New AKOM Episode! Thru the AKOM Lens: Lester & Maysles!
In this episode of our new series examining the Beatles on film, Phoebe and Kristen discuss fantasy, reality and the creation of the Beatles myth with two landmark films from the start of Beatlemania: A Hard Day’s Night and The Beatles First US Visit
Congrats on Episode 3! I agree on your reading of the Ballad, and the how and why of its construction. I also remember in one of the first episodes, how you mentioned the way John would anticipate being rejected & preemptively push people away or offend them so he would not be the one passively abandoned (for no reason). John’s obsession with Paul hurting him, leaving him – it’s all a self fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it ? And he could never get over it. (1/2)
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Hi there, and thanks so much for the comment! 🙂 We’re glad you enjoyed Episode 3! I (Thalia) enjoyed it so much as well!
I’ve always thought it strange how the fandom and authorship just sort of accepted the idea that John and Yoko have some otherworldly love that we mere mortals just can’t understand, something more special than we could ever fathom. I always joked that they marketed themselves as the loveliest lovers who ever loved (in the history of love)! And that their art is so important, and of such a high purpose, that of course most people just aren’t high-minded enough to understand it.
I do agree that this myth was built by John and Yoko for multiple purposes: partially to promote them as a couple with a higher purpose and help him form a new identity and satisfy Yoko’s desire to be famous, and partially it’s what John had to tell himself to keep from feeling hurt (didn’t work) and to protect his public image (I don’t want to look like the dumped one, that’s embarrassing). I think Diana and Phoebe are also right in acknowledging that there was a love between John and Yoko, and that all these factors coexist.
But at the end of the day, John’s legacy was built within Lennon/McCartney, and you really can’t compare Lennon/McCartney to Lennon/Ono (and I think Ono knows this, which is maybe why she feels threatened to this day). They are two completely different kinds of partnerships. For this comparison to continue into present day is extremely unfair to McCartney (and to the Lennon/McCartney relationship).
Thanks so much for writing in! We hope you continue to join us!
Listener feedback is valuable to us, and we love it when
someone takes the time to reach out and engage us in conversation!
This listener offers several compelling and interesting counter-points to the previous listener-letter’s assertion that the imbalances regarding McCartney’s critical reputation (and fandom toxicity regarding McCartney in general) have been redressed. We don’t agree that they have, and this listener has made many similar observations.
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We love hearing from you!
Thank you guys so much for all of your hard work on this podcast! I’ve had an absolute blast listening to all the episodes, and I’m sure there are many who look forward to it just as much as I do. My letter is partially in response to another listener’s letter (the one who stressed that the jean-jacket narrative is no longer as prevalent as it once was).
I really loved your response, and I simply wanted to express that, whatever their experience with the Beatles’ narrative might’ve been, mine has been the exact opposite. I’m pretty young and my parents never really listened to the Beatles. I knew about the Beatles and Paul McCartney, but I was so naive to their story that it never really clicked that Paul was even in the Beatles until I became immersed in their lore (I had never even heard of George Harrison. Whoops, sorry Georgie). So, I was as blank a slate as they come.
I’ve been absolutely devouring Beatles media for the past three months. And being a Paul fan in 2019? Still really difficult due to the toxicity of the fandom. Obscure books about John Lennon or the group as a whole are far easier to track down than Paul books.
It took an embarrassingly long time to discover that Paul even had an authorized semi-autobiography. (The cringeworthy lack of attention toward Ringo and George hasn’t escaped my notice, either. Their legacy has been seriously neglected) And a lot of the books I’ve managed to get my hands on tend to take unprovoked jabs at Paul’s legacy: two of the “Paul books” I’ve bought recently were prefaced, essentially, with “I’ve never liked Paul because I resented the way the women in my life so obviously enjoyed him.” Both the Norman and Clayson biographies began this way, and it just seemed so unnecessary.
Now I have to do extensive research before purchase to avoid wasting money on books that disdain Paul for qualities outside of his control. It was baffling that these men thought, despite their personal jealousies, that they were qualified to not only write biographies but to include their personal issues in the preface without having their legitimacy questioned. I’d never seen anything like it.
When books or media praise him, the majority of it seems to be for his appearance. Even Cynthia Lennon, bless her old lady heart (loved her book John, by the way, read it ‘cause you guys recommended it), when it came to describing each Beatle in an interview, described a man who had been a true friend to her for decades as ‘Pretty… so, so pretty.’ The other three Beatles consistently get remarks as to their wit and talent, but few people, even some of his close friends, seem to get past Paul’s looks.
To the untrained, twenty-something eye, Paul comes across as something of an adorable, grandad figure, kind of oddly amorphous in his legacy, rather than the musical genius and powerhouse he actually is. When I started to seek out his music, I was shocked at all the familiar melodies that I’d heard hundreds of times before without ever knowing the artist. His music feels really fresh and relevant to me, not at all dated, a huge contrast to the affable, aging persona I’ve been fed by the media.
Paul is my favorite Beatle, but I’m not looking for media that overtly glorifies Paul in relation to his former bandmates. I just want to have historically factual, fair media that pays respect to the people who have shaped my life and occasionally comforted me with their art. And I don’t want to feel like I should have to be ashamed of my enjoyment just because a group of men found my appreciation vapid and aggravating, for one reason or another.
That’s why I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed the AKOM podcast: it feels like, in a room full of toxic men screaming at the top of their lungs about nothing at all and demanding it become truth, that women (and other varying genders) can still bravely sit down amidst it all, have tea, and breathe some sanity into the stupidity. Thanks again!
Thank you for your wonderful letter. We appreciate the feedback. We love long letters and certainly understand having a lot to say on the subject!
We have had very similar experiences to yours and agree:
“Paul comes across as something of an
adorable, grandad figure, kind of oddly amorphous in his legacy, rather than
the musical genius and powerhouse he actually is.”
This bothers us as well. Paul does not get the artistic credit he deserves.
Paul himself has shown frustration with the label “the cute Beatle” —can you imagine having written some of the world’s most famous songs and being labeled “cute” while you partner is labeled “smart” or “intellectual” or “genius”? It must be hugely frustrating. Perhaps so much so that he has taken to giving HIMSELF the label of genius recently! We’re all for it!
Unfortunately, it a label and bias that exists. Problem is, Paul is cute and charming! But he is also deep and complex and brilliant and sexy, yet so many writers and observers aren’t able to see beyond the surface-level read of him. This hasn’t always been the case though, when we examine contemporaneous reviews of the Beatles, we find that in the 60s Paul’s genius was taken more seriously by some (yes, he had the label “the cute Beatle” but his talents were also taken seriously, especially in the UK); the break-up seems to have altered his critical evaluation.
You said:“When I started to seek out his music, I was shocked at all the familiar melodies that I’d heard hundreds of times before without ever knowing the artist.”
We are thrilled that you have discovered them. I felt this way about Paul’s solo work as well—I had been led to believe, by critics, that Paul’s solo music wasn’t up to par with his Beatles work, so approached it with trepidation. What a pleasure it was finding out they were so very wrong. Paul’s post-Beatles work is a joy to explore. It is a treasure chest of incredible music.
“His music feels
really fresh and relevant to me, not at all dated, a huge contrast to the
affable, aging persona I’ve been fed by the media.”
Exactly, and Paul’s post-Beatles story is very romantic and relevant as well. Paul’s post-Beatles period hasn’t been significantly romanticized or mythologized….yet.
The McCartneys themselves do a good job of it, but it hasn’t taken hold in the popular imagination. Based on Paul’s “persona” as it is portrayed in popular culture, one would think Paul spent his entire post-break-up career pining for the Beatles and writing sub-standard but commercially popular music rather than having inspired a whole other music genre and created a goldmine of incredible music.
“Paul is my favorite
Beatle, but I’m not looking for media that overtly glorify Paul in relation to
his former bandmates. I just want to have historically factual, fair media that
pays respect to the people who have shaped my life and occasionally comforted
me with their art.”
Wouldn’t that be lovely! But it’s tough to find. It seems some of these biases are so deeply ingrained and embedded in the Beatles story that it colors the view of everything Paul-related. For example, what is this so-called “granny music”? This isn’t even a thing! It’s not a genre, yet Paul’s music is continually given this label. It’s time to stop letting John’s labels, which were given in a fit of anger and defensiveness, define Paul and Paul’s music. Again, there are some deep underlying assumptions in this fandom that need to be challenged.
“And I don’t want to
feel like I should have to be ashamed of my enjoyment just because a group of
men found my appreciation vapid and aggravating, for one reason or another. That’s why I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed the
AKOM podcast: it feels like, in a room full of toxic men screaming at the top
of their lungs about nothing at all and demanding it become truth, that women
(and other varying genders) can still bravely sit down amidst it all, have tea,
and breathe some sanity into the stupidity. “
Ha! Well, we are thrilled to have inspired enjoyment and relaxation with a good cup of tea! We understand the pleasure of not wanting to constantly throw your cup at the speaker!
“Can’t wait for the next episode!!”
We hope you have enjoyed our latest episodes on the Break-up and LIB. We think we managed to challenge some deeply held believes and assumptions with our analysis.
Thanks again for the letter, we really enjoyed it! Please continue to share your thoughts if you are inspired!
Listener feedback is valuable to us, and we love it when someone takes the time to reach out and engage us in conversation! We will occasionally feature letters we receive which spark some interesting discussion or debate (with name redacted for privacy). Here is one of them, which was particularly interesting because it challenged us to clarify our position Mark Lewisohn, as well as how we view the state of McCartney’s critical reputation.
Please do feel free to email us at akompodcast at gmail dot com, send us an ask, or a Tumblr message. We love hearing from you!
I’m glad I discovered your podcast, you ladies are doing a great job. You’re discourse on 1968, India etc. was new and really made me think. A couple of minor critiques: As a McCartney fan, even I have to say your advocacy of his “position” (if we can call it that) is a bit over the top and defensive. Surprisingly for Beatle fans of your age, your characterization of the critical and Beatle world consensus on Paul seems quite dated. This is 2019, not 1985. Nowadays McCartney’s standing, critically and among fans, is sky high. The Jean Jackets are not as influential as you think. Finally, Mark Lewisohn does not deserve the derision you subject him too. He is a very serious and responsible guy, a true historian who cares about getting things right. Don’t lump him in with the hacks. Anyway, keep up the good work. I’ll be listening
Our response, written by Phoebe:
Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to us! We LOVE to hear from listeners and are so glad you’re enjoying the podcast.
It’s refreshing to hear that you don’t believe the Jean Jacket narratives are as influential as they once were! We hope this is the case. The more popular podcasts (by older “experts”) and websites all appear to be steeped in the traditional narrative, but I agree that younger fans often have a more nuanced view of things.
As far as Paul goes, this is something we’ve heard strains of before; that Paul doesn’t need you to defend him, he’s rich, he’s happy, etc. Many people think the record has already been corrected, so what are we even reacting to? I’d argue that it’s not about “Paul bashing” (although that still exists too) it’s about a sort of perceived artistic hierarchy – with John at the top and Paul underneath- that many in the Beatles fandom still buy into. Lewisohn is actually one of the worst offenders in this regard because he relentlessly perpetuates this hierarchy in Tune In, and fervently continues to push it. Lewisohn admits John is his hero and so we find that John is always the hero of The Beatles story from Mark’s POV. That’s a perfectly fine position to have as a fan, but when you write this into a biography that claims to be unbiased, it’s problematic. It may not wholly invalidate his work (for example, he may be a good researcher) but we believe in holding Lewisohn to at least the same standards to which we hold ourselves.
Our goal with this podcast is to critically examine what we’re being told by those crafting the narratives and that often involves what some may consider “nitpicking.” But in tearing down the wall we feel we should examine each brick. Our efforts to position Paul as an equal to John are by definition disruptive to the status quo and therefore may sometimes require an “over the top” vigilance. However, our podcast is but a drop in the Sea of Conventional Wisdom so sometimes we decide a “squeaky wheel” approach is required to drive our point home. It takes an extraordinary effort to challenge views that have resided in the public consciousness for fifty years! Hopefully the occasional zeal on our part is tolerable 🙂 and we ultimately take the listener to a thought-provoking place.
Once again, thank you so much for contacting us and sharing your perspective! We learn a lot by hearing from listeners like you, and hope you stick with us.