Scorsese or Stone: Owning Your Mistakes

A few weeks ago an alert reader, Todd, alerted me to a mistake in The Beatles and the Historians where, in the section in Chapter Four examining the impact of George Harrison’s death, I misidentified the director of “Living in the Material World,” the 2011 Harrison documentary. The director was Martin Scorsese, but in my book, I mistakenly identified Oliver Stone as the documentary’s director. (1)

(Erin attempts to contemplate a George documentary directed by Oliver Stone. Erin utterly fails).

I already had contacted my publisher over a year ago regarding that particular error, as well other errors in the book, and requested they be fixed, so I was surprised when Todd alerted me that they were still on his recently-purchased 2018 kindle edition. However, my editor at McFarland explained to me that, while my list of corrections had been applied to the new print edition, they cannot correct them in the kindle edition. So the error is evidently permanent, at least until some sort of revised edition comes out, which is not on the horizon at this time.

To those who purchased the kindle edition, I apologize for that and any other errors you encountered in my work. I noted myself in the afterword to The Beatles and the Historians that Beatles fans have a very low tolerance for errors — as they should. Since I cannot correct the errors in the kindle edition, I will try and do so on this blog. First off, if any of you, like Todd, find an error, please let me know. It may have been one that was already corrected in the print edition, or not. Second, I will do my best to thoroughly read through my own book and find errors and alert readers to them … although that probably will admittedly be a rather slow process, given the other demands on my time.

Erin


Notes:

1: The obvious question is then “How could you mistakenly identify Stone instead of Scorsese?” And the only answer I have is, unfortunately, completely unhelpful: I have no idea.

I knew the documentary was by Scorsese. I had watched it, and Scorsese was the name written in my notes. Somewhere in between the journey from my brain, where I knew it was Scorsese, to my fingers when I typed it out, Scorsese became Stone. Worse, I didn’t catch it when I edited or indexed the book, and neither did any of my unofficial or official editors. But I’m not casting blame on them: none of the individuals who edited my manuscript were Beatles experts, for the simple reason that I didn’t really know any Beatles experts to ask. (My McFarland editor was their resident Beatles expert, but it slipped through his net as well). It was edited by multiple PhD’s, history majors, an attorney (to evaluate the section on the legal issues surrounding the Beatles’ trial) and a professional magazine editor before it ever went to my official editor, but none were terribly well-versed on the Beatles or their history, and the primary concern for most involved the proper application of historical methodology. Regardless, the mistake is there, and its mine.

Some Chick from New York, Part III: Pizza and Fairy Tales

Part III

The second, most consistent, issue regarding Lennon’s view of Eastman involves his repeated surprise both at McCartney’s choice of her as his spouse and at the other couple’s evidently successful marriage. Lennon was not alone in this regard: According to various Beatles insiders, virtually everyone in the band’s circle, from Ringo Starr to Alistair Taylor to Ray Connolly to Peter Brown, expressed surprised about McCartney’s marriage to Eastman. Lennon publicly confessed surprise to McCabe at the seeming rapidity of the other couple’s relationship — “one minute she’s riding with us to the airport and the next minute she’s married to him.” In the same interview, Lennon also opined his own failure to understand Eastman’s appeal, describing her as “a bit tweedy.” (1)

The majority of Lennon’s comments (with one notable exception)over time indicate that overall he failed to grasp why McCartney chose and remained with Eastman. As previously noted, Lennon implied the marriage would be short lived no fewer than three times: in his undated 1971 drafted response to Eastman: in his November 1971 response to McCartney’s Melody Maker interview, where he again estimated a two-year timeline before McCartney came to his senses, and explicitly in his, Ono and Klein’s 1971 interviews with Peter McCabe. In the latter, Lennon, Ono and Klein reveal their varying predictions on how long the Eastman/McCartney marriage would endure. Klein’s original estimate of two years, given by Ono — “And so Klein thinks he’ll give Paul two years Linda-wise, you know” — was dismissed by Lennon as too short; Lennon now upped his own estimate to five years, but only because of McCartney’s role as a father: “Paul treasures things like children.” Ono, in turn, argued that Lennon’s longer timeline demonstrated his greater understanding of McCartney. We have no evidence indicating what McCartney and Eastman’s response was to these repeated predictions regarding the imminent end of their marriage. However, in his book Lennon vs. McCartney, author Adam Thomas argues that McCartney’s song “Some People Never Know,” on the album “Wild Life,” is a declaration by McCartney that Lennon failed to understand the true depth of his love for Eastman.

According to less documented sources, Lennon continued to anticipate the end of the Eastman/McCartney marriage. Journalist Ray Connolly declared that Lennon expressed surprise and even amusement at McCartney’s evident ability to remain faithful to Eastman. Additional, unverifiable sources also argue that, even in later years, Lennon seemingly resented the other couple’s apparent happiness: as McCartney later related, Lennon once dismissed McCartney as “Pizza and Fairy Tales” after a phone conversation in which McCartney had detailed his home life. Both Robert Rosen, who read Lennon’s diaries following the musician’s death, and Lennon assistant Fred Seaman, argued that Lennon and Ono were obsessed with ensuring that they promoted to the press an image of their marriage that was viewed as superior to the McCartney’s own seemingly contented marriage. John Green, their tarot reader, described doing a reading for Lennon following a dinner with the McCartney’s where Lennon evidently regarded the other couple as being insufferably happy. Green then provided Lennon with the prediction, (evidently telling the musician what he wanted to hear), that the happy image the other couple had projected was a complete façade; Eastman and McCartney were secretly miserable, and the couple would divorce within a year. Green also states that Lennon expressed incomprehension at the marriage’s longevity. Geoffrey Guiliano, not the most reputable of biographers, claims to have done a phone interview with Lennon friend and Lost Weekend confidante Harry Nilsson, in which Guiliano inquired as to whether Lennon had ever expressed to Nilsson any sexual interest in Eastman. Guiliano interpreted Nilsson’s reported response — “John didn’t want to fuck Linda: John wanted to fuck Paul” — as indicating that any sexual attraction Lennon may have felt towards Eastman was driven not by her, but by his desire to mess up McCartney’s life and assert his dominance over his old friend and rival.

However, despite these examples, Lennon’s comments also display insight into how a significant aspect of Eastman’s appeal included her willingness to provide McCartney with a stable family. Lennon noted how McCartney had always enjoyed the domesticity and family life with his father, Jim, and brother, Mike. Asher’s determination to continue with her acting career had admittedly, according to the Authorized Biography, been a point of contention between her and McCartney, who wanted her to focus more on him and their anticipated domestic life together. Eastman, already a single mother, came equipped with what Lennon described to McCabe as “a ready-made family.” (Note: Linda was not the first single mother McCartney dated: In Tune In, Lewisohn reveals that McCartney also had dated Thelma Pickles, another divorcee with a young child, (and an ex-girlfriend of Lennon’s) following the group’s return from Hamburg). In his own conversations in Many Years From Now regarding Linda’s entrance into his life, McCartney seemingly endorsed Lennon’s assessment: noting that it was Eastman’s efforts to take diligent care of her daughter, Heather, and to manage the house at Cavendish that prompted his admiration, explicitly describing her as a ‘woman,’ in contrast to the many ‘girls’ already in his life.

Lennon’s public statements on Eastman tapered off following his early 1972 détente with McCartney, and his press silence in the mid-to-late 1970s continued this pattern. Eastman and Ono’s interaction during Lennon’s lost weekend was evidently unremarkable: in her memoirs May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend at the time, has little to say regarding Lennon’s comments on/views of Eastman, although her book does include pictures of a seemingly happy McCartney and Eastman coming up to visit Lennon and Pang when they were in New York. Its notable that his Double Fantasy era comments on her are among his most positive, in that they defend Eastman (and Ono) rather than finding fault. Whether this pattern would have continued had Lennon lived is up for debate, given how various factors in Lennon’s own personal and professional lives seemingly impacted the negativity or positivity of his interview comments.

Ultimately, it appears that, even after the breakup-era acrimony had removed the obvious point of contention between them, Lennon remained largely unimpressed with Eastman. Furthermore, her and McCartney’s evidently contented marriage reportedly provoked feelings of envy and competition from both Lennon and Ono. In You Never Give me Your Money, Doggett notes how, for Lennon, “insecurity was almost instinctive.” As Doggett describes it, Lennon and Ono together could make McCartney feel intimidated and marginalized. On the other side, Lennon’s reaction to Eastman both as an individual and as part of a couple with McCartney apparently and primarily prompted resentment.


(1) Note: the phrase “tweedy” was also used by a writer in Mojo’s 10 Years That Shook the World in order to describe Cynthia Lennon prior to her Brigitte Bardot makeover period. As the phrase seems to be a British expression, could one of our readers from across the pond translate “tweedy” for us non-Brits?

If I have overlooked other sources on the subject that readers believe could add to the discussion please, let me know.

“Some Chick From New York:” Part II

In its December 1980 coverage of the musician’s death, Time magazine noted John Lennon’s recent efforts to distance himself from his earlier breakup-era denunciations, particularly those regarding his former songwriting partner, Paul McCartney. McCartney, the magazine declared, was someone Lennon clearly loved and clearly hated” and described him as “the brother [Lennon] never had.”

Any thorough examination of Beatles historiography and Lennon’s public and private statements regarding McCartney provide evidence to reinforce this assessment. Lennon’s statements on McCartney over the decades run the gamut; expressing love, contempt, admiration, envy, scorn, and insecurity, (among many other emotions), but never indifference.

This relative balance between negative and positive statements is lacking in Lennon’s comments regarding McCartney’s spouse, Linda Eastman. While Lennon’s negative comments on McCartney can be/should be assessed alongside his words of praise, the reality is that, while Lennon expressed multiple negative views of Eastman and/or her family, almost no positive comments exist as a counterbalance. Rather, Lennon’s private and public comments regarding Linda McCartney primarily range from dismissive to contemptuous. His 1980 Playboy interview, when he equates Eastman and Ono and expresses outrage regarding the press abuse both women had endured, contains seemingly his most complimentary comments on his former songwriting partner’s wife.

Unlike the relative lack of evidence regarding Eastman’s views on Lennon, a significant amount of sources, of varying degrees of credibility, provide information regarding Lennon’s views on Eastman. These sources range from private letters to interview transcripts to hearsay. The significant majority of these sources indicate Lennon viewed Eastman negatively; however, these criticisms must be put into context.

First, just as the majority of his harshest criticisms of McCartney occurred in the midst of the band’s breakup, so too do his most negative comments regarding Eastman. In fact, the majority of Lennon’s overall public comments on Eastman occurred in the emotionally, politically fraught and legally contentious breakup period, presumably coloring his view of and statements on her. Second, Eastman was not the first, or only, woman in McCartney’s life whom Lennon evidently disliked: the musician also apparently had a strained relationship with Eastman’s predecessor, Jane Asher. With the seeming exceptions of Dot Rhone and Maggie McGivern, Lennon’s behavior towards and reactions to many of McCartney’s girlfriends could be described as unwelcoming. Joshua Wolf Shenk notes “the weirdness” between John and Paul over the women in their lives in Powers of Two, his examination of the Lennon/McCartney dyad. So does Chris Salewicz, in his mid-80s interview with McCartney, when he mentions how Lennon’s 1969 marriage to Ono followed so quickly, almost as a counterpunch, on the heels of McCartney’s earlier marriage to Eastman.

Lennon’s prevailing view of Linda McCartney appears to have consisted of three major elements: First, during the breakup period, he tended to equate her with her father and brother, with all the legal, political and financial disputes that entailed. Part of this included blaming Linda, and the Eastman family, for at least some of McCartney’s actions; particularly his rejection of Allen Klein. Second, he repeatedly expressed surprise at not only McCartney’s choice of Eastman, but also at the couple’s ability to stay together: on at least three separate documented occasions, Lennon implicitly or explicitly predicted the early demise of the Eastman/McCartney marriage. Third, despite his repeated surprise at McCartney’s choice of Eastman, and his predictions that the marriage would not last, Lennon cannily pinpointed, (in the same interview where he declared the marriage would dissolve after five years), part of her appeal for McCartney; her ability to provide the other musician with a stable, domestic home and family life similar to what McCartney had experienced and enjoyed growing up.

Unfortunately, Linda McCartney’s role, significant or otherwise, in the business and legal conflicts which characterized the band’s breakup (and particularly in McCartney’s refusal to accept Klein) has been relatively unexplored. At the time, Lennon and Ono largely failed to publicly separate Linda (who, throughout her life, professed repeated disinterest in business and finance; how accurate those disavowals were are up for debate) from their harsh criticisms of the unwelcome interference of the larger Eastman family. While, in his 1971 interviews with Peter McCabe, (which contain his most extensive comments on Eastman) Lennon attempted to distinguish Linda as a separate entity from his criticisms of her father Lee and brother John, in other interviews no such effort was made. This implicitly included (whether it was Lennon’s intention or not) Linda in his at-times vitriolic comments on the Eastman family.

How much blame Lennon actually leveled at Linda Eastman for McCartney’s refusal to accept Klein is impossible to quantify, but various breakup-era statements indicate that Lennon regarded it as a factor in McCartney’s decision. 1971’s “How do you Sleep” contains lyrics, (evidently penned and performed with an utter lack of irony) accusing McCartney of being in thrall to his wife’s edicts. In one of Lennon’s predictions regarding the anticipated dissolution of the McCartney/Eastman marriage, the musician implies that, once McCartney’s marriage has dissolved, the other man will return to his former bandmates: “God help you out, Paul. See you in two years. I reckon you’ll be out by then.” In another of his predictions, to McCabe, Lennon makes the argument that, once McCartney’s marriage inevitably fails, he will come around on the Klein issue. “I give him five years. I’ve said that. In five years he’ll wake up.” Both these statements indicate that Lennon believed that, with Eastman out of the picture, McCartney could and would accept Klein.

In their 1971 interview with McCabe, Ono, with Lennon, professed initial respect for Eastman, which she argues then eroded upon the other woman’s obvious dislike of Klein. (Context: In the breakup period, Lennon and Ono seemed to regard distrust of Klein as a moral failing, with both emphasizing in Lennon Remembers how anyone should automatically know that Klein was the undisputed right choice). How long this initial respect endured is debatable.  According to Doggett, in the 1971 Beatles booklet on which Lennon scrawled various comments, the musician captioned a picture of McCartney and Eastman’s wedding by crossing out the word ‘wedding’ and replacing it with ‘funeral.’ (McCartney mentioned this as a particularly hurtful incident in an interview decades later with Anthony DeCurtis). We have no evidence that Lennon ever explicitly declared that, had Linda Eastman never entered McCartney’s life, the other man would have accepted Klein as manager; however, it is an implication that can be drawn. (2).


Notes:

  • Lennon and Klein’s public comments indicating that, with Linda and the Eastman’s out of the way, McCartney would reunite with the other three Beatles need to be assessed in the legal and P.R. context of the time. A major part of Lennon and Klein’s initial version of the Beatles’ split (including their trial testimony) maintained that Lennon, Harrison and Starr did not want to dissolve the Beatles. Klein’s 1971 interviews with McCabe and David Vetter of Playboy ultimately portray the Eastman’s as the primary impediment to any Beatles reunion, with Klein offering an open invitation to bring McCartney back into the fold once he “learns to think for himself.” Dangling promises of a Beatles reunion therefore reinforced Klein’s desire to blame the Eastman’s and McCartney, rather than himself, for the band’s split.

This post was split in half: the next part, discussing the latter two points regarding John’s views on Linda, will be up within a week. Combined, the post was simply too long, and there were simply too many elements and points of discussion to post everything at once. Comments and questions are welcomed.

“Some Chick from New York”: Linda Eastman and John Lennon, Part I.

One of the striking aspects of Peter Doggett’s excellent You Never Give me Your Money is how his examination of the decades-long inter-Beatles relationships demonstrates how Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono are irrevocably, if reluctantly, linked. The core connection between them, John Lennon, died in 1980. However, his pointed and repeated comments equating the two, which range from 1970’s Lennon Remembers, in which he praises and notes his reliance first on McCartney and now Ono’s “good minds,” to one of his last ever interviews – “I only ever worked with two people” – perpetuate endless comparisons between and analysis of Lennon’s two artistic partners, their relationships with him, and their relationship with and views of each other.

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Stay Tuned…

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…for Erin’s return in September and a brand new post about the role of women in Beatles’ historiography to kick things off.  We look forward to hearing from all of you, as always.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you in the fall.

Erin and Karen

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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