Video Presentation: How Beatles’ History was Written.

The long-awaited video of Erin’s lecture is here. Enjoy!

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21 thoughts on “Video Presentation: How Beatles’ History was Written.

  1. Erin says:

    I got to watch this for the first time today: I flinched when I realized how hyperbolic I was when discussing Klein — “the absolute worst choice” — because I shouldn’t have exaggerated like that. I also didn’t get the “boring people doing boring things” quote entirely correct, because I had the whole version on my power point and an abridged version of the quote on my notes.

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    • providerofgoods says:

      I believe it was once said that the first step to controlling a problem is admitting you have one? Don’t worry about how hyperbolic you were then; control how hyperbolic you are going forward. 😉 Also, for a presentation that long, consider it a blessing that you only have two real nitpicks about it, aside from the PowerPoint failing you.

      (Side note: honestly, I think that might have been a blessing in disguise. I don’t know how image-heavy it may have been, but I tend to find that if I’m trying to illustrate a point with a PowerPoint, it distracts people from what I’m saying. Dead PowerPoint = the audience focusing much more on what you’re saying, and maybe absorbing it a little better.)

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      • Erin says:

        “Also, for a presentation that long, consider it a blessing that you only have two real nitpicks about it, aside from the PowerPoint failing you.”

        Luckily, I’m from the sandwich generation which only really started incorporating technology into our presentations in college — I was in college before I saw my first Power Point — so I can do presentations without them.

        I had some people who watched the presentation live make the same point that you did about the lack of Power Point allowing the audience to really focus on what I was saying, rather than distracting them with what was up on the screen. I didn’t have too many slides — about five or six — and most of them had the full version of quotes on them. There are subjects where PP are really helpful — like maps — but luckily this particular subject doesn’t need them too much.

        And excellent point about the hyperbole from this point onward. Unfortunately, because of the video angle, we don’t get too much of the audience response, but there were moments where they were audibly or visibly surprised: when I clarified that Paul’s managerial choice of John and Lee Eastman were Linda’s father and brother; when I mentioned the drugs John was taking during the “Lennon Remembers” interview — I saw one teenager turn to another and mouth “damn!” when I said evidence indicates John was taking both heroin and cocaine when he sat down with Wenner — when I read the Klein quote about him “reminding” John about writing 70% of “Eleanor Rigby,” of when I mentioned, in the Q&A, that the other contested song is “In My Life.” It was interesting to see what information really drew a response out of the audience.

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  2. Karen Hooper says:

    Great lecture, Erin. I didn’t think you were hyperbolic when discussing Klein, just emphatic. 😉 Seems like an apt description, though, particularly when considering how Klein “convinced” John that he wrote the lionshare of Eleanor Rigby.

    (Before I forget: interesting sidestory regarding Lennon’s contribution to Harrison and Starr’s vocal contributions. On more than one occasion, John gave Harrison songs he wrote or that were part of his performance repertoire, in order to bolster Harrision’s vocal contributions on the early albums–for, example, “Do You Want To Know A Secret” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. This magnanimity later caused Lennon to sour on Harrison, when Harrison wrote “I Me Mine” and didn’t list Lennon as a source of support and creative influence.)

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    • Erin says:

      “I didn’t think you were hyperbolic when discussing Klein, just emphatic. Seems like an apt description, though, particularly when considering how Klein “convinced” John that he wrote the lionshare of Eleanor Rigby.”

      Well, I emphatically 🙂 believe Klein was the wrong choice, but I shouldn’t have been so absolutist. I suppose what surprises me most about that is that I’ve never seen discussion of Klein’s “reminding” John he wrote E.R. anywhere else; It’s not in Norman, Coleman, Goodman, Wenner, Doggett, etc. Did they simply consider it unimportant, or did the implications of it — the way it reveals the extent to which Klein was capable of convincing John of things that weren’t true — not soak in?

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    • Erin says:

      Thanks, Linda! I really enjoyed the Q&A, although looking back now, I think there were some questions where I could have focused more on the core of the question, rather than diverting off onto tangential aspects. The “did you approach Beatles historiography the same way you would have military historiography” for example.

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  3. Charlotte says:

    Yippeee! Hooray!
    I’m back and able to participate in discussions on one of my favorite blog sites. Ever since last Christmas, I’ve been in a kind of technology limbo. After reading what I’ve written describing my misadventures in limited computer usage since then, (access limited to YouTube for the most part, I’ve decided to spare y’all the boring details other than I’ve had to set up another Google account just to get on here. All because of my ludditeitis (however ya spell it!)
    Mostly I’ve just been enjoying the time to read a lot of Beatles books and observing each author’s various spin or re-telling of well known history and facts. Still it’s real nice to catch up on the material here.
    Erin I have thoroughly enjoyed your presentation regarding how Beatles history was written. You were great. I must review it again without the many unavoidable interruptions.
    Just so you know, that little hitch in the audio play of Eleanor Rigby, I have that same uneven sound output on my cd. I thought I had a bad batch cd, because I didn’t remember that happening on my vinyl album. However, when I switch ears with my headphone, it plays correctly where you hear both the music and Paul evenly. When I was at Barnes & Noble recently, they were playing Eleanor Rigby and that same uneven audio where you hear the strings clearly but Paul voice fades considerably happened exactly like my cd (which was not homemade burned but purchased at the store mind you) so I don’t know what happened, but apparently, it was shipped out of the manufacture like that. Just so you know. Now I need to catch up reading on this sites other threads. I sure did miss you guys!

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    • Erin says:

      Charlotte, it’s lovely to hear from you again. I’m glad you’re back, technologically.

      I’m also glad you liked the presentation. I know: it’s a long one, and takes a while to watch and get all the way through. Were there any parts in it that surprised you, or you would have liked more information on?

      “Just so you know, that little hitch in the audio play of Eleanor Rigby, I have that same uneven sound output on my cd.”

      Seemingly none of the technology was working that night. We did a dry run that afternoon, and everything played and visuals were good, but then everything imploded that evening. That song works fine on my ipod, but for whatever reason, once it was hooked up to the sound system in our conference room, it didn’t work correctly. At least we got to listen to the first part of the song.

      “Mostly I’ve just been enjoying the time to read a lot of Beatles books and observing each author’s various spin or re-telling of well known history and facts.”

      I’m curious; what have you been reading recently, and what did you think of it? I’ve been spending so much time grading and prepping for Michigan that I haven’t picked up a new Beatles book in months. I had a journal send me one to review, but luckily they gave me six months or more to review it, because I haven’t even opened the cover yet. 🙂

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  4. Rose Decatur says:

    Wonderful lecture, Erin!

    I’m about halfway through it, so forgive me if you address this source on “Eleanor Rigby” later in the video, but I wanted to get it down before I forget! There is another contemporary account of Paul’s authorship of “Eleanor Rigby:” Maureen Cleave. In her 1966 Evening Standard profile of Paul, she notes that Paul is carrying a draft of the new song in his pocket and he apparently shows it to her:

    “He prepared to drive to Weybridge to write songs. He had one in his pocket about loneliness and old age; in fact, a heartrending song. It concerns Miss Eleanor Rigby. ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ it begins, “picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been.'”

    This is highly significant for several reasons:

    1. It is almost certainly the most contemporary account of Eleanor Rigby’s writing that exists, as Cleave quotes from the song before it was released or even recorded! Cleave’s article was published on March 25, 1966 and so the actual interviews were done at an unknown time prior to that date. Rigby’s first recording session was not until about a month after the profile was published, on April 28, 1966, and it was released on August 5, 1966.

    2. The fact that Cleave quotes the opening line of the song in its final form already a month before it was recorded – and describes it as a “poem” about a lonely spinster, indicating there were enough more completed lines for her to grasp the theme of the song – possibly contradicts John’s assertion that the song wasn’t complete when Paul brought it to him.

    3. Maureen Cleave – unlike the other sources, excepting maybe Hunter Davies – was actively recording her encounter with the Beatles at the time. Unlike Shotton, Donovan or William Burroughs, she wasn’t present as a personal friend or acquaintance. When Paul showed her the draft of the lyrics, she was either recording him on tape or taking scrupulous notes in her role as journalist. Her actual job and role was to faithfully record Paul’s exact words in their encounter, as it was to be a published interview. As she quoted the song’s lyric exactly and correctly without having a released version to refer to – only presumably seeing the handwritten draft once, when Paul showed it to her – she seems to have been highly accurate.

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    • Erin says:

      Rose, thank you! I didn’t mention that piece of evidence in the presentation, if you haven’t finished it yet. I also didn’t mention the press conference where George Harrison refers to “Eleanor Rigby” as Paul’s song. I could — and probably should have — but I didn’t want to bludgeon the audience with sources, and one of the issues I wanted to focus on in the presentation was the different types of evidence/sources. But you’re right on all three points, and now I’m kicking myself for not putting Cleave in with Martin in terms of contemporaneous eyewitness accounts from highly credible sources.

      Your point about Cleave recording the conversations and/or taking notes made me want to cheer. It’s a valid point that so often gets overlooked; we have so many sources that are forced to paraphrase, recalling conversations with Beatles and then providing the ‘gist’ of what the Beatle said. (Which, of course, is filtered through the lens of the non-Beatle). Its a game of telephone, only with historiographical consequences. And, as you noted, she has a level of objectivity that Burroughs, (friend of Paul’s) Donovan (friend of Paul’s) and Shotton (friend of John’s) don’t have. In a way, even Martin doesn’t have the same level of objectivity as Cleave. His obvious affection for John notwithstanding, my reading of the evidence indicates that Martin was closer both personally and musically to Paul than he was to John, and certainly to George.

      With your Cleave interview, George’s press conference statement, and all the evidence I mentioned in the presentation, what astonishes me the most about the “Eleanor Rigby” debate is that it was ever a debate at all. Paul and Miles speculate in MYFN that John simply painted himself in a corner with his “Lennon Remembers” claims to having authored it, and couldn’t extract himself later, but John freely denounced many of his LR claims. But he doubled down on E.R. Authors in the 70s and 80s either note that E.R. is a contested song, or they conclude that its primarily Paul’s, but never ask why John claimed credit for it. Bizarre.

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      • Karen Hooper says:

        With your Cleave interview, George’s press conference statement, and all the evidence I mentioned in the presentation, what astonishes me the most about the “Eleanor Rigby” debate is that it was ever a debate at all.

        I may have to re-listen to your presentation, but was/is there a debate in musicology, or just in the minds of some biographers (and, of course, John)?

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        • Erin says:

          The last major “debate” I saw on the issue was in Hertsgaard, from 1995. He basically says “John says he wrote it, Paul says he wrote it, and it was probably Paul, but we’ll never know.” I can’t speak for in-depth musicological debate, like Paul using a signature chord structure indicating that it was his baby, because all that sounds like gibberish to me. All the key musicological analyses — MacDonald, Gould, Mellers, Everett — attribute it primarily to Paul. Biographers also attribute it primarily to Paul, even pro-Lennon ones –however, Norman and Coleman skip over John’s repeated false claims of primary authorship, as does Schafner, I believe.

          The main debate appears to have occurred in John’s mind, more than anywhere else. Which again, is, to me, the far more interesting question: why this song? Of all the songs they wrote together, in totality or in part, why did John keep claiming primary authorship of this one? Was it Klein? Pride? Did he paint himself in a corner in 1970 that he simply couldn’t extract himself from even ten years later? Is it somehow all wrapped up in Paul’s artistic peak on Revolver and his refusal to take LSD with John? Or was Klein just that good at convincing John of things that weren’t true, that John believed it almost until the day he died?

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    • Karen Hooper says:

      Great article, Rose. Thanks for posting it.

      Off topic, but I’m fascinated by Cleaves’ view of Paul–a facade of youthful urbanity mixed with scouse pragmatism. You never really see the inside of Paul, which makes him all the more fascinating.

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  5. Erin says:

    Great to hear from you, Rose and Charlotte. I’m loving the comments: unfortunately, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone with end of the semester grading and prepping to send out my Pepper presentation — it’s due to my conference chair tomorrow, and I still need to do some proper formatting for citations (be still my heart) — so I won’t have a chance to reply until tomorrow or Tuesday. But I’m looking forward to adding to the discussion.

    Thanks everyone,
    Erin

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