Conversations With McCartney

 

All Together Now The world doesn’t need another Beatles podcast. It simply doesn’t. 

There are already countless podcasts, and many of them are very good; well researched, insightful, and fun. Everyone has their must-not-miss favorites to listen to while they drive or jog or cook. (Once, while listening to a SATB episode — which did not include myself, thank you very much — I was so distracted by the show that I labeled the peaches I was putting in the freezer “Beatles.”  That raised a few eyebrows when we pulled those peaches out months later).   

So, having already determined that the world doesn’t need another Beatles podcast, why am I writing a manifesto justifying the existence of my new podcast? 

 That’s a good question. Now watch as I dodge and choose not to answer it in the next sentence. 

When Karen floated the idea of the podcast, my first reaction was reluctance, due to my already hectic schedule. If I were to agree, it would add another task I was simply not sure I had the time to do. I also didn’t want to infringe on the other podcasts who cover the same territory, considering I’ve interviewed with more than a few of them and always had an excellent experience. I’m also, to be blunt, fairly inept technologically, which means any and all tech would fall on Karen’s (more than capable) shoulders. 

However, I miss writing the book reviews and analyses that I used to be able to write when I had the uninterrupted time to work on them. Viewing the podcasts as the verbal equivalent of those reviews — ones which I could produce in a discussion with Karen over approximately an hour, rather than the several hours, at least, it takes to produce a written analysis — convinced me that the podcast approach was a good idea. What Karen and I want to provide with the podcast — what we believe “All Together Now” offers, hopefully episode in and episode out — is the same level of analysis you would receive if you were taking a graduate-school level reading seminar on the Beatles. We’re going to categorize, and discuss, and look at methodology, chronology, and sourcing. And, if people want to hear them, I will occasionally digress down various history-related rabbit holes to provide examples of certain issues from other historical subjects.

That’s our hook, and our goal. If it works for you, and you find the podcast worthwhile, then I guess the world did need another Beatles podcast. Sorta.

Thanks, Erin

 

Erin is being modest.  Of COURSE the world needs another Beatle podcast–especially one hosted by our favourite Beatle historian!  The link below should take you to our podcast website, where you will also find a brief descriptor of our podcast approach and a few words about the hosts, Erin and yours truly.  If you have any problems connecting, please let me know.  

So, without further ado,  our first podcast:  A review of Conversations With McCartney, by Paul Du Noyer. 

~Karen

Introducing:

Erin and I are happy to announce that we’re taking our blog to the airwaves!

In this podcast, Erin and I will delve into the band’s historiography— the study of how their story has been told over time — by reviewing beatle biography in the context of its data sources, the objectives and biases of the individuals who have constructed its narratives, and the varying versions of Beatle history contained within its pages. It’s a podcast for Beatles lovers, readers, and history lovers alike. 

Stay tuned!

Testing, Testing

Some of you might have recently received a blog update entitled “test.”

Erin and I are in the midst of experimenting with podcast applications and one test went AWOL. Sorry `bout that!

New Podcast: Interview with Glass Onion

As a wise man once said, “It’s Deja vu all over again.”*

Here’s yet another new interview, done with Antony Rotuno’s Glass Onion podcast. It’s a nice companion piece to the One Sweet Dream podcast I did with Diana, in that my discussion with her primarily focused on McCartney, whereas the one with Antony is more Lennon-centric. We discuss the issues surrounding both Coleman’s Lennon and Goldman’s version, along with less polarizing portrayals, such as the one provided by Pete Shotton. I hope you listen and enjoy; feel free to ask comments or questions.

Here’s the link:

Episode 67- John Lennon and the Historian with Erin Torkelson Weber by Glass Onion: On John Lennon | Free Listening on SoundCloud

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(For all that Yogi Berra was more recently most well known for his malapropisms, he was also a well-decorated World War II soldier who served bravely in the Pacific Theater. All honor to him).

Podcast alert: Interview with One Sweet Dream

Everyone,

I’m very pleased to report that today Diana Erickson of One Sweet Dream has posted the single longest podcast interview, to date, I’ve ever done (although I suppose if you combine all my SATB interviews, it would rank a distant second). We cover a lot of ground, with particular emphasis on the Maureen Cleave interviews and the sculpting of the Beatles image. For those who are interested, here’s the link:

Player FM – Internet Radio Done Right

Questions and comments are welcomed.

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Completely non-Beatles related note: For anyone who is even remotely interested in Abraham Lincoln, The American Civil War and historiography, I cannot recommend Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image, by Joshua Zeist, strongly enough. Zeist delves into the lives of Lincoln’s two secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, their roles as witnesses to history and, more importantly, their crucial and massive impact on Lincoln and Civil War historiography.

Lincoln’s only authorized biographers, they published a ten volume biography of Lincoln in the late 19th century that benefited, immensely, not only from their own personal memories and documentation, but from the privilege and power of being the only researchers allowed, until 1947, full access to the Lincoln papers. (As we have recently noted on this blog, regarding the cancellation of Doggett’s Prisoner of Love, control over rare documents ensures a measure of control over a historiography). Zeist discusses issues familiar to readers of Beatles historiography: influential secondary sources far too dependent on retrospective interviews, rather than documentation; authorial disputes regarding crucial and legacy defining writings; how elevating the reputation of one individual in history seemingly can require demeaning another; and the role audience plays in demanding a preferable interpretation from its historians. If given a chance, I hope to write a post further exploring the parallels.

One Less Puzzle Piece

A few months ago, contributor Steve alerted me to the upcoming book by Peter Doggett, to be published in April:

Prisoner Of Love, Inside The Dakota with John Lennon by Peter Doggett | 9781911036692 | Booktopia

My plan had been to review it here on the blog after securing a copy. To be clear: I fully expected greater clarity from Doggett and the publisher regarding Doggett’s access to Lennon’s diaries than was provided in the publisher’s blurb. While I respect Doggett, and find both There’s a Riot Going On and You Never Give me Your Money to provide good methodology and some sound analysis, I would have considered a more detailed explanation regarding his access to and study of such hard-to-access primary source material a requisite part of the book. I would have expected an authorial attempt at proving authentication, presumably in the introduction, before regarding the evidence as credible.

Unfortunately, it appears as if the book is now on hiatus, with no explanation given, for reasons on which we can only speculate. And while Amazon is evidently still accepting orders, rumor are swirling the book has been canceled.

In my Fab4ConJam panel, I mentioned how each bit of Beatles history we get, regardless of how seemingly trivial, adds another layer or puzzle piece to the greater picture. That Doggett — a reputable Beatles author, and one willing to acknowledge both sides of a debate and the negative along with the positive — was on the cusp of seemingly providing his interpretation of the Lennon diaries, access to which has been severely limited, and possibly including direct quotes from said diaries, would have been far from trivial.

Would Doggett’s interpretation have been vastly different than that of Robert Rosen, who covered the subject and offered his own interpretation of the diaries retrospectively in Nowhere Man, or the recollections of Fred Seaman? I cannot say. Right now, my frustration is that we are not going to get the chance to even see Doggett’s interpretation.

One of obfuscating aspects of Beatles historiography is how crucial primary sources, such as Lennon’s diaries, are privately held, and therefore unavailable to the point of inaccessibility. This inaccessibility restricts new analysis and potentially differing interpretations and, incidentally, accountability among researchers. (In layman’s terms, it means no one is looking over your interpretive shoulder). This restriction, in part, incidentally grants enormous significance to those very rare interpretations of hard to access sources that do exist, regardless of the validity or accuracy of the interpretation. When a largely inaccessible primary source has been interpreted or evaluated only by one or two people, and their interpretation is often the only interpretation available, the reader is perpetually stuck in a singular interpretation of a secondary source. That is a situation that rarely benefits the reader or boosts the accuracy of a historical interpretation.

Lennon’s diaries are one example of virtually inaccessible sources, but others exist: We have only one discussion of McCartney’s Japanese prison memoir by one individual who read it. Among the most influential documents in Beatles historiography are the Abbey Road tapes; the primary sources from which Mark Lewisohn wrote The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. When I recounted the history of the tapes to another historian, my emphasis was on the tapes’ financial value and the security measures in place guarding them. Her take was the correct one: she was amazed and appalled that such crucial primary sources were so inaccessible to virtually all Beatles researchers, noting how, regardless of Lewisohn’s excellent reputation as a researcher, that aspect troubled her, in that it granted one man’s interpretation sole influence over our understanding of the tapes.

I don’t know whether Doggett’s interpretation would have confirmed or contradicted the very few and limited previous interpretations of John’s diaries. I know Beatles historiography, and readers, are poorer for not getting the chance to read what Doggett had to say.

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Comments and questions are welcomed.