More on the breakup…

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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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Daily Mirror front page saying "Paul Quits The Beatles" from More on the breakup at Hey Dullblog

So there, John.

A great comment from Nancy on the breakup of the Beatles,Β in the comment thread

Here’s another thought, prompted by your post and the responses to it: both John and Paul reacted to Brian Epstein’s death in ways predicted by their reactions to their respective mothers’ deaths. John learned from his whole childhood that he couldn’t really trust anyone (from his p.o.v., both his parents abandoned him), and that if you loved someone, he or she would vanish or change beyond recognition (his Uncle George, his mother, Stu Sutcliffe, and from his perspective, Cynthia). Paul learned from his childhood that when the worst happened (his mother’s death), you pulled together and worked harder.

So Brian Epstein dies, and John reacts by withdrawing his emotional investment from the Beatles, and in particular withdrawing from Paul. Paul reacts by getting more frenetic and anxious, trying to keep things moving and everyone together. John reacts to THAT by increasingly seeing Paul as a parental figure rather than a peer, someone who’s trying to take over a la his Aunt Mimi, and gets more resentful and less willing to cooperate. Paul reacts to this by getting angrier and less tolerant of John — here’s Paul doing all this work, trying to keep the band together, and John doesn’t appreciate it at all! –and the whole cycle continues until the group splits apart.

Of course all this is vastly complicated by money, Apple, Yoko, etc. etc., but it seems to me to be part of the story. Once Paul went from peer to parent, in John’s eyes, it was all over. The fact that Yoko became “Mother Superior” is another twist . . . .

I think Nancy’s analysis is shatteringly perfect. Add your 2c, Dullbloggers!

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar Beat Girl wrote:

    I can see this is going to run and run, but like Nancy says, this is what is so great about Hey Dullblog! πŸ™‚

    I actually started this comment 5 mins ago, then went away to google the date of George’s Dick Cavett show appearance (which I re-watched on YouTube today and where he says some v interesting things about the break-up, amongst many other things – such a great interview) when I came across this http://www.beatlelinks.net/forums/showthread.php?t=17258. Like literally 5 minutes ago!

    And it’s George saying in a BBC Radio interview recorded on 11th March 1970 that he is expecting to start recording a new Beatles LP in the summer but explaining how Let It Be is kind of holding everything up. Anyway he ends the interview with this quote “I certainly, you know, don’t want to see the end of the Beatles. And I know I’ll do anything, you know, whatever Paul, John, Ringo would like to do, you know, I’ll do it.”

    That seems to sound the death knell for my own wee theory that George would never have expressed the sentiments on the now infamous memo. Sounds like he certainly did! I am pretty dumbfounded, as I thought the Dick Cavett interview (albeit a year and a half later so I guess I can’t really use it as evidence) supported my feeling that the break-up was more than just John have an early mid-life (or rejection) crisis, in that George again re-iterated that the break-up was a long time coming, and not something he was particularly unhappy about. The more I learn, the less I know…indeed!

    I think Nancy’s analysis is very thought-provoking, but I’m not sure if it is still too a little speculative for my own liking. But that’s just my opinion. And it’s certainly a very well thought out and plausible sounding theory, knowing John’s emotional history as we do.

    Looking forward to the publication of your book Michael, sounds very intriguing…

    Goodnight from Scotland,
    shirley
    xx

  2. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Agreed, Elise, +100.

    Shirley, rather than speculative, the phrase I might use for that type of analysis is “inevitably inconclusive.” It’s not super-satisfying; it can never be proven, or proven wrong. It’s a feeling of how things went; as my friend Jon said when I read him Nancy’s post, “Yeah, that’s how real people act.”

    It’s a very high level of historical thinking, seldom practiced, miles away from the doorstop-type book. But that’s kinda where we’re at with The Beatles; now that Neil’s dead, it’s unlikely that there will be any additional releases of officially sanctioned information. The Beatles are turning into history with a capital H, and biographers are going to have to start interpreting the story in a much tougher, more analytical, much more nuanced way–which of course seems unfair, given how much we all LIKE these guys and their music. The “official version” of Lennon, for example, hasn’t really been challenged since Goldman, whatever one thinks of him. It’s time to start trying to integrate the duality–not either Coleman or Goldman, but some of both; not either Yoko or Seaman, but some of both.

    This is the opposite of putting John Lennon into a commercial. Whether he can survive this rough-and-tumble process will determine whether he becomes a real part of history, or just a footnote. I think he can take it; I feel sure he’d want us to try.

    But it is a bit presumptuous–at least that’s how I feel when I’m doing it. I’m presuming to know these guys on a level that I simply can’t, and that can feel invasive, unfair almost. But then I think that I’ve probably read and thought more about The Beatles–much more–than many other things that I have strong opinions about. And so come to the conclusion that as long as I interpret the Fabs with sympathy (and the knowledge that my conclusions are just theories), there’s no harm in it. Whatever else I might think about John Lennon, affection and gratitude are the primary feelings. But I think it’s important at some point to begin seeing your heroes as people, taking them off the pedestal. And were he here, I think John Lennon would agree 100% with that. “But couldn’t you make an exception for ME?” πŸ™‚

  3. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Sorry, just to be clear: not that anybody here holds The Beatles on a pedestal, or idolizes them in a googly-eyed way. I don’t think that. I just mean in general, people shouldn’t. It’s bad for all concerned.

  4. Avatar king kevin wrote:

    I can’t even tell you all how much I’m enjoying this back and forth. Cheers!

  5. Avatar Beat Girl wrote:

    Yes Michael, I like that “inevitably inconclusive”. I think you knew what I meant by speculative (Nancy – I hope I didn’t offend you by saying that), at least what you have written in your comment has put my thoughts into words much better than I had! πŸ™‚

    Just to put ourselves on a pedestal for a mo :-), I think people like us are just as best placed as the ‘official’ biographers, to investigate, challenge, and preserve the history of the beatles. Unlike the bookwriters or journalists we aren’t doing this for money (not that they all do it for money alone – thinking the wonderful Mark Lewisohn – but they do have a publishing house or editor to answer to at the end of the day, whereas us bloggers and commentators are completely free to feel and write what we like), and hey we actually do spend an outrageous amount of personal time meticulously researching and analysing the heart and soul of these four artists.

    So I don’t know that we are being too presumptuous (as long as we are drawing conclusions from solid foundations of things we know to be true), and anytime we go too far I’m sure a fellow blogger will tell us, and that’s what’s so great about Hey Dullblog (as I am quickly finding out, being a newbie).

    The comment about Neil not being around has got me thinking about what the future for Apple releases will be? To my shame, the thought never occurred to me before! Would love to hear more thoughts on this, or if anyone knows what the current state of affairs is over at Apple – has someone taken on Neil’s position? I’m still naive enough to hope that we’ll see an official release of Let It Be someday soon, and now I’m not so sure. Unless it was primarily Neil (probably at the bequest of Paul, Ringo, Olivia, and Yoko I imagine) who had been holding it back?

    shirley

  6. Avatar Michael wrote:

    I think you’re wise to be aware of the pressure on “official” writers/biographers. First, access is a huge thing. Working in show biz I can tell you that everybody is super-paranoid–if a source thinks you might say something injurious to a relationship that makes ’em money, he/she won’t talk–making the portrait even more slanted. (I think that happened with Goldman to some degree. Between his reputation as a necrographer and people saying no, he only got sources with axes to grind.)

    Second, a book can only go where the editor & publisher will allow. There’s a choice made at the very beginning of a project, usually at the proposal level. The slant is literally built in, for marketing reasons.

    So what you often get is a book report on the person’s life, not concision or incision. I know the story of “How Do You Sleep?” I want the author’s opinion: how much was John talking to himself? “Jump when your mamma tell you anything”–is that John talking to John? And if it IS, that changes our idea of his opinion of his own marriage. Bedrock stuff!

    Occasionally a bio breaks out of this trap, like “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” But that book wasn’t the most pleasant read; I suspect that a lot of fans don’t really wanna know, in part because they see how mass adulation warps people, and feel a tiny bit of guilt over it. (I know I do.) This makes fans suspect that they should quit obsessing over strangers and GO LIVE THEIR OWN LIVES. Which is John Lennon’s core message, IMHO.

    I think publishers believe that fans will only buy the standard version, spiced with a “revelation” here or there. Take the Norman bio, for example. I find it tough sledding because it simply doesn’t tell me much new (unlike Shout! which I adored). I think the difference was that with the biography, Norman initially had Yoko’s cooperation; which gave her a huge amount of leverage. We get her opinion on a lot of stuff, and Sean gets to dictate the last chapter which, jeez, what a position for him to be in (both Norman and Sean)! Then once the book was done, Yoko withdrew her blessing. I felt for Norman; he was left with a largely standard portrait, but without Yoko’s Seal of Approval. IIRC, the two big revelations were that Lennon fancied his mum (from that tape from ’78) and that he may have fancied Paul. The first is goofy, and the second fits with Yoko’s consistent hints that Lennon was bisexual–as if that were some big deal.

    I think Norman gave us the best book possible under the circumstances, but was writing under massive pressure, the kind it’s difficult to explain if you haven’t been a writer under contract. Fans don’t feel that; they have encyclopedic knowledge, and the sympathy that is so essential. Thanks to Shout!, I’ve always considered Mark Lewisohn to be a fan with access. I’m really looking forward to his multi-volume Beatle bio; I just hope the prose is fluid enough. (Fluidity is a thing with comedy writers.)

    IIRC, Neil was a barrier to the repackaging/remastering of Beatles stuff, and last Xmas’s remasters happened in part because he was replaced by Jeff Jones. So I think we’re in for more Beatles goodies; my point was more that if anybody knew “where the bodies were buried,” it was Neil; I’d like to think that he did a bunch of interviews to be released upon the last Beatle’s death or something, but I suspect he did not. The Beatle family can close ranks (ask Peter Brown), and it’s much more comfortable inside than out. But my desire to know every detail is predicated on the belief that nothing these guys did was so terrible. That’s why the whole “Lennon: Was he or wasn’t he bi?” thing irritates me so. It’s not a freakin’ FLAW.

    I’ve typed too long; sorry. Must be time to write the sequel. πŸ™‚

  7. Avatar Beat Girl wrote:

    I feel another post coming on Michael (in my own blog I mean, but I hope here too!)…some things I had already been thinking about today, and which spookily you have iterated in your latest comment.

    But just to agree with your last point there…damn right, if John was bi-sexual, why is that seen as a bad/weak/sinful/scandalous thing (unless your religious faith is against that kind of sexual expression)? Blimey…am so over this decades-old sniggering speculation about him and Brian, him and Paul, whatever, whoever. I couldn’t give a crap who he fancied (not in a playground kinda way at least, but sure it might shed light on some of John relationship dynamics with Brian/Paul I suppose, but even then it’s not that interesting to me).

    And to be honest, who would blame him for being attracted to Paul anyway, he’s a very fanciable chap!

  8. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Last words for the moment–I have my first screenplay to polish (gulp!)–but I look forward to your post, Shirley. And I’m with you 100% on John/Brian and John/Paul. Both of those relationships were incredibly central and intense, and if they were sexual or not simply wouldn’t change my visions of John, Brian, or Paul as people. I mean, two of these guys were rock stars, and the other…John himself said that “Brian’s sex life would make a very good Hollywood Babylon” or some such.

    Did John LOVE Brian? No question, and vice versa. Did John LOVE Paul? Of course, and vice versa. That’s the key component, not what they did with various bits.

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