Really love what you guys are doing! I recently started listening to the breakup series and one thing I wonder after listening to the first two, why do you think Paul let his relationship with Jane fail? Do you think he let her catch him in bed with another woman on purpose? Was he just being careless? If they were so important to each other I don’t understand why he acted that way
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I’ll be honest, I used to think Paul let himself get caught by Jane in a sort of death-by-cop scenario (since this is how it’s portrayed in EVERY Beatles book), but I’m no longer so sure.
This is a topic we at AKOM have discussed amongst ourselves many times.
First, we’re not even sure we can believe that story 100% since it comes from a dubious source (Francie Schwartz) who over-inflates her relevance. Did Jane stumble upon Paul in bed with Francie? Perhaps. But why would FS be the proverbial back-breaking straw? We all know that Paul had a ton of affairs, and that Jane was still discovering some of them in 1968 (Marijke from the Fool, for example). The point is that the story itself might be a convenient excuse and close enough to the truth that neither Paul nor Jane bothers to correct it. Obviously neither wants to offer details of their relationship, and after all these years “caught in bed with another woman” is vague enough to tie up loose ends and discourage further digging. And since the Beatles authorship shows about 0-2% interest in Jane at all, this works.
We definitely believe Jane and Paul were very, very important to each other and that Paul was crazy about her. Everyone around them comments on it, all the way to Hunter Davies and Paul Saltzman (the 3rd person observer who was in Rishikesh). Paul himself is responsible for downplaying Jane. I think the reasons why are probably two-fold. Barry Miles revealed that the only parts of Many Years From Now Paul requested him to edit out were the multiple references to Jane (and some of Maggie McGivern). This was out of respect/deference to Linda who was terminally ill at the time. Miles also said that when Linda and Paul married, Linda distanced Paul from the old mutual friends he had with Jane, indicating that there may have still been residual jealousy from Linda at that point. (Don’t forget that Paul began seeing Linda when he was still engaged to Jane!). And there is that (possibly sketchy?) story of Linda’s editor taunting her with Jane’s cookbook as late as the 90s (!?). Again suggesting that Linda is fully aware (and slightly competitive) of how deep Paul and Jane’s bond was before she came along.
The other reason Paul downplays Jane is maybe that she broke his heart, simple as that.
We’re not talking about their break-up specifically, just their general collapse as a couple. We believe she was likely the inspiration of some of Paul most heartfelt and brilliant Beatles songs; some of his most beautiful (And I Love Her, For No One) some of his most asshole-ish (Another Girl, You Won’t See Me) and everything in between (We Can Work it Out, etc). His emotions for her, as reflected in his music, were real and complex and ALL the evidence suggests their relationship was tumultuous, full of passion and frustration.
Furthermore, Jane and the Ashers were hugely influential on Paul’s development as a person and an artist. Paul bonded with the entire family and learned so much from them in terms of culture and lifestyle. The lack of curiosity about Jane and Paul in this fandom is somewhat predictable, but the lack of curiosity amongst the authorship is reprehensible. Even worse, they have somehow managed to spin Paul’s relationship with this extremely strong-willed, independent, young career woman (who refused to “settle down” whenever Paul tried to wife her up) as evidence that Paul is an egomaniac who needed a weak groupie to worship him (like Linda, of course). When it actually suggests the opposite, that Paul likes intelligent women who can (and will) hold their own against him.
The rub, of course, is that Jane won’t talk about Paul and Paul won’t talk about Jane. Our guess is that their mutual loyalty and respect extends to this day. But back to your question- why did Paul behave like a dirtbag in ’68 if he wanted to stay with Jane? Our understanding is that one of the recurring issues in their relationship was Jane’s availability; meaning Jane was away from Paul for long stretches of time (usually due to work) which Paul HATED and they fought constantly about it and Paul would act out whenever Jane was gone. Which is not to say he cheated on her for “revenge,” but let’s put it this way… As a highly desirable rock star, Paul had 24/7 access to any kind of sex he wanted and I think, basically, he wanted sex… if not 24/7 then at the very least on a regular basis! In the end I think he just wasn’t willing to be chaste and faithful in Jane’s absence (especially given his incredibly easy access to free sex whenever he wanted it). YMMV, but this makes sense to us. Not from the standpoint that he “deserves” more because of his rock star status, but simply because everyone deserves a relationship that can satisfy his/her needs. Of course Jane deserves the mate she wants TOO, which is why we think ultimately it was an amicable split, each understanding they just couldn’t be what the other person needed.
Because Jane and Paul won’t talk about their relationship, we have to rely on other people’s accounts. Nearly everyone in their circle was shocked and sad when they broke up. Thanks to Allistair Taylor we know Paul wept and moaned about Jane. We think besides being his girlfriend, Jane was most likely Paul’s primary confidant in the Beatle years and it must have been beyond devastating to lose her at such a pivotal time in his life. And I definitely think it would’ve contributed to the overall soul-searching and depression he exhibited in the next couple of years. Of course this fandom loves to attribute Paul’s EVERY emotion to John Lennon, but it’s always important to remember that Paul had other people and things in his life.
Something I’m curious about is whether or not drug use had a hand in not just John’s pre-breakup behavior, but Paul’s too (not trying to attribute the interpersonal issues solely to drug use or excuse any Beatle’s actions). But JJ’s attribute a lot of John’s actions to heroin (and therefore Yoko’s “bad influence”), but Paul was doing a lot of drugs at that time as well. Not calling Paul out or anything, he’s my fave Beatle, but I wonder if it made him less sensitive. Love this podcast, btw ♥️♥️
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Hi there, we’re really glad that you’re enjoying our podcast! 🙂
That’s an interesting question! It’s hard to track whether or not Paul’s drug use made him less sensitive during the breakup, because there is a lot more to Paul than him being a hyperfocused workaholic who puts a shell around himself. A lot of other facets of his personality are missed when it comes to how the JJ’s analyze him.
What we do see is that the main 2 drugs he chooses to indulge in over a long period of time are alcohol and pot. Pot likely has a mellowing and relaxing effect, and alcohol seems to loosen him up. I would imagine that his brief period of dabbling in cocaine use would hype him up and urge him to be more productive, but the use of uppers wasn’t anything new to the Beatles, and he seems to have dropped that as soon as Linda and Heather were in his life.
Just citing one occasion, alcohol was the reason he and John were able to experience “the night we cried” in Key West and were able to be so emotionally unbound with each other during that experience. And Paul has mentioned in more than one interview that being able to be more emotionally vulnerable with the other guys was easier with alcohol. So if Paul’s main drugs of choices are pot (which mellow him out) and alcohol (which loosens him up), it’s really difficult for me to conclude that Paul’s drug use was a huge factor in him being less sensitive during the breakup period. Thanks so much for listening and for reaching out!
In episode 3A, it said that John was paranoid Paul would leave him, even though Paul was known to still be very committed to the Beatles, and I’m curious if John was ever sorta “right” in those feelings. Because I do wonder why Paul felt the need to be more musically isolated during the White Album, or was that perhaps Lennon just being paranoid? Always felt like something went down in their relationship, before that album, after the India trip. And I love your show — finally a fresh take!
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Hello listener! Thanks so much for reaching out!
Yes, in 1980 John (finally) verbalized his suspicions that Paul might have wanted to leave the Beatles in 1968. At another point (in the epic Playboy interview), John suggests he was considering leaving the band as early as 1966 (whilst in Spain filming How I Won the War) and actually says Paul might’ve been considering the same thing then! (The aforementioned part about John contemplating his departure in 66 is oft-quoted by the Lennon Estate, but the rest of the sentence about Paul thinking the same has been thoroughly buried or ignored by authors).
Considering how “Yesterday” – a song John (and the other Beatles) had no part in either writing nor recording – became an instant classic upon its release in 1965, it’s not a stretch to imagine that this would trigger John’s paranoia about Paul’s talents and his ability to successfully go solo. Add to that a variety of contributing factors such as Paul’s refusal to move to the suburbs with the other Beatles, his growing interest in the London art and avant-garde scenes, his cultivation of friends outside the Beatles circle, his refusal to do acid with the others Beatles, etc….It’s actually pretty reasonable for John to be “paranoid” about Paul’s propensity and ability to stray.
Never mind the fact that Paul is famously a one-man band who has played all the instruments on at least three of his own albums.
Having said that, John was paranoid and had major (well-documented) abandonment issues. So whether or not Paul was a true flight risk is hard to gauge. One thing does seem clear to us – that no matter how much Paul may have loved the Beatles, he did not like being artistically muzzled any more than John did and would fight back as hard or harder if pushed into a corner. In the end, John (backed by lieutenants George Harrison, Yoko, Klein and to a lesser extent Ringo) tried this approach and it backfired.
If you haven’t listened to Episode 1 of the Break-up series, we recommend that you do! 🙂 We discuss 1968 in detail there.
This was an amazing episode. The further you go in this series the more baffling it is that no one has seriously broken down John’s love for Paul in a prominent Beatle’s book. I really liked that you pointed out how Paul now uses hyperbole to try to explain his relationship with John. I hope you guys are getting enough appreciation and not too much push back, this is a really refreshing series with some very important points that I hope continues for a long time.
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Thank you so much! Your words mean a lot to us, and it is very reassuring to know that someone out there is listening and appreciating the hours (lifetime!) of research and thought we’ve put into this analysis.
To be perfectly frank, we haven’t gotten ANY pushback on any of our analysis about the Beatles. The only pushback we’ve gotten thus far has been about our criticism of Mark Lewisohn. (None of it was substantive, however, it was all of the generic, “hey, he’s a good guy!” variety)
As to pushing back on actual substance… we encourage it! We can defend all our viewpoints, they are all based in logic, common sense and facts, so are open to challenge and debate.
Can you explain what exactly you guys mean by the term “jean jackets” and how it came about? Great podcast – a much needed antidote to the biographies written by emotionally blunted male rock critics. 😉
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Hi there, thank you so much for reaching out, and we’re so glad you’re enjoying our podcast!
“Jean jackets” was invented by Phoebe as a term to reference members of the rock music press, critics, and fans who hold dear the (false) idea that John Lennon was the only Beatle who really mattered and regard Paul McCartney as a lesser or sidekick to Lennon. In other words, people who have a vested interest in keeping the standard narratives about the Beatles story intact. The “uniform” of the 70’s rock critic, “jean jackets and ponytails,” is an evocative reference for both a group of influencers over fandom discourse AND a mentality. Phoebe gives some explanation of the term in our first episode, “The Minds Behind Another Kind of Mind.”
Thank you so much for listening, and we hope you stay tuned!
Your podcast is fantastic, it seriously gives me life. 😘 I just read this interesting tidbit about a man named Alastair (can’t remember surname) who was a friend/employee of Paul’s after he broke up with Jane, and that Paul would often go to his house for emotional support. He said that while Paul was very close with the Beatles, Paul said he couldn’t go to them because he couldn’t show them weakness. Dying to hear your thoughts on this dynamic and if it played in the breakup at all.
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Why thank you! We love hearing we are making people happy! We are about to drop a couple more episodes so we hope you find them equally entertaining.
The Alistair Taylor anecdote was very revealing and indicative of some of the dynamics within the Beatles. Paul, in particular, has mentioned that they were “Northern Men” and as such did not overtly express their emotions with other men. This seems slightly counter-intuitive for a group that sang “All You Need Is Love” — but apparently that was the case when they were not playing music.
We will be examining this dynamic in our next few episodes because it really comes into play around the breakup of the Beatles. We have pondered why, for example, John, George, and Ringo weren’t more sensitive to Paul around the break-up, knowing what we know now (that it was hard on him emotionally) and yet they treated him like he was Teflon. We think this probably reflects Paul’s outward behavior at the time — that he was fine and strong. Similarly, to us, John’s actions seem obviously highly emotional, yet Paul seems to have taken them at face value (or at least partially believed them), but this again suggests that to Paul, John looked strong and determined. Certainly the entire Authorship has been unable to crack John’s code, so clearly his behavior and actions are not all that obvious to some men!
Anyway, thank you for raising this issue and please stay tuned for our upcoming episodes!
One of the points that I’m most thankful to you for making, about what the traditional narrative gets wrong, is about how John sees Paul so differently from how the jean jackets see him or think John sees him. That’s a topic that makes me say “yes finally” every time you touch on it. You’ve also done a great job analyzing the songs which is such a strangely under-explored area. Anyways, all the breakup stuff is so important but sad, it makes me want to listen to some happy early-beatle stuff
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We agree that highlighting how John saw Paul, based on his own words, is critically important for getting to a more nuanced view of their dynamic, and a more realistic view of the narrative as a whole. Correcting this issue is important because John’s POV has been so misconstrued by the Beatles authorship. They seem to have projected their opinions of Paul onto John, or they have taken John’s tantrum-filled words of the early 70s and imagined this is how he always felt about Paul, which he himself said it wasn’t!
Time and again, John provided us with insight into how he saw Paul, which is: strong, powerful, gifted, brilliant, tough, driven, obstinate and infinitely talented and attractive (as we mentioned, John was the one that referred to Paul as looking like a “God” in LIB!) We can also infer, based on things that John has said later that he sometimes felt unloved by Paul (or not loved enough), and used by Paul. He also repeatedly complained of Paul’s insensitivity, which hurt him deeply. But probably the highest measure of John’s esteem for Paul was that he saw him as his only true competitor, a view he held until his death.
Yet this has gone largely ignored by authors — perhaps because it doesn’t conform to their preferred narrative? Or else they can’t see beyond John’s bravado, which sometimes obscures his more honest, vulnerable moments.
Because post-Beatles John could be so critical of Paul (a right he felt was EXCLUSIVELY his), Jean Jackets erroneously assume he held Paul in low esteem rather than understanding that John held him to the highest possible standards. So while the Jean Jackets position John as acting from a position of indifference and strength, in reality, he has said time and again that he saw Paul as a powerful and “extraordinary” man who was his true partner and a metaphorical spouse— one he also suspected of not loving him enough and potentially using him for his own gain. And while we don’t believe the latter, we know that John was highly paranoid so HE might have believed this. All important to keep in mind when examining his actions. And disinterested in Paul is the last thing he was!
And while the breakup is a depressing topic, we find it is less tragic and more human when we go through it in detail—as we are doing. And perhaps one aspect that is less depressing is that they seem to have remained obsessed with each other. In other words, although the band broke up, their love for and interest in each other never died. We are tracing this story—all their drama seems to have been a series of reactions, games, moves, and countermoves.
Anyway, thank you for your note! We hope you will stay with us throughout the series and we promise to keep it really interesting. In fact, we will be dropping a few more episodes very soon—episodes we are very excited about. So please stay tuned!!
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.
Please feel free to email us at akompodcast at gmail dot com, send us an ask, or a Tumblr message.
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.