- From Faith Current: “The Sacred Ordinary: St. Peter’s Church Hall” - May 1, 2023
- A brief (?) hiatus - April 22, 2023
- Something Happened - March 6, 2023
The glorious team blog Boing Boing linked today to an article on Formidable Mag—their guess as to what a 13th Beatles LP might’ve sounded like.
Their surmises are, to my mind, riddled with errors and misunderstandings—that, for example, the always intellectually restless Fabs would recycle a rejected title for Abbey Road three years later; that they had “basically stopped collaborating on songs after Sgt. Pepper”; that George’s ATMP stuff would somehow be magically unrejected by the others, because we now in 2022, see ATMP as his high-point; that they would’ve used multiple producers (!); that Lennon/McCartney would’ve decoupled the credit; and so forth.
It’s all a bunch of thin retconning designed to enable what all these articles really want to do: cherry-pick the author’s favorite solo work from 1970-72 and fashion it into “a Beatles album.” To ennoble merely well-crafted early Seventies pop into something with the cultural heft (and higher quality) of Beatles music.
As fun as this is—even when it’s done well, as in The Twelfth Album or, exhaustively, Ethan Hawke’s Black Album—it ignores something essential about The Beatles: what made them great was the four of them in a room together, playing, all focused on a common goal. None of their solo work would sound the same if it had been performed by the four of them, with history—decades of love and hate and secrets and struggle in every note–and all still believing in The Beatles concept. From the solo careers of all four Beatles—every track on every album—we know that the same music would’ve been much better had it been created by The Beatles’ process. A process which covered flaws and played to strengths and stretched them each in ways they needed to be stretched, and existed with the weight–and the standards–of all the music that came before. New Beatles music would’ve had to live up to that which had been made before, and thus insisted each of them be at the top of their game. To assemble a bunch of solo tracks into a mythical Beatles album is to not hear the difference between Beatles music and solo music (even at its best), and my ears, the difference is so vast, I inherently don’t trust anyone who warms overmuch to this exercise.
And that is the ultimate tragedy of the breakup: not that they made solo albums, that was inevitable given their fecundity and the constraints of vinyl, but that they themselves did not hear the difference. Deafened by their own egos, they did not realize what they were losing when they stopped working with the others.
As these types of exercises go, I’m fondest of Uncle Dan’s what-if, which takes it as read that the boys were going to go solo and experiments with that in mind, the biggest difference — aside, of course, from post-breakup-in-our-timeline albums — being that he turns the White Album into four solo efforts, not unlike KISS’ coordinated effort in the same vein circa 1978, to allow the boys breathing room. (Yes, I said four… he basically moves up Sentimental Journey to ’68, to which he adds the “Stormy Weather” outtake and “Good Night” as the closing track.) I think Dan makes intelligent choices regarding what might best fit on a Beatles album, and I like them as compilations overall.
If we’re imagining a world where the Beatles hadn’t split, I think it’s wrong to say songs like All Things Must Pass had been rejected. It’s clear that there were a bunch of songs from 68/69 that the band were working on, some got on Let it Be, some got on Abbey Road. If the band had split after the rooftop concert, we’d be saying Something, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Mean Mr Mustard, Oh Darling and Octopus’s Garden were rejected. So who knows? Similarly, One After 909 had been properly recorded back in, what, 1964, and was obviously written years previous to that. Also c/f When I’m 64. I guess the point is, all speculation is just, well, speculation, and we can argue about it, but let’s not necessarily narrow our hypotheses.
Good points, @Hieronymus, but what I was trying to express in my clumsy way is that the music we know as “All Things Must Pass”–the finished track, and the finished 3-LP set–are likely worlds away from what any of that music would’ve sounded like if The Beatles had recorded and released it as finished work. There was a whole multi-person, place-specific process that went to create what we know as Beatles music, and that was incredibly distinctive. To load up a buncha solo stuff and call it a “Lost Beatles LP”–as I see on YouTube–misunderstands something really fundamental about this topic. None of them, not even Paul with his love for the studio and belief in the Beatles Idea, could get close to the magic during their solo years. When John overtly tried, we get “Imagine,” a nice LP but not something that sounds like The Beatles to me. Paul could even work with George Martin, as he did with “Tug of War,” and he gets about as close as John did–a nice LP, but not even a minor Beatles one.
Getting back to ATMP in particular, I was rewatching Scorsese’s Harrison documentary, and it was clear that George was conflicted about the Spectorization of the music from the beginning, and that’s a huge part of the experience of listening to ATMP. The nice word for it is bombastic. Something like “Wah-Wah,” a song I thoroughly dig where the Spector treatment works well, doesn’t sound even remotely like Beatles music, and there’s nothing to suggest that our ever-changing Beatle boys would’ve made anything on their next record sound like that.
So — if I haven’t worn out your patience — taking lots of stuff from ATMP and saying, “George was really coming into his own! This is what the next Beatles LP would’ve sounded like” is, to me, extremely dubious. It is a statement that marks the writer as someone who doesn’t “think about The Beatles a little too much.” 🙂
Speaking of Phil Spector’s influence, have you heard this track? It’s a de-Spectorized version of Instant Karma, with his ugly influence removed.
An improvement, in my opinion:
Oh I enjoyed that immensely. What a GREAT GREAT GREAT voice he had!
Yes, absolutely, Michael. I think we can be reasonably certain that if the Beatles had continued as a band, their solo projects – or at least those of John, Paul and George – would have grown in importance in terms of defining them as recording artists. This means that it’s possible that many of the tracks that were trialled with the Beatles but later became solo songs, such as All Things Must Pass, Gimme Some Truth, Teddy Boy etc, might well have been solo songs down the line even if they hadn’t have split.
If Cold Turkey wasn’t a Beatles song then neither was, say, Mother. I think John’s personal songs would have filtered off to his solo output and possibly the same with George’s more spiritual stuff; in fact, it was already becoming clear that George’s ‘lighter’ stuff had more chance of making it onto a Beatles release – hence For You Blue, Old Brown Shoe, Here Comes the Sun.
So, if we’re speculating (or Spectorlating (sorry!)), it could be argued that something like, say, Apple Scruffs would be more likely to appear on the 13th Beatles album than All Things Must Pass.
@Hieronymus, that’s a great point. It would’ve been interesting to see if Beatles Magic would’ve been able to elevate something like “Apple Scruffs.”
I for one would’ve LOVED to live in a world where we’d gotten both — both the intensely personal stuff on solo records, but then also the lighter stuff on great Beatles records. Because I don’t think it was really Magic; I think it was four individuals who’d worked and played together for so long, plus engineers, plus an accumulated sheen that made everyone else bring their A game.
Where the solo stuff misses me isn’t the Major Personal Statement records; those I think are wonderful artistic statements, even if I don’t care to listen to them much. It’s when John and George try to play the pop game, as they both decided to do after 1973, where it all feels so flat.
“Everyday Chemistry” is my favorite 13th album and one of my favorite albums ever. I play it at least as much as the “real” ones. Highly recommend.
I’d wonder though if the band continued, but they all had solo careers and albums…would there have been friction regarding accusations the J/P/G were holding back their best work from the Beatles in order to release it solo and get the full credit for it.
Solo careers may have diminished the quality of what ended up being released as Beatles work.
I tend to think that friction would have spurred them — John especially — to up their songwriting game, just to prove the bandmates’ accusations wrong.
I’m not sure where else to put this but this thread seems the more appropriate. But I highly recommend a new YouTube channel I stumbled on Almost Beatles Songs. The take a look at rare Beatles songs or bits they worked on and discarded, mainly from the let it be/get back era and flesh them out and like to discuss the creativity of the Beatles. Plus I appreciate that they don’t seem partisan to one Beatle over another like a lot of YouTube channels can be.
@LeighAnn, I’ve been watching for a while and agree! Quite interesting, and lovely production.
I know this will be unpopular opinion because somehow George is now considered the BEST Beatle, the Beatle God and a Spiritual Leader of the transcendental world, but ATMP is as close to a Beatles Album than any of the others – AND IT IS NOT EVEN CLOSE! Sure the material on ATMP were rejected songs, but they were rejected by Paul MCCARTNEY and John LENNON and many of them were thoroughly worked on with Paul, G. Martin and to a lesser extent w/John. So their magic (mostly Paul’s) is all over that album. After ATMP what did George do solo that was outstanding? His Greatest Hits album was one side-ATMP and one side-Beatle songs – that is kinda pathetic! George is perhaps one of the most over-rated musicians in recent times. This is not saying he is not a good musician or a good song-writer, he is!! But some/many Beatle People have deified him beyond reality. It became cool to be a George fan after he died in 2001. George had the worst tour with Dark Horse – an epic, yes epic failure! Thousands of fans walked out of that show and demanded their money back. Imagine going to a concert of a Beatle and its so bad you want your money back. He had to join the likes of Petty, Dylan, Orbison to become relevant in the 80s.
A bit too harsh, maybe. I am not George’s fan and I rather enjoyed your post, but your last sentence had me a bit baffled – what do you mean exactly? Those were pretty good musicians that you named and there must have been something about George if they wanted to play with him. And I really like The Travelling WIlburys… So did you mean that George needed stronger musicians/personalities to be relevant?
My point was that George needed strong musicians around him to tour and to be relevant in the music world. As a solo artist he was weak and I mean as a true solo artist not releasing an album that was half produced by Paul and G. Martin.
Too harsh by far, and almost fully inaccurate to boot. Where has George been deified? Who is out there calling him a Beatle God? Which specific songs on ATMP were thoroughly worked on with Paul, GM, and John? Which ones “have Paul all over them”? Be specific, provide sources. It’s not an unpopular opinion; a lot of the things you are saying are objectively wrong.
@Harlow. John, Paul and George Martin worked extensively on some of George’s songs, including All Things Must Pass and Not Guilty. The latter had over 100 takes. It was George who rejected them in favour of his solo album. I think you will find that George has been somewhat deified since his death, much in the same way John was after his. Everyone loves an underdog it seems but Scorsese’s Living in the Material World was not totally honest in my opinion. Dare mock or ridicule George in a way that has become de rigeuer for Paul and John then you’ll be met with outrage.
George is the Beatle I am most interested in, but I do not deify him—I want to know everything about him, the bad as well as the good, to get a well-rounded sense of just who he was.
George has been studied a bit less than John or Paul has, so there is a sense of there being more yet to discover with him. Ringo seems to be entirely surface–what we see is who he is–but George was so essentially private that there does seem material to discover, or at least ponder.
Dear Harlow, what I posted is mostly opinion and not sure that can be inaccurate – as stated “unpopular opinion”. George was a weak solo artist. With that, there are facts you are welcome to – but I suggest you do your own research. It is easy today with this thing called Google. The facts on ATMP have been out there for years. This is new news to you? Widely known that most, if not all of the songs on ATMP were indeed rejected by The Beatles (similar to Paul’s McCartney I) – some of the songs were shelved for months, even years but they were certainly worked out with Paul and G.Martin and to some extent John. Also, feel free to Google the mess that was the Dark Horse tour. So bad that it seems wild that a Beatle, just a few years removed from being a Beatle was such a flop touring solo.
@Holly you said: “Sure the material on ATMP were rejected songs, but they were rejected by Paul MCCARTNEY and John LENNON and many of them were thoroughly worked on with Paul, G. Martin and to a lesser extent w/John. So their magic (mostly Paul’s) is all over that album. ” You also said “Widely known that most, if not all of the songs on ATMP were indeed rejected by The Beatles (similar to Paul’s McCartney I) – some of the songs were shelved for months, even years but they were certainly worked out with Paul and G.Martin and to some extent John.”
So let’s go through ATMP and see if that’s true. (I looked through the Beatles Bible and Wikipedia entries for all this info, so if there’s other information out there about the composition of these songs that I don’t know about, someone please let me know.)
I’d Have You Anytime – written with Dylan in late 1968. No evidence I’ve been able to find that George ever even played it in Paul, John, or G.M.’s presence.
My Sweet Lord – written in December 1969 on the Delaney and Bonnie tour, long after the last full Beatles session.
Wah-Wah – written in January 1969, but never played to any of the Beatles or G.M.
Isn’t It A Pity – written in 1966, rejected by John in the same year. Apparently he presented it at the Get Back sessions but no one was interested. There’s no evidence that the other Beatles or G.M. ever actually did any work on this song.
What Is Life – written in 1969, was originally intended for Billy Preston but decided against it and set it aside for himself. Again, never presented to the Beatles or G.M.
If Not For You – this is a Dylan cover.
Behind That Locked Door – written in August 1969 for Dylan, right around the tail end of the Abbey Road sessions. Not presented to the Beatles or G.M.
Let It Down – The first track on this album I’ve been able to find any evidence that the Beatles worked on. There were three separate days during the Get Back sessions where it was briefly played around with.
Run of the Mill – written in early to mid 1969. No evidence it was brought to any Beatles session.
Beware of Darkness – written in May 1970, after the breakup.
Apple Scruffs – written in summer 1970, after the breakup.
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp – also written in 1970 after the breakup.
Awaiting On You All – could not find any info on when this was written, other than that it was after he got into Krishna in 68-69, but again, there’s no evidence it was ever brought to a Beatles session.
All Things Must Pass – the song on the album that the Beatles worked on the most. There are a couple of takes in the Get Back sessions that sound pretty good. I don’t think G.M. was particularly involved with this song, but whatever, I’ll be generous and give this one to you.
I Dig Love – no info on exactly when this was written, but Wikipedia says it was born of experimentation with slide guitar, which he was introduced to in December 1969. So it had to have been long after the last Beatles session.
Art of Dying – George said he wrote this (or started it at least) in 1966, but thought it was too far out to record. Again, no evidence of him bringing it to Beatles sessions that I can find.
Hear Me Lord – written in January 1969, played during one day of the Get Back sessions, completely ignored by both John and Paul. He never brought it to a Beatles session again.
The rest of the tracks are just jams recorded in 1970.
So, to summarize, there are twenty-three tracks on All Things Must Pass. Four of those tracks were brought to and rejected by the Beatles. I have only found evidence that *two* of those (Let It Down and All Things Must Pass) were ever worked on for more than a few minutes by John and Paul, with George Martin having even less involvement than that. I think I can say with confidence that you have been thoroughly misinformed about this album and how much involvement or John, Paul, and G.M. had in the working of the songs on it, because, in reality, it was very little.
And I would like to add that George ended up producing the majority of ATMP, because Phil Spector couldn’t even get out of bed until he’d had 18 cherry brandies, and his drinking just continued on from there, throughout the day.
@Holly Not to be contrary, but I did try to look for information on the Dark Horse Tour, and – at least according to Wiki – it odesn’t seem to be such a complete disaster. Yes, it did get some bad reviews, but it also got some good reviews. George did lose his voice on some occasions but he was fine on others. There is no mention (on Wiki) that people returned their tickets en masse, and there is even a suggestion that the format of the tour was ahead of its times… Like I said, I am not George’s fan at all, but maybe there is no need to bash him beyond his true faults. If he is getting more attention and a bigger following now than in the past, it is a natural course of things that opinions change with time and get revaluated. There is a number of very young Beatles fans on Twitter, and I would say that generally proportions remain the same: John’s following is the largest, then Paul’s, then George’s and then Ringo’s. So – has he really been deified?
Only chiming in to add that Scorsese’s 2011 documentary on George is an entry point for many new fans; were there similar contemporary visual treatments of John or Paul, it’s likely that they would see similar upticks in fan enthusiasm.
First, I am not bashing George, I was responding to the solo work of The Beatles and voicing my opinion on ATMP and how it was basically a Beatles album, similar to the McCartney I album. Produced by Spector or not, it the songs were already worked out by George Martin and Paul McCartney in the 60s while a Beatle. That is not opinion but widely known by Beatles fan. It is also not a knock on George as he did write those songs, but that he had a lot of help with them for some extremely talented, perhaps the most talented, people in the Music Industry in Paul and George M. As far as The Dark Horse tour goes, maybe Google it outside of Wiki where fans often own the pages, the narratives of their hero’s Wiki pages. I did a quick Google search and up came lots of articles on the disaster that as George’s US tour. Here is a good link/source.
Rolling Stone suggested that Harrison eventually turned to “snorting mountains of cocaine” to keep going, something else that “absolutely shredded” his singing.
It might all have been forgiven, even the strange Indian music, had there been more crowd-pleasing Beatles songs. At least, that’s what one of his former bandmates suggested. “I think he made a mistake on that tour,” Lennon is quoted as saying in Graeme Thomson’s George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door. “One of the basic mistakes seemed to be that people wanted to hear the old stuff.”
@Holly, I think it’s pretty seriously inaccurate to suggest that the songs on ATMP “were already worked out by George Martin and Paul McCartney.” The bootleg “Beware of ABKCO” shows that the demos were already fairly worked out by George himself before Spectorization, and unless we find Beatle-era session tapes with Paul or George Martin suggesting fundamental musical changes that were then incorporated, I just don’t think that’s fair. It would be like saying that “Junk” or “Jealous Guy” should be considered a George Harrison song, because Paul and John demoed them while still in The Beatles.
George Harrison was a fine musician and songwriter in his own right. Was he shaped by close association with John and Paul and Ringo and George Martin? Sure. And they were shaped by him, too.
@ Michael I think that George deeply resented the fact / the assumption that he was shaped by John, Paul and George Martin. Ringo’s influence maybe he would have been willing to accept 🙂
@Bai Lang, I’m not sure I could take standing next to John Lennon and Paul McCartney with as much grace as George Harrison did; I think he saw them as peers and colleagues–mates–and had every right to do so. Then when the world so clearly made them the important Beatles, and he and Ringo “the economy class” Beatles, that had to be incredibly grating. As I’ve stated before, if there’s one thing that the solo years prove beyond doubt, it’s that the four of them together were much much better than they were apart–and George, and Ringo, were a big part of that “together.” Bigger than anybody who wasn’t also a Beatle could possibly realize.
@Michael Oh, but I absolutely agree that the Beatles were the FOUR people, each and every one of them was indispensable, and I definitely hate degrading one (or two or three) of them to make our chosen one look better. There is no need for that at all, they’re all fine. I said I didn’t like George, and that’s true – but of course there are different period Georges – I love the teen George the friend of Paul, I love the Hamburg George and the early Beatles George up until India. The late Beatles George, the Get Back George and the post Beatles George I don’t like. He had the right to grow up, and change and become his own person, but I have the right to not like that adult. John from the same late periods gets on my nerves like hell as well, but John has got the je ne sais quoi which simply works on me, and I can’t help being attracted to him, even when I hate many things he did and frankly I don’t have much respect for the “political” side of his persona. But you said that it was “the world” that differentiated between their respective importance, and I am not so sure it was the external pressure (or only the external pressure) that made George feel he had enough of John and Paul being the first class Beatles (which I can understand). I think the hierarchy was on the inside as well, and my guess is that it was my beloved John who made sure that nobody forgot about it.
In some other comment you said that you’ve never known anyone who became vegetarian because of Paul. Well, there is a whole new generation turning to vegetarianism on the same moral grounds as Paul, and even though this generation may not even know Paul, I do think he was the part of the change in a world view that actually happened and on a large scale. Which is not to say that he was the same as George and John as CULTURE heroes, he wasn’t and that’s fine; I just think that even in cultural influences there are changes and maybe Paul’s persona is a bit more compatible with our times that John’s. (Having said that, I just saw a poster of a very young male music starlet wearing a t-shirt with John’s photo and “working class hero”. So, who knows?)
It’s not inaccurate at all actually. I never said the ATMP songs should be considered a Paul or a John song but I did say some of ATMP were in fact worked on in detail and at length with Paul, G. Martin and some with John so they should be considered Beatles songs. I even called out McCartney I and songs like Junk as being considered Beatles songs for the very same reason. Lastly, I did not say George was not a fine musician – I was saying he is not the level of musician that people now make him out to be and as a solo artist he was weak. He was not on par with McCartney, Lennon or Dylan (then again, few are).
I suggest you read my posts before you comment with your own inaccuracies.
@Holly As much as many people don’t want to admit it, I agree that the proof is in the pudding. Without John or Paul or Phil Spector or Jeff Lynne supporting his efforts, George produced very little that would be remembered or discussed by anyone if he wasn’t an ex-Beatle. This isn’t to say he wasn’t talented, but left entirely to his own devices does not seem to be a situation that served him well creatively. Furthermore, I think George intuitively knew this too. Delaney and Bonnie, the Bangladesh Concert, The Wilburys, the huge cast of musicians and friends assembled for ‘All Things Must Pass,’ or his willingness to be part of Lennon’s band on ‘Imagine’ show a penchant for placing himself into group situations. When he recorded with John and Ringo for Ringo’s solo album in 1973, George was the one who immediately suggested that the three of them should form a group, not to John’s delight. Of course, considering how much he complained about being a Beatle this is somewhat ironic. Still, I think the problem with his career between ‘All Things Must Pass’ and the late 80s was largely apathy. He needed the stimulation of other creative people for his muse to be roused, and for years of largely isolating himself, he was unfortunately bereft of that.
“Without John or Paul or Phil Spector or Jeff Lynne supporting his efforts, George produced very little that would be remembered or discussed by anyone if he wasn’t an ex-Beatle.”
Based on the demos, I don’t think Spector did a damn thing to help ATMP, and a lot to hurt it and make it feel dated. And truly–do we really think that people will REMEMBER 90% of Paul’s solo output? I like stuff like “Jet” and “Silly Love Songs” immensely, but I don’t think it will be remembered. It’s great pop music of its time. Paul, at his best, makes great pop. George, at his best, makes something slightly different.
See my earlier comment — I think you’re judging George against Paul and saying, “He’s no Paul.” So Harrison needed a producer; most artists do–go listen to XTC’s pre-Rundgren working tape for “Skylarking.” Nobody would claim that Andy Partridge wasn’t a great musician, and a pop craftsman nearly at the level of a McCartney.
It’s easy to dismiss George if we view him narrowly. But you could argue that of all four of them, George has turned out to have the clearest idea of what modern rockstardom could and should be; that’s why all the other rock stars loved and worked with him. Bangladesh was a BIG thing, probably the biggest music event since Woodstock. And George thought of that and did that, and the music is good, and it was a huge success. Dismissing that is no fairer than judging Paul like he’s George: “Man, that Concert for Kampuchea was a damp squib.”
“Still, I think the problem with his career between ‘All Things Must Pass’ and the late 80s was largely apathy.”
I’d agree with this, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing. I’d rather have “Life of Brian” or “Withnail and I” than any McCartney solo LP with the possible exception of RAM.
“He needed the stimulation of other creative people for his muse to be roused, and for years of largely isolating himself, he was unfortunately bereft of that.”
And you could say the exact same thing about Lennon, except without Bangadesh, or the guts to go on tour knowing that he’d be judged as an ex-Beatle. And you could say the exact same thing about McCartney who–and I LIKE solo McCartney–hasn’t written a damn note better than his Beatle work, after 60 years of constant trying. And I think that’s because, with the exception of Elvis Costello, Paul’s also been content to isolate himself.
This is all arguing taste, but I weary of George not being seen for himself, which was pretty wonderful. He’s not Paul or John; he never wanted to be.
Hey @Holly, we don’t do comments like this here:
“I suggest you read my posts before you comment with your own inaccuracies.”
Here we are 1) nice to each other, and 2) nuanced. Please get with that program, or find somewhere else, quoth the owner of the blog.
With all respect, I find your take on ATMP to be surface, excessively partisan fan-talk. An earlier commenter thoroughly addressed your claim that ATMP was Beatle work; it pretty clearly wasn’t. And this is no surprise; the songs on ATMP certainly don’t sound much like George’s Abbey Road highlights (“Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”), much less Paul or John’s Beatle work, and they don’t sound anything like George Martin, either. Like it or hate it, the songs on ATMP are pretty clearly George Harrison doing his own thing–as evidenced in the demos–with Phil Spector’s production (which I don’t like, btw–I wish it was more like George’s late Beatle work). Like it or hate it, it’s Harrison stuff, not Beatles stuff; play “Wah-Wah” next to “Something”–the difference is vast.
“I was saying he is not the level of musician that people now make him out to be and as a solo artist he was weak.”
Nobody here says that George was a musician of Paul’s fluidity or melodic gift; nor could George connect with an audience like John could. You’re arguing against a point that no one here is making. People often come here mad about stuff they’ve read on other blogs–usually it’s people mad that someone somewhere called John “the only genius in The Beatles.” But we’ve macerated all these points infinitely since 2008, and a good thorough browse would show you as much. Every Beatle’s pluses and minuses have been thoroughly analyzed, and it’s only the partisans of one or the other who come away mad.
I would say that if we arbitrarily take Paul as the model of a solo artist, George comes up short–but so does John, especially when you factor in the initially lukewarm reception of Double Fantasy. But then again, when Paul tried to do the thing that George practically invented–the all-star charity rock concert–Paul came up short. And when Paul or George tried to become a quasi-political figure like John did so effortlessly, THEY came up short. None of them could really do what the other ones could, and I suggest that looking at any one of them as the model gives the others short shrift…for no good reason.
I’m pushing back against a lack of nuance in your comments; I think you have an opinion–“I was saying he is not the level of musician that people now make him out to be and as a solo artist he was weak”–and retconning the success of ATMP, which apparently sold more than Band on the Run and Imagine combined. And what I’m saying is, nobody seriously thinks George was the pop musician that Paul was, nor the quasi-political figure that John was, but we must give him his due, not attribute his success to others because it doesn’t fit with our opinions. Of all the solo Beatles, GEORGE had the monster solo album; and while Beatle pixie dust might’ve played some ineffable role in that, it’s simply not fair (or truthful) to give Paul, John, or George Martin substantial credit for its success.
Oh Michael, you once again misrepresented my post. No worries. This blog is not for me anyway. Dullblog, so appropriately named, is really for the older crotchety Beatle fans that live in the Mark Lewisohn ‘Shout’ fantasy land in where the narrative about the Fabs is overwhelming pointedly WRONG!
Thanks for stopping by, @Holly.
@Holly. I think you are bashing him a little bit 🙂 That’s fine by me and anyway you are entitled to your opinions or to your interpretation of facts. I am not sure I agree with you all the way, even though I don’t like George very much anyway. Peace and love 🙂 ✌️❤️
While George’s star has undeniably risen in the last decade or so, I don’t think it’s at all similar to the post-1980 canonization of John. I think it’s perfectly understandable why George’s reputation has improved. The style of his best music–from 1968 to 1971 or so–is very much in tune with a lot of modern indie music, and so is his low-key personal style; the George of that era feels very modern to me. His spiritual bent seems to resonate with a lot of younger listeners. He’s arguably got the two best songs on the Beatles’ most popular album, and he made the album that many people (me included) regard as the best solo album by any Beatle. And apart from its heavy-handed production (the recent remix helped), ATMP has aged very well–those songs are marvelous. (The other day I heard the mix of “What Is Life” without vocals from one of the rereleases, and it reminded me of something from Pet Sounds.) It’s also an accessible album, in a way that–say–Plastic Ono Band isn’t. I hold POB in high esteem, but hand that album to someone who doesn’t know anything about John Lennon, and I’m not sure how impactful it’s going to be. And while I love much of Paul’s solo work (I really do), Paul’s stuff is so all over the place in terms of style, quality and approach that I’m not sure there’s really an easy way into it for younger listeners. If someone has a high tolerance for Paul’s brand of idiosyncratic silliness (I say that affectionately), I’d recommend Ram; if they like Bowie and Eno, I’d recommend McCartney II. But I don’t think that the acclaimed albums–Band on the Run, Tug of War–that people used to single out as his strongest work have as much resonance anymore. So while I agree that George really only made one exceptional album on its own, I think it’s more than sufficient: Most songwriters never make an album as good as ATMP.
Some interesting points brought up in the comments. There is a commonly held belief today that George should have been allowed four songs per album to match John and Paul. That if the Beatles hadn’t broken up, George under the advice and guidance of George Martin would have developed into an equal songwriter of John and Paul. Possibly. The major flaw with this argument in my opinion is the assumption that John and Paul had reached a creative plateau. But in 1970, had the Beatles kept going, they too would have continued to flourish and benefit from working with George Martin and more importantly with each other. Some of their weaker solo songs could have become exceptional. John and Paul were also very competitive in a way that George wasn’t. I think that every time George caught up with them they would have surged ahead. I don’t know whether John was calling George’s bluff when he suggested that they have four songs each as heard in the Abbey Road tapes but George himself seemed a little hesitant. He knew he would have to deliver and I think he may have found that stressful. Personally, I think George is rated about right in Beatles history. What do I think about the solo albums? Light can be light but heavy can also feel turgid and constipated at times. A 13th album? No thanks. While I can see the reasoning behind John and George’s solo albums – solipsism and spirituality – Paul’s solo material appeared to be a deliberate result from his anger and intimidation at John and Yoko’s pressure that songs should be ‘deep’ and political. I’ve often wondered if Paul’s determination to push Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, a song even he didn’t like that much, as a challenge to Yoko. Paul shut himself down through endlessly obscure lyrics and to me that was the tragedy for this great songwriter. He had ended up solo through default and for the wrong reasons.
@Lara, all this is speculation obviously, but it’s usual in creative fields for people to have their golden era, then a period where they come back to the pack, with occasional moments of brilliance. If anybody could’ve beaten this progression it was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but my personal opinion is that they’d each reached their apogee as creators, John probably about 18 months before Paul because of his age (1965-68 for John; 1966-69 for Paul). And then George about a year after Paul (1968-71).
I don’t think George Martin entered much into it after late 1967 once the individuals had firm control of their styles and the studio, and the music wasn’t the studio-heavy psychedelia. I DO think that the massive innovations in rock music could’ve enlivened any or all three of them.
If the Beatles had stayed together I think they would’ve produced much better, more popular, more even LPs than their solo work. That having been said, I think John’s and George’s highpoints had to be solo albums–that was kinda what made them highpoints, the intensity of one person’s viewpoint. I don’t think either John or George had a Pepper-like production in them, where they could direct the other Beatles in a LP-sized production that was both a team project and a personal artistic statement (which I think Pepper was for Paul).
A bit off-topic, I guess, but reading the main post and the comments, one thing occurred to me: it is understandable perhaps that nobody takes Ringo seriously as a writer and music creator in his own right, but I am just curious – is Ringo ever taken seriously in ANY serious discussion on the Beatles? On any topic – music, relationships, character, whatever? Or is he always simply treated as a lovable, adorable little goof? Is he just universally loved and there is nothing really interesting (or controversial) to be said about him? I wouldn’t know what to say, but I am still just learning about the Beatles-lore, but do the adults/masters here ever take him seriously?
As one who is working on a bucket list wish of being able to learn the drums, I think I can comment on one aspect of the public’s perception of Ringo.
First of all, he was indeed the best possible drummer for the Beatles. None of his contributions were ever weak and many of them, Rain for instance, are exceptionally strong. He was able to flawlessly intuit what the song needed and then provide it.
There have been a great number of drummers who have dissected Ringo’s drumming, Craig Bisonnette for example, and explained what made him great. He simply had “it.”
However… what I feel to be one of his great weaknesses is that he never seemed to make an ounce of effort to explain his craft other then his constant comments such as “I am a left-handed player on a drum kit set up for right-handers.” He never seemed to ever talk about the magic and the creation of art.
Granted a lot of that had to do with his innate personality, but in my exceedingly humble opinion he did not do himself any favors by not seriously engaging in a manner that would have merited a deeper audience and fan consideration. Listening to him is like eating cotton candy in that you wish for something with more nutrition and taste.
Bring, for example, onto even the most banal late-night show a drummer such as Stuart Copeland of the Police and ask him what his special sauce was in the mix. He wouldn’t hesitate to provide a quick, but meaningful, explanation that revealed a bit of his personality and thoughts and techniques.
Ringo then went through his serious battle with alcoholism during he was very truculent in interviews… what a nasty piece of work he could be so that did not help. Then he stayed his peace and love campaign– something that he repeated about 265 million times. In other words, he just never seemed to want to engage us in a serious and meaningful manner lithe then having a trademark jingle and the peace sign.
By all accounts he got along very well with all who have, and still do, work with him. Maybe I am far off base, but to me the whole facade is extraordinarily frustrating. I want to know how he, as a musician, created what he did. I don’t need the constant peace and love and I’m a lefty on a right- handed kit spiel as that got old decades ago.
Harsh? Perhaps. Maybe he has always been comfortable in that role but I always wanted more meat in the conversation. I wanted a Nick Mason or Steve Gadd engagenent.
My point is that if he is perceived by in a certain way it is because he never wanted to be anything but that to the public. Shame, as he was an excellent drummer.
@Neal Thanks for the answer! I think in certain ways I agree with you, and that’s why I asked the question. I have absolutely no qualifications to say anything about Ringo as a drummer, it is rather his tepid “peace and love”,” I like everybody” attitude gets on my nerves a little bit. He’s like a capybara :D! Or rather, I am curious as why they liked him better than Pete Best and what was it that made them keep him all this time? He must have had something! In Get Back he is almost absent but when he actually appears and says something, they listen. Like the rooftop thing: “I don’t want to go on the roof” says George, “I want to go on the roof” says Ringo, and lo and behold, they go on the roof! It may be just the editing, but it seemed like they cared for his opinions. Why??? There must be something more interesting behind the blandness!
Ah, I think I now know what you are asking. Sorry I dove right into a discussion about his drumming technique.
If I correctly remember the reporting of the better authors, such as Lewisohn, they mention that Ringo was a gigging drummer and decently well known in Liverpool just ahead of the curve of the other Beatles. He had a car, enjoyed mixed drinks, had his own style, was doing the holiday camp circuit, and was known for being very easy to work with. In other words, he was someone the other musicians respected and sought out.
The group crossed paths with him in Hamburg where Ringo sat in with them at least once and, most likely, a few other times as well much to the delight of all.
Pete Best had two strikes against him. The first was that he simply did not have a broad skill set as a drummer even though he was working the same hours in Hamburg as his bandmates. The second is that apparently his personality simply did not gel with that of John, Paul, and George. John once said that Pete Best was a drummer but Ringo was a Beatle. Pete always wanted to be off doing his own thing. If not a loner, then certainly not an active participant in the Beatles project.
There is discussion, again Lewisohn, that Ringo might not have been the first choice to replace Pete, but he was by no means the last. Once in the group, of course, he was part of that spark that was “The Beatles. ” Why? I opine is that it was because he made himself fully part of the group. That is where his heart was and where he wanted to plant his flag of musical creativity.
I would also opine that apart from the great importance of his personality meshing perfectly with the others, is that they respected him… and I can imagine that respect was very hard-earned in those circles. Public facing persona aside, Ringo was delivering the goods and held up like a trooper in the constant spotlight of the public eye. Granted his time was before Beatlemamia, but I don’t think the others respected Pete Best and therefore cashiered him out of the group.
Apart from the rough spot during the recording of the White Album in which he decamped to the continent, Ringo never let the group down. While John, at the end, seemed willing to replace George if need be, I can’t think that he would have been so casual with Ringo. He had earned their deference.
Lots of words and I might be far off base, but I imagine that in the white hot creative crucible of the Beatles that Ringo was respected and had that ineffable quality that we can only call “being a Beatle.”
Great comment here too, @Neal. Thank you.
For all the reasons you list, I truly believe that Ringo was 25% of what we recognize as The Beatles. He was not, as Norman called him I believe, “One of History’s greatest bit-players.” He was a full, essential member of that group and a central reason why it became so big, so successful, and so beloved.
@Neil Not too many words at all in your answer, very interesting thoughts! I like especially what you said about the “hard-earned respect”. They must have been pretty arrogant young bastards, and like you, I also think they had genuine respect for Ringo. And I think they didn’t have much respect for poor Pete… (I just feel so sorry for him, poor, poor guy… ) Curious what you say about John willing to let George go, but not Ringo – I would never have had such a thought, I somehow would have thought that George was a “more important” member of the band. I wonder, maybe you are right, though.
Anyway, I know that Ringo had his own demons to battle, and even though he succeeded (I think?) in keeping his friendship with all of them after the break-up, he wasn’t of course all flowers – and hearts – and peaceandlove. Bless him, I hope he’ll stay healthy and happy for many many years to come.
Can you imagine being Paul McCartney in 1969 when you are at the height of your musical powers and told by John that your getting demoted?? Like most things John did, it was most likely a way to pacify George but more likely to get a reaction out of Paul. Paul was writing an infinite number of hits at this time and seemed unstoppable with the material pouring out of him and he is met with the infamous 4-4-4-2 direction from John. Wow!
Well, similar is the fact that George’s contributions were beginning to be noticed, and then John brings Yoko in, pushing George (and even Paul) further down in the pecking order.
By the way, my daughter’s name is Holly; I love that name.
@Michael, personally I’m glad the Beatles finished on a high note with Abbey Road. While I try not to take it too seriously, I question the elevation in some quarters of George as John and Paul’s equal within the Beatles and the devaluation of the Lennon/McCartney collaboration. There were three geniuses in the Beatles apparently. That is difficult to justify in my opinion. Then again, if you forgive my cynicism, every second person in the music industry is a genius today. Not to detract from his abilities, but George received a lot of help with ATMP over a period of several months not only from Phil Spector but from Eric Clapton and Billy Preston, virtuoso musicians in the way the Beatles were not. By the same token it’s also why I respect him (and Ringo) for working with professional musicians after the split. He earned that kudos and it’s why ATMP remains a firm favorite with rock critics. As far as Paul’s solo music goes, he had already written several songs within the Beatles with very little, if any, input from the other three. I realize it has been a bone of contention but my reading is that they seemed deeply personal to him. To be honest I’m not one for individual creative peaks for any of them based on years or age differences. It’s far too subjective. I prefer the ebb and flow theory although I agree that didn’t necessarily extend to their solo careers. More ebb than flow after the mid 70s unfortunately.
I totally agree and it makes me very sad. What made The Beatles great was the unique combination of all four of them. None of the solo work that I’ve heard comes even close. Maybe some of Paul’s early solo stuff but I also think those would’ve improved if done by The Beatles as a group.
I think “Come Together” is what most fans think of when they pine for more Beatles music. John’s lyrics and singing, Paul’s swampy bass, Ringo’s drumming, a precise solo from George, Billy Preston’s understated electric piano, all recorded and mixed to sonic perfection. It’s certainly what I wish for. But there aren’t many songs on Abbey Road that Here Comes the Sun” are close, if a little sugar-coated, and “I Want You” has the sound and ensemble playing, but less power. All the same, the best work on side one is outstanding, and even lesser songs (“Octopus’ Garden”, “Oh! Darling!” and even “Maxwell”) aren’t bad, but by side two the magic is in the medley, which is made up of fragments and leftovers.
At that point, The Beatles’ three songwriters didn’t have much to collaborate on. Most of John’s songs were too personal to be on a band album, few of George’s were of interest to John and Paul, and no one wanted to be a session player on any of Paul’s songs. It’s hard to imagine the kind of ensemble playing that made “Come Together” so great on most of them, even “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Instant Karma!” or “My Sweet Lord.” From 1970-73, most of their work seems incompatible.
But by 1973, John and Paul returned to fairly conventional rock/pop songwriting, and I think some of “Mind Games”, “Walls & Bridges,” and “Band on the Run” and “Living in the Material World” would have been compatible, and might have made for a coherent album with all four playing the main instruments. It wouldn’t have lasted long, but it might have been okay.
It’s hard (not impossible) to imagine a double album of “McCartney” and “Plastic Ono Band,” but Paul’s is a homemade collection, and Lennon’s is a skillfully produced album and a lot more heft, but even if George had recorded ATMP in a similar stripped down fashion, the three records would not blend or cohere.
This is a great comment, @Peter. Thank you.
Devin always felt “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” was some sort of high-water mark, but I think “Come Together” might be my choice, for the reasons you mention.
There were lots of missed opportunities for singles later in the 70s, when the music and lyrics of various ex-Beatle songs could have been combined:
Ringo Starr, “Early 1970,” EP with each of the other three singing their own version. To be fair, I think John and George helped with Ringo’s lyrics on the original track, so maybe Paul gets a bonus drum solo?
John Lennon & Paul McCartney, “How Do You Sleep?” either a duet, or Paul overdubs HIS lyrics onto the same backing tracks for the ‘B’ side. (“So Plastic On Band was a drag/you should’ve stayed in that stupid bag.” (1971)
If George had waited to release “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth”) I think John’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” would have made for a great response song. This would definitely be a double-A side.
“Silly Love Songs” b/w “Here We Go Again” (1975;Paul gets the A-side; John’s song wasn’t released during his life, but as with the previous single, John gets to be the grumpy one.)
“Stand By Me” b/w “Bye-Bye Love” (1975; John on the A side & George & Eric Clapton on the back.)
“Coming Up (Like a Flower) b/w “Kiss Kiss Kiss” (1980; Paul & Yoko and a lot of awkwardness)
“Got My Mind Set on You” b/w “No No Song ’87.” I got tired of the A side very quickly (“This song’s only six words long!”-Weird Al) and I think it pairs nicely with a newly sober Ringo and his all Starr Band’s new recording of an equally annoying song. They go together like Bartyls & James.
“Run Devil Run” b/w “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” (1999). Hell freezes over and George & Paul collaborate. George adds a raunchy (pun intended) solo to Paul’s song; Paul does his best “When I’m 64″/”Honey Pie” thing on George’s. I know George’s version didn’t come out until 2002, but he sat on it for years, so I think it works.
As a follow-up to a reply I made to @Bai Lang, I afterward remembered the name Bobby Graham.
I do not have Lewisohn’s Tune In at hand, but a couple of months ago I was writing a hobby article about Joe Meek when I ran across a reference to the studio drummer Bobby Graham having been the first choice to have replaced Pete Best. Graham was a first-rate musician who was once described by producer Shel Talmy as the greatest drummer the UK has ever produced.
I know that Clem Cattani, another drummer who worked with Joe Meek, was also very highly respected but I could not determine if he had been under consideration by the Beatles or not.
Graham was part of a group that was the UK equivalent of the famed L.A. Wrecking Crew. In that UK cadre one could find Vic Flick who is known to Beatles fans as the lead guitarist on Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) instrumental on the Hard Day’s Night film.
I am not sure how Graham or Cattani would have fit into the Beatles’ persona, but they were two gents who definitely had the chops to sit behind the kit for them.
@Bai Lang, they all resented each other in one way or another. Honestly, sometimes I felt like banging their entitled little heads together. By 1970, they had fame, fortune, and artistic success beyond their wildest dreams in 1962. As for Pete, I think respect goes both ways. From what I’ve read, Pete was not a team player and did not push himself to be the best he could be to realize the dream. If he had been, events may have worked out differently for him. Much of the Beatles success was due to their personal qualities as well as their musical clout. Ringo was the right man.
@Lara Oh yes, they were a bunch of entitled egomianiacs and I guess the reason is precisely that ” they had fame, fortune, and artistic success beyond their wildest dreams”. Which probably would go to anybody’s head… Wish they had been nicer to each other, though 🙂
@Holly, I found it a little hard to understand what you were saying at first, but think I know what you mean and I don’t think you are totally inaccurate. Many of the solo songs had been written before the split, some in India and some well before. However, songs like Junk or Jealous Guy weren’t worked on in any detail, either not been taken seriously at the time or rejected for one reason or another. But you are right in that some of George’s songs did have a lot of time spent on them, so you could say that of all the solo songs, only some of George’s songs had any significant input from George Martin and Paul or John beforehand.
If that’s what I think you are trying to say. However, that doesn’t make ATMP a Beatles album. It was George who rejected them for the Beatles, not John, Paul or George Martin. And I believe too that the influence of George Martin and of the Beatle experience generally was brought over, even subconsciously, by George for ATMP. But it did too for Paul and John’s early work. George must have had some sort of vision of what he wanted because he wasn’t that happy with Spector’s production either. I think it was why he seemed drawn to Jeff Lynne, ironically considered by many as the most Beatlesque of all the producers he worked with. I also think the further removed George became from the Beatles, the standard of his solo output dropped disproportionately. Realistically, I don’t think this affected John and Paul to the same extent, or at least not within the same time span, regardless of what people think of their solo efforts.
Sent from my Galaxy
“I also think the further removed George became from the Beatles, the standard of his solo output dropped disproportionately.”
I know this is the typical opinion on George, but I don’t think it holds up. I think George’s solo output to 1980 is roughly comparable to John’s, especially if you subtract the Grieving World aspect of Double Fantasy. Both John and George really had two great early solo LPs (POB and Imagine; the first two sides of ATMP) and then after ’72 a bunch of good tracks in merely okay albums. And I think this can be explained very easily.
Paul McCartney wanted to be a Beatle, and do Beatle-like things, for his entire life; he has done so, and yay! Both John and George, while they arguably have more interesting things to say than Paul does, always had fewer musical ideas, and so their work suffers from a kind of sonic sameness that Paul’s **sometimes** avoids. But more to the point, both John and George were bored with being Beatles and to some degree bored with making Beatle-like pop music and touring to support same. That’s not a flaw in them as artists, or people. But it makes their solo catalog smaller and more variable. Is “Let ‘Em In” better than “Blow Away”? Not to my ear. Paul’s song was a huge hit on an LP supporting a huge tour, and George’s was a high point on a critically panned LP.
I find it hard to listen to “All Those Years Ago” and decree it inherently less worthy than say, “With a Little Luck.” I do think you can say that George was a “worse” pop musician than Paul was, but Paul was a worse movie producer. 🙂
My point with all this is, if you judge John or George by metrics that favor Paul, they come out looking second-rate. But if you judge Paul on John and George’s strengths–utter uniqueness as a cultural figure, and influence on the culture–Paul really comes up short. TBoth John and George influenced people in ways that Paul simply does not (ever met anyone who became a vegetarian because of Paul McCartney? I haven’t), and to some degree that’s because John and George spent their lives doing and exploring other things, and Paul didn’t and hasn’t. John and George really MEANT something to millions of people, and while many Dullblog readers may feel the same intensity of attachment to Paul McCartney (I do), most general music fans think of Paul in the same way they think of Brian Wilson or Paul Simon, “merely” wonderful songwriters. John and George were CULTURAL figures, in the same way Dylan was/is, and that’s going to produce a different kind of work, and life. And so while Paul’s songs really shine as pop, John and George’s work shine as fragments from the lives of two extraordinary artists. That’s ALSO awesome.
TL;dr–all of ’em are great, but all four are very different.
@Michael. I’m curious to know why there is never any in-depth comparison between John and George. Paul is constantly compared to John and now compared to George, and worse still, John and George together compared to Paul. Perhaps that speaks for itself. And why expectations of Paul are held up to the Beatles to a far greater extent than for the other three. For all the talk of the Beatles being greater than the sum of their parts, John’s solo career is still viewed through rosy specs, and however subpar George’s may have been, critics were never unkind. It seems to me in order to protect George, Paul is deconstructed as some lovable, talented pop ‘craftsman’ past his best at thirty. To be very clear Paul was and is an extraordinary ARTIST. And he doesnt need Dylan or Costello to validate him either. I think the fact that John and George are dead has helped tremendously in how they are perceived. I’ve lived with the Beatles my entire life and I know that George was NOT seen in any cultural sense at the time. He was an ex-Beatle interested in Eastern religion which influenced his music. Nothing more, nothing less.
‘Paul McCartney wanted to be a Beatle, and do Beatle-like things, for his entire life; he has done so, and yay!’ No, I dont think so. He has highly regarded recordings under The Firemen label and forays into classical music. He has narrative themes running throughout his whole body of work. He has had exhibitions of his paintings. So why be so selective? Whether people like them or not is besides the point and no different from producing dated 80s movies. But if they were Beatle-like things then it seems obvious then why the Beatles had such an impact.
Ram is right up there with All Things Must Pass and Plastic Ono Band – three very different statements. In truth, Paul was more Pop/Rock and ironically more experimental than either John or George, who went down the road of AOR soft rock didacticism. Pursuing a cause or an ideology did not make them cultural figures in the truest meaning of the word nor did it give them a unique, more interesting personal view. It was not some trade-off to McCartney’s musical chops. That just seems absurd to me. It was the BEATLES as a band, as a collective, who were the cultural force, a good deal of which Paul helped to define. He doesn’t need vegetarianism or the wretched peace sign (thanks John and Yoko) he still occasionally hawks around to validate his art. If that’s cultural influence, then no thanks. In comparing songs, I think it more useful to compare like with like: deep cuts with deep cuts, high points with high points. I expect this will be seen as another ‘defending’ Paul moment but honestly I don’t think anybody here has denied George his due as a musician or writer. Yes, George was the archetypal rock star – for those for which only guitar based rock is the most important to them. You may not agree, but George DID decline disproportionately in the 70s to his early success with the monster (your words) ATMP encouraged by his catchy hit My Sweet Lord. That was my point. Fascination with eastern religion had declined considerably by 1974 and the general public were growing increasingly tired of John and Yoko. I witnessed that in real time. But untimely death changes everything doesn’t it? That’s the ONLY reason why Imagine was dusted off in1980 to become a hit a second time, not because of some intrinsic cultural value it possessed. None of John’s songs would be any more memorable than Jet or Silly Love Songs (a satire) if not for the extensive radio play they received in the wake of his death. Yet quite a few of Paul’s songs have been used in art house movie soundtracks, notably Let Me Roll It and Junk. Out of interest I’d like to know what John and George’s solo songs were as good or better or memorable than what they did as Beatles. For me, none spring readily to mind. But Maybe I’m Amazed is EASILY of that calibre.
Shooting from the hip on all this…
“why expectations of Paul are held up to the Beatles to a far greater extent than for the other three”
Two reasons. First, Paul unabashedly continued to play the exact same game, and making very much the same kind of music in the same style, as the Beatles had. Whether they were sincere or not, both John and George actively tried to distance themselves from their Beatle years, and immediately made music in 1970 that was decisively different than what they’d been doing before. Whereas Paul was still making pop music aimed at a wide audience. Even when Lennon and Harrison made pop songs (“Instant Karma” or “My Sweet Lord”) they did so within the context of their own personalities (politics, religion, etc). And second, of them all Paul was most comfortable with the mantle of The Beatles, and while Lennon did sing some Beatles tunes with Elton John on stage, it’s difficult to express how seismic it felt in 1976 when Paul sang a bunch of Beatles tunes during the American tour, and then put them on his record. So IMHO not only does Paul court these comparisons with The Beatles, they’re also a lot easier to make. How does one compare Bangladesh, or Double Fantasy, even George’s Dark Horse tour, to the Beatles thing? They are fundamentally different enterprises. Whereas Wings’ ’76 tour of the States was not so different than what The Beatles would’ve done…right down to Paul singing “Yesterday.”
“John’s solo career is still viewed through rosy specs, and however subpar George’s may have been, critics were never unkind”
John was dismissed as a non-entity after about 1974, and it was only his assassination that caused critics to reassess. I agree that John gets extra slack because we all feel terrible about how his life ended. Similarly, George was viewed as a damp squib after the Dark Horse tour–which was SAVAGED–had a brief flash of relevance with “All Those Years Ago,” and then a period where he was as retired as John had been in 1976-80. I personally think late-period George–the Wilburys, Cloud Nine, and Brainwashed–stands up to any solo McCartney except perhaps RAM and some singles. I like solo Paul; but I also like solo George, and it’s really difficult to compare the two. Two very different types of person making very different music for different reasons. If Wings Over America had started out with an hour of bagpipe music because Paul liked it, Paul’s notices would’ve been as bad as George’s. But just as that seems insane to suggest for Paul, it’s also completely in character for George to haul out Ravi Shankar as his opening act.
“To be very clear Paul was and is an extraordinary ARTIST.”
Nobody’s arguing that; my point was that he has been generally loathe to collaborate with any artists anywhere near his caliber, with the exception of Costello. That may be one reason why his solo catalog is very large, but very slack.
“I know that George was NOT seen in any cultural sense at the time.”
My experience has been vastly different. Out here in California, George Harrison STILL has resonance with any person interested in Eastern religions or meditation, even people under 30. Additionally, most Boomers of my acquaintance have strong affections for John and George as people, based on their having touched them via their personality. Paul is respected as a songwriter and loved as an ex-Beatle, but the affection simply doesn’t run as hot for him. John and George’s early deaths certainly have something to do with this, but I also think that John’s political interests, and George’s spiritual ones, both influenced and participated in two aspects of the generation-wide Boomer counterculture which individual Boomers connected to. Paul–and this is not a fault–was never a countercultural figure, and so does not seem to kindle the same nostalgic affection. I expect this to change after he dies.
“He has highly regarded recordings under The Firemen label and forays into classical music.”
With all due respect, these aspects of Paul’s career are only of interest to McCartney fans. (Of which I am one.) Shall we call John a playwright because his books were put on at The National Theatre in 1968? Or a great artist because of his wonderful, student-caliber doodles? Paul is like Woody Allen; he is a compulsive creator who has lived a long and productive life. And like Allen, he had a period where he absolutely led the culture, then a period where every release was an event, and then a long period where his audience was much smaller and his influence primarily for stuff he did decades earlier. That’s not a crack on either Paul or Woody–it’s a wonderful career arc–but nor should we be so enthralled with either guy to think that they are leading the culture today. Neither are. But their earlier work still has a huge influence.
“Whether people like them or not is besides the point”
To me, it is very much the point. This blog exists and we are talking because people liked and still like The Beatles. Solo Paul–like the other three–is a footnote to his major work, which was with The Beatles. And we know The Beatles are his major work because many more people love and connect with that, than with his solo work. “People liking it” is how you judge success in the idiom of popular art. Just that Paul keeps making stuff isn’t in itself something to celebrate; I’m glad he does, but for him making records for him is like doing crosswords is for you and me. “Wow he’s made so MUCH!” Woody Allen has made 45 movies since Annie Hall, but it’s a good bet that Annie Hall will be what people remember. Just as Paul will be remembered for Yesterday and Pepper.
“Ram is right up there with All Things Must Pass and Plastic Ono Band – three very different statements.”
I would agree with this, and I would further say that it’s really interesting that, IMHO, all three musicians’ careers decline from this point.
“Pursuing a cause or an ideology did not make them cultural figures in the truest meaning of the word nor did it give them a unique, more interesting personal view. It was not some trade-off to McCartney’s musical chops.”
I would disagree; time and energy spent pursuing religion or politics is time and energy NOT spent writing, honing, or recording songs, or touring. After the breakup–really after The White Album–John and George seemed to be more interested in doing other things, whereas Paul still wanted to be a Beatle, and do Beatle-like things. That’s not a criticism of Paul; I’m glad he did. But neither can we downgrade John or George for choosing a different path. That’s no more fair than calling Paul “a square” in 1972 because he DIDN’T have a guru or hang out with Abbie Hoffman.
“If that’s cultural influence, then no thanks.”
Ok, so, you’re interested in Paul and what Paul’s done. He’s the Beatle that you connect with, and that’s great. But my point is that other people, lots of them, connect with John over his politics and art and J&Y stuff, and George over his religious/philosophical stuff.
“I don’t think anybody here has denied George his due as a musician or writer.”
Lara, @Holly just blew in here saying that ATMP–George’s main statement and success as a solo artist–should be considered a Beatle record because of the influence of John, Paul, and George Martin. That’s a huge claim I’ve never heard anybody say, and a textbook example of denying George his due as a musician and writer. And by the way, I think Paul is a better musician and writer than George, and a better musician than John. But there’s no need to diminish George or John to burnish Paul. Paul’s great. He’s literally the most successful musician in history. Nobody’s dissing him.
“Fascination with eastern religion had declined considerably by 1974”
Not so fast! From where I am sitting in downtown Santa Monica, a medium-sized suburb of Los Angeles, I can see a massive Buddhist temple. This morning I attended qigong lessons in a local park, taught by a legendary karate master; next to us was a tai chi class. Yesterday, I got Taoist acupuncture from a man who studies yet another branch of Eastern philosophy. Now I am an outlier for sure — but does your town have a karate school or other martial arts school? Probably. Did you see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” starring the famous martial artist Michelle Yeoh? Can you take yoga or mindfulness meditation classes at your local senior center? Probably. The Beatles’ foray into Eastern religions, led by George, and George’s cultural prominence as probably the most famous Western convert to Hinduism, were instrumental in a vast cultural change throughout the West during the 60s and 70s. Similarly, it’s impossible to understate how many feminists look at John and Yoko as a model–rightly or wrongly! Paul did not seek, nor did he achieve, these kinds of cultural impacts. He, instead, wrote great pop music and succeeded at that. Everybody’s got their skills and interests.
“None of John’s songs would be any more memorable than Jet or Silly Love Songs (a satire) if not for the extensive radio play they received in the wake of his death.”
Perhaps, but in that alternate future John would’ve been alive and producing music, so who knows what else he would come up with?
“Out of interest I’d like to know what John and George’s solo songs were as good or better or memorable than what they did as Beatles. For me, none spring readily to mind. But Maybe I’m Amazed is EASILY of that calibre.”
Maybe I’m Amazed has never been to my taste–it’s “Hey Jude” without the exquisite restraint–but it is very well-loved and I can hear why. For George, I think “My Sweet Lord” and “The Light That Has Lighted The World” equal his Beatle best. I don’t really like solo John, but I think “Imagine,” “Jealous Guy,” “Isolation,” “God,” and “Mother” and perhaps “Beautiful Boy” are Beatle-worthy.
Nobody is arguing Paul isn’t great! He’s great. All three were different people, with different interests and different talents, and I don’t think any of them are well served by being compared to the others. They are each too unique.
@Michael, I can’t help but feel disappointed with your very long response. However much you think Paul is great, I think your biases are showing. What Holly said were not my views and nor did I make any comparisons between George and Paul. Lennon and Harrison the lasting cultural icons and McCartney the pop star who has never done much for 60 years and never explored anything beyond pop music (but he is still great). Where do I even begin? Who is burnishing who? If you personally don’t connect to Paul then that’s your choice, but that doesn’t mean others don’t, or even worse, imply that they can’t.
I’m getting fed up with point scoring but nevertheless:
‘First, Paul unabashedly continued to play the exact same game, and making very much the same kind of music in the same style, as the Beatles had. Whether they were sincere or not, both John and George actively tried to distance themselves from their Beatle years, and immediately made music in 1970 that was decisively different than what they’d been doing before.’
If any one of them actively distanced themselves from the Beatles it was Paul in the 1970s. John did his very best to ‘distance’ himself in Lennon Remembers. Apart from refusing to discuss the Beatles in his early interviews, Paul’s songwriting style changed RADICALLY as a result of the pressure from John and Yoko to be quasi-political or quasi-profound like George. Give me one song from his Beatles years that sounds remotely, lyrically at least, like Jet or Monkberry Moon Delight. I guess we can all cherry pick. And where exactly is the Beatles baroque pop that Paul made a name for himself (and the Beatles) in his 70’s solo career and beyond? One could argue that John’s Plastic Ono Band songs follow EXACTLY on from his Beatle songs I Want You/She’s So Heavy and Yer Blues, and that George’s songs from ATMP follow EXACTLY his Beatle songs Within You Without You and Love You To.
The point of which is? I think we all know that Paul’s early albums were underhandedly savaged by critics at the time in a way that the others weren’t. Come on.
When Paul set up his second career his contemporaries were David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Pink Floyd amongst others. They were his competitors, not his fellow Beatles; they were gone. That’s how it was perceived by the general public in the 70s. If John and George thought they were above or better than the Beatles, or bored with them, then that was their choice. Or loss. Because nobody can tell me if they hadn’t been members of the biggest cultural musical phenomenon of the last hundred years nobody would have taken a blind bit of notice of either of them. The relentless comparison of the solo Beatles and who was better and who did what is very much a post-1980 pastime amongst Beatles fans. The cultural aspects of John and George are overstated because essentially they are romantic ones – and nothing wrong with that – but unpopular as it may be, I’d argue that Paul including Beatles songs in his repotoire carried John, George and Ringo in keeping the Beatles flame alive and introducing their music to new audiences. And it kept the royalties and endless remasters coming in. Why wouldn’t they retire? Paul was so traumatized by the Beatles breakup (and he was) he could have easily hung up his guitar straps for good and left them to it. And further traumatized by John’s murder in a way George and Ringo weren’t. There was something so very obsequious about the reaction of the rock community to John’s death. They all had a claim on him, even Paul’s own brother, on how they felt John was their best mate, how CONNECTED they felt to him. Yet NONE of them had worked with him so closely the way Paul had, not even George or Ringo; NONE of them were on the receiving end of Lennon’s sharp tongue and his slings and arrows. I found it nauseating. The eighties were a low point for Paul. How could they possibly not be?
‘He has been generally loathe to collaborate with any artists anywhere near his caliber’. What artists did John collaborate with apart from jamming or with the lesser Yoko Ono? Paul was never given the opportunity to team up with Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis because he never received the invite. Are you saying Paul wouldn’t have and are you implying that Dylan and Orbison are of the same calibre as George?
‘Paul was never really counterculture’. I disagree. It was Paul who in 1965 helped fund and set up the Indica bookshop in London for alternative voices. Being in the book trade for most of my life I know that has had far more ramifications beyond the sixties than meditation ever has. Of which, ironically, publications on that topic have sat on their shelves for decades. Not to mention the very underground culture that went beyond that decade. True, Paul never flaunts it. Does he have to? You may say this is disingenuous; perhaps so, but no less disingenuous to imply that everything eastern was all down to George Harrison.
Abby Hoffman doesn’t mean much to me. Should he? But Allen Ginsberg was a lot more connected to the Beatles particularly to Sgt Pepper and particularly to Paul until his death in the 90s.
George and John did not include any of their back Beatles catalogue for the simple reason they did not tour. The reason why Paul started performing some of his Beatles songs was in part audience expectations. Cultural icon Bob Dylan also performs from his back catalogue. So do Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and countless others. But Paul is exempt? That seems incredibly unfair to me.
You may well have boomer friends with attachments to John and George but you are seeing that from an American perspective that is not necessarily unique to the rest of the world. California is California not Liverpool or Paris or Brisbane. From my experience what I remember is that the student riots and political unrest in Europe and the big anti-war demonstrations were happening well before John and Yoko hooked up and embarked on their campaigns to their boomer followers.
‘I personally think late-period George–the Wilburys, Cloud Nine, and Brainwashed–stands up to any solo McCartney.’
So not to solo Lennon then? Why Blow Away (not that I’m blown away myself) to Let Em In from 1979 but not to anything of Lennon’s from the same period? The Wilburys – Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and the fabulous Roy Orbison were just as much the Wilburys as George. It was Orbison that gave them that special sound and it’s why they disbanded after his death.
‘Ok, so, you’re interested in Paul and what Paul’s done’. No, and that’s where you misunderstand. Call me devils advocate if you like but I’m no more into Paul’s solo stuff and what he has done than I am of the others. Rather, as a Beatles fan, it is the hypocrisy that one has to be a McCartney fan to be interested in what he does, yet one does not have to be a Lennon or Harrison fan to follow or engage in what they do. Aren’t your Californian friends an example? They are Harrison or Lennon fans and there is no difference.
Doesn’t it say something about us as a society? That we need to be asked by celebrities or rock stars to donate to good causes (as an aside it was Ravi Shankar, not George, who asked for a concert for Bangladesh) or to take up eastern philosophy/vegetarianism/meditation/ whatever, simply because a famous person does? I seriously don’t think most people do. My own father took up yoga when the Beatles had barely left for Hamburg. He practiced it every day of his life until he died. In truth, it was the little figure of giggly Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that captured the world’s imagination at the time and the Beatles association with him. Paul has profoundly affected the lives of many, including younger Beatles fans, and no less than John or George, and something that goes well beyond politics and religion. Perhaps people will be more likely to admit it publicly once he has gone.
You made three points in your reply that I particularly enjoyed.
The first was about the student riots in Europe in 1968. Lots of causes for these as you know, but I agree that John and Yoko were not exactly in the van when it came to protest. At this stage I view their actions as nothing more than Yoko’s performative art and a desire for attention rather than a serious engagement of the issues.
Second, like a lot with celebrity and even part of the Beatles story, I find it creepy to read of all those “best mates with John” stories. Maybe I am misreading all the literature, but John Lennon strikes me as one who didn’t have a lot of friends in his last years. That is perfectly fine if that was his choice, but after 1975 he didn’t seem to be collaborating on anything with anyone other than Yoko.
I don’t mean to imply that after his death that critics, musicians, and contemporaries should have dissed John, but forty years on the hagiography was thick from people who hadn’t given him a moment’s thought in ages.
The third point is your mention of Paul’s musical peers and competitors in the seventies and eighties. It seems than many forget that while there certainly a lot of dross on the airways, it was a creatively fecund period for many artists and he had new challenges to face.
Very good discussion @Lara and Michael.
“Paul is respected as a songwriter and loved as an ex-Beatle, but the affection simply doesn’t run as hot for him.“ I know this was stated in the context of boomers you know, but I have had a different experience.
For instance, I’m a subscriber to the Washington Post and a frequent commenter. Whenever there has been a Beatle/Paul story, the comments are overwhelmingly positive about Paul. The commenters are mostly aged 50+. People LOVE him, and have great affection for him. It goes beyond just admiring him as a great musician. His life OFF the stage is just as admirable.
By all accounts Paul is an excellent father, and his kids love and respect him. He had a long and successful marriage with Linda, and has a seemingly good marriage with Nancy. Those qualities may not be as interesting as George’s spiritual quests, or Johns idiosyncrasies, and maybe that’s why some folks don’t think of him in the same way. He’s pretty normal, or strives for normalcy.
Additionally, if you’ve ever seen Paul live, (3x for me) the emotions by the audience are overwhelming. Pure joy and excitement and amazement. And love. Even from the younger folks, of whom there are many.
“All three were different people, with different interests and different talents, and I don’t think any of them are well served by being compared to the others. They are each too unique.”
That’s the bottom line, and I think if someone loves Paul a little more, or George, that’s ok, but we ultimately really love The Beatles. The four of them together.
@Michael, to add to what I have already said, I’d argue that there is an emotional over investment in the Beatles now, to an extent that the fandom irritates many outside of it in making claims on the Beatles behalf, or its individual members, which are often dubious at best.
“Fascination with eastern religion had declined considerably by 1974”. What I meant, and I think you know that, was the decline of interest of Eastern influences amongst young westerners within popular MUSIC and popular culture – fashion, etc. The growth of glam, boogie, disco, punk and new wave and other advances throughout the seventies and beyond drew little upon either George or John’s cultural beliefs. But they did, as is generally acknowledged, from the Beatles themselves, which has had greater lasting impact.
Likewise, the growth of Buddhist temples and other examples you gave was and is due to the increasing diversity of our societies through immigration and interpartnerships. That has nothing to do with George Harrison or the Beatles. That is not what they were about.
‘Similarly, it’s impossible to understate how many feminists look at John and Yoko as a model–rightly or wrongly!’
That is objectively nowhere near the truth. As a teenager at the time it was the feminists Germaine Greer (particularly so, given her widespread media coverage), Betty Friedan and others who radically changed the landscape by tapping into the discontent girls and women were already feeling about their lot. John’s sexist remarks towards his band mates women ‘dolly birds hanging on the arms of their men’ was insulting.
@Lara, Western culture has indeed become increasingly diverse and that is a factor, but I can only tell you what friends or strangers tell me when I say I run a Beatles blog. If they are meditators or martial artists or otherwise interested in Eastern philosophies/practices, they *almost invariably* speak of the impact that George Harrison had on their personal journey. Boomers, mostly, but not always. I didn’t think he was nearly so instrumental in kindling so many people’s interest in this way. But hearing this over and over has fundamentally changed my opinions about George, especially his solo years. I did not used to think that his spiritual journey had any impact past his own family, but now I do, based on what others have told me he meant/means to them.
Similarly, people have regularly mentioned John and Yoko to me as models of a feminist marriage. I used to counter with all the facts I knew about that marriage, pointing out that it wasn’t really such a model. This would never cut any ice; they treasured that “two equal artists” vision of J&Y and, rightly or wrongly, they used it as inspiration in this way. And so even though I quite agree with you that there are a hundred–a thousand?–many thousands?–of people who are more appropriate inspiration to people looking to remake society in a way not marred by patriarchy, I also have to acknowledge that John and Yoko’s effort to impact the Boomers in that way seems to have been successful. And this likewise has been factored into my opinions about their post-Beatle careers.
Paul is treasured, for sure, but strictly as a showbiz figure, a musician like, for example, Cole Porter. Whereas John and George were musicians but culturally have come to be viewed more like…Timothy Leary? Ram Dass? It’s difficult to pin down precisely, but it’s there, and essential to weighing John and George’s post-Beatle lives, IMHO.
@Michael and @Lara I’ve been following your discussion with interest, awe and respect, knowing that it is so much above my head, but some things Lara said in her posts gave me courage to say something as well. It is interesting that while Michael in his long said that John and George MEANT something to millions of people, Paul is only to be “treasured, for sure, but only as….”, which, lets be honest, ultimatley means that he is a much less interesting and meaningful figure. Well, it got me the first time I read it, because actually Paul MEANS something to me, and I am not sure why his (capitalized) MEANING something to me should be of a lesser kind that in the case of John and George. He (capitalized) MEANS more to me than just “as a showbiz figure”, he actually MEANS something. And while I don’t know all those hyperbolic millions who find John and George so meaningful in their lives, I’d say that there are literal and checkable thousands on the Internet who seem to be reacting to the news about Paul as if he MEANT something to them as well.
As for the Eastern religions, being a little bit from the Mysterious East myself, I would humbly venture to say, that maybe those religions gained their following in the West based on their own merits, and they were just fine even without George. George wasn’t the first follower and I would say that there were people more instrumental in bringing the ex oriente lux to the West. In this respect I don’t understand why it is OK to say that George was a part of the great cultural change in the area of religion, but Paul meant nothing in the change that took place in the area of morally motivated vegetarianism. In the end it seems that what you say is based on the people you actually know, and I would counter that with “well, I know quite a number of Buddhists, age from 20 to 40 and absolutely none of them ever mentioned George (I know George wasn’t a Buddhist, but you brough Buddhism yourself), and the 20 year olds don’t even know who he is”. Whereas my vegan friends all nod their heads approvingly when I mention Paul. If some find John and Yoko’s marriage “feminist”, that’s fine, but I would argue that Paul and Linda’s marriage was just as feiminist, and Paul certainly was a much more hands on father to his 3 girls, than John ever was to his boys, and all 3 Paul’s girls turned out OK (even as feminists themselves). Also, I am very grateful to @Lara for mentioning one more thing – California is not the whole world. I come from a background as different from California as can be, being both from behind the iron curtain and the bamboo curtain, and so maybe my perceptions would and could be different. Even though I look up to the Brits and Americans as the sources of the real knowledge of the Beatles, if we are talking about their influence “in the world” then maybe we should look a little bit towards the world beyond the UK and USA.
Bai Lang, same on finding “meaning” in McCartney. He and his music are far from perfect, but he’s the Beatle I connect with most. In addition to the elements you mention (being an involved husband and father, who took his whole family on tour when that wasn’t cool, for example) I love his penchant for storytelling in his songs. I also agree that his vegetarianism has influenced a good number of people.
Nancy and Bai Ling, I agree 100% with your comments.
Good point about Paul and Linda’s influence with vegetarianism awareness, which Is being carried on today by Mary and Stella.
I just don’t agree with the premise that Paul is culturally not as important as John and George.
I’m struggling as well over such descriptions of treasured and meant. I think this is really doing Paul down. It buys into the stereotypes of each member that Beatle culture itself thrives upon to survive. Whatever cultural weight John and George supposedly possessed won’t affect Paul’s legacy or standing.
The many tributes I read from other artists on the eve of Paul’s 80th if anything point to McCartney belonging to his very own subculture simply by being Paul McCartney. Whether from his peers or from young musicians, one word above all others describe him: inspirational. A musician who has written songs from the age of 14 until 80. He is a one-off. Take that Cole.
When joining in singing the coda of Hey Jude at McCartney’s concerts, I’ve heard several people describe it as a spiritual experience they never found in any church or prayer room. A sense of oneness, however fleeting, but difficult to describe in words or intellectualize. That’s Paul; that’s HIS connection to people. Outsiders looking in might find that something to ridicule or mock but that’s their problem.
If some people mention George on their spiritual journeys and how he’s important to them nobody’s going to begrudge them for that. Or to begrudge George himself. But their spiritual journeys are theirs alone. There are as many spiritual journeys in life as there are people. Why, specifically is the sitar culturally more important than any other instrument, or the practice of Hinduism more meaningful than any other faith or belief? How many Islamic, Buddhist, Catholic or Jewish fans took up Hinduism or Eastern interests simply because George did? Or agnostics and atheists? It doesn’t mean the rest of us, including Paul, are all somehow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually bereft because we didnt.
Cat Stevens converted to Islam. If he had been a Beatle, perhaps that may have had an impact as well. I can’t really answer that. But unlike George, Yusuf Islam dedicated himself entirely to Islam and his albums are as relevant and meaningful today as they were 1967 to 1978, and I’d argue to a much greater extent than any of George’s solo work. Cultural weight alone is not enough to hold anyone up if there is no substantial creative body of work for anyone outside Beatles fans.
It’s understandable that ATMP has resonance for many today – today it is accessible to the Indian subcontinent that was not possible in the 70s and the potential to draw fans from a population of one billion. How can any other artist possibly compete with that?
But as Bai Lang said (and correct me if I perceived wrongly) why would anything need a Beatle to validate it. Today people are increasingly sensitive to any rich white guy speaking on behalf of women or of anyone’s culture or religion. Attitudes and tastes change and what is considered important to one generation is not necessarily so for the next.
That’s why I think it’s important not to lose sight of what it REALLY was that made the world sit up about the Beatles. Regardless of who you were or where you were from, it was the music, their irreverance, their raw energy, their musical and intellectual curiosity and willingness to explore, and above all the joy they gave to people. This was what they MEANT to people. Which led, ironically, to music becoming almost a religion unto itself that has gone beyond traditional concepts of anything before. Whatever isms they collected on the way to some extent ultimately reflected their sense of self-importance in the belief they could influence others.
People speak of Paul’s normality or stability today as if he is unique. All rock stars mellow with age. Dylan has, as have some of the wildest rockers (if still alive) and if John and George had lived then they would have too. It’s simply impossible to compare a 70 to 80 year-old to 40 to 50 year-olds frozen in time. That is their ‘mystique’ – by not living long enough to say or do dumb things or become sometimes embarrassing with old age.
Excellent comment Lara.
And yes, singing “Hey Jude” along with fellow concert goers IS a spiritual experience.
I think many of us have a spiritual connection with the Beatles. Beyond the music, that’s the glue that bonds us to them.
@Lara nad @Michael To be fair, this whole thing started with Michael defending George from accusations that his ATMP album was in fact only good in those places where it was worked on by Paul and George Martin. So Michael tried to show that all Beatles had different strengths, and this is where this split: “John and George had cultural value” / “Paul has musical value” started. But the thing is: EACH of them had ALL those values, musical and beyond-musical. All of them wrote some great music and all of them wrote some crap music as well. We all have our favourite Beatles, but the thing is, as @Lara said, that if, for example, someone loves John for being a feminist, they still in the first place love John for his music and for what he did as a Beatle. On the other hand we all choose our favourite Beatles based on our own temperament and character and so we will see their “cultural values” beyond the music in different aspects.
I am not offended by anyone stating that George had a hand in making “Eastern religions” popular (although “Eastern religions” are all very different, and martial arts or attentiveness practice have nothing to do with George’s beliefs), I am sure that his influence was important for some people; but on the other hand it was not important for others. Equally, Paul’vegetarianism didn’t impress some people, but may have had some influence on others. George is not just a “spiritual inspiration”, he is also a musician; Paul is not just a musician, he is a whole complex person who is liked/loved for different aspects of his life, just as in case of John and George.
What I am really trying to say is that all those “cultural influences” that can be ascribed to John and George, are also present in Paul’s case, and what kind of made me (kind of) oppose Michael is that I felt that he was telling me (Paul’s fan, obviously) how *I* feel about Paul. And I know that if John’ fans and George’s fans love John and George for reasons beyond their music, exactly the same can be said about *my* love for Paul. And thank you @Lara, @Michael, @Tasmin, @Nancy for your knowledge and this discussion, I find it great and also helpful in claryfying my own views…
I’ve been following this post on and off, and there are a couple of things that interest me about the difference between a Beatles song and a solo Beatle’s song.
Lots of solo songs started as demos (or even recording attempts) for the group but ended up on solo records. There are different categories, but “rejects” interest me the most.
George played “Isn’t it a Pity” for Paul during the Get Back/Let it Be sessions, and mentioned his backlog of songs. Paul told him he should record them, which is definitely a rejection. If he’d said, “WE should record them,…” or “I will help you record them,” that would be something other than a rejection. “All Things Must Pass” got a fair number of rehearsals, but didn’t end up in the movie or on the record. “I Me Mine” got finished, but only because it was in the movie and thus had to be on the record, which is why George, Paul, & Ringo put it on tape in January 1970. I’m not sure if John & Paul rejected George’s songs because of ego or because they didn’t like them, but my impression is that while neither was enthusiastic about them, it was John who lost interest in them fastest. ATMP, Isn’t it a Pity, and other songs that The Beatles heard, and rant though as a group aren’t “Beatles” songs to my ears; the band was learning them, sometimes halfheartedly. “Not Guilty” on “George Harrison” (1979) has a very different feel and arrangement than the 102 takes The Beatles recorded in 1968. Those outtakes sound like The Beatles, but then again, so do other rejected recordings like “IF You’ve Got Troubles.” I don’t think anyone is surprised that neither song got released.
The Beatles rejected some of Paul’s songs, too. “Teddy Boy” is a good example of a song that John, Ringo, and George disliked, and even if it’s in the movie, it was not a contender for the record. “Junk” is an Esher demo; it could easily have fit on the White Album, but didn’t. Other Paul songs that were briefly demo’d during Beatles sessions (“Back Seat of My Car,” for instance) didn’t get much attention from the band.
There are more songs by Paul, and a few by John, that the author played for the others in a session, or that they briefly jammed on, that I would not call Beatles songs (“Child of Nature/Jealous Guy”) but none of them sound like The Beatles to my ears.
I agree with the cliche that The Beatles were greater than the sum of their parts, and George Martin’s production (and the great engineers, the acoustics of Abbey Road, and the sound they captured) are unique. The magic didn’t always happen, although one fan’s duds are someone else’s favorites. Late Beatles songs were mostly written by John, Paul, or George, and completed and arranged in the studio. Occasionally, John & Paul combined half finished ideas, but there wasn’t much collaborative writing.
None of the songs on All Things Must Pass got the attention or contributions that “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” or even “I Me Mine” received, and the production is miles away from anything recorded by The Beatles. None of the songs on McCartney sound much like The Beatles, either. To the extent that they do, it’s because Paul’s Beatles songs were often written, arranged, and occasionally recorded, by him with little or no group participation.
As much as I want to like solo Beatles records, the studio musicians and collaborators they chose never achieved that elusive, compelling quality that their best work as a band did. And some of their best solo work is marred by mediocre or dated production (Mind Games, Walls & Bridges, Double Fantasy, Cloud Nine, Ringo, Band on the Run) and the worst ones have songs that they would never have dared played for the rest of the band. It’s hard to imagine George, John, or Ringo wasting two seconds on Paul’s songs on Wild Life or London Town, and there isn’t much on Sometime In New York City or Dark Horse to get the band all revved up.
@Peter, this is so well said:
“As much as I want to like solo Beatles records, the studio musicians and collaborators they chose never achieved that elusive, compelling quality that their best work as a band did. And some of their best solo work is marred by mediocre or dated production (Mind Games, Walls & Bridges, Double Fantasy, Cloud Nine, Ringo, Band on the Run) and the worst ones have songs that they would never have dared played for the rest of the band. It’s hard to imagine George, John, or Ringo wasting two seconds on Paul’s songs on Wild Life or London Town, and there isn’t much on Sometime In New York City or Dark Horse to get the band all revved up.”
@Peter, I think fans fall into the trap of each Beatle eyeing the others as in “would this song I wrote be suitable on a Beatles album”. They weren’t writing for each other any more. Who cares if they didn’t like each others work? Other people did and we don’t know if some solo songs as Beatles songs would have been better or not. George, John and Ringo wouldn’t have wasted any time on Ram either, as they scorned it at the time. All three certainly got that wrong considering how well Ram has been reappraised. George was worried about putting The Inner Light as a B-side to Lady Madonna because of his voice. Paul: “you MUST sing it, George, you can do it, it’s such a beautiful melody”. I think this selective negativity around Paul and George should stop.