony Barrow, Peter Brown and others all identify Paul as the one most willing to do P.R., and Paul admits it in several interviews during the actual Beatles period, around 1967-68. “That’s my job, chatting up the press and all that.” There are enough contemporaneous articles and reports identifying Paul as the band’s primary PR guy that I don’t think its retrospective revisionism. (Of course, part of the reason Paul wound up doing so much PR at this time was that John and George didn’t want to bother with it).

            Where the image gets skewed is that, because of Paul’s image as the PR guy, and
            because of what John said, countless people believe that Paul’s PR image is *always* on, and that he was almost the most interested in manipulating, courting, and talking to the press. But that simply isn’t true. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; during the breakup, Paul failed utterly at P.R. He failed both to get out a compelling message and to largely get his message out at all. John, Yoko and others trumped him in both the quantity and quality of interviews; Paul failed to court and talk to the press the way they did, and he’s been paying for it ever since.

            If you look at the number of interviews during the breakup period on the Beatles Interview Database, for example, John’s interviews
            considerably outnumber Paul’s. During the most crucial PR period for any member of the band since 1963/64, Paul dropped off the face of the earth and refused to give interviews for a year. The ones he did give were short, defensive, and usually in response to statements John had already made. John was on the offense, Paul was on the defense, and John’s narrative was more compelling and politically savvy.
            During and after the trial, you had three Beatles, plus Yoko and Klein, all blaming Paul for the split and giving interviews to that effect, but Paul largely remained silent, giving almost no interviews until April 1971. Unlike Klein, the Eastman’s gave almost no interviews either; the only ones I’ve been able to find were in “Apple to the Core.” Meanwhile, John and Yoko were talking to anyone who would shove a microphone under their faces. Not all their interviews dealt with the split, but their press and public profile was sky high.

            Paul created the vacuum with the McCartney press release; John filled it, John provided scores more interviews than Paul did, (as did George, Yoko and Klein);John provided a simple, “heroes and villains, black and white” narrative that was both easy to understand and (particularly for the rock press) suited the politics of the time; John gave “Lennon Remembers,” the defining document of the breakup-era period, which put Paul on the defensive from almost the very beginning … but despite all this, *Paul* still has the reputation as the greatest PR man. And during the band’s heyday, I think he was. During its dissolution, though, and the aftermath, there’s no doubt that John took that title.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I have a comment for you Ruth, but the thread has gotten so skinny I had to move it down!

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            Where the image gets skewed is that, because of Paul’s image as the PR guy, and
            because of what John said, countless people believe that Paul’s PR image is *always* on, and that he was almost the most interested in manipulating, courting, and talking to the press.

            Well exactly. He wasn’t always on, but people (and John I guess?) have taken a fairly innocuous reflection of one member of a famous rock band and turned it into some sort of pathology. Tony Barrow said that Paul was better at articulating his thoughts verbally, so he preferred him to do the speaking and even asked him to step in as spokesman on John’s behalf. Before that however, Paul may have been better at ” chatting up the press” but there are incidents that showed Paul not giving much of a damn about p.r. . He told Datebook that America is a “lousy country where anyone black is called a *” and he booed the cops in front of $50,000 people and on national television, during the Shea concert, while John scolded him, telling him to stop. He could also be acid tongued and sarcastic at press conferences. None of these incidents make good p.r.. The point I’m making is history has taken something, in this case someone who was for the most part, naturally friendly so he got saddled with being the Beatles’ default meet and greet guy and sometimes apologist, and turned it into something unsavory. There’s the implication that he was phony, and slick, like he could also sell you a bridge while simultaneously lifting your wallet and you wouldn’t be the wiser. Like so much of what John said about Paul in the Wenner interview, it has become definitive and ridiculous.

          • @Linda (and all) — one of the things worth keeping in mind as we discuss: Lennon didn’t do Lennon Remembers knowing that he would have less than ten years to live. He didn’t do the interviews in 1980 realizing that they would be his last statements on x, y, and z. Much of what is most annoying and unfair about the distortions in Lennon Remembers comes from the Holy Writ quality they took on immediately following Lennon’s death. Wenner encouraged this process, for reasons of commerce and ego; and Yoko did too, for some of the same reasons. She could’ve been more forceful in correcting the record, and she hasn’t, and that’s on her.

  2. Man, what a great interview with Geoff Emerick — it’s particularly nice to hear someone setting the record straight after the “Lennon Remembers” onslaught; PR aside, did any knowledgable fan really doubt that John would quit after a song was 95% right, and it was Paul pushing it that last 5%?
    .
    I think that’s why John said all that in 1970; I think he was terrified, as only Insecure John could be, that people would discover how dominant Paul’s musicianship had been in the studio. And so he flipped the script, making Paul’s quality control a problem…as opposed to why the Beatles were still so great after 1967.

    Also, interesting facts about the physical strain on Ringo.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      It really was a great interview.
      .
      As someone who is also a bit of a perfectionist, I identify with Paul. It’s hard to work with others, no matter how talented, who settle for second-rate work simply because they get lazy. Those folks tend to appreciate your attention to detail and commitment to excellence, but resent you just the same.
      .
      It’s also easy to understand George’s resentment as well as John’s. I imagine there were plenty of times in addition to Taxman that Paul stepped in to do the work when George couldn’t, and that must have grated on George exponentially. Paul was kind of in a no-win situation.

      (p.s. the reply button doesn’t work for some reason. I had to go into the dashboard to reply directly.)

      • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

        BTW, Karen, congratulations on finding a picture of Paul rocking both the Mullet and Pornstache. Those are truly special!

        • Avatar Drew wrote:

          I don’t like the use of this picture on this topic. A topic on John’s music wouldn’t be illustrated with an embarrassingly bad photo of John. But this is what writers always do to Paul. Instead of taking Paul’s music seriously they start the discussion by seeking to embarrass him or demean him. After all, he’s just the lightweight, right? Why take him or his music seriously?

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I was looking for a photo that was 70’s Paul. That photo, to me, is 70’s Paul. And I don’t think it’s embarrassingly bad at all. And please don’t make assumptions about my intentions, Drew. If you don’t like the photo, so noted. But that’s as far as that goes.
            .
            And yeah Chelsea–he did rock the mullet and pornstache!

          • Avatar Drew wrote:

            He didn’t have this mustache for the most of the 70s so this picture is not at all representative of how he looked in the decade. I just don’t think the way to start a serious discussion about his solo work is to use an unrepresentative photo that people frequently use to ridicule him with words like “pornstache.” There are literally 1,000s of more representative photos of him from this decade than this one.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Well we wouldn’t want you to have trouble focusing, Drew. 🙂
            .
            I’ve put in a new one.

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            Re photo. I must have come to the party late because that’s the photo I saw from the beginning. So I was confused. Didn’t know what people were talking about with comments like mullet or pornstache, and not liking the photo. I never saw a mullet or mustache, only the very flattering, early 70’s pic posted above. So…Thanks for the eye candy…oh and also, another great post

  3. Avatar Drew wrote:

    McCartney’s battering by the critics stems from two sources:
    1. The purposeful campaign that John Lennon pursued to suck up to the very small, narrow, incestuous circle of music critics in that period. John was angry and vicious and petty and wanted to hurt Paul — and did. Critics in that pre-internet era were like a small exclusive club that wielded extraordinary influence and John ingratiated himself with its members; Paul didn’t. Music critics were the gatekeepers: And you had to conform to their very rigid rules on what was good music. Paul marched to his own beat instead of conforming to those rules.

    2. Paul himself. He really is the worst PR man — contrary to John’s comment. Paul seems to have exceedingly poor instincts about the zeitgeist. John had great instincts. He knew what would be perceived as cool. And lets face it: In music the “cool” factor is often more important than the music. The cool factor can take average music and make it seem exceptional. To this day, Paul lacks that cool factor and behaves inexplicably. He makes these cringe-y videos about meat-free Monday or his new Skype emojis. He’s sported this awful dyed hair for a decade. What man with any instincts for good PR would walk around with the dreadful hair he’s had for 10 years?? Music critics and music fans want to prove their own cool by latching on to artists that are cool. And you can’t do that with Paul. So a lot of great music he’s made as a solo artists gets ignored/demeaned because people don’t find his happy-chappy schtick to be sincere or cool.

    It’s been wonderful to see today’s younger, more democratic, less cliquish group of music critics praise some of Paul’s solo albums — Ram, McCartney & McCartney 2, his Fireman work. Paul’s recent albums would get more praise if he didn’t look/act as goofy and awkwardly as he does these days. But he can’t help himself. He’s been too badly damaged by fame.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      “Paul himself. He really is the worst PR man — contrary to John’s comment. Paul seems to have exceedingly poor instincts about the zeitgeist.”
      .
      I wonder if that was because Paul didn’t particularly care. He was no dummy–he could have projected a different image but chose not to. He released Mary Had A Little Lamb, for crying out loud–I think the guy was making a statement.

      • Avatar Drew wrote:

        But he clearly does care. Way too much. Just look at the recent Skype emoji project he did. He went out of his way to rationalize and explain why he’d done such a seemingly “frivolous” (in his word) project. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t spend so much time explaining himself. He’d just do it and not make all these bizarre videos and give all these rambling interviews where he seems to try to defend his motives even before he’s been criticized. He’s massively defensive about everything these days. And I completely understand why. The man has gotten endless grief since the Beatles ended. And for a person like Paul — who desperately wants to be liked and revered and respected — it must drive him crazy that he became the Beatle people love to use as a punching bag.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          Paul is definitely über-conscious of his public image; `twas ever thus. But one gets the impression that Paul likes who he is and is not about to change himself to appease a bunch of sod-offs in the press. So what does a person like Paul do? He spends tons of time explaining himself because he knows that it’s to his advantage to court the press. It’s a dance Paul has done ever since he became a Beatle. And like you, I really wish he didn’t have to do it.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            Exactly, Karen. It was clear to me after reading du Noyer’s Conversations with McCartney that while Paul is keenly aware of his public image, he recognizes that it’s also protective. He’s made some very canny comments over the years about how he knows people like faults and vulnerability, but for the sake of his own psyche he’s not going to offer that to the public. And Paul gets too little credit for that, IMO. When people with 1/100th of his fame collapse under the pressure, he’s managed to be possibly the most well-adjusted icon who ever was.

            Paul’s been extremely famous for his entire adult life, and yet he managed to not only avoid any major meltdowns or missteps, he also avoided any major addiction issues or sex scandals. He also managed to raise four (so far) adult children who seem content and well-adjusted, two of them in the public eye. If a bad second marriage sandwiched between two long happy ones if the worst legacy he’ll leave, then that’s more we can say about many rock icons (even Bowie had the barnacle known as Angie haunting him forever).

            Paul’s confessed at times that it’s far more effort to appear happy and carefree in public than it would be to just “let it all hang out,” but it wouldn’t do him any good. I’m thinking specifically of the years Linda was battling breast cancer and how Paul put on a publicly optimistic face. You could hardly tell anything was wrong during the promotion of Flaming Pie. Yet after her death, he admitted that he blatantly lied in public about the state of her health. To Paul, protecting his own and his family’s privacy will always be tantamount, and whatever tapdancing he does in public is justified.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Absolutely. And like all artists, his art reflects who he is. And who he is, is a nice, well-adjusted man who doesn’t need to bleed on every record for the sake of making the Jann Wenners of the world happy. Truth be told, I would kind of like to see more of the inner Paul, both in print and on records, but I don’t fault him for it, like so many critics seem to be doing.

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            I would kind of like to see more of the inner Paul, both in print and on records,

            I don’t know, maybe it’s only me but I think most (not all by any means) but most of his music is emotionally revealing IMO. Especially his later music. Maybe he isn’t obvious about it, but I think both his lyrics and music show his inner self.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Paul’s lyrics are like that, aren’t they? The resonate with some but not with others.

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            You could hardly tell anything was wrong during the promotion of Flaming Pie

            He seemed strained whenever he appeared in public during her illness. And there were times when he even started to cry but stopped himself, notably on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Ruth to me he was not himself. His joking was forced and his face was tight. Of every celebrity I’ve always found Paul to be the most unable to hide his feelings. I noticed this all through the Beatles years too.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            Linda, I was a newish Beatles fan at the time FP came out, but I’m not sure how much would’ve been obvious to the average person or the casual fan. To me, the most marked thing was just the total absence of Linda from the public eye, and Paul’s largely dropping from public as well (save for FP promotion).

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            but I’m not sure how much would’ve been obvious to the average person or the casual fan.

            Good point Ruth. I guess to a new fan it wouldn’t have been as obvious. I’ve been a Beatles fan probably since 1964, and a mega (sometimes you could say obsessed) fan definitely since 1970.

        • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

          I disagree that Paul is overly defensive. I’d love to know where all these “many” interviews he did explaining himself over and over are. He released one short “making of” video to his website about the emojis, and did one interview to an obscure music blog. Rather, he smacks of, “I don’t care what people think. I was asked to do it, it sounded like a fun challenge, so I did it.”

          On Paul’s own official forum, middle-aged white fans have been in fits for months over his “daring” to collaborate with Kanye West, and there has been constant bitching over his concert set list. If Paul was interested in merely being a nostalgia act and seen as “cool” to his core constituency, he would do things to flatter them.

          • @rose, I think you bring up something worth keeping in mind as we talk about these issues: while I think it’s clear that Paul wants to be liked (who doesn’t?), that is trumped by other things. His musical curiosity, for example.

            The guy is complex, as we all are. Lots of competing desires.

          • Avatar Angie wrote:

            I think the collaboration with Kanye was fantastic. And I really hope that Paul hanging out with Beck in that party fiasco this week means they might be making an album together.

            But I do agree that Paul gives too many interviews and that he always sounds like he’s anticipating criticism and trying to get out in front of it. Dylan, Bowie, Springsteen, Jagger — none of them do (or in Bowie’s case, did) as much press as Paul. And it’s too much. He definitely comes off as defensive. To me, he smacks of, “I’m worried about what people will think and so let me explain why I did what I did.” Paul should do what he wants and not explain at all.

            Great blog, by the way. 🙂

          • Thanks, @Angie.

            Perhaps Paul’s tendency towards over-exposure is a simply a habit — though whether picked up during the Beatle years or defending himself during the solo years, I can’t say. Surely during the Seventies there was a sense that John would utterly dominate the discussion if Paul didn’t get his version out there (e.g. Lennon Remembers).

          • Avatar Hanna wrote:

            I’d like to know what’s wrong with doing the emojis in the first place. People seem to take everything Paul does so seriously. Surely his not trying to create “art” with it, it’s just a fun little project which doesn’t take anything away from his great achievements.

            I guess that one reason some critics are so confused with Paul is that he does so many different things for different purposes. For example the Frog song was made for a children’s movie, not supposed to be an artistic masterpiece, but for some reason people always bring it up to put down Paul (maybe they secretly can’t stop listening to it). Some his songs are like “party songs” without any serious content, just creating good atmosphere and then others are very personal and “deep”. He also does many different genres and styles and is quite fearless to try new things. So maybe critics don’t like that they can’t identify him because he does “everything”.

            I think Paul himself would like to have that kind of “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude toward those certain critics and sometimes he succeeds, but his compulsive need to please everybody and his insecurity makes it difficult for him to ignore the haters. Maybe it also has caused Paul difficulty to distinguish constructive criticism and nasty and hateful comments that are meant to insult. Paul is such a fascinating person, I’d like to know more about his childhood. Maybe it wan’t really so happy than he has implied?

            That said, for me Paul has the last decade seemed quite comfortable with himself. My conception is that nowadays those normans and wenners are in minority: most of the world sees a respected music legend when they look at Paul.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            I absolutely agree that Paul seems the most comfortable with himself the past decade or so. I think the time he seemed most defensive and insecure was when he was with Heather Mills, who I think was probably emotionally abusive to him. The divorce judgement shows that she was constantly hectoring and pressuring him to do things for her, make her a star, make her beloved, and it’s clear it wore him down. The isolation from his kids and long term friends during that time (a.k.a the people who like him just for who he is) would have compounded that.

  4. Avatar Michael Gerber wrote:

    Here’s the deal with Paul McCartney and critics, as far as I am concerned; I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere in quite this way, and it’s a been difficult to define, but once you see it, it explains a lot of why a truly remarkable entertainer, great musician, and generally pretty solid guy has come in for a lot of undeserved criticism.

    The Beatles were the first shot in a revolution in entertainment — not only in the content of showbiz, but how entertainers presented themselves to the public, and fan expectations of those entertainers. The Beatles’ content was very different and thrilling; but there was also an approachability to them, and a mutually agreed upon idea that what fans saw was “the real them.” This was to some degree a fantasy.

    This new code was enforced by critics, who were really acting like empowered superfans. Wenner’s relationship with Lennon and Dylan and ilk was echoed by his staff. The benefits to playing by these new rules were immense — a level of fame, money, and power orders of magnitude greater than before — but the penalties were as cruel or crueler than the old penalties had been.

    In the old showbiz, the entertainer’s job was to do good work, and to publicly inhabit his/her image. Take for example Cary Grant; what was Cary Grant’s position on integration? The question itself seems absurd. He was an actor, and a celebrity; he wasn’t a politician or intellectual. People were not looking to Cary Grant for their political opinions, they were looking to him to entertain them, make good movies, and put forth a certain kind of masculine ideal. Who Cary Grant really was, what he did in his private life — this was besides the point, and how his relationship with Randy Scott (for example) could exist unhindered.

    “A private life” is itself an Old Showbiz concept. In the new showbiz, there is no private life. It is all served up to us, the fans, with the expectation that it is fundamentally accurate. Part of what was thrilling about “A Hard Day’s Night,” and part of what was missing in “HELP!” was the idea that this was how the Beatles really were, behind closed doors. “Let It Be” tried to take this even further, to keep up with the ever-more access of the New Showbiz. But part of the problem with that movie is that fans don’t really want to see their heroes sitting around, smoking cigs and bickering. It’s fun for about five minutes. We say we want the truth, but what we really want is a fantasy that feels real.

    John instinctively understood the New Showbiz. He helped make it — and was quite literally made for it, in that his psychological damage caused him to have very weak boundaries and a shaky sense of self, especially after diurnal use of LSD in 1966-67. Being interviewed helped John Lennon know who he was; it reassured him.

    Paul, on the other hand, was made for the Old Showbiz. The things we discuss on the blog — his compulsive working, his tendency to keep his feelings private, his need for a personal connection to invest in politics, his focus on his family, his access with boundaries — these are simply the Old Showbiz rules. Which New Showbiz critics hated. Old Showbiz was their parents’ world. This is why they could look at Paul McCartney and see — of all people! — a crooning non-entity like Englebert Humperdinck.

    Paul plays by Old Showbiz rules because that is the world that attracted him in the first place; young Paul wanted to be a musician, not Jesus Christ. And when interviewers ask him profound questions — the ones that get Lennon talking for days and make him such good copy — Paul doesn’t know what to say. I mean, he has opinions, like we all do, but that’s not why he’s in that chair. That’s not what he came here to talk about.

    In part, Paul doesn’t do New Showbiz because he sees what it does to people back. He doesn’t want guys like A.J. Webberman pawing through his garbage — and that’s the least of it. When people called John Lennon “a hypocrite,” they were saying that he’d broken the unspoken contract of the New Showbiz: we give you our hearts and money, and you let us live vicariously through you and make us think we too will become famous and beloved. When John talks in his 1980 interviews, he really sounds just like a normal person — someone who you would like to hang out with, and vice versa. Then when you read about his life at the time — about the rooms full of furs and shoes and briefcases — you realize that his bread-baking persona is as much an act as Cary Grant’s pretending to be straight. And some fans get mad because, unlike Cary Grant, that wasn’t the bargain.

    New Showbiz is why RAM, for example, got panned when it came out. The New Showbiz only respects and understands “How Do You Sleep?” Instead, Paul gives them “Too Many People” — tuneful, oblique, private; Old Showbiz. (The whole reason John always beat Paul in their “private feud” is simple: he insisted upon doing it in public, where he knew that Paul’s Old Showbiz instincts would always keep him from spilling the beans. Paul could’ve given the mother of all interviews in 1971 if he wanted to. “Yeah, Yoko approached me first, but I turned her down. For reasons that should be pretty obvious; she’s a stage mother…Yeah, John called a meeting in 1968 and announced he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Which is OK, unless you really love the guy, as I do. We were all worried as hell. So I pushed everybody into the studio, so he wouldn’t crack up.”)

    RAM got panned in 1971 because they were reading it via the rules of the New Showbiz, but it wasn’t explicit enough for them to understand. When they heard “Eat At Home,” they didn’t hear “oral sex,” they heard “settling down with the family.” And because New Showbiz is all about a false equivalency between the artist and the entertainer, the critics all thought, “Yuck! I don’t wanna settle down! I wanna go out and party, or otherthrow the government! Settling down sounds like my parents!”

    Paul’s been ill-treated by the New Showbiz he helped create; he seldom gets the respect he deserves, and he will always be second-best to Lennon in this category. When he tries to play by New Showbiz rules, he always comes off as a bit awkward and forced. (New Showbiz is young, hence the dyed hair; it’s tech-savvy, hence the emojis; it’s intimate, hence the behind-the-scenes.) John Lennon, like Andy Warhol, was the perfect New Showbiz celebrity. And both Warhol and Lennon paid a terrible price: they were shot by mentally ill fans, who really believed the lies of equality and access put forward by the New Showbiz, and couldn’t handle that it wasn’t any more honest than Old Showbiz, and maybe a lot less so.

    The New Showbiz…it’s bad for your health.

    • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

      I disagree, Michael, that John will always be first in this category. To Baby Boomers, maybe, but that ignores a sea change with John’s reputation amongst my generation and younger. Take a look at anytime John is mentioned on Reddit, for example: it’s usually in the context of what an asshole he was, how undeserved of idolatry he was. His solo work has taken a drastic tumble in reputation at the same time Paul’s has risen in estimation.

      The irony is that the same things that made icons so “cool” especially in the 70’s (namely sex, drugs, rock n’ roll) are of a much lower importance now. Now there is much more of a moral test idols must pass – and Paul, while not perfect (no one is), does much better on that front than John. The biggest skeleton in Paul’s closet is Heather Mills.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        It must depend where you read: tumblr, for example, is full of young fans who love Lennon and have a fairly sophisticated understanding of him. And although rock culture is changing, it hasn’t FULLY changed. There is a preference for the tortured poet, the acid-tongued iconoclast, and John fits the bill. Paul doesn’t, and has gone on record saying that he doesn’t think rock music requires it. And good for him too.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      Again I think you nailed an important point MG. This is beginning to be habit. 🙂
      .
      Paul wanted to be, and fashioned himself in the image of, an all-round entertainer. And it didn’t hurt that it fit his personality perfectly. I can’t think of another rock `n roller who had or has the same aspirations. He’s is a delightful anomaly.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      When they heard “Eat At Home,” they didn’t hear “oral sex,”

      I feel very sorry for these people.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        You have to stop this, Chelsea. Now I have to go re-listen to all of Paul’s older music. 🙂

        • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

          There is innuendo everywhere. When I read a recent interview of Paul from last year where he said he didn’t write about sex, I was like “ummmm…NO.” He writes about sex constantly, he just isn’t crass about it.
          This is the man who wrote “Waterspout,” for God’s sake!

    • Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

      RAM got panned because, at the time of its release, it was a “meh” album in a transformative year in rock history. George released ATMP in November 1970; 1971 saw the release of the Allman Brothers’ Live at Fillmore East, the Who’s Who’s Next, John’s Imagine, Led Zeppelin IV, Carole King’s Tapestry, T. Red’s Electric Warrior, the Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

      I don’t expect many to agree with this because this board has become an echo chamber for Paul fanboys and fangirls—case in point, one who calls the man responsible for Wild Life, McCartney II, and Give My Regards To Broad Street a “perfectionist”. Critics are not fans- not only do they judge an artist’s work on its own merits, they view the work in the context of the contemporary world in which it was produced.

      It is not surprising that RAM has been more favorably reevaluated by a new generation of rock critics. On its own, it’s a nice album. In competition with the albums listed above, only a fan would dare to rate RAM superior.

      If you haven’t lived through or studied the year 1971, you can’t begin to understand how poorly Paul McCartney was viewed by the rock music community. Hard as it might be to believe, Ringo Starr—RINGO STARR!—dissed Paul’s songwriting ability both in interviews and in the lyrics of “Back Off Boogaloo” in 1971.

      Maybe it would be more productive to have a discussion about why musicians who collaborated with the solo Beatles generally have a negative view of Paul, a good view of John, and an overwhelmingly positive view of George.

      • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

        J.R., would you like to write a post about Beatles collaborators and their attitudes toward McCartney, or a full post about why you think “Ram” is not that good?
        The more honestly-argued perspectives this blog offers the better, in my opinion.

        • Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

          Sure! I’ll start today.

        • Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

          I believe I called RAM a nice album. It doesn’t have a “Baba O’ Riley”, “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Imagine”, “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Stairway To Heaven,” or “It’s Too Late” among its tracks. Those are all eminently memorable songs—in comparison, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is rewarmed and repackaged “Yellow Submarine “.

      • I would LOVE to have that conversation, @JR. And if you wanna kick it off, send in a guest post.

        I think it’s unquestionable that Paul was moving in a different direction than the rock mainstream. But if the albums you list are the direction, RAM is no more off the beaten path than John’s POB, right?

        I think what a lot of posters are getting at is that the preference of the rock press for John and George (and as you say, Ringo) over Paul didn’t have much to do with the music. And that’s crap, right?

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          I think what a lot of posters are getting at is that the preference of the rock press for John and George (and as you say, Ringo) over Paul didn’t have much to do with the music.

          That was kind of the point: McCartney’s conflicted relationship with critics in his early solo years has less to do with the merits of his albums and more to do with a lot of other things, which many thoughtful commentators hypothesized here.

          A discussion about his collaborative efforts would be interesting (and would yield results more favourable to McCartney than not, I predict), but not particularly useful if it’s viewed as an explanation for critic bias.

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            I highly recommend Michael Frontani’s essay, “The Solo Years,” in “The Cambridge Companion to The Beatles,” regarding critical reaction to the ex-Beatles solo work following the split. Frontani argues (and I agree) that its impossible to separate the political and cultural context of the time from the critical response to John, George, and Paul’s work. Frontani is not an apologist for Paul, but he convincingly argues how, particularly in 1971, rock critics gave Paul “the most hostile reception of any ex-Beatle,” in part for reasons that had less to do with the quality of Paul’s music and more to do with many of the same reasons we have discussed here.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Thank you for this, Ruth. It’s nice to have our impressions supported by a scholar like Frontani.

      • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

        I was around in 1971, glued to WNEW-FM, reading all the magazines, hearing all the interviews. I bought Ram, and enjoyed most of it. But you’re right, at the time critics were expecting another Abbey Road, and everyone (including George and of course John) had unkind things to say about it. I remember hearing Brian Wilson praise Ram, and this startled me, because I was so used to all the put-downs. Brian was sort of in his own head, didn’t give a crap about what was “cool” or “not cool” and admitted he loved the songwriting and production. He was enthusiastic in his praise.

        I remember you couldn’t go five minutes without hearing Admiral Halsey on the radio. Drive My Car was another one the DJs seemed to love.

        Because of my personal tastes, I liked Ram better than anything by Led Zeppelin or the Moody Blues or the Rolling Stones, but I remember skipping over Monkberry and Drive My Car whenever I had it on the turntable.

        I like the production and overall sound of Ram much more than Band On The Run. There’s something in BOTR that grates on my nerves… I think it’s a specific keyboard that appears in almost every track. If some kindly engineer could go in and surgically erase that keyboard, I might be able to listen to it again.

        The opinions of musicians who collaborated with the solo Beatles would make an interesting thread.

        • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

          Sorry… I meant “The Back Seat of My Car” not “Drive My Car”

          Continue!

        • I’m with you on BOTR @Sam. For years, I’ve tried to figure out why I don’t like it much. I find it grating in its tunefulness.

          Maybe what @JR is highlighting here is the moment that rock split into Classic Rock/Arena Rock and MOR Rock? RAM is so different from something like “Who’s Next” or “Zeppelin IV.” Those are splendid examples of one style; RAM is a totally different style.

          This is a real problem with critics: they tend not to judge a work on its own terms, instead applying their own arbitrary preferences. But that tells us nothing.

          • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

            Well, I enjoy BOTR. I think “Ram” is better, though. And that’s an interesting question about critical reception: why was BOTR received so positively by many critics, after “Ram” was comparably dismissed?

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            why was BOTR received so positively by many critics, after “Ram” was comparably dismissed?

            It could have been because BOTR was more in keeping with the over production of most 70’s albums and Ram wasn’t. Ram was somewhat stark in production compared to most 70’s albums while BOTR was not.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            This is a real problem with critics: they tend not to judge a work on its own terms, instead applying their own arbitrary preferences. But that tells us nothing.

            Critics aside (who I hold to a higher standard), this seems to be what WE’RE doing here, MG. For every commentator who loves RAM or McCartney’s other solo works, there are as many who don’t. It’s all personal preference.

            There’s nothing wrong with stating one’s opinion about this particular album or that, but not if you do so with a sense of “truth”. I hope the flavour of J.R.’s guest post is more of the former and none of the latter.

          • If something is my personal taste, I try to say that: “I find POB to be unlistenable”; “I find Band on the Run almost gratingly melodic and polished”. But I think in large part why Dullblog seems to be gathering more and more readers is our desire to do the other thing, too.

            When I’m looking at a submission to Bystander, or editing a piece, I’m specifically not applying my own taste to it; I’m not rewriting the jokes so they sound like me, and talk about what I think is interesting. I’m trying to take the work on its own terms — divine what the author/artist wants to do, first — and then tweaking to help move it in that direction.

            Most rock critics, especially in the era we’re talking about, are a mixture of jumped-up fan and dorm room philosopher. Some are entertaining writers, some aren’t — but you learn much more about them than you do the work under review and, frankly, if they were that interesting they wouldn’t be satisfied with being rock critics.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            “But I think in large part why Dullblog seems to be gathering more and more readers is our desire to do the other thing, too.”

            If the “other thing” is to denounce the opinions of others as “fannish” and claim to have the truth about art, then I’d have to disagree, MG. And that’s the point I was trying to make.

          • The “other thing” I was referencing is to judge a work on its own terms. And I think we do that here, or try to.

            In general, I think the solo work breeds more sharp talk because, to me, it’s just not as good as what John, Paul, George and Ringo did as Beatles. It is much more flawed, and those flaws irritate — if you don’t prefer one or the other Beatle, the solo music is full of confirmation of what drives you crazy. You’d have more consensus on Paul’s solo work, or John’s, or George’s, at the Paul, John, and George fan sites. Here, disagreement on the solo stuff has been happening since day one.

            For me, writing here, I’m judging the solo stuff (and solo lives) against the Beatle music (and group life) I love so much more — and that’s understandable but not fair. I try to see RAM for what it is, POB for what it is, ATMP for what it is, and so forth. But while I enjoy and encourage conversation on all things Beatle, solo Beatles music is just not something I’m super-passionate about — except in relation to the Beatle era.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            “But while I enjoy and encourage conversation on all things Beatle, solo Beatles music is just not something I’m super-passionate about — except in relation to the Beatle era.”

            Same here. While there are some solo songs I like, I’m not much into their solo careers at all.

      • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

        “1971 saw the release of the Allman Brothers’ Live at Fillmore East, the Who’s Who’s Next, John’s Imagine, Led Zeppelin IV, Carole King’s Tapestry, T. Red’s Electric Warrior, the Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.”

        This is a fair and interesting point. Having not been alive in 1971, I can’t speak to the climate of the time. I can see how RAM sounded “small” compared to the “big” albums you mentioned. Nonetheless, I definitely think there is a difference between putting out crappy work and not living up to people’s specific expectations or desires. I think RAM is different and unique and I stand by that opinion. As a child of the 90’s (and amateur musician and songwriter from that era) my heart will always belong to the lo-fi sound. So RAM sounds fresh and exciting to me in a way that the other albums you mentioned just DON’T. IMO, critics who didn’t hear that frankly missed the boat, but that’s just my humble opinion. Not everyone is entitled to like everything. As Elvis Costello once said, “Nowhere in my contract does it say that I have to make the same record over and over again.”

        As for collaboraters having a negative view of Paul? Who are you talking about? Rhianna? Kanye? George Michael? Carl Perkins? Stevie Wonder? Lady Gaga? Michael Jackson? Stanley Clarke? Or do you mean session guys? If you mean hired hands…. Sure, I guess I can believe that. But at the same time there is Paul’s touring band. They’ve been together for…? 10 or 15 years? They all seem to love him. But maybe I’m fangirling….

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          As for collaboraters having a negative view of Paul? Who are you talking about? Rhianna? Kanye? George Michael? Carl Perkins? Stevie Wonder? Lady Gaga? Michael Jackson? Stanley Clarke? Or do you mean session guys? If you mean hired hands…. Sure, I guess I can believe that. But at the same time there is Paul’s touring band. They’ve been together for…? 10 or 15 years? They all seem to love him. But maybe I’m fangirling….

          Maybe you are, Chelsea. 😉

          Or maybe you are making an excellent point in this and your other comment: that over the span of his career, there are many more musicians who loved working with Macca than those who didn’t (and I would add Elvis Costello and David Grohl to the list as well).

        • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

          I agree, Chelsea. I admit to having little more than rudimentary knowledge of George’s solo work, so I can’t speak about the details regarding who he collaborated with. But I’ve read many, many comments by those who’ve worked with Paul, and can say that most had positive things to say. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I can’t recall any off the top of my head, excepting a couple of Wings members (though it’s worth noting that they, in turn, have been contradicted by other Wings who tended to have a better perspective on what the band was trying to achieve). There have ever been articles in Uncut and Q devoted to nothing but effusive praise from those who’ve worked with Paul. (Ironically, just the other day I read an interview with Youth where he discussed his collaboration with Paul.) BTW, read the excellent Man on the Run if you’d really like to know each individual Wings member’s verdict on Paul.

          Remember that Paul also has worked with far, far more collaborators than John and George ever did. Even those who had disagreements with Paul in the creative process, like Nigel Godrich or Elvis Costello, still liked the experience and had nothing but admiration and respect for him. I mentioned above that I recently read Costello’s autobiography – there’s an anecdote in there about disagreeing with Paul so much at one point during their collaboration that EC had to leave the studio and take a walk to cool off. But disagreement is also part of the creative process oftentimes, and that certainly does not cancel out the open warmth, admiration and indeed love (because it’s clear that he has grown to love Paul deeply) that Elvis has for Paul.

          I would even argue that Paul is more adventurous with his collaborators. He has worked with people both older and younger, both outside and inside the pop/rock genre. Did George and John ever really stretch themselves with their collaborators? I know George worked with various Indian musicians, Eric Clapton (a good friend and pop/rock peer) and the Wilburys crew (friends and pop/rock peers). Aside from Yoko and the other Beatles, John’s most significant collaboration may have been with Harry Nilsson, which was a disaster creatively. His “work” with David Bowie resulted in one good song that was mostly Bowie’s brainchild. And then a couple of mediocre songs with Elton John. Again, Nilsson, Bowie and Elton are all part of that same era of pop/rock (though with some differences). Aside from some of the Eastern musicians George liked to work with, he and John seemed to have stayed in the same wheelhouse in terms of collaborators, and never really pushed the envelope. Solo John especially was less than a collaborator than someone who was content to let a good time take dominance, having the creative result be an hangover to an awesome good time he wanted to have with whoever.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        I don’t expect many to agree with this because this board has become an echo chamber for Paul fanboys and fangirls—case in point, one who calls the man responsible for Wild Life, McCartney II, and Give My Regards To Broad Street a “perfectionist”.”

        I guess that would be me? Paul IS a perfectionist. Not stopping until you get 100% pretty much nails that descriptor. Being a perfectionist isn’t the same as having a perfect product, however: it describes the drive, not the outcome. (And I don’t consider myself a “fangirl”–in fact, I’ve never been partial to McCartney’s solo efforts, save for a few tracks I really enjoy.)

        (P.S. I was 15 in 1971, so yeah, I was there too.)

        • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

          “Paul IS a perfectionist. Not stopping until you get 100% pretty much nails that descriptor. Being a perfectionist isn’t the same as having a perfect product, however: it describes the drive, not the outcome.”

          Which makes sense why a session musician in the groovy 70’s might be bummed out when they show up wanting to do their thing and Paul gives them specific instructions and makes them perform it 789 times until it’s perfect. 🙂 Most people (especially rock musicians/artists?) aren’t that meticulous and don’t have that kind of compulsiveness. That doesn’t make Paul a bad or unlovable person. But it could definitely make him a drag to work with if you’re not prepared for that type of work environment. No one is denying that… I think we all understand that Paul is a bit of a rabid animal with his music. But… that doesn’t diminish him as a person or artist, in my eyes. Maybe because I’ve had the experience of writing, performing and producing music 100% by myself before? I have no idea. I just think Paul suffered (and suffers) from his own magnificent past accomplishments more than anything else. He buckles under expectations- his own, the critics’ and what he assumes are the public’s.

        • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

          Karen, you make an important distinction when you differentiate the characteristic of being a perfectionist from necessarily creating a high-quality product. Being perfectionistic is a personality pattern that can produce either good or bad results.

          I believe some psychologists have linked eating disorders to perfectionistic personalities, for example. Depression can be linked to it as well, with the feeling that “nothing is worth doing if I can’t do it perfectly.” Perfectionism is like many other human tendencies: whether it produces positive or negative results for the bearer, or for others, depends on how it’s channeled.

          In McCartney’s case I think he has perfectionistic tendencies for sure, but very spotty self-editing skills. I’m baffled by some of the songs he’s chosen to include on his albums, especially since some he hasn’t released, or didn’t release at the time, seem much better to me. I think he often just can’t tell the difference between his strong and weak songs. Polishing a song that’s not good to start with doesn’t produce a good result. The whole of “Pipes of Peace” is a case in point for me.

          One thing Lennon could consistently do for McCartney was tell him when his songs or lyrics weren’t strong enough, just as McCartney seems to have been able to help arrange Lennon’s songs so they appeared at their best. I don’t think either of them ever found another person who could quite fill that role.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            In McCartney’s case I think he has perfectionistic tendencies for sure, but very spotty self-editing skills.

            Ain’t that the case, and also regarding Lennon’s role as McCartney’s gatekeeper in that regard. That Paul, to this day, claims to keep a little John in his head as a kind of editing genie says a lot about how important (and necessary) that role was.

      • Avatar Drew wrote:

        “Maybe it would be more productive to have a discussion about why musicians who collaborated with the solo Beatles generally have a negative view of Paul, a good view of John, and an overwhelmingly positive view of George.”

        Ah, so we have a George fanboy here. Nice of you to demean Paul’s supporters.

        And in fact, Ram is brilliant and stands up well against all of those albums you cite, some of which seem badly dated and not all that interesting. Imagine, that Moody Blues album, Allman Brothers? Seriously? Badly dated, all of them.

        It may well be that Ram was ahead of its time and didn’t “fit” in with rock’s conventions in 1971. But rock and pop music isn’t supposed to just be conventional. It’s supposed to push boundaries. Ram did. And that’s why it’s well respected today. It doesn’t sound dated. It sounds alive.

        • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

          J.R. and Drew, using terms like “fangirl” and “fanboy” doesn’t advance the discussion ~ name-calling of any kind only inflames feelings and makes it harder to continue the conversation constructively. Same with characterizing others’ opinions as obtuse, etc.

          All shades of opinion are welcome here, and the more we can speak to each other respectfully, even when we disagree, the more likely we are to learn something. We’re all “fans” of some description, or we wouldn’t be contributing our thoughts to a Beatles fan blog.

          Though I’m using this occasion to highlight the issue, these statements are directed toward everyone here, including me.

          • Avatar Drew wrote:

            Nancy: Agreed. I used the word myself because I was trying to make the point that we are ALL fanboys and fangirls here. The critics are, too. And dismissing someon’s opinion by using this term — as if your own view is somehow more objective or superior — is just patronizing and not particularly conducive to a good discussion.

      • Avatar Drew wrote:

        “Maybe it would be more productive to have a discussion about why musicians who collaborated with the solo Beatles generally have a negative view of Paul, a good view of John, and an overwhelmingly positive view of George.”

        One more thing: These musicians DON’T all have a negative view of Paul. Certainly some do and I’m sure you can cherrypick the ones that do, and ignore the ones that like Paul.

        But really what is at issue here is two different ways of composing. Paul has a complete idea in his head about how a song he’s written should sound. George often didn’t. Paul told musicians how he wanted it to sound. George asked musicians if they had any good ideas for how it should sound. Naturally George’s approach flattered musicians’ egos more while Paul’s grated.

        But why should a composer who hears music in his head have to stop being who he is? He shouldn’t. No more so than George — who often struggled for musical ideas (as is obvious from the tediousness and repeititveness on his solo albums) — can be something he wasn’t.

        People like to make this about personality. It’s not. It’s about artistry and different styles of making music.

        • Avatar Drew wrote:

          Sorry, I had one more point to make: Clearly sometimes the music in Paul’s head was not always good. And just as clearly, sometimes the music that came out of George’s team approach was not always good. It really doesn’t matter if the musicians “liked” George better because he let them improvise. Why is that at all important?

          Being an artist isn’t about being liked or being a good buddy in the studio. It’s about creating art — or in this case: music.

        • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

          George asked musicians if they had any good ideas for how it should sound.

          Which in my opinion explains “the tediousness and repetitiveness of his solo albums”. I don’t mean to be harsh on session musicians, but for the most part they are technicians, not creatives. George, throughout his solo career kept composing beautiful melodies, but I think some of the albums were dragged down by the ponderousness of the session players’ ideas.

          I believe several members of Wings quit because when they were asked to join, they thought Paul was forming a new Beatles, and so they’d get to “be” Lennon, equal partners. And then then got pissed when they realized Paul considered them backup players.

          Some of my favorite McCartney records are the ones where he said “fuck it” and played every instrument himself. Easier than dealing with egotistical and fussy guitar heroes for hire.

          As far as Lennon’s solo records, did he have an inferiority complex around session men? In his early solo stuff, it seemed like he was over-awed by their technical chops, and so he’d just say “hit it!” and start rolling. So everyone played everything at once, a cacophony (see: “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” or anything with Elephant’s Memory).

          By the time Lennon began “Double Fantasy” it seems like he was becoming a bit more demanding (like telling the session men to please not light joints until after the session) but even then he often couldn’t get what he was looking for, and was too dependent on his producer to communicate with the musicians. I wonder if after a few years of working with session players, the idea of reuniting with his talented and creative old band was getting more attractive.

          • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

            George, throughout his solo career kept composing beautiful melodies, but I think some of the albums were dragged down by the ponderousness of the session players’ ideas.

            Replying to myself here, but I think this is why it’s often so thrilling to hear unreleased demos. “Oh, so THAT’S how the song sounded before Spector and the session players got ahold of it.”

            I remember many years ago hearing a demo of one of John’s solo songs; a song I hadn’t much cared for. When I heard the simple voice and acoustic demo I finally “got” the song. It sounded like a great track from Rubber Soul or the White Album (I can’t remember which song, I think if was from Imagine). When the professionals got done with it, they’d killed the beauty of the melody, made it sound just like a symphony.

          • Wow @Sam — never thought about it this way, but I think the fundamental blandness of session players just killed John and George’s solo work. 100% agree on the demos — to this day, “Dakota Beatle Demos” is by far my favorite Lennon solo album. It is ironic that the Beatles who complained most vociferously about Paul’s bossiness and perfectionism in the studio, apparently benefitted the most from it.

          • Love this comment, @Sam. You couldn’t be more right about “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

            “(Just Like) Starting Over” strikes me as emblematic of Lennon’s studio woes: like a lot of his post-’68 work, it uses a format lifted from 50s rock and roll. And then overproduces the shit out of it, so that what you get is Lennon times oldies to the power of Steely Dan. And a song that is meant to express joy and emotion and exuberance — “I’m back making records! Life begins at 40!” — is instead pleasant, dated-sounding mush.

            Paul needed John to do Quality Control on his lyrics, which are good but seldom great; John needed Paul similarly for production. With the exception of POB, the production of John’s solo albums seldom enhances the material. IMHO.

          • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

            “(Just Like) Starting Over” strikes me as emblematic of Lennon’s studio woes: like a lot of his post-’68 work, it uses a format lifted from 50s rock and roll.

            It just occurred to me that nowadays, “Just Like Starting Over” would be considered a Granny Song.

            Changing demographics: Today’s Grandmas used to dance on American Bandstand.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          One more thing: These musicians DON’T all have a negative view of Paul. Certainly some do and I’m sure you can cherrypick the ones that do, and ignore the ones that like Paul.”

          Indeed, yes. Besides David Grohl, Elvis Costello, we have (as Chelsea astutely pointed out) his tour band, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, and many other musicians who wouldn’t share J.R.’s assessment. It’s simply an inaccurate overgeneralization to say that musicians didn’t like working with Paul, based on a what appears to be a vocal minority from 20 or thirty years ago.

          • Avatar linda.a wrote:

            It’s simply an inaccurate overgeneralization to say that musicians didn’t like working with Paul, based on a what appears to be a vocal minority from 20 or thirty years ago.

            Well said, and exactly who is this vocal minority? I can’t think of any actual artists who had a bad thing to say about Paul, only a few session musicians like David Spinoza and the glorified session men he hired to comprise Wings. And yes I agree with whoever said that session men have technical skills but that is not the same as being an artist like McCartney, or Lennon, or Bowie, etc . Indeed Harrison may have been liked more because he deferred to the session men while McCartney didn’t defer to anyone except John Lennon. And again exactly which musicians are we talking about here because I’m confused. I’ve never heard any famous musicians/actual artists speak negatively about McCartney, only a few session musicians that I’ve sighted above.

      • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

        J.R., I realized I didn’t follow up your comment with a question I have about what you’re saying. Do you think the rock press reviewed “McCartney” and “Ram” fairly at the time?

        I think it IS surprising that critical and fan appreciation of “Ram” has risen as much as it has recently. It’s not in line with the ordinary rise and fall of albums’ reputations. Albums often go up or down a peg or two ~ ‘Band on the Run’ is a good example, I think ~ but I can’t think of many albums that went from being critically reviled at the time to being so appreciated decades later. Albums that were ignored or overlooked rising in reputation over time, yes.

        But “Ram” wasn’t received as “meh” at the time ~ the most well-known review, by Jon Landau in Rolling Stone, described it as “the nadir in the decomposition of 60s rock so far.” To go from that degree of opprobrium to being highly rated by AllMusic and Pitchfork today requires, I believe, more of an explanation than that people are now listening to the album on its own rather than against other 1971 albums. After all, that dynamic is true of all albums from the past that we’re still listening to today.

        So to me the question remains. Why has this particular McCartney album had such a reversal of critical and popular fortune? Why do a significant number of people hear it so differently than many apparently heard it in 1971?

        I think that question is interesting in its own right, quite apart from our individual opinions about how “Ram” measures up against other acclaimed albums of the era.

        • Avatar Ruth wrote:

          Nancy, for what it’s worth, have you ever seen Landau’s response to the far more favorable reception following the re-issue of Ram?

          “The passage of time allows for not hearing things in the present moment, the present context, the expectations of the moment. It makes room for a bigger point of view. I don’t remember what I wrote in the slightest, but I can tell you that Paul McCartney was great then, and he’s great now, and if I happened to say something different back then, well, I know better now.” Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune, Ram review, May 30, 2012

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            “I don’t remember what I wrote in the slightest…?” Are you fucking KIDDING ME? What a pompous ass.

          • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

            I give Landau credit for saying “I know better now.” And it’s interesting that he echoes something J.R. said: things sounded different to many people in 1971.

            In the Pitchfork review of the 2012 re-release, Jayson Green says (specifically of the critical disdain for “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey), “Again, from the current moment we can only plead ignorance, assume that some serious shit had to be going down to clog everyone’s ears.”

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            And it’s interesting that he echoes something J.R. said: things sounded different to many people in 1971.

            Perhaps because we are decades away from the rancour and bias that permeating critical thinking circa 1971? I certainly hope so.

          • Avatar Water Falls wrote:

            I hope you’re right about that Karen. I had thought that maybe…just maybe…some might be trying to “rescue their reputations” for history. Am I a jaundiced skeptic, or a hardened cynic? Mercy me (sigh)

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            You might be right about that, Water Falls. For Landau to say that ‘ he didn’t remember what he wrote about Paul back then, but hey, it all sounds good now’ is disingenuous at best and an outright, manufactured lie to save his behind at worst.

  5. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    Do people still see the Emerick video? On my screen it’s blank.
    .
    Edited to add: never mind, it’s back.

  6. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    @ Ruth said: “I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; during the breakup, Paul failed utterly at P.R. He failed both to get out a compelling message and to largely get his message out at all. John, Yoko and others trumped him in both the quantity and quality of interviews; Paul failed to court and talk to the press the way they did, and he’s been paying for it ever since.”

    It was a turkey shoot, and I don’t think Paul had it in him to do the kind of P.R. that would be required of a person in that situation. Here’s some excerpts from Melody Maker magazine, November 1971 in which Paul “answers” John’s vitriol:

    John’s whole image now is very honest and open. He’s alright, is John. I like his ‘Imagine’ album but I didn’t like the others. ‘Imagine’ is what John is really like but there was too much political stuff on the other albums. You know, I only really listen to them to see if there’s something I can pinch. [laughs] How Do You Sleep’? I think it’s silly. So what if I live with straights? I like straights. I have straight babies. It doesn’t affect him. He says the only thing I did was ‘Yesterday.’ He knows that’s wrong. (Paul motions to the studio below) I used to sit down there and play, and John would watch me from up here, and he’d really dig some of the stuff I played to him. He can’t say all I did was ‘Yesterday’ because he knows and I know it’s not true. John and Yoko are not cool in what they are doing. I saw them on television the other night and thought that what they are saying about what they wanted to do together was basically the same as what Linda and I want to do.

    Gee, Paul, don’t hold back. 🙂 Here’s what he said about that period, 15 years later:

    When John did ‘How Do You Sleep?’ I didn’t want to get into a slinging match. Part of it was cowardice. John was a great wit, and I didn’t want to go fencing with the rapier champion of East Cheam — But it meant that I had to take shit — It meant that I had to take lines like ‘All you ever did was Yesterday.’ I always find myself wanting to excuse John’s behavior, just because I loved him. It’s like a child, sure he was a naughty child, but don’t you call my child naughty. Even if it’s me he’s shitting on, don’t you call him naughty. That’s how I felt about this and still do. I don’t have a grudge whatsoever against John. I think he knew exactly what he was doing and because we had been so intimate he knew what would hurt me and used it to great effect. I thought, ‘Keep your head down and time will tell,’ and it did because in the ‘Imagine’ film (Imagine John Lennon, documentary) he says it was really all about himself.”

    This reveals so much about McCartney’s personality, I think. There’s an insecurity, coupled with a gentle kindness, that prevents him from behaving in ways that would be in his own best interest.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      Karen, what’s interesting is that I recently heard the audio of the former interview (the one from 1971 with the “straight babies” line) and he follows up the “he would watch me” comment with an adamant and somewhat saucy “and he LIKED it. And he KNOWS it.” I’ll leave it to the reader to decide why that part got cut from the printed version. (??)

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        Ha. 🙂

        The source of the quote was taken from here, a Beatles Interview Database which didn’t print the interview in its entirety (obviously). Funny omission though.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      The thing that’s really bothersome is how John’s version on events, specific to his break-up with Paul, was accepted as some sort of unbiased and professional assessment. To me, that’s unforgivable. Clearly he was not speaking with professional detachment. During the divorce (John’s word) John embarked on a smear campaign to discredit Paul and exclude him, as much as possible, from the professional community where they co-existed. This is very much like what he did with Cynthia. And yet no one assumes that Cynthia and/or Julian did anything to deserve that treatment! (which of course they didn’t) However, instead of looking at John’s pattern of behavior and attempting to wade through his emotional garbage, they reported his bile as if it must be true. That’s…. not just lazy, it’s reprehensible.
      People who are going through a painful divorce should not be allowed to just vomit their issues with their ex onto an interviewer. Especially not in the middle of therapy! WTF? It’s disturbing how John was apparently surrounded by so many enablers and sycophants as to allow this to happen. (and absolutely hilarious that John accuses PAUL of being surrounded by yes men in HDYS). If John had “professional” complaints about Paul, they should’ve been fact-checked with impartial (or at least relatively impartial) sources such as George Martin, Geoff Emerick, etc. George and Ringo backed John’s play, but those two are not impartial either! To be impartial, you need to be outside the Beatles circle, and George and Ringo were way too close. Also, and I’m sorry to say this, but George and Ringo are the same people who obediently went along with John’s order to ostracize Cynthia and Julian. Paul, of course, was the only person to ignore/defy this asinine order. IMO, Paul was the only person ever capable of really opposing John, and the only one John ever considered an equal… and the other Beatles, much as I love them, really DID follow John’s orders. (And then Yoko and Klein… well, of course they were biased against Paul)
      To me (and some may disagree) there is a strong tone of “putting Paul in his place” to all this break-up stuff. All of John’s boys (his followers, as he proudly put it in 1980) were happy to do this because they had been fighting for a place at the table that only Paul had access to for 10 long years. I think the whole struggle speaks less of Paul’s self-avowed cowardice and more to the cowardice of everyone around John who would never, ever contradict him.

      • Avatar Water Falls wrote:

        John’s Hall Of Fame induction.
        Sweet Paul, ever the gentleman. Gently exposing the truth that Yoko approached HIM first,(without busting her ass! ‘I never heard of The Beatles before I met John’)
        Paul getting to submit to his favorite pastime, “John mentionitis” in the present tense, before a large crowd without people reacting like it’s weird. He loves John so much even still. It’s so obvious. He knew John loved him too even after all the bitterness and the cruelty. Paul being my favorite, I would get so angry about all the mistreatment he, Cynthia, and Julian would receive at the hands of John Lennon but I realize that Paul and Cynthia KNEW, the disturbed but loving John, before all the money, fame and crazy that was Beatlemania, consumed and tormented him in ways that I, as a distant outsider (in time and space) could probably never understand, and so they loved him, the real John, even damaged as he was, all of their lives. It’s knowing that they could love John (the person) regardless of his atrocious behavior toward them, makes me cut John slack at all
        I also realize that John loved them too, especially Paul, it was so obvious in film clips and pictures of their early Beatle days, with their playful interactions and smiles, and extra long glances at each other. They really connected and depended on each other. It was part of the magic. So sad it got interferred with. And so much of that can be layed at John’s feet.

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        There are some writers who attempt to pin a certain amount of blame on Cynthia and Julian for John’s treatment of them. There was a Guardian review of Cynthia Lennon’s second memoir where the reviewer argues that Cynthia should never have believed that someone as conventional as her would ever have been able to maintain a relationship with someone as brilliant and artistic as John. While there may be some truth to that, the reviewer uses it as a justification for the way John treated Cynthia, even in the divorce-era, which it is certainly *not*, especially considering that John was the one who made Cynthia give up her art in the first place.

        Also, in Norman’s “John Lennon: the Life,” he implies that one of the reasons John was such a more involved father with Sean, as opposed to his neglect of Julian, was because, unlike Sean, who was bright and funny and artistic, Julian was a “charmless” child. (The problem with this being, of course, Norman never met Julian as a child, doesn’t tell us where he got the “charmless” description from, *and* that, Julian’s charm, or lack thereof, doesn’t justify John’s neglect and abandonment of his son).

        The lack of critical evaluation of John’s breakup-era statements astonishes me as well, Chelsea. I don’t know much, if anything, about journalistic standards, but Historical Methods 101 tells us that the first thing you do with a source, either primary or secondary, is look at it and ask yourself: “Why was this source created? What was its agenda? Was it designed for public, or private use? What is its bias?” (Because every source has some sort of bias). Even before you delve into the issue of accuracy, you look at the motivation behind the creation of a source. Almost no one did this with the interviews John gave in the breakup era; some Beatles authorities didn’t do it for decades, some still don’t.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          There are some writers who attempt to pin a certain amount of blame on Cynthia and Julian for John’s treatment of them. There was a Guardian review of Cynthia Lennon’s second memoir where the reviewer argues that Cynthia should never have believed that someone as conventional as her would ever have been able to maintain a relationship with someone as brilliant and artistic as John.“

          Sycophantic worship at it’s finest. 🙂

          While I don’t hold Cynthia responsible for John’s behaviour, I hold her totally responsible for her own, and for the decisions she made during the divorce and for the decade following. Clearly, she didn’t have to accept the paltry divorce settlement John offered, and her reason for doing so (“I loved him and didn’t want to fight him in court”) doesn’t exculpate her from the serious financial fallout of that decision. Moreover, she was married to two other men during the decade after the divorce, which means that any financial burdens she personally incurred (excluding child support) would fall on THEM, not on her first husband. But she always seemed to lay blame for her predicaments at the feet of her first husband, even a full 10 years after they split. This says more about her than him, I think.

          At any rate, Cynthia’s narrative has always struck me as just a little too self-serving to be fully credible, and while John certainly deserves to be awarded Crappy Husband And Dad Of The Year, I think her portrayal of him is disingenuous.

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            I didn’t read Cynthia’s first memoir, but her second one suffers from trying to push two contradictory agendas. First, she wants to stress that her relationship with John was initially very genuine, intense, passionate; that he really did love her, and relied on her, and that she was one of the most important people in his life, pre-Yoko. She wants to argue that she was not peripheral to John or Beatles history, and I do think she was overall considerably sidelined, in large part because John wanted her to be.

            But her second agenda — to combat the Yoko-approved “St. John of Peace” trope — undermines the first, because, in order to combat it, she has to detail all the ways in which John failed her and Julian as a peacemaker and loving husband, father and human being. To promote one agenda she wants to stress just how important she was to John and how much he loved her; to promote the other she has to expose John’s hypocrisy by detailing the various crummy ways he treated her, and Julian.

            She is more willing to openly criticize John’s failures in parenting regarding Julian than she is to criticize his behavior towards her, and one of her accounts is devastating. Cynthia recalls a young Julian watching John and Yoko’s peace campaign on TV and asking: “Dad is always talking about peace and love, but how come he doesn’t love me?”

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Yes, to everything.

            One gets the impression that Cynthia wrote the first book to show the world how awfully John had treated her, and when that backfired–the book also drew attention to her own weaknesses–she wrote the second book in order to extricate herself from how she originally (and inadvertently) portrayed herself. If you have some spare time 😉 , have a quick read of the first and compare to the second in terms of motive. It’s very sad.

    • Avatar Ruth wrote:

      That’s a wonderful way to put it, Karen; that Paul “didn’t have it in him” to wage the kind of P.R. war that the breakup necessitated, which is one of the reasons he failed at it so completely. We discussed how Paul simply doesn’t do public unfiltered negativity and anger, particularly if its directed at John; your quotes are prime examples of that. The most vicious condemnation Paul gives of anyone in the entire Beatles story is of Klein. He has no problem going after/criticizing/blaming Klein, but appears to have real hangups with doing the same to John. The nature of the split, and John’s own temperament, necessitated that breakup-era P.R., in contrast to the band’s previous, Paul-led P.R., would be angry, divisive, negative, openly insulting and blaming. Open conflict was and always had been John’s strength, not Paul’s.

      As Michael said, Paul had loads of ammunition he *could* have used in 1971, in retaliation for “Lennon Remembers,” and Paul has, slowly, allowed that information out over the last several decades. But he didn’t give some tell-all interview at the time and, just as importantly, he didn’t encourage the Eastmans to do a tell-all interview either. One of Paul’s serious P.R. failures in this time period was his refusal to match John’s arsenal with his own, equal amount of weaponry. Now maybe that would have just resulted in an all-out nuclear war, but because of his tentative and measured responses, and his refusal to match John’s war of words, John’s version of events became cemented as Orthodoxy.

      The more in-depth into the breakup-era dynamics you go, the clearer it becomes that Paul didn’t launch an equal P.R. war against John not just because he didn’t think he would win, but because Paul didn’t want to be at war with John. He wanted to be at war with Klein.

      • This is so nicely put:

        “Paul didn’t want to be at war with John. He wanted to be at war with Klein.”

        Paul had a past with John, mostly great; and perhaps a future, too. Paul correctly identified Klein as a poisonous and temporary hanger-on.

  7. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Here’s the video of Paul inducting John into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame:

  8. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    I agree with those who’ve said that the disdain many critics had for McCartney’s solo work, especially in the 70s, has multiple causes.

    The whole “John vs. Paul” battle, conducted in the press, is a big part of it. With John representing the political/underground/cool faction, there was no percentage in being a public pro-Paul voice. And yes, Wenner certainly shaped “Lennon Remembers” — it is much more a conversation, with Wenner directing and shaping the flow, than a simple interview.

    In the 70s Paul was absolutely seen as a square “straight,” in the old sense (not hip/countercultural), and to some extent this was based in fact, as he admitted. He wanted to get married, have children, and immerse himself in family life. There wasn’t much public appreciation at the time for the fact that he and Linda put their own countercultural spin on family life, what with going back to the land on a Scottish farm, taking their kids with them on tour, etc. I think critics in the 70s were uncomfortable with how besotted Paul was with his family — I have so much to say on this subject I’ll probably write a whole post about it.

    McCartney’s solo work at the period was personal, quirky, melodic, and not overtly political. Deeply uncool. As others have pointed out, that’s why the best of it has aged so well: it isn’t heavy-handed and dated, in the way that some of Lennon’s solo work is. To take one example, for me “Another Day” is a more effective feminist song than John’s “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” yet at the time “Another Day” was dismissed as fluff.

    Finally, I’m with those who point out Paul’s shortcomings as a “PR guy.” My own feeling is that he’s too ambivalent, and too anxious, to give the kind of straight-ahead public statements that Lennon was so good at. The line from his song “The World Tonight” that “I go back so far I’m in front of me” captures what I mean. I think the irony is that he’s so aware that public statements can and will be used against him that he hedges and backtracks, and thus looks insincere. I think he’s actually insecure and nervous. Michael gets at that when he talks about Paul being “Old Showbiz.”

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      “I think critics in the 70s were uncomfortable with how besotted Paul was with his family — I have so much to say on this subject I’ll probably write a whole post about it.”

      I would love to hear your take on that Nancy.

    • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

      Nancy, I join in the chorus of wanting that post. It reminds me of how, almost 20 years on, one of my favorite pieces of Beatles writing was Joyce Millman’s obituary of Linda.

      “In those days, when rock was still largely dominated and shaped by male sensibilities, a wife was an almost worthless thing to be — below groupies in the pecking order. Although Linda was as much an artist as Yoko, she had none of Yoko’s formidable mystique. With her blissful hippie farm-mom demeanor and her veggie cookbooks, Linda was more, well, domesticated.

      And, make no mistake, in domesticity, Linda chose the hard road. She was regarded as an appendage to a more famous man; her photography and her other interests were judged harshly because they were perceived, unjustly, as a `hobby.’ We were unkind to her, so unkind, and so unsisterly.

      But then we got married ourselves and had kids and grew up and turned 40 (and 50) and discovered that silly love songs are the hardest songs of all to write. And now, Linda McCartney isn’t so difficult to understand. She and Paul were serious about being a family.”

      • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

        Thanks for your enthusiasm, Karen and Rose! I will write that post, as soon as I dig out a bit at work.
        Love that quote from Millman’s obituary of Linda, Rose. I have a biography of Linda that I want to read and perhaps review for HD. My appreciation for her, and for what she accomplished, grows with each passing year.

  9. Avatar eroz wrote:

    This is my first comment, but I’ve been a long time lurker. This is my favourite Beatles-related space because of the thoughtful discussions.

    There have been comments about Wenner’s role in Paul’s vilification by the press. It reminded me of an interview I read by Greil Marcus, the editor responsible for the RS record review section in the early 70s. He not only admitted that the critic who reviewed “McCartney” was pressured to change his review, he was proud of the role he played. He considers it “great editing” and “putting out a publication that is utterly honest.” This incident made me lose any remaining respect for Rolling Stone.

    “There was one incident where Paul McCartney makes his first solo record and people thought it was wonderful: this rough, homemade one-man-band album. It was accompanied by a press release, a self-interview, about why he no longer needed the Beatles and how little he thought of them … this real obnoxious statement, you know? I assigned it to a friend of mine, Langdon Winner, and Jann saw the piece and said: “We can’t run it this way — he’s just reviewing it as if it’s this nice little record. It’s not just a nice little record, it’s a statement and it’s taking place in a context that we know: it’s one person breaking up the band. This is what needs to be talked about.” I said I didn’t agree and “in any case it’s up to Langdon to say what he wants to say.” Jann said, “We have to talk about this.” So we went to dinner that night and spent three ****ing hours arguing about this record review. Finally he convinced me. So I went over to Langdon’s and sat down with him and spent three more hours arguing with him until I convinced him! Now to me this was the essence of great editing, of how you put out a publication that is utterly honest. All that time spent over one 750 word review! And it was worth it.”

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      OMFG, that is… unbelievable. Thank you, eroz!

    • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

      Welcome, Eroz! Yep, it’s something when putting out an “utterly honest” publication equals “successfully convincing a reviewer to promote a specific agenda rather than give his own assessment of an album, even if it takes a three-hour argument to get him to give up and allow that agenda to be imposed on his work.”
      .
      Also, “it’s one person breaking up the band” was an astonishing oversimplification, even at the time this was written — I think Wenner had to know better.

      • Avatar eroz wrote:

        Also, “it’s one person breaking up the band” was an astonishing oversimplification, even at the time this was written — I think Wenner had to know better.
        .
        What’s astonishing to me is that this interview was published in 2012 and this guy still toed the line.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      “….and Jann saw the piece and said: “We can’t run it this way — he’s just reviewing it as if it’s this nice little record. It’s not just a nice little record, it’s a statement and it’s taking place in a context that we know: it’s one person breaking up the band. This is what needs to be talked about.”.

      I didn’t think it was possible to find someone else’s behaviour more reprehensible than Wenner’s, but Greil Marcus managed to do it.

      • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

        I didn’t think it was possible to find someone else’s behaviour more reprehensible than Wenner’s, but Greil Marcus managed to do it.

        Can I nominate Norman?

        Also, in Norman’s “John Lennon: the Life,” he implies that one of the reasons John was such a more involved father with Sean, as opposed to his neglect of Julian, was because, unlike Sean, who was bright and funny and artistic, Julian was a “charmless” child. (The problem with this being, of course, Norman never met Julian as a child, doesn’t tell us where he got the “charmless” description from, *and* that, Julian’s charm, or lack thereof, doesn’t justify John’s neglect and abandonment of his son).

        How perfectly horrible of Norman. And so typical of the odd shapes Lennon’s apologists twist themselves into.

        • Avatar Water Falls wrote:

          I agree Hologram Sam. I wondered how people like Wenner, his flunky Greil Marcus and other weak minded music critics that “caved” to the powers that be that drove that particular agenda back then, how they slept at night.
          Then I realized, they probably slept just fine thank you. They would have to have a conscience to stay wake nights after what they did. That Greil Marcus not only admitted, but bragged about what he’d done. He was proud as a peacock that he showed himself buckling under the boss’s pressure, and appears willingly blind to his lack of integrity even decades later. I bet music critics that honestly felt that ‘McCartney, RAM, Wings Wild Life’, were “less than stellar”, or just plain poor albums, and critiqued them so, hated to be lumped in with the “lily livered” bunch, who’s actions back then, now casts a pall over ALL of them from that period of time. As for Phillip Norman, he had the perception of being the “the authoritative” scholar on The Beatles and their history, and promptly showed his Lennon bias in Shout and John Lennon: The Life and is on record as saying that he wasn’t interested in writing about Paul McCartney, because he just didn’t find him interesting enough. Now Norman’s supposed “authority” has been challenged by Mark Lewisohn, noted authority on The Beatles and fan of ALL of the Fab Four, who has already contradicted a lot of Norman’s conclusions about the Liverpool lads. So now Norman has quickly written a biography of McCartney. some say to either quickly correct some of hiis earlier biases, and rescue his reputation for history, or to justify and cement further his conclusions about Lennon and McCartney. I have read so many books lately about the group and McCartney and Lennon. Right now I have both Norman and Lewisohn’s books and have started to read both at the same time, but I think I’ll switch and focus on one at a time. I can hardly wait for Lewisohn’s next two editions. Very interesting.

    • Welcome Eroz — we posted on this very topic when that hatchet-job was done. You might like the discussion. It’s feisty.

  10. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    I saw this interview last night and thought it was relevant to our conversation about the Myth of Paul as P.R. Man. Check him out at 2:06.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      And at 6:05 where he actually starts crying (!!!). (sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to edit my previous comment)

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        I didn’t see that….at the 6:05 mark, you say?

        • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

          You might miss it if you’re not in full screen, since the resolution isn’t good (and of course the pic-sound sync is off, for good measure). In full-screen you can see tears in his eyes very clearly, and body language (that crazy self-grooming). I was mesmerized by this… watched it several times, believe me.

          People (including John) go on and on about how sensitive John was, but to me, it’s so obvious that Paul is a raw nerve and also so, so incredibly sensitive. His glib veneer is a total front but it’s effective at protecting him.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            I think I saw some shine on his cheek near the eye, but I think it was due to perspiration and camera glare (god knows he was probably sweating out that interview!)

          • Avatar Chantal wrote:

            I agree it does look like he’s in tears, or at the very least on the verge of crying. I had the impression John was too, during that bit where he tries to explain the Jesus remark. To me, it’s clearly audible in his voice.

            Paul was and is good at wearing the professional PR mask, but it only takes a keen eye to see past it. Body language doesn’t lie, and there have been many instances where his true emotions were quite visible. It’s just that many people refuse to see it, because then they would have to admit Paul is a real person, rather than the villain they prefer him to be.

            One classic example is the interview after John died. The anti-Paul crowd took that and ran with it, saying he didn’t care about John. But when I look at those twenty seconds, I see someone who’s utterly distraught, looking like shit, trying to stay composed but failing to do so. Had he not managed to escape from that scene when he did, I am 100% convinced we would have seen him break down completely.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      Great addition to the discussion, Chelsea.

      John’s pejorative commentary about Paul’s P.R. orientation in the 70’s is interesting, in light of this particular bit of evidence. Because of his close relationship with John and his skill with the press, Paul was the primary gatekeeper throughout the entire incident–assuming a greater role than even Brian Epstein. And far from resenting Paul’s involvement, John depended on it. Here’s another video demonstrating the same thing–through the course of the interview, John’s entire demeanour toward Paul, including body language, is one of deference and dependence.

      I find Paul’s comments about “showbiz” people and “honesty” interesting, in that I think he was speaking more from John’s perspective than his own. Privately, Paul was angry at John (as was the rest of the group) for shooting his mouth off, but stepped up to protect him without reservation. It’s one of the more compelling instances in which John owed Paul a public debt of thanks, IMO.

  11. Avatar evilpants wrote:

    I know it might not mean much, but one of the things that makes me love Paul is 4 words he said from the 1971 interview quoted below. “He’s alright is John”.

    Doesn’t that say so much about Paul? Isn’t there so much affection in those four words, even in 1971?

    Later on, Paul would quote John lowering his eyes over his glasses and saying “it’s only me”. I’ve often doubted this, thinking it might be Paul rewriting memories to make them less painful.

    But Paul saying “he’s alright is John” in an interview dealing with John’s vitriol does really kind of show that Paul understood that this nastiness was just something you got from John.

    In fact, it really does show that it really wasn’t John who hurt Paul was it? It was all the people who took John’s words and raised them to the level of Truth.

    The awful thing is that this damage was done. Paul in 1971 was clearly talking about John the way you’d talk about a brother. Paul was being the grown-up. If it had been left like that, the damage done to Paul might’ve been so much smaller (and actually it’s making me wonder just how much damage really was done to Paul, and how much of it was already in his make-up).

    I wish they’d all just left these four guys alone to grow up and get over the emotional damage.

    I’ve got a friend like John Lennon. And I do recognise so much of how Paul acted around John, even in the 1971 interview. I have to be the grown-up, the diplomat, the excuse-maker. I have to put up with an awful lot from this friend, who has deep abandonment issues and therefore tests me all the time, finds ways to push me away and disrupt our closeness. But behind that, he is the most loving, warm person I’ve ever known. And I let no one else get away with the behaviour he gets away with when he’s feeling insecure with me.

    One of the reasons the whole “did Paul sleep with John” issue interests me is because me and this friend have an almost romantic relationship, we both pretty much act like we are in love with each other, but in an entirely non-sexual non-“Relationship” way. We are living proof of how complicated and diverse human relationships are, and of how two guys – one straight, one gay – can be closer than lovers, fight like brothers, and be horrified by the idea of being “together” cos it’s just that’s just not what our relationship is about. I wonder if relationships like these tend to have a John type and a Paul type – one off the leash, the other absolutely grounded. Both messed up in their own way, both able to hurt each other in ways they would never tolerate from anyone else.

    Fantastic discussion as always. I tend to express myself badly in these discussions which is why I hardly ever post, and also mostly cos everyone else says what I was thinking. But I read every word and I love it.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      That’s awesome. Sounds alot like John and Paul to me. I think people wildly underestimate how deeply two people who are not sexually involved can care about each other.

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