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.