One of the criticisms various Beatles fans leveled at Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In is the relative lack of attention paid to the death of Mary McCartney. The event, its emotional aftermath, and the presumed psychological and emotional consequences it had on her widower, Jim, youngest son, Mike, and, oldest son, Paul, receives roughly half of the page coverage devoted to the death of Julia Lennon. For a Beatles historiography which has tended, over the decades, to zero in on John’s trauma while seemingly neglecting that of the band’s other members – Ringo’s childhood health struggles, for example – this lack of equal page time from the band’s preeminent historian on a subject which many fans felt had already been inadequately explored left them disappointed.
While the argument can be made that Lewisohn’s coverage of Mary McCartney’s death leaves unanswered questions, — the primary one being the claim, made in Bob Spitz’s Beatles bio by Paul’s Auntie Dill, that Mary McCartney was actually diagnosed with cancer when Paul was six, not twelve – (a claim that, if true, changes the whole tenor of Pauls’ childhood) — this has to be balanced with the acknowledgement that the McCartney family as a whole receives considerable attention. The most notable example of this involves Lewisohn’s use, in Tune In, of numerous quotes and material from Mike McCartney, Paul’s only brother. Indeed, Mike receives more coverage than George’s or John’s siblings. (Ringo, of course, was an only child). None of George’s older brothers, or sister, or John’s half-sisters, are as extensively quoted, or their lives as intertwined with the future members of the Fab Four, as Mike. In the band’s early days, Mike was casual friends with the other members of his brother’s band and served as their unofficial photographer. Simply put, no Beatles sibling has made as significant an imprint as Mike McCartney has on the band’s story or its historiography.
Part of this can evidently be attributed to Mike’s seeming closeness to his only sibling: only 18 months apart in age,[i] Paul and Mike, while fighting as fiercely as only brothers can, apparently grew up in each other’s pockets. While John’s friendship with Pete Shotton and George’s with Arthur Kelly are emphasized, it appears that Paul’s primary childhood partner in crime was Mike. Tune In discusses, among other incidents, Mike’s arm being broken while away with Paul at Scout camp; their entry into a talent contest as a duo of singers; and Mike’s first forays into photography and performance art (an act which evidently included walking around Liverpool with a handkerchief stuck in his mouth: older brother Paul, evidently, was unimpressed).
Much of the material Lewisohn uses for his information on Mike comes from Michael McCartney’s 1981 book The Macs: Mike McCartney’s Family Album. Part family photo album, part memoir, The Macs provides the most extensive account available from Mike McCartney on McCartney family history, his relationship with his brother growing up, and his own experiences as a member of the comedy/musical group The Scaffold. Part of a wave of early 1980s Beatles memoirs, including ones from Pete Best and Alan Williams, The Macs, with its arch tone, Scouse wit, and fly on the wall perspective, resembles Shotton’s 1982 John Lennon In My Life, another wry, tongue-in-cheek but fond remembrance about growing up with a future Beatle – although, obviously, without the tragic coda which ends Shotton’s account.[ii]
Mike sets the stage with his summation of McCartney family history, providing valuable information on, among other subjects, Mary McCartney’s background and almost Dickensian childhood. The book provides literal and figurative snapshots of childhood adventures and misadventures shared by Paul and Mike (including one where the two boys almost burned down their own garage). While the overall tone of the book is one of wry remembrance, there are brief sketches of events – such as Paul and Mike, as children, falling into an old lime pit and almost drowning before they were rescued by a passerby who luckily heard their cries, or Mike’s observation that Mary was not overly demonstratively affectionate with her sons, presumably due to her own deprived childhood — that make it clear that life was not always easy for members of the McCartney family, even prior to Mary’s death. Mike’s discussion of that tragedy is relatively brief: he praises his father’s overall response — noting how, struggling with his own grief, Jim could have pawned his two boys off on other relatives, or become an alcoholic, but instead ‘soldiered on’ as an involved, stable parent.
Lewisohn is not the only major author to use The Macs as a primary source in their depiction of Paul’s childhood: Most post-1981 McCartney or Beatles biographers, including the aforementioned Spitz, Chris Salewicz, Philip Norman, or Peter Carlin, among others, include quotes or stories lifted from Mike’s recollections. Particularly before the 1997 publication of Paul’s semi-autobiography Many Years From Now, authors looking to discuss Paul’s childhood had little else but The Macs to draw from, excepting interviews and the Authorized Biography.
It is notable, and presumably not coincidental, that most of Mike’s fly on the wall accounts of life with Paul taper off once he reaches the point in the narrative where his older brother becomes an international superstar. One could speculate that geographic distance played a role in this – that with Mike no longer sharing a house with Paul and the two of them no longer living in each other’s pockets, Mike simply had less material to recount.
Yet reading between the lines of other works, including those by Barry Miles, Tony Bramwell, and accounts of others, including Tara Brown’s life, indicate that, particularly once Paul moved into Cavendish in 1966, Mike was a frequent guest at Paul’s house and still a significant presence in his brother’s life. (However, interestingly enough, Mike’s description of his thoughts regarding Linda the night before he was to serve as best man at her and Paul’s wedding — “What would she be like? Would I like her? Would she like me?” — imply he had not yet met her in person.) That is not to say that, like Neil Aspinall, Mike was present to consistently witness the band’s every day lives. However, the reality of having grown up with and remaining close to Paul, gone to the same school with George, and knowing and being friendly with both John and Ringo, indicates there’s good reason to believe Mike witnessed moments in Beatles history and enjoyed a level of access to them in both their private and recording lives (Mike recounts independently popping by George’s and John’s while visiting Paul in London) that very few others could ever hope to claim. However, whatever access he enjoyed, Mike endorses Shotton’s and George Martin’s claims regarding the utter insularity of the four: “Four soul brothers on a deserted tropical island, upon which nobody was allowed to set foot.” Nor did Mike’s relationships with the other three end when the Beatles did: The Macs includes an account of Mike visiting John while in New York in 1974. While the meeting was evidently amicable enough, Mike, in later interviews, expressed criticism of John’s breakup-era comments, and of how their impact, coupled with John’s death, prompted a skewed version of both his brother’s personality and artistry and of the Lennon/McCartney partnership.
Mike’s approach of largely restricting his comments on Paul to childhood/adolescent anecdotes and adopting a relative post-1963/64 silence regarding his brother’s life is not limited to The Macs, but is instead a pattern with Mike’s overall contribution to Beatles history. The reality is that Mike McCartney is, along with Jane Asher and John Eastman, one of the three remaining great untapped sources on Paul McCartney. Both John Eastman — Paul’s brother in law — and Mike McCartney — Paul’s biological brother — have, given their profound connection to one of the world’s most famous men, provided a relative scarcity of interview material, and Asher has, for over fifty years, politely refused interviews on the subject . In Eastman’s case, his few interviews tend to focus on the Eastman’s family’s approach to supporting Paul and countering Klein during the business and legal issues which accompanied the band’s breakup. Mike’s offer humor and childhood anecdotes that, with some exceptions, largely stop around 1964, screening from the public view what little remains of his brother’s private adult life. For his part, Paul has emphasized his trust in and dependence on Mike: in one interview, the musician described Mike as one of the most important men in his life, along with their father Jim, George Martin, and fellow Beatles. In another, recent interview, Paul describes Mike as one of the people he turns to for advice (along with his wife, Nancy, and …. Lorne Michaels, Producer of Saturday Night Live. Because …. why not).
Given Mike’s relative refusal to reveal information regarding his brother’s post-adolescent life, it seems probable that, unless Lewisohn is able to gather new material from Michael McCartney, Mike’s presence in the second and third volumes of Tune In will diminish. Shotton, whose memoir provided intruiging claims regarding John’s perceptions of the other Beatles and/or Yoko up to the very end of Lennon’s life, will presumably continue to have a strong voice in later volumes. (For example, Shotton provides a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of the debate between John and Paul regarding the selection of “Hey, Jude” as the A-side over “Revolution”). While there’s good reason to believe Mike McCartney could provide any number of similar, intriuging recollections, there’s even better reason to believe that, despite his value as a source, The Macs will remain Mike’s most extensive addition to Beatles historiography.
[i] Doggett notes how telling it is that, in Anthology, Paul mistakenly identifies the age gap between himself and George as eighteen months rather than the correct nine: eighteen months is actually the amount of the age gap between Paul and Mike, not Paul and George; a slip by Paul that seems to further cement his habit of placing George in the little brother role.
[ii] For those who have not read it, the last page of Shotton’s account of his time with John finishes with the equivalent of a literary gut punch: “What a fucking end.”
The Macs has sections, not page numbers, which is why the direct quotes in my review do not include page numbers.
Apologies for the much-later-than-intended post: it turns out my annual response to the return of Spring is to contract bronchitis. Which, for the record, still stinks even when you’re not pregnant. But we’re all finally healthy again. Just in time for Finals and grading.
For those who were curious regarding a previous discussion involving Jim McCartney and gambling: in The Macs, Mike says that, prior to his marriage to Mary, Jim had “a flutter” on the horses in order to raise the money to send his mother on a short holiday. The flutter didn’t pan out, and Jim’s employer covered Jim’s gambling debts, which Jim then paid back by walking, rather than taking the bus, to work for six months. However, Mike does not mention whether Jim’s gambling was a source of tension between himself and Mary.
157 thoughts on “The Brothers McCartney: Book Review: The Macs”
I’m glad you’re feeling better, Erin! I’m trying to pretend that finals to grade aren’t right around the corner!
Thanks so much for this post! I hadn’t considered that Mike was so present in Lewisohn and that he likely won’t be going forward. It’s also fascinating to see that he and Pete Shotton and George Martin all noted that the four of them were close to one another in a way that outsiders couldn’t access. I saw recently that Ivan Vaughn’s wife, Jan, said that Paul and Ivan, until Ivan died, would have conversations in this code language they’d used when they were kids and that others didn’t understand. I wonder whether some of that overlapped with the private language the Beatles used with one another, since Ivan was friends with both John and Paul and then George entered the group a year later and already knew Paul? I’ve always curious about the borders of the closed-offedness and how it related to their language with one another.
Thanks for the reply, Lizzie.
I think he’ll still be a presence in Volumes II and III, I just think it won’t be as overt of one.
Yes, Mike’s comment on the four of them on an island no one else could set foot on is quite striking, considering its coming from Paul’s brother. I do think that’s an element — that group insularity and closeness — that really got downplayed in the Lennon Remembers and Shout narratives, when the tendency was to pit John and Paul against one another and basically forget that George and Ringo really existed. That anecdote about Paul and Ivan and their shared language is really interesting. It’s a pretty valid assumption that, if Paul and Ivan had their own code words, that the Beatles did as well — or phrases or references that only they would understand. That’s standard stuff with close friendships — I only have to say “remember the can opener incident?” and my best friend will know exactly what I’m talking about. Given how much of their lives was witnessed, recorded and published, I’d imagine that using their own private language was a way of keeping some small part of their lives private. It would also feed into Pattie’s declaration in The Authorized Biography about them belonging to each other.
I think. Mike will still be a presence in volume two. He was often invited backstage on their British tours and he actually stayed with them at the George V Hotel in Paris, in January 1964. Also, as Erin states, Mike often stayed over at Paul’s house in London. Of course the question is whether Lewisohn will reach out to Mike for interviews and whether or not Mike will accept. It seems that it’s the people who were around them the most and have the most interesting things to say, are the ones who either refuse to be interviewed or they’ve passed on and can’t be interviewed.
Oh, I’d bet my 401K that Lewisohn has reached out to Mike for interviews and new material; the question, as you said, is whether Mike is willing. (My copy of Tune in is at work, so I’d have to double check and see if there are any new interviews Lewisohn did with Mike in the bibliography, but, according to my recollection, much of Lewisohn’s “Mike” information came from already available interviews). I’d guess that Mike has any number of fascinating fly on the wall moments — in the studio, at Cavendish, on the town with Paul and friends — that he will simply never tell.
It is interesting — and very frustrating — that the three most valuable sources remaining on Paul are uninterested in providing comprehensive interviews. Neil’s death was another huge loss. Ivan was never extensively interviewed, was he? I’d argue that Judy Martin was/still would be a great interview, not only because of her position as George’s wife, but also as his secretary.
Thanks for your reply above, Erin. Philip Norman lists both Neil Aspinall and Mike McCartney as people he’s interviewed since ’69 in his Paul bio, but as you’ve mentioned, it probably wasn’t extensively. What’s interesting is that Norman got John Eastman on the record for the first time, which makes me wonder whether Lewisohn will as well.
I very much understand why Neil and Mike didn’t/don’t want to share everything, but wonder whether it’s possible that some people we haven’t heard from who are connected with them will entrust their recollections to a university collection with instructions to keep them sealed for X amount of time?
By my count, John Eastman has actually given three Paul-oriented interviews. (He’s also given interviews on some of his other clients — for example, he’s on the documentary “Last Play at Shea,” about Billy Joel), but I’ve only seen three on Paul. The first is in 1972’s Apple to the Core, where John Eastman provides Paul’s POV on the legal and financial disputes with Klein in the breakup. It doesn’t work out well for John Eastman, because the author of Apple to the Core, Peter McCabe, still winds up blaming Paul’s irrational and bourgeoise dislike of Klein (fueled by the Eastman’s) as the cause behind the split. It’s pure speculation on my part, but my guess is that, after that interview went badly, perhaps John and Lee and Paul decided to halt interviews for a while. The second is a “Time” cover story on Paul from 1976 — “McCartney Comes Back,” or something like that. That’s far more Wings centric than Beatles centric, however. The last is the interview material Norman got from John Eastman in the 2016 Paul bio. And … that’s it. If anyone else has any other examples of Paul-centric John Eastman interviews, I’d love to see them, but those are the only ones I’m aware of. Which is a serious absence, given his personal and professional attachment to Paul. Sounes declared that John Eastman and George Martin were the only two men in their respective careers whose judgement Paul believed unquestioningly (being Sounes, he doesn’t declare where he got the evidence for that statement) and its a powerful declaration.
It will be interesting to see if Lewisohn will get time and material from John Eastman. In the interest of getting a more accurate historical business and legal picture, I’d love to see Eastman sit down with Lewisohn. But given he’s given 3 interviews in fifty years, it appears that Eastman’s not overly interested. Honestly, I’m curious as to why Eastman sat down with Norman. I’m assuming other authors had asked over the decades, so why agree to do interviews with an author who had not only openly mocked your brother in law, but also your sister (Norman didn’t have very kind things to say about Linda) and even your niece? (Check out Norman’s catty comments regarding Stella’s lack of skill as a fashion designer in the 2002 edition of Shout!).
Thanks, Erin! I wasn’t aware of Eastman having been interviewed in those other pieces (I’ve read the Time, but wasn’t looking out for Eastman when I read it).
I was basing my info. on Eastman not having been on the record before on what Norman said in the Paul bio–“I received generous help, too, from his brother-in-law and lawyer, John Eastman, who figures in every account of Apple Corp’s disintegration and the Beatles’ break-up but who, in 47 years, has never before spoken on the record.” I guess he meant “on the record with ME, Philip Norman,” which sounds a bit less exciting. 😉
I wonder why he talked to Norman too, especially after the Apple to the Core experience where he may have hoped providing his POV would help in terms of Paul’s PR. Maybe he thought, for whatever reason, that Norman was prepared to be fair to Paul this time around and that Norman being fair to Paul would carry more weight/counter the Shout narrative more than another author’s take would?
Yeah, that “never before spoken on the record” comment is either Norman being confused or misleading. Apple to the Core is on the record: You have Eastman and Klein flinging accusations back and forth at one another — “He’s the manipulative businessman who’s swindling the Beatles and broke up the band and lied to me and didn’t share documents with me!” — “No, HE is!” — so I don’t see where the never before aspect comes in. Now, there was some new information from Eastman in the Paul bio — particularly regarding the meeting where Paul and Linda and John Eastman thought they were having a small meeting with John and Klein, and instead walk into a room filled with lawyers and then John Eastman insults Klein and they walk back out — but I don’t think there was anything particularly revelatory in Eastman’s comments.
I think your guess that Eastman decided to talk to Norman because Norman explicitly denouncing his own narrative would hold more weight than just another author doing so is a pretty good guess. John Eastman isn’t oblivious to P.R. — like I said, I’ve seen other interviews he’s done — and can’t have been unaware of the contemptuous depiction of Paul and Linda in Norman’s previous work. Helping to erode that narrative would presumably encourage Eastman to give that interview. But that’s just a guess.
“Honestly, I’m curious as to why Eastman sat down with Norman. I’m assuming other authors had asked over the decades, so why agree to do interviews with an author who had not only openly mocked your brother in law, but also your sister”
I’m guessing Eastman made a stipulation that if he agrees to be interviewed Norman has to agree to act like a mature human being for once.
“Check out Norman’s catty comments regarding Stella’s lack of skill as a fashion designer in the 2002 edition of Shout!).”
He reminds me of an old lady at a tea party, wearing a big hat with a flower, and a double string of pearls. Is he an expert on what constitutes skilled fashion designing vs unskilled? Did he learn this expertise at the same school he learned what constitutes a good drummer vs a bad one?
Heh. Not to mention his unparalleled, self-designated authority to sweepingly anoint George “a mediocre musician.” Norman is seemingly a preeminent authority on anything he wishes to criticize others on, whether it be fashion — Stella — guitar work — George — or looks, such as his chauvinistic “lets mock Maureen Starkey’s appearance” comments, also available in the 2002 edition of Shout!. (To be fair, I can’t recall exactly what the comments were, but I do remember them causing me to raise an eyebrow and think: “Oh, this is just what the world needs: Another middle-aged man assigning a woman a level of inferior value because he doesn’t find her attractive enough.”)
Tangent, but there’s actually a very sad moment regarding Maureen’s concern over her appearance. Its courtesy of Chris O’Dell, who was friends with both Maureen and Patty (and had a relationship with Ringo, post-Maureen). Chris mentions that she never saw Maureen anything other than made-up, make-up on and hair styled, and asked Maureen why. Maureen replied that, shortly after Zak’s birth, Ringo turned to her, apropos of nothing, and told her: “You look like shit.” That hurt her, and she made sure to always look as good as possible after that. Its not verifiable, of course, but its a reminder than Ringo, despite his largely easygoing reputation, wasn’t all cuddles and snuggles: Davies notes how Ringo and John were the most Andy Capp types in their particular relationships with women.
“Another middle-aged man assigning a woman a level of inferior value because he doesn’t find her attractive enough.”)”
I’m sorry but he is just a nasty individual. Someone should have told him a long time ago to shut his mouth.
“Davies notes how Ringo and John were the most Andy Capp types in their particular relationships with women.”
It might have been because neither of them had a strong male figure to emulate, at least not one who was consistently in their lives for a long enough time. Very sad.
Mike is almost as enigmatic as his older brother, protectiveness of his older brother’s privacy aside. 🙂
Given the intrusions into Paul’s privacy over the last 50 years and Paul’s inpenetrable facade, Mike is probably never going to be the treasure trove of information we would like him to be. I think we’ll be limited to reading between the lines–which is simultaneously understandable and disappointing.
Speaking of which: I found this wee interview with Mike McCartney in People magazine where he admitted to have psychological demons of his own after some failed attempts to resurrect a show-biz career:
“[In 1976] Mike took up transcendental meditation to cope with some psychic demons. “I had been taking a lot of sleeping pills, and I wasn’t an alcoholic, but my drinking was pretty heavy,” Mike says. “So I began to meditate for two hours a day, and our kid used to ring up and say, ‘Have you flown yet?’ ” By 1979 his 11-year marriage to Angela Fishwick had ended, he gave up meditation and decided to take up photography again. Remarried in 1982 to Rowena Home, a BBC wardrobe assistant, Mike now keeps busy supporting three children from his first marriage and two from his second. As a matter of principle, he will not accept financial help from Paul. “He’s his own man and I’m my own man,” Mike says. “Thank God. If he was giving me money then I would be a bought man.”
Seems as though both Paul and Mike hit the bottle when things got dicey (which is hardly surprising since turning to alcohol in times of crisis isn’t new, but when one considers how John self-medicated his troubles away turning to the bottle seems pretty tame.)
(On an entirely irrelevant note I heard a podcast interview with Mike here, and dang does he sound like Paul. I had to double check that it was Mike!)
That’s my guess too, Karen. Mike’s a source with a vast amount of potentially unheard information … which will probably remain unheard. You can understand both the reasons for why he would prefer not to reveal his information, and for why fans and authors would find his silence so frustrating.
I’ve seen that statement in several places, that he refuses to take money from Paul. He did, evidently, take a small allowance when Paul first started making serious money and Mike was trying to get the Scaffold going: evidently Mike had anticipated going to the same art college John had attended, but the standards had tightened by the time Mike was old enough, so the grades that got John in by the skin of his teeth weren’t good enough, just a few years later, for Mike. Mike also rattles off a list, in the Macs, of gifts Paul has given him, and the list includes a car.
Fussy baby; will hopefully return later.
I think Paul also helped Mike financially to beat those bogus sexual assault charges.
I recall reading somewhere that Paul was also very supportive when Mike’s first marriage broke down. Apparently his wife left him for another man and turned her back on their three kids, leaving Mike to raise them as a single dad.
BTW Mike’s son Max is a terrific tattoo artist. I’m a big fan of his Instagram:
I didn’t know that about Mike’s first marriage. That’s rough. He really does strike me as a very nice, decent man.
Good point on both brothers turning to alcohol when hitting low points in their career: Paul upon the Beatles breakup, Mike with the failure of a career comeback. (Joe Goodden’s book makes the very interesting point that, when the Beatles were growing up, alcohol consumption in Liverpool was the highest, per capita, in all England, so it certainly was a part of the cultural fabric).
Which brings to mind an interesting question: is there any thing regarding Mike’s use of other (illegal?) drugs? Is there anything out there about Mike and pot? I honestly can’t remember.
It’s interesting that Paul took to drink rather than drugs post-Beatles breakup, given how easy it would have been for him to access the latter. Maybe turning to alcohol is the default setting for most conventional folk–particularly if the use of alcohol in Liverpool was so entrenched in the manner you described.
Well, doesn’t Paul’s peak period of post-Beatles alcohol consumption occur in Scotland? One thing everyone agrees on is that the house in Cambeltown is remote Unless they brought the drugs with them (and I’m sure they brought plenty of pot) it would take a considerable amount of time and effort to resupply, and its not like Paul had Mal able to pop into town and pick some more stuff up for them. My best guess is that, in addition to reflexively falling back on alcohol because that’s the atmosphere in which he grew up, it was also an issue of supply: they had lots of booze and pot, and fewer other drugs.
Could be, for sure. Alcohol is readily available and Paul wasn’t inclined toward drugs (aside from pot) in ordinary circumstances.
I would assume that Mike at least did pot recreationally, because Paul was his brother and loved it so much. Also Mike was one of Tara Browne’s best friends, and I don’t imagine lasting too long with him unless you enjoyed drugs, too. In the biography of Tara Browne, Mike was bemused at the moped accident Tara and Paul got into, and noted that Paul was still high when he got home. Which indicates to me that Mike knew the effects pot had and was at least aware of when Paul was doing it. I can’t imagine Paul’s love of the drug wouldn’t extend to him initiating his little brother who he continued to spend so much time with. Also, Mike was part of a pretty fast scene in London in the Sixties – partying and clubbing and all that – and pot at least was just as common as drinking. I would be really shocked if he hadn’t done some stuff!
That was my assumption as well, Rose: given that his friends and brother were devoted users, it seems illogical to assume that Mike never tried pot: we just don’t know to what extent he may have used it.
Ok Erin, now you have to tell us about the can opener incident. 😉
Re the private language, I’m sure I’ve read Mssrs. Lennon, Starr, McCartney and Harrison talk about this, and I’ve read about it in numerous Beatle bios.
One particular (if decidedly tactless) code word was “Crips!” Disabled children were constantly being brought to their dressing room, as if, according to John, the Beatles could place their hands on them evangelical style to heal them. Eventually they would simply yell “Crips, Mal!” and Mal Evans would tactfully find a way of removing them.
I would, but the can opener incident is more of a friend’s story than it is mine, and involves information she might not want publicly revealed, even if I’m not dropping names. Nothing illegal, I promise. 🙂
Ah, I remember the “crips” example. I think actually that would be just one aspect of their own particular language; if you listen to the “LIB” tapes, there’s a lot of places where they talk over each other/interrupt each other/guess at what the other one is going to say, because they’ve been together so long they can anticipate the way the others think/know what their thinking: the same way married couples can.
Oh, if these can openers could talk. 🙂
Welcome back, Erin!
Not long ago I finished reading your book. I was very impressed. Well done. For me, one of the lasting impressions from your book is when you point out that .. when one is evaluating the credibility of a source, one must always weigh whether or not, and to what extent, their credibility is compromised by access. (Think Jann Wenner and John & Yoko.) With regard to this post, clearly Paul’s brother Mike already has the access, blood access, so his credibility is obviously gold. And Jane Asher? To her it’s all personal, which is understandable. So, I’m not holding my breath.
I am now reading Tune In and, you’re right, the death of Paul’s mother does not receive as much coverage as one would expect. I noticed that, but at reading was more absorbed with Paul’s apparently insensitive, but understandable, remark: “Mum was half the family pay. How are we going to get by without her money?”
It immediately reminded me of the heavy criticism Paul got after John was killed and he was on the sidewalk about to get into a car and he said, “It’s a drag, isn’t it?” And not much else. In light of all this, it makes more sense to me now why Paul’s initial public comments following George’s death on that dirt road were so much more deliberate and thoughtful and heartfelt.
Interesting observation, Tom.
I think part of the reason Paul’s comments about George’s passing were more appropriate is because Paul had the advantage of planning in George’s case. George had been ill for some time, and Paul had even spent some time with him at his deathbed.
Paul didn’t have the same advantage with his mother (and of course his age was a factor) or for that matter, with John. And we know that Paul doesn’t do grief well.
Thanks, Tom. And thanks also for the get-well wishes on your earlier post. The bronchitis is finally lifting, although I still sound raspy after lecturing for my Tuesday night American history class.
I’m conflicted about Lewisohn’s handling of Mary McCartney’s death and its aftermath. On the one hand, there’s no denying that, when I initially read it, I was disappointed: I had expected Lewisohn to answer lingering questions, or to synthesize the available information in a comprehensive, go-to primer on the subject: “Here is the how/why/where/when etc. of Mary McCartney’s death, and here are the practical/emotional/psychological consequences it presumably had on Paul. Further, here is how it presumably impacted his character/personality/ambition: the whole “I put a shell around myself” element, the seeking out other mother figures (Margaret Asher); the bond with John, his response to grief, (Paul later said he didn’t really grieve for his mother until he lost Linda), etc.” and I felt like I didn’t get that. Particularly when, given the tragic idiosyncrasies of Beatles history, you can directly compare the early death of the mother of Beatle number one, and the coverage it receives, with the coverage of the early death of Beatle mother number two, it can be easy to feel like one death was regarded as more important than the other simply because it received more coverage than the other. And this is something I think a subset of Beatles fans are sensitive to, given Beatles historiography’s tendency, particularly by certain authors — Wenner, Coleman, Norman — in older narratives, to shout “LET”S TALK ABOUT JOHN’S PAIN AND ANGST!!!!” and virtually ignore the feelings of the others: “Oh, yeah: Paul’s mother died, too. It sucked. But he probably got over it: his millions of dollars probably helped. And now back to John’s pain and angst.”
On the other hand, there’s no question that John shouted that pain and angst out to the world, so the reality is there’s more evidence for Lewisohn to utilize in discussing the impact Julia’s death had on John. John’s interviews are riddled with quotes that basically go: “I’m in pain, and here’s why I am in pain, and here’s what its doing to me.” Whereas assessing the impact Mary’s death had on Paul would require considerably more psychological speculation and theorizing, which may have been a road Lewisohn simply didn’t want to go down. I can appreciate it if Lewisohn felt that he had covered the topic to the best of his ability, given the evidence available to him, and going further was going to enter too far into a realm beyond his area of expertise. And like I said, its not as if Lewisohn neglected the McCartney family: Mike is by far the Beatles sibling who receives the most mentions and attention in Tune In.
Having said all that, (and now I appear to be contradicting myself) one of the striking things is that Lewisohn will flat-out speculate when it strikes his fancy: doesn’t he flat out declare that, if Mary had lived, she never would have let Paul go to Hamburg? A major part of Lewisohn’s view of Mary’s death seems to be that yes, it was a tragedy, but if it hadn’t happened, the Beatles would never have existed, because Mary would never have allowed such a close friendship between her son and John; Mary wouldn’t have allowed Paul to skive off school and mess around with his A-levels, never have allowed him to go to Scotland to tour with Johnny Gentle; and never have allowed him to go Hamburg.
Paul’s conventionality or “normalness”, if you will, seems to preclude any serious examination of how his early life shaped his personality and character. That kind of analysis seems reserved for people like John, whose behaviour screams trauma.
But it’s clear that the loss of his mom impacted Paul significantly, even by his own account. I’ve kind of always suspected that Paul’s sunny, thumbs aloft persona was, at least in part, a function of the maternal loss he experienced and the consequent demands made upon him. Mike was 12 and probably still seen as a child while Paul was 14 and likely had a greater expectation placed upon him to soldier on.
John being so outward and blatant with his pain definitely makes it easier to psychoanalyze him. I also think it can be irresistible to many writers to see the mother as the Rosetta stone to an artist’s life (as they are for us all, maybe?). I find myself going back to some stuff about John and how his abandonment of Julia impacted him because I’m currently in a deep dive of another artist (filmmaker Oliver Stone) whose mother was very similar to Julia Lennon: glamorous but always leaving her only son to go off to party, to see other men, dumping him with her parents for months at a time, sending him off to camps and schools at too young an age, etc. In other words, shirking the actual caretaking and then reappearing to have fun (taking him out of school so they could watch movies all day in Stone’s case; helping him skip school to play music all day in John’s case) and shower the kid with affection, only to disappear again, leaving the kid an ultimate mess due to continual cycle of abandonment.
Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s interesting to me that John Lennon and Oliver Stone, with such similar mothers, both ended up with some of the same issues: artistic yet can be psychologically manipulative and cruel, substance abuse issues (including major love of LSD), compulsive cheating on their wives, often combative relationships with their surrogate brothers/creative partners (obviously Paul for John, cinematographer Robert Richardson for Stone), feeling betrayed by split from said partner despite instigating said split (I literally have Lennon-esque quotes from Stone where he bemoans that “Bob divorced me!”), finding lasting marriages with Asian women from tough non-Western backgrounds. (Both even have sons named Sean, I just realized!) One of the differences being that Stone’s mother lived until her 90s, so she remained a love/hate figure in her son’s life through his adulthood. She lived long enough for her son, too, to go into therapy in his middle age and confront her about some of those issues (guess how that went!). Julia’s early death allowed John some idealization – Stone saved that for his Jim McCartney-esque father who died in the early 1980s.
Your point about John being so blatant about his pain making it easier to psychoanalyze him is crucial. It also makes it easier to attach strong emotion to John, which makes the depiction of an already charismatic John even more compelling, if you’re a Beatles writer. John’s statements and behavior demand attention, and he was generous enough to provide us with any number of quotes regarding his pain, mental stability or lack thereof. (There’s that conversation related by Ray Connolly where John is grousing that if Paul’s the genius, then what is he? And his answer is “the Nutter.”)
Paul was demonstratively less overt on issues regarding pain, vulnerability, grief, etc. And when he does offer information on those aspects of his life, its usually decades after the event. John, in the breakup period, is going through Primal Scream Therapy and howling in pain: Paul is issuing short, defensive interviews that gloss over his drug use and nervous breakdown. We don’t get Paul’s first admission that he entered a deep depression following the McCartney Press Release until 1984, so the reality is that when you have source A providing ample evidence that they were in deep pain, and source B seemingly indicating that their primary concern during that period were legal and financial issues, and emotionally they were okay, the conclusion that writers are going to draw is that Source A is deeply emotional where Source B is cold blooded. (Hence Rolling Stones “John’s was the only one whose heart was broken by the Beatles split” comments in the late 70s.)
What a fascinating comparison between John and Oliver Stone. (I’m glad to see that subject is still piquing your interest). That Jullia’s death allowed John a level of idealization is a fascinating point, and one I hadn’t really thought of before. Her early death denied him closure, and idealized her to him in a probably unhealthy way. (Idealization of the mother is something that Paul was evidently guilty of, too: there’s a quote from one his bios where a friend recounts looking at a book of Saints with post-Mary’s death teenaged Paul, and Paul points to a picture of Mary, Mother of God, and says: “She looks like my Mum.”)
Your quote from Stone about “Bob divorced me” is such a John-eque breakup era quote it made me roll my eyes. It reminded me of that infamous one of John’s; on Paul’s bringing the other three to trial, something to the effect of “Just because I said I want a divorce doesn’t mean he had to get a lawyer.” Uhh, yeah, John: that’s exactly the point where you bring in the lawyers. That reminds me of Shotton’s observation that John always wanted to say and do things and then never deal with the actual consequences. John evidently wanted to wave a magic wand and be financially and legally divorced from the Beatles, but the world doesn’t work that way, so part of the Beatles trial is Paul basically saying: “You want a divorce? Then get your stuff out of my house. Oh, and by the way, we need to settle alimony, and child support, and joint bank accounts, and all that other real life stuff you can’t just hand-wave away.”
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“Paul was demonstratively less overt on issues regarding pain, vulnerability, grief, etc. And when he does offer information on those aspects of his life, its usually decades after the event. ”
Well it is forever ironic that we wouldn’t know the story about his remark about his mother’s death if it weren’t for Paul. In Hunter Davies, Mike says that one of them made a dumb comment, he can’t remember which, but clearly it was of no consequence to him. It was Paul who then told Davies EXACTLY what he said because he remembered EXACTLY. So Paul was the complete opposite of undisturbed: he was ashamed enough at the comment to remember it years later even when no one else did. Then that was used as an example to batter him as uncaring when it was the exact opposite.
In this “cancel culture,” I’ve been trying very hard to be mindful of presentism. The way Paul’s mother’s illness and death was handled was standard for the time, as it was thought best to shield children from adult issues and encourage them to “move on.” It is no surprise Paul built an emotional shield around himself, as that’s what he was taught to do.
Sometimes I also have to remind myself that I am a (milennial?) woman and we’re talking about English, working class men born during WWII. John going through a faddish therapy craze and vomiting up all these emotions in the early 70’s was unusual. He was admittedly not like for a long time – for example, acting out in grief at Julia’s death by drinking a lot and acting out in ways that were (somewhat) acceptable for the time. I say “somewhat” because there’s that quote from a friend who said many kids at the time had experiences with death and hardship due to the war, and John’s behavior was seen as kind of embarrassing.
“What a fascinating comparison between John and Oliver Stone. (I’m glad to see that subject is still piquing your interest). That Julia’s death allowed John a level of idealization is a fascinating point, and one I hadn’t really thought of before. Her early death denied him closure, and idealized her to him in a probably unhealthy way.”
There was an astute comment made by a Stone biographer, James Riordan, that instantly made me recall John Lennon: “He gets along great with men, but finds it difficult to trust them for very long, and many of his friendships end abruptly before they become threatening.” Part of that, Riordan hypothesizes, is rooted in the abandonment and lack of boundaries from Stone’s mother which, in his ex-wife’s opinion (and my own) veered into sexual abuse at certain points. Another part was the loss of one of Stone’s sergeants in the war, Juan Elias, who was killed in action at age 23. Stone unabashedly idolized Elias (Willem Dafoe’s character in Platoon, the embodiment of good, is named Sgt. Elias after him). Or in Riordan’s lovely words, “It is as if he was seeking the vulnerability of unaffected, sincere male kinship, but because his adolescent experiences both stifled and intensified his sexuality, he was not able clearly to separate the two….[resulting in] confusion over his genuine love for Elias, a man who saved his life by the knowledge he passed on to him, and his soul by the sharing of his heart in a place where there was no heart.”
If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I want to share something fascinating I found out (and am working on a blog post about, so this is actually helping me think it out). In place of his often absentee parents, Stone’s primary caretaker growing up was a male nanny, a Yugoslav immigrant named Karlo Stojanac. It was unusual enough for the time (1940s and 1950s) to have a male carer, but even more unusual is that Karlo was an openly gay man at the time, effeminate even. (Stone described him as someone who floated between the male and female and compared him, with his turbans and robes, to the William Hurt character in Kiss of the Spider Woman). Karlo was also a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp; in Stone’s estimation, some of his flamboyance almost seemed like a deliberate response to the undercurrent of terror he always carried with him. I’m certainly trying to wrap my head around a flamboyant gay man being the person who raised someone considered the most macho leftist this side of Norman Mailer. (Stone has nothing but touching things to say about Karlo, who he described as endless source of love and care in an oft-unhappy childhood.) There’s a lot to be read in Stone’s art, certainly, about undercurrents of past trauma and how they impact people, which most simply see as Stone’s response to working through his own trauma from his combat service. But his childhood adds another factor. (Stone’s father was also traumatized by Depression-era anti-Semitism and used to tell young Oliver to never let on that they were Jewish because “the persecutions will come back” and they’d be taken away. The family name was originally Silverstein, but his father changed it to Stone when he went to Yale, similar to Lee Epstein becoming Eastman when he went to Harvard. Ivy League schools then had quotas on Jews and any openly Jewish students could be subject to harassment).
But as his biographer Riordan noted, there seems to be one side of Stone – the macho man raised in the conservative 1950’s, boarding school, military side – who is appalled at the thought of homosexuality. Then there’s the other side – the artistic, creative, liberal side – whose source of love and support growing up was a flamboyant gay man and who found a bond stronger than mere friendship with other men. Again, going back to John Lennon, there was a side of him – the working class, growing up in the 40’s and 50’s side – which was macho and disgusted at the thought of homosexuality. But then there was an artistic side which found his most fulfilling love relationships with other men (first Stu, then Paul, and the other Beatles to a lesser extent) and a close, very influential relationship with a gay man (Brian Epstein).
What is my point? I don’t know, I’m just “thinking out loud”! 😛
I really appreciated your comment in that you are always trying to keep in mind that, while today we’re appalled at how the McCartney family handled the grieving process — not telling the boys exactly what she was suffering from, not taking them to the funeral, not telling them where she was buried — and know that that approach is unhealthy, that was simply how it was routinely done in that time. (And, as appalling as that is, even worse is what Lewisohn discusses in Tune In, where John’s sisters are not even told that their mother is dead until weeks after the event). Even while, in terms of subjects, the Beatles aren’t that chronologically distant from our own time period, there are some elements in it — like how the McCartney family chose to deal (or not deal) with Mary’s death, or even just the smaller element of how the Beatles wearing jeans on stage, let alone leather, was viewed as incredibly rebellious — that really illustrate the time gap.
I’m really enjoying your comments regarding the similarities between John and Stone. That element of desperately wanting close, intense male friendships, (which is something Pete Shotton, for example, acknowledges about John) but then recoiling from them because of their confusing intensity (witness John bashing Pete over the head with a washboard, John’s relentless picking on Stu on the Scotland tour, “How Do You Sleep,” etc.) certainly seems to an element in both their lives.
Your discussion of Stone’s family having to change their name made an impact on me: we’re at the point in my American History II class where we’re building up to the discussion of the Holocaust, and discussing anti-Semitism. I was telling my students that anti-Semitism was hardly confined to Germany, and discussing various examples of its existence in that same time frame: The Dreyfuss affair in France, the quotas in University’s in the U.S., and one of my students basically asks: “Okay, lots of people were anti-Semitic. Why? Where does all this come from?” And then we had to delve into the history of that. The Chapters and discussions surrounding World War II are, for the most part, grim ones. Which is hardly a surprise: one of the other professors in our department specializes in the study of genocide, and teaches a class on it. He tells them the first day they come into take that class that they will have nightmares. (They deal with the Holocaust in that class, obviously, but also the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian genocide, and others). The other professor in our department has a concentration on studying ancient poisons. I joke to the students that I’m the least creepy teacher in the history department. (And that was my own ‘thinking out loud’ contribution.)
“I really appreciated your comment in that you are always trying to keep in mind that, while today we’re appalled at how the McCartney family handled the grieving process — not telling the boys exactly what she was suffering from, not taking them to the funeral, not telling them where she was buried — and know that that approach is unhealthy, that was simply how it was routinely done in that time.”
You know, I do sometimes worry about modern students of history. Will they have that hardened, judgmental attitude that seems so popular now? But then maybe that is simply a symptom of youth and the echo chamber of social media. Maybe it will naturally moderate in time. (I do appreciate some of it, for example the increasing awareness of mental illness.) I want to be socially aware, but back away from the era of “wokeness” or purity testing.
I suppose I shouldn’t be worried. I remember similar issues with historiography about people like Hitler, so probably it will be the historian’s eternal dilemma: when does understanding cross over into redemption, or apologia? I do subscribe to the tenet that certain things are always morally wrong (being a serial rapist, for example, sorry Bill Cosby) but as I get older I realize there is so much gray area. (I wished I paid more attention in my philosophy classes, LOL.)
“or even just the smaller element of how the Beatles wearing jeans on stage, let alone leather, was viewed as incredibly rebellious — that really illustrate the time gap.”
I adore primary sources because it can not only give you valuable information about your subject, but also about the times the interview was done. I’ve been collecting Paul McCartney articles and interviews for 15 or so years – less so the other Beatles (though I’ve read the major ones, obviously, but Paul is my dude). And now I’ve spent less than a year now going into archives and collecting articles about Oliver Stone. What’s great about that is seeing just how human writers and journalists can be. Some can be so perceptive (like that recent Chris Heath interview of Paul in GQ from last year). And it’s surprising how some of the older articles/interviews are more sympathetic and even-handed when it comes to Paul than later profiles.
Others ask the same questions, over and over – of Paul especially – and you wonder if they did ANY homework at all. Others can be so downright unperceptive, it can be astonishing. Like when you observe enough interviews of a person, you become familiar with their physical mannerisms; for example, I know that Oliver Stone became deaf in his right ear (and has tinnitus in the other one) in Vietnam. So he often turns and sits a certain way to hear people, and asks them to repeat themselves. He also still has shrapnel in his legs and behind (from an IED explosion), and sitting for long periods can cause discomfort, so sometimes he will shift/squirm in his seat. Makes sense, right? But if you think his films are highly stylized and over-edited and he has ADHD (he decidedly does not) and is a “crazy wild man,” as a writer you can translate those mannerisms into, “he isn’t focused, he can’t sit still, he didn’t even look at me when I asked him questions.” When Stone once, during an interview in the 1980s, drifted off into silence and a thousand yard stare (all while apparently not noticing he was tearing up and mashing the sandwich he had in his hands) then “abruptly snapped back” to attention, it was a symptom of his “intensity.” But of course educating myself on PTSD (which he has battled), it puts that in a new light. Other behaviors too: for example, people with PTSD are more likely to respond to situations with hostility and aggression because they’re more likely to react to any stress with “full activation.” Black and white thinking is incredibly common, because if you’re stuck in a mindset where every situation is approached with a “fight or flight” instinct, other people become either with you or against you, in your own mind, and it comes across as irrational anger. (BTW, the NY Times did a great themed issue in December last year about PTSD where they argued it should be re-framed as “moral injury.”) I’m struggling now with what Lennon fans must deal with: what behaviors/statements are a symptom of mental illness from this artist vs. when is he just being an asshole? What about when he is being a performative asshole, because he likes provocation and it adheres to his image? (Let’s start calling that the Wenner Effect after Jann Wenner’s machinations, LOL.) I don’t have that with Paul because while I think he’s suffered from some problems, I don’t think he has any actual long term mental health issues.
“I was telling my students that anti-Semitism was hardly confined to Germany, and discussing various examples of its existence in that same time frame: The Dreyfuss affair in France, the quotas in University’s in the U.S., and one of my students basically asks: “Okay, lots of people were anti-Semitic. Why? Where does all this come from?” And then we had to delve into the history of that.”
That used to be one of my areas of concentration, so indulge away! The 20s and 30s were a terrible time filled with anti-Semitism here in America. Obviously not as terrible as being Jewish in Europe, but as we see nowadays, the world is not a vacuum – nationalist, bigoted and anti-Semitic waves often correspond both here and across the pond.
I’ve said this before, but John Lennon’s digs over Lee Eastman changing his name make me roll my eyes for that reason, because John had no clue about that environment. For young Jews like Lee Epstein or Louis Silverstein (Oliver Stone’s father) Anglicizing their names was considered essential as they entered the Ivy League and joined the upper classes of New York City (Lee was a lawyer; Stone’s father a stockbroker). John’s only real experiences with Jews were Brian Epstein and Klein. Brian came from a comfortable family who was well-established in the Jewish community of Liverpool and he entered show business, as did Klein, where being Jewish has always been more accepted.
This is so frustrating, Rose: You’re driving me crazy with your fascinating diversions. I don’t want to go too far off track, but these are exactly the sort of subjects I’d love to sit down and over coffee and have long, involved conversations about. I could probably type pages and pages on the issue, but I simply don’t have the time. One thing I can hopefully type up quickly is that the motivation behind that understanding would be a big factor. If you’re adhering to the rule of keeping judgements within the context of their subject’s time period because you want to present as accurate and credible a version of events as possible, well and good. If you’re approaching the issue of “its not on us to make moral judgements/remember the context” from a politically motivated standpoint — say, what Putin’s doing now with Stalin’s reputation, or what various American historians did with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and the Confederate secessionist movement — then that’s a whole other element.
“Others ask the same questions, over and over, and you wonder if they did any homework at all.”
A thousand times yes. I can usually tell, within the first thirty seconds of reading an interview, whether the interviewer has bothered to read MYFN. Most of the time, the answer is no, because many of the questions they ask were answered in that book, in greater detail. When the intervewer has read the book, you automatically get a better quality interview — like the GQ one.
What a great observation about Stone’s mannerisms being interpreted incorrectly because the interviewer hasn’t done even the basic modicum of research on the person they’re interviewing, and instead interprets the evidence to fit their pre-determined conclusions.
So much of evaluating John’s behavior –and people’s reaction to John — seems to depend on where they believe that line between asshole/mentally ill falls. And the reality is that’s a very subjective line, and one probably heavily influenced for each individual by personal experience.
If I recall correctly, John’s digs at Lee Eastman changing his name — and the WASP Jews comment — are confined to Lennon Remembers, the interview John was rightfully embarrassed of soon after he gave it. Having said that, I think its interesting that John so profoundly empathized with Klein, the Jewish self-made man, and so deeply scorned Lee Eastman, the Jewish self-made man. I do see evidence that John was capable of considerable empathy — with Paul over the loss of their mothers; with Astrid over the death of Stu; with Klein over their perception of being unfairly persecuted — but it seems to have been a selective sort of empathy, that only really activated when John self-identified with the other person. Klein deliberately triggered John’s empathy with the “we both lost our Mothers” pitch, but John was incapable or unwilling to put himself in the shoes of a young Lee Eastman, grappling with cultural and bureaucratic anti-Semitism.
“This is so frustrating, Rose: You’re driving me crazy with your fascinating diversions.”
I’ll apologize after this, LOL. I read this the past week and thought of you: a terrific article on grappling with the legacy of the problematic Bob Fosse (both a victim and perpetrator in his life). I practically let out a gasp at the closing lines, which are brilliant: “This wave of appreciation will also be a reckoning. Fosse’s behavior was never a secret, and not much will be revealed that wasn’t known, or inferable, decades ago; but moral immunity has been rescinded for geniuses, and the humanity of those harmed is not so easy to discount, at least in criticism, when it complicates the legacy of someone beloved.”
” Klein deliberately triggered John’s empathy with the “we both lost our Mothers” pitch, but John was incapable or unwilling to put himself in the shoes of a young Lee Eastman, grappling with cultural and bureaucratic anti-Semitism.”
John was in his “working class hero” phase and Klein was how John saw himself. Or at least branded himself at the time. Klein gave John by an ego boost by saying, “Look how similar we are.” Not that there wasn’t similarity, but Klein had a much tougher road (his mother died when he was truly a young child vs. John’s 17, he was shuttled off to grandparents who then abandoned him to an orphanage before eventually being retrieved by his dad and stepmother, he grew up actually poor and the member of a persecuted religion).
Lee Eastman would never have pulled that. He was comfortable in the upper classes in New York and he was used to dealing with “high brow” artists and entertainers. He didn’t like rock music and didn’t like rock stars. He didn’t want to be John’s buddy and he also I’m guessing wasn’t manipulative like that. In addition, John saw Linda Eastman as the tweedy New York divorcee Paul abruptly fell for. Then he met her brother and father who struck him as “New York WASPs” hiding their background instead of loudly embracing it, like Klein. Klein aimed to be John’s friend, and he also courted Yoko, as David Geffen did later, to get at John.
Your reply regarding Klein’s pitch to John — a brilliant combination of “we have the same history/let me flatter you/let me promise you everything” made me think of what was going on on the opposite side: What do we know about John and Lee Eastman’s pitch to Paul? (I think they did pitch themselves to Paul; they would have been fools not to).
What were they offering Paul McCartney in 1968/1969 that he could decide that he trusted their business and legal judgment over the choice of his three closest friends? How knowledgeable about business and legal issues was Paul in this time frame? John was evidently blissfully unaware of it, which is why Klein’s primary pitch to John was on an emotional level. (And heroin-addled John was even more susceptible to emotional reactions than non-heroin addicted John). In the LIB sessions, isn’t there a part where, right after that first Klein/John meeting, John and Yoko are even telling George that Klein owns a major movie studio? They hadn’t vetted the guy.
So if you’re John and Lee Eastman, and your future in-law/prospective client is getting bombarded daily by his three closest friends/business partners that he’s wrongwrongwrong for choosing not to sign with their guy, how do you maintain that trust with Paul? Do we know if Paul was business savvy enough then to look at the Klein and Eastman financial and legal documents and recognize that the Eastman’s were above board and that Klein was gaming the system? I guess what I’m wondering is how much of Paul’s refusal to go with Klein was based on his own judgement and analysis, and how much was based on his trust on what John and Lee were telling him. And if its the latter, that’s a profound amount of trust for Paul to place in the Eastman family.
Now I’m thoroughly lost in the fascinating rabbit hole of Stone vs Lennon. 🙂
Great reading Rose, thanks.
If I might summarize the mechanics of PTSD, for those who might not be familiar:
Thanks to our ancestors, we’ve got built-in danger evaluators: the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the pre-frontal cortex.
The amygdala’s job is to respond to danger and govern how we should act. That’s the flee, fight, or freeze mechanism. The hippocampus’ job is to tuck that experience away as a past memory. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating the hippocampus.
In the case of trauma, the amygdala does not return to its pre-aroused state, staying on high alert. The prefrontal cortex can’t regulate the hippocampus, so it continues to ignite memories, and is unable to tell the amygdala that there’s no danger. The amygdala then continues to send out danger signals because it has no way of distinguishing between past memory and current danger.
People with PTSD, then, continue to relive the trauma through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, etc., because their brain keeps telling them that the event is still occuring, particularly when they are in situations which remind them of the event. Even smells can trigger flahsbacks, since the hippocampus keeps every facet of the memory in the “live” vault. The key in therapy is to return the brain to its pre-aroused state via various therapeutic methods.
Karen, thank you so much for this! I am trying to learn about PTSD – there is so much I realize I did not know.
I do have to correct myself, the NY Times issue on PTSD didn’t argue it should be classified as moral injury – it argued for a specific subset of combat PTSD to be recognized as moral injury. They define it as, “a result of being ordered to do something in a high-stakes situation that violates an individual’s deeply held beliefs about what is right. […] While some symptoms of moral injury — reexperiencing the traumatic event, sleep disturbances, self-harming activities like substance abuse and recklessness, and suicidal thoughts — overlap with those of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, there are differences. What distinguishes moral injury is a persistent sense of guilt and shame, and an ethical ‘drift,’ whereby veterans no longer have a clear sense of right and wrong, or of what makes their lives meaningful.”
You know, I sometimes wonder if John had some PTSD from the experience of Beatlemania. Not so much the others (though George hated it). I specifically remember people (including Paul) talking about John’s aversion to people touching him, which seemed borne out of the Beatlemania experience.
You’re welcome, Rose!
My little summary was an oversimplification of course, but I think it’s a helpful way to illustrate how the mechanisms of PTSD function.
I became more versed about PSTD after we started getting alot of kids referred to our agency who suffered from complex PTSD (in my past life I worked in a children’s mental health agency, first as a front-line consultant and then as a Community Services Director.)
The NYT article makes an interesting point about the moral injury. One of the primary factors of what distinguishes trauma from all other experiences is that the traumatic experience so shatters our sense of personal safety, integrity, and moral decency, so challenges our sense of how the world works, that our brains are locked into this defensive state and can’t return back to normal. Romeo Dallaire speaks to this eloquently in his book, “Waiting for First Light.” He is the Canadian General who oversaw the failed peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. The fact that he tried in vain to get the UN to allow him to intervene while hundreds of thousands of tutsi Rwandans were slaughtered by their hutu countrymen does not in the least mitigate his overwhelming guilt and sense of moral responsibility.
I don’t think that the Beatlemania experience would meet the clinical qualifiers of PTSD (the event has to be a real threat to life and limb and to one’s physical integrity), but it certainly could have incited other traumatic reactions. For your interest, here’s the CAPS assessment which is a screening tool for PTSD:
Click to access CAPSIV.pdf
“Well it is forever ironic that we wouldn’t know the story about his remark about his mother’s death if it weren’t for Paul. In Hunter Davies, Mike says that one of them made a dumb comment, he can’t remember which, but clearly it was of no consequence to him. It was Paul who then told Davies EXACTLY what he said because he remembered EXACTLY. So Paul was the complete opposite of undisturbed: he was ashamed enough at the comment to remember it years later even when no one else did. Then that was used as an example to batter him as uncaring when it was the exact opposite.”
That is such a great point! It’s also from Paul in Davies that we get that bit about how he used to snip the lace curtains a bit after he’d been punished physically, and he himself describes it as “sneaky” (24). Unfortunately, Paul’s evaluation of his childhood action seems to have contributed to a more widespread view of him as a generally sneaky character (unless there were pre-Davies accounts that called him that?) I wonder whether someone else labeled him as that when he was younger and he grew up believing that interpretation? I’m thinking that may have happened because we also have this from Many Years From Now re: dealing with Apple/finances:
“Anything I said seemed to come out wrong. I really couldn’t say anything without feeling I was being devious. And yet I knew I wasn’t. I remember saying something to John once. He was doing his finances funny, and he’d been charging personal stuff to Apple. Someone warned me that he was going to get into a real problem and I remember saying to him, ‘Look, I’m not trying to do anything, I’m really trying to help you…’ and as I said it I heard my devilish voice, like ‘I’m trying to trick you'” (479-80).
It seems like when Paul’s nervous or anxious he can appear “devilish” and knows that and can’t seem to stop it, which may also account for some of how he’s read?
Paul’s reputation for being a sneak is an interesting one. I don’t recall it being an element in the Authorized biography or other Fab Four narrative works, like Braun’s Love Me Do, so I’d guess its more a result of the breakup-era blame Paul received for splitting up the band and the portrayal of him in Shout!, which absolutely adhered to the “sneaky Paul” version of his character.
The curtains story has always amused me: honestly, I see it being blown out of proportion as a telling marker of Paul’s character, instead of a typical childhood moment of wanting revenge but not wanting to get in trouble for it. Or maybe I’m just going easy on Paul because I did something similar: in grade school, after another girl shoved me at recess and cut in front of me in line, the next day I used my pen to scratch her name on the table where we all sat and did our reading, so she got in trouble and had to wash the whole table and lost a few minutes of her recess time. I don’t see it as a defining moment illuminating the sneakiness of my character, but perhaps my future biographers will disagree.
For the record, Pete Shotton declared in his memoir that the first time he ever saw any evidence of Paul’s so-called sneakiness was during the “Hey, Jude” or “Revolution” dispute over which one should be the A-side. Given Pete had known Paul since 1957, and Hey Jude was released in 1968, wouldn’t that be fairly good evidence that Paul wasn’t sir-sneaks-a-lot?
“For the record, Pete Shotton declared in his memoir that the first time he ever saw any evidence of Paul’s so-called sneakiness was during the “Hey, Jude” or “Revolution” dispute over which one should be the A-side”
I remember the dispute over which song would get the A side but what happened after that? Did Paul go behind John’s back?
Its been a while since I read it, and my memory is foggy. Particularly, I can’t remember whether the scene arose before or after the Beatles and George Martin had already voted that “Hey, Jude” should be the A-side, or not. My memory tells me it was after, but it could be misremembering. Anyway, John was still arguing that either A: “Revolution” should be the A-side over “Hey, Jude” or B. It should be a double-A side. Pete happened to be in the studio, and Paul, sick of arguing the subject with John, went up to Pete and said something to the effect of “Hey, Pete, what do you think?” Pete replied that he thought “Hey, Jude” was a great song, and Paul turned to John and said something like “See, Pete thinks it should be Hey, Jude!” even though that wasn’t exactly what Pete had said, and John looked very hurt that Pete hadn’t sided with him. (Even though, practically, Pete’s vote meant nothing, because he wasn’t a Beatle/George Martin).
I don’t think it was possible to go behind each other’s back regarding which was appointed the A-side. My understanding is that it was always decided by majority vote between the Four and Martin. That’s why I’ve always found Klein’s claim that “Something” became the A-side only at John’s insistence rather dubious, because we have no evidence that the traditional method of selection — the majority vote — had been discontinued. Not to mention Klein’s willingness to remember Beatles history in the ways most advantageous to himself. Which pretty much goes without saying.
“Paul turned to John and said something like “See, Pete thinks it should be Hey, Jude!” ”
Lol…it’s stories like this that remind me of how young they all still were. Paul was my older son’s age. I don’t know….this doesn’t come across as anymore “sneaky” than John’s declarations to Jan Wenner a couple years later. Those comments can be construed as “sneaky” because they took everyone, especially George Martin and Paul, by surprise. Another example of John’s “sneakiness” could be his alleged planning behind Paul’s back, with Brian, during their trip to Spain, to change the songwriting credits from McCartney Lennon to Lennon McCartney. Although the later example is only Paul’s statement without any hard evidence to prove it, he knew John and he was with Brian and John when they announced to him that the change had already taken place. He saw their faces and heard the inflection in their voices. So he got a strong feeling that something had taken place behind his back. Again another example of John’s sneakiness rather than Paul’s is John and the others appointing Allen Klein before Paul had the chance to weigh in, as well as their decision to release Let it Be before McCartney, then sending Ringo to Paul’s house to tell him. Other than Doggett, authors never talk about these incidents. They only talk about a pre pubescent Paul, ripping his mother’s curtains and having a “smirk” on his face in some picture that was taken before his adult teeth were even fully in.
The Shotten story seems more like an example that Paul could be manipulative rather than sneaky. Although it’s safe to say that Paul was being sneaky when he bought extra shares in Northern Songs, behind John’s back. And of course that incident is in every bio.
My ultimate point is, everyone can be sneaky and manipulative. It’s part of human nature. It’s probably even hard wired into our DNA. All of the incidents that we’ve uncovered, are so interesting and they make the Beatles’ story a richer one. But they have to be told. A book that casts only one group member as the “villain” and the other members as angelic victims of the sneaky, curtain ripping, smirking villain, is cartoonish, like some B movie from the silent film era. But I know I’m preaching to choir in this forum.
I see Paul’s “sneakiness”, in the contexts in which you and others have described, as typical of someone who is perfectionistic, overly diplomatic, and conflict-avoidant.
I love how you put this, Karen! I wish every Paul/Beatle bio author had to read it before putting pen to paper!
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I’m curious, Karen: given that perfectionism is a trait which is commonly attributed to Paul, how much of that is ingrained? Is perfectionism primarily nature or nurture, or some combination of the two? And how controllable a personality characteristic is it? I ask because I know some perfectionists (I’m not one myself) who describe their own perfectionism in rather negative terms: a close friend described it as “an itch in my brain.” I can see how perfectionism in general and Paul’s perfectionism in music in particular would drive tensions among the band’s members, but its not necessarily a trait that lets the perfectionist themselves off the hook, psychologically and emotionally, either.
Perfectionism tends to be ingrained, although how perfectionists handle it, either personally or in a social context, tends to be learned.
What others might view as picky and fussy behaviour is really a perfectionist’s attempt to achieve cognitive balance and equilibrium. Things that “aren’t just right” to them are like nails on a blackboard. The learned part is the ability to make compromises and know when you’re driving other people (or yourself) nuts.
I think perfectionistic artists have a particularly hard time because they are so internally driven in the first place.
The other factor is the importance of distinguishing between perfectionism and self-serving, controlling behaviour. Perfectionistic tendencies can often be interpreted as a play for social and emotional control–which it might be, if social controls aren’t learned. But there are people whose sole motivation IS control, and they aren’t the least bit perfectionistic. Probably Paul had elements of both, which wouldn’t be uncommon, but it seems as though his band members didn’t understand that his perfectionism was also a natural part of his personality.
Ah. Thanks so much, Karen, for the great explanation regarding perfectionism. I want to step lightly here, because its a subject I know little about and have directly no experience with (again, happily not a perfectionist myself, thank you and good night) but am rather close with people who are perfectionists. Granted, its a limited sample, but from their descriptions they tend to regard it as more of a burden than an advantage — hence the “itch in my brain” comment.
That aspect of Paul’s perfectionism being a part of his core personality — the same way John’s insecurity was a core part of his — would seem to be reinforced by an account Lewisohn includes in Tune In. In the discussion of one of Paul and George’s camping trips — (Tangent: since Rose and I were on the subject of ‘can’t apply anachronistic/cultural standards regardless of how inexplicable we find the earlier behavior,’ just the idea of merrily sending my fourteen year old off for three or four days a time, with no cell phone, on their own with a friend to camp wherever/however they can, meeting God knows who, sounds absolutely insane to me now but was evidently standard/normal parenting then) — Lewisohn recounts how the boys were camping, with permission, in someone’s back yard, when it started pouring. The family, very kindly, invited Paul and George inside for the night, and, upon finding the family piano, Paul sat down and played. And played. And played. Evidently there was a particular rock/pop song (I can’t recall which one) that he kept messing up on, and wanted to get right. The boy of the family who had invited Paul in was recounting this, decades later, about how Paul kept playing the song countless times until he got it right. That made an impression on me: here’s Paul, in a presumably relaxed setting, with one of his closest friends, on vacation … and he still insists on working away at this song until he gets it right. That story indicated to me that Paul’s perfectionism, at least when it comes to music, is reflexive and ingrained in his musical process. I know, believe me, that working with a perfectionist can be a drag. But I also think you’re probably right that the other Beatles maybe didn’t appreciate how much of Paul’s perfectionism was a natural part of his personality; the same as John’s insecurity, or George’s introversion. Or maybe they did, but when other stressors came along, it became easier to forget when Paul demands they record the same song for the forty-seventh time because of some tiny flaw that only he cared about.
That story of Paul and the piano is SO apt (and would be so me. I come from a long line of perfectionists and routinely drive non-perfectionists nuts.) You know, it’s so funny about parental norms and expectations over the decades. Even comparing contemporary standards to when I was a kid growing in the 60’s can be a little shocking. I can’t imagine my parents allowing me to take off the way Paul did, but I think parents of all generations are a lot more loosey-goosey with their sons.
I think you’re right that, even if the others knew that perfectionism was a natural part of Paul’s personality, their differentness in comparison to him, coupled with the particular stressors at that time, would have taxed their patience to the max.
See, one of my major takeaways from the Paul/piano story was “That sounds exhausting” … but again, that perfectionist way of thinking is very different to my own way — much to the occasional frustration of my husband, who, while not a perfectionist, is meticulous by nature.
That’s so funny—it didn’t strike me as exhausting because it was something he didn’t HAVE to do, like write a term paper or something. He was thoroughly enjoying himself!
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Thank you for this discussion of perfectionism, Karen! I agree with you and Erin, that this was probably an aspect of working with Paul that others were used to and that they may have had more issues dealing with when there was more tension. Here’s Paul in MYFM “I heard tapes of me recently counting in ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’…and I’m being pretty bossy…and I can see how that could get on your nerves” (579).
I’ve also seen it suggested that it became more of an issue when George Martin wasn’t able to be a buffer as often (either because they were working later and later into the night/morning and he physically didn’t want to be there that long, or because he didn’t have as much authority as he used to).
I’ve also read that it’s something Paul’s worked on/working on re: working with other musicians.
I definitely agree the curtain story is made way too much of and also agree with Karen’s post re: Paul being conflict-avoidant. Unfortunately, the curtain example was used by Salewicz, who appears to be pretty pro-Paul, as an example of how Paul was “spoiled” as a child!
I worry that while the Shout! perceptions re: Paul’s musical ability/role in the breakup may be going away, some of the ones about his personality have lingered because they’re not tied up in his musicianship and maybe biographers haven’t really even thought to question them?
I’m wondering now whether it was possible that Paul was telling this curtain story about himself to Davies at a time when he was worried he was appearing to be sneaky, i.e. the Apple example he told Miles about? It might be less likely to have been Apple-related given the timeline of when Davies was gathering material, but I wonder if it was coming up given how much he was taking on re: making decisions at that point and how he worried about sounding “devilish”?
The Shotton example is interesting because it does look like since he calls this the “first personal experience” of sneaky Paul he’s defending him against that charge, especially since, as you point out, he’d known him a long time by then! At the same time, he describes the A-side business as Paul being manipulative in a way that sounds like a stretch to me:
“Hey Jude” turned out so well that everyone agreed it was the obvious choice for the A-side of the Beatles’ first Apple single–everyone, that is, except John, who was still adamant that the distinction should be conferred upon “Revolution.”… Since John has recently determined–with Yoko’s encouragement–to reassert his dominant role within the Beatles, the apportionment of A-sides suddenly took on a great symbolic importance for him. I wasn’t fully aware of all this until Paul took me aside in the studio one day and said
“Tell me, Pete–which one do you think should be the A-side, ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Revolution’?
“Well, who am I to judge,” I said. “I think they’re both fantastic. But I supposed ‘Hey Jude’ sounds more commercial.”
When John joined us a moment later, Paul immediately blurted out: “Pete thinks ‘Hey Jude’ should be the A-side!”
John looked at me as if I’d stabbed him in the back…Though nothing more was said, this brief exchange left a bad taste in my mouth. Paul’s attempt to use me as a pawn with which to checkmate my best friend constituted my first personal experience of the manipulativeness with which he has often been charged. 180
Just reading the account before Pete’s analysis, it sounds like Paul was frustrated that John wasn’t budging when everyone else agreed about the A-side issue and asked Pete to bolster “everyone’s” argument. Heck, he may have been polling everyone at the studio. I don’t think it’s clear that he was using Pete as a “pawn,” or even that he thought of Pete as John’s best friend that he was checkmating him with. I can see why Pete was upset, but I wonder if he decided to categorize this as “manipulative” since he’d since become aware of the prevalence of that narrative? It’s so interesting to see how John Lennon in My Life challenges some of the Shout! narrative but could have been shaped by it in some ways as well.
Thanks for the excerpt, Lizzie. It strikes me that Paul’s behaviour was an act of desperation more than anything; John was intractable and Paul needed someone who could get them out of the impasse.
You’re welcome! And that makes sense, Karen. I don’t see Paul deviously thinking “Here’s a best friend pawn I can manipulatively checkmate John with,” but rather “Here’s someone who hasn’t weighed in yet who John is on good terms with and might listen to.”
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Thanks so much for the actual excerpt: that adds a lot of context and detail that my memory was simply unable to provide. (Turns out I was right: it was after everyone else had already agreed that “Hey, Jude” should be the A-side). Whew.
I can see both how Pete would leave the exchange feeling somewhat sour, but I can also see how Paul would also feel frustrated enough to approach the issue that way. The reality is that, if after everyone had already voted, the decision had been made (and even John admitted that “Hey, Jude” was a worthy song, both commercially and artistically) and Paul had won the A-side, Paul had reason to be frustrated if John was still lobbying for “Revolution,” in defiance of the Beatles own self-appointed rules, which had been in place for years.
Pete may have felt that his words were twisted, and John may have been hurt by not garnering Pete’s unconditional support (cue John’s LR rant about Neil and Derek Taylor picking Paul’s side just because they didn’t agree with John 100% on everything) but John doesn’t come across as too good here, either. Pete basically implies that the whole “Hey, Jude/Revolution” debate was one that John was waging primarily due to John’s determination to reclaim his position as the alpha in the Lennon/McCartney partnership; it had little to nothing to do with either song’s artistry or commercial appeal, and John was willing to trample years of successful precedent (and the inherently more fair process of democratic selection) in choosing Beatle A-sides in order to get this symbolic victory. Who wouldn’t have been frustrated, if your artistic/commercial partner suddenly singlehandedly decides that the rules under which your band has successfully operated for the past four years should no longer apply to him?
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You’re very welcome, Erin! I had the section marked because I found Pete’s account very interesting in terms of how he characterized it in hindsight.
I can definitely also see how Pete felt Paul was putting him in an uncomfortable position–after all, Pete was dependent on John in a way that Paul wasn’t. But Pete’s account makes Paul sound a little like a scheming mastermind when I think it’s just as likely that he was frustrated and may have thought that Pete, as a non-music person and someone in John’s life he might listen to, would finally get John to accept what had been decided.
I can very much see Paul being oblivious about how Pete might feel to be seen siding with Paul against John, though. While I think he may have had his manipulative moments (as Linda mentioned above, we all do!), I think this one is more of a combination of frustration and obliviousness.
In terms of the main charge of sneakiness/manipulativeness–the Northern Songs shares–I don’t have a copy of the book, but I’ve heard that Brian Southall’s Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles Song Publishing Empire, suggests that most of the share discrepancy is due to John losing shares in his divorce agreement with Cynthia rather than Paul buying a vast sum of extra shares (I need to get my hands on that book! And if Southall says that and it’s correct, I’d hope that later editions of Doggett and so on would provide this context).
I’ve just finished re-reading Tom Doyle’s Man on the Run and he suggests that Lee Eastman advised Paul to buy extra shares, and that discovering that made John attempt to attack Lee (I think in Peter Brown’s account, John considered punching Paul?) Whether or not this attempted attack on Lee (or Paul ) took place, I can see how the story that Paul was advised to buy more shares combined with the share discrepancy has led to the continuation of the story, but I hope Lewisohn tackles the issue as well.
And to briefly take things back to Pete, I love how you put this:
“John doesn’t come across as too good here, either. Pete basically implies that the whole “Hey, Jude/Revolution” debate was one that John was waging primarily due to John’s determination to reclaim his position as the alpha in the Lennon/McCartney partnership; it had little to nothing to do with either song’s artistry or commercial appeal, and John was willing to trample years of successful precedent (and the inherently more fair process of democratic selection) in choosing Beatle A-sides in order to get this symbolic victory.”
Very true, and an example of Pete telling us something he may not have know he was–he doesn’t describe how John was flying in the face of tradition in order to try to re-assert himself even as he describes this move as being about fighting for dominance. Thank you for providing that context!
I would like further clarity on the Northern Songs issue myself. I have read Southall’s work — and I do recall a reader on Hey Dullblog making the claim that Paul’s purchase of additional shares was miniscule, and that the vast majority of the discrepancy between himself and John was due to John’s offering Cynthia a large number of shares in their divorce settlement — but I do not recall seeing that in that book, and I was looking for it because that HD commentator had said it was in there. Perhaps they were misremembering and it was in a different book. I imagine the terms of John’s and Cynthia’s divorce settlement are out there somewhere, so it shouldn’t be that hard to double check.
One of the reasons I’d like to know more about the Northern Shares discrepancy is because of where the story originated: McCabe’s Apple to the Core. McCabe got the story from Klein, who of course gave him extensive interviews, and spun it as Paul sneaking behind John’s back, evidence as to why he, Klein, could not trust Paul and the Eastman’s, and further used it as an excuse as to why he then chose not to provide the Eastman’s with financial information he was legally required to provide them: a sort of “They tried to screw me over, so I decided to do the same to them.” But I don’t recall McCabe providing any documentation to back it up — which, in fact, is a glaring error in much of Apple to the Core — and then it got picked up by other secondary authors who have never, to my knowledge, investigated the numbers.
I’ll see if I can find that divorce agreement (and I’m just realizing that saying it that way makes it sound like I’ve got it hanging about in my basement!). The place online that mentions the shares as part of the settlement is here in the 6th paragraph: http://www.rockmine.com/Beatles/BeatleCo.html
I’m still very curious about where the info. comes from, though, and hope we don’t have to wait until Lewisohn.
Here is a link to several passages on Google Books of Brian Southall’s book.
In these passages, it gives the numbers and shows that both Lennon and McCartney received 750,000 shares in Northern Songs. So they both started out with the same amount. But when the revelation came that Paul was “secretly” buying shares, Southall reports (again you can see the numbers on the link) that at that point, Paul had 751,000 shares. Only 1,000 more — a minuscule amount that did not brought him ZERO extra voting power. John Lennon had 644,000. So if they both started out with the same amount (750,000) it wasn’t that Paul bought so many more shares secretly, it was that Lennon LOST shares. And I don’t see the details on what Lennon sold those shares for. It could have been part of his divorce or maybe it was to buy a house. The point is Lennon HIMSELF was to blame for selling off 106,000 of his Northern Shares. McCartney had nothing to do with that.
Hope this helps.
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Thanks, Louann, for the link to the info. on Southall’s book and the shares!
“I don’t see the details on what Lennon sold those shares for. It could have been part of his divorce or maybe it was to buy a house. The point is Lennon HIMSELF was to blame for selling off 106,000 of his Northern Shares. McCartney had nothing to do with that.”
But what if Paul snuck in and stole those shares? 😀
Seriously though, that’s a great point–even if they weren’t part of the divorce, the discrepancy was due to John losing them, not Paul buying a ton more.
Thanks also for the podcast link upthread!
And for those who have Southall’s book, chapter 2 gives the information on Lennon and McCartney both receiving 750,000 shares when Northern Shares was created. And Chapter 3 gives the numbers for how many shares each man owned by 1969-80, when McCartney had 751,000 and Lennon had 644,000.
I remember reading this, Sam. I wonder how many boys of the draft era in Europe and North America were engaging in the same types of rehearsal behaviours as young Paul. Sad.
Erin, so glad you’re back and feeling better!
As others have noted, I wouldn’t hold my breath about any revelations from either Mike Mac or John Eastman. Both clearly value their relationships with Paul too much. I even remember some sort of comment from Mike to that effect – that there’s no amount of money that would be worth it to him to sacrifice his relationship with his brother.
I find it interesting that John and Linda were so close as siblings, despite the surface difference in their personalities (John being more academic and following in their dad’s footsteps; Linda being the “black sheep” who clashed with their father). John and Linda have a similar difference in their ages (two years) as Paul and Mike and even some similar stories. Danny Fields recounted an anecdote John told at Linda’s memorial service: as kids, John and Linda used to go explore in the woods together around their country home in Scarsdale, New York. One day the kids lost track of time, and according to John got their “only spanking” when they returned home late to their frantic parents. John tried to take the blame for his little sister while Linda tried to take the blame for John! (In reality, they were both too little to read a watch yet.) There’s little written about the bond between John and Linda, and how of course that flowered into John E. becoming Paul’s most trusted adviser (and quite quickly, too).
I always felt very sorry for John. When his and Linda’s mother, Louise, was killed in the terrible American Airlines Flight 1 accident, she was on her way to visit him at Stanford. I can’t imagine his guilt. Their parents apparently had a policy to always fly on separate flights so that one parent would survive for their kids in case the worst happened….and then it did. How awful.
Thanks, Rose! And thanks for commenting: you always have a lot of interesting, new information in your comments.
You’re absolutely right: there’s very little about Linda’s relationship with John Eastman: those few people who even attempt to explore the inter-personal relations of the Eastman family concentrate on Linda’s relationship with her father and her position as the “unfavorite.” (And Paul also has quotes that reinforce that, even after Linda brought him home, Lee wasn’t the most supportive of fathers). But that’s a sweet, revealing story about Linda’s relationship with John when they were children.
It is striking to me that Paul very swiftly puts so much of his trust in the Eastman family, especially when so many people that matter are telling him he’s wrong. And as you noted, its not just trust in Linda: by the time we get to the point where Paul’s refusing to sign the contract with Allen Klein, Paul is basically saying to the other three Beatles: “I trust John Eastman’s evaluation of Klein over John Lennon’s evaluation of him.”
I didn’t realize that Linda and John’s mother was flying to visit him at Stanford when the plane crashed. That would have to had an impact on him — as you said, the guilt, however irrational, would be difficult to grapple with. It could also have given John at least some fear of flying: I have an adoptive Aunt whose biological parents were killed in the Wichita State plane crash (It killed much of their football team, as well as some of their coaches and boosters in the early 70s) and she was terrified of flying and couldn’t even get on a plane until all her children were grown and she was fifty years old. I think Danny Fields mentioned Linda was scared of flying as a consequence of her mother’s death … and probably spent half of her married life on planes as a consequence of being married to Paul: just the flights back and forth between London and New York would have taken up a lot of time.
Hologram Sam, at print that GQ article passed me by. Thanks for bringing it back home.
FYI, there is at least one more interview that John Eastman gave that I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned here. John Eastman granted an interview to Fred Goodman for his Klein-family authorized bio of Allen Klein — presumably because Paul & John Eastman figured that without giving at least some perspective from Paul’s side, the authorized bio of Klein would be a Paul rant. At any rate, I read that John Eastman gave an interview to Goodman tho Paul himself didn’t.
Thank you for raising the point about Mike McCartney being the only Beatles sibling who gets much attention from Lewisohn. That provides some balance and makes me think more favorably of Lewisohn, as I had been among those put off by that aspect of Tune In. On the other hand, it also makes sense that Mike Mac gets more attention in the book given that Mike McCartney was around the Beatles A LOT more than any of George’s siblings or John’s (probably because John’s sisters were too young and George’s brothers too old).
The glib treatment that Lewisohn gives Mary McCartney’s death, I think, is because Lewisohn has far more empathy for John Lennon than for Paul McCartney. You see that throughout the book in little ways — such as how the book goes into detail about John’s art and gives passing attention to Paul’s. Lewisohn will actually describe the substance of John’s art but he doesn’t do that for Paul; rather, the book will use Paul’s art as an example of Paul pretending to be an artist.
Lewisohn said in an interview in 2017 or so that he “bows to no one” in his admiration of Lennon’s music. Mark has never said any such thing about Paul’s music or George’s. And in the next breath Mark insisted he nonetheless could be fair to all 4 Beatles. Hmm. I’m not so sure.
Repeatedly in Tune In, Lewisohn endeavors to explain and rationalize John’s bad behaviour –seemingly protecting John to a degree — but doesn’t do the same for Paul. For example, there is that harsh quote from Stu about Paul in Hamburg (“everyone hated him”), leaving the impression that Paul was really disliked by the other Beatles. And then, 20 pages later, all of sudden we have Lewisohn describing how Paul & John were inseparable. I got whiplash trying to figure out — on my own, given that Lewisohn didn’t explain — how Paul goes from someone “everyone” hated in Hamburg to being John’s closest friend a few months later. It’s just an example of the lack of depth that Lewisohn applies to characterizing and understanding Paul. And so that’s why Lewisohn expends far more pages on John’s emotional trauma caused by Julia’s death while treating Paul’s like it was a casual event.
From the book and from Lewisohn’s various podcast interviews, I know he loves the Beatles and is certainly more fair to all 4 than any other Beatles biographer to date. Yet I also get the vibe that Lewisohn is willing to make excuses for John’s faults but is NOT willing to make excuses for Paul’s faults. Lewisohn takes John more seriously as an artist and as a person than he does Paul.
Maybe it’s impossible to write a Beatles book that is actually fair to all 4 Beatles.
Thanks for the information on John Eastman’s interview in Goodman’s Klein bio: now that you mention it, I do recall a quote from Eastman that I hadn’t seen elsewhere: something to the effect of John Eastman, to this day, knowing that their court victory over Klein was an impressive, underdog victory. Goodman spins that quote as “Look at how brilliant Klein was, that even now John Eastman realizes how impressive a foe he had in Klein.” I can’t recall anything else revelatory in Eastman’s material in that book, except maybe the assertion that the Paul’s legal team, and the Eastman’s, didn’t even know about the contracts John, George, and Ringo had entered into with Klein (without Paul’s knowledge, something that was against British partnership law) until after they subpoenaed paperwork for the trial. Given that those “we’re just not going to tell Paul about these contracts” were one of the biggest strikes against Klein for Justice Stamp in the Beatles court case, its interesting that Paul and the Eastman’s evidently didn’t even know they had that as a weapon in their arsenal when they filed suit against the other Beatles.
I’m sure part of the reason we get so much Mike in Tune In is because of that age similarity. Older siblings, like George’s, aren’t going to pay too much attention to their youngest brother’s friends: they have their own lives to live. John’s sisters were both too young and lived in a separate house. If Mike were six years younger than Paul, rather than 18 months, I’m sure we wouldn’t have nearly as much Mike in Tune In as we do, simply because he wouldn’t have been around as much.
Do you remember the context of the “bow to no one” quote? Part of me is always a little reserved when it comes to assigning too much significance to podcast quotes and public presentations, because I have yet to give one where I haven’t wanted to re-phrase or qualify something the second after it came out of my mouth. Its an interesting statement coming from Lewisohn.
If you’ve been lurking awhile, you’ll know that Karen, who has a background in psychology, has discussed this pattern of authors contextualizing John’s behavior because it is so outrageous. It’s a standard human response: the more outrageous the behavior, the more compelled we are to explain it. (I’m not excusing it, though: its a pattern in Beatles historiography to make an extra effort for John while not summoning as much effort for the other three regarding their issues/traumas/struggles, and its a pattern that I do believe has contributed to a less accurate version of their story). But at least it explains the origin of the trend.
Mark Lewisohn made the comment about how he “bows to now one” in his admiration of Lennon as an artist in a interview he did in 2017 for the “Fabcast” podcast. To be fair, he also insist that he has checks and balances in place to look out for points where his own bias intrudes with the facts. Here is the link to the podcast in question:
I don’t remember the context for the remark but I’ll try to listen again. I sincerely hope that Lewisohn can be trusted to deal with all 4 of them in an even-handed manner. But I must say, his decision to devote 1.5 pages to Mary McC’s death, and a whole chapter to Julia’s was disappointing.
Thanks for the link to the podcast, LouAnn: I appreciate it. Now to the time to listen to it!
I definitely have gotten the vibe from his interviews that Lewisohn prefers John as well and almost idolizes him. I’ve wondered if that’s because he worked with Paul and got to know him as a human being.
Funnily enough, in one interview Mark talked about how Paul is the one who went to bat for him when George and Yoko were dissatisfied over something or other, and wanted to kick Mark off (I think) the Anthology project. Mark acknowledged that if it weren’t for Paul he would have been banished from the Beatles’ inner circle.
I was really surprised at how Lewisohn discussed Paul’s relationship with everyone in Hamburg as well! I’m reading it all the way through from start to finish for the first time rather than going back and forth between parts of it and I’m really noticing how he seems to call Paul out for things/judge him in ways that he definitely doesn’t John or the others.
Lewisohn does say that Paul was smart and lauds his accomplishments at the Institute when he first started. He also says Paul was “popular” because he was “naturally funny” and “showed a good talent for vocal mimicry by impersonating masters, and drew witty cartoons that were passed around the class for laughs,” (63) which gives him credit (and shows that Paul and John both had cartoons passed around, which Lewisohn does say when describing John’s cartoons earlier in the book).
However, here he is describing Paul’s beginning as a composer and talking about his writing of “Suicide”
“Though the words wanted work (and didn’t get it), it was a charming little tune, a dance-band piece with a dash of modernity, light, engaging and original…quite exceptional for a first attempt by a boy on the cusp of 14….Again, this was an exceptional achievement for a young teenager, a beginner. He felt so too. Mindful that no one else in his orbit was writing songs, Paul keenly played them to people, requesting their opinion. Yet, as much as he enjoyed their compliments and admiration, any perceived criticism stuck in his craw. ‘It sounds a bit like a hymn’ was one of the damning things people said about some of my early numbers,’ he’d remember” (92).
The way this is written seems designed to create a negative impression, to suggest someone who was conceited about and eager for praise of a song that needed work that it “didn’t get” and was sensitive about criticism in a way that suggests he shouldn’t have been–“stuck in his craw.”
Contrast this with how he describes John getting his first guitar: “Rubbish though this guitar was, the instrument and its temporary owner were seldom parted. Somehow or other now, John knew he was going to be discovered. He ‘waited for the big man with the cigar.’ While John was using only the banjo’s first four strings on his guitar, George was being taught all six..” (102-3)
So John “knows” he’s going to be discovered and doesn’t get any authorial comments about how much of himself he thought (beyond comparing what John was learning to what George was learning, which could be a comment of a sort, but nothing like what Paul got).
And then there’s this comparison Lewisohn makes of all their childhood friendships after discussing the close friend, Roy, Ringo made after leaving school/starting work: “It was a perfect arrangement, and [Roy and Richy] quickly formed the kind of earthy bond George Harrison had with Arthur Kelly and John Lennon had with Pete Shotton–solid friends who lived life similarly and shared attitudes, bluntness and candor” (97).
So…Paul’s friendship with Ian James, which is described later, wasn’t like this? Or his friendship with Ivan Vaughn? Or George? Or his brother Mike? I find this omission a bit odd, considering that I think Paul must have been forming his friendship with Ian James before Ringo was forming this one with Roy. It just sets him apart from the others in a way I find curious.
And then there’s Mary’s death: “Jim broke the news to the boys. Mike, who was especially close to his mother, burst into tears, a core part of him shattered irrevocably. Paul’s response was less expected and not at all what Jim or anyone else wanted to hear. ‘Mum was a working nurse. there wasn’t a lot of money around–and she was half the family pay packet. My reaction was: ‘How are we going to get by without her money? When I think back on it, I think, ‘Oh God, what? Did I really say that?’ It was a terrible, logical thought which was preceded by normal feelings of grief. It was very tough to take.”
And then Lewisohn goes on to give this quote from Mike: “Paul was far more affected by Mum’s death than any of us imagined. His character seemed to change and for a while he seemed like a hermit. He wasn’t very nice to live with at this period, I remember. He became completely wrapped up in himself and didn’t want people breaking in on his life.”
Lewisohn then adds “Paul’s way of dealing with a crisis was to seem unaffected by it. He just carried on. ‘I learned to put a shell around me.’ Tough as it was to see or hear his dad crying, Paul got his head down and pushed forward” (101).
Why not lead with how Paul was more affected than anyone had realized? While there are snippets of info. the reader can put together to see what was going on with Paul, the overwhelming impression the reader is left with is of someone who ignored his crying dad and wasn’t nice to live with and said insensitive things. I find it really strange that Lewisohn didn’t do more to emphasize that Paul was a 14 year old traumatized boy.
And finally, we get Lewisohn describing John’s voice in a recording of the Quarry Men “Although inspired by Elvis and and Lonnie, he’s not attempting to imitate their voices or their style, and more strikingly still he’s not adopting any phoney American or mid-Atlantic accent. Singers always start off as impersonators, mimicking whoever made the record they’re performing, some perhaps going on to develop their own voice. That John Lennon already had it at Woolton, that he was so audibly himself, is the mark of a true original. Not only does he have a great rock voice, it’s an honest one. His voice is who he is” (132).
And this came after describing how Paul had impressed everyone by sounding like Little Richard at the fete. I may be reading into it, but it seems like Lewisohn’s giving us the very familiar “honest, genius John” and “talented, conceited and hiding behind a front (while also not as good) Paul.”
And finally (the real finally!)
“John Lennon didn’t pick partners easily, but at 15 years of age Paul McCartney already had enough about him to impress the big league. A boy who believe he was it, and had the ability to back it up, had met a boy who clearly was it–and the fusion of their talents and personalities would change the world” (133).
Lizzie: The more you read Tune In, the more you see that quiet bias toward Lennon. I’m not saying McCartney is without flaws. Certainly not. What I am saying, as I wrote above, is that: “Lewisohn is willing to make excuses for John’s faults but is NOT willing to make excuses for Paul’s faults.”
Lewisohn ignores or rationalizes the weaknesses in John’s character and work. But Lewisohn bluntly reports Paul’s weaknesses, without trying to explain why he was that way. Paul just is (whatever flaw is being described). But John is (whatever flaw is being described) because of his abandonment or his genius or his poetic nature or his intelligence.
Lewisohn is a John guy.
Yes. In the example about Mary’s death, all it would have taken was re-arrangement of the same material (no need to leave anything out, even) to provide a kinder view. If he’d put it in this order:
Mike’s comments about both of them trying to be stoic, Mike’s tears, the difficulty of witnessing their dad’s grief, Mike’s comments about how Paul took it harder than they’d realized, especially in light of his wage comment, Paul’s comment as an adult about the wage comment, and then Mike’s comment about how Paul was difficult to live with and wrapped up with himself after + the “shell” comment….
Well, I think it paints a slightly different picture and all the materials were already in there to paint it with, but it almost looks like a deliberate choice was made not to.
Same with the example about Paul composing “Suicide.” It sounds like a lot of that info. comes from Paul himself. Was Paul reflecting on his younger self’s ego/ability to take criticism? Maybe even poking fun at himself? That would make the whole episode sound different while still making the point that young Paul was proud of himself and sought validation and not criticism of his work.
Rose mentioned above that perhaps Lewisohn’s having worked for Paul and seen him up close as a human person with flaws prevented him from doing with Paul what he did with John, and that makes sense to me–especially in the Mary example, I got the sense that he couldn’t see the 14 year old for the man who’d employed him.
Well, one of Lewisohn’s greatest strengths is his documentation, so regarding the “Suicide” discussion, you should be able to look at the citation and see when and where and in what context Paul is offering this information. And that context of a quote can make all the difference.
If I were evaluating Lewisohn’s approach in Tune In, two elements I would certainly acknowledge would be 1. That Lewisohn has personally met and worked with Paul McCartney, but never got the opportunity to do so with John Lennon. Now, I’d like to see more of Lewisohn’s material in Tune In to see what the potential consequences of that are — and in fact, various reviews, including from The Guardian, seemed inclined to perceive that this gave an edge to Paul, rather than John — but I would certainly note it.
Second, I would note that, unlike John, who has been dead for almost forty years now (Rest in Peace, John) Paul was still alive at the publication of the first volume of Tune In — and, God willing, will still be alive for the publication of the next two volumes. I think its Gaddis who quips about the greatest fear of historians being their historical subject coming back from the dead and saying: “You got this wrong.” Well, Paul is (not) dead, meaning he’s still alive and capable of contradicting Lewisohn. In fact, I believe he did: someone questioned Paul on the “Jim wouldn’t allow John into the house” claim, and Paul claimed that wasn’t entirely correct, but I don’t believe Paul elaborated. The reality is that Lewisohn has more freedom to interpret on John because John is no longer capable of refuting him: Paul is still with us, and while you may certainly make a valid argument regarding the malleability of his memory and own selective version of the history, He was there, which means you can’t ignore him.
My reading is that the core of the Beatles story revolves around the necessity and equality of the Lennon/McCartney relationship and partnership, and Lewisohn appears to agree: hence his “John and Paul were equals in every way/John and Paul drove the bus” segment in the introduction. But the situation for any author in discussing that core is complex because one of those people at the core has been dead for almost forty years, and the other is alive but (understandably) defensive at, after over a half-century of unfathomable fame, having seen his life picked apart and his motivations, personality, artistry, decisions, etc. asserted by people who weren’t there and certainly weren’t inside his brain. Hence Paul’s “I just wrote a song” rejoinder to MacDonald’s claims regarding Paul’s motivations for writing certain works, and MacDonald is actually an author who is perceived as being pro-Paul.
If I had a chance to interview Paul, one of my top ten questions would be his knowledge of his own depiction in Beatles historiography. Has he actually sat down and read Tune In? What about Schaffner? Norman’s bio of him? We know he read Shout! We know he’s aware of some elements of his depiction in Beatles historiography, but are unaware of the degree. And for me, that’s a fascinating question, because how much of Paul’s awareness has shaped his efforts in pushing his own version of the band’s story?
Erin, I definitely also appreciate Lewisohn’s research and that Tune In takes pains to emphasize the importance of the Lennon-McCartney partnership (and stresses that it was a real partnership, and an equal one). That is a major takeaway from vol. 1.
While I’m also happy that I can look up where and when something was said (which isn’t the case with a lot of the bios), in the case of the “Suicide” example, I’d first have to notice that Lewisohn’s account seems a bit negative and wonder why given that Paul seems to be a major source for it. Then I’d have to look up where and when Paul gave his interview, and then I’d have to hope I had a copy of Anthology to get a bit more context. Unless you’re really motivated, you’re not likely to take these steps and so there’s an increased chance you’d come away from the passage with a less sympathetic reading of Paul’s teen ego. Lewisohn providing the context for Paul looking back (if he had it–as it happens, I don’t have Anthology on me and so can’t say whether it describes Paul more seriously reflecting about his teen self or laughing at him or something else entirely) doesn’t seem like it would have been that difficult. It also could have cast this in a more sympathetic light without erasing a sense of what teen Paul was like.
The language used and the way information is provided also seems, at this point, to have a more negative slant when it comes to Paul. If I were Lewisohn and this wasn’t intentional, I’d want to know.
Re: Lewisohn having met and worked for Paul (from ’87-2002, according to his profile!) and Paul’s being able to say “I was there! That’s not how it happened at all!”–this is, of course, speculation, but I wonder whether Lewisohn has a “Paul voice” in his head as he writes that makes him imagine how Paul would respond to attempts to explain his motivations?
Like you, I wonder how much Paul has read. I did see that when he and George Martin were interviewed (separately) about Goldman’s book on John, the interviewer asked Paul how he’d feel if someone wrote a book like that about him. He did seem to be joking, but he said something like “I’d read the whole thing if it were about me.”
“But the situation for any author in discussing that core is complex because one of those people at the core has been dead for almost forty years, and the other is alive but (understandably) defensive at, after over a half-century of unfathomable fame, having seen his life picked apart and his motivations, personality, artistry, decisions, etc. asserted by people who weren’t there and certainly weren’t inside his brain.”
This is such an interesting and important point. John’s legend and his inability to speak for himself have likely led people (those interviewed as well as biographers, with the notable exception of Goldman) to (understandably) seek to explain and/or soften flaws in John in a way that they don’t feel compelled to do in the same way with Paul. I just read Richard White’s Come Together: Lennon and McCartney in the Seventies and was struck by all the people interviewed–Keltner and Elephant’s Memory members and so on–who just gushed about working with John. There was some of that (but less) from people who’d worked with Paul. Because Paul is alive, people being interviewed can still go “Well, there’s the time he did X and it was annoying” without having gone through the process of thinking “Well, now that he’s gone and I’ve really had to think about what he did for music and also maybe me personally, maybe that story doesn’t matter and I won’t tell it, or I see it in a different light.” I think there’s also generally just less gushing in general about people who are still alive.
I’m also very curious about where the next volumes of Tune In will go. I saw Lewisohn say on Twitter re: Alexis Mardas “Much of what you read of him is false, yet he declined my invitations to speak for himself.” It’s taking all my willpower to steer myself back in the direction of grading and away from imagining what Lewisohn’s discovered (and how he found it out, and how it might change the conversation about John’s judgment in associating with him)
Quick Comment: Just off of the top of my head, here is the list of sources in Beatles historiography that we have comments from Paul that give us reason to believe that he was at least somewhat familiar with them:
Shout! (the first edition, particularly) Lennon Remembers, Ray Coleman’s Lennon, (the first edition), The Lives of John Lennon, Apple to the Core, Allen Klein’s 1971 November Playboy Interview, John’s St. Regis Interviews, John’s 1971-71 Melody Maker/NME interviews, the Backbeat film, Revolution in the Head, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, The Love You Make, Pete Shotton’s Memoir, The 2nd edition of the Beatles Authorized Biography (1982) which includes his phone conversation with Hunter Davies, another Beatles film whose title I can’t recall but whom Paul complains makes it appear that he’s the one who broke up the band, and, considering John Eastman personally criticized it, probably the Danny Fields bio of Linda. (I’m leaving out the books that included actual Paul participation, such as MYFN: technically, that might disqualify TCBRS, since he writes the forward, but I included it anyway). If anyone has anything else to add to the list, that’d be great.
Thanks, Erin! That’s…a lot for Paul to have absorbed (though there’s so much more out there!) There’s also the film Nowhere Boy, and I think I remember Paul saying that he told the director that her initial version of Mimi was off.
I’ve also been thinking again of the different ways people might remember/talk about Paul and John given that John has been gone for such a long time, and remembered Spitz’s comments about Goldman from your book–that Spitz found Goldman’s work refreshing because it went beyond self-interested journalists and personal contacts who wanted to present John in a certain way so that they could respectively keep working in the field or be seen to have been his friends.
While Spitz’s observation definitely makes sense and is likely a factor to greater and lesser degrees with different people, I think it’s still possible that there’s also a certain type of re-evaluation of how someone is talked about after they’re gone vs. while they’re still alive.
Also, the type of thing Spitz is talking about seems like it would also apply to Paul and any other rock stars/celebrities who are living, but I don’t get the sense that the press/those around Paul have the same type of investment in maintaining a certain image of him/clamoring to present themselves as his friends. I mean, for example, I could kind of see Jann Wenner serializing a Goldman-type bio on Paul.
Thanks! You’re right: Nowhere Boy should be on that list as well, because Paul talked about disagreeing somewhat with the harsher depiction of Mimi.
Well, for a Goldman-esque take on Paul, we have Wenner’s publishing company publishing Francie Schwartz’s memoir: that’s information that I read in the Beatles Bibliography.
No, I’d agree that people don’t have the same investment in promoting a certain image of Paul as they do of John, because, to be glib, John is the patron saint of baby boomer rock and roll, whereas Paul is not.
Oh wow, I’d forgotten that Wenner’s company published Francie Schwartz’s memoir. I was just joking about Wenner serializing a Goldman-style take, but that joke doesn’t seem to have been too far off!
“No, I’d agree that people don’t have the same investment in promoting a certain image of Paul as they do of John, because, to be glib, John is the patron saint of baby boomer rock and roll, whereas Paul is not.”
Yes! And they had very different relationships with the press/critics for a decade before John was murdered, not to mention how John’s been seen since then.
This is somewhat unrelated (but Lewisohn related!), but I noticed that for a quote of Dot Rhone’s in Tune In (p. 239) about how she’d initially been attracted to John instead of Paul, Lewisohn cites a website (that has a dead link, but I did find the right link by googling, and it’s here: http://sentstarr.tripod.com/beatgirls/rhone.html) that itself doesn’t source the quote directly. At the bottom, after a list of quotes and claims it says:
“SOURCES: A Twist Of Lennon by Cynthia Lennon 1978, John Lennon My Brother by Julia Baird 1988, Dorothy Rhone interview October 1997, the authorised Paul McCartney biography by Barry Miles 1997, The Beatles And Us special by the Sunday Times, various Beatles and McCartney biographies.”
Given that Dot having been attracted to John first is also mentioned in Spitz, is there a reason it wouldn’t have been cited from there or found in one of the sources listed above and cited there instead? I appreciate that I was able to look up the citation, but a bit surprised by the site cited!
This has to be a quick reply, Lizzie: we’re walking out the door, but the short answer is that Lewisohn probably cited the website instead of Spitz because the site, unlike Spitz, cited its sources, and particularly (presumably) that Dot Rhone interview from October 1997. Given the choice between citing information from a secondary source that doesn’t cite sources, and one that does, its preferable too use the one that does.
Hi Erin, It looks like we’ve run out of nested replies! Thank you so much again for this blog and discussion.
“This has to be a quick reply, Lizzie: we’re walking out the door, but the short answer is that Lewisohn probably cited the website instead of Spitz because the site, unlike Spitz, cited its sources, and particularly (presumably) that Dot Rhone interview from October 1997. Given the choice between citing information from a secondary source that doesn’t cite sources, and one that does, its preferable too use the one that does.”
In this case, Spitz actually did cite his source–his interview with Dot Rhone in ’98. The website, however, includes a number of quotes but doesn’t attribute them directly after they’re given. Instead, a number of sources are listed at the end and some of them are listed simply as “various Beatles and McCartney biographies.” It seems it would take some work to match the quote to a source listed on the site.
I’m impressed. I’d have to look at my notes, but I don’t recall Spitz being to diligent about citing his sources in the text.
I know what you mean! He didn’t in my memory either, but he does seem to have a fair amount of chapter citations. In this case, the quote from Dot–“It must have been all over my face that I fancied John”–is on p. 163. It doesn’t have a footnote, but the source is cited in the notes on the chapter (chapter 10, p. 877).
“Given that Dot having been attracted to John first is also mentioned in Spitz, is there a reason it wouldn’t have been cited from there or found in one of the sources listed above and cited there instead? I appreciate that I was able to look up the citation, but a bit surprised by the site cited”!
I used to read that Beatle Girls site, years and years ago. I was surprised too when I looked up this Dot Rhone comment in Lewisohn’s book and found that very same site as the source. My only guess is he used the site as a source because that’s where he initially found the information, rather than in Spitz’s book. He probably saw that the information was provided from interviews with Dot through reliable sources so he felt safe using the site as a source. It’s actually a pretty good website. All of the information provided, is heavily sourced.
Thanks, Linda! I hadn’t encountered the site before and didn’t realize it had been around for a while and has a good reputation. I still want to know which bio or interview that quote came from, but I will check “Rhone” in the index of each bio I’ve got access to and see if I can find it that way.
One question: How can Pete Shotten perceive the Hey Jude incident as an example of Paul’s “sneakiness” when Paul made the remark RIGHT IN FRONT OF PETE! Lol. The lengths that John’s fans/friends will go to portray Paul as the villain.
Now if Pete had heard secondhand that Paul made this remark to John, that would be sneaky. But to say it to John right in front of Pete? That’s not sneaky at all! And in fact, isn’t Paul’s comment accurately reflecting Pete’s opinion? Since the more commercial song always went on the A side, and since Pete had said Hey Jude was more commercial, Paul was characterizing Pete’s position accurately tho cutting right to the chase.
And weren’t they all ‘sneaky’ at certain points? Wasn’t it ‘sneaky’ of John to make sure his name went first on the song credit? Were George and Ringo ever sneaky? I’m sure if anyone pored over their lives the way they have John and Paul’s, you’d find some ‘sneaky’ moments. 😉
LouAnn, Lizzie, you are a fountain of information, thanks.
I think Pete thought it was “sneaky” of Paul was because he, Pete, had no notion that Paul was going to turn around and tell John, whether in front of everyone or privately. I don’t think Pete had any intention of sharing his opinion with John (indeed, he probably knew to keep his mouth shut rather than incur John’s ire).
Exactly. And yet it’s funny that Paul gets the “sneaky” moniker when John doesn’t.
If indeed Pete Shotten had no “intention of sharing his opinion with John,” then doesn’t that make Pete the sneaky one? 😉
Haha–no, I don’t think so, really. I’m sure we’ve all been taken aside privately and asked about our opinion on something, and had an expectation of privacy that our comments wouldn’t be shared. I think this situation was both a mis-step by Paul and an understandable source of consternation for Pete.
The problem is that writers jump on these incidences and formulate personality assessments that aren’t entirely accurate.
But was Pete “taken aside privately”? It wasn’t a “between you and me” conversation, from my reading. It was just a casual, out-in-the-open-with-other-people-around conversation.
I just think way too much was made of this. I don’t see it as a mis-step by Paul at all. He wouldn’t have viewed this as secret intel. I think Shotten was just covering his butt with John. This was a defensive maneuver on Pete’s part: Accuse Paul of manipulating you into saying something critical so that you can convince John that you were tricked into this “betrayal.” And doesn’t that say a lot about John’s “friendships” that he inspired such fear among his close friends.
Sneaky is Paul sending out anonymous postcards to people. This conversation with Pete? Isn’t sneaky or manipulative at all. In fact, it’s Paul being very upfront.
To quote from Shotton:
“Well, who am I to judge,” I said. “I think they’re both fantastic. But I supposed ‘Hey Jude’ sounds more commercial.”
When John joined us a moment later, Paul immediately blurted out: “Pete thinks ‘Hey Jude’ should be the A-side.”
That is just negative spin on Shotten’s part. In fact, Paul “took him aside” IN THE STUDIO and WITH JOHN THERE. It was not a secret conversation. It was Paul doing what Paul always did and asking people what they thought of a song. He went around for months playing people Yesterday, for example. Paul did that constantly with every song he wrote or the Beatles released, asking people what they thought and then sharing their responses with the band. For Paul this was just status quo. Pete chose to spin it as “sneaky” because he feared John’s wrath, not because Paul violated any confidence here.
Sorry but I simply disagree. IMO, this is not a confidential moment between Pete & Paul. It’s Paul asking about a song, as he’d asked Pete and dozens of other people hundreds of times before.
I think we may have gotten to the point where everyone needs to agree to disagree .
Having said that, given the pictures I’ve seen of Abbey Road, Studio Two looks like a pretty big room. I think its big enough that you could pull someone aside for a conversation that you believe will not be overheard and is presumed to be private.
I also think there’s a considerable amount of evidence arguing that Shotton was not afraid to stand up to John when he felt it was called for. (That’s actually how they became friends, with Pete taunting John and repeatedly calling him “Winnie,” after his middle name.)
Pete walked out on John when he felt that John and Yoko were treating him like hired help, rather than a friend, and John could be conciliatory towards Pete, even trying to broker some peace between Pete and Yoko when the two of them had a rather bad clash. I’m sure Pete picked his battles, but he was not afraid to challenge John when he felt the situation called for it.
“I also think there’s a considerable amount of evidence arguing that Shotton was not afraid to stand up to John when he felt it was called for. (That’s actually how they became friends, with Pete taunting John and repeatedly calling him “Winnie,” after his middle name.)
Pete walked out on John when he felt that John and Yoko were treating him like hired help, rather than a friend, and John could be conciliatory towards Pete, even trying to broker some peace between Pete and Yoko when the two of them had a rather bad clash. I’m sure Pete picked his battles, but he was not afraid to challenge John when he felt the situation called for it.”
Yes! And my reading is that Paul was frustrated and not thinking about the potential for any serious John and Pete fallout because they had a strong relationship and Pete didn’t seem afraid to stand up to him. And indeed, there wasn’t any serious fallout, since Pete says “nothing more was said.”
I feel like it’s possible, though, that one of the reasons Pete was so upset about it was because he was, at this point, a “paid employee.” Before the “Hey Jude” v. “Revolution” debate, he described his concern over what working for John would do to their friendship: “Our friendship, after all, had lasted twenty years largely because we’d always regarded one another, more or less, as equals. Now, for the first time, I was working directly for him; perhaps inevitably, I started to feel like a subordinate…I felt that this was adversely affecting my capacity to relate to John as I always had.” (165).
And then, still taking place before the A-side debate, there’s the description of what happened with John and Cynthia’s housekeeper, Dot, who got fired for telling Cynthia about the length/frequency of Yoko’s stays with John at their home. Pete says “Dot had always been treated very much as a member of the family. Her fatal mistake had been to take this status for granted, and to forget that she was, after all, John’s paid employee” (173).
Of course, Pete and John had been friends for a long time before Pete started working for John and John asked Pete not to quit when Pete was concerned about work having a negative impact on their relationship, so the situation is very different–Dot started as an employee who came to be seen as family. And yet, I could imagine seeing that in Pete’s position at the time (even though he’d offered to quit and later did) and feeling uneasy.
That is a great point, Lizzie, regarding Pete feeling that their dynamic had changed, however little either of them wanted it to, once Pete technically became John’s employee (even though a lot of his job seemed to simply be hanging out with John). It goes back to what Mike McCartney discussed, when he asserts that he doesn’t take money from Paul and, with the exception of in the band’s earliest days, never did: he was his own person.
Now that you mention it, I remember that story regarding Dot, the housekeeper. That really underscores for me how much instability Julian must have gone through: Parents divorcing, moving, and familiar figures (Dot) vanishing. That must have been a lot of abrupt, scary change for a six year old boy.
“Sneaky is Paul sending out anonymous postcards to people”
Holy **** yes. I forgot about that. Not only sneaky, but passive aggressive and slightly disturbed in my opinion. But I don’t think Paul was like this all his life. I think behavior like this comes from the drug use, drinking and the mega fame that the Beatles endured. I think it left all of them disturbed. Of course I could be wrong.
I wanted to add additional replies to your comments but WordPress only allows a total of 10 nested comments (which is sometimes why the reply button suddenly disappears.)
Lizzie, I remember reading about Paul’s observation about his own behaviour during the recording of I Wanna Hold Your Hand. What strikes me is Paul’s willingness to be self-evaluative; he obviously has received the feedback about his perfectionism and “bossyness”, and hasn’t dismissed it. I wonder if his band members would have been so inclined about their own short-comings.
I wonder the same, Karen! And I noticed his receptiveness to that as well–I think you could even see a bit of it in the Get Back/Let it Be tapes when he’s talking to George about how he’s coming across. I can’t remember now whether it’s also in MYFM, but he mentioned (somewhere! At some point!) that he did try to stop acting like a producer in in the Beatles days and backed off, only to have (I think it was Ringo?) asking him why he wasn’t doing it anymore and implying that he should be!
Below the comments from “Lou” on HeyDullblog re: Northern Songs. To add to it, Klein told John about Paul buying extra shares of Northern Songs, which caused John to blow up (whether Klein was honest about it being only 1000 shares or pretended like it was over 100,000 we don’t know). Klein admitted this to author Peter McCabe for his book on Apple in 1972. John Eastman told McCabe that they went after Klein for illegally withholding documents during the case; McCabe repeated those allegations to Klein. Klein admitted it but used the excuse that the Eastmans convinced Paul to go “behind John’s back” and buy extra shares of Northern Songs as his excuse for why he could withhold the documents.
Anyway, here’s Lou:
“First time poster here but I had to correct this inaccuracy and the presumption you make that the difference in shares is due to Paul’s secretly buying them up. This is yet another example of how Klein and the press, and John Lennon, colluded to unfairly smear McCartney. In fact, the difference in the number of shares between John and Paul is almost entirely due to the fact that Lennon had to sell over 100,000 of his shares to set up a $100,000 trust fund for Julian, which was part of the divorce settlement essential tot he case.
Paul’s “secret” purchase of “extra” shares amounted only to about 1,000 shares — in short LESS THAN 1 PERCENT of the total shares in Northern Shares. So much for McCartney’s “secret” campaign to seek “control” of Northern. Those 1,000 shares he bought amounted to nothing. And John had only himself and his divorce to blame for having 100,000 fewer shares than Paul.
Amazing how these facts are still misreported in people’s eagerness to make Paul the villain. Here’s a quote from one of many blog posts you can find explaining what really happened: “At the time of the bid, John held 650,000 shares, while Paul held 750,000 [the difference in holdings arose from the trust John set up at the time of his divorce for Cynthia and Julian]. — from a post on Rockmine.com about Northern songs. Most reporters/journalists don’t bother to check the legal documents to understand what happened with the shares. They just see that Paul has more and assume Paul secretly bought over 100,000 extra shares when he didn’t. […]
The point here: When Northern Songs went public (offered roughly 1 million or so shares to the public), the remaining shares were divided up between all the principals: James & Silver (937,500 shares each); Lennon & McCartney (750,000 shares each); and Harrison & Star (40,000 shares each).
So you see: Both Lennon and McCartney started with 750,000 shares. At the time of the big discovery that Paul was “secretly” buying shares, Paul had something like 751,000 shares — in short, only about 1,000 more than he’d started with.
But Lennon had only 644,000 (or 650,000, I’ve seen different numbers). So how did John LOSE shares when he started out with the same number as Paul: 750,000? It turns out that he or whoever was handling his money, used more than 100,000 of his Northern shares to set up a trust fund for Julian. So Paul’s WASN’T secretly purchased 100,000 shares to get one over on John — as the public (and perhaps John himself) was led to believe by Klein. John had lost shares due to his own divorce settlement and Paul barely had more than the 750,000 shares he and John started with.
It was Klein (and later, the smarmy Peter Brown) who exaggerated Paul’s purchase of these secret shares. And John either (due to his notorious confusion/ignorance about financial matters) didn’t understand that his own divorce caused him to lose 100,000 shares or maybe he did understand and was just petty enough to be pissed about 1,000 shares.”
Loving the independent research: Karen and I have decided that we’re going to move the whole “Northern Songs” issue onto its own independent post, but its going to require a little more detailed reading of certain books like Brown or McCabe on my part, so it might take a little time before we get it up. It’s such an interesting subject, we think it deserves its own thread, rather than being tacked onto this one.
Thanks, Erin and Karen! Looking forward to it.
Karen, you are an endless font of helpful information! One of my long term dreams would be not only to write something about Paul through the lens of his relationships with women, but now I really want to write a re-examination of Oliver Stone through the lens of the PTSD he suffered from, which is why I’m trying to learn more about it. I’m so thankful you shared your expertise (I saved it in my notes!).
Interesting, I’m running into a lot of proposed correlation with concussions – TBIs – and combat PTSD in my research so far, too, which I find interesting because Stone suffered from at least one – but probably two from his description – during the war. Of course the significance of concussions and their dangers has really only been recognized in the past ten years or so, so the possible impact on his life and (sometimes outrageous) behavior has been completely ignored. At the time people were just “knocked out” and it was considered no big deal. Soldiers typically wouldn’t seek treatment for it (I also have an anecdote from someone who talked about riding horses in the 1990s with Stone when he got knocked off and hit his head. He was disoriented and confused for several hours, according to the friend, entirely forgetting that he had just finished the movie JFK, but no medical treatment was apparently sought because he “came out of it.” So make that three probable concussions.)
I read Romeo Dallaire’s book a long time ago – I should re-read it!
My pleasure, Rose. 🙂
I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to read studies published on on the NCBI site, but here’s an interesting article about PSTD and TBI.
Karen, that is such an incredibly helpful article, thank you! This is amazing and exactly the stuff I’m looking for: “One of the intriguing findings in recent years is that MTBI appears to increase the risk for PTSD. For example, Fann and colleagues reported from a large-scale study of 939 health plan members that patients with a history of mild TBI were 2.8 times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder than patients with no TBI history.77 In a large military survey, whereas 16% of troops who sustained a bodily injury indicated PTSD, 44% of those with MTBI screened positive for PTSD.”
As a side note, it’s rather to startling to see the thought that TBI’s were thought to prevent PTSD with the reasoning that, “If you were knocked out, you don’t have memory of the traumatic event so no PTSD!”
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I’m glad you liked the article, Rose. There are lots on that website.
Well it kind of makes sense I guess, because if you were entirely unconscious, you wouldn’t have experienced the requisite flight/fight/flee response, which is key to jumpstarting the whole process. However, the start point and end point of a traumatic event isn’t carved in stone. A vet who hears an explosion, is rendered unconscious, then wakes up in a hospital with his legs blown off can experience PTSD just as legitimately as the vet who was conscious through the entire event.
The more I think about it, though, the more I think their experience of Beatlemania became more and more a perceived physical threat.
I remember (was it in Anthology?) a story about their plane having bullet holes during the first American tour of the south. And there’s a clip of them onstage, jumping in horror after a “fan” tossed a firecracker at them. They thought it was a gunshot. There were death threats, crazed fans, the whole nightmare in the Philippines…
Years later, what must have gone through George’s mind the night that guy got into his house and almost stabbed him to death? That fear was probably something they all carried in the backs of their minds, despite all the smiles. And of course, Lennon’s fate.
That could certainly trigger anxiety reactions and even anxiety disorders, but doesn’t meet the clinical qualifiers of PTSD.
Edited to Add: I’m speaking of Beatlemania, not George’s attack.
First, I have to say how much I enjoy this blog. The Beatles story is just so fascinating. This is my first entry here. Regarding Paul’s “sneaky” nature, what about the reason he didn’t attend their 1988 induction ceremony into the Rock Hall of Fame and cheated us from seeing a reunion of the existing members? Paul had just prior negotiated a new recording contract that included EMI providing a higher royalty percentage on sales of all his existing recordings including the Beatles catalog. The other three sued him because of this preferential royalty. The reality was Paul’s higher rate came from EMI profits……EMI ate the difference. Although I don’t know the details for all this, the fact of a lawsuit leads me to believe the negotiations/terms were very hushed to avoid somehow having to open negotiations with all of them and then the others didn’t find out until it was announced. The new contract was a smart business deal for both Paul and EMI but he must have known Yoko wouldn’t let this happen without confrontation. Thus, Paul decided not to attend the induction due to friction of the lawsuit. He did, however, attend his individual 1999 induction.
Welcome, SAK! I’m glad you enjoy the blog.
I think numerous posters are right: every Beatle has moments in their lives we could regard as sneaky: everyone does sneaky things (I gave an example of my own sneaky behavior on an earlier post, but it wasn’t the only incidence).
The main debate seems to be rather Paul was unfairly identified as sneaky, due to his own description of himself in The Authorized Bio regarding the curtains issue, and whether there are enough instances to determine that Paul is any more sneaky than your average human being and/or Beatle.
I’ve always found the EMI percentages/R&RHOF ceremony particularly intriguing. I believe the first detailed description I got of that was in Doggett, and my recollection is that Doggett rather bends over backwards to view it from Paul’s POV. He argues that 1. Paul was under no legal obligation to inform the other Beatles of this increased percentage, and 2. Paul may have very well felt he was compensating himself for the fifteen million dollar settlement all four Beatles had paid Allen Klein (and which Yoko had negotiated) in the late 70s, considering he had never wanted Klein as manager in the first place. But I suppose the issue is whether its excessively sneaky and/or displays a pattern of sneakiness the others don’t.
One things that I’ve always been rather curious about regarding the R&RHOF: Paul was evidently aware of Jann Wenner’s disdain for him — he talks about never expecting a fair shake from Wenner in the most recent Wenner bio. Given that, I wonder if Paul’s refusal to show up at the HOF ceremony also had something to do with the poor relations between the two, given that it was Wenner’s pet project. Not that it was his primary motivation, but rather a “I’m already in a spat with the others, and I don’t particularly want to go spend an evening watching Wenner pushing the “John was the only Beatle that mattered” line of thinking.
Sak: It’s amusing to me that George & Ringo — who refused to be represented by the Eastmans — had an absolute cow when the Eastmans negotiated a higher royalty fee (actually it was for Capital Records, not EMI) for Paul. That “raise” was based mostly on the fact that Paul had earned Capital a fortune from his solo albums (5 No. 1 albums in a row).
The idea that somehow the Eastmans were supposed to get this deal for George & Ringo, too, is the height of chutzpah. Basically it was then saying to the Eastmans: We don’t want you rep’ing us — unless you get a great deal for Paul and then we want you to include us and we are outraged and betrayed that you don’t! 🙂
I don’t think the expectation was that the Eastman’s would actually negotiate these same terms for George and Ringo. That would, as you said, be the height of absurdity, given their previous rejection of the Eastman’s (and Paul’s 1971 comments that the Eastman’s wouldn’t take the other three Beatles, even if they left Klein and asked the Eastman’s to manage them). I think their gripe was that they wanted the Eastman’s and/or Paul to say: “We’ve negotiated this better rate with EMI: why don’t you guys see if you can get that same, better rate too.” Now the interpretation of how reasonable an expectation that was seems to vary from person to person: Doggett, at least, seems to view it as pretty unreasonable on their part.
“think their gripe was that they wanted the Eastman’s and/or Paul to say: “We’ve negotiated this better rate with EMI: why don’t you guys see if you can get that same, better rate too.” Now the interpretation of how reasonable an expectation that was seems to vary from person to person: Doggett, at least, seems to view it as pretty unreasonable on their part”
I agree with Doggett. The Eastmans didn’t owe them anything. Why on earth would they feel any need or obligation to alert them to this information?? I still think this is the height of absurdity on their part. As for Paul himself, perhaps he should have as a friend, told them about these negotiations. However he didn’t seem to be in friend mode regarding this. There could be many reasons. I’ve noticed that after the breakup the Beatles seemed to fluctuate drastically, in their friendly feelings toward each other. This might have been during a time when Paul may have been annoyed with them about something and decided not to tell them. No one can be sure what was going on behind the scenes. It could also have been that he didn’t want Yoko to know. In those days he was always justifiably angry with her about something. He and George used to fall out regularly as well.
I think that’s a really interesting point: what do the Eastman’s owe Yoko, George, and Ringo? I’m inclined to agree with Linda (and Doggett) and say nothing. The Eastman’s made their pitch, and the other three chose Klein. Fair enough: That was their choice. Relations quickly soured, with Klein admitting that he refused to share necessary legal documents with them (a revelation that, when John and George hear Klein admit it in Apple to the Core, they laugh at); the other three swiftly fired the Eastman’s as their legal counsel soon after Klein became manager, and John and Yoko, in particular, went on a press offensive insulting the Eastman family’s background and bourgeoise aspirations as primary reasons for the band breaking up. By November 1971, Paul is stating in interviews that, contrary to Klein’s claims that the Eastman’s are still conspiring to ‘get’ the other three, Lee and John wouldn’t touch John, George and Ringo with a ten foot pole. If you are John or Lee Eastman, is any of that going to inspire you to feel any sort of reciprocal obligation towards any of the other ex-Beatles? I think not.
Erin, thanks for insight regarding Wenner and Paul’s absence from the 1988 RHOF induction. RS was certainly John’s mouthpiece during the aftermath. But I should have figured this out myself. Living in Cleveland, I keenly follow RHOF activities. I feel there are several very deserving artists who just never, ever get close to induction. Almost to the point where I tell myself “somebody” has it in for them for some reason. But not a fit discussion for this blog……………
Ooh, you’re from Cleveland! Thank you for Travis Kelce. He’s a great tight end.
Both Robert Draper’s The Uncensored History of Rolling Stone and Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers do an excellent job of discussing how Rolling Stone, to a considerable extent, was expected to promote Wenner’s POV of certain artists. The hall is also involved in this, obviously, but my understanding is that the nomination and voting process there is deliberately opaque.
I’m not really all that versed in the R&RHOF: I’d love to go some day, just to evaluate it from a historian’s perspective: which artists are they including? Who are they leaving out? Are they acknowledging contradictory accounts?
I’m guessing that’s a football reference. 😉
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame needs to be blown up and resconstituted with transparent rules and more narrowly defined parameters of who gets voted in, IMO. It’s rendered itself practically meaningless.
You can read it as a football reference if you want to. (Whistles innocently).
That very opacity is combined with the issue that the voters who vote to induct someone into the R&RHOF are overwhelmingly of one demographic: white, male, and old. One of the most recent female artists inducted said in her acceptance speech, point blank, that they need to induct more women.
Right, Janet Jackson. Some of the inductees I’ve never heard of. I know I’m showing my age, but who the heck is The Paul Butterfield Blues Band?
” who the heck is The Paul Butterfield Blues Band?”
Aren’t they a group from the late 60’s? Around 1969?
If you say so 🤔😀.
Geez. How old are you? Or maybe too much strawberry wine and you missed their set at Woodstock (the first one). I think maybe what you actually mean is you are too young.
Approaching my mid-60’s so certainly not too young, but I’ll take that as an excuse any day.
Kidding aside, my point was that, IMO, bands who get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should have universal name recognition. If you say “Beatles”, “Rolling Stones,” etc I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of them or knows a song or two. Don’t think the same can be said of Butter-whats-his-name. 🙂
Paul Butterfield was very highly regarded blues harmonica player who emerged during the popular blues explosion of the mid to late 1960s. He was inducted into the blues hall of fame long before the RRHF. Influential, soulful player.
I’ve no doubt that Butterfield deserves all the accolades he’s received. My comment about him was really a tongue-in-cheek comment about the selection criteria used by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has kind of been a moving target over the years.
Not sure he was highly thought of. Kelsey was star quarterback on some pretty bad high school teams in a so-so conference. Heights High doesn’t have much of a football program. Maybe shows what dedication, hard work and coaching can do.
I’m glad he wasn’t too terribly well thought of: that allowed the Chiefs to pick him up in the third round. (Well, that and some bone-headed decisions on his part when he was in college). He has thankfully calmed a bit: for the first few years you could bet on him picking up a personal foul virtually every other game. He’s fun to watch.
Paul is a diplomat, but there are times when obnoxious people can get on his nerves.
I don’t know how Paul or other well-known public entertainers do it. I would be pulling a Greta Garbo in a heartbeat. I’d never make a good celebrity.
Oh, there’s a far worse one:
I remember seeing that one. Paul showed amazing restrainst and was pretty classy, IMO. Self-entitled idiots with cameras are never a good mix.
Hi Erin & Karen. I wanted to draw your attention to a problem with the blog’s comments system.
When you have multiple threaded replies, each reply is indented further to the right. On mobile devices (I’m on an iPhone), once you get into the 4th or 5th level of replies, only one word is displayed at a time, because the thread has moved so far over to the right. It makes it impossible to read a big chunk of the comments.
I’ve taken a pic – hopefully this link will work, if not I can email it to you. https://share.icloud.com/photos/0izqumMARcg5Hm6IWwpdLb0Hw
The easiest thing to do here is set the blog to only allow, say, a thread depth of 3. It’s a pain though cos this site has so many interesting discussions in threads, and that will limit them a little. It used to be in settings > discussion, then “other comment options”; it might be different on your setup.
Other than that there’s no easy way around the problem: threaded comments are indented to show they’re replies, and so the “one word per line” issue will always occur on mobile screens.
I absolutely love the blog. I’m a mostly silent reader who followed you over from Dullblog, and I’m really glad to hear more women’s voices discussing the Beatles – women’s voices have been so deeply missing for so long and yet as you’ve shown in your book and as this blog’s comments always show, those voices are vital and bring something new to the discussion.
Thanks for commenting, and for letting us know about the issue. I will defer to Karen on the indentation aspect, and see what ideas she has to address the problem, as she is the nuts and bolts brain behind the scenes keeping the blog running. I’m sure she’ll take the issue into account.
Feel free to comment on other issues if you like; we welcome comments. Having said that, I’m also a lurker by nature, so if remaining silent works best for you, you don’t have to feel pressured to participate. I’m glad to hear you enjoy the blog, and that you think we’re bringing something vital to the discussion. Hopefully a new review will be up within a week; you may read and comment, or read and ruminate, as you please.
Sorry for the late reply. Sometimes Erin and I miss comments when one of us approves it before we see it in the queue.
Originally I had the nestled threads set at a lower threshhold, but it was too restrictive. I know that this screws up the view on a mobile device, but that was a deliberate choice I made to ensure that commentary was not getting closed off arbitarily.
I just discovered your blog and have really enjoyed the discussion I’ve read so far. I’ve had my copy of “Tune In” sitting around for a few years now and decided that I would actually get around to reading it so I picked it up over the weekend. For some reason, I just started flipping through it and reading random things instead of starting at the beginning. After reading for awhile I found myself thinking that I detected the usual Lennon bias, but then I thought that maybe I was just being overly sensitive. So it was nice to read that others had the same perception I did. I still plan to give the book a proper reading though. I only have the regular edition. I may spring for the extended version depending on how well I like this book. I looked online but couldn’t find anything comparing the two editions. Does anyone feel the extended edition is worth the extra money?
Just finished reading “Tune In” first time. Used Kindle, I think must be regular version. Only one anti-Paul thing annoyed me. I recall at least twice, Paul’s Hofner violin bass guitar is described as “cheap.” OK, maybe it was inexpensive and maybe even poorly made. But say what you what you want, there’s no doubt that guitar was and remains a huge visual part of the early Beatles’ and Paul’s presentation. I almost can’t picture him with anything else. (In later years he did use a Rickenbacker). As a side note, during the mid-sixties, the neighborhood music shop here had a Hofner violin bass in their glass display. I remember it being in a blue velvet lined case. Us kids rode our bikes there at least once a week to look. Not sure why, none of us were musically inclined or could afford to buy it (cheap as it was). But it was just like Paul’s and that’s all that mattered.
To each his own, but I don’t see the description of the Hofner as “cheap” as being anti-Paul: I think Lewisohn heavily borrowed from Babuik’s The Beatles Gear for his discussion on the band’s instruments, and I think Babuik uses the same description. It was cheap, which is what makes its iconic, priceless status that much more amusing to me. I went to my one and only Paul concert a few years ago, and, at the point when Paul just held up the Hofner to a thunderous applause, I found myself thinking, rather morbidly, about what was going to happen to that instrument once he dies, and how much it was worth, and how many museums around the world would kill to have that on display.
During concerts, over the years, Paul would often toss the Hofner over to his assistant (Jon Hammel I think) always getting gasps from the audience! I saw him a few weeks ago in Greenville and I don’t think he did the iconic guitar raises as much as he did in the past, at least I didn’t notice. I will ask my friend about it. It seems like he used to raise whichever guitar he was playing up after every song.
Thanks for commenting. Our little blog here keeps growing. Which is rather remarkable, given how sporadically I update.
I like how you flipped through the book randomly before plugging away at it: I never simply open a book and start reading it, either. With fiction, I flip through it to see if a sentence or phrase catches my eye. With Lewiohn, I did what I do with every Beatles book: I flipped immediately to the back, and started looking at his sources, citation and notes. That’s the foundation for everything else. Authorial interpretation is subject, but sources — that’s what really gets my blood pumping. And sources can inspire just as fierce debates among historians as interpretation can. There was a great article regarding this recently in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/08/martin-luther-king-david-garrow-essay-claims
It’s been years since I read “Tune In,” either edition, and I’d want to take a closer look at it myself before making any conclusions on whether Lewisohn leans towards any particular Beatle. From what I remember, My two biggest issues with Lewisohn were both methodological: there’s a chapter — after the band returns from Hamburg for the first time — which seemed to me was extremely dependent upon a single source, Bob Wooler, for that time in the band’s lives. That sent up a red flag for me. Not that Wooler is a terribly unreliable source, but when you have a significant period of time or development relying almost entirely on a singular source, that should always send up a red flag. That’s particularly important if you’re dealing with a controversial period of time or contested event — like, say, The Lost Weekend. Now, to Lewisohn’s credit, that’s not a contested period, and perhaps my memory is inflating how much the chapter relied on Wooler. But it was enough that, when reading it for the first time, I remember thinking: “If this was a research paper, I’d be marking ‘use other sources’ in the margins.”
The second was his failure to apply source analysis to “Lennon Remembers.” It’s a source he uses/cites very early on — within the first ten pages, I think, and multiple times throughout. But he, as I recall, doesn’t apply any analysis to it. That was disappointing, particularly as 1. he did apply source analysis to other, less important and utilized interviews (and I enjoyed his analysis, and found it spot on) and 2. other authors — MacDonald, Hertsgaard, Doggett, etc. — had all, by the time “Tune In” was published, noted that LR is an inconsistent and not entirely accurate version of the breakup and the band. That was probably the biggest disappointment in “Tune In” for me. In fact, while we have Lewisohn on record discussing “Shout!” and some of its issues, I don’t think we have him discussing “Lennon Remembers” in interviews — at least, not in any of the ones I’ve heard. And I’d very much like to hear his evaluation of it as source.
That was a very interesting article, Erin. I happened to read a story about this King allegation online (the Daily Mail perhaps) and I immediately thought to myself that it might have been a bit suspect since I’d always heard the FBI was out to get him. I think now more than ever, when so many of us might not read beyond the Internet headlines, we really need to examine sources more carefully.
There was a time when I just automatically purchased any Beatles related bio I stumbled across. Now I try to be more selective. I love that you check out the sources, that is something I should do. My current thing seems to be checking if it is what I call a Paul-bashing book or not! I have enough of those in my collection already. I love John (George and Ringo too) but feel that Paul has gotten most of the rotten press over the years.
I think Lizzie and Louann in this thread covered many of the things about “Tune In” that made me feel it was a bit anti-Paul. Hopefully, I won’t feel that way on a more complete reading.
I’ve got the British version of Mike’s The Macs (Thank U Very Much) and two other books by Mike in my collection. I’ll try to take a look at those tonight and give you my thoughts.
I’m so glad you liked the article, Claudia. I particularly enjoyed the fierce debate regarding the validity of the FBI’s (an organization that was hardly impartial on King) anonymous/unverifiable documents and using them to argue this version of King. But that’s the stuff that I geek out on.
Checking out the sources is, for me, one of the best parts of the book. What are your other books by Mike, if you don’t mind my asking?
The other two books by Mike I have are “Mike Mac’s White and Blacks (Plus One Color – An Intimate Portrait of Liverpool in the ’60’s)” (1986) and “Remember (Recollections and Photographs of the Beatles)” (1992.) Both are photo books with commentary by Mike. “Remember” is the larger of the two books, giving a better presentation of the photos and more commentary. There is some overlap between the two books but not too much.
Mike has some great photos of young Paul and the Beatles in the early days. Both books focus mostly on the early 60’s but “Remember” has some photos Mike took on the set of “Help.”
Not sure if anyone is interested but I did catch one of Mike’s photo exhibits when I went to see Paul perform in Liverpool in 2003. My notes say the photos were mostly not related to the Beatles but there was one photo of George Harrison and several of Jim McCartney. There was one picture that I found touching which was a photograph of a photo of (mother) Mary McCartney that was leaning against a large clock. Mike’s caption said that Mary had borrowed money from a friend and left the clock with her until she could pay her back. However, Mary died before she could repay the loan. After many years, the clock was returned to the McCartney family and Mike propped a photograph of Mary against the clock and took a picture. I was told Paul attended the exhibit the day after I did (bad timing on my part!)
Thanks so much for the titles on Mike’s other books: I’ll see if I can get them on inter-library loan. Your summary makes them sound very interesting, and I did appreciate Mike’s wry commentary in “The Macs.” I’d enjoy more of it.
I’ve just read your book and thought it was wonderful and much-needed, for both fans to teach them how to read books on the Beatles critically, and for writers to show them how their work should be evaluated. I’m a fan of history. A few years ago I read Robert Caro’s book on Robert Moses, as well all of his volumes (so far) on Lyndon Johnson. I was well aware of Mark Lewisohn and had read most of his books at that point, but it was still a huge and glorious shock to read Tune In and recognize a talent commensurate with Caro’s in ambition, scope, work ethic, and detail. His work truly puts the work of so many previous authors of Beatle books to shame (I believe he is too kind to Philip Norman because he once worked for the man and doesn’t want to appear too nasty to the hand that fed him).
Regarding his coverage of Mary McCartney’s vs Julia Lennon’s death, the latter death was simply a longer, more complex story to tell, with tragic repercussions beyond simply John losing his mother. Lewisohn revealed for the first time that Bobby Dykins’s DUI arrest set in motion a series of events (which John was probably never aware of) that led her to be visiting Mimi in the first place, and having to use public transportation precisely because Dykins’s car was no longer at her disposal. The story has crushing final results in that Julia’s children with Dykins (who, like Paul and Mike McCartney, were never straight out told that their mother had died until some time had passed) lost both their mother AND their father, because it was discovered in the aftermath of Julia’s death that she and Dykins were never married and he therefore was awarded no right to see his children. (Lewisohn notes that in only two weeks Dykins lost his job, his car, his wife, and his children.) It’s a fascinating, awful, and tragic story that simply took a lot more space in the book to tell, as compared to Mary McCartney’s death. I didn’t get a sense that Lewisohn was giving short shrift to Paul’s loss; it was just a shorter story, and Paul commented on it in later years much less than John did, just because Paul in general is not as open about his inner feelings, or at least doesn’t talk about them with the regularity and intensity with which Lennon did.
It’s always a pleasure to meet with another fan of history. In all honesty, I have not yet read Caro’s work on Johnson, for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the obvious quality of the work. My area of history tends to focus on particular subjects — the American Revolution, the early Cold War, aspects of the American Civil War, the Anglo-American relationship in WWII — that don’t really fall under Johnson’s era. Having said that, his works are on my to-read list, although when I will have the chance to go through them is anyone’s guess.
I think your observation regarding Lewisohn and Norman is an interesting one, and one that I don’t think gets quite enough attention in Beatles historiography: to extrapolate it out from just the example of Norman and Lewisohn, because they are only one example, the reality is that almost all of these Beatles authors know one another, in some cases for decades. They see each other at conferences or Beatlesfests or review one another’s books, which is to be expected given the relative niche aspect of the subject. Do those personal/professional relationships, some of which have existed for decades, have an impact on their analysis of each other’s work? How does it impact, for example, their book reviews or interview statements? With Lewisohn, his pattern that I have observed is to, when pointedly asked about something as flawed as Shout!, acknowledge that it is flawed, (but tend not be specific about it) whereas, in the case of The Lives of John Lennon, specify its flaws (selection of evidence) while noting its strengths (research). In other interviews, he has highly praised works such as Babiuk’s The Beatles Gear, which tend to be reference works that he himself uses in books such as Tune In, but for the most part, has declared that he doesn’t really read many other recent Beatles group or individual biographies, which is an issue I find fascinating, and slightly troublesome, because I would argue that keeping abreast of the current historiography is crucial.
As for the issue regarding Lewisohn’s coverage of Mary McCartney’s death, as opposed to the greater coverage merited Julia Lennon’s, you do make an excellent point regarding the complexity of Julia’s, as opposed to Mary’s (although, again, that presumes that the claim by Paul’s Auntie Dill that Mary was diagnosed when Paul was six is utterly without merit). I greatly appreciated Lewisohn’s coverage of the event on Julia and Jackie, whose grief I felt had been almost virtually ignored by previous authors, and who experienced an additional trauma that John, at least, at 17, did not: not being told the fate of their mother and losing their home and life in abrupt, tragic fashion. (Again, its problematic to judge the handling of the event by today’s standards, but not being told that Julia was dead and having their life upended with no explanation is seemingly heaping trauma on trauma). One of the things I appreciated regarding Lewisohn’s work was his coverage of areas that I thought had not received enough attention in previous works of Beatles historiography, such as his thorough depiction of Ringo’s health struggles, or growing up in the Dingle.
For what its worth, I’ve corresponded with someone who says they have emailed with Lewisohn regarding the discrepancy in coverage between Mary McCartney’s death and Julia Lennon’s, and their version is that Lewisohn is aware of the criticism, but declares that he covered Mary McCartney’s death and its aftermath to the best of his ability; once he said all he thought there was to be said on it, he considered himself done.
In some ways, Lewisohn could be regarded as paying for the sins of previous Beatles writers, some-to-most of whom have grossly undervalued the trauma and impact and coverage of Mary McCartney’s death on Paul ,while repeatedly emphasizing the impact of Julia Lennon’s on John. Peter Brown springs to mind: He rarely misses an opportunity to explain John’s erratic, emotional or self-destructive behavior without noting the trauma of Julia’s death, but not once offers any sort of admission that Paul’s mother’s death was also traumatic and/or presumably also impacted his behavior and decisions and character flaws. (We had a poster who noted how the lack of information regarding Mary’s death — that she was sick; what she died from; where she was buried, etc.) — would all go a fairly long way towards explaining or intensifying Paul’s “control freak” perfectionistic tendencies: having been left in the dark regarding the most traumatic event of his life, he would do everything possible to not be caught unawares again.
I tried to say it in my SATB podcast, but it came out bungled, so here goes: according to many Beatles authors, their coverage of the deaths of Julia Lennon and Mary McCartney boils down to this summary: “John’s mother died in a traumatic accident when he was 17, and so now the author is going to discuss, throughout the book, how it impacted him (emotionally, socially, psychologically, with women, with mother figures, with Yoko, in his art, sense of self-worth, fear of abandonment, etc) numerous times over the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Paul’s mother died suddenly from cancer when he was fourteen. He responded by playing guitar a lot, writing the achingly obvious “I lost my Little Girl,” and the shared loss bonded him and John. Now moving on to the next topic, because the emotional/social/psychological/maternal/artistic impact of Mary McCartney’s death on Paul will not receive any or nearly the same amount of coverage as occurred with John.” I don’t believe Lewisohn’s work tilted to that extreme; however, I still recall my disappointment when reading Tune In that I felt that the event hadn’t received its due.
This is fascinating, Matt; thanks for sharing it. It indeed adds to the tragedy.
That brings up a psychological/emotional point I’ve never considered before, Karen: how much difference would anger/blame play in grieving?
John may not have known about the chain of events caused by Dykins DUI, but he certainly bore ill will towards the patrolman and the police following his mother’s death: Pete Shotton talks about that (it made it slightly awkward, Pete’s joining the police). Practically, if not legally, he had a cause he could blame or point to and say: “You are the reason my mother’s dead.”
Paul, on the other hand, has no one individual or event to blame or be angry at: Mary died of cancer, which he wasn’t even told until a decade later, although he obviously knew she was sick. I’m trying to wrack my brain for my rudimentary psychology understanding; I seem to recall anger being one of the stages of grief. Does having a focal point for that anger, such as John, perpetuate that stage? Would John have reacted similarly if the script were flipped, and it was Mary who was killed by a car and Julia killed by cancer? Or is it too relative a question?
Good question, Erin.
I think John would have been angry even if Julia died of cancer, but certainly her sudden loss through something as avoidable and random as being struck by a car may have seened particularly unfair.
The source of John’s anger was set years before, when the mother/infant attachment process was already damaged. Children like John who experience multiple primary caregivers at a young age, whose bond with their primary caregiver is continually disrupted, whose basic safety and security needs go unmet, tend to have a difficult time developing emotional regulation. There are reports of John being kicked out of nursery school for anger issues and acting out behaviour, which I think was a harbinger of things to come.
(As an aside–I’ve always been annoyed by Bill Harry’s comments about John’s behaviour re Julia’s death. To paraphrase, his opinion was that many children lost their parents during the war and they survived, so John just needed to get on with it. The fact of the matter was that John’s behaviour was actually his attempt to “get on with it.” The reason it was so maladaptive was because John simply hadn’t acquired the tools to cope. It would be a wonderful world indeed if all children, regardless of their individual circumstances, were able to bounce back from hardship and tragedy without a scratch.)
I totally agree that the impacts of Mary’s death on Paul has been essentially ignored by most writers, particularly the hugest one of all (brought up Lewisohn): Jim really had his hands full with providing and caring for two adolescent boys after she died (and he did get a lot of help from the extended family). Had Mary lived, it’s highly possible she would have exercised a more disciplined approach in bringing up Paul and not allowed him to go wild and spend so much time with that maniacal Lennon kid and his silly band (I forget who he quoted about this). That point alone puts Lewisohn’s analysis of Mary’s death miles ahead of anyone else’s. And yes, Erin, you are right. I think Lewisohn IS getting criticism that is better aimed at the writers who came before him.
I don’t blame Lewisohn for not reading the Beatles literature that’s come out in recent years: he’s busy doing a monumental amount of research. (I’m an archivist and I had a brief chat with him in Toronto, and he expressed to me the joys of doing work in places like the British Library and the New York Public Library, where they maintain such strong collections.) If any other author is doing research to that level and publishing history and interpretation based on it, sure, Lewisohn should check it out. But let’s be honest: at the moment, nobody else is. I do look forward to other researchers being able to do work based on Lewisohn’s files, which he has promised to donate to BL once he’s finished. Now THAT’S good researcher/author citizenship.
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Thanks for this post, love this blog.
I’ve recently finished reading Tune In Vol 1 and definitely spotted what I thought to be instances where Lewisohn’s bias towards Lennon came through. One of more egregious instances included a passage quoting one of John’s fans stating “There is a big difference in intelligence and lively outlook in the girls who like John and those who go for the other Beatles…” to which Lewinsohn qualifies this as “broadly correct”…
There’s also a consistent way that Lewisohn frames all the relationships as revolving around John (who Lewisohn never fails to state is the leader and the one whose opinion doubles as the Beatles’ opinion) especially once Ringo joins.
I broadly enjoyed the book and enjoyed the extra context brought to the Beatles’ early story but I’m definitely worried that the bias will only grow as the story progresses. Fingers crossed that Lewisohn’s uncritical use of a John quote from Lennon Remembers to explain Paul’s aversion to Brian isn’t a sign of what we can expect especially when the story gets to more contentious ground.
Thanks for the reply. Now that you mention it, I do remember Lewisohn’s agreement with the female John’s fan’s judgement on the superior intelligence of John’s female fans, as opposed to the female fans of the other Beatles, because it seemed to me he had no basis to make that judgement. (Plus, wasn’t Mimi included in that issue as well? I seem to remember a female John fan essentially saying that the female John fans were smarter, and Mimi, of course, agreed, which is understandable and, well, sourced). But Lewisohn’s agreement with that assessment made me raise an eyebrow, because it’s a sweeping generalization for which he provides no other evidence: to state the crushingly obvious, of course a female John fan is going to assign intellectual superiority to female John fans, as opposed to George or Paul or Ringo fans, and of course Mimi would agree with that assessment, because it reflects well on John. But I’d prefer to have some more impartial, outside voices weighing in before the author makes a statement like that.
To extrapolate out from that, I find it seriously flawed when any author who assigns certain characteristics/personalities/levels of intelligence to fans based upon their Beatles preference. That’s an issue that’s been infused with implicit sexism (boys liked John for intelligent reasons; girls liked Paul for shallow ones) and dates back to the coverage of female fans in general. (Let’s portray Beatles female fans as shrieking hysterical females without a brain in their heads). But then, I have a problem in general with making sweeping assumptions of large groups of people based on small sample sizes, which is something that happens across the board and across many fandoms (i.e. all Patriots fans are arrogant jerks (and no, I’m not a Pats fan)).
Thanks for taking the time out to respond.
Yep I guess no book is perfect but hope Lewisohn steers clear of sweeping generalisations and patchy source analysis in the later volumes!
I didn’t know (or forgot) that Lewisohn seconded that perception regarding the superior intelligence of John’s female fans based on, well, nothing. A rather unusual speculative comment cloaked as fact–and, coming from a seasoned researcher, kind of a mindbender. I have this fantasy that we (we, meaning you) can have a conversation/podcast/email Q and A with Lewisohn to answer these questions.
In your spare time, of course. 😉
I’d love to do a Q&A with Lewisohn, Karen.