Get Back: The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster

[Ok, beatle history peeps: while Erin is recuperating from childbirth I thought I would post this book review I wrote for Hey Dullblog awhile back.  Looking forward to your comments. KH]

Get Back: The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster (Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt, 1994)

In January, 1969, The Beatles began a project that ostensibly marked their return to concert performances, something they hadn’t done in over three years. The project was the brainchild of Paul McCartney, who hoped that performing before a live audience would restore the group’s fading morale and creative ennui.  Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired to direct a television documentary which was slated to accompany the concert’s live television broadcast.

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Baby Announcement

Erin gave birth to a 10 lb. bouncing baby girl!  Her name is Claire.

Welcome to the world, Claire. We wish you and your family all the best.

Something About the Beatles: Interview II, The Historian and the Beatles

In my second interview with the Something About the Beatles podcast, posted Monday, Robert Rodriguez and I discussed the overall arc of Beatles historiography, analyzed some of the “canon” works, and spent a lot of time talking about drugs.

Listen to the podcast here. 

We also mentioned or analyzed a number of both well-known and lesser-known Beatles books, including everything from Apple to the Core to John Lennon called me Normal. Some of the books we discussed, such as Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money, are more thoroughly analyzed in my own book but, for new visitors, here are some links to my earlier blog reviews:

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“Some Other Kind of Mind:” Book Review, The Beatles with Lacan, by Henry Sullivan, Part II.

Authorial speculation and armchair psychoanalysis theorizing that John Lennon’s undoubtedly unstable parenting situation and the conflict between his Aunt Mimi and mother Julia provoked deep trauma and emotional instability in the artist’s life and psyche is not new. References to the emotional tumult caused by Lennon’s early childhood can be found as early as Michael Braun’s work Love Me Do and now can be found in virtually every major contemporaneous work in Beatles historiography.

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Some Other Kind of Mind: Book Review, The Beatles with Lacan, by Henry Sullivan, 1995. Part I.

Over the last two decades, Beatles’ authors have begun to tentatively delve into psychological issues involving the group and its members, particularly John Lennon. Authors from Doggett to MacDonald to Lewisohn have incorporated various elements of Lennon’s personality and psychology – his emotional instability, his addictive personality, his fear of abandonment, insecurity and envy – into their analysis of the musician’s actions and statements.

Far less attention has been devoted to the other Beatles’ psychological and emotional issues. Paul McCartney’s refusal to join in Lennon’s “soul-baring extravaganzas,” his apparent normalcy (and, presumably, still alive status), as well as the tiresome tendency in Beatles historiography to categorize Lennon and McCartney in unfailingly opposing terms (if John is the anguished, tormented partner, Paul, by definition, must be the blithe, untroubled one) has seemingly contributed to this. George Harrison and Ringo Starr, meanwhile, barely merit any analysis or even enter into the discussion.

Despite his best efforts, Henry Sullivan’s The Beatles with Lacan, published over 20 years ago in 1995, illustrates how badly Beatles historiography still needs a trained psychologist or psychiatrist to evaluate the band; not only as individuals, but also in their relationships with one another. In the book, Sullivan applies the psychological concepts of French psychoanalyst Jaqcues Lacan to Lennon, McCartney and the third “other” they created between the two of them – what Sullivan categorizes as a psycho-musical marriage. For those fans and readers who pick up the book hoping to get a more comprehensive group analysis, the title The Beatles with Lacan is, frankly, misleading: George and Ringo are almost entirely neglected in the author’s analysis. A more appropriate title would have been Lennon and McCartney with Lacan.

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The Vintage Rock and Pop Shop: My Interview with David Ghosty Wills

In a recent interview with David Ghosty Wills, of the WFDU “The Vintage Rock and Pop Shop” radio show, he and I had a good, in-depth discussion on Beatles historiography, revisionism, and the toxic, obscuring impact which has resulted from viewing the band’s story through a Lennon vs. McCartney lens. You can find the interview here:

Throughout the discussion, David and/or I also mention some of the key works in Beatles historiography. The evaluation of some of these books is in The Beatles and the Historians: But others can be found on the blog.

Here is an analysis comparing and contrasting aspects of Ray Coleman’s John and Paul biographies, with particular emphasis on Coleman’s rampant and convenient revisionism, and what may or may not have motivated it; Here is a review of Nicholas Schaffner’s 1970s classic, The Beatles Forever which, despite its status as a cornerstone book for many fans, has some issues of its own; and here is my analysis of Philip Norman’s recent McCartney biography, focusing on the work’s importance within the larger context of Beatles historiography and Norman’s place in it.


Comments on these reviews, or on the interview with David Wills, are welcome. Buyer beware: I’ve always maintained that lecturing, rather than interviewing, is my stronger speaking style.