Erin spoke with Nate Wilcox from the Let It Roll Podcast about the “four major narratives that have dominated Beatles history: The Fab Four Myth, Lennon Remembers, Shout! and the Mark Lewisohn era.”
Here’s the podcast, for your listening enjoyment.Looking forward to your comments, as always.
13 thoughts on “Podcast with Nate Wilcox”
Thanks for coming on the show Erin, enjoyed the discussion.
I did too, Nate. I really appreciated your point about what you were taught as a student in Texas in the 1970s regarding the American Civil War as a war of Northern Aggression: it’s a discussion we’ve had here before, about how original narratives are almost always incomplete and, in the case of the American Civil War, very heavily politicized. And the Beatles discussion was good, too.
A transcript for those of us w/ hearing issues would be nice.
Thanks for this interesting Beatles blog!
I’m afraid a transcript is something I don’t have the time to supply, deidre: perhaps Nate might have some ideas? And thanks for commenting: glad you found the blog.
Another great interview, Erin.
One of the important things you referenced toward the end of the interview (and one which I think is often overlooked) is how social phenomena are shaped by popular media, which in turn acts as a kind of lightening rod to reflect the broader social/cultural context. The Beatles’ hair, for example, was considered long by 1963 standards but not by 1973 standards. Their music was cutting edge in 1963 but the same songs were naive 10 years later. The list goes on and on. Brian Epstein did a masterful job enabling the Beatles’ collective originality while simultaneously keeping an eye on the social context in which it could best flourish.
That old adage “an idea whose time has come” is so relevant here, I think.
A bit late to the party, but thank you so much for this wonderfully informative and balanced podcast.
Something else to consider as a significant factor in the break-up is the influence of external people: lawyers, associates and the like; Klein sacking a sizeable proportion of those working at Apple (whom the Beatles had come to know) and replacing them with ‘his people’; the subsequent change in workplace dynamics and onset of a culture of paranoia and suspicion making ‘the office’ somewhere the Beatles did not want to be (there are quotes alluding to this which I can’t find, but do remember). In any case, the negative impact of ‘outsiders’ on the relationships between the Beatles has been mentioned by all four.
There’s this interesting little video where Paul touches on this topic around 9:20 minute mark (I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but posting here for anyone who hasn’t) and he says that he met with John in New York and John had said to him, “Do people turn you against me, like people turn me against you?”
I feel the sentiment John is expressing here is a fairly unexplored and possibly underestimated component of the break-up. Elsewhere in the video, Paul seems positive, excited even, at the prospect of writing with George, which he says he’s never done before, and getting together with both George and Ringo. Someone suggests including Julian Lennon and he doesn’t seem against the idea. I really wish that had happened!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think your discussion of external forces and outsiders coming in with Klein is a crucial, and often overlooked, aspect of the souring of relations. Certainly a valid argument could be made that Apple did need to replace certain workers ands streamline departments — Richard DiLello’s account of his time as apple’s house hippie would convince anyone of that — but Klein bringing in his employees, loyal to him, rather than the Beatles, didn’t help the already fraught business situation. That Klein wanted to get rid of competent employees, such as Peter Asher, also indicates that his business style was more interested in shoring up his own power, even if it came at the expense of losing excellent employees that didn’t pass his loyalty litmus test.
Their own ignorance of business and finance and law is, I think, a pretty crucial issue here as well. The outsiders and Klein are able to play John and Paul (and George) against one another in part because they themselves are not professional businessmen/lawyers, etc. Experts in their various fields are telling each of them things that the Beatles themselves have not studied and/or are not familiar with, and sometimes those experts are telling them precisely what they think their respective Beatle wants to hear, spinning facts and numbers in not necessarily accurate ways.
Thanks for your comment and the link, M. I’ve read that a few times in interviews which John gave shortly after the breakup and I can’t recall any bio really exploring that issue. It’s a shame that, given John’s awareness that outsiders were conspiring to divide and conquer, he nevertheless seemed to be unduly influenced by it.
I stated this elsewhere here but to a child of the dark and dismal post World War 2 atmosphere with it’s monthly air raid sirens reminding a child that he could be obliterated by the adults running the world there weren’t many healthy male role models. Almost all of them were carrying guns ( I saw Joseph Campbell once refer to the Shaman’s stick in the Cave Paintings at Lascaux as a negative phallus and that rang a bell) and even Abbott and Costello enlisted in the Armed Forces. About the best you could hope for was being a spy. At least you had toys to play with. Into the atmosphere appeared the Beatles and they were a new paradigm. They had guitars (life phalluses, if you will) instead of guns. They were self effacing and seemed to be good friends having a lot of fun playing music instead of killing people. Additionally they were not afraid of their feminine side and constantly mocked authority and questioned it. People responded world wide to the sense of hope they provided . I think a great deal of their myth had some basis in fact and it’s positive impact on the World can not be underestimated. It seems they had only a vague idea of this. Lennon’s comments about only being in the Crow’s nest are a reflection of this. I don’t think they were in the crow’s nest. I think they were the bedrock of the sixties and it’s sensibilities. It’s just too bad, they were only human after all. – Michael St. Pierre
Your post reminds me of how much emphasis Lewisohn puts on the issue of the end of the draft in Great Britain making the Beatles possible. I believe he has quotes from Paul on the issue, of how that expectation of being drafted cast a shadow over their childhood and adolescence, and the unexpected end of the draft provided a feeling of escape and freedom. The fact that they lost one of their best pre-Ringo drummers to the draft underscores how impossible the band’s story would have been had the draft not ended when it did. And your point about male role models who weren’t soldiers struck me, given that none of the four Beatles had a father who was drafted during the war, even if they all served in certain ways. My point being that their first male role models — fathers/stepfathers– would not have been soldiers themselves, which may be why the Beatles never embraced that particular image of masculinity.
On the subject of the influence of war on perceptions of male role models—my father and all of my uncles served in WWII. Yet, that didn’t shape their attitudes and behaviour toward their male offspring regarding how men should act and feel in a stereotypical sense. Maybe that’s because, unlike the UK, the war wasn’t fought in our own backyard, and maybe it’s due to a Canadian sensibility (which is really essentially pro-peacekeeping and anti-war)—and the fact that young Canadian boys Paul’s age didn’t have the prospect of national service hanging over them. It’s interesting.
Quite interesting. I have Lewisohn’s book, your book, and Peter Doggett’s book(after reading your recommendation) and really a huge pile of books I am reading right now.
I find it fascinating to speculate on why the Beatles Mythology connected with so many people and , to me, at least formed the bedrock of the entire sixties counterculture.
Certainly, as I mentioned above, the idea of four young men who were investing their time in singing harmonies , making music and writing their own songs as a group seemed like a breath of very fresh air at the time. Elvis was kind of a post war sexual totemic figure and , of course, entered the army himself.
Their comradery, sense of humor and longer hair made it clear they were not impressed by adult authority.
I remember hearing something Mike Nesmith said one time about John Lennon being completely clueless about the Beatles Myth in some ways. He probably didn’t understand how much the idea of groups focusing on song ,poetry , art and ideas instead of war meant to the children of a war weary world,
I think their break up had a bigger impact on the collapse of the sixties than both Manson and Altamont.
But then, like the medieval guilds groups were giving way to the individual artist and ,sady, they were all too human.
And I would make the point that the Beatles introduced a new paradigm into the World.