My (un)Favorite Beatle

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.

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Thoughts and comments are welcomed.

32 thoughts on “My (un)Favorite Beatle

  1. Karen Hooper says:

    Too funny.

    I think you’ll have to reframe the association by playing Band On The Run when you’re watching SOMEONE ELSE do the housework (my Band On The Run association involves liquor and skinny dipping, but that’s another story.)

    I think you’re right about the associations–positive or negative–the Beatles conjure, as with all things in life which are attached to certain memories. Fortunately for me the associations are all positive.

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    • Erin says:

      Ah, your experience with BOTR as a soundtrack sounds much better than mine.

      I think those positive or negative associations can play a larger role than people realize. A lot of how we respond to music is simply about how it makes us feel — happy, sad, frustrated — and so you can’t ignore the context of where or what you were doing when you’re first introduced to something.

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    • Erin says:

      Your comment reminds me of George Martin’s dissection of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership, when pressed to declare which one was more important and/or better: “That’s like asking which is the most important ingredient in a vinaigrette: Is it the oil, or the vinegar?”

      Unfortunately, however, I think we have a considerable amount of information that tells us that some fans and Beatles authorities do have unfavorites. Or, to be more diplomatic, have Beatles they are simply far less interested in than other Beatles.

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  2. terryrhamblin says:

    There is a lot to unpack here. I am also not as fond of the ‘Band on the Run’ album as most people seem to be. For one, it is not the best album he ever produced. ‘Tug of War’, ‘Flaming Pie, and perhaps ‘Chaos and Creation’ are much stronger records, both lyrically and sonically True, at the time, BOTR was a tremendous creative improvement over McCartney’s earlier work, but ‘Jet’ is overrated and very dated. Why this song is still a concert staple is beyond me. ‘Let Me Roll it is probably the worst song on the album besides ‘Picasso’s last Words’. Helen Wheels is a much better rocker.

    You are right in stating that song associations can go both ways. I still get chills every time I hear (Just Like) Starting Over. I was nine years old at the time and just starting getting into Beatles music. Normally that would be a positive association, except for what soon happened to John. I am sure many people have a similar association with this song, regardless of age.

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    • Erin says:

      Hasn’t the perception of BOTR as Paul’s best solo album diminished with time? I’m just going by general impression, rather than thinking of specific sources, but the argument now seems to be that, while it was celebrated as a return to form for Paul, and regarded as a triumph, that its reputation has slightly diminished while albums such as “Ram” have been heavily and favorably reappraised. Although, as I noted in my analysis of the historiography of Sgt. Pepper, we as human beings are addicted to revisionism, and decades after its creation, there was really no where for BOTR to go but down, even slightly.

      I will never defend “Jet,” on any level. You and I can die on that hill together.

      I think the story behind BOTR didn’t hurt, either. Losing key members of the band right before leaving; traveling to Lagos; Paul’s passing out; being robbed at knifepoint — that certainly adds a drop back of drama and difficulty. And, as Robert and I mentioned during Fab4Con, it’s the first of Paul’s albums to come out after enough time had gone by following Klein’s dismissal by the other Beatles — (I looked it up, and Red Rose Speedway came out in April 73, and Klein was let go in March) — which was a very clear indication that the counterculture/vs. establishment argument the breakup had been framed as was not watertight — which may have influenced its critical reception.

      Yes, your personal example of “(Just Like) Starting Over” is a great one of how strong our negative or positive association can be. There are a few Beatles songs that have very strong personal, emotional associations for me — “When I’m 64” is not my favorite Beatles song, but out of their entire catalog, it’s the one that means the most to me — and memory and personal experience are the reason behind that.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Kristy says:

          I think he collapsed during recording and they found out it was some kind of diaphragmatic or lung issue caused by too much smoking!

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            • Karen Hooper says:

              Found it:

              During a recording session…Paul collapsed, gasping for air. “Within seconds, he turned as white as a sheet, explaining to us in a croaking voice that he couldn’t catch his breath,” Emerick later said. “We decided to take him outside for some fresh air…[but] once he was exposed to the blazing heat he felt even worse and began keeling over, finally fainting dead away at our feet. Linda began screaming hysterically; she was convinced that he was having a heart attack. … The official diagnosis was that he had suffered a bronchial spasm brought on by too much smoking.”

              Smoking….pot?

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              • Erin says:

                Pot or cigarettes or both?

                Whichever one it was, the experience as it unfolded sounds terrifying. Linda’s reaction — assuming Paul had a heart attack — and her panic makes sense.

                Liked by 1 person

        • Terry Hamblin says:

          Just reflecting on all the years I have been a fan of Paul’s. His critics are much fewer now than in the 1970s and 1980s (from what I read). Growing up during the 1980s, it was not particularly cool to be a Paul fan, but I think the shift started in the 1990s with the tours and later the Anthology. Other than Driving Rain, I cannot think of an album or project (with the exception of the Kanye collaboration) that has been criticized.

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          • Erin says:

            I don’t follow the music press, except when I’m actively researching it, but certainly the impression I did get from my research supports your personal experience as a fan. You have Joan Goodman in the 80s making comments about Paul’s perceived shallowness and lack of intelligence, at least in comparison to John: you have bad relations between Paul and I think it was the New Musical Express (accd. to Lewisohn, they loathed each other) and there’s a collection of essays, Reading the Beatles, some from fans and some from journalists, that strongly reinforce the impression that it was certainly not cool to be a Paul fan. One of the essays involved a father discussing his son’s search to choose a favorite Beatle, and it played heavily into stereotypes of each of the four (Ringo was tolerated but inferior; Paul signed his i’s with little hearts). Another included a group of fans watching some Hamburg footage, and at one point one remarks that they should have kept Pete and expelled Paul, which would certainly have made for a very different end product.

            It’s certainly not anything I personally experienced, although I was in high school when a group of boys checked “Lennon Remembers” out from the library, and they passed it around and discussed quotes from it like it was holy scripture, and the interview left them convinced, among other things, that McCartney was a terrible bass player. Perhaps there’s some generationally targeted research to be done regarding views of the individual Beatles today. Could make for some interesting information and analysis.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Erin says:

            I am thankful that I have never experienced a panic attack personally, but that also means I’m fairly ignorant about them: don’t they generally have to be triggered by something? Emerick doesn’t mention anything going wrong prior to Paul’s collapse, although he does mention the overall vibe of not necessarily being welcomed in Lagos by some of the local musicians.

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  3. Hans Bolte says:

    Although I don’t love “Broadstreet” the redeeming quality is PM’s version of “Yesterday” going right into “Here There and Everywhere,” it is a personal favorite of mine.

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    • Erin says:

      I’m also rather fond of the Broad Street version of “Wanderlust,” which I’ve seen on YouTube (I still have yet to watch the movie again after seeing it as a four year old).

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  4. Erin says:

    Not necessarily too relevant to our discussion, but I was made aware of this today, for anyone who is interested:

    DEVOTED

    A PLAY FOR RADIO

    WRITTEN BY

    RAY CONNOLLY

    STARRING

    PHILIP JACKSON and ALISON STEADMAN

    PRODUCED BY

    GARY BROWN

    On April 15, 2020 Ray Connolly was admitted to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital suffering from Covid 19. He did not return home until September 25. He was aged 79, and had no underlying health issues.

    Spending over 100 days in intensive care, and with many weeks in an induced coma, he had a tracheotomy, pneumonia and kidney dialysis. He was also ventilated and proned, had two heart attacks, stents were put into his arteries and he suffered scarred lungs. All of these occurred directly as a result of Covid.

    DEVOTED is his account of his illness, and of his survival – thanks to the doctors and nurses of the National Health Service.

    Based largely on the emails that his wife, Plum, sent to their children every day that Ray was in hospital, it shows the pandemic from two points of view; that of the patient whose unconscious months were filled with hallucinations, and that of his family who dreaded the ringing of the phone in case it brought news they didn’t want to hear.

    DEVOTED

    will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15 pm on March 23,

    the first anniversary of the first Covid lockdown

    http://www.rayconnolly.co.uk

    I appreciate Connolly’s writing on the Beatles, particularly his own self-analysis (such as his admittance that there is a concentration on John and Paul, for example, or his comment that he was too close to John and Yoko) and ability to apply salt when necessary. I’m very pleased to hear about his recovery and, as someone whose beloved sister-in-law is an E.R. nurse, the profound appreciation for what medical professionals have endured this year, and wanted to spread news about his new radio play.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lizzy9591 says:

    Thankfully I don’t have any bad memories associated with any of the Beatles so I don’t have any unfavourites as a result of that.

    I think the point at which you come to the Beatles probably has a big impact on who you gravitate to. I’ve lived in the UK all my life so knew a lot of Beatles songs and the basic conventional story through osmosis. Post-Beatles conversion (via Beatles Rockband) I’ve probably gravitated the most to Paul and John but there’s definitely loads to like and unlike about all of them.

    I still feel like there’s still loads more to learn about Ringo and George in particular but Paul has probably mastered the art of hiding in plain sight better than any celebrity ever so will be interesting to see if he opens up a bit more further into his twilight years a la leaking his Japanese prison memoirs…

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    • Karen Hooper says:

      Paul has probably mastered the art of hiding in plain sight better than any celebrity ever so will be interesting to see if he opens up a bit more further into his twilight years a la leaking his Japanese prison memoirs…

      My thoughts exactly, Lizzy. I wonder if his new book will reveal more of the inner Paul than he has been willing to reveal in the last 50 years. I find it kind of amusing that father and grandfather Paul has been pretty comfortable sharing tales of his sexual excapades with the Beatles (a three-way with prostitutes in Vegas, among other things), but is still pretty self-protective about his emotional life.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kristy says:

    I’m Gen-X, so old enough for my older family to have been Beatles fans and to hear Beatles on the radio! My un-favorite Beatle as a child was John, because I always thought he was the “mean Beatle.” He always looked so unhappy in pictures and so angry and snippy on TV, and my mom told me he was no longer friends with Paul, so I always found him a little scary as a bitty kid. I remember when he was murdered because my teenaged babysitter was inconsolable. I felt a little bad about my dislike of John in the face of his death and asked my mother to purchase me a 45 of Watching the Wheels.

    The same babysitter also tried to convince me Paul Was Dead, but having a mom who was a Paul fan and an uncle who was a rabid Beatles and Wings fan, I knew that simply wasn’t true. Along with liking his songs, these things pretty much cemented Paul as favorite Beatle forever? As I got a little older I also admired his taking the high road and not slamming his old buddies as they seemed to love slamming him, and I always hoped if he held out that his reputation would improve. (What a shock to re-enter Beatles fandom within the last few years to see a lot of, er, older people still expressing the same old nasty opinions, though I have also found that some people have come around or grown up without the preconceptions of the older generations.)

    I realized my feelings about John had held over when a friend took me to an art showing of John’s drawings — maybe early 90s?– and I found that I thought John looked angry and unhappy in his own drawings. I’ve never sought the drawings out since to see if I feel the same way now. But once I realized how much of John’s contributions to Beatles music that I loved, and read more, I feel a lot more fondness for him and, yes, sympathy for his issues in childhood and how they held out even beyond that. Now I’d say my un-favorite Beatle is George. I don’t care for his music in general and his religious ideals and struggles with bitterness don’t speak to me personally, and what I’ve read doesn’t endear him to me. I would be very open to reading a good biography of George, however, or to trying to understand him better, in the hopes of having more empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin says:

      I think that willingness on your part to seek out new information — like you said, a good biography of George — to help add nuance and empathy to your understanding of him, is what every fan who has an unfavorite needs. Not necessarily to have a road to Damascus conversion, but to perhaps gain greater nuance and/or understanding, add greater depth or context to issues or elements that may tilt us against that particular Beatle.

      So your babysitter genuinely believed in PID? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in real life who believes that: I imagine it would make for some interesting conversations.

      That’s interesting that your perception of John’s anger impacted your reaction to him. My first visual representation of the Beatles (outside of the Simpsons Beatles episodes which, now that I think about it, were probably among the founding documents of my visual Beatles experience) where I knew I was watching them and not some cartoonish parody was watching AHDN in high school. And quite honestly, the first time I watched the movie, I spent a good chunk of it trying to differentiate which one was which (except for Ringo; due to his distinctive nose).

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  7. SAK says:

    First, to Erin, enjoyed your presentations at Fab4conJam. Sunday maybe little more than Saturday. Good job! I think my un-favorite is also Paul but due to “Wings At The Speed Of Sound.” Once upon a time a friend and I drove cross country round trip having only AM radio and an add-on 8-track player (remember those?) We had three tapes, Joe Walsh “Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get,” Return To Forever “Hymn of 7th Galaxy” and “Speed Of Sound.” Needless to say, all those tapes went immediately into garbage upon arrival home (8 track was dead format anyway). In the 40 some years since, I’ve not seriously listened to any of them until just recently when I pulled out my Return To Forever albums, sadly due to Chick Corea’s recent passing. If ever forced to listen to Wings song “Cook Of The House” again, I’ll bite down on my cyanide capsule. (Didn’t express condolences for Chiefs, games are typically decided up front…….either side of the ball. In an earlier post you mentioned a name I had almost forgotten. Remember seeing Ricky Stanzi play HS ball here. 2020 there were 24 on rosters who played HS here: Kelces, Clark, Hunt, Trubisky, Ginn, Hoyer, Lattimore………).

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    • Erin says:

      Thank you, SAK. Sunday was the one I was more worried about, due to simply not being able to know which questions I was going to get, but I decided right away that if I didn’t know the answer to something, I was going to be honest rather than try to bluff my way through.

      Your experience with “Wings at the Speed of Sound” is one that I understand completely. I don’t think “Cook of the House” would be on anyone’s top 30 (or even top 50) Wings songs, and it’s amusing how even a great song can become grating after too much repitition. (For example, I got sick of “A Day in the Life” after the Sgt. Pepper conference in 2016, where I think we listened to it and examined it and musicologed it (I know that’s not a word, but I don’t care) to death every. single. day. of. the. conference. And that song is brilliance, where I don’t think its going out on a limb to declare that “Cook of the House” is not.

      I appreciate your condolences. I agree with you: most games are decided in the trenches, and losing their LT in the 4th quarter of the AFC championship game (poor Fisher was crying on the sideline: there’s a video of Kelce and Mahomes comforting him) threw everything into disarray. They’d been making it work, barely, but losing Fisher meant a weaker player at three positions: their RT (who used to be a guard) moved to LT: Their Guard moved to RT, and a sub went in for the Guard position. It was a dam breaking at the worst possible moment. Having said that, (and I in no way mean this as a humblebrag) it was easier for me to deal with a Super Bowl loss when my team won it all last year, and when you know you have a transcendent player at QB. Seriously. The Chiefs, unlike the Browns, don’t have a tragic history of drafting and ruining QB’s (or just drafting the wrong ones); they didn’t swing and miss; they didn’t even swing. After screwing up royally in the 83 draft, when they could have had Marino or Kelly, (when they chose Todd Blackledge, an eventual bust) they didn’t draft a QB in the first round again until Mahomes in 2017. We went with everyone else’s backups. We never had a homegrown franchise QB. Never Not even Dawson was a Chiefs pick. After decades of hoping the Chiefs would get some Russel Wilson or Kurt Warner esque miracle (because, you know, those are so common) my team has its guy. And it appears that he was constructed in a lab in an experiment to create the perfect quarterback. I just love watching him play.

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  8. lizzy9591 says:

    On a separate but topical note imagine how different Beatles historiography would be if John had done an interview with Oprah…

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    • Erin says:

      I think that would be a great illustration of how much the interviewer matters, which is something we tend to overlook.

      I didn’t watch the Harry and Megan interview and I’m not overly familiar with the Royal Family Drama, beyond having watched “The Crown,” or Oprah as an interviewer, for that matter. But she would add a level of racial diversity as an interviewer that Beatles historiography lacks, and I did read praise for her approach in the interview: a long, drawn out discussion; one where she followed up, sometimes 20 to the 30 minutes later, on certain issues, circling back to areas that needed greater explanation. That effort for follow-up questions in particular is something that I have often wished for in numerous Beatles interviews, where you will sometimes see a Beatle drop an intriguing nugget of information which is then unfortunately ignored by the interviewer.

      In that hypothetical, I certainly don’t think we would have gotten a Lennon-Remembers-esque interview. John was excellent at reading his audience and interviewer, and she apparently would not have indulged John the way Wenner did. (Although you would have the British/American cultural divide, which numerous people have argued did play a role in Wenner’s misunderstanding of John’s comments). Evidently, and unlike Wenner’s unquestioning approach, she can be a very tough interviewer: she evidently raked James Frey over the coals regarding his plagiarism. There’s also the reality that, while Wenner’s favorite Beatle was evidently John, the indication by Oprah is that hers was Paul: she commented, on the interview she did with him, about how when she was a teenager she had his poster on her wall, and would touch it before she went to bed and wonder what he was doing. Ideally, the individual doing the interview having a favorite Beatle wouldn’t or shouldn’t have too much of an impact, but I’m not familiar enough with Oprah (I don’t watch her show) to know if that would be an issue.

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    • Erin says:

      And, to add on to this, really quickly:

      Again, I didn’t watch the interview, but did read several analyses of it afterwards, and one of the striking things was the claim by Megan that she received no “training,” as it were, on how to deal with fame/act like a royal, etc, and how that fame left her severely isolated to the point of suicide ideation. (Perhaps they considered fame training superfluous, given her background as an actress, but there’s a monumental leap from being an actress on a middling show to being a member of the world’s most famous royal family).

      Given our previous discussions here regarding the phenomenology of fame, and how the conclusion appeared to be that, at some level, fame is simply damaging to your mental health and personal relationships, the failure to prepare her is a striking one, and one that can, of course, be drawn in parallels to the Beatles. One of the most striking quotes for me regarding fame and the band was George Martin’s comment on how the only real comparison to the Beatles fame — the Royal family — are trained from birth on how to cope with and manage that intrusiveness and exposure, whereas the Beatles reached that level of corrosive fame with nowhere near that level of preparation and training. No wonder George commented on how the four of them helped each other stay sane, and Pete Shotton discussed how they became more insular the more famous they became: a common theme appears that fame isolates, and isolation depresses.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lou says:

    I love your story about why you hate Band on the Run. Too funny.

    I came to the Beatles late in life. And my favorites and “unfavorites” are mostly linked to their voices. Paul and John were my immediate favorites because of their incredible voices. Unfortunately there’s no great story behind that. Ringo didn’t sing much so I never formed a strong like or dislike for him, and George was my least favorite Beatles from the start because I never liked his thin voice. Now I tend to skip George songs, except on Abbey Road where he finally produced songs of the quality of Lennon and McCartney.

    The fact that George is religious, and I am not, also played a role in George being the Beatle I tend to dislike. It didn’t help that I listened to a fair number of George’s interviews after he got religion. He’s totally abstruse and tedious. All I can think is how irritating he must have been to be around in the studio if he was droning on about religion.

    Plus over the years I’ve found that George fans are the worst. Lennon and McCartney fans acknowledge the flaws of John and Paul. Almost too much! George fans tend to think George had no flaws and walked on water. They are true believers — and even when they do admit some questionable behaviour of his, George fans tie themselves into knots rationalizing it instead of just admitting that, like John and Paul, George wasn’t always nice.

    All of that has made me that rare beast who thinks George Harrison is way, way over-rated these days.

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    • Erin says:

      Your preferences based on voices is amusing to me, because, as a pre-adolescent listening to the blue album, Ringo’s was honestly my favorite voice: I thought it had a lot of character. I always perked up when I heard him singing.

      I’m sorry to hear your experiences with some fans who prefer George have skewed negative. My own experiences with Beatles discussions have been primarily limited to this blog, and while I’m sure there are commenters who identify as primarily John/George/Ringo fans, the discussion has been largely courteous, with posters of all preferences demonstrating a willingness to accept nuance and evidence regardless of their favored Beatle.

      I would stress that I don’t think it helps the tone of the blog when we make sweeping generalizations about George fans being “the worst” and/or unwilling to note negative elements regarding him. First, while I understand that this has been your personal experience with a number of George fans, it is a statement that’s simply too all encompassing, as it seemingly applies to all Beatles fans who identify George as their favorite. There’s the inherent disconnect of having debates/conversations online, without direct personal contact and conversation, which has undoubtedly created an environment in which people say and write things online they would never say or do face to face. There’s the reality that a segment of every group who has a favorite Beatle could probably be criticized for their behavior: some Paul fans for being too sensitive to his criticism/dismissal: some John fans for refusing to acknowledge that the Shout! narrative is now debunked; Ringo fans for … (shrugs). But that segment doesn’t equate with all John/Paul/Ringo fans.

      This extends beyond my Beatles fandom: I have a personal aversion to making sweeping statements about other groups based on their fandoms. It grows out of my sports fandom: I’m a devoted, damn-near obsessive Kansas City Chiefs fan, but I detest how social media and fandom has made making sweeping generalizations about the fans of other teams part of the discourse online. Unfortunately, sometimes the social media interaction reinforces the generalizations, because some times the worst offenders are the ones who post the most and suck up the most oxygen. I do understand about feeling motivated to dislike someone or something due to the behavior of their fans: I have always been relatively indifferent to the New England Patriots dynasty, in part because one of my best friends is a Pats fan, so I didn’t hate them the way so many did. But the behavior of some of their fans on twitter or social media is just flat out annoying. (Pats fans, at least before Super Bowl 55, appeared to be rather triggered by Patrick Mahomes). I try to ensure that I don’t let the behavior of a few online fans dominate my perception, but its admittedly helped by that personal contact with my old friend.

      I think part of what we’re seeing in regards to George is a corrective: his reputation was so minimized by the Shout! narrative that due attention has increased regarding his songwriting, contributions, and personality. Not to belabor the point, but my driving motivation in writing and discussing the Beatles is always: “What is going to provide me with the most accurate version of their history?” There’s a distinction there between wanting to always know more, because knowing more doesn’t automatically equate with weighing the merits of evidence and the reality that some evidence is simply more credible than other evidence. Ideally, wanting the most accurate version possible would be the motivation of everyone, but selection bias and confirmation bias impact people from all walks of life, in all sorts of subjects. My reading is that the current book interpretation of George, which takes more account of his contributions and personality, is more accurate, certainly, than the Shout! version, where George existed only to scowl, hero worship John, and write “Here Comes the Sun.”

      Having said all that, my conclusion is that any one, regardless of who their favorite Beatle is, who applies rationalization or selection bias or judgements inequitably is ultimately coming to a flawed, less accurate understanding of the band. Now, it may the flawed understanding they want to come to. In that case, arguing, regardless of the merits of your evidence, won’t change their mind. I think many Beatles fans (George, John, Paul) etc. — and sports fans, and aficionados of numerous subjects — have, unfortunately, displayed some or all of those errors at times.

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  10. Gael Sweeney says:

    When I was 10 (1965) I was the leader of a group of girls who played “Beatles” on the playground every day. Since I was the “leader” and Beatle “expert” I, of course, was Paul. Then we had about three Ringos, and a John. No George. We decided early on that George had “vampire teeth” and no one wanted to be the Beatle with vampire teeth.

    56 years later whenever I see a picture of poor George all I can think of is those vampire teeth. And I’m still Paul. Always.

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