Geoffrey Giuliano Goes Off

Michael Gerber
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Commenter Gibson pointed me to this cri de coeur from Beatle author Geoffrey Giuliano on the perils of “thinking about the Beatles a little too much.” It tickled me immensely, and some of you will have strong feelings, I’m sure. I look forward to hearing them in the comments.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go back to frying chicken. 🙂 You’ll get the joke if you watch the video.

(Actually, Kate and I are about to go to The Getty Villa. Ancient Romans had many analogues to Beatle-worship, and not simply gods and emperors and the cults around each. There were passionate fans of certain gladiators, certain chariot teams, certain actors…I would argue that these fandoms are a function of civilizations of a certain complexity, and are neither good nor bad on their own. IMHO Rome had its Beatles, surely; unfortunately they’ve been lost to history, thanks to the biases of ancient historiography (no such thing as “bottom-up,” or even oral history, back in those days) and the massive knowledge losses of the Christian era. But there surely were Roman Johns, Pauls, Georges, and Ringos.)

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  1. Thanks for sharing it with the class, Michael!

    My knee-jerk response: smacks to me of self-serving bullshit aimed at preemptively firing back at Lewisohn’s next two volumes, but what do I know?

  2. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    Full disclosure: I skipped around in this and watched only parts of it because I just COULD NOT with this guy. How many times does he need to tell us he made $9 million from the Beatles, while lecturing us about not “giving our lives” to them? What the what? Who is “giving their life” to the Beatles? That is just not a thing, apart from a tiny handful of fanatics.
    This is clueless self-promotion raised to an extraordinary level, which I suppose puts it right in line with the zeitgeist. He also could not be any bitchier about Paul McCartney continuing to play live shows, and the whole “Flabby Road” / “Here Come The Buns” thing . . . . this certainly cemented my resolution to stay away from anything with Guiliano’s name on it.

    • All this was exactly why it tickled me so; at a certain point, I wanted to go into therapist mode and ask, “Who or what precisely gave you this reaction? Are you concerned that you yourself might’ve done this? Why did this come up for you?”

      I think for a certain kind of person (often but not always a boomer) social media is very hard to understand; they don’t realize that the vast vast majority of digital speech is, for better and worse, just gossip and stray brain lint. If, for example, you read all of my posts and comments on this site, and come from s generation where “publishing” was difficult and time consuming and expensive, you might conclude that the Beatles consume the majority of my waking thoughts. And that would indeed be something to remark upon. But I’m currently laying in bed suffering a small flareup of my illness, and dictating this comment; this communication has filled a life-space that was, before this technology, empty.

      So the ease of posting and commenting, and the current offhandedness of Internet speech in the age of Twitter and Facebook, puts all those words on the Fabulous Beat-Brothers into a much different context than, say, a novel or a piece for a magazine or my Bystander work. It’s not better or worse, only different. And in the final analysis, it’s about the reader anyway. Some part of me would be horrified if Dullblog is what people remember me for as a writer, rather than the things I consider to be My Oeuvre, but it would be a compliment to be remembered for ANYTHING, and it’s up to the reader, not me.

      My only truly substantial thought on this video is that almost anything can be used as a lens through which to view life and human experience, if you know the topic well enough, and approach it sincerely, humanely and with a bit of intellectual rigor. And I would go even further than that and say it’s inevitable that whatever topics a person becomes interested in, and then knows to great depths, those naturally become someone’s idiom or lens. For me these things are currently the Beatles, late Republican Rome, Chinese medicine and thought, World War One…Whether my hobbyhorses are better or worse than others’ topics (say Christianity, or Marxist theory, or gardening) really depends on how precise and humane my mind is, and whether there is sympathy between myself and the audience. If they learn something valuable, about the Beatles, life, me, or themselves via the blather, then it’s a success. If not, it’s time wasted whether or not the idiom was conventionally important (the teachings of Jesus Buddha or Mohammad) or trifles (the affair between neil aspinall and Mona best).
      Anyway, I posted it to see what it stirred because surely we all have thought, “Perhaps I think about these charming strangers too much.”

      • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

        Really hope you feel better soon, Mike. What’s really bizarre to me about this Giuliano clip is that he’s evidently been interested enough in the Beatles to write multiple books about them but seems to have little idea about the role loving music plays for many people.
        The whole idea that being a fan means not creating anything yourself is such a straw man. Does he really not see that? Is his motivation actually just money? He comes off as oddly bitter and defensive.
        I mean, I feel sorry for him based on this but I can’t say I have any desire to interact with him further.

  3. Avatar Justin McCann wrote:

    This dude is hilarious! 15 minutes that can be summed up in the phrase ‘Reading my books is a waste of time but WRITING them can make you rich.’ Never seen someone defining their own body of work as a cynical cash grab before.
    I hadn’t heard of this guy ’til now but he reminds me a lot of Trump – there’s a similar blend of self-aggrandisement, cartoonishness and intentional humour in the message. Fortunately in Giuliano’s case I can indulge my mixture of exasperation and amusement without worrying about the world blowing up.

    • That’s a funny line!
      I have browsed a book or two of his, and also know he was collecting and researching from an early time, so I suspect there’s lots of useful data. But as with Goldman there seems to be a basic irascibility, too. I don’t know where that comes from, especially if all this stuff is just pleasure, just trifles. I mean: “Beatle-worship” has been good to him, no?

  4. Avatar Adela wrote:

    I remember reading and mocking one of this guy’s books a few years ago… There was a badly oversaturated image of the Beatles in 1964 that he used to claim that “they dyed their hair red like Lucille Ball”? Very odd… This video is even odder!

  5. Avatar king kevin wrote:

    His Harrison bio is pretty gross. George obviously go up so some naughty business, but this guy goes for the tabloid angle. His Beatle collecting picture book, which i own, features an author photo of him looking like a total wanker in a yoga pose surrounded by mystical Eastern bric-a-brack. George might have been a hypocrite one some levels (like me!), but his artistic offerings truly uplifted the world. This dude is an egomaniacal barnacle on a** of Beatledom. It is fun to laugh at him, though. Geoffrey is a failed actor, and there are clips of him on youtube if you desire further amusements.

  6. Avatar Justin McCann wrote:

    Those observations about interests, lenses and their effects on you are really good and extremely well put, Mike. The reason I love this blog is that the Beatles are used not as a sacred cow for us to get defensive and trainspotterish about but as a lens through which to view history, art, fandom and human nature itself. When a fan blog starts a discussion about whether or not we live in a materialist universe you know you’re doing something right.

    • Thanks, @Justin! You have become a big part of the culture here, so take a bow yourself. 🙂
      The idea of really arguing about The Beatles makes me sad, and the few times that I’ve done it here, I’ve genuinely regretted — not as much for the substance of the disagreements (sometimes I’ve been right or wise, sometimes wrong or unwise; I regret the latter, but everybody makes mistakes) but instead for the ability of humans to turn anything, even a shared interest in a wonderful thing, into conflict.
      To the degree that Giuliano is saying, “Don’t take it seriously, don’t let it stand in for your own life, be inspired not constrained” I 100% agree.

  7. Avatar Hologram wrote:

    A valuable new website: In Their Own Words

    Interview excerpts, quotes from Beatles, their friends and family. It makes fascinating reading.

  8. Avatar Stephen wrote:

    Couldn’t watch to the end but it seems to me that he’s got what he wanted: people talking about him. If or when he comes to this site he’ll be most gratified to find that his attention seeking strategy worked. I could say more but like my grandma used to say: “if you can’t find something nice to say…”

  9. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    R.I.P. Robert Freeman

    Mr. Freeman, who once lived one floor below Lennon in London, later resided in Hong Kong and Spain. He sold much of his collection to photography collector and curator Raj Prem.

    “Freeman was living in Hong Kong when Lennon was assassinated in 1980,” Prem told CNN in 2013, “and he told me that he had a photo of Lennon on his wall and it fell down at exactly the same time.”

  10. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Geoffrey seems to have taken the video down from youtube.

    It was an interesting clip. In some respects I agreed with him (about doing something with one’s own life rather than living vicariously through pop stars) but parts of the clip looked almost like a comedic mockumentary.

    For example, when he says “Yoko? I hate her!” and while he’s saying this we see a photo of him posing and grinning with his arm around Yoko, next to young Sean. Or when he talks about meeting Paul (as if they’re buddies), and then we see a photo of him using Linda’s shoulder as an arm rest while he smiles, and they look palpably ill at ease.

    It almost looks like something Christopher Guest could have cooked up.

  11. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    at a certain point, I wanted to go into therapist mode and ask, “Who or what precisely gave you this reaction? Are you concerned that you yourself might’ve done this? Why did this come up for you?”

    I’m guessing his video was a spoken word response to disagreements or controversies he experienced with his facebook followers. He seemed to mention facebook a lot, so I’m going to assume here he got tired of the back and forth with his “peanut gallery” and decided to basically tell them “Get a life, nerds!”

    I avoid facebook and so I’m not familiar with his discussions there, but that’s my guess, anyway. I think his main point is, if you’re going to become obsessed with some trivial thing or another, the only honorable thing to do is profit off the obsession, otherwise you’re just a wanker. I disagree (of course) but it’s possible his rough upbringing is responsible for his philosophy. Growing up dirt poor might be the reason he’s so fixated on the millions he made from his Beatle products. Children of privilege usually don’t give money a thought.

    • Perhaps, and he’s got a right of course, but to me it seemed like an assertion of authority—“I’ve made x millions of dollars doing this, and you haven’t, so I’m the professional and you’re just an obsessed fan with no life.”
      Once again, I see the distinction, but it would be akin to my going onto a Harry Potter fan-fic site and telling everyone there that I made x dollars and they should get a life. It’s cranky at best, out of step with fan culture in the digital age, and kinda a bad look. But to be honest, it amused me more than anything.

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