Hi. I love your podcast. Just have one comment on your interpretation of Come Together. Ono Sideboard isn’t about Yoko being on the “side”. In English houses, a sideboard is a small dresser to keep your best china. Adults also use them to keep valuables away from children. I was never allowed to go in my Grandma’s sideboard, I always wondered what was in there. John must have kept his valuables (his heart? his secrets? hopes? future plans?) for her to be his sideboard. That’s my interpretation.
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Thank you for that information! That’s a lovely interpretation which could be true!
Hello, I’ve really been enjoying your podcast but as an Asian American woman it upset me to hear you (in 3.b) both be so dismissive to the possibility of a racist element in the reaction to Yoko in the 60s. Your gleeful and mocking disdain for Yoko in general left me feeling uncomfortable. But that it extends to the point you can not envision how challenging the world was for an Asian woman living in a very white, conventional England in the sixties is upsetting to say the least.
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Thank you for this thoughtful ask on an important topic!
We deeply regret any implication that we don’t believe Yoko faced special and unfair challenges due to race or nationality, because we are absolutely positive that Yoko faced racism, sexism and anti-Japanese sentiment in the 1960s (and probably still does today).
In 3.b we were specifically suggesting that the cause of the negative public reaction to Yoko was not solely about race, but mainly due to her behaviors, attitudes and artistic eccentricities such as her unconventional fashion sense, her jarring and very unusual singing style, her bizarre art and artistic “happenings” (the nude album, the interviews in black bags, throwing acorns at their TV audience, etc). Yoko was a conceptual artist whose career was founded on shock value and making people uncomfortable, so from our POV it is disingenuous for John & Yoko to be surprised or offended when people react with shock and discomfort.
John and Yoko were weird, unconventional and provocative (which they embraced), and this alienated almost everyone virtually overnight, which is why we find it unhelpful to attribute her negative public reception to the single cause of racism. This is not to say we don’t believe she experienced racism; of course she did! But both things can be true at once. She can experience racism and she can also be disliked for reasons having nothing to do with racism.
Similarly, we don’t think the reaction to Linda, as touched on in this quote was based soley in anti-semitism. At the same time it would be absolutely insane to suggest that Linda had never experienced anti-semitism in her lifetime.
In the breakup series we are mainly focused on the dynamics within the group, and we believe their primary issue with Yoko seems to have been her disruptive and unwelcome presence within a creative space which for years had been the sole domain of the bandmates.
In any case, we sincerely apologize for upsetting you.
We never want to reduce Yoko to her sex or race, which we feel is both unfair to her and an impediment to a candid examination of her work (which we think has been absent from Beatles discourse). One of our biggest complaints is how Beatles authors only evaluate Yoko as an influence on John, and never allow her to stand or fall as an individual artist in her own right.
As for our occasional mocking of Yoko (which often includes John), we can assure you that has nothing to do with race either. Any disdain on our part is reserved for the self-aggrandizing tone with which John and Yoko often discuss themselves and their art.
We acknowledge that it can be difficult and challenging to be critical about a woman with such a controversial place in history, perhaps undervalued as an artist and subject to some unfair prejudices. We have tried to strike a balance in terms of being empathetic to Yoko as a person while simultaneously subjecting her to the same rigor we would any artist, including the Beatles – whom she famously considered herself to be as good or better than.
Thanks again for taking the time to write to us and share your reactions. We will continue to consider this important topic in the future.
Hi! I’m listening to your episode about Klein for the second time and I must ask you… Do you think John knew about his bullying and what he said about Paul (“the reluctant virgin” and all that stuff)? I think he knew.
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We don’t know. There is no evidence to suggest he did or didn’t know.
However, based on what John said later, we suspect he would have been aware — however — he might not have seen it as bullying but rather Klein maneuvering to get his way (which was John’s way) and he might have rationalized that the end justifies the means.
Importantly, however, we think that John saw Paul as powerful and strong during the period, so he probably wasn’t worried about Paul being hurt or bullied.
I have now gone through all your podcasts. I’m so grateful for your perspectives! Question: We know John obsessed about Paul throughout the 70’s, he was remorseful and apologized in some of his song lyrics, Linda said Paul “was desperate to write with John again”, they had planned to do a reunion concert in England according to something John wrote in a document, etc. So WHY do you think the Beatles didn’t reform as early as the mid- 70’s, particularly after the exit of Allen Klein?
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Ahh, that’s a million dollar question! We think John and Paul were probably the ones who wanted a reunion the most, but nevertheless they likely both had major reservations.
From our POV, Paul had the least to gain from a Beatles reunion in the mid 70s. Wings was a roaring success by that point. Paul had finally managed to establish an identity outside of the Beatles and, for the first time post-Beatles, was enjoying both commercial and critical success simultaneously. George and Ringo OTOH weren’t doing great (after each had experienced much success in the early 70s). John was coming off a pair of successful solo albums (and a #1 with Elton John) but by 1975 he was coming up dry and making an oldies album to fulfill his contract. Paul was in a very strong position by 75-76.
This is just our take, but we believe that while John and Paul were both tempted to revive Lennon/McCartney, we’re skeptical that either was really into the idea of a re-formed Beatles. We think they were excited but nervous to work together again and would’ve ultimately used George and Ringo as buffers (this is not to denigrate George or Ringo, this is just our impression of how John and Paul thought). Predictably enough, we don’t think George was EVER enthusiastic about a Beatles reunion. Maybe if the other three applied enough peer pressure he wouldn’t want to be left out, but we don’t think he was ever eager to work with Paul again. It’s totally reasonable that Harrison would be wary of a Beatles reunion where he would get wedged between Paul and John yet again.
It’s no secret that the major rift was between John and Paul; they were the only pair of Beatles who never again worked together after the break-up. In 1975 John admitted (rather poignantly) that he and Paul “had a harder time” coping with their rift than any of the others did.
We believe that Paul “desperately” wanted to work together with John because (a) he desperately wanted to repair his relationship with John throughout the 70s, and (b) he genuinely enjoyed writing with him, although AGAIN, to be clear, Paul did great in the 70s, never had a dry spell, and didn’t need John to succeed, artistically or commercially. A reunion with John would have also surely taken some air out of the How Do You Sleep debacle. While we doubt this was the primary reason Paul wanted to reconcile, we imagine it was a factor. And if John was truly sorry for HDYS, this would’ve been a great way for him to demonstrate it. Publicly.
In the 70s, John made several references to Paul’s “energy” and we definitely think John missed the charge he got from Paul. However, we believe John ultimately carried too much emotional baggage about Paul for a light-hearted reunion. Primary amongst his reservations might be jealousy over Paul’s success and insecurity about his self-conscious “need” for Paul. But surely there were other reservations, not the least of which was their continued business/legal battles, resentment over reaction to each others’ wives, internal fights within the band, etc. And of course, since Paul was infamously awarded the dishonor of John’s Ultimate Hurter, surely that was always looming in John’s mind as well. How would Paul hurt him again? Would Paul’s unique brand of insensitivity be more painful a second time around?
Yoko is often blamed for the fizzling of reunion plans in the mid-70s, and we agree she was probably a major contributing factor. May Pang confirms that after visiting the Dakota at a critical moment just before heading to New Orleans in early ‘75, John’s attitude towards collaborating with Paul abruptly changed from excited to sour. There is no doubt that Yoko was against John getting back together with Paul, likely for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps most critically because it was a threat to her creative reputation; if John and Paul reunited, it might be interpreted as a creative failure of JohnandYoko and the primacy and superiority of Lennon/McCartney, and there is no way she wanted that to happen. Yoko had invested a great deal of time and energy in creating and maintaining the Ballad of John and Yoko and wasn’t about to let that unravel. We also suspect she probably did not want John to get too under Paul’s spell again as that would diminish her power over him. There are accounts of her maneuvering behind the scenes to make sure this didn’t happen, so clearly she saw their reunion as a threat to her position with John.
Ultimately, however, we suspect it all boiled down to the same conundrum John faced in the late 60s: He could either commit to Yoko and permanently let go of Paul, or permanently break up with Yoko and commit to a professional partnership with Paul. The problem with the latter option was that a strictly-professional partnership might not only be painfully incomplete on an emotional level for John (after having been Paul’s sole creative partner and surrogate spouse in the 60s)… but of course now Paul had his own band, three kids and a wife. John wouldn’t just be back where he left off in ‘68, he would be a much lower priority to Paul than he had been in ‘68 which put him in an even worse position. Therefore the emotional risk appears to have been too great for John.
All evidence points to the fact that Paul’s desire in the 70s was to maintain a friendship with John and explore rekindling their songwriting partnership. He seems to have had fewer reservations or concerns about doing so — perhaps because he had a functional band at the time, so was not dependent on this happening. It seems that he simply loved working with John and would have liked to have done it again as a way to reconnect, heal and spark the old magic. But he also required flexibility to perform with his band and focus on his family.
We are less convinced that John was willing or capable to view their partnership as something casual or flexible, with no strings attached. It was John himself who used the analogy of “one night stands” with Elton and Bowie as opposed to his marriage with Paul. This isn’t to say we think Paul loved John less or cared about their partnership less. It’s clear that no one has ever replaced Lennon as a complete collaborative partner to Paul (despite Paul’s demonstrated ability to collaborate with many, many artists in many different capacities) and Paul himself has said as much. As always, we just think they had different personalities and different needs that were fairly consistent over time:Paul desired freedom and flexibility while John desired security and total commitment.
The only powers John did seem to retain were the power to seemingly “reject” Paul and/or deliberately hurt his feelings and to humiliate him in public. John flexed both these powers periodically until he died, presumably to make himself feel better in his weaker moments or because of residual resentments towards Paul (over any number of things).
TL;DR: Paul was open but too independent, John was open but too emotionally conflicted, George may or may not have been open but resented them both too much.
50 years ago today, the Let It Be album was released!
Listen to “If I Ran Away From You,” our series on the Beatles’ breakup, to hear our analysis of the songs, as well as the interpersonal dynamics of Lennon/McCartney during the recording of the “Get Back” project!
Hi! I just wanted to say that I adore the podcast and loved the new episode. I’d never thought about Come Together in any other way than the general hippie togetherness idea and laughed out loud during your discussion of a possible sexual meaning, unfortunately Come Together is in the background of one of the quarantine-themed adverts that’s on TV currently, and I’ve been thinking about ‘they’re all coming on his face, but not in a gay way’ everytime it comes on. Looking forward to part B!!
“If you do not have a one-star review on your podcast, you don’t have an audience. You have not done anything. You haven’t pushed a boundary. You’ve not done something good. Because you have to do something to get an emotion out of somebody that they’re willing to go and put a one-star review. If your show is just milquetoast and people aren’t even willing to put a one-star review, it’s not going to grow.”
– Rob Welch of Libsyn on Podcasting Step By Step episode 46
Dear listeners, we’re proud to announce we’ve received our first 1-star review on iTunes! Guess that means we have arrived! 😎
If you agree that there’s nothing inherently problematic about giving Paul’s perspective equal weight to John’s in Lennon/McCartney discourse, and you enjoy our work, please feel free to leave us a favorable review on iTunes to help like-minded fans find us!
We do this podcast out of love for the subject matter, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts to our lovely fans for all of your support!
“If I Ran Away from You: Part 7.B″ Love, War, and the Games that Ended the Beatles
In this two-part episode Diana and Phoebe dig into the relatively under-explored Abbey Road period and the songs that resulted from it. They examine both the songs and the events surrounding the creation of the album through the lens of the breakup.
In the second installment, they discuss the Medley, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and the overarching themes of the album.
“If I Ran Away from You: Part 7.A″ Love, War, and the Games that Ended the Beatles
In this two-part episode, Diana and Phoebe dig into the relatively
under-explored Abbey Road period and the songs that resulted from it.
They examine both the songs and the events surrounding the creation of
the album through the lens of the breakup.
In the first installment, Phoebe and Diana will explore the recording
sessions as well as the songs “Come Together”, “Something”, “Maxwell’s
Silver Hammer,” “Oh Darling,” “Octopus’ Garden,” “Here Comes the Sun,”
In the second installment, they will discuss the Medley, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and the overarching themes of the album.
Your episode about Klein and the relationship between John and Brian… I’ve never agreed with someone so much. A lot of things Brian did because he was biased towards John were very unprofessional (and Paul was right to be irritated at some of them) and yet they’re always either forgotten (by the Jean Jackets) or romanticised (by the fans, especially the youngest).
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Thanks very much for this feedback!
There are so many problematic assumptions baked into the Beatles story, it’s amazing. One of the worst, in our view, is the idea that Lennon was entitled to act however he wanted with total impunity and that everyone in the Beatles universe was obligated to serve and capitulate to Lennon’s needs only. To even challenge this assumption is radical in some circles. We think it’s time for this to change!
One of our baseline assumptions about the Lennon-McCartney partnership is that they considered each other equals, and that there absolutely was no “junior and senior partner.“ Operating under this assumption, it’s reasonable to argue that Paul’s needs were every bit as important, and should have been equally represented by management. And the idea that he should have capitulated to a manager that was aggressively hostile and abusive to him (Klein) is absurd. We can’t believe that some writers are even floating this idea and we think it only reflects how skewed the thinking is.
For more on Klein and Epstein, check out Episode 4 of our ongoing Break-up Series