From part 5 of, “If I Ran Away from You,” our in-depth series on #thebeatles breakup – we give this issue the time and attention it deserves.
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
“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!
Diana and the AKOM Crew