One of the questions I answered for the Fab4ConJam Q&A involved a number of people asking who was my favorite Beatle.
I answered, honestly enough, that I don’t have a favorite so much as I’m aware that I feel greater sympathy for certain Beatles at certain points in their lives: John during his unstable childhood; Ringo during his first few years of not feeling fully integrated into the band; George during the draining experience of touring, and Paul during the period in which he took most, if not all the blame, for the breakup, with a considerable share of that blame being undeserved.
As a casual and relatively uninformed fan, I can safely say I never had a favorite Beatle growing up.
However, I definitely had an un-favorite. And that dubious honor undoubtedly went to Paul McCartney.
There were two reasons for this. The first involves “Give My Regards to Broad Street.” The second involves “Band on the Run.”
Now, someone saying they dislike McCartney due to “Give my Regards to Broad Street” probably doesn’t raise too many eyebrows. The film, a critical and popular failure, is generally regarded as one of the biggest missteps of McCartney’s entire career. But, in this case, context is crucial.
I was four years old when, for some reason unbeknownst to me, our family went to see the movie when it was in theaters. (My parents were both only casual Beatles fans, which makes the choice that much more baffling). In my case, the quality, or lack thereof, of the movie didn’t really matter: “Broad Street” could have been a brilliant mix of “Citizen Kane,” “Back to the Future,” and “When Harry Met Sally” and I still would have been bored to death simply because it wasn’t a cartoon. I resented my parents for dragging me to a movie I didn’t want to see (presumably because they didn’t want to pay for a babysitter), and resented McCartney for making the movie in the first place. I spent most of the movie in a state of utter boredom, wanting only for it to end. (However, four-year-old-me found the frog chorus utter cinematic brilliance). My enduring memories are, first, searing boredom and resentment at McCartney for making the movie and, second, pity, because even as a four year old I could tell that McCartney was trying desperately hard but it simply wasn’t working.
“Band on the Run” is a different matter. If “Broadstreet” was considered a professional disaster, “Band on the Run” is widely considered one of McCartney’s great solo triumphs. Disliking McCartney because of this particular album would seem to be a curious choice, especially when albums of considerably lesser quality, such as “Pipes of Peace,” exist. I discussed this briefly in the Q&A, but, for those who want a little more context on why I have a love/hate relationship with McCartney’s most successful solo album, here’s’ the unabridged version. Mundane family details to follow:
Right around the time following Broad Street my father initiated Saturday morning housecleaning, with me and my two older siblings all assigned to do the same chores in the same order until the job was done. After a few weeks, my father became irritated with how he would have to repeatedly go from room to room and child to child and tell his reluctant children, three or four times, that they needed to come to the living room, *now*, and start cleaning. Dad could spend almost 15 minutes simply trying to get his less than enthusiastic kids all in the room in order to give us our marching orders.
So my father devised an auditory cue: every Saturday morning, when the chores were supposed to begin, he placed “Band on the Run” on the turntable. (Yes, my parents still had a record player in the mid-80s). He would crank up the volume to the max, so that everyone in the house could hear it, regardless of what room we were in. And when the title song reached the loudest part – “the rain exploded with a mighty CRASH” — we were to report to the living room, no exceptions, get our cleaning supplies, and start on our chores.
Every Saturday morning, for the next few years, until the record player broke, I cleaned to that music. Dusting, vacuuming, taking out the trash (and wiping out the trash cans) cleaning bathrooms, mirrors, etc. Because I did the same chores in the same order, I came to associate not only Paul McCartney with drudgery and crushing boredom, but also certain songs with certain chores. My most hated chores were collecting and taking out the trash (my father was a pipe smoker, and old tobacco, which I found disgusting, would inevitably be in the trash bag or on the side of the can) and moving the dining room chairs, which were heavy, in order to vacuum underneath the dining room table. (And, as the youngest and smallest, my job was to climb underneath the table and pick up any stray bits of food or debris too big for the vacuum). These were my first two chores of the morning, done back to back, and each happened to coincide with a song: the trash with “Jet” and the chairs and vacuuming with “Bluebird.”
To this day, I *hate* both of those songs. While I am now capable of recognizing the reasons behind my irrational dislike, words cannot express how much I loathed them then, “Jet” in particular. I found the the “Wooo-ooooos” particularly infuriating, as the band was so clearly having fun when I most definitely was not. While even then I appreciated the title song, I detested that album and its creator for years. It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I could listen to the album with anything close to objectivity and admit, hey, “Let Me Roll It” has some merits.
Now, I could frame this post as part of the deeper issue regarding emotional response and bias, and how difficult it is to move past our initial, ingrained reactions in order to view something with greater objectivity, but that would be attaching a higher level of analysis than went into it: I’m relaying my story because people asked and also because, I’m assuming, just as there are those who have a favorite Beatle, there are those who have an (un)favorite Beatle, and I’m curious as to A. whether your reasons for disliking your (un)favorite were as irrational as mine and B. whether that view has shifted or softened, as mine did. Just as I don’t have a favorite, I no longer have an unfavorite Beatle. However, I can happily die never hearing “Jet” or “Bluebird” (or “Mamunia”) ever again.
Thoughts and comments are welcomed.