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Female Protagonists in McCartney Songs

What can we learn about Paul McCartney from the female protagonists in his songbook? Phoebe and Thalia discuss several McCartney compositions featuring prominent female characters and identify their central themes.

“Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles (1997)
Interview w/ Allison Anders, Bomb Magazine (1997)
Paul McCartney interview w/ Jonathan Wingate Record Collector (2008)
“Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road” (2006)
“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1978)
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” (1984)
Interview w/ Paul McCartney for Billboard Magazine (2001)
Paul McCartney Interview w/ Susan Goldberg for National Geographic (2017)

She’s Leaving Home (1967)
Jet (1973)
Blackbird (1968)
Jenny Wren (2005)
Working Women at the Top (1991)
It’s Not On (1982)
Temporary Secretary (1980)
Another Day (1971)
Penny Lane (1967)
Eleanor Rigby (1966)
Eleanor’s Dream (1984)
Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People (1975)
English Tea (2005)
Let it Be (1970)
Imprisonment, Ocean’s Kingdom (2011)
Daytime Nighttime Suffering (1979)
Mama’s Little Girl (1973)
The World You’re Coming Into (1991)
Lady Madonna (1968)
For No One (1966)

Extended Spotify Playlist: Click Here

On Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podbean, and most other podcast platforms.

Anonymous asked:

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

Hello!  Allow us to elaborate.  Firstly, the name isn’t an indictment on denim.  🙂  

Jean Jackets refers more to a specific mentality, really.  The type that believes the Beatles were “John’s band,” and that John was always both right and righteous.  They romanticize John’s childhood and struggles with mental illness as qualities that make him “deep” and earn him a free pass for the worst of his behavior.  Because they see John as a savior, they tend to characterize his bullying and vitriol as a righteous man doling out justice.  Therefore they consider it unfair to discuss how John’s behavior was damaging to others and would prefer to find fault with his targets and normalize all of it (usually at the expense of McCartney).  To them, John was perfect in his “imperfection” and the idea that subsequent generations might have a different, more complex and less reverential take upsets them.  Jean Jackets essentially believe that their personal experience is empirical reality, making “outside” perspectives irrelevant and unwelcome.  They are deeply invested in hierarchy and maintaining Lennon’s perceived supremacy within the band.

These are the people who have dominated 99% of all Beatles discourse, authorship, etc for the past 50 years (Rolling Stone is a great example).  They are fiercely protective of this privilege and hostile towards anyone who challenges the traditional narratives (i.e. invades their turf).  In my experience, their love of Lennon is sincere.

While the term “Jean Jackets” evokes a SWM baby boomer with a ponytail in denim outerwear, the Jean Jacket mentality can transcend age, sex or race.  So this isn’t specifically against boomers, or men as a whole or even people who believe the traditional narrative.  It’s about people who fiercely cling to and perpetuate the traditional narrative, even when confronted with new ideas, evidence or insight that might shed a different light on the storyDon’t be a Jean Jacket!

Again, we aren’t trying to demonize a fabric.  🙂  All the Beatles could look cute in said clothing:

Anonymous asked:

I’d love for you guys to have Mark Lewisohn on your show just to grill him. As someone who’s experienced workplace bullying and sexual assault, that he would go so far as to paint Klein as “heroic” when he said things like “reluctant virgin” is just so devastating to me. It makes me feel ill. I do NOT want this man to have a say in Beatles history. I love the Beatles. I don’t want that tainted by people who will paint over abuse just to feed their own self importance.

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We vehemently agree, Listener!  Thank you for writing in.

Our list of grievances with Mark Lewisohn is long, but in a nutshell we believe his intent is to publicly “redeem” John Lennon and we have seen copious evidence that he will go to whatever lengths he has to in order to do this. 

That includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Claiming that readers of his Tune In Series may consider Klein the “hero” of the Beatles break-up
  • Deliberately spreading the demonstrably false lie that John (and Yoko) did not have a significant heroin problem in the late 60s and early 70s (Lewisohn suggests Cold Turkey is just John playing make believe)
  • Displaying unapologetic favoritism by using glowing terms to portray John and Yoko as the world’s most perfect romance, as opposed to Paul and Linda, whose 29-year marriage he dismisses as “conventional” and motivated by appearances (namely Linda’s pregnancy, even though it was planned) and Green Card needs
  • Stating that he could tell from watching the infamous “it’s a drag” clip that Paul was kind of sad, but primarily annoyed at how much positive attention John was getting on the day of his murder
  • Apparently suggesting to an audience of his Power Point Show that Paul maybe stole a leg off Yoko’s bed (the bed she had delivered and built in the Beatles’ recording studio, mind you), a personal “theory” which is based on the fact that Paul later wrote a song called “Three Legs” (you know that song: “My dog, he got three legs, like the bed you inappropriately brought into Abbey Road 2 years ago which I secretly vandalized behind your back because I have nothing better to do, am certainly not busy writing the Beatles Swan Song and don’t have a fucking 7 year old at home or anything”)

This isn’t even to mention Tune In, which could be a whole separate post and episode. Suffice it to say, this book often reads less like a Beatles biography and more like John Lennon Fanfiction to us.

Lewisohn managed to distinguish himself by doing (some) research and unearthing some original documents. That he had some skill in research is not surprising given that he started his career in Beatledom as a researcher for Norman, on his book Shout — which Lewisohn still contends is a good book. Norman, on the other hand has evolved his opinion of his own work and thinks Shout was flawed, so has written a whole biography on Paul to make up for what he sees as the failure of Shout, which is his underestimation of Paul. Unfortunately, Lewisohn does not seem to have made this same journey. He pays lip service to John and Paul being equal, and then spends all of his time and energy trying to prove otherwise. Norman says that he has created a monster in Lewisohn. We take his point.

One of our biggest issues with Lewisohn is that he vigorously promotes himself as an unbiased truth teller, and his calm manner seems to telegraph this. But it is not true. The research that Lewisohn does and the spin that he applies to his findings are all heavily biased. As we mentioned in one of our episodes, he travelled to Gibraltar simply to experience where John and Yoko got married. Yet when Paul calls the May 9th meeting over management the metaphorical cracking of the Liberty Bell, Lewisohn doesn’t even bother to Google it so he can understand the metaphor.

What he chooses to research is also a form of bias. For example, we at AKOM are very interested in Paul’s relationship with Robert Fraser during the Beatle years — since Paul has commented that Fraser was one of the most important, influential people in his life. Paul McCartney was the concept artist behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Magical Mystery Tour film, the iconic Apple logo, and he co-designed the covers of the White Album and Abbey Road.  All of these are pretty defining moments in the Beatles’ career.  As Beatles fans, we’d like to know more about Paul’s art education and influences. But we would be shocked if Lewisohn dug into Fraser at all beyond his relationship as John and Yoko’s gallerist/curator (and heroin dealer, but since that isn’t a thing in Lewisohn’s world then maybe he will be ignored).

We think Lewisohn benefits massively from the fact that Beatles authorship was like the Wild West since its inception, when everyone with a connection to the Beatles (plus or minus a personal axe to grind) wrote a book about their experience. It was absolute chaos, with no rules, no checks and balances, uncredited sources, etc. Just an absolute shit show.  What Lewisohn did was bring some order to the chaos with some proper documentation. But again, what he chooses to dig into often reflects bias. And this certainly does not mean that he is intellectually or emotionally equipped to interpret his findings. Doing this takes social intelligence and insight, which is a very different skill. As a creator of myths, he is no better (and no more insightful or original) than many of the others who came before him; he worships John Lennon and freely admits it. He is not even close to being unbiased.  But in this dumpster fire of a fandom he has at least checked some boxes and done some digging.  The fact is, the bar has been so low for so long that Beatles fans don’t even know how to expect or want better.  But WE certainly expect better.  We expect some breakthrough, fresh thinking.  Not just Shout with Receipts.

We think it’s significant that Lewisohn was deeply disliked by George Harrison, who lobbied to get him kicked him off the Anthology project. He was fired from Paul’s fan club magazine, and yet no one seems to think he might hold a grudge about that, too?  Lewisohn so distorted John and Paul’s relationship in Tune In that he believes he is the target of the lyrics in Paul’s song “Early Days.“  And he either thinks that’s flattering or funny, because Lewisohn seems to truly believe he knows John Lennon better than Paul McCartney does.  We find it almost tragic that Paul is so bothered by the way his experience and relationship is being portrayed by authors (perhaps Lewisohn) that he wrote a song about it. In it, he conveys his frustration and heartache about how everything is misconstrued and we find it absolutely outrageous that Lewisohn would not take this to heart.  Perhaps Lewisohn thinks Paul should listen to him for a change? And if he doesn’t like it, then tough, because Lewisohn knows better? We think Lewisohn should do some serious soul-searching about “Early Days” because if one of his main subjects is saying, “you are getting it wrong and it is breaking my heart”….maybe, just maybe, he should listen and rethink things.  Maybe apply a little creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and empathy. This is what his heroes did.

Meanwhile, Jean Jackets are SO BUSY complaining that Paul McCartney doesn’t like Lewisohn because he “tells the truth!” that they fail to notice that Lewisohn has become a mouthpiece for Yoko Ono.  He has already started white-washing John Lennon’s history, promoting John and Yoko as the true and only geniuses versus Paul as the craven, small-minded Lennon disciple who (through no virtue of his own) was born with the ability to write some nice tunes.  Lewisohn’s version of John, on the other hand, is ALWAYS a sexy, visionary genius on the right side of every issue.  He even went out of his way to recently trash Paul’s early 70’s albums, which -in addition to being obnoxious and we believe wrong (since we love them)- is totally outside his purview.

Lastly, to address your original point, Lewisohn’s claim that Klein may be viewed as the “hero” of his Beatles History reveals that he hasn’t shown sufficient empathy or interest in Paul’s experience.  This claim at best ignores and at worst condones the fact that Klein was an abusive monster to one of the two founding members of the Beatles.  As we discussed in Episode 4, Klein was a criminal who bullied Paul in his creative workspace, disrespected Paul in his own office in front of his own employees and actively pitted Lennon against McCartney for years.  It’s hard to imagine ANYONE who inflicted more damage on the Beatles and Lennon/McCartney than Allen Klein.  In addition to the wildly inappropriate “reluctant virgin” nickname, he verbally threatened to “own Paul’s ass” (to which Paul responded “he never got anywhere near my ass”). Klein was so disrespectful to Paul and Linda’s marriage he pitched the idea of procuring “a blonde with big tits” to parade in front of Paul to lure him away from Linda and destroy their relationship.  Let’s also never forget that Klein contributed lyrics to the song “How Do You Sleep.”  Allen Klein literally gave Paul nightmares.  Anyone who so much as pretends to care about Paul’s break-up era depression (including his alcohol abuse, his inability to get out of bed and his terrifying sleep paralysis) would not champion Allen Klein.

Yes, Klein is a human being and therefore has his own POV, same as anyone else.  But a Beatles biographer is beholden to four points of view only: John, Paul, George and Ringo.  And when an outsider is openly hostile to one of the Beatles and damaging long-term to all of the Beatles, it is beyond inappropriate to portray him as a hero.  This type of comment, made publicly to an audience of Beatles fans, invalidates and seeks to erase the real trauma inflicted on Paul McCartney by Allen Klein, and we think Lewisohn should apologize for his comments.

Instead, Lewisohn’s current buddy is Peter Brown, whose book, The Love You Make so offended and angered Paul and Linda that they literally burned their copy (and photographed it burning for good measure).  This information doesn’t appear to bother Lewisohn in the least. Why not?

George referred to Norman’s Shout as “Shit.” But Lewisohn thinks it’s a great book.  Why?

How any Beatles or Paul or even George fans tolerate Lewisohn is baffling to us; we don’t recognize a real human being in his version of Paul, and his version of John is a superhero rather than a man.  We suspect that fans have come to accept the traditional story and at least appreciate some properly-documented facts. 

But as we are constantly trying to demonstrate on our show, just because the story has always been told one way, doesn’t mean it’s right.  Because in the end, Mark Lewisohn has no special insight. He wasn’t there. He is a guy who bought into a narrative during the Shout era, and is cherry picking his findings to support it.

You can find a discussion of Lewisohn here

Anonymous asked:

I just read both interviews, Part 1 and 2 of Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone Interview of 1971. It sounds as though John and the other Beatles DID have a realistic gripe about Paul taking over, directly projects, handing out musical assignments, etc., etc. and I’m sure he had the ego by this point to match! I would probably have become irritated by Paul as well. And no hints or even reading between the lines of John being emotionally hurt by Paul with regard to loss of intimate relationship.

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Hello and thanks for writing in, Listener!

First, I’d like to point out that we haven’t reached the Lennon Remembers portion of our Break-up Series, and will dig into it much more thoroughly in a future episode (stay tuned!).  

Presumably this ask isn’t in response to anything we’ve actually discussed on the podcast, in which case I feel that I should explain that what we do on our show is reevaluate conventional wisdom and contextualize public statements within the realities of actual behaviors. In other words, not taking things like Lennon Remembers at face value is AKOM 101.

If what we were doing on this podcast was as easy as simply reading the most infamous interview John Lennon ever gave (the one upon which the conventional story of the Beatles break-up is founded), it wouldn’t be much of a podcast or a very groundbreaking analysis, would it?

Second, I’d like to mention that listeners/readers can hear the entire (3.5 hours!) interview on You Tube.  Very evocative with audio!  Wenner’s editing in the print versions often make John sound more coherent and less vitriolic towards everyone but Paul than the audio reveals (i.e. the shitty comments about Paul are always printed but the ones about George, Brian, etc often aren’t).

Next, we’d like to state the usual disclaimer (which everyone is probably already aware of but is a good reminder anyway!):  John later disavowed this interview.  In fact, he was so angry at Jann Wenner for publishing it as a book, it apparently created a permanent rift between the two.  You may choose to view/value this interview as John being super honest, but please consider that in this allegedly “truthful” book/interview, John:

  • claims George is musically/creatively inferior to John
  • declares the McCartney album “rubbish”
  • reveals his belief that he and Paul’s confidence levels are intrinsically, inversely related to one another
  • says George was so aggressively rude to Yoko that John wished he would’ve punched him over it
  • proudly admits that he “maneuvered” the other Beatles to get Klein in as manager
  • bemoans the fact that everyone says Brian Epstein was so great “just because he’s dead” and that Brian cheated and robbed the Beatles
  • makes derisive comments about “fags” at least five times in the printed version alone and calls Lee Eastman “a wasp Jew, man, that’s the worst kind of person on earth.”
  • admits to lying in interviews and deflects accountability on the basis of being “just a guy” who mouths off about stuff

As for Paul, John is admittedly all over the place, swinging fairly wildly from nostalgic (reminiscing about having “a good mind like Paul’s” on his side and co-writing with their “fingers in each others’ pies”) to bitter (”Paul thought he was the Beatles,” etc).

As for the accusations that Paul was tyrannical, we’ve addressed these before (particularly in Break-Up Episode 2).  Just as Geoff Emerick, Michael Lindsay Hogg and Doug Sulpy (and even John, when he was feeling more generous) have articulated, we too feel that Paul stepped up and led the band in a time of need and deserves unequivocal credit for that.  We believe much of the subsequent complaining from the other Beatles is akin to the kind of griping one directs at a colleague who gets promoted (“who died and made you king!?”) and while some of it was likely based in genuine irritation at Paul’s communication style, much of it was probably petty.  This is why we are looking at the situation from all angles, to get a better sense of what is reality v. spin.  In any case, we don’t dispute that there were power struggles within the band.

Any reader is free to choose John’s side in any/all of these battles.  But our overall takeaway from this particular interview is that John was unloading a lot of pent-up rage; against teachers, fans, Aunt Mimi, his mum, critics, Paul and anyone else who didn’t properly recognize his genius and praise him for it.

“That’s what makes me what I am. It comes out, the people I meet have to say it themselves, because we get fuckin’ kicked. Nobody says it, so you scream it: look at me, a genius, for fuck’s sake! What do I have to do to prove to you son-of-a-bitches what I can do, and who I am? Don’t dare, don’t you dare fuckin’ dare criticize my work like that. You, who don’t know anything about it.”

Based solely on Lennon Remembers, one could reasonably believe John didn’t like anyone but Yoko and Allen Klein (of whom he also speaks with reverence).  Fortunately, John gave a million other interviews in his lifetime, so even though this one is given a disproportionate amount of weight (probably b/c it is the most inflammatory and “raw”) we can compare John’s comments, behavior and art over a broad spectrum of time.  We feel this gives us a better, more thorough and more authentic portrait of John’s POV.  This is a good idea with ANY public figure, but especially important in John’s case, since, by his own admission he has a tendency to say what he feels in the moment and doesn’t necessarily stand by his own statements afterwards.

John in 1976:  “I get a bit absolute in my statements. [laughs] Which sometimes get me into deep water, and sometimes into the shallow.”

To your other point, our overall impressions about John’s feelings regarding  “loss of an intimate relationship” with Paul certainly do not hinge on Lennon Remembers, nor have we ever suggested they do.  In fact, LR is commonly used as the primary proof-point by McCartney detractors and Lennon/McCartney deniers (those who willfully and sometimes passionately  ignore and/or deny the deep love between John and Paul, as described by John and Paul themselves and everyone in their lives) that Paul was a tyrant who destroyed the Beatles with his massive ego.  

We have never disputed the existence of Paul’s ego.  But consider this: John refers to himself as an egomaniac REPEATEDLY throughout this interview.  Why is there a loud faction of people who consider John being an avowed egomaniac perfectly reasonable (sexy even!), but find it unforgivable that Paul is the same way?  Consider these excerpts from Lennon Remembers:

Do you think you will record together again?

I record with Yoko, but I’m not going to record with another egomaniac. There is only room for one on an album nowadays.

How would you assess George’s talents?

[…] Maybe it was hard for him sometimes, because Paul and I are such egomaniacs, but that’s the game.

Who do you think is good today? In any arts…

The unfortunate thing about egomaniacs is that they don’t take much attention of other people’s work. I only assess people on whether they are a danger to me or my work or not.


But the Beatles were artists, and all artists have fucking’ big egos, whether they like to admit it or not […]

Yes, John rants repeatedly about Paul’s ego during this interview- while he simultaneously declares his own genius and artistic superiority over others. We find it mind-boggling how this irony continues to evade some people, but there it is.  

George Harrison has repeatedly complained about BOTH John & Paul’s egos (and their shared ego IRT “Lennon/McCartney”), but again, this is often ignored in favor of singling out Paul as the villain.  

Furthermore, it’s helpful to bear in mind when consuming Lennon Remembers that John and Yoko had received training in media-messaging by this point and were very savvy at Public Relations.  We know from people close to them that they drafted their stories in advance before offering them to the public. This fact, combined with Lennon’s tendency to “mouth off” means we have the right and responsibility to question and examine John’s claims rather than simply  parrot them mindlessly.

If you are genuinely interested in our take, we recommend our Break-Up Series. We think you will find it well-researched and thoughtful, even if you disagree with some of our conclusions.

Or if you simply dislike McCartney and find him “irritating,” that’s fine too.  Not everyone has to like everyone!

For additional discussion/analysis of Lennon Remembers, I recommend any of several threads on Erin Torkelson Weber’s site, the Historian and the Beatles.

the flawed lens of Lennon v. McCartney

Jann Wenner’s bio

how Rolling Stone shaped the breakup

discussing a podcast appearance

Thank you so much for this ask!  It is always a pleasure to share information.  Have a wonderful day.

-The AKOM crew

Listen to our Breakup series: If I Ran Away from You (and our other episodes, too)!

Where to find us

“If I Ran Away from You: Ep. 2 Pt. 2″ Love, War, and the Games that Ended the Beatles

Part 2 is here!

In the second installment of our Break-up series, Diana and Phoebe take a DEEP look into January 1969, when the Beatles record and film Let it Be.

Part 1 reflects on the sub-textual conversation revealed in their behaviors and their music.  Part 2 (this one) looks at some of the underlying issues of the break-up as they play out in this period.

This multi-part series explores the emotional roots of the Beatles break-up with a focus on Lennon/McCartney.

Where to listen

“If I Ran Away from You: Ep. 2 Pt. 1” Love, War, and the Games that Ended the Beatles

In the second installment of our Break-up series, Diana and Phoebe take a DEEP look into January 1969, when the Beatles record and film Let it Be.  

Part 1 reflects on the sub-textual conversation revealed in their behaviors and their music.  Part 2 (Coming very soon!) looks at some of the underlying issues of the break-up as they play out in this period.  

This multi-part series explores the emotional roots of the Beatles break-up with a focus on Lennon/McCartney.

Where to Listen