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Everyone always talks about John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison in terms of creating this world. It’s important to note that Ringo Starr wasn’t just the guy who came in, did the drums and went home again. Remember, they’re a pop group. What Ringo’s doing with his drums is rooting all this playing around that’s going on in the music in a pop/rock medium.Howard Goodall, composer

         JOHN: Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we ever met him. Whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know, but we can’t put our finger on it…
         PAUL: I still remember the moment – the first time Ringo played with us – he kicked in, and it was like, “Oh my God!” I remember we were all looking at each other like “This is it!” I’m getting very emotional just talking about it.
         GEORGE: Ringo would sit in with us, and every time he sat in, it just seemed like this was it. Historically, it may seem like the three of us did something nasty to Pete Best, and it may have been that we could have done it better, but history also shows Ringo was the member of the band. He just didn’t enter the film until that particular scene.
         RINGO: My dream was to get into a better band, and then a better band, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m an only child and I felt like I suddenly had three brothers. We just wanted to play. Playing was the most important thing.


So you know how there’s a few photos of John with pictures of the Beatles near him when he’s working?

A few examples:

Recently, I was listening to John and Yoko’s interview with Dave Sholin for RKO (taped on December 8, 1980), and I came across a quote from him that I thought was quite interesting:

JOHN: We had his [Sean’s] picture pinned up in the studio, because I didn’t want to lose contact with him, with what I got. I was scared, myself, that moving back into the business, and one tends to hone in on yourself and the sound, and the record, and how you’re doin’ it. We had his picture up there all the time, in between the speakers, so whenever you list… checkin’ the stereo, he was lookin’ at me all the time.

I always thought the pictures were simply a sweet, small, passing gesture John did. But after listening to the audio and reading the quote, the significance of that action is just much more meaningful. “I didn’t want to lose contact.” He missed his family when they weren’t there with him. Just like Sean was his family, The Beatles were as well. He didn’t want to feel alone and the pictures served to remind him that they were very much a part of him and his creative process. They were something constant in his life. He would know this every time he looked up at those photos and saw those familiar faces.


Part two of this review of Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In suggests that Lewisohn could have done more to explain why Paul and George formed a connection to one another: 

“Close school pal Ian James says he couldn’t understand what (aside from music) drew Paul to George, who was younger and decidedly more abrasive than Macca. Lewisohn doesn’t really explore or try to explain that. Indeed, while John and George had quite similar temperaments and world views, Paul was different in many ways, and I’d have liked the book to dig a little deeper into what attracted – and ultimately bound – them to each other.”

I’ve just picked up Graeme Thomson’s George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door and though he mainly talks about Paul and George’s early bond being about music and “being grammar school boys stuck on the outskirts of town,” he also maybe offers a bit of a clue to what drew them together in his early descriptions of George: “In certain company, [George] could be loud, extrovert, aggressive and confrontational. Paul McCartney’s earliest impressions were of ‘a cocky little guy with a good sense of himself; he wasn’t cowed by anything.’ At other times he would be thoughtful, with a shyness that could be both soulful and surly.” (23, 15). Thomson then goes on to say that “[George] never quite aligned himself to the notion of being told what to do” (15). 

Though Thomson suggests that Paul “Was shaping up to be one of nature’s diplomats, pouring oil on troubled waters” while “Harrison was less inclined to play nice when his mood dictated otherwise,”(14) it is the case that Paul *also* really disliked being told what to do, as he explains here: “I never much liked authority. I didn’t like school teachers or critics telling me what I should do. Or myself telling me.”

I wonder if, in addition to shared humor, an interest in music, and a long commute their mutual dislike of authority/being told what to do bonded them–though the way they handled this dislike of authority manifested itself in different ways. It’s also interesting to me that Thomson’s bio of George and Chris Salewicz’s bio of Paul indicate that they could both be outgoing as well as shy/sensitive–though again, their ways of being outgoing and shy/sensitive looked different.


Throwing my hat into the “Why did Paul and Jane break up?” ring. There have been fantastic posts on this already, but looking at the McCartney bios by Sounes and Salewicz back-to-back has given me a slightly different perspective (this could all need to be tossed out if anything else about them comes to light/there’s other material I’m not aware of, which is more than possible, but here’s what I’ve got for now!) 

The short version: I think they split up because of a lack of long-term compatibility that they both recognized as they got older. They also grew to prefer different lifestyles and possibly also had different ideas about whether/when to start trying to have children. By the time they split up, Paul had already realized, according to the joint interview with Jane described in Hunter Davies’ 1968 bio, that it was “silly” of him to have expected Jane to do what the other Beatles’ partners had done and give up her career after marriage (Paul describing his expectation as having been “silly” is in Davies 308-309. The observation that all the other women who had “married in to the band” had given up their careers because that was “expected by men of [the Beatles’ background]” is in Sounes 189). Jane having a career she wanted to continue after marriage seems to have been resolved as a possible impediment before the split. The Salewicz bio suggests that what *may* have been a factor was the question of children, with Jane not wanting them to interfere with her career. However, it’s not clear from that bio when this question came up for them–whether it was closer to the time of the split or whether it had been discussed and resolved prior to their engagement. I think these are the main reasons they split. I don’t think his many, many, many affairs helped at all, but I think the above reasons are the main ones.

Jane and Paul got together when they were quite young (Jane was 17 and Paul was 20) and their interests diverged in a few ways that really mattered as they got older. As the bios have suggested, Jane wasn’t really into rock ‘n’roll and really wasn’t into the drug scene. Paul was into both (understatement!). This likely contributed to the tension that people like Marianne Faithful witnessed between them. In addition to that, they both seemed to realize that they didn’t ultimately “click.” For bio excerpts and more, please see below!

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i truly love to rag on the beatles as much as the next guy but my roommate had decided that they’re talentless hacks for years and my stance on the matter has always been: ill never argue/try to gently convince anyone otherwise when they say they don’t like them because they truly are NOT for everyone, but when the argument is that they’re just bad musicians, im like ok…. well, let’s take a step back

and then today, for whatever reason, she decided she wanted to learn come together on the bass after picking the bass up for the first time like two months ago and i was like HA good luck with that! and she got like five minutes in and slowly came to the realization that it was actually something groovy and complex and i was like, i TRULY do not know what you were expecting lmao u have heard the song, no?

@walkuntilthedaylight yeah totally! u really start to listen to music differently when you’re trying to learn it too. it becomes something specific and tangible rather than just some memory in your head of the last time u heard it.

also, kinda unrelated, but im gonna use this reply to ruminate lmao sorry, the general beatle consensus has changed multiple times even in my lifetime and it sort of periodically becomes chic to dislike them for various reasons (some totally valid). like, i started to like/listen to them aaaaages ago in the early/mid 2000s when ‘1’ came out and then apple loosened their grips on the licensing and things were getting re-released endlessly and they became relevant again (at least in millennial social circles, couldn’t tell you much about anything before this period). but they almost became too relevant and it went back around to actually being cool to dislike them, and this was when she became more aware of them and basically just stuck to her first impression, as we all tend to do with the things we don’t feel passionate enough about to dig deeper. like, i dunno how old everybody is, but when across the universe came out, there was a serious divide and like, hardcore beatle fans were like “this movie is gaaaaarbage!!!” and so ppl who enjoyed the movie were like, no, actually it’s the beatles that are garbage!!!

it’s such a wild cycle tbh because it’s kind of flip-flopped in that, like, young female fans loved them first and had to fight tooth and nail to convince people that they were actually producing good music outside of the whole beatle mania response. and when men took over and decided, hey, they’re good, a lot of people sort of turned on them. and im like, well hey, popular music is sometimes popular because it’s good and female fans recognized that early on. things are derivative of the popular thing that’s actually good, of course, but that doesn’t discredit the thing that’s good.

this is of course absolutely surface level and if i was going to really dig into it in any serious way, you’d have to account for the rise of awareness of abuse/sexism/racism/ableism/misogyny in how/why the beatle consensus has changed, hence the bracketed “totally valid” above!

Yeah, I grew up in the 90s when Anthology was coming out, so I experienced a lot of this too. My dad’s a megafan who used to pop quiz me on “did john or paul write this song and how can you tell” every time he played an album for me lmfao, so I also had this personal/private relationship with The Beatles (and John Lennon in particular) I was always nursing, to which many aspects of the mainstream narrative seemed so actively hostile that I eventually “stopped liking” them for close to a decade.

The reason why is weird and complicated, but basically I started reading more about, and thus buying deeply into, the JohnandYoko narrative, and the ‘Imagine’/Peace & Love/This Marriage Changed The World shit deeply alienated me from my literal childhood idol and made me think that I’d been misinterpreting an emotional connection with the music this whole time if ‘Imagine’ was John’s “true legacy”. I think common sense would dictate that the “Ballad” narrative should be more amenable to and popular with women as it’s presented explicitly as a tale of feminist redemption, where a strong woman reforms a wife beater by patiently demonstrating her enlightened ideology and impressing him with her Uniquely Self Possessed Nature (lets set aside the fact that it’s uhhh not even a little bit true), but I’ve actually found that female John fans are more willing to neutrally entertain stuff like Goldman or the Rosen/Seaman books as an important part of the picture, whereas men who “stan” John – especially the over 45 set – don’t just *believe* the JohnandYoko narrative – they NEED for it to be true.

I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for this divide – like, obviously women are gonna think this story is fishy the moment they look past the surface b/c they won’t have the guilt that makes some men  afraid to ask questions about Yoko’s iffy behaviour, but I think there’s something else with the fandom gender dynamics here that as you’ve mentioned goes deep deep to the core, to the very beginning of the band’s rise to fame (there was a reason I went on this anecdotal rant)!

Because – who was it who WROTE the JohnandYoko narrative? It was very specific set of people: the emergent American Rock Literati – Rolling Stone and the tabloid biography superstars and Christgau’s Village Voice column, etc. They’re guys, yeah, so no wonder they came up with a feminist story that seems to offput women who look too close, but offers a cathartic fairy tale to aging men. The thing about “The Ballad of JohnandYoko” is that it makes John’s life a tragic but ultimately triumphalist narrative, about an artist who set out what he wanted to achieve but was still unfulfilled until he met his true love. It gives mythic meaning to the break up of the band they worship. It’s sexy and looks good on gloss. Because that’s the other side of the narrative distortion this clique did: which is that they helped craft an entirely new way of being a celebrity and engaging with pop music. Their stance as music critics had more to do with aesthetics and its “artistic importance” to the cutting edge of the current culture.

I recently read this book called ‘Love Me Do!’ which is a fairly dry observational piece on The Beatles written in 1964, and was surprised at how *all* of the contemporary reviews and articles quoted cite the kind of stuff that generally gets touted as “refreshing counternarrative” these days as self evident factors of the band’s success, such as their revival of melody, the way they use the trappings of complex classical music without ever leaving the more diatonic structures of pop, their coquettishly “safe” gender play, the unique importance of john and paul’s partnership, their thematic and stylistic continuity w/ british poetry/literature, etc. This is all before they started writing “”“real”“” music (according to the Rock Literati) too!

I guess what I’m describing here is just the “Jean Jackets” phenomenon lol, but I wanted to tease out what I think might be the main unspoken tension in Beatles fandom/history, which is that the psychological deterioration of John Lennon (and the rest of the band to lesser but still awful degrees) is one of the most disturbing, sad and fucked up tragedies in modern popular music, but there’s a lot of money and Cultural Desire around keeping up this positively tragic, cathartic, triumphant narrative. This appears mostly to break along gender lines because women are more likely to be sympathetic to paul, or not believe a single fucking word out of a man like john lennon’s mouth even if they “stan” him, and men need john lennon to have broken up the band for a good reason and additionally, to have learned his lesson about Bad Male Behaviour. And then it breaks again along generational lines because you either grow up with the “sad story” and learn (to make it) the “better one”, or you grow up with the “better” one and then get your mind blown by the “sad” one (”the beatles did heroin????”).

GOD SORRY for the tl;dr. I didn’t have a clear thesis here and went WAAAAAY off topic, just wanted to spitball about how the emotional and cultural difficulty in telling an accurate story of The Beatles breakup paired with their pop culture ubiquity turned the statement “The Beatles are an important and good band” into a brainless tautology which invites iconoclastic skepticism in a way I don’t think ever happens with Dylan or Michael Jackson or Elvis, for example, because we’ve been talking about the wrong things for 30 years, and not talking about the ACTUAL MUSIC at alllllll. I could rant forever about this topic.

My addition is unrelated to the original post, but anyway.

> the psychological deterioration of John Lennon (…) is one of the most disturbing, sad and fucked up tragedies in modern popular music.

Thank you so much for this. It’s actually… It makes me uneasy how the mainstream majority of people (by that I mean fans, autorship and general public – who I honestly do not blame for being uneducated on particular Beatles’ history, especially if fans and autorship chose to ignore this topic) brush off and understate (in particular) John’s obvious very deep struggle with mental health and drug addiction as if it didn’t even happen. His mental health is rarely discussed as a real factor in the story, because it doesn’t correspond with the popular, comforting narrative. It only gets brought up when people want to point out the intimacy of John’s lyrics and paint him as a tortured artist, usually to put Paul down in comparison. But outside of his music, the struggles don’t exist anymore. The drug addiction issue ommitment disturbs me even more, because his self medicating went way beyond experimenting and recreational use. First with alcohol, then LSD (which imo made his mental health far worse) and then finally, the drug of drugs, heroin. Yet the only time you see drugs brought up in connection to The Beatles in general amongst the mainstream, it’s to point out how drugs changed their music and made them into a better band with no downside at all. Which, fair enough, they did. But at what cost?

I guess I can see the point of view of people who would rather look away from the trainwreck and continue believing in a self-created myth of a man, who got it all but it wasn’t enough. And only thanks to finding a new cosmic love, that’s greater than any other personal connection in history, who showed him a whole new world, he found himself and rebirthed into a new and better artist, a person who is a strong leader, who only speaks truth and never looks back, because he’s finally free from all the baggage that was holding him down. That is not what happened though. But the fact it didn’t is much harder to swallow, especially if the myth is your dream.

Sorry for the ramble. I had some thoughts. It’s incoherent. Whatever.


In December 1966, about the same time as he delivered the piano, [David] Vaughan asked Paul if he would contribute some music for a couple of Carnival of Light Raves that Binder, Edwards and Vaughan were promoting at the Roundhouse as part of their idea of bringing art to the community, in this case in the form of light shows, experimental music and films. David: ‘I asked Paul to do it and I thought he would make more of it than he did, I thought this was a vehicle for him, if anything was. My trouble is, I expect everybody to drop everything. I forget other people have got things on.’ Amazingly, perhaps, Paul agreed to make a contribution, despite being in the middle of the recording sessions for Sgt. Pepper.

So it was that on 5 January, after overdubbing a vocal on ‘Penny Lane’, the Beatles under Paul’s direction freaked out at Abbey Road, producing an experimental tape just under fourteen minutes long. The tape has no rhythm, though a beat is sometimes established for a few bars by the percussion or a rhythmic pounding on the piano. There is no melody, though snatches of a tune sometimes threaten to break through. The Beatles make literally random sounds, although they sometimes respond to each other; for instance, a burst of organ notes answered by a rattle of percussion. The basic track was recorded slow so that some of the drums and organ were very deep and sonorous, like the bass notes of a cathedral organ. Much of it is echoed and it is often hard to tell if you are listening to a slowed-down cymbal or a tubular bell. John and Paul yell with massive amounts of reverb on their voices, there are Indian war cries, whistling, close-miked gasping, genuine coughing and fragments of studio conversation, ending with Paul asking, with echo, ‘Can we hear it back now?’ The tape was obviously overdubbed and has bursts of feedback guitar, schmaltzy cinema organ, snatches of jangling pub piano, some unpleasant electronic feedback and John yelling, ‘Electricity.’ There is a great deal of percussion throughout, again much of it overdubbed. The tape was made with full stereo separation, and is essentially an exercise in musical layers and textures. It most resembles ‘The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’, the twelve-minute final track on Frank Zappa’s Freak Out! album, except there is no rhythm and the music here is more fragmented, abstract and serious. The deep organ notes at the beginning of the piece set the tone as slow and contemplative.

DAVID: That organ is exactly how I used to see him. I used to picture him as a maniac from the seventeenth century: one of those brilliant composers who’d suddenly been reincarnated into this century, let loose with modern technology. A lot of people thought Paul McCartney was shallow. I didn’t see him as that at all, I saw him as very very deep. He had this open fire with a big settee in front of it, there would be no lights on, and he’d be playing music at top volume. I used to sit there watching him for hours. I think that’s the real him; this real deep, dark … I thought, who knows what he could do if they’d leave him alone for a bit? Because he could absorb a lot without encountering any mental block, he could express that Machiavellian, Euro­pean horror.

— paul mccartney: many years from now, by barry miles