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Folks, just a quick post here but one I think is worth making.
In the comments to my 80th birthday post for John Lennon, we’re talking about John’s bad behavior (specifically his abuse of women–and men, too, though that is mentioned less). It’s come up several times, and indeed the original post mentions that younger fans don’t connect with John because they think he was a hypocritical asshole.
Can’t argue with that; “All You Need Is Love” does sound different coming out of the mouth of a “hitter.” But I don’t think the latter invalidates the former, and it’s that tension that, to me at least, makes Lennon so remarkable. He’s encompasses both things, good and bad, aspiration and reality, and in doing so is actually a better role model in certain ways. Not a saint.
But there’s another point to be made: celebrities today are no better, no less hypocritical, than Lennon. They cannot be, for two reasons.
First: the type of person who wants to become a celebrity is predisposed in certain ways. They are ambitious, which is to say fundamentally dissatisfied with their lot in life, and the world around them. Is this a form of anger? Probably; but even if it’s not exactly anger, it’s close enough. Add to this the process by which one becomes a celebrity—the process of climbing up the greasy pole—which encourages the worse aspects of one’s character at the expense of the better. So: anger, plus immorality.
If you give a person like that huge amounts of money, fame and power, bad things ensue.
This is what Lennon was getting at when he called The Beatles “the biggest bastards on Earth.” All four of them were ambitious—infernally so. Even the ones who seemed “nice”—I’m looking at you, Paul—were ready to knife their own grandmothers to get what they wanted. This is why, as he said so many times, Paul was content to be “second banana”—this position allowed him to be the nice guy, the smoother-over, because the others (Lennon particularly) were doing the dirty work. And public perception of Paul as “the nice guy” was bound to rankle the others, because they knew that, in private, he was as Machiavellian as the rest of them.
A furious ambition gets you in the door, then the real hardening process begins; little by little, you are asked to do things for your career that you know you shouldn’t, or know you wouldn’t under normal circumstances. And once this behavior becomes a habit, it gets easier. So that by the year 1969, The Beatles were all completely compromised, mostly adrift. This is probably why John, George, and Ringo couldn’t see Klein’s bad intent. When you hang out with sleazebags, eventually everybody seems like a sleazebag, including yourself—which is to say, do what you want, what does it matter?
The process of becoming rich and famous has not become cleaner in the last 50 years. Every generation thinks that it has, though—that its heroes are morally better, or at least more honest or transparent, than the ones that came before. This prejudice began in earnest in the 60s, with our very own Beatles, and it has only strengthened today. John Lennon did more than anybody to accelerate this idea, by sharing himself warts and all. (Of course he didn’t, not really; it was still a performance—but it seemed real, and that’s what made it powerful.) In fact, you can make an argument that John Lennon was the first modern celebrity, in that he seemed to give fans access to his innermost secrets.
This, plus social media, is the entirely of our current culture. Celebrity has eaten everything, from showbiz to politics to academia; and the Lennon ethos of celebrity dominates. This is why Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” didn’t faze his supporters; it didn’t repulse them, it was an exciting glimpse into the real life of their chosen guy. And as the PR game has changed from maintaining a squeaky-clean image to one of controlled releases, the relationship of celebrity to right-and-wrong has gotten a lot more subtle. Fans need to realize that.
It’s very important that we begin to rebuild the character of our culture, and judging Lennon harshly for beating up women (and men) is not only appropriate but a good thing. The only caveat I’d add would be: your favorite celebrity is no better. They cannot be. They are a product of a process. Judge the person, surely, but also know the process for what it is. Ask me how I know. 🙂
Excellent Micheal! I especially liked this:
“This, plus social media, is the entirely of our current culture. Celebrity has eaten everything, from showbiz to politics to academia; and the Lennon ethos of celebrity dominates. This is why Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” didn’t faze his supporters; it didn’t repulse them, it was an exciting glimpse into the real life of their chosen guy. “
Donald Trump became President in part, because of “Reality” television. People bought into the illusion that Trump was this successful, wealthy businessman on “ The Apprentice”. The truth is, he was broke and needed money, which is why he did the show.
People are imperfect by nature, so why is it we want our heroes to be perfect? I wonder in the case of Lennon, and The Beatles, that the music they made was so wonderful, and timeless, and they themselves seemed magical, that we can’t help but project perfection onto them?
I like what Nancy commented in the Johns 80th Birthday article:
“Looking for perfect heroes is an adolescent stage, and one we should all grow out of. At his best Lennon proclaimed that clearly.”
I think our current culture is stuck in adolescence.
I don’t think heroes need to be perfect by any means. They can’t be, this whole “cancel” and “call out culture” thing really grates for me. Not saying that everyone deserves a free pass at all but because what’s ignored for some isn’t for others usually based on things that have nothing to do with what they did but just based on whether they are considered more or less likeable.
THAT being said I don’t entirely agree with the premise of “The only caveat I’d add would be: your favorite celebrity is no better. They cannot be. ” Some people, even if they are “celebrities” are not as bad as others.
Not all flaws are created equal and also not everyone will take things as far in the name of ambition. Saying otherwise IMO is not much different than looking for perfect heroes because the result is the same. Now they are “perfect’ because no one is worse than another.
@MG, fair points. I just think, given our culture’s worship of celebrity, and the power of million-dollar PR to shape narrative, it’s wiser to conceive of stardom as a fundamentally corrosive process that dehumanizes everyone involved. Of course not everybody turns into an absolute monster, nor is a monster in the same way. But to single Lennon out as he is singled out, and especially to single him out for having the desire to want better, for himself and the world, isn’t quite fair. Lennon wouldn’t be coming in for criticism if he’d been merely Brian Jones or Jimi Hendrix–both of whom beat women, btw.
What makes Lennon remarkable isn’t that he hit women. I’d guess that lots of rock and rollers of his generation hit women. We know they cheated on them, and engaged in all sorts of shabby behavior towards them. What makes Lennon remarkable is that he 1) admitted this himself in 1970, 2) wanted to do better, and 3) created anthems that still galvanize people’s better nature.
Abuse is always wrong, and it’s right to castigate Lennon for it. The more that abusers are called out, the higher the price for abusing becomes. These are all good things. But my point is that we as fans must realize that power corrupts, and there’s no greater power in this society than Lennon-level stardom. If we think certain celebrities have gone through the meat-grinder without suffering a mark, based on our limited second-hand knowledge of them, or what their Instagram feed shows, I think that’s unwise. Possible, but unlikely.
Michael, this aspect of fame is important and something we should all be aware of. However, I’m not so sure Paul was able to be the nice guy because the others were doing the dirty work. For example, it was Paul who admonished the press in a 1966 press conference, telling them the Beatles answers weren’t nice because the questions they were being asked weren’t nice. What kinds of dirty work are you – and Paul? – thinking of? (That question sounds questionable ‘0)
@Laura, the kind of “dirty work” I’m talking about is the sharp-elbowed stuff showbiz is full of. Everything from getting more money than the next guy, to getting the nicer dressing room, to telling someone to “eff off,” to fudging the age of the girls outside the dressing room, to being able to smoke dope without being busted, to…
Being a star is being able to do all those things without consequence, and the Beatles were the biggest stars of them all. Paul’s role within the group was often to be the ambassador, the smoother-over. And when the press crowded Paul even a little–as with LSD in 1967–he was shocked and hurt, because he’d cultivated a nice relationship with them. And remember: when Beatles got busted, they busted the mean Beatles, John and George, not the nice ones Paul and Ringo.
@Michael, Brian, Neil and Mal did plenty of the Beatles dirty work, I just can’t think of any examples of John (or George) doing dirty work that gave them a leg up. George lobbying for Ringo was huge, but as hard as it was on Pete, I can’t see it as dirty work because… Ringo! And they ALL let Brian fire Pete. If anything, John’s sharp elbows caused them problems – although his edge certainly contributed to their mystique. Who got busted may indicate which band members were meaner, but I think it’s flawed logic to flip that around and say their being meaner gave the band a leg up. I hope that makes sense. We can agree to disagree – it’s not a big deal and I’m always glad to read your posts!
@Laura, I’m happy to disagree, and I’m glad you like my posts, but I think you might be misunderstanding what I’m saying, so I’m going to try to take one more run at it. 🙂
I can’t get into details, but my wife used to work for some very popular TV shows. Ones you know, ones you watched. Ones that got a LOT of praise. And the people involved generally deserved the praise. But it was a very strange experience living through the day-to-day story of each episode getting made–the fights, the pettiness, the sexism, the backstabbing, the haggling with the network–and then reading the glowing stories in the press. It taught me a lot about what is real, and what is not in showbiz in general and Hollywood in particular. I can’t go into details because it would make it impossible for my wife to get hired again–and that is ALSO something we as audience members should realize. People MUST keep their mouths shut. So they do. In the case of the TV shows, the difference wasn’t that much; the people involved were and are generally as smart, funny, talented and innovative as they’ve been portrayed. But the image was not the reality.
So, do you see now? Big cultural products, things where geniuses are surrounded by a network of helpers each with their own agenda, and then a vast commercial infrastructure–huge companies with billions of dollars at stake–what we can see from the outside is what we are allowed to see. It IS NOT reality. The images that we are given ARE NOT accurate. At best they are partial, at worst totally fraudulent.
What I saw in Hollywood is exactly what I saw in publishing, but the scale is so much bigger and more Beatle-like in Hollywood, I thought that would be a better example.
So: going through the Beatles story looking for times we know John or Paul or George or Ringo were an asshole, or corrupt, or arrogant or whatever — that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is developing a more sophisticated relationship between yourself as a member of an audience being marketed to/enjoying a cultural product, and the makers of that product.
With something like The Beatles, it’s fruitless to look for evidence of this type of thing; it’s like trying to separate the beef and the pork from a hot dog. Lennon gave us a clear indication with his “biggest bastards” comment; people like Derek Taylor and Peter Brown have pointed to the same thing, and probably Mal too, if his manuscript hadn’t been lost/stolen. People like Neil are the dog that didn’t bark–he didn’t talk, but he never stopped working for the Beatles.
” A poached egg in the Underground on the Bakerloo line between Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross? Yes, Paul. A sock full of elephant’s dung on Otterspool Promenade? Give me ten minutes, Ringo. Two Turkish dwarves dancing the Charleston on the sideboard? Male or female, John? Pubic hair from Sonny Liston? It’s early closing, George (gulp), but give me until noon tomorrow.”
That’s the most benign version of what I’m talking about; the demands of an imperious four bosses who must be obeyed. But it’s not just that, either. It cannot be.
Anyway, I say all this so you know what I’m trying to say, even though I’m not convincing. I do think it’s important, especially in this era of media omnipresence and seeming intimacy with celebrities, that we as audience “don’t believe the hype.” Not in a mean way, or assuming that everybody’s an asshole–but that we don’t know them, can’t know them, and shouldn’t assume that they’re the nice lovable ladies and gents they are portrayed as–not only because that gives them yet more power, but also because that image is a straitjacket which drives a certain kind of person (John, George) into misery, even as others (Paul, Ringo) can manage it.
Laura, I understand where Michael is coming from regarding the extremist aspects of celebrity life but I’m with you here. As far as the dirty work went, it was the job of Brian Epstein to dismiss Pete Best, for example. He was their manager and that was what he was paid for. In this respect it is not so different from our non-celebrity lives. If we are unhappy with a colleague in our workplace because he/she is not pulling their weight, has no commitment to the culture, is critical and derogatory, then it is our managers to who we turn to address the matter. We don’t take it into our own hands beyond initially reasoning with that person. Perhaps John, Paul and George did attempt to reason with Pete – improve your drumming, change your hairstyle? This goes on all the time, it always has, but because we are not celebrities it means nothing and even if it did, who would care? We are not interesting enough simply because we are mere mortals.
For John, George and Ringo to being rankled by Paul’s nice guy image then they had no right to be. He may have been as much as a bastard as the others but they also hid behind Paul’s PR – they didn’t have to promote themselves, Paul did it for them. Paul was so angry in the early 70s; he stopped being the nice guy and then savaged for it. He was perceived to be the polite nice one (which he genuinely is), but when he wasn’t people reacted because what they saw was the celebrity not the human being. Nice guy celebrities are no different from nice guy everyday blokes – if they feel grumpy in the slightest, have an off day, have an absolute shit day and let it be known, then they are hammered – cue guilt and remorse. Perhaps because we know where we stand with people who parade their dirt is why they are lauded for their honesty and character. Unfair, but still.
I remember an interview with Larry Kane. He talked about the Beatles going over to chat with their opening acts to put them at ease, and how nice they were. And my response was “Awww.”
And then a few years later I saw an interview with Jackie DeShannon, and when asked about what it was like touring with the Beatles, she mentioned (and this was in passing) that opening acts weren’t allowed to approach the Beatles or initiate conversation with them.
That’s a small thing compared to wife beating, but it’s an example of the sharp elbowed stuff that Michael mentions above. And I have no doubt they could be bastards.
John made a big thing about the Bastard Beatles in 1970s interviews. He wanted to tear down the myth, and okay, his honesty was admirable. I wonder if he was also motivated by a desire to make his old group seem “cooler” than they were. I know this sounds odd, but here’s my theory:
By the snobby ’70s, acts like Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Who, Hendrix, Clapton and other hard rocking “serious” performers were considered the cool kids. I remember an older boomer, a Vietnam vet, telling me “The Beatles were cute, but they were no Rolling Stones.”
So Lennon was busy in interviews talking about the Beatles crawling out of brothels, and how “I Call Your Name” was them doing Ska, and “I Feel Fine” was the first record with feedback, and “Ticket To Ride” had the heaviest drums of any record out there, and the Beatles were the biggest, baddest bastards to walk the earth, etc.
I think he wanted the world to know that his old group was just as “heavy” as any of the tough hard rock performers, the ones with ten minute guitar or drum solos and twenty minute album tracks. And if the Beatles looked soft to the cool kids in the 1970s, it was because Brian put them in suits or something.
That being a bastard made one “cooler” in the eyes of Rock (capital “R”) fans says a lot about the culture of 1970s Rock.
I think there’s a lot of truth to that, Sam. One of the things I find the most painful about late period Lennon is how much he cares about his reputation in this way precisely… As if he can’t tell what he’s done. As if the greatness of the Beatles depends on his asserting that they were just as tough as the Rolling Stones, those fake tough guys.
And what’s even odder to me is that John’s asserting all this while putting out records like Sometime in NYC and Mind Games. If you want to prove you’re as good as the Stones, John, why not hire a real band and really focus on your writing? Or better yet, get your old band together?
I avoided Sometime in NYC for years because it was trashed so hard and for so long. Maybe it was because my expectations couldn’t have been lower as a result, but listening to it for the first time was a pleasant surprise for me. It really isn’t as bad as people would have you believe. But to each their own, I guess. It rocks more than Mind Games (which grew on me after repeated listens, and the 2002 re-mix rescues that album). John’s vocals on STINYC are in top form. I even like Yoko’s singing on Sisters O Sisters. It’s a fun track! Mind Games is Lennon at his most mellow, and I have a soft spot for it because of that. He was just making music for the sake of making music. The production was lackluster on a lot of his stuff, but the musicians and his writing were fine IMO. If we’re honest, both John and Paul had a handful of quality tracks on each solo album that together would have made a great Beatle album, but the rest was filler. Of course none of the Beatles alone were as good as the Stones. They surpassed them as a band, but only just.
BTW, I agree with Alejandra downthread. Paul also changed drastically post-68. I don’t know if it’s the endless weed or just domesticity that fried his brain. He seemed to be on autopilot. No one talks as much about his state of mind. I remember seeing a clip of him from the mid- to late 70s where he was asked what question he dreaded the most. He said he hated being asked if he was happy, because he’d say that he was while knowing he was “lying through his teeth.” I found that surprising, but then again it’s not because he loved being a Beatle more than the others.
I think Lennon was in a very peculiar bind: he wanted to be great, but didn’t want to be seen to try. So if you write a song with Elephant’s Memory, you’re great; but if it doesn’t do well, you weren’t really trying.
Sam, I think you’re right on target with that assessment. This “tough” attitude in 1970s rock also helps explain the vitriol directed at Paul for including his wife in Wings and taking his kids on tour. Deeply, deeply uncool in the rock scene of the time. It also helps explain many rock fans’ hatred of disco, which was perceived as non-macho (associated with the gay scene and women, nonwhite, too “soft”). A lot of defensiveness and bluster.
“You can make an argument that John Lennon was the first modern celebrity”–
In a slightly different register, I think Greil Marcus(? – not gonna look for it) said something like this at the time (contemporaneous with the bed-in stuff), to the effect of Lennon turning himself into a sort of media artist–that the peace campaign was Lennon figuring out how to consciously intervene in his own celebrity, as a mode of performance. (All but predicting the rise of Madonna without knowing it.)
Arguably that was part of Beatle practice too, in a more inchoate way: from the time of Help, if not earlier, they proved that they were at least very conscious of the material conditions of their fame and cultural reach and very interested in how those conditions inflected the band’s aesthetic project (and the band as an aesthetic project).
That’s really interesting, @Michael. I’m going through a Prince phase, and I think he perhaps did it best of all. (Though, given how he died, maybe not.)
Everyone is at least a little bored and lonely, including fans. Celebrities make life less lonely; celebrities who you think you know more so. Celebrities can also be (as Lennon noted) stand-ins for absent fathers, absent mothers, absent friends. They can be reference points for teenagers’ developing senses of self, and touchstones for older people who never thought they would get old. The phenomenon Michael describes is so natural, so inevitable. And it is also so corrosive to our ability as a society to self-governing, as social media further destroys the perceived barriers of fame and makes celebrities seem even more knowable, more just-out-of-reach. (Witness the millions of voters who support Trump because they believe he’s just like them.) Being unable to distinguish image from reality, projected wants from actual fact, me from you, ordinary life decisions from famous people life decisions is crucial, and it seems to be eroding.
Besides the obvious abuse/sex/bastards stuff, I see this among Beatles fans with drugs. People assume that the Beatles did drugs the way they did drugs in college. Maybe Paul or George was like you, the fan, and John was that guy in your dorm who did EVERYthing, and Ringo was always fun to party with but he drank too much. But the Beatles’ fame and success meant that their relationship to drugs was not like this at all. They used speed to keep their human bodies doing inhuman things for 6 years — and then to stay alert through marathon recording sessions for the next 3. For years, they probably used speed every day, to keep going and then because their bodies couldn’t function normally anymore. This probably also meant they used depressants every day, to counteract the speed. That does things to your brain, especially amplified by fame. I don’t know what it would feel like to have your brain always processing a chemical like that, or dealing with it’s aftermath. I bet it feels different than having some coffee, right?
Later, John Lennon did LSD, them heroin, every day. He was still also taking pills—he’d wake up and grab an indiscriminate handful of them out of a jar on his nightstand. That changes the way you think and act too. Paul smoked pot every day. Every day. Not when he was 19, like maybe you did, Fan, but 30. 40. 50. When you has kids and worked at a marketing firm. George did coke every day. Those things change the way you think and act; over time, they change your brain’s wiring and functioning in ways that aren’t truly undone. These behaviors are possible because of the phalanx of enablers and powerful people that surround stars. They explain much (far from all) of the behavior we ordinary people do not understand, behavior that passes unquestioned and uncommented in histories is the group.
Great comment, but can you explain the last sentence?
I loved this: “People assume that the Beatles did drugs the way they did drugs in college.” This is 1000% right.
Plus there’s another aspect: the Beatles were on the cutting edge of useage for a lot of these drugs. Even pot and cocaine, which had been used before, hadn’t been used widely. Nobody in the Beatles’ set could really tell them, “Listen, you smoke grass for twenty years, you stop being able to finish anything.” I think Paul would’ve been a lot less into it in 1965, if he’d known that future-Paul would be diminished by his pot use.
Cocaine’s an even more obvious example. Among people like George in the mid-70s, during George’s period of heaviest use, it was widely considered non-addictive. Cocaine. Non-addictive. The Boomers combined both a ravenous desire for drugs, with a totally ahistorical ignorance of them. There’s an academic paper in why–the “better living through chemistry” 40s and 50s? The general safety of medical procedures? Youth?
But the story gets worse: most of the chemicals the Beatles were ingesting were new, and/or so lightly used that nobody could tell them what a safe dose was, what long-term use would do, how you should use it and not use it. What’s a safe dose of STP? How much can you take, for how long, before you start to suffer effects? Which types of people should take it, and which shouldn’t?
So not only did they not use drugs like people I knew in college in the early 90s, they were using them thirty years earlier than that, before a lot of hard-won knowledge had been gained.
@Michael, my last sentence was rendered cryptic by my phone changing “of the group” to “is the group.” But in the spirit of the group, I’ll lean into the accident and say that a lot of the dynamics that get reported on as being unknowable, mystical turns of fate are more easily explained by fame and drugs doing their things on the minds of young, sensitive people. Maybe everyone had trouble with Paul after 1966 because cocaine amplified his keenness and perfectionism. Maybe things fell apart really quickly because Yoko suggested that heroin was a way to celebrate yourself as an artist, and that turned out not to be true. Those things are integral to the group’s history, but biographers and most fans treat the drugs as gossip-trivia, and the changes in band dynamics as something to be reported on without asking “why,” without the two ever meeting. If we culturally can’t do this work with a group that’s been broken up for fifty years, two of whom are dead, because people won’t pay to hear about it, we’re fucked as a society. And I think people would pay to hear about it: interest in the Beatles transcends Boomers, and as much as later generations love them, I don’t think they’re as sacred. And each later generation generally seems to be more understanding of mental health and addiction, such that talking about these things wouldn’t “ruin” the story for them. Maybe that’s too optimistic.
A lot of responsibility for the way we think about musicians and addictions also belongs to music journalists, who talk about “habits” as though John Lennon got distracted by building model airplanes or running 5ks, and who report Hendrix’s drug intake as though they’re reciting how many home runs he hit. And this actually ties back to what I said in the Lennon thread: part of the reason John seems unhappy and hollowed out and less creative after 1968 is that he spent the rest of his life on, or trying to stay off, heroin. It seems like he was truly free of it just before someone decided he needed to be shot.
Excellent comment Michael B! Maybe we as Beatle fans are guilty of looking for “mystical turns of fate” as opposed to Occams Razor :
the simplest answer tends to be the right one.
Maybe because everyone was shocked by the Beatles split, and were looking for “clues” as to why, the drug use of the band was not really thought of as a factor. Because the Beatles weren’t seen to be “hard core” like some of their peers who had died (Hendrix, Keith Moon, Brian Jones) had been.
I think this is all correct, @Michael. I never know what to say to someone who considers themselves a fan of that period of music–much less a writer/biographer of it–who doesn’t see the way that chemicals twisted and darkened the story of every band. YES, you wouldn’t have had Pepper without acid, but that’s done in five trips, not five years.
Just as they can’t bring themselves to say Mark David Chapman’s name, Beatles fans can’t really bear the fact that this amazing coincidence, this unearned, unlooked-for miracle was wrecked by drugs. Just as it turns out that you can’t magically unBeatle yourself and walk around NYC without bodyguards, you can’t use heavy drugs and not fuck up the group dynamics of your band. And the fact that the Beatles themselves — STILL! — dismiss it all as “growing up and growing apart” is clear proof that addiction is a huge part of the story. It was an internal chemical process, so it’s unknowable, but it’s time to acknowledge it as a primary driver.
Stone cold sober, would they likely have drifted into solo careers? Sure. But it’s difficult to deny that drugs first made the divorce inevitable, and then made it much more acrimonious.
“I think Paul would’ve been a lot less into it in 1965, if he’d known that future-Paul would be diminished by his pot use.”
Why do you think that, Michael? You are very thoughtful about the Beatles vis-à-vis drugs & addiction, so I’d love your thoughts. Do you think Paul was less susceptible to addiction than the others? Would that be purely from body chemistry, or would it have something to do with his psychological position as the “hero/caretaker”? Or could it be that pot happened to be the substance that triggered a comparable addictive response from him (he is outrageously lucky that his body’s natural response to heroin was “AW HELL NO”)? Remembering his truly passionate love song to pot, lol.
Regarding dysfunctional family roles, there is an excellent “The Beatles and Dysfunctional Families” post from excellent Tumblr blogger thecoleopterawithana. It compiles some excerpts from the Salewicz bio that I think you’d find interesting:
“Yet the education that Jim McCartney offered his sons was not always conventional; they couldn’t help but notice his inability to pass a slot machine without putting a coin in it, or the way he would give quadruple measures of undiluted alcohol to guests. Later, when the boys were in their teens, he would show them how to get away with drinking underage in pubs, slipping them the cash to buy rounds of drinks.”
And a quote from Paul about buying Jim a racehorse: “My father likes a flutter [bet]…He’s one of the world’s greatest armchair punters.”
I wonder if Paul’s money issues are tied up somehow with Jim’s gambling — and perhaps even more importantly with any tension it might have caused in his marriage to Mary. Mary seems to have been extremely hardworking, almost obsessively hygienic/house-proud, hyper-responsible, extremely prudent, upwardly mobile, etc. If Jim’s relative “slackness” in responsibility and judgement (teaching his kids to drink underage…who does that) extended (at least in Mary’s eyes) to monetary irresponsibility, perhaps enhanced by the disparity in bread-winner status between them… well I dunno quite where I’m going with this, but it bears further scrutiny. Paul’s money issues are ridiculously oversimplified and dismissed as simple miserliness when in fact they obviously run far, far deeper and might actually tell us a LOT about him, if we bothered to look closer.
Another thing: I can’t find the source for this (tbh I tried for all of 5 minutes) BUT I know I read somewhere that Paul’s mother Mary ran away from home as a young teenager. (Interestingly the “runaway” theme would pop up in Paul’s work several times.) Of course this fact is also essentially ignored; in my 5 heroic minutes of attempted source-checking I discovered that both Alf and Julia Lennon have their own lengthy, thorough wikipedia entries; not so for any other Beatle-parents, because of course not.
ANYWAY. Does her running away have something to do with alcohol in her home? Not to cast aspersions but coming as she did from an Irish Catholic family in northern England, it’s hard to think otherwise, surely?
@Annie, there’s a lot in here, and even though I got strong acupuncture today and am FULL OF WORDS, I want to restrict myself to answering your initial question. I need to save my vitality for my magazine, which has an issue closing this week.
I think Paul has an addictive personality, as predicted by his father and brother, and his own heavy use of pot. The amount he used it, and for the length of time, and that he used it with a disregard for the consequences, all suggest dependency. But some people, in some situations, can stop using substances without external help. The underlying needs, concepts, ideas, and mechanisms remain, but the substance is no longer present. After the 1980 bust, I think Paul cut ‘way back, because he saw the damage it was doing to his image. And being seen as a nice person is very important to Paul (and why, among other reasons, he needed the relief of pot).
Ringo and alcohol — needed a 12-step group, does that, surely has very different attitudes than the 23-year-old who put a pub in his basement.
Paul and pot — seems to have not needed a 12-step group, just doesn’t smoke (so he says), is less stonery, but still struggling with issues of control, image-maintenance, etc.
I think the Paul of 1965 wanted to be Mozart, and thought he could be Mozart. And if you were to say to him, “This thing that seems benign is, by the time you’re 40, really going to blunt the quality of your art,” I think he would’ve given it up without question. That might not have been the best thing, though. I think Paul — all four Beatles — needed chemical help to survive the Beatles experience. Of all the things that Paul could have picked, alcohol very much included, pot is by far the least harmful.
(I’m speaking as someone whose nervous system can’t really tolerate pot. But pot’s not toxic, easily metabolized, easily titrated, anti-inflammatory, mellows you out, you can’t OD, etc.)
Paul on booze would’ve been, at best, Ringo; Paul on cocaine was nobody you’d want to be in a group with. Rasta-Paul is probably the best we could hope for, but there’s a reason “Give My Regards to Broadstreet” took forever and, when it arrived, sucked.
I’ll answer your other questions tomorrow.
After the 1980 bust, I think Paul cut ‘way back, because he saw the damage it was doing
That’s interesting, because I’ve always wondered why many of his interviews around the release of Broadstreet are some of the best he’s done — he’s sharp but calm, not overly goofy, he’s got a shade more…not IRRITABILITY exactly, but I dunno….he’s not acting as ingratiatingly as he sometimes does which makes him much easier to watch, at least for me. (If anyone cares to look them up on youtube the interviews are with Michael Aspell, Russell Harty, Terry Wogan (2), and Noel Edmonds (2).) Anyway, I’ve always wondered why this might be. Considering the existence of Broadstreet, I never considered LESS weed as a possibility, ha! My thought was that maybe the critical shellacking Broadstreet got just had a sort of sobering effect on him, psychologically. Perhaps in combination with his lingering grief over John’s death, and/or marriage troubles, if those rumors are true. I think maybe his eldest daughter was having serious mental health issues around this time? But by the late 80s he was back to being painfully awkward and goofy, which imo pretty much lasted til Linda’s death.
I think Paul — all four Beatles — needed chemical help to survive the Beatles experience. . . .Rasta-Paul is probably the best we could hope for
I completely agree. It’s sad to think that by trying to “take the edge off” his stressors he perhaps permanently blunted himself in the process, but DAMN, he’s got a LOT of edges to cope with! Not just the pressures of fame, but his own natively prickly psyche and original traumas AND the fact that he is restless to a painful degree. (One might even say hyperactive or manic without danger of hyperbole.) Much ink is spent on Paul’s inexhaustible energy — and rightly so — but there’s got to be a major down-side in there somewhere. My point is: despite being a livewire of unstoppable nervous energy, Paul dearly craves domesticity. He so wants to be a good father, a good husband, and have a stable homelife. Could he have settled enough to accomplish that, without the influence of pot? I’m not sure.
Is this the same Jim McCartney who warned his son about John Lennon, telling him to stay away because he was a bad influence? Takes one to know one, I guess.
About John’s parents having their own lengthy wikipedia entries while the other Beatle parents do not – that doesn’t surprise me at all. People tend to want to scrutinize John more than the others, including on here, and that extends to his family members.
Annie, I’ve become somewhat of a vague expert in Mary McCartney as I find her a fascinating person in the Beatles story. There’s not much to go on, but from what I remember from my research, Mary Mohin McCartney had a very difficult childhood. She was the second eldest child, after her brother Wilf, and the only surviving girl.
When Mary was nine years old, her two year old sister Agnes died (of what illness, we don’t know). Two months later, Mary’s second sister and their mother both died in childbirth (we can guess that is why Mary later devoted herself to midwifery). After that, their father apparently moved them back to Ireland, his home country, to try and make a go of it as a farmer. Older brother Wilf was apparently old enough to go join the military, while 9-10 year old Mary was tasked with making house and raising her toddler brother, Bill, alone in Irish poverty while their father worked. She apparently succeeded in doing that for the next few years, until her father remarried a Liverpool widow named Rose with a couple of kids of her own.
Whatever then went down in the home was apparently intolerable. Bill Mohin (Mary’s little brother) told Bob Spitz that their stepmother was “a witch” and his wife, Dill, added that Mary never set a foot back in the home after running away at 14. Dill said Mary would sometimes arrange to see her father when he did his rounds delivering milk around Liverpool, but that was it as far as contact went. Mary met Jim McCartney through being friends with his sister, Gin, and was supposedly bowled over by how warm and affectionate the McCartneys were. I think it was in one of Mike’s books where he mentions that his mum could never remember being hugged or cuddled as a child, though she was a very physically affectionate mother herself.
Bob Spitz’s book is a very interesting resource as he interviewed Bill Mohin, Mary’s brother, and Dill Mohin, Bill’s wife who became Mary’s close friend. One of the intriguing things no other Beatles author has picked up on is that Dill told Spitz Mary was first diagnosed with cancer in 1948, when Paul would’ve been six years old. Dill said Mary had been feeling poorly and having stomach pains for awhile before Jim convinced to finally be evaluated. Dill said that as Jim had to work, she (Dill) was the one who accompanied Mary to the hospital to have an upper GI series which diagnosed cancer.
As least according to Dill Mohin via Spitz, the cancer went into remission for a time before reappearing as breast cancer around early 1956, and Mary took an easier job as a health visitor because being a midwife was too hard on her health. Contrary to other Beatles’ authors who portrayed Mary’s illness as being short and sudden, Spitz cites Dill and others that Mary was very obviously sick and would need to he helped upstairs, spent most of the day in bed, etc. for quite some time before she went into hospital the last time.
@Rose Decatur; I remember reading this and it may be true, or maybe that is what Spitz was told, but I was always bit wary about this story, because I find it a bit implausible. Is it likely that a cancer that is advanced to such a stage that it causes acute pain and can be diagnosed in 1948 would go into remission for eight years before killing the patient? Especially as there was no mention of an operation or any other treatment, as far as I remember. That is not how these things work out normally – that is my experience with close family members sadly, half a century later, so….. But I am no doctor or nurse, so maybe I am completely wrong about this.
But this made me remember another thing which is hardly ever discussed, but which I find intriguing. If you look at the description of how Mary dealt with the things in her early life ( and later as well ) it is clear to me that while Paul outwardly resembles his dad more, he obviously is much closer in character to his mother. Both share the same determination, stubborness and dedication. And that is why I don´t buy the often repeated trope that if Mary had lived, the Beatles would never have happened ( at least not with Paul as a member). I know his own brother says this, but for one thing does he look at this from a child´s perspective and for another sometimes sacrifices accuracy for a cute story. I don´t think he should be taken literally with this.
Of course, I am certain that indeed she would have tried to steer her eldest son towards an academic career and tried to make sure that the band would remained a hobby, but I think she would have met her equal in terms of determination – they surely would have clashed about this and I am not sure who would have won.
Too bad no one ever bothered to ask Paul for his opinion on the matter.
PS: In fact I just found a quote in Tune In where Mike appears to be much less certain. He just says that “there would have been a hell of a lot more pressure for Paul and me to have respectable jobs…” Unfortunately ( but hardly surprising), Lewisohn is not really interested in the topic and fails to ponder it any further.
Her stomach or intestinal cancer (if that’s what it was) reappeared as breast cancer? Not sure what that means. They are independant, primary cancers that can metastasize but breast cancer originates in the breast.
I agree that it struck me as odd, too, that she would have had a previous form of cancer that went away with little apparent treatment. It’s not impossible, as spontaneous remission can occur. Yet I just don’t see any reason why Dill Mohin would make up such a thing, or mis-remember such a significant event with those details, especially when she claimed to have been with Mary when Mary got the diagnosis (Dill volunteered to take her as Jim had to work).
Interestingly, in Tune In, Lewisohn states that Mary McCartney’s breast cancer had spread to her brain by the time she was hospitalized for the last time. He doesn’t source that statement and no other author has claimed that or elaborated on it.
This is all really good, thank you @Rose!
Rose you beautiful thing! Thanks so much for imparting all this….I know my reply is late but I will be back to discuss it further. I find this info fascinating.
Paul also seems to have changed post 1968 (someting inevitable considering how abrupt the break with Lennon was) although not so suddenly like his partner. Through the seventies his changes are more noticeable, beginning to derive in that somewhat goofy person that we know now, he was losing fluency of thought and sharpness, and seemed to be less inquisitive. Although all this may be attributable to the changes in his life or probably be his mechanism of keeping his true self out of reach to the public (being so sociable I definitely think he’s the most elusive), I wonder how much was due to the use of drugs or substances. To me is hard to believe that the McCartney of 1966 is the same man from 70’s on.
@Alejandra, I think some of those changes are just Paul getting older; becoming a dad and spending more time with your wife and kids than John Lennon and George Harrison will probably do that. Lots of pot doesn’t help.
I agree absolutely with Alejandra and Michelle regarding the changes in Paul post 1968. It was much more than just growing older. Many, many fans noticed his descent (albeit more gradual than John’s) from a thoughtful, intellectually curious young man in the 60s into an oversupported, overprotected, somewhat naive man prone to evasiveness and silliness. It’s a myth that the post-war generations who grew up with the band were not aware of the affect that drugs had on the Beatles. On hearing about John’s death through word of mouth, many people immediately jumped to the conclusion it was a heroin overdose. From the mid-70s and beyond, Paul was constantly mocked as pothead Paul. Drugs, together with fame, changed all of them; it damaged their marriages and relationships, their personalities, and even their good looks. It was heartbreaking.
Well, @Alejandra, pop music (like comedy writing) seems to be a young person’s game. You gain fluidity as you get older, but the brain simply moves more slowly, even without the impact of chemicals. And young people have this great feedback loop of success–>more energy–>better work–>success. By 1978, what could Paul McCartney do that he hadn’t already done ten years earlier?
Lennon from 1963-68; McCartney from 1965-70; Harrison from 1968-73…there’s a rich period, then the vein has been mined. Perhaps?
I agree with that Michael. I think Paul has been incredibly prolific over the span of his career. He’s had hits and misses, but who hasn’t?
Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone a few years back, said the only person he admired at this time was Paul McCartney. The fact that he was still touring, still had incredible energy, and was still sounding good, plus writing songs, amazed Dylan. High praise indeed.
The burden of expectation. I don’t equivocate George’s five-year period of writing with either John or Paul’s. I consider a reign from 1963-1974 to be more appropriate for both Lennon and McCartney, a decade producing an impressive body of work individually and collaboratively. Because of it, both John and Paul had massive expectations placed upon them at the time of the split, particularly Paul by his legal actions in dissolving the Beatles. In contrast, Harrison had nowhere near the same level of expectations 1969/70 and when he came up with the goods people were pleasantly surprised, and rightly so, but erroneously, in my opinion, it led people to believe that George had the better solo career. But even George succumbed – “what now, what do I do next, and how?” Jaded by fame, money and drugs none of them had the youthful creative energy to sustain what they achieved ten years earlier, as Michael pointed out. But I don’t think creative brilliance disappears overnight either. Perhaps free from the numbing effects of prolonged drug use they may have channelled their creative energies along different paths as they aged. It reminds me of the David Frost interview with Paul in 1964 when asked what he would like to do if the Beatles flopped tomorrow. Paul: to write songs for other people. Well, there’s food for thought. Realistically, though, most creative artists have a peak of 10-15 years, not just the Beatles – Dylan, Bowie, the Stones, all of them – with flashes of brilliance here and there, seemingly enough to keep respective fans’ mouths watering for more until they drop.
I’ve read a few really eye-opening “insider views” of the fame industry lately, and I keep being reminded of this thread because it seems so apt. I know @Michael has seen more than your everyday Joe, but it’s interesting how really few fans look that deeply. I know I will be reading things with new eyes, especially when I see comments from fans that “X Beatle would NEVER.” Actually, they very likely might.
One quote I thought apropos was from Laurence Myers’s “Hunky Dory,” where he states that “It is said that there are three phases in a businessman’s life. ‘Dishons’ is the time when you do things that you would rather not, in order to get on; ‘Hons’ is when you want to be regarded as an honourable, ‘his word is his bond’ type; and ‘Honours’ is when you want to be recognised with some glory – be it a knighthood or being enrolled in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. ” (Interesting; makes me wonder who in particular he’s referring to.) The subject was brought up in reference to his taking an outsider’s side against his colleague, and he considered it a “dishons.” Anyway, it does remind me to keep in mind that there were more dirty deals done around the Beatles to get them where they were than merely sacking Pete Best or getting cash under the table for live appearances, and that those things likely continued and continue.
Another anecdote I read may be more apropos to your “Epstein and the Beatles” thread, because that’s where I first heard about the book “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again,” an expose from four actresses and/or high-priced call girls who operated in L.A. in the 80s. George Harrison doesn’t come off particularly well, but his story certainly isn’t as depraved or harmful as some of them (some celebrities I won’t be able to look at the same again, whether the stories were true or not, oops).
Anyway, there’s more than one account of sleeping with an Eagle in this book, because apparently Eagles were into high-priced L.A. hookers. But one of the hookers, Linda, made a salient point that I know you’ve made before, MG, but it was interesting to me coming from a woman and in the particular viewpoint of the “victims” of rock-star excess:
“Rock stars apparently have a hard time satisfying the sexual appetites they acquire when they are on the road. When they are on hiatus from touring or their season in the limelight is over, they still need their fix. They long for the good old days of young groupies throwing keys, phone numbers, and panties onto the stage after a wild performance.”
For Don Henley that apparently translated into a need for multiple girls at once, related in the book by two different women. But I begin to see why Yoko and Linda attempted to keep such tight grips on their men. Or why the guys made it mutual in clinging to their women.
So much degradation and underhandness in the entertainment world, ugh. Thankfully, I’ve also randomly run across two very complimentary anecdotes about Paul McCartney in my readings, not in a hooker sense but in stories from industry dudes who were disinclined to like Paul coming away from a meeting very impressed. I do wonder what stories are lurking out there about Paul.
Aaand still reading Hunky Dory, and OF COURSE he’s best friends with Allen Klein, and he doesn’t seem to fault Klein at all for the deals he made that basically ensure that his company still owns Rolling Stones rights, hah. Apparently he gave the dishons/hons speech at Klein’s funeral. And he’s already described the Eastmans as basically bougie, as opposed to Klein’s and John Lennon’s working-class backgrounds. Oh, this guy. Still, it’s informative stuff.
Yeah, there’s a reason why the music business was considered to be practically slavery. It wasn’t just the mobsters controlling the labels and paying off the disc jockeys; it was all the shady lawyers and accountants who knew each other, did the deals, and made sure the talent came last. That’s where Klein came from, and maybe Myers, too — but even if Myers was as “white shoe” as they come, being friendly with Klein and ilk was necessary for him to thrive in that business. So: “Allen’s a great fellow!” Even though Klein’s own career told a very different story; he left a trail of screwed clients (Sam Cooke, The Stones, The Beatles).
There’s a type of publishing that’s ethically similar—humor and comic books—and the major creators in that line of work ended up broke, with big companies and middlemen owning all the copyrights. I didn’t lose in that way, but I can tell you that a shady agent stole probably $50,000 in royalties from me; and another colluded with a publisher to get me to write a book for free. I don’t write books anymore because the level of behavior is so unethical. I just kept signing big book contracts ($50k plus), losing money and getting poorer.
Rock music eventually got SO big that performers started fighting back—if you have enough money to sue someone like Klein, and outlast him in court, you can prevent his shenanigans (like Paul did). But if Paul had been anybody but Paul McCartney, he might not have been able to match Klein lawyer for lawyer, suit for suit, and Lennon and McCartney would’ve ended up like Siegel and Schuster (the creators of Superman).
These businesses only work for the creator if the creator starts with, or somehow makes, enough money to protect themselves. Stephen King is fine; everybody else, not so much.
The way Myers framed Klein’s early forays into managing rock stars, or negotiating on their behalves, was centered around the rights of the artists– that artists wanted flashy cars and drugs but were only getting pennies on their own creations, and Klein would meet with artists and tell them, basically, I’ll get you a million dollars in renegotiation, and all you have to do on your side is threaten to stop being the cash cow. Because the record labels could take an artist’s money, but they likely couldn’t force them to create, or to create hits. I get more money, you get more money, win-win! Except then managers, or Klein in particular, would set up all the side companies to handle the cash flow and eventually make out like a bandit. Also, I think he purposefully came across as a tough guy asshole and that didn’t work on everyone.
And the comics industry, oh gosh, yes. I worked in a comic store for several years and went to the industry luncheons and whatnot in the mid-90s and I remember the whole independent boom, when Valiant Comics and Image Comics and the like were being formed in response to the Big Two (Marvel and DC) having such a stranglehold of control on creation and distribution, and artists in particular decided they wanted to just create and sell directly and own their creations, rather than losing them to the company copyright. Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee and Erik Larsen and those guys, figuring that their art was selling all those comic books and wanting to own their own characters, imagine that. It was a disaster at first of course, because they no longer had any of the good writers giving them a decent script, or corporate bosses enforcing deadlines and actually printing and distributing the books once they were finished. Sometimes there were months or years between issues. I think distribution issues finally killed some of those companies, or the absolute glut of “very special issues!” created oversaturation?
Sadly, the comics industry seems to have been strangled in the end by the digital age, as well as its core fanbase of dudes of a certain age having expectations that sensibly-dressed women and minorities and LGBT themes won’t be shoved down their throats (that’s me being snarky, sorry — I have intimate exposure to guys who make the “when comics were GOOD” argument, hah). Whatever the case, it’s a real shame that some of those original creators that gave us some of the most iconic characters of the last century were stripped by their particular machine. Huh, I guess it’s like musicians — we just wanna create music and get chicks, vs. we just wanna write and draw cool comics, but when someone starts making big money on what you create, it’s not just so much fun anymore. Now it seems like the big money is in licensing, because it’s certainly not in selling actual books?
(I attended a smallish “insider” comics convention last year, and actually had a comics legend try to entire me over to his table where he was selling retrospectives because “I’m a comics legend, you know?” He was, but I was busy making googly-eyes at Sergio Aragones, whoops. Still, outside of comics, nobody would know this guy’s name because few creators have made it into the public consciousness. It’s really sad.)
@Kristy, that’s fascinating, thank you.
If you’re asking, and you didn’t, I think comics set itself up for strangulation by changing its durable economic model (a cheap, mass-market, low-margin product aimed at an evergreen market: kids who liked to read comics), to a much riskier, boom-or-bust one (adult collectors paying $8.95 for special issues, dreaming of flipping their collections for big bucks). Who knows where comics publishing would be if you had these movies PLUS comics in spinners at drugstores for $1?
In general, I think publishing needs to retract to the individual/family business size, until a truly profitable digital model with a stable, non-proprietary consumption platform is developed.
All I need to know about Klein’s character is what his clients thought of him. The rest is Trumpian snake oil.
@Kristy, I’m just learning of this book–would you like to write a review, centering on any Beatle information?
I would be very surprised if Yoko, Linda, or any other Beatle wife “attempted to keep such tight grips on their men.” I think that’s what everybody told the press, because there’s a lot of pressure for marriages to be conventional, at least in public. Whatever the “deal” was between a Beatle and their wives, I suspect it was either a custom job for both parties, or not permanent (like John, George and Ringo’s first marriages). For example, Olivia’s comment about “just don’t get divorced.”
I mean, think about it: do you want to tell Yoko Ono what to do? 🙂
Along the same lines, what might look like “degradation” to us (at least in the sexual sense), might be different from the inside. Just as people become rock stars for the adventurous unconventional sex, other people choose to become groupies for exactly the same reason. The problem is our society judges the two halves of the equation differently, compensating and forgiving the one side, and judging the other harshly. I know someone who considered becoming a rock star’s girlfriend, and decided against it–and I’m glad she did, simply because she would’ve gotten the short end of that deal.
“@Kristy, I’m just learning of this book–would you like to write a review, centering on any Beatle information? ”
@Michael Gerber, I don’t know that it would be too awfully relevant, as fascinating a book as it was, if only because the only real Beatle encounter named was with George Harrison, and it basically involved a somewhat dehumanizing tryst at an L.A. party where the actress involved, Liza Greer, wasn’t charging, just getting the opportunity to have an encounter with a Beatle.
One point put across again and again by the women in the book was that the more famous a guy is, the the less likely they are are to think they have to pay for it. And that was often the case! And sure, groupies and spouses and even some call girls get into their line of existence by being into some non-mainstream sex stuff or the desire to be with rich and powerful people. I’ve known some of those people, and have certainly been peripherally involved in a musician’s “backstage” sort of scene, as a witness or a friend. Big-time musicians can get it, period. Now if they want a certain number of beautiful women to come to their house, arrange themselves in a particular tableau and pretend to enjoy it, there’s probably going to be payment involved, but I think you’ve made the point before that a certain sexual promiscuity and travel into more and more outrageous stuff sometimes creates a desire for or even addiction to more outrageous sex? The book certainly painted a picture of some oversexed people.
The point the book seemed to also drive home, however, was that certain degradations were often a not-necessarily consensual thing, and that the paid women involved had to become inured to being treated a certain way because of the need for money (for drugs, lifestyle, rep) or because they were emotionally and intellectually manipulated. The women across the board seemed to really get off on the lifestyle and the admiration and the drugs and the clothes and the excitement, and some really kinky stuff they grew to like, but all of them had their limits, which were often crossed without their consent. Also, the highly paid call girls seemed to have a short shelf life and often nothing to show for it once their “best by” date passed, and were continually targeted and arrested, while the Johns paying for them were and are still protected. Look at Heidi Fleiss, who had the big prosecution and media circus– she still hasn’t revealed her black book, I don’t think!
Do you really think there wasn’t a mutual clinging thing going on with JohnandYoko and Paul and Linda? I guess I was thinking of John’s need to have Yoko by his side 24-7, and Paul’s run to the wilds of Scotland and having Linda join the band and bring their kids everywhere on tour — that maybe those arrangements offered some protection from forays back into heedless sexual promiscuity. Do you mean for appearances only? I mean, I’m sure none of them were faithful because of course they weren’t, nuh-uh no way, but I got the idea that they maybe tried as much as they could. Maggie McGivern tells the story of Linda wanting to keep a close eye on Paul when Maggie ran into him years later, and there are always the rumors of Paul keeping his wives in a certain state of rightherenexttome. Or is that all part of the front, too? (Liza Greer noted that she discovered George was married, but only brought it up because she felt married men had a certain demeanor when it came to quickies.)
“I mean, think about it: do you want to tell Yoko Ono what to do?” I have to admit I’m not 100% sure what you’re pointing at — do you mean, that John couldn’t tell her what to do? I mean, obviously he couldn’t. 🙂
“but all of them had their limits, which were often crossed without their consent. Also, the highly paid call girls seemed to have a short shelf life and often nothing to show for it once their “best by” date passed, and were continually targeted and arrested, while the Johns paying for them were and are still protected”
This is the problem I have with groupie culture. NOT that rich and famous people want to have a lot of sex; nor that there are lots of people willing to have sex with rich and famous people; but that it is never an equal transaction. If it were just sex, the transaction would be equal on both, or all, sides — it would be something they would be doing together, and nobody would be more responsible than any other person. But then you bring in patriarchy, and capitalism, and suddenly the celebrity can do anything without consequence because they have the money and the lawyers, and the groupie or call girl/rent boy or civilian is somehow at fault, or “deserves what they get” or “is a golddigger” if they ever tell. But why shouldn’t they tell? It was their experience, too! This isn’t fair and isn’t right and encourages celebrities to become terrible abusive people.
“Do you really think there wasn’t a mutual clinging thing going on with JohnandYoko and Paul and Linda?”
I believe that from May 1968 through 1969 John was absolutely infatuated with Yoko, and totally possessive of her in his abuser-y way. I suspect she began to pull away in 1969, so he married her; and then as a married couple from 1969-72 they slowly but surely realized that both personalities were too big to fit into one relationship. Researchers have found that infatuation’s chemical impact on the brain lasts between 18 months and three years, and that would fit in this timeline.
Paul and Linda strike me as a much, much more stable couple. I don’t perceive Paul’s retreat to Scotland as being about wanting to control Linda as much as wanting to process the Beatles’ break-up, and her nursing him through his depression seems to be normal in every regard. I think Paul and Linda genuinely loved each other, were genuinely attracted to each other, and were not overly enmeshed in each other. They seem to have had a healthy sense of separateness — no “JohnandYoko” for them. Nor do I get the sense that Paul was screwing around compulsively (like George did).
If I had to guess, and I’m just guessing, I think both John and Paul had become accustomed to a lot of sexual variety, and were not accustomed to being told no by anyone for any reason. Yoko strikes me as the type of person to assert her absolute right to do whatever she wants, with whomever she wants, without anyone’s permission; I don’t think a strict conventional monogamous marriage would be for her (but maybe I’m totally wrong). Linda, having moved in the rock world in the mid- and late Sixties, probably played the field a fair amount, and after she and Paul had established a firm bond, had children, and gotten to the “seven year itch” phase, I would be surprised if strict fidelity was a deal-breaker. But, once again, guessing. My instinct is that both couples had hit upon “do what you have to do, just as long as you don’t embarrass me.” Lennon’s dalliance at the party in November 1972 breaks that rule in spades; I doubt it was the sex that bothered Yoko as much as it was the public humiliation. And I can understand why!
And similarly, I can understand Linda’s possessiveness re: Maggie McGivern. Sex in general and sex with an old girlfriend who is a model…two different things.
All this is a prime example of a fan trying to figure out How a Beatle Lives. I have no idea what it’s like to live with that level of experience, or sexual availability. It would probably drive you a little batty.
What was Liza Greer saying about married men and quickies? That they were lousy, all-business?
Did Paul say that he and Linda only spent like 4 days/nights apart from each other, when he was in jail in Japan? Sounds like a very minimal amount of separateness to me (healthy or otherwise). John had 18 months away from Yoko.
If you’re arguing that Paul and Linda had a more inappropriately enmeshed relationship than the couple who accompanied each other to the bathroom and signed things “JohnandYoko,” I’m unconvinced. But horses for courses.
As an adult man in a marriage with a woman, John Lennon and Yoko Ono mostly don’t look like any healthy marriage I know of; Paul and Linda mostly do. But who the hell knows? The one thing I can say for sure is that every marriage is custom-made for those people and, if it works for them, great.
Thinking back on this, MG: “My instinct is that both couples had hit upon “do what you have to do, just as long as you don’t embarrass me.””
Could very well be– I was reading a biography of Keith Moon’s last steady girlfriend, Annette, whose basic way of dealing with groupies was to ignore them and let the guys do what they always did on the road, so I begin to see what you mean. Now, another romantic relationship was out of the question, but groupies? That was just par for the course, just sex, and if it takes care of some of the her man’s more bizarre sexual needs, then she doesn’t have to deal with those. Hmm.
Oh, and I’ve lent the prostitute tell-all book to someone else, but IIRC Liza Greer said something about how she could spot a married man because of a certain furtiveness and speed about their infidelity.
I would think an arrangement like that would be the only way to keep sane if you were dating a rock star (of either sex).
We must also remember that professions with widespread public adoration attract people who need a lot of adoration. Someone like John/Paul/George/Ringo isn’t a person who HAPPENS to have a great gift for music, who falls into that career by mistake. It’s a person, particularly in 1957-63, who has a gift for music who desperately wants fame/fortune/groupies, and will put up with all the shit necessary (Hamburg, for starters), to get that.
A person like that doesn’t reach “all done!” by 1968 and then they’re content to live like their mom and dad. They aren’t built like their mom and dad, and have had a totally different life experience.
Rock stars, politicians, fighter pilots…this is a type, and we should expect people on those professions to exhibit certain tendencies.
Weird connection to make, but Agatha Christie novels frequently feature young men who’ve served in the war and are having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. She clearly felt there was a type who excelled with that kind of structure (and danger) and did poorly outside it. I’ve been listening to her novels during the pandemic, and it’s a tonic. She’s a much better writer and observer of human nature that she is often given credit for, IMO. Hey Dullblog: come for the Beatles, stay for the unexpected literary references! 🙂
I think this is very apt, and I think all four Beatles suffered from the fact that they were born to be Beatles, but weren’t after 1970. That is one of the real tragedies of Lennon’s death; he seemed to be realizing that being a Beatle was a good job, all things being equal, and the one that — notwithstanding Mother’s protestations to the contrary — he was best at. Not being a guru, or protest singer or househusband.
Well, there is the story from Jane Asher in (I believe) Hunter Davies’ book about how Paul needs the adoration of the fans more than she’d like. And there’s this bit that came around on tumblr recently, from an interview with Paul in Esquire in 2015: “I have a joke with my daughter Mary: sometimes I won’t be in a great mood and we’ll go somewhere and the people will be all over me and she’ll turn to Nancy and say, “He likes a bit of adulation. It cheers him up,” and the thing is, yep, that is true. All my life I’ve been trying to win a school prize or trying to do OK in an exam or trying to get a good job. I’ve always been trying to do something where people go: you’re good. ”
I don’t think I can post a link — I’ve had posts not show up with links before; let me know if that’s fixed — but the interview is easily Googled. Anyway, I found that amusing, both its existence and the fact that he’ll readily admit it.
And that is why John Lennon was infinitely cooler than Paul. While he certainly had an ego, he didn’t need it stroked 24/7. Also, Paul’s kids seem to have inherited his tendency to say “a bit” when they mean a lot. Or is that a British thing? Is that the same Esquire interview where Paul compared John (negatively) to James Dean, as if to say that his career was as fleeting as Dean’s – which it wasn’t – and consequently he was made into a god? I thought he was over that “little niggle” by the 21st century.
For the record, I don’t believe unequivocally that Paul and Linda were together every day except for his brief jail stint, simply because that’s the story they told the media.
I remember watching a clip of John on a talk show on YouTube- maybe Dick Cavett- where John talks about the reaction to the Beatles breakup in particular the blaming of the wives and John jokes about how for a society so against homosexuality at the time that they were obsessed with making sure the Beatles remained four boys who only have each other with no women between them. I think it’s one of the memorable quotes I can think of in the few out there where John and Paul exhibited their frustrations at having to justify their marriages.
I find comparing John and Paul’s marriages or whose love was more genuine as arbitrary as the who is the better songwriter or Beatle debate. I also find it a little unfair to both Yoko and Linda who in my opinion only committed the crime of marrying a Beatle and not liking their friends, probably based on interactions that by all accounts were unwelcoming, even openly hostile, and perhaps unconsciously xenophobic towards them as two foreigners.
The Beatles slagged each other off in the press, in their music and sued one another. Their friendships could be tenuous and temperamental. They could be petty, spiteful, jealous, competitive, manipulative and underhanded towards each other. As much as we can question how healthy the beatles marriages were, we could also question how healthy or toxic the Beatles relationships with each other were. The thing is for every nasty aspect of the Beatles relationship is balanced by the genuine love they had for each other and the joy they had when together.
And to me, whether everyone one understands their choice or not, I tend to believe that John and Yoko’s and Paul and Linda’s marriage despite what might be judged as unhealthy or strange and unconventional was balanced by genuine love for each other and something that kept them together. I just don’t think they would have stayed with each other that long if there wasn’t something there, especially in Johns case as Yoko gave him an opportunity to leave her, and even gave her blessing for him to shack up with their younger assistant and he still wanted her back and wanted to atone.
And now for some personal introspection- My parents were and remained married and together under the same roof for almost 35 years until my dad passed away. They had marital problems when I was younger which meant for the last probably 15 years of their marriage they slept in seperate beds and their marriage basically became what resembled cordial roommates. It left me with a fairly cynical view of all romantic relationships. But when my dad got sick and was dying despite me not seeing romantic affection between my parents in decades, my mom was dedicated to my dad and I saw how much my dad leaned on my mom and realised that these people spent the majority of their lives together and that there was a love and bond there even if it’s not what I’m led to believe conventional love and marriage should look like. And watching my parents interaction when my dad was dying taught me that not all marriages or relationships look the same.
And I guess that’s probably why I can look at John and Yokos marriage and say that even if it doesn’t look like the conventional image of what a marriage is, without being in that marriage I can’t say it’s less than, like my own parents marriage may have looked to those on the outside.
@michelle, I don’t see how Paul “negatively” compared John to James Dean. How do you mean? As for coolness, maybe it’s partly in the eye of the beholder. To me, John was generally cool, but, for example, him often jumping on the latest band wagon was uncool. I think there are some cool aspects to Paul, such as the way he more than occasionally disregards what’s hot and does his own (sometimes questionable) thing. Mostly I don’t see the need to pit them against each other, but I suppose that’s the bargain they made in the eye of the public.
“John was the witty one, sure,” he continued. “John did a lot of great work. And post-Beatles he did more great work, but he also did a lot of not-great work. Now the fact that he’s now martyred has elevated him to a James Dean, and beyond.” Dean made like 3 movies. Why a James Dean and not a Buddy Holly? I hear he died tragically, too. As late as 2015 he’s still talking about John’s martydom. Just to change things up, instead of talking about John’s undeserved reputation as an icon he can give his .02 on John’s undeserved reputation as a wife beater and deadbeat dad.
Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a b*tch to Paul but he always says he hates justifying himself, and does it anyway. He can do it by pointing to all his accolades, his knighthood (which John’s death prevented him from getting), the sell-out concerts where he basically is the Beatles, the asteroid that was named after him, etc. etc. instead of saying that John did some not-great work. He sounds really insecure when he has no reason to be.
There is some weird insecurities that remain with Paul and a perpetual need to please and be lauded
He quite literally a week ago posted on facebook something like “We are so sorry due to unforseen etc I must delay the release of McCartney III by…..a week”
I mean come on you are seriously apologizing to you fans because you had to delay an album for a whole week!? You don’t owe us anything. You don’t have to prove anything. Or explain. Or apologize.
Alcoholic family patterns speak to this type of personality, I believe.
I believe we are starting to run the risk of overstating Lennon’s violence towards women in a physical manner while downplaying perhaps his most vicious manner which is his acid tongue. Lennons physical assaults on women…well we only have one documented incident. Him slapping Cyn and she leaving him over it. Other than that she claimed he was never violent towards her physically. There could be other incidents that she decided to to cover up (perhaps due to he son and Lennons legacy) but that was it and it looks like he learned from it. As far as I know Lennon didn’t hit Yoko, May, or anyone else. However we must also remember the worst damage he likely did was verbal abuse towards them as well as humiliation (him having sex with another woman at a 1972 Election Eve Watch Party with Yoko right there.
Lennon may have curtailed and found a way to comntrol his actual physical impulses to harm, but his verbal assaults and propensity for making others feel small, insignificant, worthless (“Julian came out of a whisky bottle”) showed that he really never reached emotional maturity
So pleased I was born after The Beatles were no more. In my lifetime they were always adult men who had substance problems, were divorced, had children. I see them as humans, warts and all. Not cheeky moptops placed on a pedestal. As such, they are demystified. I can watch AHDN, and then the Anthology DVDs.
May Pang’s book paints a very vivid, raw portrait of John. As do Cynthia’s. I can will never believe it is okay that he hit Cynthia. I believe he was still growing and evolving. He was only 40.
George is my favorite. He overcame much in the 70s–cocaine, alcohol, a much maligned Dark Horse Tour, legal battles, hepatitis, divorce, record company rejection and became a devoted father and loyal friend to many. Definitely not a saint, especially if you were married to him, as evidenced in the a fore-mentioned book.
What remains, for all the incidents swept under the rug, the manicured, managed images, the bastard posturing(real or imagined), the dirty deals, and sharp elbows is the magic of the music. The uplifting joy of the opening chords of ‘I Feel Fine’ or the beauty of the into to ‘And I Love Her’. The likes of which will never be matched. As Tom Petty summed it up, ‘It’s The Beatles, and then everyone else.’