- 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
Folks, I’ve watched roughly half of “Get Back,” and had a few thoughts and impressions that you might be interested in. It looks gorgeous, doesn’t it? Great sound, great image quality, and that alone makes it a huge gift to the canon.
Before I do, however, I want to link to a Dullblog post I wrote in 2014, “Let It Be: A Missed Opportunity.” Re-reading it today I think it’s quite prescient. I am not saying that Peter Jackson or anyone at Apple needed to read my lil’ ol’ post to figure out what a better documentary might look like…but I’m always amazed at how far stuff travels, once it’s on the internet. If it helped, guys, you’re welcome. 🙂
First of all, Yoko comes off as a complete saint. There are times watching Get Back when I get so bored I can’t even, and yet she actually sat through all this without (unintentionally) screaming. Did Yoko Ono love John Lennon in 1972? 1979? 1980? All debatable—but in January 1969, she loved the guy tremendously. That’s the only way you’d be able to sit there quietly. Pure adoration, and opioids.
Second: I’ve always felt that the music on Let It Be didn’t really live up to the rest of their mature, post-’63 catalog, and nothing so far is changing my mind. Between the quick turnaround off of White, the tight deadline, and the pointless back-to-basics restrictions, it’s a wonder they could produce anything at all. I want to weep watching them spending so much time trying to improve “Don’t Let Me Down,” a song that—like it or hate it—simply doesn’t offer much musically or lyrically (Lennon’s vocal performance is great, though). “Two of Us” is pleasant, but like “DLMD” generates most of its magic from context; “John and Paul are singing about themselves and DON’T KNOW IT,” to quote someone in The Guardian, who was in turn quoting every Beatles fan ever. The group’s quality control—always their strong suit—is out of whack here, and it’s not just how they criminally neglect George’s songs. It’s also how they pass over richer, hookier, more compelling material (“Child of Nature,” “Gimme Some Truth,” “Suicide”) for B-level filler like “Dig A Pony,” or “Dig It,” or blues workouts like “For You Blue.”
Third: Paul McCartney is a freakin’ genius. Every review mentions the bit where he seems to come up with “Get Back” out of pure noodling (and George should get an assist here, because his guitar falls into the counterpoint immediately); this scene is truly thrilling to watch. Also thrilling was watching Paul respond to the group’s lack of material with “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” seemingly overnight. The film shows what we’ve all known, that Lennon wasn’t really writing much, and Paul was writing…effortlessly. Whatever you think about “Back Seat of My Car,” it’s a song any other group would’ve grabbed immediately.
Fourth: George Harrison is almost impossible to read. He’s apparently livid enough to leave the band, and also lives in a childish emotional world where he can do this casually, with an idea that they’d…just see each other “’round the clubs”? As if they’re all several of John Mayall’s endlessly rotating Bluesbreakers? George was terribly treated by Lennon and McCartney, but he’s also passive-aggressive as all hell, and dare I say it, immature? You think your songs are great? Come in with full demos you did with Klaus and Eric! You’re pissed about not getting space? Declare you’re doing a solo record! George waited until the group was over before he did what a musician of his calibre should’ve done in 1967—so it’s not just about John and Paul being assholes, it’s about George refusing to fight for his own talent, and guys like John and Paul would need to see you respect yourself before they respected you. And that’s appropriate.
Fifth: The conflict with Paul and George (and to some degree, Paul and John) seems to be one of method. It seems Paul liked to come to the studio with songs already worked out, whereas George and John liked to work them out through jamming. So Paul was sort of always working, whereas John and George wanted long stretches of life where they were not Beatling. This difference could be finessed after Pepper, where the Fabs could spend as much time in the studio as they needed, but given the rules they’d set themselves for Get Back, something had to give—which was the band itself. This is what I hear when John and George talk about “recording at home”—they want to improvise, whenever the spirit moves. Paul, being the most musically fluent of the four, clearly has songs and whole arrangements coming to him at once; improvisation might, for him, make an idea less clear. In the context of these quick and public sessions, I can understand why Paul was anxious and hard-driving; but ultimately he needed to accommodate George and John—they were Beatles, too.
Sixth: Michael Lindsay-Hogg can’t read a room. Or Peter Jackson wanted to use him as comic relief, knowing that Get Back would be compared to Let It Be.
Seventh: Gee, Peter Sellers really was tremendously awkward out of character.
Eighth: John Lennon is a lot more functional, a lot closer to the pre-India Lennon than I expected. But—and this is a big thing—there seems to be a big hole in the band where he used to be, and that’s probably the source of the conflict between Paul and George. Whether Lennon was zonked on H, bored with Beatling, or both, is impossible to know. But this film demonstrates that The Beatles needed a full-strength Lennon to function, and these sessions seem to make magic or bog down in direct proportion to how much energy and enthusiasm John brings to the scene. Which leads me to…
Ninth: When John’s not there, he’s really not there. There are a few scenes in Part 1 that are painful to watch—he’s not quite on the nod, but it’s close enough, especially compared to when he’s really engaged—and the band just flounders. Some commenters have decided that Lennon’s heroin addiction wasn’t all that bad as a result of this film, which is exactly what I was worried about in pre-release post after comment after post. “We do not see John drooling with a needle in his arm” is turned into “John wasn’t really that bad” or “Drugs HELPED the Beatles, Mr. Judgy!” But we know John was seriously addicted, because he wrote a whole song about a horrendous kicking experience seven months later, and from other interviews. He is impaired—not as impaired as I expected, and I’m glad for that, but in January 1969 he’s living the junkie’s life. You can tell how ill someone is by the wreckage around them.
I said it before: if you want to see the politics of this film—the artistic choice to tell one story and not another, via what is shown and not shown—look at John. If I found Vacant John hard to be with, surely Peter Jackson did too. And you’d have to be pretty heartless not to want to protect the reputation of a man who gave all of us so much, and was killed so young by a crazy fan. I feel that impulse here all the time.
A similar point of politics: the fact that Yoko spoke for John at the meeting at Ringo’s house after George left the band. That’s mentioned in the film, but since there is no footage or sound, not documented. You can’t understand the breakup of The Beatles without really feeling the alienation, and aggression, of stuff like that. Why the hell was John Lennon no longer speaking for himself in band meetings? What made him either 1) so sensitive or 2) so furious at the other guys?
I’m really enjoying being with these people again, and am already sad to see them go. I don’t wish they’d stayed kids, or even Beatles, forever; but I do get a sense of just how much they, their music, and weirdly their friendship means to me. How much I care for them all as people. Michael Lindsay-Hogg is annoying in his prattling on about Tunisia—a young man, as they all were, with too much money and too much ego—but he’s absolutely right when he talks about how much The Beatles meant to the world in 1969. I think they mean more, now.
Ironically, that may well have been what drove John Lennon into the arms of heroin. Some people find it uncomfortable to be loved, especially if your inflated idea of them doesn’t match with their own lousy self-image. (Only half of Lennon thought he was Jesus Christ Almighty; the other half thought he was shit.) He certainly seems to have worked better when the world was against him; only Paul seems to have blossomed under praise. And the bigger he blossomed, the more pressure that put on the others.
More after I finish.
I’ve finished it, and my initial thoughts are as follows:
• This is not, thank goodness, a whitewash. I’ve been resigning myself to a Disney-fied bullshit version for two years now, and I am thrilled to have been wrong.
• Paul is God. I was watching with a friend who is a fan but not a fanatic, and he was constantly exclaiming in wonderment every time Paul pulled another classic out of his ass (which was every day).
• I knew they introduced some Abbey Road material at these sessions, but I was surprised to see how much. About 75% of AR is already there, at least in embryonic form.
Some random observations:
• Towards the end of the sessions, Paul up and leaves for a couple of hours for a “meeting”. I’m curious about what that could have been. Maybe the Eastmans? It’s got to be damned important to leave a session when they’re under a deadline.
• John jokingly squares off with George Martin at one point (I don’t remember for what, something trivial), and quips, “I’ve had some wine, don’t you remember Bob Wooler?”.
I’ll have more to offer as I think of things.
Interesting look at Lennons humor there. The Wooler incident was one of the most shameful moments of Lennons life and he came within an eyelash of torpedoing the Beatles and ruining his own life before it took off to stratospheric heights. If I did something like that I would want to bury it as far in my past as possible and never come close to doing it again. Nor would I want anybody thinking I was capable of such ugliness
During a gentle, not so serious, exchange or disagreement in the studio with a producer or bandmate (“the guys”) it would get some laughs. But I just wonder if him saying things like this carried a hint of some real threat down the line. If he said things like this to Cynthia, May and Yoko in his personal life when they had real arguments…that absolutely is abuse.
Everyone has their pet issues when it comes to John. Heroin abuse, spousal abuse, asshole DJ abuse.
Forgot Church of Satan, Yoko enabler and a few others.
Do you have a theory as to why this is, @Michelle?
Not sure. He wasn’t afraid to show his human side, warts and all, and I guess that makes him fair game for all kinds of vices. Or, it’s a case of overcompensating by those that take exception for the perceived sainthood he received, unwittingly upon his death, by trying to determine the many ways he wasn’t a saint.
You’re actually posting this stuff? I’m totally drunk right now.
lol! keep going gal I’m enjoying it
I like “Two of Us” better than “Get Back” (are you sure that Paul knocked it off with just some noodling? I thought his method was to bring completed works to the studio) and “Long and Winding Road Over Troubled Water”. To each their own. I’m in the minority, I know, nevertheless… “Two of Us” is poignant without being sentimental, and John and Paul signing in harmony is worth more to me than a lounge act doing his thing.
*singing not signing – John was too strung out to even write his name
Absolutely John was a full fledged junkie by then. And it’s confirmed not only here but in the 2 Junkies interview which took place January 14th 1969. First time I saw this I thought the tape was slowed down and the entire thing was in slow motion. I really hope those that actually try to use this to claim Lennon wasn’t all that messed up or downplay the severity of his addiction and its impact on the band and his work stumble upon this interview. It’s as if he’s a ghost.
I actually wrote a comment linking to this, which Lennon references (giving the interview and vomiting) around minute 31:00 of Part II…but decided not to wade in. My opinions on this matter are more than known, and—I just don’t want to keep fighting this battle myself on the site, as important as I think it is. I’ve come to believe that a not insubstantial portion of Lennon fanatics are that way because of the familial mechanisms of addiction. Certainly I’m in that group; it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but neither should it be denied/ignored.
Paul had to accommodate John and George. They just couldn’t keep up with his effortless, hardworking genius. After all, they were Beatles too. It’s easy to forget that.
This point actually gets at the teal reason the Beatles broke up, as voiced by John. They were sick of being treated like sidemen for Paul.
But @Michelle, I’m 2/3rds of the way through Get Back, and Paul isn’t treating anybody like sidemen. Especially not Lennon, whom he explicitly calls “the boss of the group.” Paul explicitly says that being the boss makes him uncomfortable but he feels he has to, to keep the band going. That’s not treating John like “a sideman.” That’s compensating for a partner who’s not being honest about who he is and what he wants. John’s laying it all off on Paul, and that’s not fair.
It’s not Paul’s FAULT if John’s high and George is bored; Paul is no angel, but the “sidemen” comment is Lennon blaming Paul for his own lack of interest/greater interest in Yoko/fucked up drugginess. Instead of “sideman,” John could’ve just as easily, and just as truthfully, said that he had done all there was to do as a Beatle, that he loved and admired Paul, but it was time for him to do other things. Instead, to sell LPs, he makes Paul the bad guy and…the footage just doesn’t show it. At the beginning, at Twickenham, it shows Paul busting ass to be a Beatle, Ringo being Ringo, and two other guys who’d rather be at home. Those two guys should’ve been grownups and said, “We don’t want to do this.” What broke up The Beatles was, obviously, John and George’s dishonesty about their own priorities.
John Lennon was a grown-ass adult; Paul didn’t ever make him do anything he didn’t want to do. The whole “McCartney was bossy” thing is an excuse and should die. That’s how I see it, at least, as someone who has to meet deadlines and get creative work made. That’s a tough wrangle, especially if the guy who used to run the show isn’t interested anymore, but won’t say it.
I would also apply the John is a grown ass adult argument to discussions about Yoko as well.
….and I do, which is precisely where I have issues with them.
Submerging yourself into someone else is teenage stuff. Not bearing to be apart is teenage stuff. Letting your girlfriend speak for you in business meetings while you’re silent is toddler stuff.
So it’s precisely because John’s a grown ass adult that his behavior with Yoko is notable, and…not-great. Not not-great for ME, that’s not the point; not-great for him, and them, and for The Beatles. And also not-great for all the couples who look at them as a model, which some do.
John (and the others) was of adult age, but I’m not sure if he was emotionally adult. It’s been commented that The Beatles suffered a kind of collective arrested development psychologically due to the insular situation and Brian’s staving off everything but the adulation of the fans.
Hear, hear Michael.
I would argue Michelle, that John was perhaps feeling insecure at the level of Paul’s output, and knew that he couldn’t compete. At least at that time.
Maybe John quit because he just couldn’t keep up with Paul, and he knew it. The “sidemen” statement was projection.
Then don’t hate him for quitting. God McCartney could certainly make Beatles music on his own. What does he need the loser junkie for?
It was good to read a couple posts saying how enthusiastic and involved John is in the new doc. Almost immediately we get posts telling us, “No, you have to remember he was miserable and unproductive!”
@Michelle, John himself said he was miserable and unproductive during this period.
I’m delighted and surprised that the Lennon in Get Back is happier than I expected. But my expectations come from what he said.
You should watch the doc. It’s not tipped towards any one Beatle.
I don’t hate John for quitting. I feel for John because he obviously had emotional issues from his childhood, which led to his addiction issues.
I think you should explore why you seem to dislike Paul so much. You don’t have to hate Paul because you love John.
I don’t want to speak for Michelle but I think it’s not about hating Paul to love John but the constant need to keep John stuck in the role of miserable, depressed, abusive, unproductive, Yoko obsessed junkie as though that was all he is and no other versions of John exist. While the other Beatles aren’t forever trapped in their personal failings and shortcomings as much.
I for one am thankful that it seems in some small measure that Peter Jackson has shown a new generation of Beatles watchers even a glimpse of the funny charming John he could be and the John who loved the Beatles.
The overwhelming sentiment I have gotten from people’s reactions to Get Back is that it has opened their eyes to the fact that the relationships and these people where far more complex then “Paul was bossy” “John was zonked out miserable and over it” “George resented Lennon/McCartney”.
@LeighAnn, just speaking for myself, I talk about those phases of John’s life because they are the ones where there is discussion still to be had. 1964-era John is pretty settled, and there’s just nowhere to go, intellectually, from “Isn’t A Hard Day’s Night great? Amazing that John wrote so much of it.” We’ve said that on the site a lot, too, but 14 years on it’s the breakup and the sexuality of the band members, and the twilight Dakota stuff that’s still to be finalized.
I spent many formative years adoring the funny, charming John, and I love it whenever it comes out, whether it’s 1964 Moptop-era quips, or 1974 on WNEW, or some nice memory from his pharmacist around the corner from the Dakota. But there’s not much more to say to that than, “Great, right?” “Yeah, great.”
What else is there to say about Paul than, “He has such a gift for music. Writing songs is so effortless for him.” Was John just more interesting as a person, and have a more fascinating life? Or does Paul also have some unanswered questions about stuff like, why was he so depressed he could barely get out of bed in ’69/’70. He lost his job? This is a guy who would make music for free and be happy.
Actually no, I like his voice, humor and beautiful smile. Plus, I don’t like to get bummed out when it’s entertainment.
Great post. I’m about a quarter of the way through, but I agree with everything said so far. A couple other things that stand out to me:
– Paul’s anger at John really comes through. There’s a moment just three or four days in when he says, “Lennon’s late again.” It’s a loaded observation, since they’ve only been at this for…four days at that point. (Was he chronically late during the White Album sessions, I wonder?) There’s a moment where John does nod off, at the piano, and Paul wakes him up. I sense, understandably, irritation from Paul there. And there’s a moment when Paul demands to know whether John’s written any other songs, and John turns it into a joke. Paul goes along with the joke, but you can tell he’s pissed. All this is just in the first week.
– Ditto Paul’s genius and the John-sized hole in the group. But I also thought, you know, if they had filmed the Rubber Soul sessions, it’d be John coming in with Nowhere Man and In My Life, and then making up Girl *on the spot* on the very last night of sessions for the album. He was every bit McCartney’s creative equal, until he wasn’t. McCartney, bless him, didn’t destroy his machinery with opioids, but that ironically only adds to the imbalance: one half of Lennon-McCartney being a functioning genius and the other half being a bored junkie means everything is out of whack. If John had come to the sessions engaged and with 80% finished Gimme Some Truth, Child of Nature, he couldn’t have matched Let It Be/Long and Winding Road, but he could have done what he did with every previous Beatles project: provided the music that served as the project’s manifesto or thesis statement. (Tomorrow Never Knows, A Day in the Life, Walrus, and Happiness is a Warm Gun, for example, all epitomize what the ambition and vibe of their albums are supposed to be.) I’m equally confident that a functioning Lennon could have provided that music for Get Back.
– I cut George more slack. On day two, he’s trying to get John and Paul engaged in talking about improving as a guitar player, his enthusiasm for the project, and Billy Preston. John stares into space, high, and Paul treats him like he’s a stupid fanboy rather than his bandmate. I would’ve quit too.
– There’s a lot more of the fast version of Two of Us, but it shows Yoko looking very uncomfortable at how much fun John is having with Paul.
– George has some beautiful guitars and clothes. Conversely, January 69 has to have been Paul’s and John’s worst looks
George had the best looking wife too. 😉
Michael, re: George, I do have to say that he came off a lot calmer, submissive, and gentle than I expected. He also seems to be trying to get everyone to work together, as you say. I suppose because we don’t see much of him talking in LIB, and I’m so used to reading/hearing interviews with him in the 70s that sound so bitter and negative, but he really seems like a gentle, sensitive guy here, who has a hard time standing up for himself in the presence of incredible writers like Paul and John. That being said, I do agree that his just leaving the band was a bit dramatic. But overall he wasn’t nearly as bitter as I expected him to be. (Maybe he just hid it well.)
I also think he had fantastic clothes and guitars. I love the rainbow guitar in particular.
What about their incessant smoking, which reviewers have made note of? Heroin may have ended the Beatles but tobacco ended George’s life. And is there a photo of Paul from the ’70s that doesn’t look as if he just smoked a pound of weed?
Whataboutism is the internet at its finest, but in the interest of good discussion, I’ll tell you WHY I judge John and Yoko much, much more harshly for using heroin than other drugs.
Let’s set aside the illegality of it, which put them (and their money/fame/power) in contact with a lot of terrible people who did not have their best interests at heart. A heroin dealer is going to be a very different breed of cat, in general, from someone selling you pot or psychedelics. But let’s set aside that. Let’s look at all drugs being equal in this light.
The difference here is the relative lethality of the drug to the user. Overdose via heroin is very, very possible, especially in 1969 when there were a lot of new users, and a lot of new dealers, hence real variance in the purity of what you were getting. Sniffing/smoking/injecting “H” was terribly risky in 1969, and remains risky today. I lived in Seattle during the grunge years, and stepped over many kids sprawled out on the sidewalk; it’s a life-wrecker, like meth or crack, whereas pot or shrooms do not, in my experience, cause the same kind of mayhem.
Musicians, whether it’s Charlie Parker in the 40s and 50s, Hendrix/Joplin/Clapton/Richards/Lennon in the 60s and 70s, or Cobain in the 90s, have played a HUGE role in popularizing the spread of heroin. People were not doing heroin in the 20s or 30s like they are today, and our musician-heroes have some role in that. Just as we lionize Lennon for the good he did in the world, we can and should tote up the negative things, too. Heroin is one of those negatives.
You surely know all this, but I’ll keep typing because it’s late and I’m avoiding work.
Alcohol is terrible, but it takes a long time to kill you, unless it’s via misadventure — not impossible, but less likely with someone who has a lot of experience using it, as John did by 1969. But I think alcohol did terrible things to John, as he notes in “Get Back”: “I’ve had some wine, remember Wooler.”
Cigarettes are also terrible, but they take a long time to kill you, and don’t kill everybody. Two smoking Beatles are still with us, though I bet they don’t smoke anymore.
There is also the question of incapacitation. It’s pretty clear that H reduced John’s capacities, both as a songwriter and as a person acting in the world–though as I’ve said, less than I expected if “Get Back” is a fair record. (It may not be; there may be footage where he’s on the nod or otherwise grisly. If there were, Jackson would have no reason to include it.)
So simply from a position of caring about a person, I would frown on/be worried by their taking up heroin, especially as blithely as John and Yoko seemed to do. Really all you need to do is imagine if a friend introduced someone thusly: “This is my new girlfriend; she’s been divorced twice, is estranged from her kid, and has been living hand-to-mouth for the past several years. I’ve just dumped my wife and kid, and she’s introducing me to heroin.” I don’t think it’s narrow or judgy to be alarmed by that, to really question the judgment of both of those people, and wish they’d made a different choice.
John and Yoko survived heroin. They were rich, and they were lucky, and I’m glad they did. But I think it was a terrible development and arguing anything else strikes me as, well, too close to addict-logic for me to be comfortable.
BTW, I’m well aware that, if you can avoid OD’ing, longterm heroin use is possible. A friend of a friend started in the late 60s, and still indulges fifty years later. But saying it doesn’t kill everyone who uses it is very different from thinking it’s a good idea. John Lennon needed therapy, not more drugs, and especially not heroin.
I keep thinking of this quote – “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
I don’t know why there is an argument about John and Yoko’s heroin use. It is a fact. I guess you can have an opinion on how much you think it influenced the breakup, but they were using. Fact.
An observation or two without having yet watched the third episode:
First, if Helen of Troy could launch a thousand ships, then surely Peter Jackson’s technical working of the film and audio stock will launch a million comments in various fora. I am impressed, nay stunned, by what he has technically accomplished, but I know those with roots in film production and technology will feast on discussions of the removal, then re-addition, of granularity, smoothing, and other such details. I’ll leave that to them, but whatever the secret sauce, we often feel as if we are sitting right there with the band.
Boss Hogg would have perhaps been more adept than Michael Lindsay-Hogg in cracking the code that the gents were just not going to decamp to a location outside of Britain for the performance. SWMBO says I can be slow, but even I figured that out pretty quickly. This was the most influential and richest band of the day and they went into this shambolic arrangement? An intern would have had a better plan.
Third. At times John looks worse than Hell warmed over while at others he appears to be in fine(r) fettle and fully engaged. Not quite sure how much of this was a dab hand at editing, or if the John that showed up was indeed as variable as I suspect with each day being a surprise.
I very much am enjoying Ringo’s Zen like attention to what the others are doing. Sure, he isn’t leading the creation of the songs, but he is always there, just as a first rate drummer and band-mate should be, in crafting the rhythm on which the song sits. He is always musically engaged, never far from the kit, and most often with a smoke.
Fifth. For those like me who have never seen an ensemble generate a song, I find it fascinating to see this old school noodling until something catches. Granted at this point the Beatles took whatever studio time they wanted, but it is still impressive.
If anyone were to hedge any doubt of the sheer musical fecundity of Paul McCartney, this series would set it aside. Granted all these songs were not of the first rate, but give him a day and he will have another to try out. We bandy around the term pop musical genius when speaking of him and it is well merited. It’s breathtaking at times.
Seventh. Could you imagine this type of color saturated film for the Hard Day’s Night, Rubber Soul, and Revolver sessions? Heck, I would be happy to see the thirteen hours of the Please Please Me session just to watch the interaction among the four. I think if anything Jackson’s work makes us wonder all that much more what it must have been like to see that magic spark of creation at each stage of the group’s evolution.
@Dave. I will keep my ear open for John’s Wooler remark. I have been greatly enjoying John’s wit. I usually find such attempts at constant wit tiring and even annoying, but here it sounds pretty good. Shame that he spoils it with such a remark.
…but…I can’t help thinking, when I John in these scenes, that he is the same guy who pummeled Wooler, went WAY out of his way to hurt Cyn in the crappiestway possible, and who nearly strangled May. I am struggling to connect th two sides.
Looking forward, when time allows to the last segment.
BTW, can we thank the Corona virus that Jackson shelved the planned ninety minute film for this eight hour feast?
“Seventh. Could you imagine this type of color saturated film for the Hard Day’s Night, Rubber Soul, and Revolver sessions? Heck, I would be happy to see the thirteen hours of the Please Please Me session just to watch the interaction among the four. I think if anything Jackson’s work makes us wonder all that much more what it must have been like to see that magic spark of creation at each stage of the group’s evolution.”
I think about this constantly, in re: Get Back/Let It Be. This is the band at its worst, least inspired–and it’s still pretty good. They’re all so goddamn charismatic. Imagine what it would’ve been like to see the band in its fullest flood. (And we’d finally know why Paul left the Revolver sessions in a huff.)
There were apparently reams of recordings made by George Martin for the Christmas records, that were tossed out. Even those audio bits would be wonderful. Hard for those allergic to Goon/Beatle humor (after all, the Beatles brought it to more people than the Goons ever did), but still…
By the way, @Neal — not to be a broken record, but
“…but…I can’t help thinking, when I John in these scenes, that he is the same guy who pummeled Wooler, went WAY out of his way to hurt Cyn in the crappiest way possible, and who nearly strangled May. I am struggling to connect the two sides.”
That is the core experience of dealing with an addict. You’re constantly whipsawed; who will show up today, the charming, funny, delightful guy, or the surly, snarly fighter? This blog has become my tiresome bully pulpit on this topic, but The Beatles and Lennon are a way to spread awareness of this exceedingly common condition, which has as its hallmark the admonition that everyone involved hide/minimize the addict’s behavior. (You even read that in the comments.) It’s not that I think that addiction is the totality of The Beatles/Lennon, I just think it’s an excellent way for those of us who went through it to say, “This is what it’s like,” and for people to recognize the signs of addiction/abuse in themselves and others, so the damage can be lessened. Far from being a black mark against John — addicts are wonderful people in the grips of a disease — this greater awareness is the final gift he can give us. I firmly believe he regretted his behavior, and had he lived, would’ve finally gotten some good tools to manage it. The Eighties were when his generation went into recovery; I think Lennon would’ve followed Ringo’s path, but was so much more ego-driven than Ringo, it might’ve taken more time.
I, for one, appreciate the insights reflected in your comments regarding addiction issues–not only regarding John Lennon, but as a very human issue.
While I have fortunately been spared having anyone in my circle of family and colleagues (such issues are rather infrequent in my field for many reasons) who had to wrestle with addictions, it conversely means that my understanding of the many facets of the struggles and personality of addicts is sorely lacking.
For better or worse, the latter portion of the Beatles story (and the members’ post 1970 lives) seems to be clearly marked at certain times by addiction. Your comments help in gaining a clearer insight into the 1966 onward dynamic, but also into an important issue in a difficult slice of humanity and, if need be, self. Thank you for the time you have spent charting this out.
@Neal, it’s my pleasure.
The science and treatment of addiction is changing rapidly, as it has since the mid-70s; the drug revolution created a visible need that had simmered under society, silently killing people who were functional, but addicted to alcohol or nicotine. But with the increased acceptance of 12-step and other treatments, unfortunately the entire internet seems to be based on “created addiction” as a business model, so I think it’s only getting more germane.
John’s life in particular could’ve, and should’ve, gone differently. Without minimizing his trauma, or his mental disorders, they needn’t have determined his life as much as they did, nor were they so out of the ordinary. Even in the 70s, he could’ve been helped so much by a simple therapist. I read somewhere recently that the two groups that get the worst medical care are the very poor and the very wealthy. Because of his own paranoia, some of which was entirely justified, John didn’t get even modest baseline help with his addictions and mental difficulties, and did the best he could on his own. Given what he had to deal with, he is a hero. Please, any of you readers who think I am too hard on him: John Lennon struggled under such a heavy weight, and managed to create so many wonderful things. When I criticize his behavior, it’s because I always see the best in him. I think, had he lived, he would’ve become wiser and wiser, and acted differently. But heroism is at the core of my idea of him, always remember that.
Addiction is a very, very slippery thing; it takes many forms and is very good at hiding. If anybody reading this blog comes away with a better understanding of it, or themselves, or how their family works, or how [x pieces of sorrowful mayhem that everybody just had to live through] wasn’t only their own personal tragedy but something that does happen to people, many people, great people, people who are doing their best…then I will consider the hours spent on this blog worth it. Even more so if someone who needs recovery finds it, though I know that’s not up to me.
I don’t harp on these aspects of The Beatles and Lennon to be cruel. I do it out of a great love and gratitude for them, not as icons or heroes, but as flesh-and-blood people. I do it to understand, and not just John Lennon. I do it to understand why I felt, from a very early age, such a powerful sense of kinship with him, almost as if he were family; and all of them, really. Why did I pick these particular guys as models, Uncles, friends? Why did THEY seem like they could understand what I was going through, as my family was being wrecked? Or as I risked everything to redeem that wreckage via an artistic career? Or after that didn’t really work?
If you read Dullblog to learn and think about The Beatles, that’s fine but you’re robbing yourself. Read it to use The Beatles to learn about YOURSELF.
I sense you do that, @Neal, and I’m very glad.
Michael, I think what you have written is so important. Many of us struggle with mental health issues. I myself, suffer from childhood trauma, and as a result have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).
I feel for John because of his childhood trauma. My god, he accomplished so much despite of it! It’s amazing really.
I’m sad he never got professional therapy, as I think he would have been able to address and overcome his addictions.
I definitely see anxiety in Paul. His obsessive thoughts, trying to stay in control, and sometimes manic behavior, are all things I have experienced. His use of marijuana to calm himself down is also typical. I myself eat edibles to help me sleep. It’s much safer than say Ativan, so while I think Paul was probably dependent on pot, he could have just as easily become addicted to Ativan or Valium.
I think all the Beatles can teach us about addiction, and mental health. We CAN thrive despite our issues.
I have learned so much about myself here, as well as The Beatles, so thank you.
@Tasmin, I’m VERY glad. I’ve been diagnosed with GAD — maybe from a rough childhood and adolescence, certainly from genes on both sides — and employ a lot of non-strategies to live fully and happily. I’ve only really broken through it when I’ve applied Eastern stuff; but that is so slow and incremental, it’s not for everybody. I was fortunate like Paul has been; both his cautious personality and the nature/intensity of his issues allowed him to apply pretty benign coping mechanisms.
Paul is a textbook example of someone who is addicted to work, and one need look no further than “Get Back.” I can speak more about this if people like.
Paul’s traumas and neurology allowed him to pick a socially acceptable (and in some ways positive) addition: work. In this society no one is ever going to criticize you for working too much (ask me how I know!), especially if your work pleases them and makes you and them money! And then he could use coping mechanisms (pot, wealth) that are mostly benign — though the craving for wealth is easily as destructive as any drug. John was wired to feel his stuff so strongly, need relief NOW, and require more and more stimulation to feel relief.
But in the final analysis, both men were much more similar than they were different, and it had to be thus for them to work together so long and so well.
“Paul is a textbook example of someone who is addicted to work”
YES 100 PERCENT. This is one of the things I was getting at in my post about McCartney and Dickens. Compulsively working, so restlessly creative that there’s a huge output with unevenness, but also with a core of caring about the audience that people pick up on.
Michael, I just want to say that even though you may be tired of harping on addiction, I, as someone who was very personally and directly affected by abuse (and can testify to just about everything you’ve said here, including the addict’s unpredictable behavior/appearance–like being two people in one), really really appreciate your harping. So many people are not aware of how subtle and hidden addiction can be. Many, many people are phenomenal at hiding it. So I appreciate you and others making the signs and dangers more known.
@Erin, thank you so much for saying this. It’s an unpleasant topic, and quite honestly I’d really rather talk about John’s awesome shoes during the “Strawberry Fields Forever” video. 🙂
But goddamn it, if The Beatles are about anything, it’s about being happy, and seeing/healing/avoiding addiction and attendant trauma is such an important piece of that.
Subtle/hidden is right; being good at hiding is right. For me, it’s more a feeling; I know addiction when I feel it. Several people within the Beatles’ story trigger my Spidey sense, and so I use that intuition to highlight these issues within the story. I don’t quite get anybody caring about John being dissed or Paul being dissed; I’m increasingly interested in The Beatles’ story as a tool towards self-help of the type that Ringo himself is said to employ.
Also, @Michael, please speak more about Paul being addicted to work! I definitely saw this in “Get Back” as well–it’s striking. The man just can’t stop. He also clearly (I think) uses work to avoid underlying issues/anxieties.
I will investigate this further, and will likely discover a problem that I need to address. 🙂 (not kidding) (addiction comes for many of us, in many forms)
I hope this reply lands under the correct comment. I often feel I’ve had a life-long addiction to books. Books are a healthier addiction, and one I’ve retained, instead of the cocaine addiction I once carried around, and the alcohol addiction I still nurse intermittently. In a perfect life I would be content to just lie around and read books all day; it is still a form of escapism; therein lies the addiction.
@alicia, I once also had that book addiction. I was only cured when I developed a severe allergy to book dust. Otherwise I’d still be buying bags of used books I’d never read.
It never impacted my life or finances, but it was definitely a craving that allowed me to disappear.
John and Yoko using heroin is a fact. They both owned up to it publicly and it’s referenced in at least two songs of John’s. But I don’t expect Disney would have let Peter Jackson touch that with a ten foot pole if there was explicit references to Heroin in the footage.
That being said the overwhelming response I’ve seen from both reviewers and online/social media is how charming, engaged, funny and sociable John seems rather then the long held impression he was zonked out, moody, bitter and clinging to Yoko the whole time. One review I read also described him as gentlemanly in a scene where he is trying to make Paul understand that they’ve taken George for granted.
And I’m glad Get Back will give me and a lot of other people experiencing the Beatles for the first time a chance to see that version of John even if side by side a John who is increasingly moving away from the Beatles and his old life.
And this is not because I have experience with addiction either myself or in my family- because I don’t. But because that’s who I’m sure the people close to him including the Beatles loved.
Peter Jackson said in an interview that he was scared that he was going to go through the footage and realise that one or more of the Beatles were total jerks but was relieved to discover that they were all genuinely good people who loved each other and that confirms my own beliefs.
Myself personally, I don’t feel the need to sit in judgment of John’s heroin use when I don’t know what it’s like to have lived his life or how he got to that place. Based on what he himself has said he was in pain. I have compassion for whatever led him there and gratefulness that it didn’t kill him. I also don’t think it’s the sum total of who he is.
I know that the Beatles are almost mythic in that we talk about them like their characters in a book or tv show but I’m conscious of the fact that regular non famous people have addiction issues and I don’t think having an addiction to drugs makes you a bad person. There should be more judgement for dealers who create and foster addicts, for all the doctors who over prescribed opioids for years and bred a generation of addicts, social and income inequality etc etc. I’m not going to judge addicts.
They owned up to their heroin use, yes, LeighAnn. But what they didn’t do was take any responsibility for their own behaviour caused by their heroin use. They were both very vocal about how everything was Paul’s fault.
Peter Jackson has gone very easy on John and Yoko in all three of these episodes, being careful not to show any footage where we see either of them in a drugged out state. There is plenty of footage out there, so Jackson’s decision is very telling. It suggests to me that he was following instructions, and I sincerely doubt whether those instructions came from McCartney.
It’s a shame that after all these years, Yoko Ono still doesn’t have the humility to apologise for her own behaviour. An apology might go some way towards redeeming her.
We’re they vocal about how everything was Paul’s fault because they were on drugs – or because that’s how they felt? Again I think they way people talk about John and Yokos drug use shows a level of judgement that lacks compassion. Probably as I mentioned because they are discussed like they are characters in a movie where your Team John or Team Paul of Team George rather then human beings, but I’m conscious of the fact that their are real non famous people who suffer from drug addiction and it’s an illness- and just judging and casting blame at drug taking doesn’t treat the root cause of that illness.
I don’t really get your point. No one is saying that John’s drug addiction wasn’t tragic, of course it was.
But the fact that he went through that doesn’t absolve him from blame for the damage he did or the hurt he caused to others. And it doesn’t give Yoko a free pass to pretend she was some sort of innocent victim in all this.
Yes, she was a heroin addict and that was very sad. At the same time, her behaviour was reprehensible and a bigger person would have the humility to use this project as a final opportunity to acknowledge that and apologise for it – not try to manipulate the truth by pretending she wasn’t at fault. The fact that Yoko doesn’t have that humility is and has always been her biggest failing. Ultimately, it will be the thing she is remembered for, and that’s also very sad, not least for Sean.
Yoko should make a grand apology to the world for sitting quietly next to her boyfriend while they played Dont let me down and Two of us over and over and over and over and over again?
She should apologise to the world for John cheating on his wife and leaving her to be with Yoko?
She should apologise to the world because the Beatles were drifting apart because of their own issues and conflicts with each other?
She should apologise to the world because she made her own questionable choices to take drugs?
Like I’m still lost as to what exactly Yoko did that she needs to apologise for?
And Paul was passive aggressive about John and Yoko. Let’s not act like he was 100% super supportive. In Get Back he uses a Yoko comparison when Linda dares to speak her mind. And we have the account of him writing a letter calling Yoko a Jap Tart.
I don’t believe he was as bad as John thought he was but I also think John conflated and whole bunch of feelings and resentments and perceived slights into one whole burn everything down mentality during the immediate aftermath of the breakup period because of whatever emotional crises he was going through.
I mean in the same time he was inviting Alf to his house just for the sole purpose of screaming his head off at him for ruining his life.
Honestly there was blame to be thrown around at everyone, the fact is they were all not great at proper communication and we’re as others pointed out not very emotionally mature.
Yes, Yoko should absolutely apologise for her atrocious behaviour while addicted to heroin, which Peter Jackson has done a great job of whitewashing on her behalf.
It was certainly sad for her that she was a heroin addict. It was sad for John that he got drawn into it. It’s no excuse.
Reply to LeighAnn: not apologising but owning up (as Yoko but even more as John’s widow representing John) the reality of the situation, ie that her constant presence at John’s side and John’s hiding behind her and heroin were real issues for the Beatles just as George’s resentment over his third-wheel position, the lack of a direction and Paul’s attempts to supply for it were real issues. In the documentary the other problems are explored in depth through dialogues and editings, but the John&Yoko issue is just mentioned by Paul on the morning of 13th January and never hinted at again. Knowing from the nagra tapes the whole conversation, I am not fully happy with the way that scene is cut. It almost seems like Paul was doing a unprompetd monologue about John&Yoko, but we know that Paul, Ringo, Neil, Micheal Lindsay-Hogg and Linda were talking about them because Yoko’s presence and her talking for John at Ringo’s house was the main reason why George had left the meeting and not rejoined the band. We also know that Yoko was much more talkative than represented – I think we hear Linda’s voice more than Yoko’s, and Linda was there 4/5 days instead of everyday – and I don’t mean that she shouldn’t have spoken her mind, but that some editing was probably done to reduce Yoko’s presence. It’s true that Yoko has faced 50+ year of hate from Beatles fan for “breaking up the band”, and so it’s understandable that she and Sean (also Peter Jackson and the other Beatles) prefer to bury this issue as much as possible. But you could say the same for Paul: he’s faced 50+ year of being called bossy, insensitive to George and the cause of the break up, but I think that by allowing in Get Back an in-depth analysis of the problems (instead of hiding them) he is now showing the complexity of his situation, resulting more human and understandable.
@Anna John Paul and Ringo have both said at different points that Yoko was not to blame for the Beatles breaking up. There for if she doesn’t have to apologise to them she doesn’t owe anything to the rest of us.
Did her presence put strain in them, sure. Did her and John’s drug addiction put strain on them, sure. But so did Paul’s exacting attitude to recording, so did the Klein vs Eastman tension, so did losing Northern songs, so did not having a to use Paul’s words “daddy figure”, so did having a company that none of them knew how to run and putting people they like in charge instead of people who had actual experience, so to did the fact that they were all just physically and emotionally exhausted from having lived practically multiple lifetime in ten years.
@LeighAnn that’s what I said in my comment, John&Yoko (not just Yoko per se) was ONE of the MANY issues, and it shouldn’t be whitewashed in the documentary. It was problematic enough to make George leave the meeting angry, Neil doubt his capacity to really communicate with John (“I feel like I’m talking to Yoko”), Paul feel uncomfortable in his songwriting collaboration and MLH suggest that they should have a more confrontational approach. It was not Yoko’s fault – as Paul said many times and also in that conversation – it was John’s, but Yoko certainly never took a step back.
Some of John&Yoko is the very specific time and place of 1969, and many people who were hippie-ish then have become quite embarrassed about the more outlandish things they did and said then, especially regarding sex and drugs, both things at the center of J&Y’s relationship. (“Two Virgins,” the Bag Lithographs, and “Cold Turkey” even made these things public; that’s how central they were to J&Y.) So I wouldn’t be surprised if there was definite direction away from anything that would embarrass J/P/G/R/et al. Unfortunately, that makes “Get Back” much less useful as an historical document, for the reasons you state, @Anna.
Looking at John&Yoko as just two people in love, or as adults who can do whatever they want, really misses something essential: that how they arranged their relationship was really disruptive to everyone around them. Linda is not speaking for Paul; Pattie is not speaking for George; Mo is not speaking for Ringo; the very idea is silly. Yet when it comes to John&Yoko, some fans feel it’s unfair (or even sexist or racist) to point out how strange this is, how dislocating it is. As Beatles and Lennon fans, we have to acknowledge the really disastrous impacts John and Yoko’s decision to become John&Yoko had. It may have made J&Y happy, but it didn’t make anybody else happy, and adults have to weigh those consequences. J&Y were 29 and 36 at the time of “Get Back” — adults.
Peter Jackson thinks he’s finessing the whole thing by blaming it on Klein–and I agree with that blame, mostly–but John’s adamantine belief in Allen Klein at least in part came from Klein’s cultivation of Yoko. (As with David Geffen ten years later.) So even that aspect of the breakup can be traced back to John’s sudden, and near-total, abdication of his adult self in favor of a weird blended identity with a new girlfriend.
Well Paul looked like he was having a blast during the Freak Out jam with her and when they were all playing sad over George thrash medal.
The one time Paul and the others were actively discussing their discontent with John having Yoko with him was while LINDA was sitting right next to him because he wanted her around. Paul also brought Linda to the meeting at Ringo house so there’s some hypocrisy there.
Also with all the talk that John and George are adults who should have stood up for themselves if they felt Paul was bossing them around or not respecting their songs, it doesn’t sound like Paul Ringo and George ever stood up to John and explained in an adult way why they didnt want Yoko around. By the looks of it they just gossiped about them behind their backs and we’re too scared to confront the issue because Yoko made John happy and they were afraid if they pushed him he was choose her.
Also I forgot about George letting his Hare Krishna friends come to recordings, which John comments is a little weird then proceeds to get over it.
I mean the irony also of the fact that Yoko reading and painting and knitting and hanging around is disruptive when they let entire film crew in to film there every move and record every conversation, including bugging their cafeteria and putting a hidden camera in their reception office.
Like the whole concept of the Let it Be/Get Back wasn’t disruptive and intrusive.
Leigh Ann, I have to disagree that it was hypocritical of Paul to take Linda to the meeting at Ringo’s house – the objection was that Yoko spoke for John rather than that she was present (that horse had left the barn). And although Jackson didn’t include it, Linda said that in hindsight she felt she shouldn’t have gone (and taken Heather), but it was hard to resist a weekend outing at Ringo’s house. Then Neil pointed out that, unlike Yoko, Linda hadn’t spoken for one of the Beatles. Yes, John was responsible, but Yoko was a willing participant.
Replying to @Anna: I had no idea George left the meeting because Yoko talked for John. I wish Jackson would have mentioned that, but he did seem to take a very “hands-off” approach, giving only the facts. Perhaps I should have known that anyway. But was it the only reason George left the meeting? I’m genuinely curious.
@Erin there was absolutely nothing that confirmed George left the meeting solely because Yoko talked for John. We don’t even know if her talking for John is even a fact, or just the clouded impression of Paul- who clearly despite saying she’s “great” was clearly bitter about John and Yoko and the fact that he didn’t feel as close to him anymore.
What we did see is the day after that meeting John is making very smart and emotionally sound points about the fact that both Paul and himself have taken George for granted for too long- which was almost certainly George’s actual problem. We also see John expressing wanting to go see George again and Yoko suggesting they go the next day.
LeighAnn, about “We don’t even know if her talking for John is even a fact, or just the clouded impression of Paul,” Neil Aspinall was there and he said the same thing.
This is an absolutely internetty line of discussion and I’d ask that it smarten up please.
Questioning established facts because they paint a hero of yours in a bad light is not appropriate behavior for our comments section. It is Internet Tactics 101.
Nobody, not for fifty years, has questioned Yoko’s speaking for John in business meetings. In the story of the Beatles’ breakup, it’s as close to established fact as we can get, not having been there ourselves. Denying it, or asking for “proof” or asking for “John and Yoko’s side of the story” is not legitimate inquiry. It’s ignoring/denying stuff you don’t like.
Don’t deny that John allowed Yoko to speak for him in business meetings. Instead, suggest why that might’ve been. It’s peculiar behavior. What was up, there?
There are lots of things that each Beatle did that I don’t like/approve of. But the game here at Hey Dullblog is to acknowledge those things and try to understand them. If you don’t want to play that game, there are lots of other places to go. Go there.
Yep. Beatles Twitter is doing the whole “defend to the death and beyond” thing for various Beatles right now and it is both unilluminating and exhausting.
And the “various Beatles” here include Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. Ringo fans seem less angry / better balanced.
…and that’s why I don’t follow “Beatles Twitter.” As ever, Nancy, I admire your fortitude and indulgence. Twitter is a machine producing deathbed regret.
Oh, I have limits as to who I follow on Twitter and I rarely interact. I’ve just noticed an uptick lately in people getting hot and bothered about people not “loving” their preferred Beatle sufficiently.
@laura the point still stands that we are hearing a one sided version of that meeting because unfortunately for John and Yoko they allowed a chance to be filmed on camera bitching about Paul, or Paul and Linda, or George and Ringo behind their backs about their version of point of view of events.
May I ask what is so bad about Yoko speaking for John at business meetings? I don’t think it was a way to put a wedge between himself and the others. Yoko was just better at business than him! I mean, she took care of all the business and investments during their Dakota days.
I think it may be a question of intention vs. effect.
It may well not have been John’s intention to have Yoko speaking for him drive a wedge between himself and the other Beatles, but it did seem to produce that effect. Similarly, it may well not have been Paul’s intention to have proposing his new brother in law as a business manager drive the rest of the band towards Allen Klein, but it did seem to produce that effect.
@Michelle, it is ENTIRELY alienating and inappropriate (and aggressive) towards your business partners of over ten years to refuse to speak, and let someone else speak for you. That is a clear signal that you don’t like your partners, don’t trust your partners, and want out of the partnership…but don’t have the guts to say it.
Furthermore, having your representative be your girlfriend of six months, and someone who is not a businessperson but a conceptual artist—-that is doubly disrespectful. It’s also deeply deeply patriarchal.
John knew all this. He was being a jerk, and using Yoko (that she didn’t mind doesn’t make it any less sleazy). It worked exactly as he intended.
Finally, I’m happy for john that Yoko didn’t squander his fortune, but all Yoko had to do was hire semi-competent people, watch em like a hawk, and hold them to account. Not nothing, and as I say, I’m glad it worked out, but let’s dispense with the “financial wizard” stuff. It’s pure PR.
So John was intentionally being aggressive and jerk towards his band mates at that meeting- which we don’t know what happened and what was discussed and who said what- and yet the next day it’s John who is predominately concerned about George and who is talking about how they (Paul and John) wounded him and didn’t give him bandages, it’s John who is seen suggesting they go and see George again and once George is back in the fold it’s John and George who are mucking around and play fighting the first day they are all back together.
Yes, and that’s weird how?
Maybe John felt guilty. He should’ve. Maybe John felt George was right to be offended; George WAS right to be offended. Maybe John wanted to build a J/G/R coalition within the group and isolate Paul; which is exactly what John did.
This situation is complex, and our data is partial at best. Go with what we know, not how you’d act or want someone to act.
We know that John did not speak in the meeting, insisting that Yoko, his girlfriend of six months who was not a musician, nor a partner, nor a Beatle, speak for him.
We know George was offended by that and terminated the meeting.
We know that THEN John said what he said to Paul re: George.
We DO NOT know what else was said, by whom, about what.
Go from the data you have, not from a fixed idea. If you start out with ideas like “John was pro-George” or “Yoko is entirely blameless, for reasons” or “John seemed happy, so he mustn’t have been THAT addicted to anything” you’re going to end up more confused than when you started.
Replying to @Michael G: Sorry if I caused any issues, I genuinely was just curious about that one meeting, which I don’t know all the details of. I do know Yoko spoke for John–that’s clear–I was only asking if that’s why George left.
@Nancy: It’s sad to me that people get so worked up over defending someone or putting them down. Especially with the Beatles! I think I like Ringo even more now because no one’s fighting about him, nor would I think he want anyone to. People are people; no one is perfect. And this documentary isn’t perfect, either. There’s a lot of information out there we’ll never know. Besides that, I think intelligent discussion is much more interesting and enjoyable than defensive fighting, but…I suppose that’s why I don’t enjoy much social media. (And why I like this site so much.)
Oh @Erin, never any issues. Just me riding one of my hobbyhorses, no doubt 🙂
@Michelle – No one was interested in Yoko’s business advice, least of all John. My impression is that he was using her to provoke. He knew what they thought of her opinion – which was where she could stick it frankly. He also knew they couldn’t say anything: (1) because they were being recorded and (2) because he would then have an excuse to walk. It was the ultimate power trip.
By the way, I say ‘they’, but I actually don’t think he gave a monkeys what George thought. He was trying to antagonise Paul.
I continue to feel torn about Jackson’s selective editing of the material here – I’ve also heard fans say that Lennon’s H use is clearly not bad, and Jackson’s decision not to include the Two Junkies interview (when he includes, say, footage of India) is an odd one, since there’s such a strong moment of tension here in the second episode about it. It becomes clear at that moment – after Paul almost breaks down over John not showing up (heart-rending) and then returning, elated, after talking him into coming over the phone – after a nice stretch joking and making Peter Sellers uncomfortable that John admits he puked on the floor during an interview for no reason other than “abusing his body,” and Paul is visibly upset again, asks if they have to do that in public, and starts nagging Lennon about needing a regular schedule. *Then* prior Paul’s comments about John’s lateness make sense; he’s upset he’s using heroin, is the long and short of it. But the conversation is strange and subtextual, as Beatles conversations often are, and the audience isn’t given proper context.
I found the editing particularly bad during the lunchroom session. Paul and John weren’t at lunch alone – Ringo, Yoko, and Linda were there, fully participant, and their contributions to the conversation are interesting and significant. More, the conversation was so much longer and more meaty than what we’re given. Jackson’s subtitle choices are also idiosyncratic. Not sure I agree with all of them.
Regarding output: I’ll still argue, and always argue, that any claims that either Harrison or Lennon aren’t productive enough during this time are absurd. They were two months off recording a double album, all of them were also working on solo products, would start yet another album three weeks after this. Both come in full of songs and ready to participate. You’re right that their preference for jam-band writing plays into the conflict but it’s not only that, nor is it only heroin, either. John stops fighting to play and practice his songs very quickly, and he tells us the reasons why in the lunchroom tape:
JOHN: And that’s all I did on the last album was say, “Okay, Paul. You’re out to decide where my songs are concerned, arrangement-wise.” [exasperated] I don’t know the songs, you know. I’d sooner just sing them, than have them turn into – into ‘Mr. Kite’, or anything else, where – I’ve accepted the problem from you that it needs arrangement. And then, because I’m an ape – I don’t know. I don’t see any further than me, the guitar, and the drums, and – and George Martin doing the— [audio glitch] I don’t hear any of the… flutes playing, you know? I suppose I could hear ‘em, if I sat down and worked very hard. I could turn out a mathematical drawing if you’d like, but I could never do it off me own backside, I always have to just – [brushing sound from strumming motion] do that, you know?
(from here: https://crosshair.livejournal.com/179622.html)
So basically: John doesn’t like how Paul arranges his songs and feels Paul isn’t amenable to feedback generally. So John has shut down on it. And honestly, you can absolutely see why – look at Paul’s reactions to George trying to gain a foothold as an equal player. Listen to Paul’s absolutely corny and frankly bad counter melodies that he tries to insert on “Don’t Let Me Down.” They’re not good suggestions, and listening to the full Nagra tapes shows that he’ll press forward with a bad suggestion for days. So while we have Lennon bringing in Child of Nature, Across the Universe, Don’t Let Me Down, and Gimme Some Truth in the first week, it’s more understandable why he doesn’t press to work on them. He’s done fighting with Paul about it. Yeah, I found myself screaming “Tell them you want to work on ‘Across the Universe,'” several times during watching the first episode, but I also think there’s just a fundamental difficulty in their working styles, tastes, and general approaches.
And their communication is just so troubled, too. George feels he can make an intellectual plea to be treated equally but that’s obviously not going to work; Lennon uses humor as a deflection technique; Paul gets naggy and catty. And he does. His needling Lennon about lyrics, about lateness, about needing a routine – none of them state what he’s really upset about. And given their frankness when they think they’re not being filmed, it could be a result of the situation. Or it could be just the way they were raised to communicate, or a combination of the two.
I’m upset that they cut short the conversation and sequence around “I’ve Lost My Little Girl,” too, since it’s my favorite. Paul circles around and around the importance of performing for much longer than we’re shown here, and Lennon eventually gets him to let go not because the rooftop performance is suggested but because he’s singing Paul’s first ever song to him for a full fifteen minutes or so. It’s an interaction that goes beyond who they are as performers and gets to the heart of who they are as friends. I was glad that Paul’s comment about how, when it comes down to it, he knows John will be in a bag with Yoko at Royal Albert Hall, was still included, because I think Paul’s pervasive thread of jealousy over John’s performances with Yoko are important here. It’s not just that she’s here, or that she’s avant garde, or that he knows John will choose her over the band. It’s that she gets one of the things with John that HE really wants. The bit of drunken shouting he does at John and Yoko (“get back in your bag”) really underscores this. Paul’s someone who can’t resist bringing something up over and over again when it bothers him. This bothers him. He wants to perform with Lennon again, and John hears that and sees that. John often their own songs to tell Paul he loves him. We see it during the Sellers sequence too. Paul rejects those repair attempts, though, in a Gottman sense.
Also, mixed feelings about them editing out Paul’s VERY racist comments at the end of the sequence in the India video. But, I was glad to see that footage, and also happy to notice John gently pushing back on Paul’s interpretation of the events. He doesn’t remember not being himself. He remembers all that time spent in Paul’s room writing songs. Score one for the McLennonites.
Also, Paul was absolutely wrong about the Beatles & co idea. It’s clear that Billy’s presence makes the band immediately more joyful and cohesive. It could have been a fun conceptual idea (a different fifth Beatle on every album!). I think he was afraid John just meant to bring in Yoko – but I don’t think that’s what anyone was really suggesting at all. I did enjoy their chaotic Apple jam together. Both of the Yoko jams were pretty great.
Also I adored their conversation about performing standing up versus sitting. I’m forever fascinated and aggrieved by the fact that we only have one piece of pre-Epstein footage of the Beatles performing. I always thought John’s performances especially were very strange and stiff and when you hear of cavern fans giving up on them after Epstein came along, in part because their stage show change, you have to wonder what you missed. And we see it here, in Apple. John, particularly, dancing, whirling, kinetic, *happy.* And then he parodies his own standing performances and – oof. In the rooftop concert and the footage we have of Lennon in concert solo, we get more of a sense of this. How he actually moved and felt and looked when given license as a performer. It’s magical.
Wonderful comment, thank you!
“ Paul rejects those repair attempts, though, in a Gottman sense.”
What’s a Gottman sense?
Whoops, sorry, I forget he’s not better known. John Gottman’s a researcher who has done studies on predictors of divorce in married relationships. Please excuse the corniness and self-help bent of this website; he’s an actual psychologist and his ideas have more heft behind them than as presented here. A repair attempt is when, during a conflict, a member of a couple attempts to reconnect with their partner. Turning down repair attempts can lead to emotional shutdown for both or either parties, which Gottman sees as one of the high predictors for divorce in married relationships: https://www.gottman.com/blog/r-is-for-repair/
I’ve already made a comment elsewhere regarding George’s equal status within the Beatles. Did Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts et al have equal status to Jagger and Richards? Did Dave Davies to Ray Davies in the Kinks? I won’t even mention the Gallagher Brothers or Simon and Garfunkel. If people think Paul was controlling, they may like to take a look at Brian Wilson for comparison.
John’s complaints about Paul’s arrangements on John’s songs. Again, it’s unfortunate that this film, as did Let it Be, presents something that has now become definitive about how they worked together. That it has never been captured on film, or on audio, the extent to which John mocked and ridiculed several of Paul’s songs in the beginning, in fact throughout the rest of his career, sabotaging his reputation with his granny songs/muzak snipes. What did Paul really do to John that deserved this? I’m not at all surprised that Paul shuts down criticism even to this day. I think a lot of this had to do with Paul, by age 24 or so, finally standing up to John, which why it amazes me that Paul didn’t stand up to him here, considering that so much of it angered Paul post-split.
I really get the impression that Paul was often confused and bewildered by what John expected of him, and it dated back to John’s friendship with Stu Sutcliffe. John was that mercurial: Paul became an exuberant puppy dog when in John’s good books, despondent with his tail between his legs when he wasn’t. Perhaps it’s why he responds so readily to praise. John could be a funny, lovable, and witty guy, but honestly how do you deal with a person, who you looked up to, who on the one hand, impressed upon you that it is YOU, and only you, who he chose to work with as a songwriter, then in the next breath chastises you for your ignorance and insensitivity when it comes to George?
As for Don’t Let Me Down: cue, based on one song: Paul a terrible and pedantic arranger now cemented in history from now on.
Get Back will always be problematic for me. This film shows them working on their weakest album. Enough said. It does not reflect them working on their peak albums with George Martin. If anyone is going to talk about any one person being sidelined, then that is George Martin, their MENTOR, friend and advisor, who put so much dedication into what the Beatles achieved. I find his absence here criminal. And I blame that fair and square on the Beatles.
Honestly, no, my perspective isn’t from just this film: it’s from listening to all 90+ hours of the Nagra tapes and reading interviews with all four band members throughout the 70s. Paul agrees with John’s assessment in the lunchroom tapes that he was not amenable to feedback on his songs, that he preferred a four on the floor style for all of them. All three band members described Paul’s working style as one in which he would steer the band back to working on his songs, over and over again, during periods of downtime, that this crowded out work on their own compositions, that he was often unkind in how he directed them during arrangements, and that these songs weren’t to their tastes generally. And honestly, I love songs like “The Two of Us,” (even drew a comic book for my spouse based on it in our 20s!) but during the Nagra tapes even I got tired of listening to it after hours and hours and hours. The band described similar working conditions for O-bla-di, Maxwell, and several other songs, which all have the same, fairly repetitious beat and structure, and which is clearly not Lennon or Harrison or Starr’s general jam, so to speak.
That doesn’t mean their taste is right and Paul’s is wrong. But they’re different. And it’s easy to see how Paul often comes at songs from this angle – nostalgia-tinged, rooted in a dance hall tradition. He is also capable of writing a rocker; I’m not saying that he’s not. But the suggestions on “Don’t Let Me Down” are completely in keeping with a more dance hall tradition. Meanwhile, we have Lennon asserting on record, throughout the 70s, that he was unhappy with the arrangements of Help, Strawberry Fields, Across the Universe, and several others – and that he essentially had to kick McCartney out of the studio to ensure that “She said She said” was recorded to his liking. Did McCartney improve many of Lennon’s songs? Of course he did. The music world was richer for their collaboration. But it was a collaboration that best worked as a creative exchange, in my opinion, and it worked both ways; Ob-la-di is one that we can point to definitively as being improved by Lennon’s contributions. And “standing up to John” is a curious way to characterize it when by all accounts, based on interviews with all of the band members, Paul was the person who, persistently, throughout, was least open to collaboration.
George Martin by all accounts (his own, Emerick’s) was completely negative on Harrison’s songwriting abilities and often didn’t really understand Lennon’s songwriting intentions either. He was inclined to back up Paul.
Paul McCartney is an incredibly powerful personality. John tells us, not just here, but in numerous interviews and reflections on their Beatles career, that he just stopped fighting him. Gave up on trying for the A-side of singles, often ended recording sessions frustrated and resigned (including, say, Strawberry Fields Forever). He no longer had Epstein as an ally to support him, the same way Paul had Martin. Yes, many of these songs are considered masterpieces regardless. But it seems that Lennon considered them personal losses, and not just once, but consistently. These sentiments were echoed by both Harrison and Starr. It strikes me as an incredibly difficult working environment from a creative standpoint, and acknowledging that isn’t an attack on McCartney. You can be a genius and still be a difficult person with whom to have a creative relationship. Collaboration between geniuses is a particularly difficult beast.
I don’t think McCartney comes across as a powerful personality at all. He’s powerful when he’s performing. He’s magnetic then – you can’t take your eyes off him. But the rest of the time, no way.
I have a vivid memory of watching him do TV interviews in the 80s, and thinking, what’s Linda doing there next to him, and why does she keep grabbing his hand?
Having watched all three parts of this, it’s quite obvious (to me anyway) that Paul McCartney’s a nervous wreck, and that the reason Linda was grabbing his hand was to stop him tearing his hair out.
He obviously has ADHD or something like that because he can’t stop fidgeting for a minute, and you can tell by the way he speaks that his thoughts are jumping all over the place as well. Again, he’s like that in interviews and it does make him difficult to watch. I have no doubt that he’s difficult to be around, and I’m not at all surprised that he got on everyone’s nerves – people like that always do, and through no fault of their own. I can well imagine the stuff that was edited out of HDYS.
So ‘powerful’, no way, not for me. Anxious, highly-strung, vulnerable, even. But less powerful than John, even then.
I agree that McCartney seems anxious and hyper a fair bit of the time. Watching the first part of “Get Back” I was thinking about how differently people can respond to pressure and anxiety — amping up, checking out, etc. I agree that this could make McCartney especially hard to deal with.
Socially powerful, in that he sets the tone for conversations and often doesn’t back down from what he wants to discuss even when it’s clearly unproductive or when other people want to discuss other things. This might be driven by anxiety (he seems anxious to me, too).
My spouse thought his behavior seemed stimulant fueled, namely cocaine. I always thought this was his heavy alcohol/pot period and some of his circular reasoning and refusal to drop various subjects do say to me that something more was going on, either substance use or mental health issues/neurodivergence (could be a lot of things from OCD to ADHd to anxiety) But I was surprised by how restless and kinetic he is. As someone with ADHD, I see some of that in both Paul and John, whereas George and Ringo seem neurotypical. I think it’s significant that their early period was stimulant heavy, too.
I don’t think his behaviour is stimulant fuelled – I think that’s just how he is and it’s why he comes across a bit, well, unlikeable.
He goes on and on to make a point because he’s obsessive and he’s saying whatever comes into his head and trying to make sense of it out loud. On the other hand, John’s quite succinct. Even his jokes are to the point, so he’s never boring. People like him, whereas Paul gets on their nerves. He knows it too, and it makes him even more anxious.
No wonder he ended up with Linda – she was kind enough to put up with him! In all seriousness though, how cruel was it of John and George to go after someone so obviously insecure as publicly as they did? I get that he annoyed them and on some level embarrassed them (you can sense that coming off George in waves in the Anthology footage), but they had to have known he couldn’t help it.
Well, we know he was a heavy cocaine user prior to this, and that the entire band used stimulants earlier in their career (John, ironically, seems more physically sedate in that period, which is part of what makes me wonder if he did have ADHD or something similar going on). The extent to which Paul rambles unproductively about certain ideas and the ways in which his ideas sort of sprawl from one thing to another, coupled with his physicality – he’s literally scaling walls and jumping around rooftops – is what made my spouse wonder. I think it’s how he is, yes, but it might have been exacerbated by other factors.
John was really vicious about him, but there’s difficulty in placing blame between the two of them IMO, because John clearly felt Paul had thrown down the gauntlet with both the McCartney I release and Too Many People. And Lennon seems like a foolish choice of person to needle. As for George, well, honestly decades of being condescended to by Paul had probably taken its toll. Had it not been a financial necessity, I doubt he would have even been involved in the Anthology. But I agree. Paul couldn’t help it. I’m guessing he’s largely not being malicious; he was hurt, and in some ways just a very poor communicator. He is who he is, still.
@Fox – It looks to me that Paul’s drug of choice during this period was booze. I read somewhere (it may have been in the Hunter Davies biography) that Paul and his brother used to scale the walls of the passageway between their house and the house next door. That could be typical schoolboy behaviour, but seeing how physical he is in this footage and considering his restlessness and overall weirdness in interviews, I would say he had ADHD. I hate to think what he was like when he was using cocaine – he must have been literally unbearable to be around.
But I don’t think there’s any excuse for John and George telling the world they were embarrassed by him and that he’d been cramping their style for years, even if it was true. That’s a terrible thing to do to someone, and it clearly affected his self-esteem, not to mention his reputation (which in the UK at least never really recovered).
As for George, he’d had nearly 25 years to get over it by the time he did the Anthology interviews. He should have put all that resentment to better use, and rivalled Paul’s output in the 70’s and 80’s so he could prove that Paul and John had been wrong to underestimate him. It was very immature of him to act like that, even if he was irritated or embarrassed by Paul.
Or, @Elizbeth, stimulants could’ve calmed Paul’s ADHD — I have a friend who has it, and she says, “How can you tell if someone has ADHD? When they ask, ‘What’s the big deal about cocaine?'” (Because stimulants, like Ritalin for example, actually help ADHD’ers focus and get calm.)
I forget whether I typed this or not, but George’s irritation or embarrassment with Paul McCartney really needs to be balanced by George’s delight in being rich…which wouldn’t have happened without Paul. And George knew that. Paul seems to stand in for George’s real love-hate with wealth and fame.
Without wanting to drag this interesting discussion down to an inappropriate level, can I just say that Paul looks REALLY SHAGABLE in these films, unlike virtually everybody else (possibly excepting Billy Preston)?
His hair looks awesome, I really wish he had kept that man-of-the-mountain beard a lot longer than he did, and he dresses really well throughout (I even like those yellow and orange woolly jumpers from Twickenham). As do many of the people we’re shown – that pink striped suit George wears at Apple one day is outrageous! And those boots with flowers embroidered on them a little later!
Comment noted and appreciated. 🙂
@Elizabeth, I agree that Paul didn’t have the powerful personality that John possessed which made him a natural leader. John was incredibly charismatic. Paul is very much that when performing, I agree with you. But he often comes across as rather milquetoast in interviews. I wonder if that contributed to critics sometimes unfairly giving him a hard time.
As for stuff that might have been edited out of HDYS, I read somewhere that a reference to Paul’s famous Little Richard impersonation was dropped from the lyric.
@Michelle, I think Paul hides himself behind propriety and what he thinks people want, so he’s less interesting to an interviewer/journalist. I suspect that, if he really trusted you, and it would go no further than this room, Paul would be very much like John was.
I agree with Michael Gerber that cocaine might not have affected Paul in the typical way. It seems he was at his most unbearable during the white album sessions, which would have been when he was getting OFF coke. (I don’t think there are stories of him being unusually angry or mean during pepper or MMT — exacting and exhausting and just generally A Lot, sure, but what else was new?)
If that’s true about cocaine’s effect on him I wonder if heroin also had an atypical effect, which may have kept him from becoming addicted. Despite not enjoying it the one or two times he tried it in the 60s, he says he took some during his breakdown to try to feel “numb” but that it didn’t “work.” So presumably it didn’t have much of a tranquilizing effect on him, which would definitely be unusual. And very, very fortunate.
I would allow for the strong possibility that Paul wasn’t as awful / the only one who was ever awful as his bandmates said he was. There was a lot of resentment over his refusing to accept Klein, and when he was proven right, that resentment may have only gotten stronger, especially for George since he was most adversely affected by Klein.
The thing to keep in mind about the Klein situation is that:
1) Paul rejected Klein because he didn’t trust him, and that suspicion was based on Klein’s treatment of the Stones, and Sam Cooke, and proved to be 100% right. PAUL WAS RIGHT ABOUT ALLEN KLEIN, and John’s choice of Klein, and subsequent lobbying to George and Ringo, was at best a terrible business decision, and at worst, John doing something because someone was smart enough to suck up to Yoko (a pattern which would repeat).
2) The Eastmans were an unacceptable alternative, for obvious reasons. As Paul’s in-laws, they would always give him preferential treatment; and what if Paul and Linda broke up? So, being fair with the ALL-CAPS, PAUL WAS WRONG ABOUT THE ALTERNATIVE.
Any well-functioning quartet would’ve immediately seen these problems, and found an alternative. The problems the Beatles were trying to solve were not exotic or new, they were just large-scale.
I don’t think anyone said he was the only one who was awful. We see John being actively awful at several points in this documentary, for example in his needling Harrison about I Me Mine. But John showed some self-awareness and development and Paul seemed to dig in his heels about the way things needed to be, which would make him a difficult person to work with.
He was right about Klein – but he was also pretty foolish to suggest bringing in his in-laws. I can’t imagine any band where that would have gone over well.
A non-Klein / non-Eastman manager was clearly in order, but I don’t believe Paul insisted on the latter. His mistake was in not finding an alternative before Klein sank his hooks in, which seems to have taken all of one meeting with John and Yoko. (Reply button was missing, but I’m replying to Michael rather myself.)
@Michael That’s always my take on it as well re the Klein situation. Paul was right about Klein but an idiot to think they band were going to accept Linda’s dad as an alternative and tilt the power balance.
In regards to George and Ringo I could see how Klein being a known industry player who had work with many of their peers was a more logical choice then the Eastmans who I’m not even sure if they had much music management experience at the level The Beatles were at at the time.
From everything I’ve read, the Eastmans could’ve done what needed to be done (and did do that, for Paul, post-Beatles). But it was just impossible to have their lawyer be one of the members’ inlaw.
(Replying to Fox rather than myself): With the “awful” bit I was referring to what Paul’s bandmates had to say about him, not the discussion here. As I mentioned, they resented him over the Klein mess – and quite possibly his commercial success in the 70s, come to think of it. YMMV, but I wouldn’t take everything they said about him as gold.
Re to Fox: I think that Paul too shows self-awareness and improvement in the documentary, being more aware of the risk of “going overboard” with his plans and especially in the way he treats George at Savile Row. For example the way he responds to Old Brown Shoe. Or the way he shuts up when George lectures him on the India experience, egos and being your true self… I really admire him for his patience in that moment, in his place I would have replied something awful!
Great comment, @Fox, but I gotta jump in to talk about one point.
“Gave up on trying for the A-side of singles, often ended recording sessions frustrated and resigned (including, say, Strawberry Fields Forever). He no longer had Epstein as an ally to support him, the same way Paul had Martin. Yes, many of these songs are considered masterpieces regardless. But it seems that Lennon considered them personal losses, and not just once, but consistently.”
What we know of Lennon post-1966, and even occasionally pre-1966, is someone who is deeply uncomfortable with the technical, mechanical, or production side of his own art. Once The Beatles started using “the studio as an instrument,” Lennon began checking out. Or, at best, being impossibly vague and handing it off to others.
He says gnomic things like “I want a thousand lamas chanting on a mountaintop” or “cover my voice with tomato ketchup” — and Paul and George Martin come up with these incredible sonic environments. I mean, “Mr. Kite”? Jesus Christ! John comes up with a tune and some lyrics off a fairground poster he bought on the Portobello Road, and they give him back that. Paul and George Martin weren’t some pair of squares keeping John from his great Rock and Roll Destiny; they were his secret weapon.
If the finished songs didn’t sound like what John heard in his head, or weren’t what John wanted, that was on John to keep working, keep learning, keep trying things. It wasn’t on Paul, or George Martin; and to be honest, I think when you’re talking about tracks like “Strawberry Fields Forever” “Walrus” — instant classics, in large part because of the production — it’s wise to take John with a real big grain of salt. What was stopping John from re-recording any of these songs after May 1970? Or even before? The fact that he didn’t speaks volumes.
John compared himself to Paul, assumed that Paul’s gifts were natural gifts, and got frustrated and angry at himself. Understandable; Paul’s a once-in-generation talent as a pop star. Paul compared himself to John — a once-in-a-century talent as a communicator — and worked to get better. I don’t think John would ever have been as fluid in the studio as Paul, or as natural a multi-instrumentalist; but neither does Paul have John’s uncommon gift for intimacy, for words and rawness. But I don’t think we should necessarily take John at his word about the recordings of some of his greatest songs. He had ample time and plenty of money to re-record them; he could have his pick of any studio, musicians and technical support; the studio tech of 1977 was light-years better than 1967, and he could’ve signed the biggest deal in the history of rock-and-roll to do that album. But he did not, choosing instead to claim some sort of weird sabotage. That seems a bit…shifty to me.
This is one of my frustrations with the edit of the lunchroom tape as provided, because Lennon and McCartney actually talk quite a bit more about the arrangement issue. John says this (taking the transcript I linked above):
JOHN: And that’s all I did on the last album was say, “Okay, Paul. You’re out to decide where my songs are concerned, arrangement-wise.” [exasperated] I don’t know the songs, you know. I’d sooner just sing them, than have them turn into – into ‘Mr. Kite’, or anything else, where – I’ve accepted the problem from you that it needs arrangement. And then, because I’m an ape – I don’t know. I don’t see any further than me, the guitar, and the drums, and – and George Martin doing the— [audio glitch] I don’t hear any of the… flutes playing, you know? I suppose I could hear ‘em, if I sat down and worked very hard. I could turn out a mathematical drawing if you’d like, but I could never do it off me own backside, I always have to just – [brushing sound from strumming motion] do that, you know?
This is in part a reference to something that happens days prior, when Paul expresses admiration for Canned Heat’s flute arrangements, which maybe struck a chord. But I think this, and George’s statements that he’s not Eric, can also be read as simply boundary stating. John knows he’s not a technical musician or an arranger the same way Paul is. He doesn’t have the same working vocabulary (did I catch somewhere in the documentary that John notates A♭ as Afl at one point? Whereas though McCartney had at least taken some lessons in reading music by the point of his 1966 interview with Maureen Cleve), but he does have arrangements in mind – maybe not as complex, multifaceted, or technical as Paul’s, but he’s not wrong when he says that “Dear Prudence” is, in fact, arranged. But those arrangements and the ways that he is capable of articulating them are unsatisfying to Paul and there’s tension there because of that.
And I don’t even think it’s always a matter of him wanting to always write rockers. If I recall correctly, he wanted a string quartet for Strawberry Fields Forever rather than an experimental take; Help may have been similar. “She said she said” is definitely a rocker but it’s intentional and arranged, and Lennon’s solo output is fairly varied when it comes to arrangement. And I guess it comes to the question of, what’s the point of a band and what is their obligation to a songwriter? Is it to make the best version of that songwriter’s vision or is it to make a song satisfying to all of them (is this even a possible outcome?) And what do we do with a songwriter who lacks the technical ability to articulate what they want? Should George have just worked harder to become more of a jazz-style guitarist like Clapton, or should he have been given spaces to be the best Harrison that he could have been?
The truth is, we’ll never know if John’s vision of any of these songs would have been better. And you’re right that he could have done new covers, but he certainly got slammed for doing Across the Universe with Bowie (which I actually very much like, but I like Bowie hamming it up).
I’d also disagree that he checked out in studio experimentation – what are Revolutions 1 (so distorted DJs thought there was something wrong with it!) and 9 if not just that? But he was interested in using the studio in different ways and to different ends than Paul’s very arranged, epic, contentious and complex approach. Feels a bit like comparing John Singer Sargent to Van Gogh. And again, neither one is wrong. They’re just utterly different artistic sensibilities and I don’t know if either one would have been contented had they been asked to paint like the other.
Whole thing reminds me a bit of this post about the editing of Raymond Carver: https://kristopherjansma.substack.com/p/on-revising-more-or-less As someone who has been edited, and sometimes given in to edits I didn’t really, deep down, agree with, and it’s just a terrible feeling, even if the outcome is celebrated. We can say, well, the artist just doesn’t know best here but I’m not sure. Still, Lennon was soooo very consistent about his unhappiness with some of these songs, across his solo career and to multiple sources. Whether or not we love the outcome anyway (and I do love SFF), I do think we should take him at his word when it comes to his feelings about them. He was inconsistent about other topics. But not this.
But Fox, here’s the thing about the theoretical “John’s version” of say, “Strawberry Fields”: it has the advantage of being a Platonic ideal, and that’s impossible for any concrete version to compete with. I absolutely think McCartney could be obsessive, controlling, and dismissive — but he was also a demon for working on things and getting them done.
My perception is definitely colored by my own experiences. I’ve worked on collaborative projects with a team member whose M.O. seemed essentially to be “no, not that” whenever anyone on the team suggested a way of doing something the first team member had suggested. Nothing measured up, ever, but the first team member also couldn’t exactly say why. This dynamic was extraordinarily toxic and burned out a few people. The first team member was nothing if not consistent about why nothing the team produced lived up to the putative ideal. I don’t think Lennon was in the same category of constant carper that the first team member I’m talking about was, but I do think McCartney was, by his own lights, trying his damndest to get something that approximated what Lennon wanted on record. And there were comments by Lennon later in the 1970s that reflected this.
I also think it’s important to note that both Lennon and McCartney could work in different ways. Lennon could write “In My Life” and McCartney could write “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” I think one of the reasons there is so much tension between them at this point in the band’s life is that the similarities have become grating to them.
Oh, so much to say here, as an editor and as someone who’s been edited poorly, and as someone who wanted good editing and never got it…
To Nancy’s point, it’s not enough to just say “no, no, no.” If you don’t like the song, you gotta PULL THE SONG. Nobody was forcing John to go with “Kite.” No one. And if he didn’t have the artistic or personal confidence to say, “Thank you, fellas, no — ” that’s not on Paul or George Martin. The only person responsible to your artistic vision is YOU, and if the finished product isn’t what you want because reasons, well, that’s also on you.
John tells on himself here: “I suppose I could hear ‘em, if I sat down and worked very hard. I could turn out a mathematical drawing if you’d like, but I could never do it off me own backside…”
Which sounds to me like, “I could do it, if I wanted to, but I don’t want to, because I’m lazy. We know I’m lazy. So I let YOU do it.”
Which is absolutely OK — it’s what having a partner(s) is for — but then you can’t turn around and play the victim, or criticize your partner(s) for finishing your song when you’re too lazy to “turn out a mathematical drawing.”
I care about this particular issue a lot, because I think it’s basic to your self-esteem as an artist.
There is a reason I am not a lot richer than I am; in 2002, my self-published parody of Harry Potter (a desperately flawed, hugely popular book; I’m referring to the parody, but this could be said for the HP series too) was purchased by publishers in the UK (Orion) and US (Simon & Schuster). The advances were proportionally the same–in the US, I received $50k; in the UK, $12,500 for a market that is 1/4 the size.
This was a huge personal and professional risk for me. Editors and agents all advised me that I would be sued and bankrupted for writing it; and there was a feeling that Potter fans would hate me, too. But I knew I could write a book HP fans would like (being an HP fan myself), and I felt Hustler v. Falwell (the legal precedent protecting parody as free speech) was in danger of being functionally ended. I had to publish it, to show it could, and should be done. So I did it, and didn’t get sued, and then all the publishers who were scared came a-callin’.
In the UK, the packaging and pricing was perfect; they showed it to me, and I OK’d it without a thought. The illustrations by Douglas Carrell were wonderful; the packaging of a demi-hardback at £6.99 was just right. Orion knew who would buy it, and why; they released it in October, to gather steam for Christmas.
In the US, the packaging was AWFUL; S&S’ lawyers had insisted that the parody look nothing like the books it was parodying, and so their shitty overworked inhouse designer had come up with something “funny.” Funny book design. Wacky typefaces.
ME: “Absolutely not.”
ME: “Absolutely not. Readers, particularly young people, are visual, and the visual environment of modern parody has to evoke the original. Readers will look at this and decide, ‘Is this person smart, careful, and respectful? Or is this person trying to make a quick buck?’ The book won’t sell, and my professional reputation would be destroyed. No.”
EDITOR: “But our lawyers say we’ll get sued.”
ME: “They are idiots. I have published the book. I have not gotten sued, and JKR must defend her rights in a timely manner. Plus, her agent has said it’s cool.”
EDITOR: “We’re not bending.”
ME: “Then I’ll send you back the $50k. Expect a wire Friday.” (That was all the money I had in the world, after ten years of serious poverty.)
ME: “It’s gotta be packaged right. I’m not a hack.”
The deal that was brokered was that we used my original design — with a cover I bought from a friend for $250 — which was nowhere near as good as it needed to be. And to further punish me for defying them, S&S moved up our pub date to July when kids are all out of school, instead of Xmas when 75% of all books are sold. As a result, I sold only 50k copies in the US — surprisingly, EXACTLY the number of books to earn out my advance, hmmm — but in the UK, I sold 750,000 (equivalent to about 3 million in the US). Fighting with my US editor over packaging cost me potentially MILLIONS of dollars in sales, and future book deals. But I could do nothing else.
John Lennon in 1966-68 could’ve fought, pulled his songs, demanded they stay at Abbey Road until they got it right. If he was upset, he SHOULD’VE done that. Him not doing that is not Paul McCartney’s fault, or George Martin’s. It was John not taking responsibility for his own work, and for a guy obsessed with the idea of being an artist, it was a poor decision. Unless, as I suspect, he thought those arrangements were great at the time, until he met Yoko and his idea of Good Art changed.
To your point, @Fox, you’re right — if you can make “Revolution 1,” you can make “SFF” and “Walrus” sound the way you want. So I think his opinion changed after his aesthetics changed, and he blamed others for his own regret. Which is victim-y. Post-Yoko John is endlessly the victim, and I just don’t buy that, especially when it comes to stuff like making music. Say your aesthetics changed; say you hear it differently now; don’t use it as a way to (yet again, as always) paint Paul and George Martin as some kind of Unfair Authority Figures. YOU’RE the authority, dude; you wrote the song. Say what you want, packaged how you want, and take the consequences like a grownup.
Finally, Jon and I (really Jon) wrote a famous Carver parody. There is a Gordon Lish story attached to it I will tell you via email.
A good editor is in service to the piece. A good editor doesn’t use someone else’s work as raw material for what they want to create — but showing an alternative is actually respectful; it’s using your own uncredited creative abilities in service of someone else’s work, which is an act of generosity. If you let the creator sign off on the final, that’s got to be enough; you can try to create in their idiom, but you can’t try to predict their future regret.
TL;dr — If a mature creator doesn’t like the way they are being edited or packaged, they can and should (I would say MUST) develop those skills and do it themselves. And, maybe, not reach as wide an audience or make as much money. But it’s just too painful otherwise. That’s been the way I’ve run my career, and while I sit here typing on a Beatles blog rather than running a national magazine from my Greenwich Village aerie, or any one of several childhood dreams, I’m absolutely 100% content with that choice. Once you take their money, they control your stuff. I control my stuff, and fuck their money. And two of the people who taught me to think like that were, ironically, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. John talked a good game, but was endlessly letting others control his stuff; Paul talked less about being a Great Artist, but sure as hell has always acted like one. Meticulous, protective, intense, willing to stand behind what he does. A grownup.
And to your point about artistic integrity, Michael, how incredibly fortunate that the Beatles ended up with George Martin, who was willing to run with them and figure out how to actualize some amazing effects for the time. Neither he nor EMI ever seem to have pushed the Beatles to put out something shoddy (they were under time pressure, but seem to have had a lot of artistic freedom, relatively speaking). They had to do some dumb photo shoots, but in the UK at least that seems to have been the worst of it with EMI. Of course Capital, in the U.S., carved up every pre-Pepper album they made and used some incredibly ugly covers (the “Yesterday and Today” cover that replaced the “butcher” cover is my personal least favorite).
As others have noted, we’re also getting some of the worst of the Beatles’ dynamics with “Get Back.” In previous years, and on previous albums, there are so many examples of the individual Beatles making each other’s songs better. Just to take the White Album, John’s banging piano intro to “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” improves that song greatly; Paul’s bass line on “Dear Prudence” enriches the song’s dynamics and emotional reach. John and Paul knew when to butt out of “My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And everyone pitched in on “Don’t Pass Me By.”
Lennon talking, in the early 1970s (“Lennon Remembers,” etc.) about hating arrangements of his songs with the Beatles is to me a leading example of the problems with the hot take. Coming out of the band’s breakup, Lennon went through a period of anger (some quite justified) that colored his perception of everything that went before.
[Note: on 11/30 I edited this comment to reflect Fox’s correction — I had thought the quote below was from the early 1970s, but it’s from a 1980 interview. So it isn’t the “hot take” I originally thought it was.]
Here’s a Lennon quote about the Beatles 1970 Rolling Stone interview that sums up what I’m describing:
“You know Brian put us in suits and all that, and we made it very, very big. But we sold out, you know. The music was dead before we even went on the theater tour of Britain. We were feeling shit already, because we had to reduce an hour or two hours’ playing, which we were glad about in one way, to 20 minutes, and we would go on and repeat the same 20 minutes every night. The Beatles music died then, as musicians. That’s why we never improved as musicians; we killed ourselves then to make it. And that was the end of it.”
There’s some truth here, for sure. The Beatles’ live shows became shorter and it was harder and harder for them to hear themselves. The experience of touring was in many respects, a drag. But the idea that the Beatles never improved as musicians, that their entire recorded output was bad? That’s the aftermath of a bad breakup overwriting everything else. [I originally thought that Lennon amended this take later in his life, but I was wrong about that.]
For sure we don’t have a final version of John’s to speak from (the demos are very soft, though, and lovely). But I suspect we’ll have to agree to disagree, Nancy, on whether Paul was game for seeing John’s visions to fruition. It’s simply not what any other member of the band says happened – both George and John described a lax attitude toward non-Paul songs in the studio. In the conversations we do have (the lunchroom tape), Paul certainly doesn’t argue with John’s interpretation of events, and even sources who could arguably be called pro-Paul, such as Emerick, suggest that Paul, Martin, Emerick, and others often weren’t on board artistically with Lennon’s ideas and weren’t amenable to pursuing them or had to be convinced over objections (for example, on I want you – she’s so heavy).
I actually think they were fine with their similarities, but their differences were just too much in the end. Paul could be experimental or rocky but his music for public consumption rarely risked alienating the audience completely, which Lennon seemed to enjoy doing. And Lennon is someone who almost never seemed comfortable seeming un-cool, but McCartney sometimes relished that if it was a reflection of what he truly felt and if he thought the audience would enjoy it. I honestly just think their ability to curb these impulses had come to an end, and if either one was going to be happy they were going to have to work apart. But of course that’s a loss for all of us.
Curious about your age during that experience, Michael? Because my first book (also with S&S! it was a mess, we should share stories) was published before I was 30 and I was a wimp about edits. I made every change suggested, some which bother me to this day. When we asked for cover changes, they ignored us, and my gentle agent (who I eventually fired) just went along with it. My last book was edited when I was 35 and I started saying no, often and firmly, but damn it was hard at first – particularly when faced with those who say your work is a-commercial or won’t sell if you do x, y, or z. I agree that growing a spine is pretty requisite but damn I couldn’t do it until I’d done a hell of a lot of therapy, personally. That these guys were still working on that, and working it out with their long time best friends, too, at this age is not surprising to me.
However, I will say that according to Emerick’s and other accounts, John was difficult to please on SFF. Emerick says John was pleased with the final take; John says he basically gave up and stopped fighting even though he was unhappy. Not sure who to believe, genuinely. I agree John should have had a spine if that’s how he felt. But it seems he eventually grew one – and that it entailed no longer working with many of these people. Well, sometimes that’s what one needs. Sad, though.
I was 32, @Fox, but it was a value I had from the moment I became professional at around 22. I had been working at my craft—writing and, much more unusually, editing—since before I was 10. I knew exactly what effects I was going for, why, and usually had an historical precedent to point to. So any editor who worked with me—whether it was my editor at S&S or the managing editor at The New Yorker, when I was 27—needed to bring the same level of seriousness and craft. Not just taste. Bad editors make changes to fit their taste; good editors suggest changes to further the effect the creator wants. There is very, very little good editing in publishing, mostly because the sales impact of good editing is impossible to quantify.
Where did I get this confidence? The same place John Lennon got it—success in the marketplace. And John had been infinitely more successful by 1967 than I ever have, or will be. It’s downright WEIRD he was passive at that point in his career. But it’s certainly not Paul’s fault he was.
We shall compare editing horror stories! Part of the point of Bystander has been to select top people, then leave them alone.
The other thing is, nothing ever comes up to snuff. But you have to acknowledge that as fundamentally part of the artistic process, and not “all HIS fault.” That’s silly.
@Nancy, the quote is actually from Lennon’s 1980 David Scheff interview. One thing that really frustrates me is the conflation of this interview with Lennon remembers. In fact, Lennon’s perspective hardly shifted on certain subjects over these nine years. This handful of songs primary among them. I will say that I double checked Lennon’s sentiment on the song there, and apparently he thought the experimentation worked on that one – but it still wasn’t what he wanted. He hadn’t wanted it to be experimental or loose. Again, these are the reflections of a 40-year-old Lennon, so with some presumable distance.
@Michael I’m also someone who was professionally engaged with writing from a young age (had gotten my MFA years prior, had been professionally publishing poetry for years), but there’s still a substantial difference between the confidence most people have in their 20s vs their 30s. All of these guys muddling through what advice to take and reject during their years as a group but finding different individual goals and confidence once they hit their 30s tracks for me. Lennon was also in a weird period in terms of confidence and trajectory – pre-Yoko, post-touring, heavy LSD days. Again, agreed, yes, he should have been confident. But apparently he wasn’t.
Anyway, didn’t say anything was all anyone’s fault.
@Fox, great comment, I’m really enjoying these, thank you.
You didn’t say anything was anyone’s fault, but John definitely did. He felt Paul and George Martin had “subconsiously sabotaged” his greatest songs. That’s a heavy word to use, especially when you read George Martin’s memories of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” If that is sabotage, go ask Brian Wilson about Mike Love.
I”ve watched Scott Freiman’s hourlong presentation on Pepper and MMT, and Lennon’s songs, “Kite” and “SFF” and “Walrus” and “Day in the Life” in particular, got tremendous care/attention/innovation — as did “Tomorrow Never Knows” before them. And taken together, these songs form a huge part of Lennon’s reputation. They are not considered sloppy or slapdash or poorly recorded, but tremendously influential, distinctive, and innovative, Lennon at his best.
And I think that didn’t fit with the story post-breakup John wanted (needed) to tell, so he retconned. Because if THAT were true, John Lennon would have “taken his lucky break and broken it in two,” or something like that, and John was too proud a person to ever ever EVER admit that.
In the Sheff interview you cite, John says, “Paul would … sort of subconsciously try and destroy a great song.” That doesn’t square with either the results, what we know about the sessions, or the memories of the others involved. It’s just John shitting on his Beatles output, for reasons only he knows. He was a great one for “Those old songs of mine you like? They’re shit.” All I know is that, in 1967 John could’ve stopped the process, or pulled the songs, or re-recorded them at any time, particularly after the malign forces of Paul and George Martin were absent and he could hand them over to…that famously easy collaborator and never-one-to-bully-an-artist Phil Spector?
I just don’t buy it. I think John’s spinning a tale, selling magazines, performing for his wife.
Here’s more from Lennon: ““Usually we’d spend hours doing little detailed cleaning-ups of Paul’s songs; when it came to mine, especially if it was a great song … somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness and experimentation would creep in…Subconscious sabotage. He’ll deny it because he’s got a bland face and he’ll say the sabotage doesn’t exist.”
What the hell? He even takes a swipe at Paul’s looks. It’s just Lennon settling secret scores, being petty, and (as usual, post-Yoko) portraying himself as a victim. But he wasn’t a victim, he was JOHN LENNON. He was rich, famous, considered a genius at 24, celebrated like few of his era, thought of as “the boss” by the other three…There’s no evidence before India that he thought of himself as this great victim; and then after, it’s constant. I neither buy it as truth, nor respect it as a creative person. It sounds like mental illness, because it sure isn’t reality. Yes, John, Paul’s out to get you, so he sabotages your songs, but — here’s the diabolical part — Paul helps make them beloved classics, so no one will ever find out.
As to John’s self-confidence, your point about people gaining confidence in their 30s is well-taken…but applies rather less to a guy who burned with such talent, ambition and self-belief that he conquered the world before 25. Lennon pre-acid is VERY confident, he has to be; even when he’s writing songs about lack of confidence like “Help!” he’s creatively completely confident. It’s only after acid that he gets less confident; and then post-India he’s practically a snail without a shell. Things like this are the crux of why I think something happened in India, because he’s not the same dude in May 1968 that he is in May 1966, a period of incredible professional success. The change is internal. He changes from leader to follower, from canny street kid to gullible cynic, from doer to done to, from active participant to victim. Pepper suddenly becomes Paul’s record; The Beatles suddenly become Paul’s band, and he and George are “just sidemen.” At the same time, he “stops doing all the little things he used to do” for the band. What the hell is this about?
None of this helped him. It made him prey to all sorts of weird paranoia (“subconscious sabotage”), and ultimately made him isolated, weirdly impotent and resentful. I wouldn’t want that for any person, much less such a beautiful and important artist. TL;dr — you simply can’t trust solo Lennon to be truthful when he talks about Paul. “Paul” is both nothing and all-powerful, a P.R.-obsessed showbiz hack obsessed with keeping The Beatles popular AND subtly destroying Lennon’s Beatles classics. This combo of subhuman and all-powerful is classic paranoia.
Thanks for the correction, Fox. I find these comments by Lennon even harsher since they were made in 1980.
@Michael: “Here’s more from Lennon… He’ll deny it because he’s got a bland face and he’ll say the sabotage doesn’t exist.’ What the hell? He even takes a swipe at Paul’s looks.”
Um, are you sure that’s what he meant by bland face? I always took that as not literal, like saying someone has a brave face, LOL. Or a British figure of speech. I could be wrong!
Very much enjoying Fox’s posts on here. I can tell she’s a writer by trade. Compelling and pursuasive.
@Michelle, I took it to mean, “He’s handsome and seems nice, so you won’t realize what a SHIT he is.”
Which, let’s be honest, John Lennon was hugely handsome and one of the most charismatic people to ever draw breath, so the interviewer just goes, “Yes, John? He destroyed all your songs, right. THEN what did Paul do? [blinks in infatuation]”
We should never forget this; all four of these guys were blindingly charming. Not believing them is an act of will.
Also, 100% agree re: @Fox’s comments. Just what I want here. Thank you, @Fox.
*persuasive (I wrote this very late!)
@Michael – I think by ‘bland’, he meant expressionless, hiding behind a mask. Paul does this in interviews, which is fair enough – he doesn’t have to reveal his authentic self to the world if he doesn’t want to.
But the impression I get is that he did (does?) this in real life as well, and that it drove John mental. One of the books – I think it’s May Pang’s actually – describes John as irritated by Paul’s tendency to gravitate towards the nearest piano because he thought he was hiding. This presumably was during his Lost Weekend, but if he wrote Nowhere Man about Paul and told Allen Klein that it was impossible to get to know him, he was obviously really frustrated by it.
I can see this very strongly in Paul.
John was not the only one who territorially reinforced the exclusive nature of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership. Paul has said – with his own mouth – that the idea to essentially cut George out of the core songwriting early on and make it just John and Paul Business came from him (not to suggest John wasn’t amenable to it; he obviously reveled in the whole Lennon-McCartney Brand – but so did Paul). There is a lot of evidence that this is not something that was ever made explicitly clear to George – that he would NEVER become a full collaborator, even if he did eventually catch up and start penning respectable hits himself. This habit of making decisions between themselves (and the majority of those decisions being Paul’s) goes back to the beginning of their partnership, along with the habit of being too conflict avoidant to clarify those decisions to the people they affected (half the Quarrymen were fired indirectly or passive aggressively ala Pete Best).
It’s probably true that George’s songwriting style didn’t mesh with John and Paul’s, but it doesn’t appear as if they ever directly spelt this out to him. Instead, it seems like they just threw him a new bone every album while privately agreeing it would ALWAYS be Lennon-McCartney. But George wasn’t Pete Best – George was a founding member of The Beatles, and John and Paul were his close teen-hood friends. I don’t think George was as invested in reinforcing the “pecking order” the way John and Paul were. It makes sense that this pecking order impacted George and Paul’s relationship more than John & George’s, because Paul’s #2 spot was dependent on George being a Kid Brother, a role he never signed up for. George, ofc, choosing to vent about it to John behind his back created a whole other set of issues, since – as he admits in the lunchroom tapes – John veered between defending Paul, or egging George on, depending on how he felt that day. Typical teenager stuff – except John, Paul and George weren’t teenagers anymore.
At a certain point these dynamics were surely playing out subconsciously, because they’d been solidified when these guys were still in high school. It’s not about right and wrong or who was The Most Talented, it’s about the private relationships between the bandmembers. “He should take a look at Brian Wilson.” Yeah, yeah, okay, if you’re a genius, other people have a responsibility to never have their feelings hurt by your personality quirks. Maybe George’s songs weren’t as “good”, maybe his talent wasn’t as self-evident or “natural”, but I honestly think he was completely in the right to feel hurt, minimized and condescended to by the great Lennon-McCartney and their paggro avoidance issues.
In general, this view of Paul – the one where in order to say “the drama of breakup was aimed explicitly at him on purpose and that was fucked up”, you have to deny that he’s ever done anything underhanded or annoying in his life – always strikes me as strange, because it’s, in theory, a defense of the man, but doesn’t take into consideration the fair respect Paul McCartney deserves for himself being a difficult, stubborn, ambitious and socially influential personality, with equally complex emotions about the Lennon-McCartney dual partnership/rivalry as John had. I don’t buy the idea that he played doormat to John, unable to “finally stand up to him”, for ten years, veering between puppy dog worship and tail-between leg despondence. I think this is a hindsight-informed reading based on the dynamics of the breakup, which blew their cracked projections of what their rivalry was supposed to mean out of proportion and razed the earth in its wake (John “knew” Paul was “better” than him and didn’t want anyone else, including Paul, to find out. Paul “knew” he was “the little guy in the chip shop”, but thought he and John were having fun competing to both be The Big Guy – and you know, he *does* like to win). Or maybe it’s a stereotype about Paul seeming “feminine” compared to John. Paul obviously had (and has) a complex about looking like John’s cute sidekick (or more demeaning, for a parochial northerner, “Wife”), but outside observers in the Beatles inner circle often pinned the dynamic as being “John is in charge of the band, but Paul’s in charge or John” or even “John is the public leader, but Paul is the real leader”. That doesn’t mean that John didn’t try to use all his best bullying tactics to destroy Paul’s life on the way out the door, but the relationship – as Paul himself said – had multiple sides and extremely complicated interdependency.
Orange, well said about the Lennon/McCartney “complicated interdependency” and the passive-aggressive way Harrison was kept out of the songwriting. Watching the bit of “Get Back” that I have so far, it strikes me how young they still were at this point and how much they’d already been through, in terms of the rocket ride of fame and the death of Brian Epstein. I feel sympathy for all of them, even when they’re doing things that seem dumb or mean — in fact, especially when they’re doing those things, because it feels like seeing maladaptive coping strategies on parade.
Yeah. 🙁 Even Ringo’s go with the flow refusal to rock the boat is a hardcore coping strategy, though I’ve always gotten the impression his relationship with the other three was more adult off the bat. What always strikes me when I read about this era is how much the fallout over John, Paul & George still playing out their teen friendship dynamics affected everyone around them, because of how insulated and unreal The Beatles gilded cage was. At this point in their career they could go anywhere and do anything, but they increasingly can’t. They just psychologically *cannot*. There’s something very poetic about Paul seeming afraid to stay still in the 70’s, and John cloistering himself, but I can’t quite put my whole finger on it.
Great comment! But this seems like a distortion to me:
“the one where in order to say ‘the drama of breakup was aimed explicitly at him on purpose and that was fucked up’, you have to deny that he’s ever done anything underhanded or annoying in his life”
No, you don’t. You can say, “John and George blamed Paul’s ‘bossiness’ and his suing them over Klein for the breakup, and tried to sic The Beatles’ zillions of heartbroken fans on Paul as the bad guy. That was despicable, first because they knew it would be maximally painful to Paul — they were punishing him for a million secret slights — and second because it didn’t acknowledge the complexities of the situation.
Paul was temperamentally bossy, and that can be shitty to work with, creatively, but it doesn’t happen unless it’s necessary (trust me, I’ve been on both sides of the equation). That was annoying, and occasionally infuriating, to the other Beatles, sure. But as fans wading into this issue, we need to keep something in mind: a good case can be made that nothing after Revolver would even exist were it not for Paul; and that latter run of albums is why The Beatles are still being talked about today. So if you love anything on those albums — including, or maybe especially, the stuff George and John did — you have Paul to thank.
Neither George nor John had any idea what “being a Beatle” might be after touring ended. Paul did, and for that we fans owe him so, so much. This is not the same as liking Paul, even. It’s simply acknowledging that it’s the music we’re here for, not the happiest working environment for John Lennon and George Harrison. Lennon and Harrison’s solo careers show that when they didn’t have Paul riding them, they were very, very uneven. And McCartney’s solo career shows that when he didn’t have partners of equal, but different, talent, he was uneven too.
Was Paul overbearing? Absolutely. But were John and George retiring, reticent, semi-interested? Absolutely. The broken working method we see in January 1969 developed over years, and was a multiplayer game. As fans we gotta acknowledge that John and George’s respective visions of The Beatles after 1966 only existed in opposition to Paul, and we know this because there was nothing stopping J/G/R from starting another group after May 1970. But they either couldn’t be bothered or couldn’t bear to have another Beatle-sized ego around, and that’s really clear after 1971, when John and George have both made amazing solo “statements” mostly made up of tracks they wrote during the Beatle years. After 1966, and for sure after the White Album, John and George kinda or really didn’t want to be Beatles; Paul did. And so if you love THE BEATLES, you have to give Paul that credit. If, instead, you really dig John and George solo stuff, I guess you can be mad at Paul for delaying the breakup?
This reading offers ample space for Paul being a shit, as he occasionally seems to have been. (Personally, I think George is the only one I’d want to be friends with.) Paul’s gifts are also his flaws; he is a relentless pop craftsman. John and George are not relentless, not particularly interested in pop, nor meticulous craftsmen, after 1966. Part of their preferred “jam-band” aesthetic comes from not being arsed to rehearse. Being a Beatle, for Paul, was his job; for John and George, it was a way to avoid a job. And therein lies the difference.
The final thing I’m going to say is that George’s early solo years were not particularly happy ones, and neither were John’s. After producing great solo debuts, both men struggled with serious addiction and lack of a second act (as who would not?). Moving that up from 1970 to 1966 would have made the period more difficult, not less. So even if you’re just looking at John and George as people, there’s something to be said for the last four Beatle years, 1966-70, as being essential to their surviving the vicissitudes of solo stardom. It can’t be proved, but it’s an interesting angle.
Paul was, as they all were, “the biggest bastards on Earth.” But in 1970, and to some degree throughout the 70s, and certainly after Lennon’s murder, he was singled out for criticism in an unfair way.
Oh yeah, I wasn’t picking bones with people having sympathy for Paul’s position in the breakup, sorry if it came off that way. I am a Paul-like individual & have been through the traumatic intimate breakup with a troubled, jealous friend gauntlet myself. I have a lot of understanding for the way he gets socially punished for aspects of his personality he doesn’t really have control over, and for the total nervous breakdown John drove him into in 1969/70. What I have issues with is the portrayal of Paul as the bullied puppy dog waiting for John Lennon’s approval, getting smacked down once he finally stood up for himself. This is just not what happened. I think it was more of a “I never thought the face eating leopard would eat MY face, though” situation tbh.
I’m not actually interested in who I have to “thank” for the albums when it comes to trying to untangle the psychological stuff, I sort of see them on separate axis. I DO in fact think the beatles should have taken a few breaks, personally, even if we didn’t get the same sgt pepper, or the white album. that they were worked into the ground until their formerly tolerable personality clashes exploded wasn’t exactly under their control and yes, Paul not balking under that expectation is why they had a post-tour career at all. I respect that Paul’s diligent ambition and post-touring fertile era is one of the keys of the band’s success, but idk, I also think after MMT (maybe even during, a bit), his tendency to retreat into critique-sensitive workaholism when facing emotional turmoil was poison to the band’s process. Like, not poison on the level of John’s heroin use and mind-game playing, but definitely more than whatever it was George was being petty about. My point wasn’t really about that, though. It was that John and Paul, as a unit, could be maneuvering, egotistical bastards, but also did not like to face the consequences of that maneuvering and ego-tripping. George could have turned out the worst recording career of all time and I’d still think he was justified in being pissed off about the way he was treated within the band, and additionally right to think Paul was consistently condescending to him, and that John was no longer worth the effort at a certain point (*probably* shouldn’t have been slagging off Paul behind his back so much, tho, but I guess it turns out the binding personality trait of all four beatles was pathological conflict avoidance).
Good comment, @Orange, thank you.
My point with “thank Paul” is simply this: since May 1970, too many Beatles fans have bought the Lennon line — blamed Paul for being “bossy” or “a workaholic” or “turning John and George into sidemen” without acknowledging that everything after Revolver, the main part of the group’s reputation, very well might not have happened if Paul hadn’t acted this way. I’m a John-like person who turned himself into Paul-like person when it was clear there was nobody else to get the work done. To me, the work is the point. And I’d bet that in the Beatles of 1957 or 1961 or 1964, Lennon was a fucking slavedriver. He was going to become the most famous man in the world and anybody who got in his way or didn’t pull their weight, was gone. And I respect that immensely, having scaled a much tinier mountain. Someone’s gotta CARE.
After touring, IMHO it’s likely a John-centric Beatles would’ve petered out. And left to his own devices, John himself probably would’ve died by misadventure just as Brian did — for the same reason Brian died: because he no longer had his old purpose, and couldn’t yet think of a new one.
Is that better than the story we got? I’d say not, and the story we got owes everything to Paul’s willingness to be the bad guy, the adult, the whip-cracker. If Lennon wanted to castigate him for that, okay; but we as FANS shouldn’t.
Also, watching this is the first time that I’ve thought that Let It Be might be actually a bit inspired by All Things Must Pass. Thematically almost identical, both done in a hymnal style, and the timing of George bringing his in a week before Paul brings in Let It Be feels significant. Anything you can do, etc. But I think George’s song deserved more of their time.
Ooh that’s an appealing theory, and makes sense.
Perhaps it was the other way around with “All Things Must Pass” being inspired by “Let It Be.” According to beatlesebooks.com, “Let It Be” first appeared in the recording studio in early September of 1968 during some downtime while working in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Eric Clapton.
Was that when the song was inspired by Mal Evans, according to Mal, with Mal mentioned in the lyrics rather than Mary?
Or you know maybe Paul just wasn’t sure if he wanted to actually mention his mother, at that point just like in Eleanor Rigby it was originally Father McCartney and he changed it to McKenzie because he realized he didn’t want to have people thinking it was his dad. In this case he may have not been sure he wanted to make it so obvious this was about his mother by using her name and so he used Mal as a place holder because Mal was right there then he decided no he wanted to show it was about his mom plus I’m sure the “Mother Mary” imagery of as the mother of Jesus wasn’t lost on him, even if he wasn’t a practicing Catholic. So it gave it a bit of a mystical bend while actually being entirely literal, about his mother Mary.
Oh, interesting! I stand corrected then.
@Michael: “This is the band at its worst, least inspired–and it’s still pretty good. ”
This reminds me of something Will Hines said on the “Screw It” podcast: maybe they kept saying the White Album and Get Back were miserable because they were comparing them to their heyday. How perfectly attuned were they during Rubber Soul? I guess when you’re comparing something to the absolute heights, even what we see in Get Back can seem like a comedown.
From the original post: “Ironically, that may well have been what drove John Lennon into the arms of heroin. Some people find it uncomfortable to be loved, especially if your inflated idea of them doesn’t match with their own lousy self-image. (Only half of Lennon thought he was Jesus Christ Almighty; the other half thought he was shit.) He certainly seems to have worked better when the world was against him; only Paul seems to have blossomed under praise. And the bigger he blossomed, the more pressure that put on the others.”
But Paul always got most of the love, going back to the Cavern days. John said that himself in an interview with Tom Snyder in ’73. Because of his teen idolness. It wasn’t the only time he noted this. As late as 1980 he said: “I dominated on those early records, but the kids – the girls – always went for him.” He told Ray Coleman in the ’60s, when he was depressed, that he got most of his fan mail when a new record was out, but Paul got fan mail year round. He was envious and resentful, I’ve come to admit. But give the guy some slack. He had reason to be, for something that had nothing to do with talent. How would you feel if some shitty journalist called you the Fat Beatle, when your partner was Romeo himself? And you weren’t even fat? Karen Carpenter got the same kind of thoughtless remark, and look what happened to her. But people rip John for losing so much weight, calling him a junkie without compassionately looking at the root of the problem. John got respect and admiration, but love? Not as much as Paul got, and still gets. I can see John thinking all the love he got was phony, residual, incidental on account that he was Beatle John. And anyone with the name Beatle would get the same kind of worship. Now it’s debatable whether John, and his many achievements, even gets respect now.
Michelle, I don’t see John’s achievements not getting respect and love — I was just in NYC, and there’s always a gathering at Strawberry Fields in Central Park remembering him. And I at least don’t see anyone credible arguing that his achievements with the Beatles and beyond are unworthy of respect.
Meanwhile, Paul does get love but also gets plenty of criticism, some of which he deserves. In the 1980s in particular he was dragged repeatedly by critics and explicitly compared in unfavorable terms to John (see Philip Norman, Lester Bangs, and Robert Christgau for leading examples).
I think the moral is that NO ONE wins the kind of asinine comparison game that “Lennon vs. McCartney” represents. Both of them deserve respect for their achievements and not to be pigeonholed.
The most egregious thing in the early 80s was Robert Christgau writing that the wrong Beatle was killed, and Joan Rivers telling Stella McCartney tat her father should have been shot instead of John. I mean just wow, how do you live with that?
Re the talk of addiction and John’s behavior: IMO, when someone’s an addict, you’re having a relationship with the drug, not the person under the addiction. There’s also a thing called interdose withdrawal, in which, from my understanding, you’re somewhat undergoing “mini-withdrawals” between doses or fixes. It can be very surprising when someone kicks an addiction how different they are. They can be much nicer than you ever thought. (I guess they could also be more annoying in some cases.)
Excellent comments here! I have not watched “Get Back” yet, and I admit I’m apprehensive.
I guess I just want to remember the Fabs before all this. But yet, I want to know the truth. ( Not saying this is the absolute truth).
Personally, the Beatles to me are joy, and listening to them makes me happy, no matter what is going on in my life.
The last few years however, have left me depressed. Trump, Covid, the state of the world, etc…. I don’t know if I’m ready to watch The Beatles break up.
So thanks to everyone for the great synopsis and reviews! I will watch eventually.
Also (sorry for too much pop psychology) they were together through a number of really important life stages – almost preteen for George, young teen for J&P, and onward. They didn’t really know who they were without each other, and maybe there was an impulse/instinct to find out. John’s parents were long gone and never really there, so he couldn’t “individuate” from them; Paul was likely a surrogate.
And then when you add drugs, including alcohol, to the mix, it can slow or stop psychological growth.
I don’t see their creative process here (granted, edited and such) as unusual. I’m not a musician, but I did some plays and other shows in the past. There are always the muddy parts, the parts where you think it’s never going to work out. (And there’s sometimes one actor who has to be nagged to get off book.) It’s very two-steps-forward, one-step back, much more so than continual brilliance right out of the gate, I think. That’s also a luxury of time – if something has to be in tomorrow, it has to be in tomorrow.
And as someone astutely pointed out here, you have people preferring different working methods trying to work together.
“And then when you add drugs, including alcohol, to the mix, it can slow or stop psychological growth.”
This is a huge, HUGE part of what’s unfolding in front of our eyes with Get Back. These are men who are very old in some ways, geniuses, but also very emotionally immature in some ways. Not their faults, but something to keep in mind.
Tasmin, I think it might be okay for you to watch it. They don’t really break up during the film – just temporarily when George leaves.
In another way, though, it might leave you sadder – because if we didn’t know how the story played out, we might think all was going to be happily ever after as the film ends.
And I think that if John hadn’t been murdered so young, it might still be okay to watch. Even knowing that the group ended, we’d have hope that they’d be jolly old men together.
Also, the part where John is raving about Klein gave me chills. (Tasmin, this happens near the end.) It’s like hearing the JAWS theme.
Thanks Marez. I have been reading reviews of “Get Back”, and I know that the love the Beatles have for each other comes through, despite the bickering.
I just am not in a great place right now, and I’m afraid if I started crying, I may not stop!
Yes, the Klein part would make me anxious!! I guess Paul can feel vindicated when he watches that, because he was right about him all along.
Peter Jackson said that was the beginning of the end, not the time of the movie.
I’d like to think they could have worked things out, if Klein hadn’t come along. But who knows?
Thanks for replying!
I understand your point, but anger at people who only see John as a Yoko obsessed junkie, shouldn’t be directed at Paul. PAUL isn’t saying that! Paul
isn’t pushing that narrative.
I do think there is a tendency for people to think they have to choose: Paul IS the genius, or John IS the genius. That started after the breakup, and I see it on other Beatle stories around the Internet.
It’s funny that still exists, because any reading about The Beatles tells you that they both were geniuses, and that The Beatles could never have existed if not for the both of them.
I just wanted to share this funny article from Vanity Fair: The funniest memes about “Get Back”. There’s some good ones!
@Orange, I never suggested Paul was a bullied puppy dog at all nor smacked down when he stood up to John. I was attempting to point out that it wasn’t a one-way street regarding John’s professional grievances towards Paul. One only has to look at the very early interviews to see how impressionable Paul was, almost painfully so, in imitating John’s mannerisms and jokes. By 1965, he’d grown up. His recall of John when writing eyeball to eyeball with John and on the receiving end of his barbs is well known: “lifting his glasses, John would say it’s only me, Paul, it’s only me”. Despite their differences, I think in 1969 Paul still very much wanted to be connected to John, hence his moods. On reflection, I think Paul was fairly low-key in the lunchroom tapes because he was aware of John’s fragility and struggle with addiction.
I feel sorry for folks who don’t like The Beatles. They are missing 50+ years of drama!
@Orange, “I think this is a hindsight-informed reading based on the dynamics of the breakup …”. Well, that’s an understatement … isn’t everything that’s ever been said and written about the Beatles?! Seriously though, much of the tirade against Paul from the other three in the 70s arose from their anger and resentment at being sued by him and the general ugliness of the business meetings. I seriously wonder just how much collusion there was between the three of them. That’s not letting Paul off the hook either; in my opinion the Eastmans have a lot to answer for.
But have people forgotten the famous line from Ringo after Paul got so fed up with the others and left them to languish? “Well, come on then, produce us!”
I think the notion that John and Paul deliberately left George out of the writing partnership is unfair. Both were young teens when they started writing songs and George made it quite clear in the early days that he wasn’t interested in writing songs. His own words on this are documented in the Beatles Monthly and other publications. Interestingly enough, in the first or second interview of the Beatles, the reporter asked which of them wrote the songs. John and Paul in unison said they did, followed by a slight pause, then from Paul: “but George also writes some songs”. That’s Paul, not John, clearly thinking of his bandmate at that time.
Other comments I’ve noticed bring up the perceived disrepect for George from Paul and John during their time in India. I think this needs serious consideration. Paul was 14 years old when his mother died, a difficult age at best, who prayed for a week or more begging for her to come back. “The prayers don’t work”. John tragically lost his mother at 17. I believe this was FUNDAMENTAL to John and Paul’s relationship. How could George have possibly known what that was like for them, that his quest for spiritual salvation may have been interpreted quite differently by Paul and John. Sure, they may have been a little insensitive, but maybe George was insensitive to them too? That his spiritual quest was the one and only one which was right? I’ve known grown men and women undergo intense spiritual crises when faced with the same trauma these two young boys went through.
@Lara that’s a very good and astute point you made about their loss of their mothers in respect to George’s spiritual quest.
More generally speaking both losing their mothers close together is probably the one tragic element that bind them together more then anything. Im not sure that had their mothers lived would just the fact that they both liked writing songs and poems would be enough to keep them bonded.
As an aside I’ve always found it telling that Paul talks with such sympathy and compassion in interviews about the effect John losing his mother has on him but he very rarely talks about the effect it had on himself in any deep emotional way. As though it’s easier for him to talk about it in regards to John then himself.
@fox “ Again, agreed, yes, he should have been confident. But apparently he wasn’t.
Anyway, didn’t say anything was all anyone’s fault.”
Wasn’t it George Martin who said the surprising thing about Paul and John is his under their front of confidence they were both insecure about their talent.
Certainly Paul has spoken about John being insecure about whether he was a good musician or not. Which reminds me of another little nugget from Part 1. After they all play a excited energetic version of One after 909 and John says he wrote those words when he was 15 and tells pull that they should change the lyrics and Paul tells him how great they are and bucks him up and seems completely genuine about it.
I wonder how these events will play out once Paul and Ringo die. Will Ringo become the new forgotten Beatle? And hyper, nerdy Paul, who from the age of 38, with a 20 year backlog of weed, alcohol and cocaine already in his head, who has had his endless shortcomings compared to his heavily mythologized dead band mates. Right now, its impossible for them to live in the shadow of ghosts. To keep the peace, they have chosen the path of least resistance, because it’s easier by far to be obsequious. Far more became known about John and George once they had died than from what we knew about them when they were alive. For those who don’t think Paul cuts a powerful figure, well the same could be perceived of John and George in the late 70s. Some of the arguments here are specious. The Jap Tart thing – come on, this has never been proven and it’s been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. They are cheap shots. I believe Yoko has been sanitized in this film. The overarching opinion in the fandom generally is how she deserves redemption by the hopelessly misguided. In an interview last week, Peter Jackson firmly believes Yoko did not break up the Beatles from what he discovered in the tapes. It was because Paul did not want to sign up with Allen Klein. Sorry Paul, but it was three against one. I don’t know how much Jackson really knows about the history of the band. He just wants to be a fan, which is fair enough.
@Michael G. I agree with everything you said about the music. Between 1962 and 1970 the Beatles left an extraordinary canon of music. If people don’t like it, then don’t listen to it. If they want to change it, don’t bother. Nobody can undo the past and if anyone thinks a George song should have been on a certain album, or a Paul song or a John song biffed off, then it’s just too bad.
Paul wrote a song titled Frozen Jap, so it’s obviously a term he was comfortable using casually and not viewing as offensive.
Even in Get Back he makes some digs at John and Yoko. And I don’t hold it against him. I think it was more misdirected anger at the helplessness of losing his creative partner to a new shiny creative partner.
Paul himself has said he could have a nasty streak where everyone thought him sweet and John could be sweet where everyone thought him nasty.
@Lara – The problem Yoko has is the hours and hours of other footage in the public domain that shows her in a far less saintly light. For obvious reasons, Peter Jackson has left all that out. Not that I think she comes across particularly WELL in this, sitting there like the grim reaper. But she comes across as well as it was possible to make her come across, I would imagine (and I bet more effort went into that than anything else) and certainly a lot better than she could have done. You know, if the point had been the truth – which it obviously wasn’t.
Having just finished Part 2 I definitely agree with you @Michael that when John Lennon is happy and having fun everyone else is happy and having fun. Paul is riffing off of John’s jokes, George is smiling and excited to be there and Ringo is Ringo (the real hero).
Also I feel like Billy Preston is all of us watching Get Back but in real time lol
Most unintentional funny moment- or maybe it was intentional- was Michael Lindsay Hogg talking about how Ringo wants the movie to the show the truth and then it cuts to Ringo passed out in his chair. Also Lindsay Hogg even climbs a roof pompously.
I kind of feel sad for Mal Evans and the way his life turned out. This was a man who it’s seems basically his life was the serving the Beatles, being their errand boy, writing their lyrics down for them, and even helping them come up with lyrics, and he seems to have loved them all- considering from what I’ve read they didn’t pay him well at all. And then none of them turned up to pay their respects at his funeral.
I think my favourite moments from part 2 is during the recording of Get Back John is all nervous – but trying to laugh it off- over doing the guitar solo and Paul and George encouraging him along. And the happy shared smile between John and Paul when listening to the finished record.
I’ve seen people talk online about the India conversation being suggestive in a Mclennon way , and isolated I can see that reading but in the context of two hours of John mucking around and mugging for the cameras I think it’s just as more likely nothing. I was more feeling for poor George that while he was on a spiritual quest for enlightenment John and Paul were taking helicopter rides and videos of monkeys fucking lol.
I also wonder if Paul felt pain at hearing George and John so jazzed by the idea of a fifth Beatle or Beatles and Co because it’s just another way for them to not be The Beatles. Also the speech John gives Paul around the end of the episode if it was a Marvel film he’d be Captain America rallying the Avengers.
The flower pot scene made me think about how Paul always talks about John’s front and how he was a sweetie underneath it all, because you see him glib on camera about George quitting talking about replacing him with Eric and splitting his instruments, but off camera where he thinks no one is listening he is honest and patient with Paul and understanding and sympathetic about George. I’m glad that recording exists but I also think it’s super shady that they actually bugged them at the same time.
Also mad props to the Apple scruffs for their enlightened views on JohnandYoko and the Beatles breaking up. And to my eye Paul looked like he was having a blast during the Freak Out jam with Yoko.
Also after seeing the chemistry again between Paul and John, and the sad left out face of George again, and now knowing it was actually a Quarrymen song- sorry Paul Two of us is not about Linda.
Final thoughts, loved Patties coat dress and worried they broke Mr together George Martin when I saw him reading a newspaper down on the floor.
FWIW I don’t think Two of Us was a Quarrymen song. I think the ‘A Quarrymen original’ on the lyric sheet is just a joke – if you look closely it’s written on Apple notepaper.
Thanks, Peter. I saw your post right after I asked LeighAnn to clarify.
I also mentioned I wanted to slap Paul around the day before the rooftop performance when he was talking about not doing it. He has his prescient moments (…because Yoko sat on an amp), and I think he might have foreseen that the performance would be their last – with J&Y going off to sit in a bag afterward – and wanted to draw things out.
Saw a Twitter post that seems in line with the conversation about editing etc. that Michael G., Fox and I were having yesterday — but can’t get a screen shot or url to load as a comment. Comment is by Summer Anne Burton (@summeranne):
“Paul McCartney = managing editor who does all the work and annoys everyone
John Lennon = writer at large who does very little actual writing but goddamnit when he does…
George Harrison = freshly unionized staff writer
Ringo Starr = underpaid social media guy”
That is great Nancy!
Just wanted to share a piece of an interview Peter Jackson gave recently to the British magazine NME:
“Paul [McCartney] describes it as being very raw,” Jackson said. “He said to me: ‘That is a very accurate portrayal of how we were then.’ Ringo [Starr] said: ‘It’s truthful.’ The truthfulness of it is important to them. They don’t want a whitewash. They don’t want it to be sanitized. Disney wanted to remove all the swearing and Ringo, Paul, and Olivia [Harrison] said: ‘That’s how we spoke. That’s how we talked. That’s how we want the world to see us.’”
I like that they wanted the rawness to be shown. Jackson also reiterates in the interview that he was given no direction by Paul, Ringo or Olivia Harrison.
It’s also interesting that Disney wanted the swearing to be removed. This makes me think that indeed they couldn’t show John and Yoko really strung out. Maybe they should have went with HBO, to really show that. I don’t know.
I do think that Sean, who seems to be running the Lennon estate, probably nixed any really negative footage of his parents. That’s understandable, it’s his folks.
Most people commenting say Yoko was made out to be benign, but we know that wasn’t the total truth.
He also said he was not given any direction or edict from Sean who he said was representing the Lennon estate by the way. He said he was given no direction by anyone from Apple or the Beatles.
It might just be possible that for fifty years the legend that Yoko was the evil witch who broke up the Beatles just doesn’t hold up in today’s more conscious world and that the footage really did show the truth, that she was a somewhat intrusive but overall harmless presence in the studio- which is basically what Paul said both on camera in the documentary and in interviews since. And not Sean telling Peter Jackson to nix negative footage.
As for the drug use, it’s a big deal for Disney to be showing the amount of smoking drinking swearing and sexual references that the documentary shows. If there was more visual evidence of Heroin use I for one don’t need to see nor do I think it’s what Beatle fans or new viewers need to see. Michael had talked about the effect rock stars drug taking had on impressionable youth so it’s best that the documentary don’t glamourise it for a new generation.
I hardly think he would say if he was given such an instruction, @LeighAnn. But he probably wasn’t – not directly anyway. He knew what was expected of him.
Look, at the end of the day, Jackson has made a choice about the footage he has edited into a story. It’s his version of events, sanctioned by Apple. Will people ultimately see it as the ‘truth’? doubt it, while the other footage is still in the public domain.
In time, I think this will backfire on Yoko and do even more damage to her reputation. He should have shown her warts and all. It wouldn’t have been pretty, but it would have been honest. And I think she might have got a grudging respect for that.
When people go looking for the other material that is out there (and they won’t have to look very far) and find that Yoko was not as she is portrayed in this, they will start feeling conned and digging deeper, and ultimately, she will come worse off.
What other footage is there out there though? He showed the dance to I me mine, he showed Yoko screaming, he showed her sitting next to John the whole time, he showed the discussion amongst everyone where the are complaining about Yoko’s presences, he showed them saying that Yoko was speaking for John at the meeting with George, he even showed Heather and Maureen side eyeing her singing- what other footage is there that supposedly shows Yoko sucked?
I mean do you feel as strongly about Linda who was there almost as much as Yoko and seemed more vocal and outspoken then Yoko.
@LeighAnn – Well, for a kick off, there’s this:
Yoko feels she is changing the world with her art. She doesn’t want to talk about the Beatles, thank you very much. It’s all about her.
Meanwhile, John is sitting next to her like a corpse. He’s barely functional, has no clue what she’s talking about and has to stop the interview after a few minutes to be sick.
THIS was what Jackson omitted, and there’s a lot more of it out there.
She doesn’t appear to exhibit horrendous behaviour at all in that clip. Seriously.
She credits John for influencing her artwork, which she says was lacking a sense of humour and critical thinking before she met him. Is she not allowed to talk about her own art and life when she is being asked about it by a reporter?
Also as for this not being shown in the documentary who knows if this was a copyright issue or DISNEY, but I stand by my belief that judging and blaming drug addicts for being addicts does absolutely nothing. And quick google search brings up a ton of articles from addiction counsellors about the importance of compassion.
The fact is that fought and survived their addiction and shouldn’t we be thankful and grateful they did?
The TV crew were there to interview John Lennon, @LeighAnn. She hijacked the interview, which worked out well because he was too wasted to say much.
No, I don’t think she should have gone on about how her art was changing the world; I think it makes her look every bit like the egotistical maniac her detractors see her as.
I do think Jackson should have included it in his film, and ultimately, I don’t think it will do her legacy much good to pretend that footage like this does not exist.
Yoko (and Paul and Ringo and Olivia and Sean and everyone else involved with Apple) would be very happy for you to think that maybe the footage showed the WHOLE truth. It would be too nice if Peter Jackson just didn’t happen to find anything icky about anyone in the documentary that he needed to just not put in his final version. For EVERYONE. But Dhani Harrison has said that Peter Jackson sat him down and showed him all his dad’s footage and asked if there was anything that should be deleted. Dhani says he said no, but that makes me think that everyone got sat down and given the chance to veto. Maybe they didn’t choose to veto, but maybe Peter Jackson didn’t put stuff in he thought might get nixed. I mean, so many of the session audio and video tapes are out there and have been out there and include plenty of negative things — John’s statement that he didn’t regret Bob Wooler, the discussion the others have about Yoko, etc. I definitely feel the documentary gave us a shiny narrative (you were right, Michael G.). I love the existence of the doc, but there was a LOT left out, some I was hoping to see, and some I’m satisfied was omitted.
They did show John making the joke about Bob Wooler to George Martin and it was really nothing but John mucking around and probably mugging for the cameras.
Honestly if people want to accept the worst versions of John and Yoko as the only versions of John and Yoko that is fine but I thought Peter Jackson did a terrific job of showing that all these people were human and complex and more rounded then pigeonholed labels like “Bossy Paul” “Zonked out John” “Fed up George” and “home wrecker Yoko”.
Kristy, I hadn’t read that about Dhani. I think you are right: Peter Jackson wasn’t going to include things that would have gotten vetoed. Makes sense.
As I said below, I agree with Michael G: the complete unvarnished Beatle story won’t be told until long after all the principal members are gone.
I’m not sure where I said anything about wanting to”accept the worst versions of John and Yoko as the only versions of John and Yoko.” I’m saying that EVERYONE (and it was all-capped before also) was likely given the chance to edit their respective interests. Maybe Jackson made choices that made their veto unnecessary. I really liked it. I liked the new questions it raises, the questions it answers, and yes, Yoko’s status as band-breaker needed some editing. And If if makes people feel better to believe this documentary is the end-all be-all of everything that happened during the Get Back/LiB sessions, and that no other interpretation is necessary, then I’ll say “you be you and rock on with your happiness.”
But saying that the documentary is actually the full truth when there is ample evidence to the contrary is not really serving a historical record — just soothing the emotions of the fans watching and greasing the PR machines of the Apple board. And I’m not necessarily here for that.
This is Get Back, I think the most tension with Yoko was during the White Album when she first made her appearance…initially it was very very different to the other bandmembers as well as crew/tech people/Mal/Neil and the Beatles usual and familiar inner circle. That is likely when the most tension and friction came from regarding her presence. By Get Back they had gotten used to her a bit. Also it wouldn’t surprise me if people in and around the band still felt like she would be just a phase for John anyway…grin and bear it for now there’s no way this thing lasts. Not like she was in his life all that long in Jan 1969
And Abbey Road had the famous biscuit incident with George
Maybe she acted one way when the cameras were on, and another when they were off.
It’s all in the editing, @Dave. Just only show Yoko being quiet, and dopey people will say, “See! She was ALWAYS QUIET.”
(Not that I’m saying she should’ve always been quiet. I think she should’ve continued to live her normal pre-John artist’s life. John&Yoko was also bad for Yoko.)
“grin and bear it for now there’s no way this thing lasts”
I was in a very successful, eyeball-to-eyeball creative partnership — “the most successful off-staff contributors in the history of SNL” — and that’s how I would’ve handled it. Wait for it to pass and my partner to come back. Meanwhile, the work would’ve suffered, because his focus would be elsewhere (that’s what I see in LIB/GB), but that would pass.
My guess is they’re setting up for a MEGA licensing deal with Disney. Like, many billions.
I bet you’re right. It makes me wonder: if they wanted to show the truth, no whitewashing, why go with Disney? A very family oriented company?
A true, unvarnished look would require a different company producing it.
Maybe Martin Scorsese should have directed and produced it.
You answered my question above Michael. That’s why they went with Disney.
I agree Elizabeth. The total truth will probably never be known. Michael G has said that the whole story of The Beatles won’t be told for many years, long after Ringo and Paul and Olivia Harrison, and Yoko are gone.
Another thing I forgot to comment on is that I loved the sequence where you see Yoko and Linda chatting and getting along. It was great to see women supporting other women.
I’ve been here way too long today, but before I go, I have to give a shout out to Velvet Hand:
“Without wanting to drag this interesting discussion down to an inappropriate level, can I just say that Paul looks REALLY SHAGABLE in these films, unlike virtually everybody else (possibly excepting Billy Preston)?”
Totally agree!!! McBeardy McCartney is McDreamy! 😉
McCartney does look REALLY good in this doc. I randomly noted how shiny and healthy his hair looks. I also really like his sweaters.
Honestly it’s just nice to see the Beatles and everyone else in full color and with decent lighting.
QUITE shagable – and at times his face is just freakin’ beautiful. Thanks to those who piped up so I could agree! (I was shocked when someone here said the opposite, but each to their own – even if they’re wrong ,0])
Regarding the hair…is that perhaps just that his hair is greasy? I noticed some moments where all of them seem to have greasy hair, red eyes, and that tired/glazed look. Lots of red eyes and tiredness when at Twickenham, then all of them perk up when the sessions move
McDreamy’s luscious mane here really deserves its own YouTube supercut. Maybe without that bit where Heather gives him a downcomb.
Going even further off-topic: My 2nd favourite Paul period, looks-wise, is probably Once Upon a Long Ago/All the Best. Haven’t really cared for him in THAT way at all since, though it’s surely nice for him that he hasn’t gone bald. I just wish he hadn’t made his poor follicles go through decades of “touching up”.
(Which reminds me – are there any chrome-domed 60s/70s rock “icons” at all? Does Phil Collins count?)
Re. full colour etc: I must admit that I was uncomfortable with some of the more obvious displays of digital smoothing/shading of faces, as perhaps epitomised by a moment where Ringo, sitting behind his drums, looks like he’s wearing heavy eye make-up.
Paul consistently looks stellar though! Nice hairy arms too – phwwooaarr, and so on.
I noticed Paul’s hairy arms, too! Totally missed them when I was 8 years old, but now — oh, baby.
As a straight guy, I was definitely struck by how young and handsome they were, at least Paul, George, and Ringo. John looks gaunt and ill at the start of the month, but he visibly improves as the film moves along. I’m also amazed at how absurd the fans’ and press’ standards of beauty were for a Beatle mate: both Linda and Yoko received some brutal attacks at the time for their looks, but Yoko’s quite attractive here, and Linda is downright beautiful. It’s just that neither is *model* gorgeous like Pattie, or instantly breathtaking like Jane Asher.
The Beatles, even Ringo, are utterly magnetic men. That’s another part of their story; if they all looked normal, like Eric Burdon or Ray Davies or Clapton, they wouldn’t have been THE BEATLES. Hendrix is like that, Jagger is like that, but all four Beatles are just…POW.
I also liked Paul’s hairy arms. Reminded me that he’s just a guy. An amazing guy.
I never understood the “ugly” label that Yoko was given. I didn’t think that was true at all, at least when she didn’t have her hair over her face like a curtain and you could actually see her. Linda to me was like John in a way in that she could look absolutely gorgeous at times, and anything but at other times. John looked best with meat on his bones like in ’65 or even when he was skinny but fit and cleancut like in late ’70 and ’71. And he’s sexy as hell in some of those Gruen shots in NY in the mid-70s.
Yep – Yoko looks beautiful in most of Get Back and John looks great in the 1974 Gruen photos.
Damn right re. Yoko.
Should anyone have doubts about this, check out the promotional ads for her Death of Samantha single. Mama!
@Michael G. I agree absolutely with what you said regarding Paul supposedly ‘sabotaging’ John’s songs. The only quibble I have is Scott Freiman pushing A Day in the Life as John’s song. It’s the very thing that provokes such angst in Paul, and understandably so. It may be tempting to listen to John’s iconic opening verses and vocals and conclude that it was his, but it was a joint 50/50 effort and strongly acknowledged by John himself. I have not read or heard of him retrospectively claiming otherwise. The middle eight wasn’t written to fit the preceding lyrics; it had already existed as an incomplete song. George Martin may have notated it for the orchestra, but that glissando was composed by Paul. It was no mere arrangement but wholly integral to the meaning of the song. Up to that point the Beatles had not created anything like A Day in the Life, nor did they at any time after.
Here’s a really good article from the Rolling Stone about Get Backs best bits. They show mad respect to Maureen Starkey the original Beatles fan girl and to the Beatles respect of women in general.
I also now want to go back and watch to try and find the scene where Billy Preston and John make a song out of Martin Luther Kings I have a dream speech as I feel like I totally missed that part!
Love this. Thanks for the link.
11. Paul is such a Beatle fan, he writes his own fan fiction. While playing “Two of Us,” he notes how these songs add up to a concept album. “It’s like, after ‘Get Back,’ we’re ‘on our way home.’ There’s a story! And there’s another one, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ — ‘Oh darling, I’ll never let you down.’”John: “Yeah, it’s like you and me are lovers.”Paul: “Yeah.” Aaaah, yeah. As they say this, John and Paul do a bit of flirty mirroring — they both nervously push their hair out of their face. George and Ringo do a terrible job of pretending not to notice this chat, but at least they try.I will think about this scene more than now and then for the rest of my life.
This is 100% great. Thanks for pointing this out, @Michelle.
@Michelle Peter Jackson should have also included the “did you dream about me last night” “I had a dream about you- nothing sexy though” clip/audio as well for the Mclennon fans to chew on lol.
Yeah! That’s one of my favorite conversations from the tapes I’ve heard. Maybe it was too loaded with homoeroticism for Peter Jackson to include. But many viewers have been saying how close and in their own world John and Paul still appeared in this film, even at that late date, which pleasantly surprised them. Peter seemed to want to emphasize that, and in an interview noted how painful it must have been for Paul to see John drift away from him and toward a new creative partner. Anyway, this conversation is interesting because it illustrates how coalesced they were. They even had the same dreams at the same time! Paul once told of how when he was a kid, he would have this recurring dream of digging for treasure in his backyard and bringing up an empty pail. After he met John, he’d continue having the dream but this time a gold coin turned up, and the more he dug the more gold coins he would find. When he described this to John, John said he had the same dream. People talk about how unhealthy and problematic JohnandYoko was, but before that there was JohnandPaul. John even talked about that double standard in his 1980 Playboy interview, how people are annoyed about all the time he spends with Yoko when he and Paul did everything together in the early days and no one questioned it. Even though it was two guys rather than a man and wife! It’s funny listening to the audio of that, because Yoko is giggling throughout. When John said, “No one wondered about that John and Paul business, what’s going on backstage?” Yoko muttered, “They might have.”
That similar to a comment John made I think it was on Dick Cavett where he said something along the lines of how it was always interesting to him that for a society that viewed homosexuality the way it did that they expected four boys to stay together with no women. It must have been increasingly frustrating for all the Beatles to not only feel like they had to be tethered to each other to satisfy the public but also tethered to one version of themselves without being allowed to evolve or change.
Also while Peter may have chickened out that including the dream convo I did like all the scenes where Paul and John would try and communicate or connect with songs to each other, like I don’t think anyone has brought up John breaking into a rendition of I lost my little girl when at the same moment Paul’s about tail spin.
I can’t wait to watch this. Your spoilers aren’t ruining it for me LOL. By all accounts, John still displays deep affection for his Beatle mates in the doc.
I’m not sure if anyone here mentioned Paul singing Strawberry Fields at one point, which I learned on tumblr somewhere.
@Michelle the amount of times John and Paul use their lyrics or sing to each other seemingly to communicate definitely makes me understand why both of them had a melt down over Too Many People/How Do You Sleep lol
@LeighAnn That’s why when Lennon found slights all over RAM (not just Too Many People), I’m inclined to believe he wasn’t just being paranoid. I’m sure there were lots of little references from Paul that only the two of them would ever get.
@Matt – Agree 100%
Did anyone else notice the “laugh at the boss’ jokes syndrome?” In any orginization, team, or group there is often a marked deference granted to the leader and/or the apex authority that is revealed by laughing noticably when the aforementioned make a funny (at least to them) remark.
I would have to go back to note the specific examples, but I do recall Paul climbing on the scaffolding in the first episode and everyone having a chuckle in a way that seemed a bit forced.
Sure, they all had their in jokes and they were young and banter was ongoing, but it just struck me that the coutiers were being sure to put in a noticeable laugh when Paul cued it up.
Pleasantly, to me at least, I found this was not the case for John. I greatly enjoyed his stream of witticisms and wordplay, but they did not seem to constantly invoke peals of laughter. I can only conclude that his chatter had been there from an early age and was just part of the fabric of his studio sessions. Maybe that is why all the others didn’t feel obligated to acknowledge it each time as they recognized it for what it was–part of the creative flow.
@Neal, I would submit that Paul climbing the scaffolding wasn’t meant to be funny and involved a tense situation caused by George’s leaving. The most common interpretation I’ve seen of Paul’s sudden need for stunts that bstance was anxiety and a bit of mania to work off his stress-adrenaline and upset. Kind of like the ‘Yoko metal jam’ they all participated in.
Point taken @Kristy. I should have used a better example.
I should have also excluded Neil and Mal from my implication of courtiers who felt obligated to laugh. They were in the innerest part of the circle and felt, I imagine, no obligation to play the fawning audience.
I agree @Michael that John’s wordplay was not a joke. That is perhaps why I enjoyed it so much and certainly more than any straight joke from the others. His utterances seemed to be just a constant tumbling of thoughts and ideas and is why I keep thinking of it as part of the fabric of his existence. He very well might not have even been aware of it most of the time.
I particularly enjoyed the times he riffed with alliteration. I couldn’t imagine that ever coming from the others, yet it is part and parcel to him. John is rightly admired for many reasons, but it is his verbal dexterity that I find to be the most compelling aspect of his personality.
John’s use of language is really unique, especially when he creates runs of portmanteaus one after the other. He’s so quick with it, and does it so incessantly, it’s a bit like a person who can multiply numbers effortlessly or some other sort of fundamentally neurological gift. And I think it was essential to his lyric writing process, and probably his music writing one too.
It’s a aural subroutine that’s running all the time in the background of his mind.
Love this. Well stated and so true!
John’s wordplay doesn’t seem like “jokes” at all to me (and I’ve been around a lot of compulsive joke-makers in my day). It seems like a kind of verbalization of dyslexia. Like there’s a waterfall of sound going through his head at all times, stuff he’s hearing and his brain is adding to. And then on top of that, there is wit. A super, super intellect there.
Sometimes I felt sorry for him. He couldn’t seem to stop. And there’s a bit where he and Paul are singing the lyrics of a song together through gritted teeth. It goes on and on. I found it a bit pathetic, to be honest. But in that case it felt like Paul was letting his hair down and letting off steam. And humoring John at the same time.
Why feel sorry for him? Getting spontaneous laughter from people is better than any drug.
“Why feel sorry for him?”
Because, and I know something about this, it’s a lot of pressure, and eventually you get alienated. “Do they really like ME? What if I stopped performing? CAN I stop performing?”
What JL learned in the post-Beatle years is that people wanted to KNOW him, not be entertained by him.
@Michael, seeing John in action made me think “he’s “on.”” Like once he turns on he can’t stop, in a sort of compulsive way. I actually found it a little stressful. Paul has some tics that are very obvious here, too, so it’s interesting how similar they were in that way.
Well, @Kristy, they ARE “on.” They are literally on camera. And they know it, and you know it, and they know YOU know it.
Yeah, I have to keep reminding myself that this entire project wasn’t ‘candid’ at all. Sometimes they did seem a bit manic, and whether that’s related to stress, performance, or all or whatever, it’s noticeable.
Several times, too, I noticed ‘extra’ gestures that seemed like silent communications, like the signals they used to employ in Beatlemania days. It would be nice if they all came with decoders.
I definitely got those vibes Neal as well as Paul having a troop of following courtiers trying to gain favour. I think Paul lived for that where as John didn’t.
@LeighAnn, Magic Alex would disagree with you. 🙂
This reminds of the part of Get Back where John Mal George and Paul mock and take the piss out of Magic Alex’s bass guitar.
I LOVED THAT PART
I think it’s really interesting that you say “Paul lived for that”. It looks to me like all the sycophants who want something from the Beatles (Dick James is the most obvious example) try to pal up to Paul. He is *so bored* but polite. They all seem to take him for the serious one who will listen, and he will, but all his hints that he’d rather be playing an instrument go unnoticed.
Oh yes. Luckily for us, Paul also began to indulge in public (semi-)nudity around the time Two Virgins happened (see bath tub/„pole“ pix on White Album poster), then proceeded to show everyone how it‘s really done in the McCartney LP gatefold (yeah baby!). He may also have been the first Beatle to take his kit off during a professional photo session (Mad Day Out Thames embankment/chains bit). Go Paul!
Why didn’t he take it all off? I’m sure a lot of people were curious. Another thing we could compare Lennon and McCartney to.
Which is to say, concealing your private parts isn’t how it’s done.
Well, you could say that. Or you could say that Paul is just more of a tease (which, for some, may be extra attractive – as in, “ooooh, look that ankle – I wonder what the elbow looks like?”).
I guess McDreamy didn’t take it all off on the Mad Day Out because there were children present – one of the photographers’, I think?
Lennon got naked because of the politics of the time, which dovetailed with his personal exhibitionism, and a feeling that exposure-is-power in a mass media society. And he also knew that Paul would NEVER do that. After India, he craved places where Paul could/would not go.
I get strong “sub” vibes from John, and strong “dom” vibes from Paul. Exposure is vulnerability; Paul doesn’t do that. He didn’t do it in ’68, he doesn’t do it today.
Haha, @Michael Gerber, that’s what the general consensus on tumblr fandom seems to be about John and Paul and their, er, “roles,” or vibes, as you put it.
A major highlight for me is the cultural references. Particularly the English/1960s references.
I was particularly delighted at Ringo and John briefly referencing having seen an episode of Hancock (part 2 – 21/01/69) the night before. Prompted by John’s charades on ‘Your hosts, The Rolling Stones’.
As a huge Tony Hancock fan I went straight off to check what was shown. If you’re interested it was a repeat of the 1961 episode ‘The Lift’ (a tribute as Hancock had died the previous June). Hancock plays charades in the titular lift.
I’ve always suspected they must be fans – great to have it confirmed. Though see also Macca in ‘Many Years From Now’ – ‘I didn’t want to go fencing with the rapier champion of East Cheam’. East Cheam being Hancock’s fictional home.
These little delights are there just to lift spirits.
YES YES YES
Loving The Beatles has made me love UK pop culture of that time, especially comedy. I don’t know Hancock except by name; where should a newbie start?
Hi Michael – there’s three phases to ‘classic’ Hancock:
Radio Hancock’s Half Hour (my favourite) – the most noted is one called ‘Sunday Afternoon at Home’, or for a bit of US referencing, maybe ‘The Americans Hit Town’.
Then Hancock’s Half Hour hit BBC TV with just Tony and Sid James. I love ‘The Two Murderers’ or ‘The Missing Page’.
Then finally Tony dumped Sid changes a couple of things, and in a (never going to happen) attempt to make it in the US reduced the format to 25 mins and it became ‘Hancock’. This features his most famous episode ‘The Blood Donor’ as well as ‘The Lift’.
I’d say start with the radio then work down. HHH less out there than The Goons. The writers went on to create ‘Steptoe and Son’ invent UK sit-com and gave you ‘Sanford and Son’. For me a day without Hancock is like a day without sunshine.
Hope that’s useful/not too dull!
@Andrew, thank you! I’ll check this all out.
When I moved to Santa Monica (home to Hollywood’s UK expats for 100 years), there was a shop just up the street with a WALL full of BBC videos, and surely a bunch of Tony Hancock? Sadly the shop is gone now, victim of relentlessly rising rents — and no tenant there for four years, at least. 🙁
The lessened, but still-lingering British expat flavor of SM is one big reason why we moved here. We even have a pretty good pub, Ye Olde King’s Head. In the pre-COVID days, a friend of mine was trying to teach me how to watch soccer (he’s a Liverpool fan).
Love SM! I happened to be there when Liverpool beat Spurs in the Champions League in 2019 and I saw more reds there than I see in Liverpool! Of course most football fans in Liverpool support Everton. ,-)
Let me know what you make of Hancock!
To bring this full circle, it’s worth noting that the titular Steptoe in Steptoe and Son was played by Wilfred Brambell, who also played Paul’s grandad in A Hard Day’s Night. The ‘very clean’ running joke in the film – reprised by Paul in the Get Back documentary – is a deliberate ironic contrast to Brambell’s character in Steptoe in Son, who is repeatedly referred to by his son as a ‘dirty old man’.
Yes! Brilliant! A double highlight referencing both Steptoe and AHDN. (‘You dirty old man…!’)
And then when the Beatles split, Wilfrid did this…
I don’t think it’s generally known that Jane and Pattie were also on the receiving end of hateful fan abuse to the extent of physical assault and some pretty appalling mail. Yoko and Linda were grown women; Jane and Pattie in their teens, or barely out of them, having to deal with that stuff. None of the women had it easy. Most fans had grown up by the time Paul got married. The idea of thousands of heartbroken, sobbing teenage girls is way overcooked. I can’t recall Linda and Yoko being thought of as unattractive but I do remember criticism in the media of the way they dressed and of their general demeanor. Both came across as rather expressionless in the early photos, but they loosened up as time went on. I think most people genuinely felt bewildered about Yoko if anything. As far as Get Back goes, and generally around this time, Linda does get a bit of a free pass in my opinion with fans overly quick to defend her. Paul is in no way normal either from this time onwards.
I was just rewatching the roof top concert and one thing I missed the first time is during the first performance of Get Back when John breaks in to his guitar solo and Paul is watching him carefully the whole time and let’s out a super proud yell and then at the end of the solo they share this look like “we’ve still got it” I feel like that was John’s personal hero moment of the series when you consider the build up of his nervousness to be given the solo and counted on and even the night before when he is apologetically and dejectedly trying to explain to Paul that he just hasn’t had the energy to give (the subtext being the partly brought on by whatever mental illness and drugs he is going through/taking). And it also calls back to Paul telling MLH that John will deliver. Paul had more faith in John then I think John had in himself.
Also I don’t know why but I missed George Martin finding the “hidden” camera and his smirking. Classic.
“Paul had more faith in John then I think John had in himself.”
I think this is the core of their relationship.
Also another thing I’ve noticed from a second viewing of the rooftop concert that when the police arrive on the roof top that for all the popular belief that Paul is the good well behaved boy and John the angry rebel it’s Paul who is loving that the coppers are there and poking fun and baiting them while John becomes more reserved and stiff lol.
Well, John may have been “holding” 🙂
And then there is George, the only one who really made a statement by turned his amp back on after Mal turned it off.
Just have to insert a little politics in here, if I may, as the Supreme Court justices are discussing abortion rights today.
I think Linda and Yoko, would be appalled at the attack on womens rights. I don’t know the status of Yoko’s health, but I’m sure she would be tweeting support for protecting Roe V Wade if she could. I’m sure Olivia Harrison feels the same.
Beatle women were/are not wallflowers.
The Beatle women to me were like First Ladies. Some more outspoken than others, some a little polarizing like Hillary, some extra classy, every one of them smart.
This is really apt, @Michelle. I’ll be thinking of them as First Ladies from now on. 🙂
Great observation Michelle.
Cynthia – Lady Bird Johnson. Loyal but humiliated and mistreated by the husband she loved.
Jane – Jackie Kennedy. Stayed classy and stayed silent, despite everyone else kissing and telling.
Linda – Michelle Obama. An equal partner to her famous husband, supports growing vegetables.
Pattie – Nancy Reagan. Formerly a minor success in showbiz in her own right, into astrology, inspired a classic song (Something/Nancy With The Laughing Face).
Olivia – Eleanor Roosevelt. Spent her later life jealously guarding the estate and reputation of her husband.
Heather – Betty Ford. Sometimes embarrassed her husband, but did a lot of pioneering charity work.
Yoko – Hillary Clinton. Loved or hated depending on your viewpoint. Feminist icon who ironically relied on the achievements of her husband.
Maureen – Barbara Bush. A teenage bride who failed to persuade her eldest son not to follow his father’s profession.
Barbara – Melania Trump. Former model who hasn’t divorced her husband, despite expectations.
This is good!
Perfect! Of course I was thinking of Yoko as Hillary, and Jane as Jackie. Well done.
I thought it was funny that the films seemed to get the large majority of their facts right, but not the (nearly) very first thing that’s on screen: The year in which John and Paul first met. Don’t know if it’s been corrected since, but when I watched it, it said “1956”.
The “prelude” also made it look a bit like Ringo was already in the group when Brian started managing them.
Other than that, I thought the introduction was OK, though I could have done without the “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” approach to soundtracking it.
1956 is when their eyes first met on the bus and/or chip shop. 🙂
Was it that long before the “official” first meeting? S’pose I need to read up on my Lewisohn here.
Nah, I was just being facetious. I only know that Paul said he had seen John around before they actually met. It could have been as early as 1956. It doesn’t appear that John remembered seeing Paul before the official meeting.
Something I thought was kind of a telling moment was the segment when Yoko is jamming with the band and little Heather makes a face, followed very shortly thereafter by Heather’s imitation of Yoko at the mic. (This is the relevant clip on YouTube.)
As Heather begins imitating Yoko, and John enthusiastically points it out to her (which gains a rare smile from the stone face of 1969), it’s telling that, at around 0:32 in the clip, Paul’s smile seems tinged with a vaguely embarrassed “oh Christ, what if this causes a snit” cloud. Shades of what Michael said earlier, either here or the Get Back open thread, about — and I’m paraphrasing big-time — waiting for the worm to turn with an addict.
Heather’s reaction to Yoko’s warbling was the best moment in the film. It summed up what everyone in the room was thinking, but not allowed to say. It was priceless.
It’s clear Heather broke up the Beatles and it’s time she apologised for her behaviour 😉
Seriously, though, if that’s what you take from the documentary as the best moment in the film – wow. Just wow.
@Elizabeth (reply doesn’t work), one of the people I’m closest to is like Paul — compensating through hard work and keeping everyone at a certain distance. I can attest that however close you get, there’s almost always a feeling that there’s more that would never be shared. It is maddening, especially if you’re more of a sharer, as Lennon seemed to be (even if, like all of us, he kept secrets). I’m not referring to Lennon’s relationship to the press, but to his intimates.
@Michael – I agree that it’s very hard to get close to people who are closed off like that.
The thing is, I do have empathy with Paul because I can see why he’s like that.
For a start, he was taught Northern working class values, which are (among others) do not share your feelings with others. People have problems of their own; they do not need to be burdened with yours.
He then went to school in Liverpool, where it was (is? God knows, the world has changed so much) social suicide to be seen to be ‘weak’. A teacher hits you? You stick two fingers up as soon as they turn away. Under no circumstances can anyone see you cry, ever.
When Paul’s mum died, he wasn’t allowed to grieve. Or at least, he wasn’t allow to show his grief, and that would mess with anyone’s head. I think it’s very telling that John made a comment about Paul’s lack of emotion about his mother when they were just kids. It must have bothered him even then.
Of course, John was the opposite, emoting all over the place, and God knows how he got away with that in 1950s Liverpool. It was OK to show anger, but to go round crying (and in public!) because your auntie threw your poems away? This was a very unusual young boy.
It’s sad really because Paul was obviously trying to show John his feelings through the music he was writing, and the lyrics were very direct. But it was either too late or not enough.
John said that when Mimi use to throw his art away that he would tell her that she would regret it one day and considering auction prices of anything John touches he was right.
Which now reminds me of a moment in Get Back where George says they should decorate the walls of their studio with their Gold Records and John says he will have to get them off Mimi’s wall first.
Paul reminds me of my older sibling; we lost our dad when they were at a similar age, and Paul strikes me as someone who was probably parentified and also he seems a bit co-dependent. When he’s upset about John taking heroin, his response is to literally parrot the words of a faux-father, saying how they have to get John on a schedule to straighten him out.
I have a lot of empathy for him, because it’s a heavy burden to bear. You can’t really be a kid, and losing control becomes especially scary because it means that things won’t just fall apart for you but also your family unit. Even today, Paul emphasizes how happy and normal his family life is, while John was the sad one who lost his mum. You can see that he can’t even really engage fully in the fact that he also lost his mum as a child, quickly and traumatically. Can’t remember where I read it, but I read an interview with him recently where he talked about how the way he got himself out of his 70s post-Beatles depression was to tell himself to get out of bed and pull himself together, because that’s what Linda’s therapist had told her when she was depressed after the divorce – with the unstated implication being that he didn’t go to therapy, himself.
Something I keep in mind with childhood trauma is that often the responses we develop to it are actually survival mechanisms at the time. They only become dysfunctional when we’re in new situations where they no longer work. You see Paul’s desperate need to keep the band together here, and can understand why he’s the last Beatle to quit the band. Keeping the family together and supported was the most important thing to him as a kid, and this is his new family *and* his means of financial security. In contrast, look at John’s quiet, respectful support of George talking about doing his own album. I don’t think Paul was capable of that at this time – it would have been too threatening to him.
You just want to give the guy a hug, really.
@Fox I just want to add on to the “quiet, respectful support” John showed George is was the way narratively the way that conversation happens while Paul is in the control room with Glyn and George listening to Get Back again. It definitely felt like a moment of George and John looking towards the future and Paul still clinging to the past. It also made me think about how we have that recording of the meeting post Abbey Road where John proposes the 4x4x4 writing credits that Paul shot down. He knew maybe what Paul didn’t or wasn’t ready to know, that George was already pre planning his exit (sitting on songs).
As an aside it’s crazy how many perfect story telling and movie narrative moments the Beatles gave just naturally that any filmmaker would love to get from their script writers.
@LeighAnn, there’s some evidence that George was not at all interested in quitting the group. See this post: https://www.heydullblog.com/1970s/1970/a-momentary-lapse-of-reason/
I’m just going by his words, when he said he was sitting on songs so he can “do me for awhile” and have his own album. He might not have been wanting to quit at that very moment but he doesn’t sound like he was super committed to staying forever either.
My impression of the Beatles is that they all went back and forth between wanting to keep the show together and wanting to throw in the towel, with the exception of probably Paul who was committed till he got too exhausted to fight the inevitable anymore.
If I remember right, in that conversation with John, George says not only that he wants to do his own songs/work, but also that he thinks it would help the Beatles, give them a chance to not be so connected and let them spread out a bit. Which makes sense (and I have seen others wish would have happened): the Beatles do separate solo albums, and every so often come together for group albums. Anyway that’s what it seemed to me that George was thinking about here.
@Erin: I agree what George said made all the sense in the world. Even Yoko thought it was a great idea. During Part 3, all I could think was that this band didn’t have to break up. I hardly saw any animosity in the whole thing, just guys who were exhausted by the directionless state of the band. Not at all tired of each other. By the way, can we put to bed the myth that the Beatles were not a good live band? That rooftop concert was amazing! They had to quit touring because of the screaming over their music and pandemonium that surrounded their concerts, not because they weren’t a great live band. They all had very fond memories of Hamburg, before they hit it big. I joked to myself that it was too bad the cops didn’t arrest them and lock them away for a while just so they’d stay together another ten years LOL. Can you imagine watching this, not knowing anything about the Beatles, and being told that when the band broke up the four of them were never again in the same room with each other? Very sad. Thanks Peter Jackson for reminding me why I love the Beatles.
@Michelle, yes, I too got the impression (but, thinking of Michael G, it’s just an impression–perhaps not entirely true) that the Beatles were very tired of what they had been doing, but not necessarily of each other–or, that they didn’t necessarily have to break up. There were options for them, and they genuinely did seem to still like each other, at least somewhat. Obviously there are a lot of factors here that we don’t see in the doc, and we may not even be aware of.
I will say, irrespective of everything else, I do think this doc feels more comprehensive (that word has been overused so much but I think it fits here) and cohesive than LIB. Just my opinion.
Yes, the rooftop concert was great.
@Erin I feel like so much could have been achieved and so much acrimony avoided if they’d simply taken a break from each other for a year.
@Matt – I wonder about this actually. On the one hand, some distance from each other might have given them a bit of perspective. On the other, it was the distance between them that was the problem, so I’m not sure.
One thing that struck me was that John got irritated and sullen whenever Paul was working on songs like Let It Be or Long and Winding Road. He was OK when they were working on Paul’s songs where he had more input, but when it was Paul behind a piano singing solo, he would basically disengage. I don’t know whether this was because he was bored or jealous, or whether it was because he thought Paul was excluding him from the creative process. Perhaps he just wanted a different type of creative collaboration and gravitated towards Yoko because she was offering the emotional/creative intimacy that Paul wasn’t.
I don’t know, but I don’t think it was a sustainable situation, and I doubt whether they would have been able to resolve it without Paul agreeing not to write songs that made John feel excluded. And how could any artist make that sort of compromise?
@Elizabeth, it could just be that “Paul behind a piano singing solo” simply didn’t give the other three much to do. And that could’ve been absolutely OK, if they’d been able to fine-tune their working method. But that’s where all the other things (heroin, Klein, JohnandYoko) got in the way.
I mean John didn’t look “irritated and sullen” when he was joking around for the cameras mouthing along to the words from Let it Be.
They all looked tired, bored, disinterested, disengaged and passive in moments which I imagine I would also feel if I had to either play or listen to the same thing over and over again in the early morning in middle of winter in a massive cold warehouse with a camera crew filming and recording my every movement or conversation. Especially if this were to come after a contentious year between friends where we still all love each but at the same time are starting to get sick of each other’s company and some friends are going through personal and marital crises and battling addiction.
@Michael – I certainly think he was bored and probably a bit humiliated by the fact that there wasn’t much for him to do. But his paranoia and lingering resentment about Yesterday, and his bitterness about Let It Be and Long and Winding Road in his last interview suggests to me that it was a hurt that went far deeper.
‘It could just be that “Paul behind a piano singing solo” simply didn’t give the other three much to do. And that could’ve been absolutely OK, if they’d been able to fine-tune their working method.’
I’m not sure how okay it could have been. As long as Paul was composing songs like this, the situation was always going to reduce the other three to backing players with minimal investment in what they were doing, especially when Paul was so exacting about whatever input they were allowed to put in. If you’re ostensibly writing songs for a band, you obviously need to be cognizant of the band. These are Paul McCartney songs written for Paul McCartney. I’m glad we have them, but I can also see why they were a problem.
I think ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Long and Winding Road’ were also examples of poor timing, since the point of the project was to get back to playing as a band. It probably was not the right moment to introduce ponderous piano ballads.
Elizabeth probably has a point about John being humiliated: he was relegated on camera to an instrument he clearly has very little idea how to play, and it shows.
“I’m not sure how okay it could have been.”
I’m using the example of “Yesterday” — Paul had been recording songs like this for a while, yes? But this is what I was getting at in the original post; this isn’t necessarily a band that needs to break up, but it is one that needs to change its working method. I believe that Paul really loved being a Beatle, and wanted to be remembered not as a solo act but as a Beatle, so if John and George said, “We need to record this way,” he would’ve made his peace with it. And that 4/4/4/4 format would’ve also meant McCartney solo records.
“I think ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Long and Winding Road’ were also examples of poor timing, since the point of the project was to get back to playing as a band. It probably was not the right moment to introduce ponderous piano ballads.”
I dislike both songs (I mean, as much as anybody can dislike “Let It Be”), but the Jackson doc makes clear what I’ve always suspected:
1) Paul shows up at the sessions;
2) John hasn’t got a lot of material — not enough, clearly;
3) George can’t “pitch” — people talk about Paul being dismissive, but those scenes seem like a writer’s room to me; you have to learn how to pitch. George plays with little force, little enthusiasm, and seems content to have “All Things Must Pass” dismissed. Should J/P/R have recognized the brilliance of songs like “ATMP” and some of the others of George’s backlog? Yes. Does George seem extraordinarily passive? Yes. Another type of bandmember would’ve seen Paul freaking out over not enough material, called Clapton, and made some demos, and took over that album. A guy who can make “Badge” in October ’68 should be able to bring more than the flaccid-sounding, weak-voiced run-throughs of “ATMP” I’ve heard. Paul, like any top-flight creative, is going to take a lot of cues from the person’s own passion towards their own material. Sorry, I’m bringing a lot of submerged experience to this; I get pitched material constantly from really top-flight writers and cartoonists. If someone is really PASSIONATE about a piece, I pay much more attention. And if someone’s “I don’t care if you use it or not,” I am much more resistant.
4) So Paul goes into overdrive. He thinks “What have I got?” and “What can I do if the others stay completely passive?” Hence, LIB and LAWR. A-level Beatle stuff he could do on his own if need be.
I’m not replying to this post, but to the mention of the Get Back sessions being early in the morning. I keep hearing that, but Ringo mentions 10:00 as the earliest anyone was shooting to get there, and the not-late window seemed to extend to 11:00, but John & Yoko usually got there around noon. That was a lot earlier than they were used to, but it’s not early morning!
@Elizabeth, what you interpreted as John being irritated and sullen, I read as pensive.
@LeighAnn- Ringo looked especially bored at times.
@Matt- are you talking about the bass? John played bass on Fixing a Hole, among a few other things. Obviously, it wasn’t his favorite instrument.
During the whirlwind intro to the documentary that spanned the group’s history up to Get Back, it mentioned the fact that the greater use of overdubs and other studio technology made the times when multiple Beatles performed on songs increasingly rare. Like Lara said, John also had his share of “solo” songs – it’s what made the White Album’s real title ‘The Beatles’ ironic.
@Matt I generally agree with your post except are you talking about John being given the lead guitar part in Get Back? – because I thought he nailed that, and Paul seemed impressed during the rooftop. My take away from Get Back was that John, while maybe not as proficient as Paul or George, was a much better guitarist or under rated guitarist then people give him credit for, including the credit John gives himself.
Agreed, @LeighAnn. And how about John’s guitar playing on the the theme from ‘The Third Man’. Fantastic! People who only heard the tapes were stunned that it was John and not George.
I was just talking about that with a guitarist friend of mine. John was a great player, as much as he downplayed his abilities.
@LeighAnn I was referring to John being given the bass parts in Let it Be and Long and Winding Road.
@Michael- I agree that if George had demonstrated more enthusiasm about his own songs, the others would have given them more consideration. He seemed to be intimidated by the Lennon/McCartney juggernaut. George wasn’t shy, exactly. He wasn’t literally the Quiet Beatle. He just wasn’t assertive enough!
Michael G – I’m sure you remember that the notion that John was at least a capable musician and sometimes even an inspired one was something that Albert Goldman tried his hardest to ‘debunk’.
One does wonder what Albert would have made of Get Back – would he have hissed curses at the screen every time the Ono appeared on it?
Oh I think Goldman would’ve despised it, for lots of egotistical ones and a smattering of reasonable ones.
The egotistical reason would been “this is a whitewash, only I told the real story”. And the reasonable one would’ve been his skepticism in the face of PR.
The thing about Goldman was that, as a cynical narcissist, he assumed everyone else was, too. (Sorta like Trump.) But the good thing is that there were cynical narcissists in the Beatles story, and so Goldman can reveal them in a way that normals like you and me cannot.
The rumor that John was only passable as a musician started with John. But he was a phenomenal musician, IMHO.
He even didn’t like the sound of his voice, one of the greatest rock ‘n roll voices of all time.
Regarding Paul being difficult to get close to: Another important factor is Paul’s relationship with his father, which I think child-Paul had to learn to heavily compartmentalize. Jim was by many accounts a kind and delightful person, and Paul clearly loves and, perhaps more importantly, respects him to this day. But the fact remains Jim had a temper and sometimes hit the kids in ways that imo went beyond “normal” discipline of the times.
I agree with the speculation above that Paul may have ADHD. One aspect of ADHD is something called rejection-sensitive dysphoria, described here: https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-and-adhd/
Some pertinent excerpts:
“Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations. …
It’s not that people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) are wimps, or weak; it’s that the emotional response hurts them much more than it does people without the condition. No one likes to be rejected, criticized or fail. For people with RSD, these universal life experiences are much more severe than for neurotypical individuals. They are unbearable, restricting, and highly impairing.
…When this emotional response is externalized, it looks like an impressive, instantaneous rage at the person or situation responsible for causing the pain.
…Often, people can’t find the words to describe its pain. They say it’s intense, awful, terrible, overwhelming. It is always triggered by the perceived or real loss of approval, love, or respect.
People with ADHD cope with this huge emotional elephant in two main ways, which are not mutually exclusive.
1. They become people pleasers. They scan every person they meet to figure out what that person admires and praises. Then they present that false self to others. Often this becomes such a dominating goal that they forget what they actually wanted from their own lives. They are too busy making sure other people aren’t displeased with them. …
2. They stop trying. If there is the slightest possibility that a person might try something new and fail or fall short in front of anyone else, it becomes too painful or too risky to make the effort. These bright, capable people avoid any activities that are anxiety-provoking.
…Some people use the pain of RSD to find adaptations and overachieve. They constantly work to be the best at what they do and strive for idealized perfection. Sometimes they are driven to be above reproach. They lead admirable lives, but at what cost?”
By all accounts Paul hated being disciplined and took it very, very personally. So, how to resolve and cope with this? Being unfairly hurt so deeply by someone he loved and respected so much? Compartmentalization, and emotional distance.
Lo and behold, when Paul forms a relationship with another lovely but also volatile person prone to hurting others, he always maintains at least a little emotional distance. I’m sorry if that hurt John’s feelings but his own actions forced the people in his life to find ways to keep themselves safe from him.
@Annie – I agree with all of this. My youngest son has ADHD, so I recognise the signs – the constant fidgeting, the nail biting, the impulsivity, the nervous energy. I’d never heard of RSD, but I recognise my son in your description. He is adopted, so has suffered a lot of rejection. He’s a very clever boy, quite gifted actually, but he’s afraid of failure so he gives up easily. It’s very frustrating.
The thing about ADHD is that it’s hard to live with. As awful as it is for the person who has it, it’s just as awful for the people around them. Even knowing and understanding why someone has those behaviours, does not make the behaviours any less irritating or easier to manage – which, as a parent, you somehow have to do. I wonder to what extent Jim was harsh with Paul because he struggled to cope with him, having no understanding in 1950
of why he behaved the way he did and no strategies to deal with his behaviour.
I don’t get the impression that John was irritated by Paul’s behaviour, though it’s very obvious that George was, and Ringo just felt sorry for him, I think. It’s quite clear that the emotional distance really pissed John off though, and I wonder to what extent JohnandYoko being shoved in Paul’s face was some sort of desperate attempt to get Paul to break. It didn’t look to me that John was half as enamoured with Yoko as he claimed to be. Yes, she was there, clinging onto him throughout, but most of the time he was ignoring her and watching Paul.
@Elizabeth, I’m not sure how much of JohnandYoko was simply cut from the edit to avoid stirring up discussion or keep the film as much of a “1969 Hard Day’s Night” as possible, but even if there’s reels of footage of them kissing and cuddling (there’s a bit of it in the movie), it’s quite clear that John was still very focused on Paul. When John’s stoned or tired or hungover, his attention doesn’t seem to be anywhere (including on Yoko), but when he’s engaged, I see his attention is on Paul. A lot of love between them comes through in the latter part of documentary, especially as they’re learning “Two of Us,” and it belies how post-breakup Lennon tried to characterize the relationship.
Relatedly, I thought it was very sad when John announced that Yoko’s divorce had just gone through and was off celebrating with Yoko, and Paul went over and played Strawberry Fields Forever on the piano.
Yes, I though I was making that up, that when John seemed most alert and inspired he was looking at Paul. I’m sure he paid attention to Yoko too (more than the doc shows), but he focused a surprising amount on Paul (at least, surprising for someone who has been told they hated each other or didn’t want to work together at this time).
@Erin (wanted to reply to Erin but there is no “reply” option) I think this gives us an idea of just HOW close they were before this. At this point everyone, including themselves would agree they were having difficulties, weren’t as close, etc, etc. Yet when they were focused on each other it was a connection unlike any other we saw.
Imagine the previous years when they were in their heyday so to speak, it must have seemed like they were obsessed with each other. 🙂 Just kidding on the obsessed part but it’s been spoken about how there was thing between them, even other people felt and saw it, a connection no one else had. And we’re seeing it when it’s in bad shape, one can only imagine what that must have been like when it was in relatively strong shape.
Obviously we did see them earlier on, in interviews, or in the Maysles’ documentary, but that was them mostly being in other people’s space, not them being in their own so much. Making music was their own space.
@MG- your post reminded me of this quote from Geoff Emerick: “Dealing with any of the Beatles one-on-one was pretty easy, and it generally wasn’t too difficult when you were in a room with two, or even three, of them. But get all four of them together, and they would close ranks and shut you out. It was like a private club that you couldn’t enter. As a result, it really was very strange working with them a lot of the time. Exciting and exhilirating, to be sure… but a very different kind of experience, and one that took a certain amount of getting used to.”
I should have been more clear I specifically meant to refer to John and Paul but your quote from Emerick is definitely applicable to the whole Beatles “mystique”.
I can’t remember where I read it, but Paul said recently that one of his closest friends is Lorne Michaels. (SNL producer) That surprised me! Also, John Eastman, Linda’s brother.
Paul most likely has trust issues, which I can see from his losing his mother early, and just the result of being in the entertainment industry. I think only a very few people, including Nancy, and his kids, truly know him.
I’d like to think he and John could have opened up and worked through some of their issues, if John had lived.
The one moment I’m annoyed they edited out- I’ll have to rewatch the first episode to make sure that I didn’t just miss it- is when John and Paul are mucking around singing in to the same mike and pretending to be Elvis they cut out the part where the camera pans to Yoko face and she’s looking at them like “What the F are you idiots doing- I can’t believe I’m attracted to one of them” lol I always loved that cutaway.
Another thing that pleased and surprised me was George and John’s relationship was. I mean Paul and John’s relationship is always dissected and Paul and George’s relationship is dissected in blogs and biographies but John and George’s not as much.
But I loved their relationship in Get Back from when George tells Paul he needs Eric Clapton and John replying We need George Harrison, to George telling John he hears his voice when he had trouble finishing songs. And George feeling comfortable to tell John about his plans to “do me for a bit” because he must have felt John would be supportive and open to it. Theres a couple of times that John really advocates for George. I also really love the fact that you see George crack up when John forgets the words to DLMD but then when they listen to it back after the concert he cracks up again.
I don’t know I always got the impression John and George were more work friends then best friends but I was pleased how close they appeared.
The examination of their relationship is one of the things I really like about Tune In. It’s clear they had a special bond – they even were roommates in Hamburg!
@Fox. In India: “John gently pushing back on Paul’s interpretation of the events. He doesn’t remember not being himself. He remembers all that time spent in Paul’s room writing songs. Score one for the McLennonites”. It was Jane’s room too. Did they have a threesome? Back to square one…
I wouldn’t say John completely objected to Paul’s point – he made a funny “oh master” face when Paul described him walking next to Maharishi. Part of Paul’s point was that they weren’t honest – and they weren’t at least when it came to sneaky drug use, but he was being insensitive vis a vis George, who wasn’t assuaged when Paul said he didn’t regret going.
@fox on George and John m- I’m doing my first rewatch of part 1 and I have to admit I got a chuckle at the fact that during the scene where Michael is talking about what kind of show they are going to do, he asks what’s the biggest charity and Mr Concert for Bangladesh Harrison quips “Charity begins at home” and then when Michael asks what they are doing the show for Mr The dream is over Lennon says “Communication. Televisions about communicating. I just want make people smile. That’s what I’m doing it for.” Lol I just found that contradiction fascinating.
Also bonus in the same scene Mr When I’m Sixty Four with a massive love of old time tunes McCartney snapping “when ever we get together to play we are like a bunch of fucking age pensioners talking about the past” LOL
If Paul didn’t want to take all his clothes off, then he shares it with 99.5% of the population. If anybody wants to read any bizarre psychological issue into this, then it applies to all of us. For heaven’s sake.
It’s too bad he didn’t go the full monty, if only to inspire more novelty songs from beloved actresses. Such as this one:
Well… there’s this:
Later, Ms. Rosenberg (not, admittedly, known for her acting work) would become appreciated in certain circles for a bunch of Disco Schlagers as well as German covers of Blondie’s Heart of Glass and ABBA’s The Winner Takes It All. They don’t make ’em like her anymore.
I get the impression that in the John/Paul/George triad, Paul played the role of the middle child. On the one hand he liked and respected George, which is why he persuaded John to accept him into the band, but on the other, in order to maintain his credibilty with John, a boy almost two years older, had to distance himself from George, the ‘kid’ eight months, one week younger than himself. I think Paul did this balancing act for ten years, and as often happens, he ended up being the baby thrown out with the bath water by both of them. I can sort of see why he developed the ‘me and Linda against the world’ mindset post-split.
I’m dubious about the ‘quiet and respectful’ way John treated George (let’s bring in Clapton) and also cynical about Yoko with regards to George’s solo album: one Beatle down, two to go.
LeighAnn writes, “It also made me think about how we have that recording of the meeting post Abbey Road where John proposes the 4x4x4 writing credits that Paul shot down.”
What are the 4x4x4 writing credits? Does that refer to proposition that J & P & G would each get 4 songs on each album? Do we know why Paul shot the proposition down?
Right – that’s what 4x4x4 refers to. Paul said George’s songs had only recently been as good or better than his and John’s songs, and that they should record songs they all agreed on rather than whatever four songs each songwriter wanted to record. He may have felt the latter would result in an end product that didn’t seem like the Beatles to him, which may also have been why he didn’t like the idea of making other people (Yoko?) part of the Beatles.
Prior to presenting the 4x4x4 deal, John said they should end the “myth” of the Lennon-McCartney credit, and that Paul should give away any songs his bandmates didn’t care for. He made no mention of restrictions on the others’ songs, and said he was tired of having to fight to get his songs on albums, a characterization to which Paul objected.
George didn’t jump at John’s plan, but rather complained about John’s tendency not to participate in recording his (George’s) songs. The meeting seems to have ended with that argument.
Yep that’s what I’m referring to. Here’s an article that talks a little bit about the 4x4x4 song writing credit proposition
John apparently talks about dispelling the Lennon/McCartney “myth” and I don’t know if hearing John, his creative partner and some would say creative soul mate, being blaize and almost dismissive of their partnership put him on edge. But they were all making passive aggressive digs at each other by sounds of it- except Ringo who wasn’t there.
Everyone’s talking about the moment when Paul tears up at the beginning of Episode 2, and it is indeed powerful, but Paul’s statements right before the tears also stood out to me. He’s trying to explain/justify John’s inserting Yoko into the band’s dynamic and retreating behind her (i.e., she’s speaking for him at meetings), and also justify him not confronting John about how problematic this is for the group, and he just can’t. He talks, and talks, and his own frustration and hurt are clear, and he won’t, can’t, admit to it. I see him struggling to protect John, and it just screams ‘addictive family dynamics.’ Protecting the addict to the public, explaining away behavior that’s inexcusable or otherwise doesn’t make sense, swallowing and holding in the deep anger this causes.
He still does this in his regular interviews, but in his less guarded moments after the breakup, it seems to me that Paul realized in the Seventies and the Eighties that he couldn’t save John from himself, or that he got tired of getting burned when he tried to help.
The other thing that stands out at the beginning of Episode 2 is the new-to-me hidden mic conversation between John and Paul. John had more emotional intelligence than I expected him to demonstrate at this particular juncture, also evident when he said, “We need George Harrison,” in response to George’s “You need Eric Clapton.”
If you are interested in hearing more of both Paul’s defense of John&Yoko and the lunchroom conversation happening on the 13th of January I suggets this webiste: https://amoralto.tumblr.com/getback. It’s a fantastic source with audio and transcripts of the Get Back sessions divided per days.
Great comment Michael. I think George got frustrated with Paul, because Paul wouldn’t confront John. As you said, Paul was protecting John, and knew confronting him wouldn’t work.
Michael G has written much about the dysfunctional, addiction family dynamics of the Beatles. I think it is spot on.
I’m glad this emotional side of Paul is being shown, because I think some people think he was all business. He keeps his feelings in check, but underneath he’s a bundle of nerves. I do think he suffers from an anxiety disorder.
I remember playing musical trivial pursuit a long time ago and getting this question: “Who said, ‘I would be in a band with John Lennon any day, but I’d never be in a band with Paul McCartney.” I nearly fell off my chair when the answer to this trick question was George Harrison. He really said that? Rude… and it reminds me one of George Carlin’s invented headlines/announcements that I heard on one of his comedy tapes once, “The following statement is true: The preceding statement is false.” Both can’t possibly be correct.
Perhaps Paul was thinking the other two should also give away their songs HE didn’t like. I’m not surprised it ended in an argument. He gave away very good songs in 1962/1963 in order to proceed with some rather ordinary songs and cover versions from John and George on their first two albums.
What were the great songs that Paul gave away in ’62/’63, and what were the ordinary songs they put on their first two albums instead? Curious…
I think the years are slightly wrong. But in I think 1964/65 he gave away some songs that were hits for others, like World Without Love and, I think Woman. They were charting hits. There may have been others but those I remember.
I always loved World Without Love long before I ever knew Paul wrote it. I remember hearing it on the radio as a kid in the 70s or oldies station when my mom would have it on in the 80s and I always loved it. I really think it’s beautiful. I didn’t find out Paul had written until the early 90s when I got super heavy totally obsessed with Beatles and could do something about it (when I was like 8 or 9 I was too but not reading books yet for that info). Same with Come and Get It later on. I remember hearing it as a kid and then on the oldies station and always really liking it, then found out Paul wrote it.
Strangely from the same circumstances I also loved McCartney produced Those Were the Days by Mary Hopkins and written and produced Goodbye by her. So can’t say I don’t come by McCartney fandom honestly. Lol I liked all these without knowing he had anything to do with them even though at the time from my perspective they were “oldies”.
I used to like World Without Love, round about the time I enjoyed Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter by the Herman’s Hermits. I still think it’s better than Come and Get It, which I never liked for some reason. It sounds too by-the-numbers-pop-song to me. I have no opinion on Those Were the Days except that it suits Hopkins well. Goodbye is fabulous and I wish Paul had released that one himself or with the Beatles.
“Goodbye is fabulous”
Very. Have you heard Paul’s demo? It’s on that Abbey Road remix thingy that came out two years ago.
Yes, I heard it on Beatle Brunch years ago.
It’s so beautiful and Paul’s voice on the demo is just otherworldly. Definitely a favorite.
First Ladies? Hmm – a little American cultural imperialism here. Half of these women were British with British men living in Britain. I don’t think any of them past or present were truly equal either. Any Margaret Thatchers here surrounded by her grandees? Yoko?
Margaret Thatcher despite being a woman in power did not support feminism, believed in traditional roles for women, did not advocate for women in any of her policies or roles for female members in her cabinet, did not support social equality, and despite being a woman generally seemed to conduct her policies around the same kind of things typical of patriarchal government- War, free market capitalism and competition, greed is good etc
Not sure how that relates to Yoko even in a casual comment way at all myself.
Reminds me of Phyllis Schlafly, who was instrumental in shooting down the Equal Rights Amendment by championing housewives while she herself went to law school and ran for Congress.
Another thing Margaret Thatcher also fought against the push, including from members of her own party and if biographers (and The Crown writers) are to be believed even from the Queen, for a hard line against South Africa and their apartheid policy.
She deserves acknowledgement for being an example of a woman in a mans world and for being unapologetic or demure about her position. But a feminist she is not and people I know who are from the UK have told me there are parts of the UK that still feel the effects of her harsh economic policies.
In general, don’t believe TV retellings of history. Events have to be compressed and reordered for maximum drama, and the natural gaps in the record have to be filled in for purposes of the story.
Here’s a discussion of Thatcher, The Queen, apartheid and The Crown.
The Crown comment was a joke- If there were emoticons I would have put a winky face to emphasis the point but cest la vie.
Yoko, a supporter of social equality? She had (has) a houseful of servants, referred to as such, @LeighAnn. One of them slept on a mat outside Sean’s bedroom.
Margaret Thatcher’s housing policies did a lot of damage in the long term, but I’m not sure that was her original intention. By enabling people to buy council houses at below market value, she was trying to increase social mobility. Of course, the housing stock wasn’t replenished, and then Blair’s immigration policies led to a massive population increase (I think London’s population has increased by about a quarter in the last 20 years), which in turn created a housing crisis. But I don’t think Thatcher intended that to happen.
As for Yoko, she was born into privilege, and I think it’s highly unlikely that she’s ever given social equality a second thought. She’s done a great job of selling herself as an oppressed victim, and luckily for her the political climate has shifted in her favour, but I bet her servants don’t see her like that.
I have never heard Yoko making “servants” sleep on the floor nor do I believe it. John and Yoko had hired help as did and do most celebrities, including all the other Beatles.
Speaking of one of my favourite tidbits I’ve heard is how two young kids broke into John’s apartment as a dare and instead of calling the police, John hired them instead, which just feels so typically like something John would do lol.
It was mentioned in this article that featured in Playboy a few years after John’s death:
In general, @LeighAnn, you want to take celebrity journalism with a (or many) grains of salt.
@LeighAnn It isn’t that other celebrities don’t have hired help. It’s that, as Elizabeth said, Yoko refers to her help explicitly, out-loud as “servants.” It’s in the Green and (I think) Seaman books. Yoko views her subordinates (and, to be honest, most people in general) as subsisting to serve her. Likely it is a result of her upbringing. Yes, the people working for her are getting paid. But the semantic difference between “servant” and “employee” is wide.
One can be born into privilege and be for social equality. Ever hear of philanthropy?
Yoko is not for social equality, Michelle. If she was, she wouldn’t have servants.
Look at the difference between the way she treats her staff, and the way Paul treats his. His housekeeper Rose was practically a family member. Jo Jo Laine said that Paul saw her as a second mother, and she was still working for him when he divorced Heather Mills, at which point she must have been coming into work for the company and for her own benefit rather than for the benefit of Paul.
It’s the difference between a housekeeper and a servant. One is a person with human rights, the other is basically a slave with none.
@Elizabeth. Those songs of Paul’s you mentioned always seemed sort of personal to me. Perhaps there was a reason why he didn’t want much input from the others. Same with the unwanted input from George on Hey Jude. Does it matter? John had his personal songs as well without much input from Paul. Maybe it didn’t bug Paul so much. I think some perspective is warranted. Get Back only represents less than three weeks of their whole career, three weeks spent on certain songs to meet an unrealistic deadline, and under unusual circumstances. Even being recorded on camera alone for a film/TV program, without all the other stuff going on, wouldn’t have been normal working conditions for them.
@Lara – In one of John’s last interviews he made a comment that Paul writes songs that are ostensibly about nothing, or where the meanings are obscured, or something to that effect. Well, he obviously didn’t mean to be obscure here because how much more direct can you get than, ‘I’ll never let you down’ as a response to ‘Don’t let me down’.
I think those songs were deeply personal, and I think he was using them to try and communicate with John in a very direct way. Hard to believe that John didn’t realise it, especially as he later made a comment that he thought Hey Jude was written for him.
I wonder to what extent John enjoyed putting people in the position of having to fight for him. Enjoy is not really the best word; it was probably some sort of psychological need rooted in his parents’ abandonment of him. He did it a lot throughout his life, and I think he was doing it here and that’s why Yoko was with him: he wanted them to fight over him.
Of course, you’re right – what you see on screen is a snapshot of people who knew they were being filmed. But John’s reaction to Long and Winding Road in particular is interesting; he has his head down the whole time when they are listening to it being played back, completely disengaged. I think he was later accused of sabotaging that song by one of the critics (possibly Rolling Stone, I can’t remember), which is also interesting.
@Elizabeth- The Paul and Stuart rivalry comes to mind.
In a recorded interview from 1973, when talking about their feud via songs, John said that Paul’s lyrics often seem obscure and non-specific, but “if you know the person, you know what’s coming down… One’s thoughts and feelings come through in the work, whether we want them to or not.” (i.e. regardless of what method of writing one uses). Maybe he thought LAWR was about him so it made him uncomfortable.
Elizabeth – I listened to Hey Jude the other day and was reminded that this is where the “don’t let me down” relay started. 🙂
@Velvet Hand- Good catch! And Paul seemed to keep the relay going with the song “Tomorrow” off of Wild Life, which I always thought might be an all-too-literal answer to the line, “The only thing you done was Yesterday.”
I was being facetious @Leigh Ann.
Regardless of politics, Thatcher earned the sobriquet “The Iron Lady” despite constantly quoting St Francis of Assissi (peace and love).
Massive eye roll here. Can the Beatles’ wives be women in their own right instead of templated against politicians’ spouses (cringe)? Ironic that the thread has got sidetracked with bloody Thatcher, who did more to damage Liverpool than Madolf Heatlump (who only had one). Yoko forever, Thatcher never.
Exactly, hence my irony. It’s demeaning. The only woman seriously under discussion in this documentary, and her role, is Yoko Ono.
As much as I disliked Margaret Thatcher, you must be seriously seriously kidding to compare it to the blitzkrieg of Liverpool. There is more than enough photographic evidence online if anyone cares to search. Famed fellow Liverpudlian, Cilla Black, literally born into a pile of rubble (as was Ringo Starr) was a stout Thatcherite.
But back to the men – all of them swung to the right within a handful of years of this film. Not the American Right, mind, we know that, but … . one of the things that irks me is how, in particular, Paul, speaks out about American politics but remains strangely quiet about what goes on in Britain. At least Ringo has admitted to being a Brexiteer.
The latest Guardian review of Get Back demands the world owes Yoko Ono an apology – this based on less than three recorded weeks from the Beatles eight year career. Judging from many of the supportive comments, this is now the new narrative it appears.
“But back to the men – all of them swung to the right within a handful of years of this film.”
Vast fortunes have a tendency to do that. I’ve always found JL’s 1980 comments about Reagan eye-opening as to his possible future. I don’t think he was gearing up for a lot of philanthropy.
“The latest Guardian review of Get Back demands the world owes Yoko Ono an apology – this based on less than three recorded weeks from the Beatles eight year career. Judging from many of the supportive comments, this is now the new narrative it appears.”
Well, we knew this pre-release, right? And sure, everybody go apologize to Yoko, what’s the harm? Amazing how all these billionaires want to be loved — yet being lovable is pretty much incompatible with amassing and protecting a great fortune. But let’s apologize anyway, she’s old and everybody makes mistakes, and humility is good for the soul.
SORRY YOKO! HOPE YOU’RE FEELING BETTER! xo
@Michael G. While I believe Peter Jackson when he said he was not influenced by any party, I do suspect he intuitively knew himself what to leave out to avoid controversy for the main players and their families. I don’t get the hate for Yoko, but I find the attempted rehabilitation of her, courtesy of 52 years of history and within the perspective of identity politics, disingenuous to say the least. Watching Get Back, if anything, made me feel sad, and I expected that, whatever problems they had, whatever Jackson did with the footage. I couldn’t watch all of it. For me it represented the end of an era. This was last time seeing them how they were: when megawealth didn’t exist, when crusading instincts were kept in check, when fans and media loved them for their sheer fabulousness, for the immense development of their musicality, and the growth of their personalities. You are right: money changes people. By the end of this documentary, it was the beginning of the end for all of them. I’m glad they broke up when they did.
I remember commenters on Breitbart News running with the Lennon was a Reaganite theory. It’s interesting how beloved/world famous celebrities are used to validate one’s own beliefs. It’s especially vindicating when this comes from the guy who wrote “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance”. He was also getting into televangelists even as he was writing “Serve Yourself”.
I don’t agree with Breitbart — in fact I find them odious — but it’s difficult to read Lennon’s 1980 interviews and pretend he has the same political beliefs he’d had earlier; you were there, @Michelle, you remember how everybody was tacking away from the ideals of the 60s/70s, and Lennon was right there with everyone as usual. He point blank says he’s not worried about Reagan (!), and comes out strongly against rock stars playing for charity, to name but two examples. And we now know he was deeply acquisitive, to the point of hoarding (hence Elton’s parody song) and at no point did John question the legitimacy of his own fortune, or reveal plans to give any significant portion of it away.
I think John without Yoko was quite a bit more leftward-leaning, and had they gotten divorced, who knows? But I think the best we can say about the composer of “Imagine” is that he was deeply conflicted; while he agreed in principle with a more just society, he didn’t want to give up any power and privilege to get there.
Cilla Black! Ha. Sorry, your argument is risible and contemptuous. Actually talk to people from Liverpool about how they feel about Thatcher. And failing that, actually look into the Thatcherites’ opinion on Liverpool in the 80s. Here’s a hint – google ‘managed decline’. Then google ‘Hillsborough’. Nuff said. I came here for Beatles. I’m leaving because of the ill-informed agenda-driven white noise.
@Peter – I’m going to say something very controversial here. I grew up in Liverpool in the 70s and 80s, and my life was much improved by Thatcher’s right to buy policy, which enabled my parents to become home owners. I didn’t recognise that as a kid of course, but I certainly do with the benefit of hindsight.
I also think that Derek Hatton was just as responsible as Thatcher for plunging Liverpool into financial ruin.
Not that it has anything to do with the Beatles, but in the interest of keeping things balanced, I thought I would comment.
Much better to hate someone for exisiting and blaming her for what was clearly the issues between men.
This article does a pretty good job of summing up all the horrible things Yoko did in Get Back:
This is great. I loved the gum scene. John was so wrapped up in Paul, Yoko had a hard time getting his attention. So much for John and Yoko being in their own world!
I finally finished all three episodes, and I’m sure a lot of my thoughts have already been stated above, but I wanted to share them before reading others’ so I don’t change my opinions prematurely. And, I figure if anyone will be accepting of my Beatles obsession, it’s you all here.
Obviously the film quality and color are amazing. Other things I particularly liked were John’s sense of humor and both his and Paul’s playing with words and sounds throughout—they’re both very good at improvising and changing things up on the fly—and Ringo’s humor. This film, along with the Beatles biography I recently read, really make me want to find a good biography of Ringo, as he is often overlooked but seems like such a happy-go-lucky, easygoing, kind person.
It was also very fun to see how the songs evolved from simple melodies with a few uncertain lyrics, to complete songs with harmonies and complex lyrics. I really enjoyed getting to see the Beatles’ creative process, even if it was probably a lot different (tense) than in earlier years.
I found John’s behavior at Twickenham vs. Abbey Road striking. Obviously everyone feels more comfortable at Abbey Road, which could explain why John opens up, but also, at Twickenham he is noticeably quiet, even sort of zoned out. I’m assuming this was due in large part to his drug use, but the 180 at Abbey Road makes him almost like a different person. John at Twickenham is pretty depressing to see. However, there are other times he just seems sad too—like when asked about his relationship with Paul. And there are certain moments, it seemed to me, when he lights up a bit when talking one-on-one to Paul. I really tried to go into the film with no expectations, but I couldn’t help notice the different energy between John and Paul, compared to other one-on-one interactions. They just had a connection that was unique, and it seemed to wake something in John up, even at Twickenham, even with the drugs. Am I reading too much into this?
Paul’s behavior is also strange at times. Firstly, he looks incredibly sad throughout much of the film, which perhaps was due to tiredness, but I honestly think was more than that—at certain moments he looks really desperate, I’m guessing because of the impending breakup.
But more than that, he seems to go from pseudo-manager and cheerleader for the band to quiet, unresponsive guy over and over. I see this in particular when John says he’d like to do the concert, and they should do it—he’s very insistent, and seems energized—while Paul sits slumped and mumbles, “Hm” in response. He looks very distracted/disengaged/uncertain, like something more than the show is bothering him. I’m attributing this to his distress that he couldn’t stop the Beatles from breaking up (and maybe pot?), but his apathy/tiredness/whatever it is at times is startling.
One of my favorite moments is when Paul, John, Ringo, Lindsay-Hogg, and Linda discuss the band after George has left. They almost seem to admit, straightforwardly, that the band is breaking up! For once it seems they are all being almost-straight and honest with each other—not dancing around issues. Although they don’t really get anywhere.
Paul and John’s “hidden-tape recorder-in-flowerpot” conversation is fascinating as well. I assume there is a bit more context at the beginning and end, which I would like to hear, but what we do hear surprised me, as John and Paul are a lot more straightforward with each other than I would expect, considering all the unspoken tension that lasted between them for years. John in particular seems quite reasonable, just trying to be honest. They don’t interrupt each other as much as I expected either. But again, there seems to be no resolution, no decisions made. This whole conversation also makes me wonder how many people will come away from this film thinking that the Beatles’ breakup was caused in large part because John and Paul were fighting over leadership of the band. Leadership/ego issues were definitely part of the breakup, but I don’t think they were the only or even most important reasons (but of course we can’t see that in this film).
What we do see, however, is a long discussion/monologue (?)? about India from Paul. Was this in Let It Be? I seem to remember seeing part of it somewhere, or hearing Paul say these things, but I’m not sure. Regardless, there are some interesting comments—Paul focuses on several specific John moments (“You did this” “You looked like this”), and he seems to address John a large part of the time he’s talking. John is also staring at him, quite intensely. The most intriguing moment in all of this, to me, is that when someone (Lindsay-Hogg I think? I can’t remember, there were so many people) asks, after Paul has talked in-depth about the India film, “What did happen?” Paul leans back, looks up and away, runs his hands through his hair and says, “I don’t really know.” Excuse me, Paul? You might not know everything that happened to everyone internally there, but you have to know some things. Here is Paul being vague again. Maybe he doesn’t know, but I also get the sense he’s not revealing everything. Not that he has to—I just find his avoidance and vagueness remarkable here. Again, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it struck me.
George’s comment about them not finding themselves is interesting too: does that mean he didn’t find himself in India either? Then was the trip a failure for him? Does he think fame made them not-themselves, false versions of themselves, fake people? That’s certainly understandable, but there seems to be more bitterness there. The statement certainly gives one a lot to ponder.
Those are my big takeaways from the film, other than the positive spin, which I expected. I did appreciate that certain moments of tension were included too, though.
(And Heather’s impersonation of Yoko is hilarious.)
@Erin on your point about tiredness I was thinking the other day about the fact that Let it Be/Get Back was happening not long after the White Album which finished recording in October the year prior. That was a massive album for them and they only had two months break between and were back the day after the new year when some people- and most definitely a lot of celebrities- would still be on holidays. Plus they put a almost completely unnecessary deadline on themselves to write, record, produce and perform an album in two-three weeks when they really didn’t have to. I know the documentary mentions the deadline was due to Ringos film but they could have paced themselves and maybe demoed and rehearsed prior to Ringos film and then recorded and performed them after. I think they were so use to working at such a punishing rate but by 69 they are all exhausted and needed a rest. I wondered had they allowed themselves more rest and respite between albums if we would have gotten more of them.
Plus I recall John saying that the call times for them to be at Twickenham were super early in the morning.
True, they were on a very tight schedule, and Paul especially was so concerned about those deadlines. They certainly could have loosened all that up a bit, but maybe they just wanted to get it done. They definitely would have benefited from a longer break between albums.
Beyond that, though, I just felt a deeper tiredness in Paul–like a desperate tiredness. Perhaps the start of that depressive episode he went through. There are just moments where he seemed about to fall apart (with nerves, sadness, exhaustion, etc.)
I would like to know why John used the word “frightened” in that tape-in-flowerpot conversation. I don’t really understand it.
About Paul’s sadness and desperation, I totally agree with you. Also, the lyrics of “Let It Be” have always seemed pretty revealing. I mean, emotionally revealing… fuzzing over the details, sadly, but then the song becomes universal.
>>I couldn’t help notice the different energy between John and Paul, compared to other one-on-one interactions. They just had a connection that was unique, and it seemed to wake something in John up, even at Twickenham, even with the drugs. Am I reading too much into this?
No, I don’t think so. It’s remarkable how much sexual energy they have when they are facing each other and playing. I think that’s why Yoko was there… as a chaperone, so John wouldn’t fall back into Paul’s clutches.
Linda looks sad too, as if she knows what she’s seeing and she’s picking up Paul’s sadness and grieves for him. Which is very noble of her. Yoko *doesn’t* look sad. More bored, contemptuous, resigned.
Gabriella, I personally don’t even see it as sexual…(not to open that can of worms…) but there is definitely a deep connection there. They’re very tired and maybe want to move on musically, but they are still so attached to each other. I’m glad I’m not going crazy. I could talk about that connection for days, but I realize I may be the only one.
Regarding the narrative changing on Yoko, I think she’s still viewed predominantly negatively, at least on the Washington Post comment board.
I was on a story there yesterday about “Get Back”, and the general consensus was that while no one thought she was the sole cause of the breakup, she wasn’t seen as completely innocent either.
There was only one or two Yoko defenders.
As someone on this blog pointed out, there is so much information about Yoko, and her horrible behavior towards Julian, and not giving John phone calls from Paul, Mick Jagger, etc…. that I don’t think she’s ever going be seen as innocent.
I know you said Paul hasn’t gone to the “American Right”, but from everything I read, he seems to still be a Liberal. That’s the impression I get from his support of Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the anti-Trump song he wrote.
While we are on the topic of feminism and the Beatles women, can I say the most infuriating moment for me in Get Back was when Michael Lindsay Hogg tried to mansplain to Linda- Paul McCartney’s future wife and current muse- that he was a bigger Beatles fan then she was and why she was wrong. Like honestly I would have forgiven Linda in a heart beat if she decked him lol.
@Peter Deville. Was it really that necessary to be so dismissive and rude?
I never said that Cilla Black represented the people of Liverpool. I never said she gave Thatcher credence. She came from a monied, self-made perspective. I’m standing by my opinion. Perhaps you could ask the dead and maimed what they thought; the rest were actually alive to give an opinion. I don’t need to google Hillsborough thanks.
I question John’s motives here in telling Paul that they had taken George for granted. It felt like he was being played off when it suited, perhaps a way for John to disentangle himself from Paul. George didn’t do a lot to help himself. He was the band’s LEAD guitarist AND soloist and that is what he wanted to be from a teenager. He wasn’t going to budge from that position either in Hamburg. We know the story of how Paul was relegated to piano, then bass, an instrument which he then turned into how it was used in rock music, extraordinarily so. He was the only one willing to take it on. George’s hero in the early days was Segovia and his skill in playing the classical guitar on some of the early songs was truly beautiful. He then ditched it to concentrate on the electric guitar. When he discovered the sitar, he then put aside his electrics, leaving either Paul or John to take up the reins, notably on Revolver. When George discovered he wasn’t going to master the sitar in the way he had hoped, he was back to electric guitar and looking to Eric Clapton for guidance. John and Paul also gave songs away to other people to establish themselves; George could have done the same.
As an aside, before meeting John
George also formed his own band with his brother Peter and his school friend Arthur Kelly. By his own admittance, George wanted to call the shots but the others wouldn’t let him. During downtime between Liverpool and Hamburg, George also played in other bands, something the others never did. What did George actually want from the Beatles? He was all over the place. Did he think he was in the wrong band?
Paul’s perspective on George may have been quite different to John’s. I’m truly sick of this George as victim trope. Before he died, George also admitted to behaving badly. Why is this ignored? They all had their moments of insufferablity and I think they all gave each other as good as they got. Didn’t they all take each other for granted in the end?
Really good points Lara. I’ve known a few younger (20’s) Beatle fans who say George was oppressed, or whatever, by John and Paul. But George was an adult, and had to take responsibility for his behavior as well.
It sounds like he did before he passed.
Your last sentence is right on. They did, and part of that was age I think.
Paul himself has owned up that it was his call to cut George out of the song writing process write at the very start because he felt it should just be him and John. Back in the early days George was writing with Paul at least (not sure about John). Inspite of all the danger was a Paul and George song.
Also if you watched Get Back you would see that there is a big difference in energy levels Paul gave when working on George’s song to when working on his own or on John’s. In fact him and George get into a fight during rehearsing Don’t Let Me Down because Paul so invested and then during All things must pass you see Paul requesting drink orders from there gophers.
Maybe at first George was happy with his position in the band and happy to let John and Paul take the lead but the point was that by 1969 he had changed and he wanted to be more involved in the making of the records and he wanted to write more and he was getting good- John and in particular Paul didn’t adapt to that change.
To me that’s the tension of Get Back- it’s not Yoko- it’s between things remaining as they are and things evolving. With the Beatles wanting the good old days and realising they can’t go back.
LeighAnn, you said “Paul himself has owned up that it was his call to cut George out of the song writing process…” I definitely don’t recall that but rather him saying he and John decided it together (there was something about walking by a church). Can you provide a quote?
The discussion about “Get Back” has made me think about “Tune In”. Lewisohn really emphasized how each of The Beatles were very strong individuals. It felt like he was setting up one of main reasons they broke up.
Put aside Allen Klein, Yoko, Brian Epstein dying, and could they have made it work? It would have taken a lot of compromise, and maybe they all had such strong visions for what they wanted, that wasn’t possible. I do think though, that Ringo would have been happy to stay a Beatle if everyone else was happy.
I don’t know why my comments do not appear, I’ll try again.
Replying to @Erin (also @LeighAnn, @Elizabeth and @Laura) re George’s reason to leave the meeting at Ringo’s house: listening to more of the conversation happening on the 13th (morning) my impression is that Paul, Ringo, Linda and Neal all agree that Yoko’s presence was at least very relevant.
Neil reports the exchange between John and George (“I don’t understand” “I don’t believe you”) to which Paul says “Key moment that” and suggests that John understood what George meant but didn’t want to admit it.
Then Paul says “it’s like they are striking against working conditions” (meaning Yoko’s presence) and then goes on to justify John&Yoko. But who is striking? Certainly not Paul and Ringo. I take it as Paul saying that George is striking but he should rather accept them because Yoko is not as bad as they (Paul included) thought initially.
Ringo seems to agree to all of this and when Linda is worried that she shouldn’t have been to the meeting either is quick to reassure her that she wasn’t in the way, unlike Yoko.
Listening to the full conversation (or at least what we have from the nagra reels) makes it clear also that Paul doesn’t want to confront John about John&Yoko at all. He thinks he has already done what he could (talking about writing together), rejects MLH suggestion to be more confrontational (“I can’t be bothered doing all that”), and feels like he is showing John&Yoko that he is willing to accept a compromise.
We can discuss endlessly about this choice of Paul (co-dependency? diplomacy? avoidance? wishful thinking? all of the above?), but this is exactly what he does in the lunchroom discussion with John, another discussion which is worth listening for more details on the nagra reels. He lets John speak and never mentions the John&Yoko problem.
I also read somewhere that this choice is one of Paul’s very few regrets, if any of you has any reference on that I would be grateful.
My source for the conversations is this website: https://amoralto.tumblr.com/getback. You can listen to the extracts and read the transcript to judge for yourself what is being said.
@Anna – I’m quite sure that from George’s point of view it wasn’t any of Yoko’s business. From anyone’s point of view really, because it’s not like it was even a business matter – it was a personal matter between John, George and Paul, and John should have had enough respect for George to hear what he had to say – to HIM, not Yoko – instead of using her as some sort of weapon (not that I imagine it took much persuasion) to manipulate the situation.
Most people in that position would do exactly what George did, which is get up and leave.
Anna, thank you for this. I too got the impression that Yoko was an issues from that conversation on the 13th, but I guess I didn’t connect it with George, as I assumed he was more upset over his and Paul’s songwriting styles, but obviously Yoko was an issue that I conveniently forgot about. 🙂 Is there a transcript for that conversation between George and John? Would love to see it.
Interesting that not speaking up is one of Paul’s regrets. I’ve never heard that before but it makes perfect sense to me. I see Paul as being quite conflict-avoidant, but at the risk of endless speculation (which I love to do but no one else may be interested!) I won’t go any deeper into my views. I do know that in a relationship like that–thinking about what Michael G has said about addiction–the enabler is going to do all kinds of justifying, just naturally, because they want everything to be normal and don’t want to upset the addict. I’ve done this myself plenty of times–it’s easier to push things aside, say, “It’s okay, I forgive you, we’ll try again next time” than actually address the issue. Especially for someone who has been dealing with this addicted person for years and years.
You’re welcome! Unfortunately as far as I know there are no transcripts of the conversation between John and George at Ringo’s house, and I don’t think any of them ever mentioned it in interviews or chats to journalists.
yes, this is the very core of the Lennon/McCartney relationship, especially at this later stage of Lennon’s addictions. He’s erratic, embarrassing, less-brilliant-but-still-occasionally-brilliant, and their dear friend whom they love. Paul will make any excuse, especially to the public. So would (did) George and Ringo.
I’ve read this article from AKOM on the roles within the Beatles quite interesting: https://anotherkindofmind.com/2021/12/03/1105/?fbclid=IwAR2y30TPLYDkYnYoMOJgWJpTrHBglTfvcX7q8-pFR5MCTBEPtuzIUdH524k
Apart from the interpretations of the various days, which can be discussed, I find this passage quite sound: “Although both Lennon and McCartney are guilty of marginalizing Harrison and unconsciously (or consciously) teaming up against him, the simple fact is that Harrison responds better to Lennon’s authority than McCartney’s. ”
This dynamic was probably establish early in their friendship and it might interact with the John&Yoko issue from George’s point of view. George is now seeinf his favourite leader being passive and talking through Yoko, while the leader he bear a grudge againts acquires more and more power. That would make him angry at John while also being angry and resentful at Paul.
I’ve always felt that George didn’t respond as well to Paul’s authority as he did John’s because he and Paul started off as equals when they met. That wasn’t the case with John.
John was the leader from day one, so it makes sense George would respond better to his authority. According to Tom Petty, George looked up to John, and idolized him to a degree. That makes it more likely he would listen to John over Paul.
@Tasmin and @Michelle yes, but regardless of the reasons why it was like that, I think it’s important to acknowledge it as a simple fact, because it can explain a lot of George’s different attitude toward John and Paul in 1969, post break-up and in retelling the story of the Beatles.
For example why George always lamented more Paul dismissing his songs, while as we see in the documentary John was much more negative or not involved at all (I, Me, Mine is a good example). Or why he promptly sided with John over Klein: maybe part of him thought “good, that’s John regaining some leadership” after the drugs and the John&Yoko issue had sidetracked him.
When John was talking to George about Klein, he said, “He knows everything about us as individuals. He knows me better than you do.” I thought that was one of the most devastating parts of film.
That was scary.
Oh, gosh, wasn’t that awful? And Glyn John’s trying to tell them what he knew about Klein! Warning, warning!
Watching Part 3 again, it actually was, “He knows me as much as you do.” Which is still bad, but not as scary.
I think it was about a difference in approaches. Paul knew exactly how he wanted his songs to sound and wanted the band to be exacting to match his vision. And to be fair Paul’s ideas gave the Beatles their best tracks and some of musics timeless hits- but was it always fun as a musician to play on cue?
George was wanting a more collaborative approach where they just all collective try things out – which was an approach John was more amendable to and not so unlike his own process.
So while I agree with somethings in that article I don’t know if I totally buy into the argument that George respected John over Paul and therefore couldn’t take directions from him. I mean he clearly in the documentary keeps trying to draw Paul particularly into giving feedback and being engaged with the songs he’s writing while Paul seems just as ambivalent and disinterested as John. Which goes back to John’s comment to Paul about festering wounds.
I think why George was able to work with John after and not Paul is that he as a musicians just had a lot more fun and enjoyment in the studio environment because John was slightly more loose and open. Some of the Double Fantasy session musicians talked in interviews about how John was open to musical input. (And to be fair to Paul on this point I think Paul’s exacting nature versus John’s collaborative nature was more due to Paul being more musically and instrumentally accomplished then John).
It’s a little strange, then, that Paul felt he had to get another band together after the Beatles while John pretty much flew (no pun intended) on his own. I think Paul himself said he always needed a band and may have gone into a profession outside of music were it not for the fact that he was asked to join a band.
I don’t think this putative distinction holds up. Wings and the Plastic Ono Band were both around, in various forms, from the early 1970s, and both were pretty flexible, with members coming and going. It is true that McCartney was highly motivated by the idea of playing live again, and that one of the major reasons he formed Wings was to be able to do that regularly. But then Lennon also enjoyed performing live, as he did in Toronto and in NYC.
I guess you’re right. Good point about the live thing, which occurred to me just as I hit post. I think it was a bit more nuanced than what LeighAnn stated, though. John had pretty strong ideas for how his songs should be played and produced. In fact, he later complained that too much experimentaton creeped in when it came to his Beatles songs, and if he could do them over again he would. Conversely, I don’t agree that Paul didn’t have a collaborative nature. By definition, that’s what Lennon-McCartney is. The difference between John and Paul as solo artists is that John’s main partner was Yoko, while with Paul it was Linda and Denny Laine. I’m not sure how much input Denny had musically; I assume he did have some. John didn’t have a Denny Laine.
I don’t blame George for leaving either. To have two of your band mates turn up with their girlfriends of six months and three months, must have felt like being ganged up on. For Linda to actually say she also shouldn’t be there, strongly suggests that George resented Yoko’s presence, justifiably so. That doesn’t let Paul and Linda off the hook either. That Linda didn’t get involved (sure) was no excuse. She was smart enough to have absorbed all proceedings for future reference. As Elizabeth said, it was a personal issue between four men to discuss what direction the band wanted or needed to take, if at all. A low and distasteful episode in Beatles history in my opinion. That is addiction for you, for all of them, even if John’s was the far more serious.
I find it rather disingenuous the way the end of part one was cut to imply George walked out because of Paul when he was fed up with Yoko speaking for John.
@Lara I don’t get the impression that George or anybody was bothered by Linda’s presence. Linda was unobtrusive; did not speak for Paul; did not presume to tell the band what to do; assume herself to be a part of the band; or hog attention by painting or knitting or screaming next to the Beatles on camera while they played. Similarly, I don’t think Pattie or Maureen hanging around would have been a big deal. The problem wasn’t a wives and girlfriends issue, it was a (John&)Yoko issue.
How is painting any different from taking photographs? Knitting is hogging attention, in what world?
Aggressive knitting! She learned it from the Hells Grannies.
I mean honestly the amount of people you see hanging around the Beatles and hanging out in the studio it would be stifling. I mean was it appropriate for a child to be running around playing in the studio where there were probably drugs or people on drugs? The conversation Paul and John have before the rooftop concert you can tell Paul and John would have preferred it be just them but yet there is Glyn John’s, Michael Lindsay Hogg, Mal and more hanging on their every word.
Honestly to me the most intrusive disruptive person/ people in Get Back is Michael Lindsay Hogg and his crew.
First, he keeps pushing ideas on them they keep telling him they don’t want or like.
Then he seems to play them off or try stirring up the pot, first by
engaging Ringo in bitching about his fellow Beatles lack of direction, by trying to get John to bitch about Paul by randomly bringing up that he and Paul aren’t close anymore, then supposedly tries to encourage Paul to be more confrontational with John and Yoko (which all three don’t seem to engage with, respect).
His rude (and sexist) to Linda when he tells her she’s not as big a Beatle fan as him and why her opinion is wrong. He’s condescending to George Martin (and the Beatles) when GM is talking about the Lennon/McCartney partnership and he keeps interjecting or “correcting” him with things like “they don’t write together anymore- it’s marketing to sell records”. Paul seems at points visibly irritated by Michael and often talks to him with sarcasm.
And according to Peter Jackson he and his crew employed lots of tricks to record the Beatles when they thought they weren’t being recorded. Including hidden recorders and mikes, hidden cameras, taping over the red lights so the band wouldn’t realise the cameras were on. He said it got to the point the band would play their guitars into their amps loudly just so they could have conversations without being recorded. (PJ also laughed about the fact that Beatles didn’t realise that as they were paying Michael they could have just told him to stop filming).
I mean I’m glad the footage is there so we have this documentary but there is an element of sleaze there in how he got all the footage he did.
Hells Grannies, ha ha! Nice post. Yeah, I thought it was arrogant for MLH to define the Lennon/McCartney partnership. He also sounds clueless. When Martin said, “They are still a team” despite coming up with songs on their own, MLH replied, “On paper” or something to that effect. He couldn’t see with his own eyes that virtually every Beatles song was a collaboration by the four of them (and Martin) in the studio. This doc made that obvious.
Here’s a good piece from Washington Post:
How 13 songwriters felt while watching “Get “Back”.
Very interesting to see how other songwriters/musicians felt while watching The Beatles during the process.
Did anyone catch when Paul said to Linda, “Okay, Yoko” when she voiced an opinion? If a woman can’t speak her mind or knit, what can she do?
What if a guy can’t make a joke?
Hello, good evening,
I just finished the first episode and many thoughts are flowing in my mind that I have not sorted yet, but I want to share one: In some scenes it seems to me that Paul’s eyes are speaking by itself and telling what his mouth don’t: Love. Love for John, love for the band and love for music. Those are very telling eyes.
Maybe I sound silly but that’s my appreciation and wanna share. Thank you.
There is editing going on with Paul’s expressions. No eyes ever speak for themselves. 🙂
I guess I still don’t make the best use of the language. I will keep learning, thank you. Edited or not, he wasn’t an actor and his eyes either ✌. Anyway the thing does not matter, maybe what I think I see is what I wan to see.
No, I was kidding (making a reference to another post that said the footage doesn’t speak for itself when it’s edited). You are right. There is a lot love in his eyes, and affection amongst all the band members.
I’m glad you said it.
@Matt. George also had issues with Paul. They all had issues with each other. Just because it was mainly a John and Yoko issue doesnt mean there weren’t other gripes. The presence of girlfriends was inappropriate whether they contributed or not. By the way, if anyone is interested, Mal’s Diary from the March 1969 issue of Beatles Monthly has been reproduced on the meetthebeatles site. It gives another perspective on why George left, seemingly from George himself.
Jackson mentioned in a podcast that George was going through marital difficulties during this time, but didn’t want to drag that into the documentary. It was a culmination of circumstances that led to his walking out, I think.
Yep I just saw that mentioned elsewhere online as well. Someone mentioned something about Pattie catching him or finding out he had cheated on her. So maybe his frustrations and mood weren’t all just about Paul being bossy and Yoko being invited along to a team meeting.
I recently learned that in addition to that, George’s mom fell ill and that’s why he was in Liverpool.
@lara I was just reading another one of Mal’s diary entries on Meet The Beatles and he writes “Unlike previous times, the Beatles haven’t been using session musicians” Ummm they used session musicians? Cause Mal makes it sound like they used them often and regularly.
Although rarely credited on the records, the Beatles frequently used session musicians. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_performed_on_Beatles_recordings
Going through the documentary again, it becomes all the more clear to me that Paul bringing Linda to the sessions was a reaction to John having Yoko there. At least that’s what people not familiar with the Beatles would probably surmise. I don’t think he would have brought Linda if Yoko wasn’t there. Linda shows up a little later, well after Yoko enters the picture (as the film presents it). And when Paul says, “But John wanted to bring his girl along,” etc. [ostensibly while defending the pair] as Linda reaches for his hand in that very sad scene, it really brought that home to me. At any rate, I really like Linda in this. She’s very cool.
One thing about Linda was (and they may not have known yet) but she was pregnant with Mary at this point.
@DD – I’d be interested to know if John going nuclear with Allen Klein and Phil Spector had anything to do with this.
I know he said it was him who wanted to move on having found the woman of his dreams, but how much of that was his hurt pride talking now that he and Paul could no longer be lost boys together?
For anyone who hasn’t read it, let me recommend this piece by Mikal Gilmore in Rolling Stone about why the Beatles broke up. It’s from 2009 but is still the smartest analysis I’ve read of the dynamics at work.
Thank you for the suggestion @Nancy. It proved to be, at least for me, time very well spent.
As with any well written article it leaves the reader with a question or two to mull over. For me, I would like to know just what Paul said when he lashed out with such vehemence against George Martin during the White Album sessions. Apparently vituperative language was employed.
Second, did John and George actually come to fisticuffs or was it a minor pushing incident. Don’t need a blow by blow, but rather an indication of just how vigorous of altercation it was: bad words? Pushing? Actual fists employed and punches landed. Was anyone even mildly injured.
As we know, George could deliver a rigorous
How did, or if, did Paul apologize to George.
It seems times were much more tense
Neal, glad you found it interesting. Here’s a link on some background to the article, also published by Rolling Stone. At one point Gilmore was planning to write a book on the breakup, and I wish he had.
There’s so much we’ll never know with any certainty. In looking through the differing accounts of what various Beatles said and did during the breakup, I’m reminded of this Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And it’s the feelings that mattered in the Beatles breakup: things that might not have seemed significant from the outside seem to have cut deeply, while things that might have looked major from the outside weren’t necessarily as painful. The band was in many ways a closed emotional system.
@neal Well this is addressed in Get Back. Paul George and John are reading and laughing about an article in a newspaper that says J&G got into a fight and basically say it’s rubbish. They even play fight with each other.
After watching that I suspect the John and George got into a fight/punch up as a lost in translation Chinese whisper scenario. If anyone has seen Atonement, it reminds me of the scene when Briony watches her sister and the gardener from her bedroom she reads something sinister into the interaction then what it actually is when you later see the interaction.
So I suspect from John and George’s perspective they didn’t get into a fight/punch up but someone who witnessed that either interpreted it as such, or in the process of Chinese whispering by the time it gets to the press it’s escalates to they got into a full on punch up.
Either that or the newspaper flat out made it up as is not uncommon for celebrity news. For instance how many times has Jennifer Anniston had to read that she is pregnant?
Or sort of like when you see two people yelling and you tell them to stop fighting/arguing and they say they aren’t because from their perspective it’s just a discussion/ debate.
And honestly from watching their interactions in Get Back, getting into fisticuffs with each other just doesn’t seem like how the Beatles operated with each other. They seemed much better at communicating their feelings to one another then I’ve ever suspected them being capable of.
Not to offend Nancy, but having read the explanation of the article made me more sceptical less appreciative of the article then I had after reading the article.
The author talks about how there was no single bad guy or villian but then singled out John as the person responsible for the bands demise.
He says Paul loves John more then John loves Paul – on what basis does he have to make that claim. He then later implies George and Ringo didn’t love Paul as much as he loved them.
He pooh poohs other biographies or discussions of how the Beatles broke up then goes on to say “What actually happened….” as though only his interpretation of events based on his research is the accurate and correct interpretation and not his interpretation of events based on his research.
He then labels John and George as petty and ungrateful but does not seem to acknowledge that Paul and Ringo could also be petty and ungrateful.
He also seems to emphasise that John and George hating being Beatles/hated fans, but that wasn’t a given constant belief or opinion, nor does he acknowledge that John was killed by a fan and George almost killed by a fan.
He also implies that Paul was in the Beatles for the creativity and music but John and Paul for the money. Again/ on what is he basing this? Also wasn’t there something about Paul began buying up more stocks in Northern Songs on the sly and which caused John to loose trust when he found out? Also – really Paul doesn’t care about money? Really?
He references books people should read to learn more about the Beatles then gives a list of what he implies are the most important parts/quotes of the books all of which are fairly if not out rightly negative of John and George, none of which are negative of Paul or Ringo and all without any context.
I appreciated the merits of the article when I first read but having read his explanation I now find him bias as F lol. I guess it comes back to people having different perspectives and interpretations of the same thing.
No offense, Leigh Ann. Diverse opinions welcome here.
Typo- *John and George were in it for the money
For the record I do agree with you Nancy that the Beatles breakup came down to feelings and perceived offences and grievances we probably will never really understand. I think a lot of it comes down to immaturity too. While I think they grew up a lot faster then men their age- like honestly it’s hard to believe watching Get Back that they are all in their mid to late 20s- I wonder if the fact they had been together since their teens meant that it was a bit like never leaving high school.
Ultimately, Paul’s comment to John that when their older they’ll be able to let everything go and all play together again just makes me sad that they were really robbed of that.
Yes, that’s the real tragedy. When I look back at some of the boneheaded things I did in my 20s I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to live long enough to reflect on them and make changes. That John was killed at 40 is so unspeakably horrible and unfair.
I’ve said before that watching McCartney perform “Here Today” in concert — every single time I’ve seen him (8 I think) — underlined for me how lasting the loss of Lennon is for him.
@LeighAnn- All the fanboys are on Paul’s side now, even those from Rolling Stone mag. Can’t believe people think Jann Wenner’s opinions in 1970 are still relevant.
@Michelle I definitely think Get Back has twisted the narrative from “John was the true genius” to “Paul was the true genius” when both are true. People seem to not get the fact that Get Back filmed three weeks when Paul was on a roll and John was going through addiction and partly over being a Beatle altogether.
Had for example the Hard Days Night recording sessions been filmed when John was on a roll and practically wrote that entire album I’m sure people would have had a different impression again.
And fan boys are going to fan boy, it doesn’t help that Pauls recent comments in the last few years through various media and the click bait articles as a result have leaned heavily into playing up or exacerbating that.
Ultimately if Get Back reaffirmed anything it was how essential ALL four of the Beatles were as a musical unit and too each other. For as talented as John and Paul were, George was equally as talented and it seemed like he was the only one who had a sensible head while John and Paul were off with the fairies coming up with grand – and expensive- stage show ideas. And honestly Ringo was probably the glue and the essential buffer needed between three very large and insecure egos.
And while it’s absolutely true that during the later period Paul was the one keeping the Beatles productive, what Get Back taught me was on the occasion that Paul would spiral it was often John that would be the one to get through to him and steady him or even just make him laugh when things were getting too anxious.
Agreed, @LeighAnn. And Rubber Soul, and Revolver, and any number of sessions where he wasn’t dabbling in heroin, preoccupied with Yoko and half out the door.
@Michael Gerber, this:
Paul seems to stand in for George’s real love-hate with wealth and fame.
is a brilliant observation and would go a long way toward explaining why george struggled so much with forgiving paul, and why Paul could never quite figure out how to make it up to him.
@Annie. Interesting ideas you brought up about Paul possibly having ADHD. It’s confusing though. In the Hunter Davies bio, Jim described Paul as a quiet child and hardworking like his mother. A few years ago I read a book by Diane Paul called Living Left Handed in which some well-known people spoke of their lefty experiences.
Paul said he went through a period of writing backwards and the masters at school would hit the roof. In saying ‘masters’, it can be assumed this problem happened while Paul was at the Liverpool Institute. But why would a child who could write normally at 6-7 years of age onwards suddenly develop a neurological difficulty at 12 or thereabouts. Another difficulty Paul said he had was learning to ride a bike. He pedaled backwards and insisted he was right and everyone else was wrong. Paul delivered all this stuff in his usual hammy way. But underneath I wonder. If he was mocked or ridiculed for any of this it may have made him sensitive to criticism and a defensive insistence that his way was the right way or the highway. Another strange thing: Paul mentioned in a very early Beatles interview that he had to be isolated in hospital as a kid before finally being diagnosed with rheumatic fever. Then it was never spoken of again which made me then think it was made up by the press. Yet in Many Years From Now, Paul mentioned he was hospitalized at the age of eleven. Rheumatic fever is a serious childhood illness and can result in neurological deficits as well as affecting the heart and joints.
In my sentence “As we know, George could deliver a rigorous” I see that I had inadvertently clipped out the last part. I meant to say ” As we know George, as per Lewisohn’s description, could deliver a rigorous head-butt as evidenced by his, while still at school, forcefully knocking back a fellow student for no obvious reason.”
Not that I think he would have done this to John, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if George and John, with tempers flaring, could be very much in each other’s face for a few moments.
Are we not allowed to post links to other blogs on here? I had an interesting article that I wanted to share from a Liverpool blogger about John and Paul first meeting in 1956, outside a newsagent’s shop where Paul had a job as a paperboy in the evening. I tried it twice and it didn’t take.
Michelle, I think our platform only supports links by moderators. If you can tell me how to find the link I’ll post it.
Thank Nancy. It’s a site dedicated to Liverpool locations, with a focus on the Beatles. You can find the link by googling: “liverpool blog i could stay up half the night trying to crack your code”
From Nancy: I looked up the site, and I’m getting a “could be risky” warning from my browser, for some reason, so I didn’t go there and get the link. But the address is beatlesliverpoollocations.blogspot.com, if anyone else feels inclined to try it.
I wanted to post the article in response to what Velvet Hand mentioned about the Get Back film mistakenly showing that 1956 was the year John invited Paul to join his band. While that did indeed occur in 1957, the year that they actually met was very likely 1956.
Cool – thanks for digging that up Michelle!
You’re welcome, @Velvet Hand. That blog is very interesting. There is an article on the early Beatles (Hamburg and Cavern) that had pics I’ve never seen before and anecdotes I’ve never heard, from people who knew them.
That goes against Beatles canon…though I do recall somewhere Pauls father supposedly letting it slip that Paul was a part of Johns crowd/gang before the Woolton Fete formal introduction. (though I don’t recall where I read that) That and Paul claiming he saw John at a fish and chips place sometime before July 1957 and thinking he looked cool…but not saying anything to him
Well it doesn’t seem unbelievable Paul and John might bump into each other or sort of recognize the other without actually knowing each other. They lived only about aile away from each other, they had acquaintances in common.
For example, the girl who became my best friend(to this day) was in the same group of friends, at lunch in 7th grade she literally sat just at opposite end of the table from where I usually sat. She was even in a class of mine. But I didn’t know her, didn’t consider her my friend, didn’t even really consider her much if an acquaintance. We’d barely spoken.
Until we ended up seated next to each in that class we shared near the end of the year. We hit it off completely, and became immediate best friends.
So I don’t think its odd that John and Paul could have seen, possibly bumped into, even said a passing hello without actually really considering it knowing each other or “meeting” before the fete.
Over a number of dog walks these past days, I listened to Robert Rodriguez’s Something About The Beatles three part, and thus three hour, interview with Peter Jackson.
Peter goes into deeper and broader discussions than he, obviously, had the opportunity to do on the basic five or ten minute media segments leading up to the Get Back broadcast.
He said that they restored all of the video and that it is now, if I understood correctly, in the hands of Apple. He seemed to be particularly keen that this should be released as an extended director’s cut in order that researchers, scholars, and fans have access. I was a little confused by what rights Disney has and which ones rights Apple or the Estates have. Either way, I did appreciate his view that this work should be in a public archive.
There was also a bit of discussion as to what other extant Beatles material that might prove ripe for his sound processing techniques. In other words, what conversations could one tease out from a particularly “noisy” mix. I know there is bootleg stuff floating about and I wonder if that might reveal a thing ot two.
With the aforementioned in mind, he also mused over what unreleased material might still be in the Apple archive. Giles Martin and a select few others have had a crack at some of it of course, but is it not time for professional archivists and editors to catalog it all? Academics have sorted everything from the Stasi records to Verona to the letters of Jefferson so can we not, finally, have everything at least labeled and duplicated? Why is this material STILL treated as if it is the nuclear launch codes?
Anyway, Jackson is clearly a fan and a humble one to boot–he freely admits when he does not know. I liked this demeanor as it means he is curious and a learner. I certainly hope he tackles additional Beatles projects.
Jackson also gave nearly 4 hours of his time to the Things We Said Today podcast, the video of which someone posted on YouTube. Interesting info: https://youtu.be/QSLb7cpHy00
Thank you for that link @Michelle.
The title of that podcast made me revisit the actual song–one of my favorites as it never fails to remind me of what I think of as the Three E factor of early Beatle music in that it is evocative, emotive, and ethereal with the latter being perhaps the most poignant as it sounds, and still sounds, as if it is from another world.
Peter Jackson definitely seems like the kind of chap you wouldn’t mind sitting on a long flight. To me at least, he brings a sense that he fully realizes that he is, in this project and perhaps going forward in other undertakings, the caretaker of a slice of the Beatle world. he seems to bring an admirable and apparent curiousness tinged by humility to the project.
You’re welcome! Yeah, I love that song too. Very atmospheric with a hint of melancholy. That and I’ll Be Back are two of my faves from that classic album.
I appreciate that Jackson pushed for the 6+ hours because he was aware of the fact that Apple was likely to lock away the footage for another 50 years if he didn’t.
As an aside listening to some of Peter Jackson interviews it’s made me weirdly curious what happens in a post Paul and Ringo world or a post Paul Ringo Olivia and Yoko world to Apple/The Beatles brand. Who takes responsibility and authority of the Beatles legacy in a Dhani/Zac/Sean and I assume Stella as gatekeepers situation. Do the kids still fight so aggressively to protect their corners like their parents and mothers did or do they all work more collaboratively and become more open with The Beatles IP.
It’s going to be interesting to see. Sean and Stella have definitely been more open to the commercialisation of the Beatles and their fathers as a brand.
@LeighAnn, I fully expect the Beatles’ IP to be sold to a major corporation (probably Disney) within five years after Paul’s death. It’s a way to make the money without the hassle.
What is obvious is that Paul is very persistent. John was a Type A and very flexible which is very a unique characteristic in leadership. John knows Paul very well. Paul has a habit of not letting the others participate when he thinks he knows where the song should go and many times the other do not agree. It is interesting to see how George adds color to Paul’s songs. One of the best parts is when George quickly tells Billy Preston what to play (the key piano hook on I’ve Got a Feeling), which he instinctively does and Paul looks over in amazement at Billy because he thinks Billy made it up on the spot. George’s frustration is palpable because he’s got the songs. Arguably, the better ones already fleshed out.
Honestly if the Beatles were a band today I don’t think Paul and John could have gotten away with not giving George Harrison or even George Martin appropriate credit for their musical and lyrical contributions to their songs.
I remember watching a bit of Miley Cyrus podcast with Joe Rohan and she talked about how the reason why so many songs have multiple or teams of writers is that any body who contributes to the lyrics or music composition has to be credited. She gave the example that if the guitarist comes up with a hook or significant cords of the music they can claim a writing credit.
Many people in the Beatles circle have claimed they’ve provided Paul or John with lyric contributions, and we now have evidence that Mal was giving them lyrical contributions. It’s honestly a wonder Paul and John have never been challenged over their writing credits.
@Leigh Ann. Wouldn’t George’s songs be challenged for credits as well? It works both ways. The Beatles as a band today wouldn’t work. Fine if a band is made up of equal talents, but Lennon and McCartney didn’t become the two songwriting giants of the 20th century for nothing. Blowing out John and Paul’s candles doesn’t make George’s shine any brighter.
After the Beatles split, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis approached Paul to form a supergroup in a letter that Paul, to his shock and embarrassment, never received until recently. If he had received that letter in 1970, the whole trajectory of his solo career would have been completely different. I wonder, though, why Hendrix and Miles approached Paul but not the other three? Was it to do with his musical skills, his work ethic, mutual respect, or a bit of everything?
The McCartney bandwagon
Why? I don’t see it that way. To be fair, Beatle peeps are more than happy to learn of Elton and Bowie et al jamming with Lennon and Clapton and Preston working with Harrison. This is another misconception that needs correcting in that ‘cool’ musicians were only interested in John and George. That wasn’t true. They all had respect for each other, but like fans, they had their favourites. But unlike fans they could see beyond the image. Both Lennon and Harrison were developing interests outside music. McCartney wasn’t. I’d say his singularity appealed to like-minded musicians like Hendrix and Davis.
This is a really interesting point.
You put that so well. I think that was it. Plus Paul was treated terribly during the break up era and it’s aftermath so exactly what “bandwagon” would Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, for goodness sake!, be jumping on anyway?
I think you are right. They recognized in Paul something they had in themselves with regards to how they viewed music. Gosh now that’s one of those road not takens I wish we could see. I mean I wouldn’t change reality, what happened happened but still I’d love to see what happened if that did. Supergroups generally don’t last long, they are often one and done or maybe get together every few years in between other things but that could have been really interesting and I wouldn’t be surprised if it would have forced a lot of those holier than thou music critics to change their tune or never start singing that off key tune to begin with seeing as so much of it, imo, was “bandwaggoning” off Lennon.
Who says a bandwagon has to mean the press? It usually refers to fans.
Oh, I see. Yeah, interesting point. I thought you were wondering why Hendrix and Miles had dissed the others in favor of McCartney. A couple things: I don’t think Paul would have accepted their offer personally, based on the fact that he wanted the opposite of a supergroup after the Beatles broke up. I’ve seen a number of quotes from him on the subject, but here is one: “We liked the idea of returning to those kind of basic thoughts, instead of thinking, “Oh, after The Beatles it’s got to be important. It’s got to be super musicians involved in this..” And Paul, at least later, certainly developed interests outside of music.
I think this proves my point that any praise or interest in Paul is seen as a slight on John and George. Hendrix and Davis did not diss Lennon and Harrison and there is no evidence that they did. As for accepting the offer, nobody can speak for Paul but Hendrix was one of the few people he idolized that’s for sure. If Paul praised Brian Wilson or Paul Simon, then perhaps he felt they respected him as an artist, unlike the very public drubbing he received from his former bandmates. And that includes Ringo, who quite happily fell in behind Lennon and Harrison when it suited.
It also may be something as simple as, they had to choose just one Beatle. They may have loved the idea of having a couple of the others join as well, but alas they didn’t want to be in the same room with each other anymore. And of the four Beatles, Paul is widely regarded as having the best musical skills as you say. He came the closest to being a virtuoso on their respective instruments; while Paul can play many instruments, the bass is where he really had few peers.
I think that general discussion about credits is on a road to nowhere. Firstly, people were credited on the physical carrier item, which in the 60s was on the sleeve for the vinyl record. In the age of streaming music that’s easy to miss. Secondly, it’s easy to call up George Martin, Mal, Neil, etc. and say they should have been given credit for their contributions. But where did the guys write their songs if not in the studio? At home, of course, in the presence of their wives and girlfriends. And you can bet your bottom dollar they also chipped in with words and phrases, considering the sheer amount of time they spent with them. Did they demand credit? No, because they never had the same ego as the men. They saw that the vision and inspiration belonged to the Beatles, not to them. In the Hunter Davies bio, Cynthia Lennon is offering words John and Paul were looking for when writing With a Little Help from My Friends in Paul’s living room. Notwithstanding Yoko’s influence on John, I think it’s naive to think she and Linda were the first women to make contributions. All in all, how feasible is it to list 50 people helping out on a few songs here and there?
And in the song “Piggies” George’s mother came up with the line “What they need is a damn good whacking!”
I was watching an interview with Peter Jackson and he talks about the “John and George got into a fist fight” rumour. He spoke about how he always got upset by that story and how he asked Olivia Harrison about it prior to starting Get Back and Olivia said how George told her the only physical alteration the Beatles had (or maybe John and George specifically) was in Hamburg where they got into an argument and threw plates of food at each other. When looking through the footage he noticed during the clips where John and George get upset about the article saying they got into a fist fight that John mentions the plate of food throwing incident in Hamburg as being the only (physical) fight they’ve had.
Also not going to lie I had to chuckle at the visual of the Beatles having a food fight.
I immediately visualized the Beatles throwing plates of food at each other. That would be hysterical to see on film. I’d be interested to know what instigated that. Paul and Stuart got into an all-out brawl on stage, with Paul saying he was shocked at Stu’s strength despite his slight build. He must have hit a nerve with whatever he said to Stu.
It was about money, apparently, he said something mocking like about he was sure Astrid could afford it.(I believe this is from Lewisohn’s book?) Maybe Stu owed him money and wasn’t paying it back.
Stu and John apparently had this little “joke” they would play on Paul where they would borrow money from him for the sole purpose of not paying him back because they thought it was funny he got upset about it. This is from the book by Pauline Sutcliffe, his sister, who says Stu told her they used to do this. Economic privilege in action.
I mean Pauline also said that John killed Stu through a kick to the head years before he died- something medical professionals have rubbished as being medically accurate. This was also after she had previously said that John was in no way responsible for Stu death.
She also claimed that John and Stu had a full on homosexual relationship which has never been corroborated. Forgive me for being sceptical.
I know this is nitpicking and off topic, but I just can’t abide Olivia commenting on events surrounding the Beatles.
@LeighAnn – What medical professionals? Can you post a link?
I thought the established story was that Stuart was kicked in the head when he was attacked outside a club years before he died. Was this rubbished by medical professionals as well?
Bear in mind that Pauline was Stuart’s SISTER before you completely trash what she had to say. She knows a lot more than any biographer, including Mark Lewinsohn, even if she has been warned off.
This article goes into it and also links to what appears to be a medical essay https://ultimateclassicrock.com/stuart-sutcliffe-dies/
Phillip Norman also asked Paul McCartney about the John kicking Stu in the head as he was supposedly named as a witness as Paul said it never happened. The director of Back Beat which Pauline consultant on said that he was surprised when she came out with that claim in her book as it was not an opinion she held when she was consulting on the film and that she said John had nothing to do with Stus death.
And the idea that she somehow holds more weight to an incident that she was not involved in nor a witness to based on what she claims was told to her by someone who was dead about someone who was dead I’m sorry does not lend her any more credibility. And honestly logically John and Stu were still writing letters and still in contact even after Stu left the Beatles. Astrid was still in contact with the Beatles after Stu died. If John actually kicked Stu hard enough in the head that it caused him that significant an injury or even if he kicked him in the head at all- why would Stu remain friends with him?
Sorry, which bit of that article was written by a medical professional? I don’t mean a ‘neuro nurse’ who wrote a comment on the internet 20 years ago either. You’d need to provide a recent opinion from a neuropathologist about whether it’s possible for an old head injury to rebleed weeks or months after the injury was sustained.
As for Pauline Sutcliffe, I’m not at all surprised that she changed her story. Who wouldn’t in her position?
Here’s one paper:
A chronic subdural hematoma is precipitated by a head injury that may have occurred months before:
Stuart died, what, 60 years ago? Most of the research about chronic head injuries and lucid intervals has been carried out in the past 10 years. It’s quite controversial because it has legal ramifications (in shaken baby cases, etc). Anyway, it would certainly be interesting to hear what a neuropathologist with access to Stuart’s medical records and/or autopsy report would conclude.
Also I forgot to add, although it should go without saying, the fact that Pauline is not a doctor, brain surgeon or coroner also doesn’t lend her any credibility in being able to diagnose Stu cause of death.
That’s true, but it doesn’t mean she’s lying about John kicking Stuart in the head.
Let’s face it, even if it wasn’t Stuart’s sister claiming this had happened, it’s not exactly hard to believe that John would do this in a rage. It’s entirely consistent with his attacks on Bob Wooler and May Pang, to name but two people (I bet there were others).
Why would Stuart forgive John? God knows. Why did May Pang forgive him?
Stuart didn’t need to “forgive” John because according to Paul- who Pauline claimed witnessed this- and Astrid, Stuart’s girlfriend who was living with Stuart this never happened. And the only person Pauline claims can corroborate her story is her dead brother. Astrid also credited John with being the one to help her deal with her grief when she fell into a depression after Stu died.
It seems odd to dismiss the credentials of people in the medical field but casually accept that John’s a murder based on nothing but a he said she said story that was revealed as a salacious detail to sell a book rather then told to a police officer in Hamburg 60 years ago if she did indeed know the cause of Stus death when it happened.
@LeighAnn – First of all, I don’t think Paul’s comments on the incident carry much weight. He said he couldn’t remember, which is not the same as saying it didn’t happen. And do you honestly think he tells the truth in interviews, or that he ever would about something like this?
Secondly, I haven’t dismissed the credentials of anyone in the medical field. I have provided links to medical documents which clearly state that it is possible to sustain a head injury and have a lucid interval of weeks or months before collapsing. Anecdotally, I know someone this happened to. He started to get headaches some weeks after sustaining a head injury in a rugby match, and it turned out he had a chronic subdural hematoma. In Stuart’s case, he was taking aspirin for his headaches (Astrid mentioned this somewhere), which was probably the worse thing he could have done because it would have increased the bleeding in his brain.
Why would anyone have told a police officer in Hamburg 60 years ago? Even if they had, no one would have been able to prove anything. Stuart might have had other head injuries in the weeks between the events. But imagine if someone kicked your brother in the head and a few months later he died of a brain haemorrhage. Imagine if YOU kicked someone in the head and a few months later this happened. Even if nothing could be proven in a court of law (and it’s really hard, which is why the research about head injuries has been so controversial when it comes to child abuse cases where the last person with the child when they collapsed was always blamed – and in some cases, wrongly) you would always feel guilty. Anyone would, surely.
I mean you kind of basically acknowledged that there is no way to prove that a kick to the head by John or any one one was Stus cause of death.
As to Paul’s word not holding any weight, Pauline claimed he was a witness to this happening so that kind of makes his word hold weight. And I believe what he told Phillip Norman was that he doesn’t remember that happening and it’s something he believes he would remember if it it happened- so it’s basically a Linda winded way of saying it didn’t happen. And also Astrid said Stu never told her about this and they were engaged.
Also if I knew my brother was violently kicked in the head and then he died from a brain injury a few weeks/months later yeah I probably would bring it up to the doctors or the Police. If I knew my brother was violently kicked in the head Id probably being telling him to call the police after it happened and probably tell him to stop communicating and writing letters and generally being friends with him.
What I probably wouldn’t do is consult on a script for a movie about my brother that shows a flattering portrait of his friendship with the guy responsible for my brothers death that even includes a scene of said guy defending my brother from other attackers.
I also probably would not be inclined to attend fan conventions for the band of which one member was responsible for my brothers death and another knew about it and didn’t say anything. But that’s just me.
Again, what does this have to do with John? It was established that a gang of thugs in Liverpool had jumped Stuart and likely caused his injury, based on eyewitness accounts. John actually came to his defense. Is it even a fact that John kicked him in the head at all?
@LeighAnn – My original comment was made in response to your statement that medical professionals had rubbished Pauline Sutcliffe’s claim that John inflicted a head injury on Stuart that ultimately led to his death. I questioned the credentials of someone on the internet claiming to be a ‘neuro nurse’, and provided links to several medical articles about chronic head injuries and lucid intervals. My opinion, based on those articles and on the experience of someone I know personally, is that it is absolutely possible for someone to sustain a head injury, remain lucid for weeks or even months and then deteriorate.
Whether you could make a legal case against someone who inflicted such an injury on another person, I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer. I imagine it would be possible, provided you could date the injury and produce a witness statement. Obviously Pauline Sutcliffe couldn’t do this, as the physical evidence was long gone and the witness apparently didn’t remember what happened.
I believe she’s telling the truth, whether there are inconsistencies in what she has said or not. You don’t, which is fair enough, but for me, I don’t think people tell lies about things like this. We see things differently though. You are sympathetic to Yoko, whereas I think she’s every bit as monstrous as her worst detractors claim and that May Pang and Fred Seaman are telling the truth. Of course they have also been discredited. But they are up against very powerful people, who are surrounded (in Ono’s case at least) by other people who are intimidating and frankly, dangerous. For that reason, I don’t find the inconsistencies in Pauline Sutcliffe’s story at all unusual – she was probably just scared. As most people would be in her shoes.
“I bet there were others” Oh my. Let’s not engage reckless speculation here.
Not LeighAnn, but happy to provide a detailed breakdown from a neuro nurse . (Another site records a follow-up discussion where more info is provided, but the same source ultimately stands fast in their conclusion.)
It’s also worth pointing out that Pauline Sutcliffe’s story has changed over the years, with at least two or three books to her credit that included none of the salacious details (e.g., John’s responsibility for Stu’s death, their affair, etc.) subsequently reported in her most recent publication. And in at least one interview, she seems to have a massive chip on her shoulder (understandably so) about both her brother’s contribution being relegated to the shadows and being seen as shattering myths, “walking back” damn near everything reported as fact in her book.
Everybody’s got an angle. Even the family. It’s important to remember that.
@Elizabeth- I don’t have a problem at all with Pauline’s contention that Stu was kicked in the head. Where she crosses the line for me is accusing John of being the culprit when she has no proof of that whatsoever.
Coincidentally I stumbled across this quote from Klaus Voorman on tumblr about John’s reaction to Stu death:
“Tragically, Stuart Sutcliffe had just died the day before they arrived in Hamburg. It was a difficult time for everyone, especially for John, who wouldn’t allow anyone near him. He’d laugh hysterically if anyone tried to approach over Stuart’s passing. He became aggressive, unpredictable, and even more sarcastic than usual. He was so unspeakably sad and lost without him. He just refused to accept what had happened.”
So I stumbled on to a post online about exchanges that were left out of Get Back and found this exchange. Paul’s telling an amusing story about being pulled over for a traffic violation of some sort and how they constable looked into his taxes and found they weren’t up to date. To which John asks if they are done by the office (presumably Apple) and Paul says no. It also made me remember a story Paul told about a photo from the Abbey road cover that he says shows him explaining to John that he had to do his taxes.
And it made me question why didn’t the Beatles have someone doing their taxes? For the biggest band in the world at the time does anyone else think they were a shoddy operation? I don’t know if it’s just the Brian effect and he was all over this when he was alive , but seriously you would think the Beatles would have at the very least an in house accountant.
Maybe it’s just a sign of the times and I’m too use to modern celebrity but where were their security guards, business managers, accountants etc I mean I don’t even think they had personal assistants outside of Mal who seemed like he was everyones gopher. It’s just crazy to me. Like at the very least they should have had someone doing their taxes.
I found this on tumblr (amoralto) and couldn’t figure out how to copy the link but there’s audio for the discussion there as well as other audio
PAUL: I had a terrible scene the other day on the motorway with a copper. ‘Cause they stopped me, and I – I don’t like it, getting stopped by police. I always get – I get obnoxious with them, you know. [Yoko laughs] ‘Cause I’ll just sort of check around to see if I’m in the right, and once I know I am, and they’ve stopped me, I get very… But they just stopped me because I was hogging the outside lane, and you’re not supposed to do that. So he said, “You did, you know.” You’re going seventy. You’ve got to stay out there, but you’re not supposed to get back in. So he stopped me, and then it really got sort of nasty after a bit. ‘Cause Linda just had her hand round the back of my head, and then he said, “You can’t possibly be in – in control!”
“You see how that young lady was fondling the back of your neck…” [uproarious laughter] And I said, “Oh, what’s up with you, then? Don’t you get it?” [laughter] You know, and it got really like that. “Oh! You can’t book me for that, Constable!” You know, it got really sort of… “Oh, can’t I!” [laughter] And of course, my tax. [laughs] They got me. My tax wasn’t up to date and all.
john: Don’t they just do it at the office for us
JOHN: Oh. I probably haven’t had one done since I started, then. [laughter]
He’s talking about the tax disc on his car, not his income tax. Of course that was done by an accountant – a team of accountants obviously.
The policeman who pulled him over wouldn’t have had a clue about his income tax, but the first thing he would have done was check the tax disc on his windscreen to see if it was in date. They had to be renewed each year.
The Beatles looked like they were working on a low budget with the kind of equipment they had and guitars lying around and even falling on the floor without any of them even batting an eye. I guess they didn’t have guitar stands back then. It’s part of their charm. The biggest band in the world operates like a garage band. The catering wasn’t anything to write home about either.
This reminds me of how George said they couldn’t get speakers or amps sent to them for free, which also was a little shocking to my modern celebrity sensibilities where they get all their shit for free lol. Like they are the Beatles, the biggest in the world, you’d think they would have every equipment company clamouring to give them free equipment. But maybe celebrity endorsement was an unusual concept back then, I don’t know.
Come on! Cauliflower with cheese sauce? I’d gobble that up!
I admit to knowing dismally little about JPG&R’s diet, except that Ringo only ever ate baked beans and that John and Yoko were driving everyone around the bend with their macrobiotic fancies around 1968/69.
But were they as “wobbly” in this regard as in their heroin use?
When exactly did Paul stop eating meat?
Just how sacred were George’s digestive biscuits, and should Yoko have been aware of this?
Oh yeah, we mere mortals wouldn’t turn away cauliflower with cheese sauce, toast with marmalade and those screwdriver thingies they were drinking. I imagine the spreads they have now for bands that take a whole year to make an album is a little more luxurious than that. Even though these simple and familiar foods made the Beatles happy, it kind of made me sad. They deserved only the best.
Actually, around this period, John and Yoko were daily spending exorbitant amounts of money on champagne and caviar, delivered to their Apple office, and left half eaten to rot.
That sounds about right… After all, consistency is for small-minded non-artists or whatever.
I’m also super sad this exchange wasn’t included (maybe there was no video footage?)- this exchange happens right after John and Yoko’s interview for the Canadian program at Twickenham-
PAUL: Okay, John. Right up the chains, to the top.
JOHN: Alright, Paul!
PAUL: Come on, son, you can do it, son, I know you can do this, lad. [John attempts to climb]
PAUL: My money’s on him. [John presumably falls] See! [general sounds of sympathy and laughter]
YOKO: [sweet] You’re not eighteen, you know
JOHN: No, no. [high-pitched voice] It’s alright. Don’t worry about a thing, Yoko
YOKO: He’s not that young anymore, you see. [laughs]
JOHN: No, I’m not eighteen anymore. I couldn’t do it at bloody twelve, never mind… [Michael presumably helps out; to Michael] You’re so kind.
JOHN: [pause; formal voice] Now, we were going to discuss, this afternoon, what religion meant to a pop star. And the pop star we’ve chosen is Ringo McCartney. Tell me, McCartney, does religion mean much to you in this present day, with all the trends and the swinging miniskirts that are about? [Yoko laughs]
PAUL: F- all! F- all
JOHN: Well, I can see that’s he’s been disillusioned by the church in general in his remark of “F- all.”
PAUL: Yeah well I went to, uh, Brighton with the Maharishi. F- all it meant to me!
JOHN: Was it an important step to you?
PAUL: Nothing, nothing. He didn’t groove me.
JOHN: He didn’t groove
JOHN: He didn’t smoke pot, by any chance?
JOHN: What about the Reverend Nipples?
PAUL: Not a chance
JOHN: Not a chance. [pause] Well, do you like “X”[-rated] films?
PAUL: Yeah. Yeah. Lulu, Barry Ryan, and “X” films. But Maharishi – no.
JOHN: That was a pretty concisive opinion of the youth of today. Now we’re going on to a rather different group, uh, generation gap, and that’s Tumble Starker! Who’s sitting here. Now, what do you think about mock-Tudor shithouses in Weybridge and places like that? [Yoko laughs]
RINGO: [posh voice] Well, I don’t mind them being in Weybridge. It’s just when they try and put them in London, I think they get in the way of all the traffic.
JOHN: Yes, you’re so right. As you said yesterday, “Neither your arse nor your elbow.”
RINGO: [sage-like] I said that
JOHN: I couldn’t – I’d never forget it. Well that’s all for this evening. [hums broadcast theme tune] Hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm…
From the same tumblr
you said:I’m also super sad this exchange wasn’t included (maybe there was no video footage?)- this exchange happens right after John and Yoko’s interview for the Canadian program at Twickenham-
but it is in the film! watch it again.
also, the tax Paul is referring to, I believe, is his automobile tax/registration/etc–NOT his income tax! they DID have accountants handling that (witness the creation of Apple/etc)
Does anyone else feel that it may be time to admit that we may have reached an insurmountable impasse as far as the discussion of the private fondnesses and enmities between the various Beatles and their „satellite humans“ is concerned, and that shifting the focus of the discussion somewhat might be in order?
Money (the desire for more of it) likely played at least a big a part as a motivating factor during all chapters of their story as their multifaceted and often incomprehensible feelings for each other did, but this is not always taken into account to the necessary extent, especially when the split is concerned.
I’ve thought for a while now that it was ultimately money that broke up the group, a notion rendered even sadder by the fact that they all did eventually end up richer than the Pope. Not necessarily content, but swimming in dough and sheltered from the rest of the world with minions at their beck and call (all sworn to secrecy of course).
No Beatle has ever, to my knowledge, made any deliberate attempts at divesting himself of large parts of his fortune in order to lighten the load that wealth inevitably brings. (I recall Michael G pointing out very vividly a while back how doing just that might finally have given John’s life the purpose he’d been searching for.) All Beatles have always clung to their riches and striven to increase them, often beyond reason. (Who actually NEEDS a billion dollars?)
Significantly, the Beatles made and did many marvellous, lovable, lasting things IN SPITE OF money, but they ended because neither could face going back to a less than heightened existence. It would be just a tad myopic, I think, to forget about this completely. Cheers!
Excellent point, Velvet Hand. Money — and the fear of losing it — certainly did play a big role in the breakup. Money was how Allen Klein got his foot in the door, for instance. He promised the band more money, among other things, and while it’s true that the Beatles hadn’t always gotten the best end of the deal in business matters, they (or at least all of them but McCartney) woefully underestimated just how unscrupulous Klein was.
Thank you Nancy.
A few more thoughts, if you permit…
Money was what John probably had in mind when he thought “we’ve fuckin’ had it” after Brian died. Mr. Epstein hadn’t done much to guide the band’s public activities for at least a year by that time, so why so scared? Because although Brian was certainly no born finance manager, the group themselves had absolutely zero clue about and less interest in having to deal with money matters but still had all sorts of costly habits and hobbies to support.
Money was what prompted the Beatles to keep writing and recording songs at a furious, soul-crushing pace after Sgt. Pepper, not primarily their tireless creative drive. They had just signed a new, improved contract with EMI and wanted to fulfill its conditions quickly in order to be able to negotiate for even better ones ASAP (lifestyle maintenance!) – hence the double album, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, Twickenham in cold, cold January although the aforementioned 3 LP records had only just come out, the speedy transition to yet another album project that resulted in another 20 released compositions, and plans for more recordings right up to the end.
Money with its manifold tentacles seems to have deepened the rift between John and Paul (mixed metaphor alert!) to a greater extent than Yoko, Linda, romantic confusion between gentlemen, heroin, or “musical differences” ever could. Most of the above became relevant or to a head in 1968, but in 1969, the Klein/Eastman debacle played out, Apple (a project dreamt up as a way of investing, and thereby somehow keeping and multiplying, Beatlemoney) started to go belly-up for real, and the Beatles additionally lost or failed to gain control of Nems and Northern Songs.
Money and, as you say, the fear of losing it made John hire Phil Spector to “make something out of” Get Back/Let It Be that could be played on the radio and increased the commerciality of the contract-fulfilling tie-in movie. Problem was of course that Paul had a hissy fit over the whole business and the split became public as a result.
Granted, this isn’t the most uplifting or riveting topic. Alternatively I could offer an extended rumination on Paul as the “hot” Beatle.
Discussion of the others as “hot” Beatles would probably be more interesting. Money is the cause of divorce, what, 98% of the time? That said, I’m not sure that when John stated “we’ve had it” after Brian died, he was talking about their business affairs. Because Brian was the reason their business affairs weren’t up to snuff. And they seemed directionless in the Get Back film not because of money problems, but because they needed a Daddy figure (as Paul put it) to guide them or just give them moral support in their entertainment endeavors.
I really like money as a key to the Beatles topic, because it leaves traces in documents and offers hard fact in a way that the interpersonal angle does not. And frankly, if I ever read another comment globalizing Paul’s relationship with George off of a bunch of edited footage of one three week period in their 50 year friendship, I will scream.
The best, most thorough take on all this is of course the book You Never Give Me Your Money; I believe The Longest Cocktail Party is probably also good by virtue of being so close to the events.
I don’t think The Beatles were being driven by financial stress after August 1967 because none of them have ever said, or even intimated that “x album was made because we needed the money.” None of them showed any outward signs of financial strain, such as selling assets to raise cash, even John during his divorce from Cyn.
The closest anybody ever came was John’s “we’ll be broke in six months,” which was IIRC his interpretation of the outside accountant’s report on Apple. John was famously unconcerned/unwilling/unable to function effectively in re: business dealings — many, many artists are, for lots of reasons, and this is no slight against him. A John Lennon who could read a balance sheet would not have been the John Lennon we all love. But knowing this means we should take the characterizations of this particular man, in this particular issue, somewhat with a grain of salt.
In fact, it’s rather interesting how John and Paul have admitted that money was a motivator during the early years — “let’s go write a swimming pool” — and how, beginning with Pepper, that was conspicuously absent. Some of that is the change in fashion — rock and roll was commercial, whereas “rock” was art.
As someone just noted, Apple began life as a way to invest Beatle earnings; not necessarily to make money, but to shelter it from the UK’s high tax rates. Similarly something like buying a Greek island might’ve had a similar effect, I don’t know. I do know that lots of rock stars were waking up to these strategies, and they would continue to tinker with them into the 70s. I believe both the Stones and Zep were tax exiles in the 70s; had the Beatles continued, they might well have been in the same boat.
Anyway, if you guys want to read “You Never Give Me Your Money” or “The Longest Cocktail Party” and comment, I’ll start an open thread. Let me know.
I would love a thread on You Never Give Me Your Money, Michael! I would love to see what others thought of that book.
Lemme figure out how to present that, but yes I’ll do that.
As would I.
Apple to the Core is another good one.
Good but, naturally, not uplifting.
Could you summarize for us, so I can post it?
I’ll try to do that tomorrow.
I believe that book is where this infamous quote comes from: “With Yoko present, Paul McCartney’s reign as Lennon’s princess was doomed.”
Many changes had happened for John and Paul between May of 1968 and January of 1969.
The extreme, sudden animosity between John and Paul began in May of 1968 after the New York City Apple business trip (or even India?). Then the making of the White Album with John shoving Yoko and drug use into Paul’s face to agitate him (it is worth reading “Here, There, and Everywhere” to know how bad making the White Album was). John knew what he was doing because Paul did go crazy.
By January of 1969, Paul was in a better place with Linda and a baby on the way. I think John knew Paul was doing well without him (whatever their relationship had previously been sexual or not) and felt extreme resentment and jealousy.
“Get Back” is interesting in that it shows the time period where Paul is trying to maintain John’s friendship and keep The Beatles together. Paul is willing to move past whatever happened between him and John, get along with Yoko, and keep the professional song writing relationship and friendship intact. I was quite impressed with Paul.
John, on the other hand, is still not able to move past his anger and jealousy for Paul. John’s behavior in “Get Back” is really kind of crazy still. He has Yoko speaking for him, all the heroin use, speaking to Paul using their old song lyrics, making MANY passive aggressive comments (poor George), the mic blowjob and lovers comment, and just some generally unprofessional and obnoxious behaviors (some was edited out of the film). There are some lucid moments for John where he’s doing OK, getting along with Paul, and being productive, but then it’s like he remembers his pain again and cannot move past it enough to forgive Paul – for whatever (he thinks) Paul did to him.
The saddest part to me is seeing John abuse himself with drugs, disassociate with reality, and have Yoko there enabling all this behavior. Then you have Paul who is obviously heartbroken (sadness on his face!) to see his best friend going down this terrible path and wanting to do something to give John some meaning and structure in his life – to save him. Because Paul no longer has that role in John’s life and has been replaced by Yoko, there is nothing he can do. It is extra strange because John knows Paul cares for him still and uses his self-abuse to make Paul feel even more upset and guilty. John is in pain, and he still wants to see Paul in pain too.
This dynamic is what really breaks up The Beatles.
John essentially pushes Paul to where he just can’t take the passive aggressive abuse anymore. John manipulates the Klein situation to get 3 Beatles against 1, insults Paul’s new family, makes songwriting/collaboration/professionalism difficult, and essentially messes with Paul’s major stress trigger – MONEY. Paul will not put up someone messing with his financial stability. Also, scratching out “Wedding” and putting “Funeral” on a picture of Paul’s wedding was charming too. After Paul’s marriage, the Abbey Road album (Yoko’s bed!), forcing Paul to sign with Klein, and then making Paul cry by demanding a divorce, John essentially manipulated the situation to where Paul has lost his entire world.
No wonder Paul left, made his own album, and quit The Beatles. He really put up with a lot of shit from John. And Paul quitting The Beatles was the ultimate sign that he had been pushed to the limit and was done with John’s abuse.
I still suspect they had a thing going on between them, and John (possessive and jealous) started to take it more seriously than Paul and was infuriated when Paul didn’t feel the same way. This is the simplest explanation and makes all the emotional and logical pieces of the story fit together.
I always wondered why Paul used funeral music for the intro of Beware My Love. Thought it was strange. Then I remembered the Apple brochure that John had defaced and wondered if Paul was sending John a message (and when I’m gone, I’ll leave my message in my song is actually part of the lyrics).
The improvement to audio is mind-boggling, and the video is nice and crisp, and you know what? That’s exactly the OPPOSITE of what “Let It Be” (or “Get Back”) was SUPPOSED to be about (back to nature), or WAS about (a grainy, somewhat-inaudible affair).
What was essentially a “living-room” (not garage) affair is now, with Peter Jackson’s *admittedly* super-professional hand and eye, a product.
This suits the Internet age, where YouTube and TikTok stars make slick videos with little or no help, and make kazillions of dollars by purveying basically forgettable content. They too are “living room” but with technology that would’ve made the Beatles seem more plastic. The film and audio we HAD before “Get Back” by Peter Jackson was earthy. Jackson’s is plastic soul, man.
John and Paul are singing about themselves and DON’T KNOW IT,” This comment on Two Of Us made me laugh. The song has images of kid high jinx, possibly while John and Paul were hitchhiking in Paris. I have always liked the song but I appreciate it more. There are editing choices that does cloud some truths, but I really enjoyed seeing 4 brothers in spite of their quarrels.
Hello Beatles Fans:
I am late to the blog. I am watching: “GetBack” documentary and loving it.
Does anyone recall a short science fictional article perhaps published in OMNI mag, that had John Lennon kept alive by articifial means (Paul paid the bills) until technology had advanced to the point where he awoke.
A friend had torn it out from the mag and mailed it to me…
Internet searches have failed me….
I DON’T remember that, @Jean, but all of OMNI is viewable at the Internet Archive.
Here is a story of a band named The Beatles. Once upon a time a man named Paul McCartney became a musical savant – a genius! A once in a lifetime talent! He grew and grew and surpassed his band-mates/friends and they were overcome with JEALOUSY over Sir Paul and his overwhelming ability to turn #1 hits out in his sleep. The great Harrison and Lennon were Jealous of bossy, workaholic Paul because they were lazy, on drugs and distracted with their own fame. When it came time to work and make some more hit music that made them lots of money, they didn’t like Paul telling the what to do. So they cried and quit and took more drugs. The sad part of this story is that jealously broke up The Beatles, not drugs, not future wives, not business dealings, not Paul’s bossiness. It was in fact jealousy!
Paul blossomed during Pepper and after Pepper he grew even stronger. The bigger he bloomed the more pressure that put on George, John and Ringo and the jealousy of Paul (that was ALWAYS there since the Hamburg days) grew to a breaking point. John knew Paul was the bigger than the sum of it’s parts and with his personal issues (so many to address) he knew he’d leave Paul before Paul would inevitably leave him. H
Side note: George irritates the shit out of me. He was an immature, spoiled baby who complained about everything except the paychecks. His claims of Paul being overbearing were said out of frustration over his overwhelming jealousy of Paul. Paul was not overbearing, he was overwhelming! BIG DIFFERENCE!