In Chapter Two of The Beatles and the Historians, I discussed a few — and only a few — of the reasons varying Beatles authorities have offered for John’s excessive behavior and untrue statements within “How Do You Sleep?” In earlier narratives, various sources attributed John’s excesses to either class-differences — the political and social cause du jour of the breakup-era time period — or regarded John’s insults as a cleansing truth-telling, prompted by Paul’s provocations. Later narratives have focused more on examining John’s psychological makeup in attempting to explain the depth of John’s anger and resolve the unfair statements John makes throughout “How Do You Sleep.”
This later re-interpretation is a demonstration of a narrative shift. Initially, writers such as Wenner and Christgau, as well as later Coleman and Norman, excused John’s untrue statements in “How Do You Sleep” by arguing either A. Paul and John were never close friends (Coleman) and John’s statements were largely true (Christgau and Norman) or B. Blaming Paul for provoking John in the first place (Coleman) and then arguing that John’s bitter statements regarding Paul’s contributions to the Beatles were largely true. (Wenner, Coleman, Norman and Christgau).
Both interpretations, in effect, blamed Paul for John’s excessive statements because to do otherwise forced demonstrably pro-John biased writers to either admit that Lennon’s reputation as the “truth teller” was built, to a considerable extent, on sand. Or it forced them to acknowledge that John’s excessive behavior and untrue statements were, in fact, excessive and untrue: an acknowledgement which undermined the entire “Lennon Remembers” version of the Beatles split.
“Norman’s “John Lennon: The Life” provides perhaps the most controversial motivation regarding the vitriol in “How Do You Sleep?” When discussing Lennon’s response to “Too Many People,” the song which provoked “How Do You Sleep,” Norman describes Lennon’s “wounded anger” at McCartney as “that of an ex- spouse” and declares that, according to statements Ono made in interviews for the biography, Lennon had indicated to her a sexual interest in McCartney that he believed McCartney did not reciprocate.”
This particular excerpt was cut from the “How Do You Sleep” section of Chapter Two: The Lennon Remembers Narrative, for two reasons. First, I already had discussed some of the multiple interpretations, provided by varying primary and secondary sources over the decades, regarding John’s motivations for writing/recording/releasing “How Do You Sleep.” Numerous interpretations were left out; frankly, I had to stop somewhere. Second, I mentioned Yoko’s speculation to Norman regarding John’s possible sexual interest in Paul in my analysis of John Lennon: The Life in Chapter Three: The Shout! Narrative, and believed that including it in both that section and the “How Do You Sleep” section was simply too repetitive.
However, as I mentioned in The Beatles and the Historians, it is worth noting that the widely publicized speculation in John Lennon: The Life, was not the first time Norman had hinted at the topic of homosexuality, which he also mentions in the Afterword of his 2002 edition of Shout!. Taking context further into account, it is interesting that, both times Norman speculates on any such homosexual feelings John may or may not have felt regarding Paul, Norman does so in an attempt to explain John’s disproportionate behavior or unfair statements regarding Paul.
In the 2002 edition, Norman speculates that some form of “homosexual adoration,” directed by John towards Paul, and which even John may have been unaware of, may have prompted John’s declarations that “No one ever hurt me as much as Paul did.” Norman admits that John’s statement (which is hearsay, as we only have Yoko’s account that John ever said it) does not seem to be supported by evidence. While John and Paul certainly had their bitter disagreements, particularly in the breakup era, John’s identification of Paul as the person who hurt him most was upsetting and shocking enough that it prompted Paul to privately phone Norman asking for clarification in 1981, but Norman failed to return Paul’s call. Paul also defended himself against the statement again in his famous unofficial 1981 telephone “interview” with Hunter Davies, which Davies then published in the 1982 re-edition of The Authorized Biography. Yoko has never offered any examples of specific instances Lennon described to support this statement, and even the then virulently-anti-Paul Norman admitted that the known evidence did not seem to support it.
Both Norman and Paul evidently were puzzled by the comment, which Norman described earlier this year as “…Singular. It sounded like the sort of thing a spurned lover would say. There was no physical love affair between John and Paul but there was certainly an incredibly strong love. And on John’s part perhaps more than Paul’s.” (Something About the Beatles, “Interview with Philip Norman,” May 20, 2016). Norman appears to use unacknowledged sexual interest in 2002 and later unequal love in 2016 to attempt to explain Lennon’s otherwise difficult to understand statement.
As mentioned above, in the 2008 biography John Lennon: The Life, Norman adopts the same tactic, theorizing that part of what may have motivated John’s numerous unfair statements in “How Do You Sleep” was some unresolved sexual interest in Paul. In this instance, Norman’s speculation was supported by Ono’s hearsay evidence, claiming John had indicated to her by 1971 that he was or had been interested in pursuing a sexual experience with Paul, but nothing sexual had ever occurred because, anticipating rejection, John never approached Paul with a proposition. Thus this implicit rejection of John’s feelings, either platonic or otherwise, and an unbalanced relationship in which John loved Paul more than Paul loved John seemingly emerge as Norman’s interpretation for John’s disproportionate behavior and statements. This reinforces the overall shift; as writers moved away from the “Paul as the breakup’s villain” trope, they were forced to question the truthfulness of John’s breakup-era statements, particularly in “How Do You Sleep,” and shifted the responsibility for such statements from Paul to John.
(Grading Midterms, Research papers and dealing with a flu-stricken eight year old has seriously compromised my reviewing time, which is why we decided to offer another excerpt, this time with context. We’d love to hear your thoughts).
43 thoughts on “Unpublished Excerpts: “How Do You Sleep?””
(I fixed the earlier paragraphs Erin, as per your comment. In the war of HTML, I declare victory. 🙂 )
It strikes me that the “Paul hurt me most” statement may be much ado about nothing. John was inclined to rant and spew and say all sorts of things, just to retract them later. And Ono, of all people, knew this. If John actually said it, it seems irresponsible (and self-serving) to repeat it to a biographer as some kind of statement of fact. Having said that, though, I think John’s attachment to Paul–and his issues with attachment in general–are such that any perceived betrayal would jumpstart all kinds of crazy reactions.
While Norman’s explanation is as good an explanation as any, it doesn’t account for the influence of other variables (Ono, drug use, mental illness) which may have had an equally significant role in shaping John’s antipathy toward Paul. Personally, I tend to think it’s a confluence of influences–mental illness compounded by drugs compounded by Ono compounded by perceived rejection–that accounts for John’s behaviour.
Bless you for fixing that formatting. I tried about four or five times and the simply threw my hands up in defeat. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m not a perfectionist?)
I agree that John’s hyperbolic tendencies in general do make the “no one else ever hurt me” quote a little less singular, to me, than to others. OTOH, Paul evidently, as I mentioned in my post, was fully aware of John’s hyperbolic tendencies, and would presumably know to reduce a John statement by approximately 75% in order to get closer to the actual truth of the matter, but he was greatly upset by it. He called Norman personally after reading it in Yoko’s interview with Norman, asking specifically about that quote, but Norman didn’t bother to call back. And he mentioned it again in the Hunter Davies conversation. Certainly the impression Yoko gives in the overall article where she delivers the quote is that this was not a one time statement, but something John had said repeatedly. But your point is very well taken; just because John said it, repeatedly, doesn’t mean it was actually true (see: who wrote Eleanor Rigby) just that he may have believed it was true at the times he said it.
More to say, but I have to go lecture on The Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918. If you want nightmares, read “The Great Influenza” by John Barry and then read Stephen King’s “The Stand.” You won’t sleep for weeks. 🙂
Interesting–I’m actually a big fan of King. 🙂
Me too. I haven’t actually read him in a decade: I’ve been busy with academia and Beatles books — but his books were ones I read repeatedly in adolescence. For all the knocks against his inability to write grown-up females, I contend that he writes adolescent females quite well.
“The Great Influenza” is an account of the last great pandemic; the new strain of swine-flu that swept the world in 1917-1918 and killed approximately 30 Million people, (More than died in WWI) the majority of them from 20-40 years old. It discusses the (almost) breakdown of Civil Society, in the U.S. at least, the flu caused, and why, biologically it was so devastating. It’s particularly terrifying because Barry argues that it’s really only a matter of time before another entirely new flu strain jumps from either pigs or birds to human beings and we have another outbreak, which could have devastating consequences.
And, as King fan, you’d be familiar with The Stand, and understand the connection. Read in tandem, they are … unsettling.
Ha–I’m anal enough for both of us. 🙂
You make a good point regarding Paul, and his reaction to the “hurt me most” statement. Maybe, though, the nature of the comment was just not as easy to brush off. It seems that Paul reacts more strongly to John’s comments when they disparage their friendship/feelings for each other, than he does to comments about his musicianship or who did what to Yoko.
I tend to think that John was more equivocal–as he was with most things–about his friendship with Paul, and I have a hunch that much of his anti-Paul bluster was for Yoko’s benefit (something Paul himself noted). It took John’s death for Yoko to admit to Paul that John was “fond” of him. A colossal understatement, IMO, and one begrudgingly offered.
The unrequited love meme is interesting, certainly more so now because of Yoko’s latest revelation that John was (likely/maybe/somewhat) bisexual. At the time of that disclosure I questioned her motives and truthfulness, given a) that she made this claim around the same time as the announcement about a new Brian Epstein movie, and b) Yoko’s skill in identifying and marketing the JohnandYoko narrative to new audiences. She had over 30 years to disclose John’s possible bisexuality; and while one may argue that society is more accepting nowadays, this is the same woman who posed naked on an album cover.
Concluding anything based on Ono’s comments requires additional scrutiny, IMO.
“While Norman’s explanation is as good an explanation as any, it doesn’t account for the influence of other variables (Ono, drug use, mental illness) which may have had an equally significant role in shaping John’s antipathy toward Paul.”
To be fair to Norman, I think when he suggests unrequited emotion/sexuality as a motivation, he sees it as part of the overall puzzle. However, his interpretation may seek to give the emotional issue greater weight than warranted, because to dwell on A. Yoko’s implicit/explicit support of John’s extreme behavior and statements (as in the eyewitness accounts arguing she wrote a good part of HDYS) and B. John and Yoko’s drug use as motivating factors undermines the more pro-Yoko narratives which Norman supported for decades, which assiduously downplay John and Yoko’s drug use.
Klein’s contributions to HDYS specifically and to John’s breakup era behavior as a whole are crucial as well. There’s an excellent excerpt from Paul’s 1971 interview with Chris Charlesworth for Meldoy Maker — the one that provoked John’s heated rebuttal — where Paul insightfully argues that the major reason the others (he generalizes, but its probably accurate to presume he’s mainly thinking about John) are so fervently pro-Klein is because he fulfills a “Daddy” role for them: they just clap their hands and ask for something, and “Daddy” Klein promises it to them instantly. Given John’s psychological make-up and background, its easy to see how someone like Klein fulfilling that “Daddy” role would appeal to John in particular.
“The unrequited love meme is interesting, certainly more so now because of Yoko’s latest revelation that John was (likely/maybe/somewhat) bisexual.”
With the exception of Norman, the only author I’ve seen speculate on the issue was Sheff, in “Powers of Two,” when he dances around theory that some sort of implicit/explicit sexual/romantic/emotional rejection of John, by Paul, may have triggered John’s breakup era actions. (However, it now appears that Sheff got his timing wrong: the new “Lennonology” book argues that John and Yoko recorded Two Virgins prior to John and Paul’s NY trip, whereas Sheff and everyone else puts Two Virgins immediately afterwards. This is important because Sheff speculated that John’s witnessing Paul’s rather warm rapport with Linda in the limo on the way out of NY is what may have prompted John’s summons of Yoko — “John always had to top Paul” — immediately afterwards, but if John and Yoko had already recorded Two Virgins, that part of Sheff’s theory flies out the window).
However, its interesting to me that Sheff follows Norman’s pattern, in a sense, by attempting to explain John’s excessive behavior in the breakup, in part, through some sort of emotional, and possibly sexual, rejection (perceived or real) of John by Paul.
I think Lennonology may have gotten it wrong.
We know that John and Paul travelled to New York the week of May, 1998, to announce Apple. They held a press conference on May 14. However, most sources that I could find have the Two Virgins album being recorded upon John’s return, on May 19, 1998. However, John’s account of the recording (“Cyn was away so Yoko came over and we made some tapes”) makes it sound like the New York trip preceded the taping. All in all, May was a busy month for John. 🙂
The John/Yoko/Paul/Linda thing is interesting, in and of itself. The breakups of P and J’s original relationships, the commencement of their new ones, their marriages–they all coincide within months (and in the case of their marriage, weeks) of one another. This seems like an unlikely coincidence.
According to the “Something About the Beatles” radio show, which recently did a show on “Lennonology” (thankfully, because I was somewhat interested in it but I wasn’t going to shell out a hundred dollars for it) the author pinpointed the date prior to John and Paul’s trip to NY because Cynthia took that vacation with Jenny Boyd, among others, and there were newspaper articles from that time in 1968 discussing how Jenny was traveling and having problems with her passport situation. Here’s a link to the show, and they cover that part pretty early on:
“The John/Yoko/Paul/Linda thing is interesting, in and of itself. The breakups of P and J’s original relationships, the commencement of their new ones, their marriages–they all coincide within months (and in the case of their marriage, weeks) of one another.”
Oh, absolutely. It’s something that Salewicz notes both in his biography of Paul — he argues that John’s marriage to Yoko happening, when they could have married for weeks prior, so soon after Paul’s marriage to Linda was no coincidence, but a direct reaction — and he also covers it in his 1986 interviews with Paul. Here are some parts of that, courtesy of Amoralto:
PAUL: Yeah. I think we spurred each other into marriage. I mean, you know. They were very strong together, which left me out of the picture. So I got together with Linda and then we got strong with our own kind of thing … I think they were a little bit peeved that we got married first. Probably. In a little way, you know, just minor jealousies.
SALEWICZ: I wonder if it was that thing, like you have blokes who are good mates—
SALEWICZ: —and then one of them finds a girl and then the other – or maybe the other one does, or whatever. There’s like a lot of – you know, the friendship often breaks up. There’s quite a lot of bitterness and acrimony that goes down, and it seemed like one of them.
You’d be able to explain better than I would all the psychological issues involved, but the timing certainly doesn’t seem coincidental, with both of them cleaving to new life partners in rapid succession.
One of the things that occurred to me after I read your comments about the timing of the tapes is the Two Virgins album cover. The cover photo wasn’t taken at Kenwood, but at 34 Montagu. I always had the impression that the photo and the tapes occurred at the same time, but that obviously doesn’t have to be the case.
Thanks for posting this–what an amazing disclosure. The competition/cooperation dynamic is probably one of the more notable hallmarks of John and Paul’s relationship, in both their personal lives and in their creative endeavours. Underneath it, though, there was something else in play, particularly for John.
I think John’s extreme, lifelong antagonism toward all of Paul’s lovers is probably diagnostic here. We know that John’s early life experience was significant for its forced polarity between mother figures: You can have one mother figure, young John was taught, but you can’t have both. This shaped how John perceived significant relationships going forward, and prompted his characteristic jealousy and sexual rage when he perceived those relationships threatened. What’s interesting to me is that the only male friend who was on the receiving end of John’s sexual rage, indirectly speaking, was Paul. John was deliberately and calculatingly antagonistic toward most of the women with whom Paul became involved, but gave his other male friends a pass.
“Thanks for posting this–what an amazing disclosure.”
The Salewicz interviews are amazing all-around. I wish I could have written more on them in my book, but there simply wasn’t enough space. For Paul, they are remarkably blunt. He’s revealing in a Paulish way — It’s a Paul interview, so its defensive and equivocal — but its a demonstrative push-back against the prevailing narrative. I don’t know how or what it was about Salewicz in particular that prompted such excellent interviews from Paul, but I do know that they were the go-to interviews for Paul’s perspective until MYFN, and Salweicz borrowed heavily from them when he wrote the Paul bio.
Paul spends part of them de-mythologizing John and Yoko’s version of events. He discusses how Yoko first approached him, and how he was the one who went out to help John during the “Lost Weekend,” for example, to reunite them, but notes how John and Yoko would/could never admit that, because they are supposedly Elizabeth and Robert Browning, and Paul intervening to help them conflicts with their preferred mythology. As in the excerpt I posted, they include Paul discussing the “action/reaction” element of John and Paul’s personal and sexual relationships.
“What’s interesting to me is that only male friend who was on the receiving end of John’s sexual rage, indirectly speaking, was Paul. John was deliberately and calculatingly antagonistic toward most of the women who Paul became interested in but gave his other male friends a pass.”
After reading your post, I mentally ran down the list of John’s other male friends trying to remember any instances of sexual jealousy or possessiveness, and couldn’t. There was instance where John proposed to Pete (when Pete was married to his first wife and John was married to Cyn) that they “swap” for the night (that was right after John beat up Bob Wooler) but that’s not really sexually possessive.
It’s difficult for me, with John, to draw the line between his general mercurial personality and erratic rages from any form of sexually motivated rage or jealousy. Am I making sense? John had a number of reasons already to dislike Jane: posh, self-possessed, beautiful, (more beautiful than Cyn, all apologies to her) uninterested in John, keeping Paul in London rather than the suburbs and introducing him to a lot of new and unfamiliar stuff, which made John feel excluded. And the reasons for John to dislike Linda — primarily because of her family — are well known. However, John, by all accounts, liked Dot quite a bit, and Mike emphasizes how much Paul and Dot loved one another: he even calls her “Paul’s first love.” I’ve never heard of any issues between Maggie McGivern. Of course I read through that and then glanced at my Sheff notes, and Sheff declares that there was an example between Paul and Dot and John and Cyn — “The thing with John and Paul and women had been mixed up for a long while” — because, it was only after Paul proposed to Dot over the pregnancy (that she eventually lost), that John mentioned marriage to Cynthia for the first time.
Anyway, here’s Sheff’s interpretation, which gently theorizes along the same lines as Norman:
“I don’t see John as closeted in the typical sense, but there was a weirdness between him and women, and he had a yearning for a certain kind of closeness with men that one feels in the pit. Its not part of the project to discern the details of his sexuality. But the idea that John’s attention simply wandered from Paul and the band because of his other interests, that he just fell in love with Yoko in the traditional way, doesn’t ring true.”
I tend to think that John’s psychological profile–his mercurial personality, tendency toward emotional lability, massive insecurity and feelings of worthlessness– actually fuelled his sexual jealousy. People like John are notoriously hard to predict. One circumstance gives rise to an all-out reaction while a seemingly similar (or more provocative) circumstance does not. The consistency, then, might lie in the relationships which provoke the reaction, rather than the consistency of the reaction itself.
Perhaps Dot and Maureen didn’t inspire John’s sexual jealousy because, in John’s mind at the time, they didn’t compete with John’s need for attention or challenge his preeminence in Paul’s life. It’s hard to say. It does seem, though, that the relationships which seemed to inspire John’s sexual rage–as unpredictable as they were– were exclusively female, except for Paul.
Very apt, I think.
“The consistency, then, might lie in the relationships which provoke the reaction, rather than the consistency of the reaction itself.”
I see. Thanks for that explanation; that does make the pattern a slightly less muddy one.
“they didn’t compete with John’s need for attention or challenge his preeminence in Paul’s life.”
In regards to Dot, the primary threat John seemingly perceived regarding his relationship with Paul then was Jim McCartney, not Dot. That’s another observation Sheff made, that while Paul was jealous over John’s close friendship with Stu, and felt that Stu threatened his relationship with John, John felt the same way about Jim. Given John’s complaints about Jim McCartney over the years — and Jim’s understandable reluctance to allow/encourage a close friendship between Paul and John — I can certainly see how Sheff regarded Paul and Jim as the flip side to John and Stu.
“It does seem, though, that the relationships which seemed to inspire John’s sexual rage–as unpredictable as they were– were exclusively female, except for Paul.”
Which makes me wonder if John ever realized that. And how he would have reacted to that realization.
Oh, and just wanted to clarify that the “I don’t see John as closeted in the typical sense,” quote is Sheff’s, not mine.
Isn’t it Joshua Wolf Shenk that you are quoting and not David Sheff?
Mary, you’re completely right. I “Sheff’d” when I should have “Shenk’d.” 🙂 I think I got them confused because of the relative similarity of their narmes.
Having said that, there’s no way Sheff would have/could have written anything like that in 1980; he’d have been tarred and feathered, especially after John’s death. Plus, Sheff doesn’t seem capable or interested in applying any sort of source analysis to his 1980 Playboy interviews in particular or the Lennon/McCartney partnership in particular. (He also seems very poorly prepared; how can you not know, in 1980, that John’s Lennon mother is dead?)
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That’s interesting, isn’t it. For John, Jim McCartney was the proverbial double whammy: not only was he a threat to John’s friendship with Paul, he was also a potential obstacle to the realization of John’s ambition.
And Jim McCartney was also Paul’s most formative musical influence; not John.
As much as I love his work, I believe its Gould who claimed that John and Paul were each other’s formative musical influence, (and, as songwriters, I think that could be true) but I think Lewisohn makes it clear just how powerful Jim McCartney’s preferences and styles were; they shaped Paul’s ear for melody and musical preferences long before Paul ever heard rock and roll or met John. So not only was Jim a threat in the ways you mentioned; he was also intertwined in Paul’s musical DNA from the very beginning.
Gosh, I’m so late to this, I don’t think anyone will see this!
But I think another aspect to the feelings John felt towards Jim McCartney (and Paul did say their animosity was quite overblown) was not just jealousy over a threat to their friendship/band, but merely the fact that Paul had a strong, loving relationship with his father. Was John not just jealous of Jim’s role in Paul’s life, but jealous of Paul’s role in Jim’s, in having a strong father looking out for him?
I always thought it interesting that someone (maybe Cyn or Mike?) said that after the initial bumps in the road, once Jim got to know John, he quite liked him and would do things like fix him meals and happily “feed him up” because his own sons were picky eaters, and John actually enjoyed the fatherly attention.
Don’t worry Rose; even if no one else sees the comment, I think its an insightful one, that might spur an interesting discussion between a few people, even if almost no one sees it .
“I think another aspect to the feelings John felt towards Jim McCartney (and Paul did say their animosity was quite overblown.”
My memory is that Paul specifically disputed Lewisohn’s claim that Jim didn’t allow John in the house. He said that wasn’t quite the case but, being Paul, didn’t elaborate. As you said, you do get stories from Mike about Jim being friendly with John and Cyn later on, so even if Jim started out wary of John, he certainly mellowed with time.
“Was John not just jealous of Jim’s role in Paul’s life, but jealous of Paul’s role in Jim’s, in having a strong father looking out for him?”
Given John’s lifelong efforts to find new father figures/gurus, that would make sense to me.
Given both John’s pervasive, self-admitted ingrained jealousy regarding Paul — what is it he says in the “Let it Be” sessions, regarding Paul in general? “You’ve got it all” — and John’s own consistent efforts to seek out father figures/gurus, I think speculating that John envied Paul’s, by all accounts, close relationship with Jim — having a stable, invested parent — makes sense. In addition, Jim’s decision to stay and be a one-man parent to two teenaged boys has been remarked upon by more than a few authors. At that time, he could have potentially transferred, officially or unofficially, the raising of Paul and Mike to some close female relatives, and few people would have batted an eye, but he didn’t. Contrast that determination with Julia who, either through her own actions or inactions — or Mimi’s machinations, depending on who you believe — didn’t fight too hard to keep John. Poor John; no wonder he suffered such insecurity. I have friends who grew up abandoned by one parent, and still struggle with feelings of insecurity and worthiness; I can’t imagine the consequences of feeling abandoned by both.
Not only was Paul’s relationship with Jim something John hadn’t had since his Uncle George had died, it also appeared to give Paul a measure of stability and self-sufficiency — at least regarding other men — that John simply didn’t have. While everyone now agrees that both Paul and John sought out mother figures for decades following the deaths of their own mothers, Paul never actively sought out father figures the way John — with Brian, the Maharishi, Klein, Janov — did; psychologically, he didn’t need to. (Paul obliquely comments on that in his 1971 November “Melody Maker” Interview with Chris Charlesworth, where he argues that the main reason the others are so smitten with Klein is because he plays a “daddy” role for them.) The closest person to a second-father figure to Paul was, by his own admittance, George Martin; (certainly a better choice than Klein) but that developed over decades and, presumably, strengthened after Paul’s father died in 1976.
“Poor John; no wonder he suffered such insecurity. I have friends who grew up abandoned by one parent, and still struggle with feelings of insecurity and worthiness; I can’t imagine the consequences of feeling abandoned by both.”
Ouch, that is so stark, and sad. Poor John!
I should probably add “Paul and Jim’s relationship, with or without John” to my last of things that Beatles biographers chronically ignore and deserve more attention. I think my #1 right now is Paul’s relationship with his brother, Mike.
Perhaps because I’m watching The Crown series on Netflix right now, which heavily explores the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, and I can see some superficial similarities with Paul and Mike, but it frustrates me no end that no biographer (save for maybe Hunter Davies) has sought to delve into it. Paul is the only Beatle who had a sibling he was close to and who went into the arts (I think George’s brother Peter was only two years older than him, but I’ve never read of George being particularly close to his siblings). In his most recent Rolling Stone interview, Paul mentioned the three people who he gives him life counsel as his wife (obviously), his friend Lorne Michaels (creator of SNL) and his brother.
“I should probably add “Paul and Jim’s relationship, with or without John” to my last of things that Beatles biographers chronically ignore and deserve more attention.”
I think so, too. I do think Lewisohn did a good job in “Tune In” of painting a picture of Jim McCartney which was detailed, thorough and ultimately admiring, but that didn’t delve too in-depth into the Paul/Jim relationship. He is hamstrung, to an extent: there simply weren’t that many interviews with Jim, and we presumably wouldn’t get frank emotional testimony from either Jim or Paul even in the interviews that do exist; perhaps he simply assumes we will read between the lines and see a close, healthy, normal father/son relationship. As I said, I do think Lewisohn provides the most detailed description of how much Paul was musically influenced by his father; that’s something that usually gets a line or two, but Lewisohn really spells it out, and I personally think that formative musical influence from Jim to Paul was absolutely crucial.
“and I can see some superficial similarities with Paul and Mike, but it frustrates me no end that no biographer (save for maybe Hunter Davies) has sought to delve into it.”
I find that whole Paul/Mike relationship fascinating too, Rose, for so many reasons. I’m a youngest sibling myself, with all the attendant sibling rivalries and inevitable comparisons to older siblings, and I can’t fathom just what it must have been/be like to be Paul McCartney’s younger brother, to live in that shadow both within the family, artistically, etc. Not just once fame hit, and Paul became worldwide famous and made buckets of money, but even before that, when everyone, from their mother on down, had such high expectations for Paul. Just from reading his books/interviews, Mike is obviously super sharp, wryly humorous, and emphasizes familial loyalty and values learned from his parents. He’s also never released a “brother dearest” memoir, although he probably has had offered money for one. In Danny Fields book on Linda, he claims that Paul and Mike had fallen out sometime in the late 80’s, but I’ve never read and/or heard anything else about that.
There’s also the issue, for me, that Mike, along with Jane, is the great untapped source of Paul’s historiography. When he does do interviews, he keeps it light and full of childhood anecdotes, by and large, and doesn’t criticize, at least in public. But Mike was there in a way no other Beatles sibling was — he witnessed many of the Beatles private moments, and Paul’s moments, staying often at Cavendish. He knew Jane, Maggie, Jimi Hendrix, Linda, John, the Maharishi, George, Brian, George Martin, and he knew their relationships with his brother.
“In his most recent Rolling Stone interview, Paul mentioned the three people who he gives him life counsel as his wife (obviously), his friend Lorne Michaels (creator of SNL) and his brother.”
I loved that; it struck me as a Johnny Carson/Carnac the Magnificent bit: “His wife, his brother and Lorne Michaels: Who are Paul McCartney’s confidants?”
But it certainly speaks to Paul’s close friendship with Mike. Something I noticed in “Tune In” is that we got a lot more “Mike” as a source than any other Beatles sibling and that, while each of the other Beatles had a super close friend in adolescence, Paul had Mike.
I actually went and looked in Hunter Davies’ book, and lo and behold, he had a short passage about Mike towards the end (in the then “present day” of 1968), noting that Paul and Mike are close in a way George never was to his brothers, and that therefore it has made things difficult for him in a way it hasn’t for the other Beatle siblings. Adding this quote from Mike: “I suppose I couldn’t help being affected by our kid. He’s always had success. He was the first boy, the best looking one, the one who got all the girls and then got all the fame.”
Again, shades of Queen Elizabeth/Princess Margaret: both sibling sets were close in age and inseparable childhood best friends, only for the older sibling to step into the spotlight in their early 20’s. Mike is a quite good photographer, an excellent wit and a terrific writer, but he struggled obviously to find his place.
“In Danny Fields book on Linda, he claims that Paul and Mike had fallen out sometime in the late 80’s, but I’ve never read and/or heard anything else about that.”
I, too, remember hearing about Paul and Mike falling out in the 80’s, but who knows the details or how long it lasted? I’ve written before about what a rotten time Paul seems to have had in the 1980’s. It wasn’t Mike’s best decade, either: The Scaffold officially disbanded, and it was sometime in the early to mid-decade that Mike’s first wife, Angela, left him for another man which (understandably) devastated him and launched a nasty battle over their three children (of whom Mike ended up winning sole custody). However, Mike has also said that Paul was his rock during his custody battle, so who knows? They obviously reconciled, whatever it was about. (Incidentally, Jim notes that Paul and Mike did fight “a lot” as children, in the way only two close brothers can – rigging up headphones to the radio was Jim’s solution to stop the boys fighting at bedtime).
“But Mike was there in a way no other Beatles sibling was — he witnessed many of the Beatles private moments, and Paul’s moments, staying often at Cavendish. He knew Jane, Maggie, Jimi Hendrix, Linda, John, the Maharishi, George, Brian, George Martin, and he knew their relationships with his brother.”
An interesting thing in Hunter Davies’ is just how much Mike was around for, once you pay attention to it. Davies notes that Mike is the most frequent visitor from Liverpool, but then there are mentions of him present at events I just don’t think of Mike being present for (for example, with the Maharishi, with the Beatles in Paris, on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, etc.). He is, as you note, the only person to have shared Paul’s life since they were in nappies, and because of that is one of the few who wouldn’t be wowed by Beatle Paul, and thus is probably a steady source of comfort.
It’s strange, because so many biographers are generally interested in the sibling relationships of historical subjects (see the above example of Elizabeth/Rose, or their father and his brother David, for just two British examples) and here is a ripe opportunity, unexplored.
I’m the youngest sibling too, Erin. 🙂
I recall that too about Mike and Jim. I’m sure jealousy in the manner you described was an important factor too.
*I tend to think that John was more equivocal-as he was with most things-about his friendship with Paul, and I have a hunch that much of his anti Paul bluster was for Yoko’s benefit (something Paul himself noted).
That is something I have noticed in my amateur research regarding the John and Paul relationship as well. John seems to only really bash Paul when Yoko is right there with him. It’s like a knee jerk response (I suspect a requirement for him to have any peace with Yoko)
I was reading an interview John and Yoko gave at the St Regis Hotel in New York, N.Y. in Sept 5, 1971, to authors Peter McCabe and Robert Schonfeld, who were interviewing them for a book they were going to write and the interview was mostly for background information. The interview actually appeared in Penthouse magazine for its 15th anniversary issue in Sept 1984. The interviewer noted that John was still angry at Paul, (I checked for the released date of the Imagine album with How Do You Sleep foremost in my mind. It was released Sept 9th in the U.S and Oct 8th in the U.K.) The interviewer said that May Pang (couple of years before her affair with John) told them that Yoko was due for a fitting so Yoko left for that, which turned out great for them because “…in Yoko’s absence John was prepared to go back in the past and talk about Hamburg and Epstein”. John gave a little snark about Paul being bossy, arrogant, chauvinistic, etc, “…but that you could hear the *affection in his voice when he recalled Paul on stage in Hamburg singing What I Say for an hour and a half”.
After Yoko’s return the tone of the interview gets snarkier with John describing when he first met Linda how he didn’t think she “was particularly attractive”, a bit too tweedy were the words that he used, whatever that’s suppose to mean (plaid?) I don’t know. He talks like Paul married Linda out of nowhere, (which he kinda did) like he turned around and (BOOM!) they were married. I noticed that exactly 8 DAYS later he married Yoko, and it would have been sooner if he could have arranged it. And then what did the newlyweds do? They invite the press to their honeymoon bedroom to talk about unfair wars and protesting for peace! LMAO!
They laughed that the press were shocked like they were expecting to see JohnandYoko consummate their vows.
I think the press were more shocked that a self described “So-In-Love” newlywed couple would invite anybody
(let alone the press!) into their honeymoon bedroom for anything other than room service and then with the polite “Hurry up and get out!” look. I’m sorry but that just doesn’t sound like horny for each other lovebirds that want to be alone together…that sounds like media hogs stunting for attention IMO.
I recall reading about how John brought a recording to the studio for The Beatles (& Apple execs?) to listen to,
and when played it was obvious that it was a recording of him and Yoko…making love (keeping it polite)…there was dead silence while the tape played to the end with John staring at Paul for the duration of the embarrassing
tape waiting for his reaction. All Paul gave him when it was over was an awkward “Well that was interesting.”
Seems to me like John wanted the satisfaction of jealous display from Paul, a publically expressed hurt in front of whomever was there to witness it.
I have to say, quite frankly I am inclined to believe that those two, John and Paul, were in love with each other on some kind of level. I’m not saying that they didn’t love their wives, I believe that they did (all of their wives between them) but it seems to me that they were deep in each others hearts like no one else. Soulmates of sorts. Explains a lot of how John could “stay so angry” for so long with Paul (again for Yoko’s benefit IMO)
and behave so jealously of Paul’s sexual conquests (cutting up a girl’s clothes just for being in bed with Paul) George and Ringo weren’t subjected to John’s disapproval of whomever they slept with. How Paul can forgive so much ill treatment from John and express such love for him to this day. He’ll bring up John in an interview even if the interviewer hasn’t. John mentionitis it’s been called.
Is it any wonder that these guys and their story fascinate me? I mean they are better than any soap opera melodrama, or anything I’ve ever got interested and caught up in.
Y’all I’m sorry I blathered on and on. I didn’t intend to make this comment so long. I hope I haven’t ventured too far off the main subject.
John’s inclination to be more positively forthcoming about Paul/The Beatles outside of Yoko’s hearing has been noted by a few journalists, and also by a few of John’s cronies. Paul has also commented on this a number of times.
I’m always reminded of the sword hanging over the bed that was a gift from Yoko to John, presumably to remind John to “cut ties with the past.”
Great observations on the McCabe interview, Charlotte. They did turn a lot of those interviews into part of the book “Apple to the Core,” which, while interesting, blatantly suffers from its timing. (It’s still a largely pro-Klein book).
The “John-bashing Paul and the Beatles to please Yoko” habit is something that a lot of writers overlooked during the 1970’s and 1980’s but, as Karen said, more and more fans and writers have finally started to acknowledge. For me, its evidence of how canny John was at tailoring his messages to suit his audience or interviewer. Just looking at the contrast between John’s discussions with Ray Connolly in the breakup-period, contrasted with his Wenner or Cott interviews in the same time, demonstrate how capable John was of ensuring that the interviewer got the message he wanted. John’s LW era interviews generally tend to be his most relaxed, least defensive, and most appreciative of the Beatles; they also happen to be the ones where Yoko isn’t present. Prior to and following the LW, John is promoting JohnandYoko, which seems to require, for both of them, explicitly diminishing or criticizing the past, and all the parts of that past. In the LW, that element is missing from his interviews, only to come roaring back in the 1980 interviews.
“After Yoko’s return the tone of the interview gets snarkier with John describing when he first met Linda how he didn’t think she “was particularly attractive”, a bit too tweedy were the words that he used, whatever that’s suppose to mean (plaid?) I don’t know.”
I’ve wondered about the “bit tweedy” comment as well. Is it some British expression that people used at the time, and has fallen out of fashion? My guess is that, because tweed is a fabric associated with teachers, doctors, professors, middle and upper class professionals, that John was associating Linda with all those things: middle class, aspirational, wealth, conservative, etc. It would certainly fit with a lot of other sources from that time period, where John and Yoko and Klein and Wenner infuse the Beatles breakup with the whole debate over the class structure issues of the time period. (Which is particularly ironic, given Yoko’s background). Regardless, John, the newborn feminist, declaring in an interview that he doesn’t find Linda attractive is … a demonstration of John not living up to his professed feminist ideology. (Not to mention Yoko’s silence when the issue came up; as a self-professed feminist, one would think that Yoko would have objected to the criticism of the appearance of another woman and reducing her value to how her appearance appeals to men, but no such objection occurred).
Second, John’s professed shock at Linda’s sudden marriage to Paul is interesting to me. Evidently John wasn’t the only one; the reaction to the emergence of Linda in The Beatles circle, and her marriage to Paul, was evidently one of shock and surprise. From Peter Brown to Tony Barrow to John (even Ringo in Anthology) the tone is surprise and astonishment that Linda was the one whom Paul picked, and that they (Paul and Linda) fused together so quickly.
“Y’all I’m sorry I blathered on and on.”
I blathered too; look at the length of my post!
Different strokes for different folks I guess. Even as a decorative accessory to the bedroom (which is unappealing to me), the idea of a sword hanging over my bed, over my head for any reason just creeps me out. It may be psychological, but I would be nervous that the thing might fall on me while I’m sleeping (and nervously having bad dreams of it falling and slicing my head or feet if I changed sleeping positions).
I suppose that you’d really have to love and trust the person sleeping with you not to “get any ideas” about getting even with you for any grievances real or perceived. I am reminded that Yoko did reside in a mental hospital for attempting suicide (for some reason I think she just faked a suicide attempt for attention, I just don’t see Yoko as the kind of person that really wanted to die but is just me). That, along with a sword hanging over his bed (and literally over his head) to “cut ties with HIS past which included a son, but not ties with HER past which included a lengthy stay in a mental hospital for attempting to kill herself, should have given John a real serious pause. I’m honestly not trying to be closed minded and unfair to those with mental health issues in need of professional help, but does my reasoning about about the sword, where it hung and Yoko’s mental health past merit any justification of uneasiness?
I think you’re trying to connnect dots that don’t necessarily connect, Charlotte. I have bipolar disorder, and no-one has had to put a lock on the knife drawer yet. 🙂
I raised the sword issue to illustrate Yoko’s intent to “help” John deal with his ambivalence about his Beatle career. On one hand, John was proud of The Beatles and didn’t abide any criticism; on the other hand, I think he was embarrassed, having been indoctrinated into the avant-garde world. I believe, like you, that Yoko exploited John’s insecurity, for reasons of her own.
Instead of helping John embrace his history and take pride in his accomplishments, Yoko drove a wedge into his psyche in order to preserve her (dominant) place in history. If John had lived, I wonder if he would have embraced the Beatle renaissance which Paul now enjoys. Yoko is certainly riding on its coattails, which is the highest form of hypocrisy, IMO.
I think you’re trying to connect dots that don’t necessarily connect, Charlotte. I have bipolar disorder, and no-one has had to put a lock on the knife drawer yet.
(Smiling) Touche’ Karen.
Regarding How Do You Sleep, I’ve seen a couple of videos on YouTube which reveal John’s contrasting feelings towards Paul. The first one is during the creative process of HDYS. John is playing the piano and singing the song for George Harrison. John is has a cheesy grin while looking at George as he sings, as if he wants George to join in and laugh at Paul along with him. John says the song is the nasty version. The other musicians look uncomfortable like they don’t want to get caught smiling or laughing on camera. It seems as professionals, they want to work with men they’ve admired and respected as The Beatles and don’t want to appear to take sides in John’s personal grudge against Paul, another musician they admire.
My understanding of this scene is that Ringo has refused to play on the record and left in disgust because he feels John, Yoko, and Klein (who never appears on camera, helped write acid lyrics) had gone too far in their Paul ‘bashfest’.
The second video John and Yoko appear on The Mike Douglas Show. Mike has opened the floor up for questions from the audience members. One guy asks John if he’s heard and likes the new McCartney album (Wings Wild Life) John answers “Yes, I enjoyed it,” As he seeks words to finish his answer, Yoko asks the guy how did he like Paul’s new album and John parrots her question. The guy answers “Not much.” John switches his answer to “I thought it was getting better some was good, some not so good, I thought he was going in the right direction.” The next guy asks “Why did you write How Do You Sleep?” Yoko answers “It’s a beautiful song”
John takes it down a few notches and says “It’s a good song. Elephants Memory, the guys that were playing with me said ‘We must do it!’ I said we can’t do it because they’ll all think it’s in reference to Paul, while we think of it as a good guitar solo.” Yoko nods in agreement. In the very next sentence John contradicts himself by saying “And I was answering a few little messages that Paul sent to me on Ram you see. I publish my lyrics, he doesn’t so you have to listen much harder”. Yoko looks exasperated as she smooths her hair out of her face and declares “But artistically and musically if you listen to it, it’s a beautiful song!” Next question, “Don’t you think it’s a little vindictive?” Yoko shakes her head answers “No.” John starts to stammer and stumble, “It…It’s an answer. Paul…Paul doesn’t personally feel as though I’ve…I’ve insulted him or anything because I’ve had dinner with him last week…he was quite happy.” Yoko talks over John and says “He was friends you know and they were swearing at each other!” John looks momentarily annoyed as he talks over Yoko and says “If I can’t have a fight with my best friend then I don’t know who can I have a fight with.” Host Mike Douglas asks John, “Is he your best friend, Paul?” John says “I guess in the male sex he…he was, I don’t know about now…because I don’t see much of him.”
There could be an entire post on the many, many nuances surrounding John (and Yoko, and Klein, and George, etc.) and HDYS.
For me, (among many other things) the song is a primary demonstration of profound adolescent behavior in John (and Yoko, who helped write and later defended the song, as you noted). Pete Shotton remarks in his book how John was always the sort of person to want to do something/declare something/say something shocking and then never have to answer for it in real life. Basically, John had done and said what he wanted, and now it was over. But that’s not how the real world works.
And that’s important not only because it demonstrates a key aspect of John’s psychology, but because it impacts how we look at what John said and did, and requires us — fans, and writers, and Beatles authorities — to scrutinize John’s statements and claims more closely. Source Analysis 101: Take a source’s mental and emotional state into account. Take their history of exaggeration into account. Take their history of honesty or dishonesty into account. HDYS — whatever its mix of motivations — is John throwing an adolescent tantrum — aided and abetted by Yoko — and one which John was already sick of discussing by 1972. Here’s what John has to say about it in 1974 (so, LW, non-Yoko impacted interview):
“When I slagged off the Beatles thing, it was like divorce pangs and, me being me, it was ‘Blast this! Fuck the past!’ I’ve always had a bit of a mouth and when a thing begins that way you have to live up to it. Then Paul and me had that fight in the pages of MM. It was a period I had to go through. I sort of enjoy the fight at the time — that’s the funny thing. Now we’ve got it all out and it’s cool.” John, Crawdaddy, 1974
In his understanding of the consequences of what he did/said, John sounds approximately 15 in this interview. “When a thing begins that way you have to live up to it.” In other words: we started slagging, and things started getting nasty, so I had to show the world that, per my reputation, I was the biggest and the nastiest and the undisputed alpha-male. And so I wrote a bullying, unfair song about my best friend/best enemy that said a lot of things that weren’t true, but I had to live up to my reputation, and now Klein’s gone, and its over.”
That incomprehension of the consequences of his statements is, to me, profoundly adolescent and immature. How much of it was willful; how much of it was genuine, I don’t know.
The interesting thing, though, is that John also had an amazing capacity to fully admit, without qualification or ambivalence, when he was wrong–provided, of course, he wasn’t within earshot of Yoko. There’s a particular narrative that John was more inclined to reinforce in Yoko’s presence because John believed that to do otherwise would mean tanking that relationship. And he was probably right. I think John was forever caught in the psychological and emotional tug of war between Mimi and Julia. Had he been able to resolve that–I think we would have seen a different man.
I remember that Mike Douglas interview, Charlotte. As I often do, particularly when it comes to discussions about HDYS, I wanted to smack Yoko.
I meant to include to the comment I made about John and Yoko on the Mike Douglas show where the first guy in the audience to ask John if he liked the new McCartney album (Wings Wild Life) and John answered that he enjoyed it. I wanted to note the album has the beautiful and haunting Dear Friend, Paul’s olive branch peace offering to John for them to cease fire in their War Through Song. Most fans say it’s the best song on the album. I love it, it’s so moving and beautiful to me. After the bitter invective of How Do You Sleep, I bet it was John’s favorite on the album too.
I’ve watched that HDYS rehearsal video several times and my first impression was “How could you John and George? Paul was y’alls friend and you both shit all over him in this sickening hatefest! Bless Ringo for not participating in the fuckery. And George should’ve left with Ringo but to his everlasting shame the stink from this will stick to him forever!” I figured the other musicians were sucking up to John by siding with him against Paul. Yoko and Klein were just two of a kind. That was my initial POV.
After many viewings of this same video, I began to study it and started to wonder if something else was happening. As you said Erin, “NUANCES”, so subtle that maybe I had missed them before in my haste to harshly judge what seemed so “obvious”. Maybe what you see is what you get, or just maybe I’m connecting dots that are not necessarily there. I’ve done that before. Like John said “It’s all in your (my) mind you know.”
Anyway I wondered, “What if what we see is not all that’s going on. What if John’s grin and what looks like desperation to make eye contact with George is more than just “fratboy bullying”? Going on a few known facts I thought I’d flesh out what “could be” going on unseen. Here goes.
Ringo has already left before George arrives so George is not aware of what had happened.
John plays and sings the song to George while “cheesy grinning” and looking at George like ‘C’mon George, it’s funny, let’s laugh together at Paul. Remember how he bossed us in the band then sued us in the end?
This is our chance to get “Back at ya pal!” Let’s show him what for!’
But what if:
John’s “cheesy grin” is a mask to hide the embarrassment he felt in front of the others when Ringo stood up to him and said “That’s enough John. You’re going too far with this!” then left in disgust because John continued to take lyrics written by Yoko and Klein designed to hurt and humiliate Paul who had been his best friend and songwriting partner since boyhood. John’s trying to catch George’s eyes and see if he too is disgusted by the words. In front of everybody will George leave him too… like Ringo…like Paul?
George doesn’t smile but does stay to play. John realizes that the “Paul Bashfest ” is a party of 3. Yoko, Klein and himself. The levity of the occasion went out the window when Ringo registered his disapproval and left. For the other musicians, what was a chance to work with three of their idols became two. As professionals it became business as they were not going to be filmed enjoying disrespecting Paul as John’s “Quarrymen all grown up”.
But perhaps there is even more.
When John first heard Paul’s Too Many People, he blew his stack, ranted and raved as he was wont to do, in the privacy of his home with Yoko.That was his way, to react to something, spout off to blow off steam. In time it blows over…nothing serious. No harm no foul. Pretty much forgotten about.
But what if this time he blew his stack but instead of it blowing over, it was encouraged, inflamed into rage by Yoko and Klein?: ‘Are you going to take that from him?’
What if that rage was fed “justification”?: ‘Who does Paul think he is?!’
What if that rage was given a chance to reciprocate in kind, to even the score?: ‘We’ll show him!’
The first step would be to write a reply song, a kick ass take down! How about it gets recorded too…with George and Ringo for good measure. Put on the next Lennon album.
‘Say that to you on a record for the fans to hear? We’ll show him!
We’ll show McCartney he can’t get away with saying that about us on a record for the fans to hear. He’ll be sorry! Remember he started it! You can’t back down! You’re John Lennon and you don’t take that from anybody! You’re not going to let him get away with disrespecting you or Yoko are you?
Studio time is booked, this thing is happening. Yoko is proud that her man standing up for her. Klein is proud that John doesn’t take shit off of anybody. Everything is set in motion, the ball is rolling. Yoko and Klein keep coming up with great put downs to add to the song. Huddled in a corner Ringo and John talk in hushed tones so the others can’t hear but their voices get louder throughout. Ringo asks, then pleads with John to be reasonable. Reminds him that he and Paul went through all kinds of stuff together as best mates. What did Paul do or say that was so bad…that was untrue on Too Many People? “C’mon John!” But John couldn’t back
down now, in front of everybody…in front of Klein…in front of Yoko. Not now. Although he secretly wanted to.
He wasn’t as angry anymore not like at first. But he couldn’t lose face and look like a weak fool to everybody…
in front of his woman. As a man he just couldn’t. Besides it was Paul’s fault for starting it. He and Yoko may have given a lot of interviews bashing Paul, but Paul was the first one to put it in song. Everybody knows now and it’s all Paul’s fault! Disappointed in John Ringo leaves, and with the thick uncomfortable silence John knows everybody has heard why Ringo has left pissed off. George arrives late unaware of what transpired with John and Ringo. But he can feel the tension in the air. John’s weird smile and “that look” in his eyes as he sang and played the song for him. John declares “That’s the nasty one.” as he gets up. George turns to see a camera set on him capturing everything. The looks on the faces of the other musicians lets him know he is in the middle of something…uncomfortable.
John probably felt dread and knew he should’ve stopped it before it got to the point of no return. As a man he couldn’t allow himself to look weak and impotent in front of Yoko. He couldn’t lose face in front of her…he couldn’t allow her to lose face because of him. But Paul…why did he have to sing that song…and now…this…
One thing left to do. Record the song. Then record another song. John already had the tune, he just had to write new lyrics. Paul will understand. He’ll see. The song will reflect his true feelings, more so than How Do You Sleep. Paul will know…and understand. He’ll put the song to Paul behind his own self described Crippled Inside. John would make sure that the song for Paul comes way before HDYS. He’ll call that song for Paul, Jealous Guy.
I’ve checked the facts behind Jealous Guy and found John hastily wrote the song after he recorded HDYS. It was originally written as Child Of Nature and was suppose to be on the White Album but wasn’t for whatever reason. According to Paul himself, John told him that he wrote Jealous Guy to Paul to describe how he felt when he thought he and Paul were drifting further apart. IMO it was his way of saying to Paul, I’m sorry for my part of all the bad shit that went down between us. IMO that shows us that John cared how Paul felt and that he knew that HDYS was going to hit Paul hard with punches coming right and left and below the belt. The public humiliation for Paul would be great, he already regretted it but that he just wouldn’t be able to take what would surely be Yoko’s disappointment in him, HER loss of face in front of others especially after she helped to write the song (hit piece).
I know this is from my imagination and may be more wrong than right, but it was from a hunch that I got after watching the HDYS video and wondered “What if” …and now you know.
When it comes to your hunches, you’re a terrific writer! I wish more Beatles hagiographers (as opposed to biographers; Erin will know the distinction) thought like you.
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One more thing I forgot to add to my comment about the two YouTube videos. In the second part of the comment where John and Yoko are guest on The Mike Douglas Show, and the first guy asks John if he likes Paul’s Wild Life album, and John answers “Yes, I enjoyed it.” I failed to mention that on that album is what a lot of fans say is the best song on the album, The beautiful and haunting ‘Dear Friend’ which was Paul’s olive branch peace offering to John, after the bitter How Do You Sleep invective.
I would bet that Dear Friend was John’s favorite song on the album he “enjoyed”.
Both of your comments, Karen and Charlotte, reminded me of one of my issues with Norman’s theory regarding John’s emotional/sexual motivations for his behavior; it takes Yoko out of the equation. Given John’s well-established psychological need for a partner, and her implicit/explicit support for his disproportionate breakup-era behavior, leaving Yoko’s influence out of any interpretation of John’s behavior is irresponsible and incomplete.
Thank you Provider. That’s very kind of you to say.
Reply to Rose: The ‘reply’ option pulled its Cheshire cat disappearing trick again:
“noting that Paul and Mike are close in a way George never was to his brothers, and that therefore it has made things difficult for him in a way it hasn’t for the other Beatle siblings.”
Those are two very interesting points: first, that Paul was closer to Mike than George was to his brothers, which means, pretty much, that Paul was closer to Mike than any other Beatle was to any other Beatles sibling. John didn’t live with his sisters, (and there was an age difference there,) Ringo didn’t have siblings, and Paul and Mike lived in each others pockets in a way George and his siblings didn’t. Second, that that closeness was impacted (presumably, detrimentally) by Paul’s ascendance into super-stardom. It certainly seems as if Paul pulled Mike along for a lot of the ride: getting Scaffold’s albums produced by George Martin and played on by Jimi Hendrix, Mike being a constant guest at Cavendish and witness to many of the Beatles private moments — but there’s still a power/artistic/wealth imbalance there that’s simply impossible to breach: your parallel with Elizabeth/Rose is well drawn. (I haven’t seen The Crown, but I want to).
“It’s strange, because so many biographers are generally interested in the sibling relationships of historical subjects (see the above example of Elizabeth/Rose, or their father and his brother David, for just two British examples) and here is a ripe opportunity, unexplored.”
I’d guess (and its pure speculation) that the relationships among the Beatles themselves are already so full of pseudo-sibling issues that authors don’t have the time to really acknowledge the actual familial sibling issues. It’s an unexplored avenue that doesn’t just leave out Mike/Paul: in all the bios of George I’ve read, his relationships with his siblings gets little to no coverage. Which is short-sighted: their role and birth order in their natural families absolutely impacted their characters, roles and behavior in the Beatles family they helped create. George was the somewhat spoiled but overlooked baby of both his family and of the band; a youngest child who bonded with people outside of the ‘family’ — his friend Arthur, Clapton, Preston — who didn’t automatically slot him in that ‘baby’ role. Paul’s relationship with Mike — the familial younger brother — undoubtedly impacted his relationship with George — the band’s younger brother. Paul and John butting heads isn’t just a conflict between the band’s two primary artists and dominant personalities: it’s a classic clash between an oldest child and another oldest child (albeit one raised as an ‘only’ child). Paul displays any number of classic characteristics of an oldest child, but John less so, though that may be because of his disruptive upbringing.
“An interesting thing in Hunter Davies’ is just how much Mike was around for, once you pay attention to it.”
Yes; he was also friends with Tara Browne, and he also visited the Maharishi after Paul did. He also visited John during John’s LW, when relations between Paul and John had improved. Mike evidently got along very well with Ray Connolly, the reporter who chronicled key points of the breakup as it was happening. There’s no doubt he’s sitting on an enormous amount of valuable, interesting information regarding both the Beatles and Paul, and that we’ll probably never know it. However, Mike implies in his book “the Macs” that he didn’t actually meet Linda until Paul and Linda’s wedding day which, if true, is surprising.
“Adding this quote from Mike: “I suppose I couldn’t help being affected by our kid. He’s always had success. He was the first boy, the best looking one, the one who got all the girls and then got all the fame.”
That’s a devastating quote for me, as a youngest child, to read. Mike was always in Paul’s shadow, well before Paul became famous. Mike’s obviously, as you noted, a gifted writer, sharply hilarious ,and with an artistic bent, but Paul was always out in front. And Mike still lives in Liverpool, doesn’t he? Imagine what it must be like, to live in a city where there’s a statue of your brother on the waterfront. How would that impact you?
Mike’s done one or two interviews in recent years, in one, the reporter was surprised Mike lived in a modest house in Liverpool, and he replied that it was his own house bought with his own money. Mike said that he never asked his brother for money because it was Paul’s money, not his, and treated it as such. To be fair, the reporter found Mike to be funny, stable and completely comfortable with his brother’s fame.
Mike said that Paul did help him financially when he was falsely accused of grabbing a waitress’s bum several years ago (Paul paid his legal fees): “You asked me did my brother help me [financially]. He did then and, without that help, I don’t know what would have happened…Can you imagine having those horrible sexual things against my proud, family name? Paul understood. The first thing he said was, ‘She’s going for you because of me. That’s why this is happening. I’m so sorry.”’ (The case was thrown out and the judge ordered the woman to reimburse Mike’s legal fees for the false accusation.) So you can see how, on Paul’s end, there is also clearly some guilt, whether real or imagined.
Asking Paul for money seems to be the thing that truly upsets him, and no doubt Mike knows that. I think of Francie’s account of Paul’s breakdown when they visited Liverpool and he went out to the pub with some cousins or something. He came back to his dad’s house and laid on the floor and cried about how the night had been going well until his relatives started hitting him up for money, and how they didn’t treat him like himself anymore.
There’s a similar anecdote in one of the recent Paul bios (Sounes, Carlin, etc. run together for me) that took place in recent times (minus the crying). Paul invited a bunch of relatives to a classical premiere of one of his works in Liverpool, and gave them all free tickets. He had an elderly auntie who was housebound, so in addition for the tickets he arranged a car and driver for her for the night. Apparently the younger relatives got wind of that, and bombarded Paul’s assistant at his office with whining about why Auntie X got a car and THEY didn’t get a car, and on and on.
Excellent points about George, and the sibling dynamics amongst the Beatles. I was surprised when I looked it up and saw that George’s closest brother was only two years older than him. I expected a much larger age difference because of the seeming distance between them. I’m no George expert, and I know both his brothers ended up caretakers on his estate, but I’ve never seen or heard of any account of them being particularly close. I always thought Paul and Mike were close partially because they’re only two years apart in age, so to see that George was the same to his next closest brother as well is surprising. Yet all the accounts of their childhoods have Paul and Mike attached at the hip, eternal playmates and best friends for most of it, whereas there’s very little about George’s interactions with his siblings. I know Louise was much older and didn’t have a whole lot of contact with George growing up, having moving out of the house fairly early. (She then moved to the States and basically started a cottage industry of capitalizing on the Beatles’ fame, which I know George found distasteful.)
Paul and Mike also collaborated on music (on Mike’s albums) and, to add to the sibling dynamic, Mike also had the puppyish idolatry of John Lennon that George also had at the start.
Ok, here goes. Third time’s a charm:
I remember that interview with Mike, both because of how well-rounded Mike came off, and because, in an interview that was supposed to be about Mike and Mike’s photos, 75% of the interview they printed was about Paul/The Beatles.
“I think of Francie’s account of Paul’s breakdown when they visited Liverpool and he went out to the pub with some cousins or something. He came back to his dad’s house and laid on the floor and cried about how the night had been going well until his relatives started hitting him up for money, and how they didn’t treat him like himself anymore.”
I had heard of Francie’s account of Paul’s crying, but not that the immediate cause of it was his cousins asking him for money, and Paul’s feeling they were treating him differently. Which is interesting, because, according to Connolly, the only time he every saw any of the Beatles treated like a normal human being was at Mike’s first wedding. One of Paul’s Uncle’s chewed him out for admitting using LSD, and Connolly joined in a poker game later with Paul and his cousins that he said was normal. (Of course, that was pre-Francie). Paul’s relationship with his extended family is also interesting; it’s evidently a very extensive extended family. Sounes claims that Paul has numerous relatives that depend and expect Paul to help support them financially, (he said in Liverpool its known as “The McCartney pension” but offers no actual evidence to support that claim. Certainly Mike, as you noted, wants to make it very clear that financially, he stands on his own two feet.
“Yet all the accounts of their childhoods have Paul and Mike attached at the hip, eternal playmates and best friends for most of it, whereas there’s very little about George’s interactions with his siblings.”
Again, the role of best friends seems important to me, here. George was evidently very, very close with his adolescent friend Arthur (whose last name I can’t recall; and they remained friends for the rest of their lives). Sometimes — and I’m speaking from personal experience here — those friend relationships can supersede sibling ones in terms of closeness. Likewise, John had Pete Shotton, but Paul’s closest friend pre-John was Ian James, and Ian lived in the Dingle, so it was difficult for them to see each other as much as they liked. So even though the age difference between Paul and Mike was not that different than the age difference between George and his older brother, that may have played a role. Also … Mike’s a memorable, vivid writer, so I imagine he captures the attention of biographers and Beatles authorities. I don’t know about George’s older brother, though.
Rose, I’ve typed up two long replies to this post, and wordpress has had issues both times, kicking me off both times when I thought the post was being submitted. The second time I tried to copy the post as I went, and now it won’t even acknowledge it. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to type it up again later on, but for now, know that I think the post was really interesting and had lots of great information, but the computer gods are against me and replying is bringing me nothing but frustration.
I look forward to it, Erin!
If it helps, this morning I was telling my partner about all this. She’s a casual fan, so doesn’t know all these biographical details. She asked what Michael does for a living and I said, “Well, he’s a photographer mainly, but in the Sixties he was in a musical comedy sketch group that was fairly well-known in England, and had a couple of novelty hits.” She immediately exclaimed that that was fascinating, psychologically. I asked her to explain and she said it was so interesting that an overshadowed younger sibling would choose that a career mocked, even in a roundabout way, their older sibling’s career. In thinking about it, it is true that at the same time of some of the Beatles’ most anthemic, analyzed hits The Scaffold were hitting it big with tossed off, completely silly novelties.
Michael’s relationship to music is kind of interesting. He tried at least one “legitimate” album, McGear (with Paul’s help) but as recently as in his one man show, he described himself as not a singer. Why then, did he record that album? I don’t think he ever described himself as musically ambitious, and seems to have approached both McGear and the Scaffold’s music with indifference.