The “Normal” Version of Beatles History

Memoirs by Beatles engineers – the men who helped Producer George Martin shape and record the band’s music in the studio – have generated a fair amount of controversy among fans and Beatles authorities. Geoff Emerick’s Here, There and Everywhere came in for substantial criticism for its errors, as well as its negative depiction of George Harrison. Ken Scott’s rebuttal, From Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust, countered Emerick’s version, particularly in its description of Harrison’s personality and musicality. Engineer Norman Smith’s John Lennon Called Me Normal stays largely out of the Emerick-Scott debate, in part by devoting very little attention to Harrison; instead, Smith’s focus is the seemingly unassailable figure of George Martin.

Technically John Lennon Called me Normal is a memoir; a retrospective account of his experiences as the Beatles engineer from 1962 up through 1965’s Rubber Soul. Its scarcity in worth noting; only three libraries (one of which was kind enough to lend me one) worldwide had a copy, which currently cost about 200 dollars.  Given its relative rarity, I decided to kick off the newer historiographical analysis of Beatles books (for previous analysis, please see The Beatles and the Historians) by exploring and analyzing a relatively unknown work.

Muddying those technical “Memoir” waters is the reality that, due to its late publication date of 2008, Smith’s memoirs are infused with accounts, facts, and speculation from other primary and secondary sources, such as Albert Goldman’s The Lives of John Lennon, or Paul McCartney’s Many Years from Now. The distinction between Smith’s own memories, and the information he read from these outside sources and then reiterated in his own work, and  in his own words, is not clear. Neither is the identity of the book’s co-researcher, a figure only referred to as “Research,” whose conversations with Smith concerning the way Beatles historiography has been and is being shaped make up a good chunk of the book. “For some reason there’s been a re-writing of history here and there. Beatles history, that is. Rock myths. Not any big conspiracy theories … People are re-writing their own Beatles history.”

Smith’s inclusion of dreams and verbatim transcripts of admittedly half-imagined, half-remembered conversations into the narrative further complicates his account, making his testimony hard to categorize or assess. Even those recollections which seem to wholly originate from Smith have certain credibility issues: In previous interviews and John Lennon Called Me Normal, the author describes the Rubber Soul sessions as very tense; a sole assessment, contradicted by Martin and by taped recordings of some session dialogue, which convey an impression of group camaraderie and musical fission.

Assessments of the Beatles’ personalities and music are sparse; fly on the wall accounts of the recording of various Beatles songs is almost non-existent. Ringo and George receive few mentions, and there is no new insight on the “warm” but “definitely very competitive” Lennon/McCartney partnership, or any of the inter-band dynamics. The work does, however, reinforce Beatles historiography’s ubiquitous tendency to endlessly compare and contrast every aspect of John’s and Paul’s lives, as Smith finds the John and Yoko marriage and parenting style inferior to Paul and Linda’s.      

The retrospective quality of Smith’s account also allows him to judge, and harshly, various Beatles business and publishing deals, particularly their initial “stinker” of a contract with EMI, and the establishment of Northern Songs. “(John and Paul) were sandbagged with a pen and a ‘Quick! Sign here, chitty,’ at Epstein’s Liverpool love nest in 1963.” While figures such as Dick James have been subject to wildly varying portrayals in Beatles historiography, with Smith decidedly in the camp labeling James in the “villain” category, by far the most interesting aspect of the book is Smith’s portrayal of and his relationship with the eminent Beatles producer, the recently deceased George Martin.

Martin’s overall portrayal in Beatles historiography is, as I noted in The Beatles and the Historians, almost universally complimentary. Even biographers such as Ray Coleman and Philip Norman, who requested interviews with Martin in the 70s and 80s only to ignore any statements he made which failed to support their pre-conceived conclusions, never questioned his credibility or depicted him negatively. Explicitly critical sources of Martin are few: John’s infamous “Lennon Remembers” interview; parts of Emerick’s Here, There and Everywhere, and a single line in Scott’s memoirs, where Scott recalls a resentful Martin privately commenting on a crowd’s adulation of Brian Epstein: “That should have been me.”

Throughout John Lennon Called me Normal, Smith cycles back to a meeting with Martin in the garden of Abbey Road, in the mid-2000’s, after Smith had secured a book contract, where Martin seemingly sought to ensure that Smith’s book would not diverge from the approved version of Beatles history. “Considering that I got one single mention in George’s own memoirs … he still seemed anxious to know what was going in this book before I’d really even started it.” Smith repeatedly reiterates both his resentment at Martin’s previous failures to acknowledge Smith’s importance to Beatles history – “All I know is I wasn’t in George Martin’s book” — and his perception that Beatles historiography as a whole has been manipulated, resulting in figures such as himself being marginalized: “People are shoring up their own place in history.”

Smith implies that Martin chose the shy, reticent and non-musically trained Emerick as Smith’s replacement for Beatles engineer in order to ensure that his new engineer could not serve as a threat to Martin’s pre-eminent authority as producer or musical contributor. (Emerick’s own speculation on why he was chosen to replace Smith theorizes that Martin and McCartney privately agreed on him, then presented him to the rest of the band as a sort of fait accompli). He blames Martin for allowing the Beatles to sign their first, less-than-generous contract with EMI, as well as for directing Lennon and McCartney to Dick James publishing – “Until the day (Dick) keeled over … he never stopped thanking George Martin whenever he saw him” – and argues that Martin requested publishers remove certain “Sir George offending pages” from the U.K. version of Tony Bramwell’s memoir, Magical Mystery Tours.

The portrait of Martin paints a picture of man quietly determined to use his undoubted prestige to influence both his role in and the overall shape of Beatles historiography. (In a recent interview, Lewisohn implied that Martin was upset at the evidence in “Tune In” which argued that Martin was assigned The Beatles as punishment for his affair with his then secretary, Judy). Smith’s book adds another layer to the issue of how various figures, including but not limited to Martin, have attempted to ensure their place in Beatles history, and attempted to write or re-write their history accordingly.

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24 thoughts on “The “Normal” Version of Beatles History

  1. Karen Hooper says:

    Great review, Erin.

    A few thoughts–

    I also was curious about Smith’s statement about Rubber Soul. I’ve not encountered a scintilla of evidence that there were any issues during its production, and at first wondered if Smith was confusing Rubber Soul with Revolver (where we know there was some conflict between Paul and the other three). However, since Smith’s tenure as engineer ended after Rubber Soul, an error of memory seems unlikely. So, because inquiring minds want to know, I did some snooping on the internet. His obit described his departure this way:

    “With Rubber Soul came more sophisticated songwriting, but Smith also saw a change in attitude. This, along with increasing friction between John and Paul, caused him to quit working with the biggest band in the world to become an EMI in–house producer.”

    Reading between the lines, It’s possible that as the band became more creatively independent and professional competent in the studio, Smith may have felt a little displaced and asserted himself in ways the band didn’t like. The tension, then, may not have been between Lennon and McCartney, but between Lennon, McCartney, and Smith himself. His apparent resentment toward George Martin could have had similar origins. Smith’s comments and judgments, otherwise, make no sense to me.

    I find it kind of ironic that the man who criticizes the falsification of history for personal gain has a co-researcher called “Research.”

    Pot, meet Kettle. 🙂

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    • Erin says:

      If we didn’t have those excerpts from the “Rubber Soul” sessions, I’d be more willing to grant Smith’s accounts of significant Lennon/McCartney tension more weight. But those recorded excerpts are among the most credible evidence you can have; contemporaneous primary sources, with no retrospective agenda, of recorded conversations … the holy grail of sources. Now, perhaps those recordings are the exception, and the rest of the sessions were rife with tension, but I believe no one else except Smith has ever claimed that the Rubber Soul sessions were fraught. (Even George, who was never shy of criticizing … well, anything, recalled the Rubber Soul sessions and the album itself fondly). Of course, that may play into Smith’s view that he, unlike other Beatles figures, is willing to tell certain truths about Beatles history (which is part of why he has been marginalized).

      The implication is that Smith left not only because of the growing tension in the sessions, but also because he believed Martin was starting to see him as a sort of threat, as Smith was doing duties above and beyond his role as engineer.

      The figure of “Research” is a baffling one; there’s no explanation as to why Smith refuses to identify him, only a vague reference that “Research” had also helped on other Beatles books. At one point, “Research” and Smith engage in a conversation which implies that a flood at Abbey Road in the early to mid 90’s which destroyed some basement documents was deliberately engineered in order to ensure that certain secrets were kept. (There’s no proof that any of these documents directly related to the Beatles, let alone that they contained secrets).

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  2. Rose Decatur says:

    Very interesting, Erin.

    One can’t help but wonder whether Norman’s views are sour grapes. It must gall him that history has firmly come down on his firing being the right decision considering the pioneering techniques Geoff Emerick created, and how Geoff was a major part of the giant leap forward the Beatles made in the studio right after Norman’s departure.

    “He blames Martin for allowing the Beatles to sign their first, less-than-generous contract with EMI, as well as for directing Lennon and McCartney to Dick James publishing”

    Is that new? I could’ve sworn that in one if his memoirs, George wrote about how he did indeed steer Brian Epstein to Dick James (who’d been a longtime friend of his) and thus felt personally betrayed later by the way James (as George saw it) screwed over John and Paul. I remember being touched at how George considered John and Paul kind of surrogate sons by that point, to the extent that his allegiance to them trumped his allegiance to Dick James, who he’d known much longer.

    “Lewisohn implied that Martin was upset at the evidence in “Tune In” which argued that Martin was assigned The Beatles as punishment for his affair with his then secretary, Judy”

    I’m not surprised! First, it’s a terribly personal thing that I can’t see George would want brought up anyway. But I know it’s been something certain fans (as I’ve seen on Steve Hoffman’s forums) try and cudgel George with in, as in, “Oh, see he didn’t REALLY spot their talent.”

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    • Erin says:

      “It must gall him that history has firmly come down on his firing being the right decision considering the pioneering techniques Geoff Emerick created, and how Geoff was a major part of the giant leap forward the Beatles made in the studio right after Norman’s departure.”

      It must. Ken Scott notes that as well, discussing how well various Beatles engineers did out of their association with the band, declaring that Geoff made out the best: I’d have to look in my notes and see his thoughts on where Smith ranked. I’m unsure whether Smith was fired, voluntarily left, or some combination of the two. But yes; you have interviews with Emerick in the foreword to “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions,” but not Smith. That says a lot about their relative prestige and importance in Beatles history.

      You’re right: Martin’s steering Brian to Dick James isn’t new information. That’s been known for decades; Martin has repeatedly discussed it. (Interestingly enough, the best, most in-depth analysis of Martin’s view of the whole Northern Songs issue is in Ray Coleman’s semi-Paul bio, Yesterday. It includes Martin’s harsh condemnation of James’s decision to sell the songs without notifying John and Paul, and Martin’s version of what he told James when he’d heard James had done it. (In fact, I might do a review of Coleman’s Paul bio sometime in the future; I mentioned but didn’t review it in my book, and it’s a fascinating look at how Coleman performed an about-face regarding his musical and character opinions of Paul).

      In Smith’s book, the newer angle was his retrospective blaming of Martin for sending Lennon and McCartney to the man who would, years later, make a fortune off them before selling their songs without notifying them; its very after-the-fact, blaming Martin for making a decision in 1962 which, by 1969, had turned out badly.

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    • Erin says:

      Here’s Martin’s recollection of his 1969 words to James, in a phone call upon hearing about the sale of Northern Songs, as recounted to Ray Coleman in the early 90’s: “I told him he was ‘a rat.’ I felt he’d betrayed everything we’d done together.”

      There’s more, in that vein, but I didn’t copy down the entire paragraph. Suffice it to say, its about as openly critical of anyone as Martin ever gets in any of his interviews.

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  3. linda a. says:

    I remember also feeling perplexed when I first read that Norman Smith called the Rubber Soul sessions tense. I remember people who believe the Lennon Remembers narrative of Beatles history seemed to be tickled to death over Smith’s revelation. I remember someone saying, “I just knew that the tension between those two started way earlier than they said…” I wondered how this person “just knew” about so called “tension” between two people he was never personally acquainted with when there was absolutely zero evidence of any tension before the White Album. It’s one of those things that a lot of fans want to believe so they run with information like this. I think fans enjoy information like this and they want it to be true for two reasons. The first reason is the obvious situation of loving one of the two and over identifying with him and disliking the other, so they don’t want to believe that they could have possibly liked each other or got along, so Smith’s statement fits that agenda. The other reason is, I think in general people find tension more interesting than harmony. The idea of tension between John and Paul is more exciting and intriguing than the idea of perfect harmony. I find it intriguing but because there seems to be no evidence that it’s true, I think that Smith was exaggerating at best. He was there, he knew them and I wasn’t and didn’t but I’ve heard the tapes from the sessions. I’ve seen photos of them from this time period, and specifically during the Rubber Soul sessions, so the only conclusion I can come to is that the tension he observed was subtle and miniscule, and only observable if you knew them well. Smith had worked with them from the beginning so perhaps he may have noticed a subtle shift in the dynamic between John and Paul during these sessions. Rubber Soul was recorded to a strict deadline and within a small window of time, but in spite of that, it was a groundbreaking work that marked a turning point in their songwriting. For those reasons alone I would say that it was probably a given that there would have been more “tension” between the two front men. Tension to write and arrange their most creatively ambitious songs to date, and tension to complete all of it in time for the Christmas shopping season. So of course there was “tension”. If anything I’ve always had the feeling that the tension was always more between George and Paul, rather than John and Paul.

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      • Rose Decatur says:

        Did Norman actually quit, or was it a case of, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”? Because I wonder if the “I left because of tensions during Rubber Soul” is a story to save face. If Geoff Emerick thinks that George Martin and Paul both pushed for him, the question is whether Norman left or was pushed out. (I kind of doubt John, George and Ringo cared very much who their engineer was enough to get involved).

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        • Karen Hooper says:

          Emerick was younger, perhaps more in tune with music trends, and basically an eager beaver wanting to prove himself. John had been quoted as saying that Rubber Soul represented the first time the band had full creative control. This begs that question: Did Smith, who was technically competent but perhaps not particularly innovative, get the music industry equivalent of the golden handshake? It’s possible.

          It’s interesting that in interviews, Geoff Emerick has only nice things to say about Smith, and I don’t recall reading any criticisms about Smith from George Martin either. Either Emerick and Martin are whitewashing something, or Smith has an axe to grind. When you consider the long-standing professional reputations of Martin and Emerick (compared to Smith’s later career playing out in relative obscurity) I tend to think axe.

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    • Erin says:

      “I remember people who believe the Lennon Remembers narrative of Beatles history seemed to be tickled to death over Smith’s revelation.”

      And here’s one of the reasons I continue to find “Lennon Remembers” so damaging to an accurate view of Beatles history: because some fans, and writers, take John’s words about he felt about rock music, and Paul, and George Martin, and art, etc. from a very small, very angry window of time, and project those words over the entirety of Beatles history, from 1957 on.

      There may be some fans who prefer the Lennon/McCartney schism, because of the reasons you gave, Linda, but I fail to see its appeal. In terms of how it has affected Beatles historiography since 1970, I find it corrosive, obscuring, and deafening; smothering new perspectives and angles, dominating biographies and lessening their credibility and accuracy, prompting fans to take sides in an insoluble debate that crowds out greater examination of other aspects of the band and their music. We’re been retreading the same tired framework for forty years now; it’s time for a change.

      I suppose one thing to keep in mind regarding Smith’s accounts of Lennon/McCartney tensions is that this was the time period when John and George were doing LSD, and Paul wasn’t; both John and George later admitted to treating Paul somewhat badly during this time period, needling him that he wasn’t “in” with the rest of them and pressuring him to take it. Perhaps those tensions bled into the studio, but Smith certainly gives the impression that the tensions were overwhelming, and not subtle at all.

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      • linda a. says:

        There may be some fans who prefer the Lennon/McCartney schism, because of the reasons you gave, Linda, but I fail to see its appeal.

        No the schism narrative is absolutely ridiculous and untrue. Especially when it’s applied to pre 1970. The only people who find it appealing are people who blindly believed it. I don’t enjoy fiction. But what I was referring to is something a bit different. A little bit of tension is more dramatic and therefore intriguing. I mean the inevitable tension that probably showed up from time to time within such a tight knit group of people. If that is what Smith was describing then that is interesting.

        I suppose one thing to keep in mind regarding Smith’s accounts of Lennon/McCartney tensions is that this was the time period when John and George were doing LSD, and Paul wasn’t;

        Yes I forgot about that. Very good point. Like I said, these tensions whether it was over the group’s new drug of choice, or trying to get the album done, were bound to occur. There couldn’t be harmony all the time between people who were constantly together. But the people who think they were anything but the tightest of friends and musically synergistic are deluding themselves. They are missing out on the real story which is a million times more interesting. But again a little bit of tension is expected.
        ,
        but Smith certainly gives the impression that the tensions were overwhelming, and not subtle at all.

        Between John and Paul? I think he may have been exaggerating. If these tensions were as overwhelmingly obvious as he implied then it was probably just a bad period that didn’t last long. Relationships are like that anyway. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes there’s tension. The problem with anecdotes like this is that the Lennon Remembers narrators run with information like this because it seems to validate their agenda.

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        • Erin says:

          “But what I was referring to is something a bit different. A little bit of tension is more dramatic and therefore intriguing. I mean the inevitable tension that probably showed up from time to time within such a tight knit group of people.”

          I see. I don’t doubt there was tension, with four such strong personalities, and the amount of pressure they were under — esp. John and Paul, as they were the ones expected to keep cranking out the hits. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read “Powers of Two” by Joshua Wolf Shenk, but in it he discusses how tension and some types of conflict are ideally forms of engagement that can help spur the creative process; so long as it does not become toxic, tension is necessary for creativity. There’s another article, which I referenced in my book, on the differing learning styles of John vs. Paul, which says much the same thing as Shenk. I’ll have to hunt those down and perhaps do reviews on them. The article is very academic: the title is “Linking Differences in Self-Directed Learning Competency to Dyadic Conflict: An Instrumental Case Study of the Leadership Dyad of John Lennon and Paul McCartney” (say that three times fast) but its absolutely fascinating.

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          • linda a. says:

            I have read Powers of Two. I found the parts about Lennon and McCartney fascinating but other than that, I thought the book meandered too much and I don’t like Shenk’s writing style. I read another book by Shenk about Lincoln’s depression and even though I’m very interested in both Lincoln and anything related to psychology/mental health, I didn’t like that book either. It has to be his writing style. Anyway I have finally purchased your book on Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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              • linda a. says:

                “I also found him a bit too tangential. I tended to skim through the chaff to get to the wheat.”

                I should have skimmed it too. He used way too many different examples of creative pairs. He should have picked a few and stuck to them. Actually I wish the entire book was about only Lennon and McCartney but that’s me. 😀

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            • Erin says:

              I’m glad to hear you bought the book Linda; I look forward to discussing it with you. In the next few weeks, the plan is for Karen to post her own “warts and all” review of The Beatles and the Historians” here, but if you have questions or comments before that, you can certainly ask them.

              I didn’t have any problems with Shenk’s writing style, but that’s just personal preference, and I can be somewhat idiosyncratic in that respect; everyone I know loathes Tolkien’s style of writing, whereas I love it.

              For me, the strongest element of Shenk’s work was his refusal to divide the Lennon/McCartney partnership into Lennon vs. McCartney. Now obviously, that reinforced the thesis of his book, but it was refreshing to see the intricacies and necessity of partnership examined rather than severing the partnership into “John wrote this line; Paul wrote this one.” The only book in Beatles historiography I’ve come across which offers a similar analysis is in a chapter of Mark’s Hertsgaard’s “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which I absolutely can not recommend enough.

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              • linda a. says:

                I look forward to discussing your book too and I’m also looking forward to Karen’s review. Sadly though, I have a stack of library books I have to get through before I read your book.

                “For me, the strongest element of Shenk’s work was his refusal to divide the Lennon/McCartney partnership into Lennon vs. McCartney”

                For me too. I really enjoyed what he had to say about them. It was fascinating. I guess I wish the entire book was about them.

                I believe the Mark Hertsgaard book is called A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. I couldn’t remember the title either and I had to look it up on Amazon. Can’t Buy Me Love is by Gould. But I agree, the Hertsgaard book is one of the best books on the Beatles that I have ever read. In fact that was probably the first book I read that made me start to question the original Beatles narrative from the 70’s and 80’s.

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                • Erin says:

                  I believe the Mark Hertsgaard book is called A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. I couldn’t remember the title either and I had to look it up on Amazon. Can’t Buy Me Love is by Gould.

                  Oh, you’re right; I switched them around. Hertsgaard and Gould are the two biographies I’d recommend to someone just getting into the Beatles — well, complete bios, since “Tune In” is only 1/3 of the way complete.

                  In fact that was probably the first book I read that made me start to question the original Beatles narrative from the 70’s and 80’s.

                  That makes perfect sense; Hertsgaard’s book was published in 1995, so along with MacDonald’s book, it would have been among the first wave of secondary works to really dispute the Lennon Remembers/Shout! versions of Beatles history.

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          • Karen Hooper says:

            There’s another article, which I referenced in my book, on the differing learning styles of John vs. Paul, which says much the same thing as Shenk.”

            This.

            Learning styles are hugely impactful upon creative undertakings, but most people (including the creative partners) are unaware of this. Variance in style, particularly when they create conflict, tend to be seen as personality deficits or deliberate obstructionism. I spun a theory on HD about this, in terms of how the conflict between Paul and the other three Beatles could have been a product of these differences. What’s particularly intriguing to me (because I’m a geek) is that while language is largely left hemispheric for right-handed people, it’s also largely left-hemispheric for lefties too. If we could go back in time and administer a Myers-Briggs test to all four Beatles, I think Paul’s scores on certain dimensions (judging/perceiving; sensing/intuition) would be quite different from the other three.

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            • Erin says:

              I remember the very basics of that post, Karen, but not much more than that I found it fascinating; could you elaborate more on the issue of differing learning styles, and how it might have impacted the Lennon/McCartney partnership and the band?

              “If we could go back in time and administer a Myers-Briggs test to all four Beatles, I think Paul’s scores on certain dimensions (judging/perceiving; sensing/intuition) would be quite different from the other three.”

              Just knowing where they would each fall on that test would be fascinating, and might offer some new insights into their behavior both as individuals and as a group. I’m always a little surprised at how some Beatles authors are determined to portray George as just this sour grump, while ignoring how many of George’s behaviors were obviously a part of his introverted nature.

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              • Karen Hooper says:

                “Could you elaborate more on the issue of differing learning styles, and how it might have impacted the Lennon/McCartney partnership and the band?”

                I’ll give it a shot.

                Basically, we all have preferred ways of learning. Those preferences are in part socially-acquired, and in part innate. One can be a visual learner, an auditory learner, a tactile learner, and so on. A visual learner relies upon what he or she sees more than what he or she hears, while the reverse is true for an auditory learner. Tactile learners rely upon visual input and auditory input, but need the added element of physical involvement in the task. These people are “doers”; they learn best when they can watch a task being done and then try to replicate it themselves.

                Related to this are preferences for how information is assimilated. Here’s a simple example of how this works. If you are driving to an unknown destination, do you prefer to see some kind of visual representation of your entire route, like a map or outline, or are you satisfied with relying upon step-by-step verbal directions? Similarly, if someone were to ask you for directions, would you be inclined to draw them a map, or provide step-by-step instructions and no map? (I’m a map drawer myself, complete with trees, shrubs, and other visual reference points. 🙂 )

                I have a theory that Paul was a “here’s the map” guy. By all accounts, he came to the studio with the song practically done in his head. He knew exactly what he wanted and was able to communicate his vision to others. Many of Paul’s songs, like Yesterday, are more or less wholly formed by the time he enters the studio.

                John, on the other hand, was the “tell me the route” guy. By all accounts, John came to the studio with structural and lyrical PIECES of songs, struggled with communicating his vision, but relied upon the ability of others– Paul, George Martin, Geoff Emerick–to translate for him.

                I don’t know which category George Harrison fell into, other than to say his style was clearly opposite of Paul’s, as both men declared quite openly in Sulpy et.al. We do know George’s early song-writing efforts were rudimentary, and he often struggled during the creative process, including learning his own guitar parts. Given how much work went into maintaining the Beatles’ creative output from Lennon/McCartney, it’s really no surprise that George’s efforts received less attention. Later on, George and Paul could not reconcile their different styles because each style was so innate and idiosyncratic. Their reliance upon a third party arbiter-John, George Martin–quelled the discontent for awhile, but when they were left to their own devices (as was the case during the LIB sessions), conflict was inevitable.

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                • Erin says:

                  That was fascinating Karen, thanks. I’m an auditory learner, myself, which is why most of my classes are lecture based; it’s the format I retain best and feel the most comfortable with. When you explain it that way, I can certainly see how their differing learning styles and methods of songwriting could create tensions that were pretty much hard-wired into the dynamic, especially as John and Paul stopped writing together as often, and George began to inject an entirely third style of learning into the equation.

                  I was wondering what sort of learner George Martin was, given he was the other main element in the studio. One gets the impression that at times John used Paul to translate his ideas and concepts into less abstract terms and convey them to George Martin, with Paul playing a sort of translator between the two of them, in that Paul was fluent in John-speak, but also far more interested in studio production than John ever was. In every Beatles piece of information I’ve ever come across, Paul and George Martin worked closer together, and to a greater extent, than George Martin did with any of the other Beatles. My guess would be that George’s learning style was similar to, or in some way compatible, with Paul’s.

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                  • Karen Hooper says:

                    Funny you should mention George Martin, because as I was writing I was thinking about how a producer would need to be able to access both styles–the gestalt of the thing, as well as the sequences.

                    If I recall, John performed less well in school while Paul excelled. Aside from the fact that John was a slacker, I think his learning style was at odds with conventional teaching methods. His love of the visual arts, reading, and all things visual wouldn’t help him in an auditory world. Even when learning to play the guitar, John was heavily dependent on the visual–sitting across from Paul, almost like looking in the mirror. In performances, John often lost his place in the song or sung the wrong line. Maybe that’s why John never liked his voice–he just couldn’t hear it like everyone else could.

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