Recently, an alert poster reminded me that I never posted Part III of my YouTube interview with Pop Goes the 60’s Matt Williamson. (To give you some idea of how long ago this podcast was done, Matt and I spent some time after we were done recording discussing the then upcoming Chiefs/Packers game. So … Better linked now than never?)
This is the least convenient time for me to do so, esp. given that I assume it’s going to prompt some serious reaction, at least some of it negative.
Why is this the least convenient time?
My mother-in-law is in a hospital in Chicago, struggling with serious health issues, and we are taking care of their house: mowing, cleaning, etc.
I have research papers to grade and must finish before Tuesday, when I will have Final exams to grade: my grading window closes next week,
I’m in the midst of potty training a three year old.
My best friend of 30 years is in town, staying with us while her mother has a triple-bypass.
And I stayed up late last night to watch Round One of the NFL draft. (As a Chiefs fan, I’m moderately pleased. If I were a Jets fan, I’d be over the moon).
The reason I list these issues is not to extract sympathy from readers; it is to underline how serious I regard this issue. Given these current demands on my time, I would not break this hiatus for a discussion I regard as being of lesser importance.
Here is why I temporarily, at least, broke my hiatus:
Let me preface this by first stating that I am going to presume that Lewisohn is taking a more casual approach in this interview than he would were he sitting down to professionally evaluate these memoirs, source analysis-wise, for his actual book. I have done the same; the tone of this blog is deliberately less academic than my professional writing, which has at times led me to misstep and/or need to clarify my writing.
Having taken that caveat into account, my evaluation of these sources is as follows:
These are memoirs. As such, they are among the most, if not *the* most, subjective primary sources historians must deal with. Gilbert Garraghan, James Gaddis and Marc Bloch, as well as James Starrt, all discuss the very serious methodological issues regarding memoirs, and how they are among the most problematic primary sources.
The fact remains: They are primary sources. They cannot be dismissed.
They can and must be evaluated. They can and must have their contradictions addressed. Credibility issues should be noted, with the acknowledgment of the serious methodological issue that Lewisohn regards, rightfully, as so problematic: that many of them offer memories and versions of events regarding individuals (most notably John Lennon and Brian Epstein) who, due to their deaths, were incapable of responding to the claims made in those memoirs. That does weaken their claims to credibility in certain areas and on certain subjects.
Any fair evaluation of them according to source analysis must acknowledge that weakness. But they cannot be dismissed, wholesale, as terrible. (Additionally, other authors with experience in source analysis, including You Never Give me Your Money’s Peter Doggett, and The Beatles: The Annotated Bibliography‘s Michael Brocken and Melissa Davis, find a certain amount of source value in these memoirs, as do I). I cannot emphasize this enough: even the most biased, self-serving, badly written and conveniently timed memoir is still a primary source. Methodologically, therefore, it cannot be ignored.
In graduate school, on a research paper on the Nazi-Soviet Pact, I had to read Vyacheslav Molotov’s memoir, published in the 1960s. Suffice it to say, its version of many events, particularly the Nazi-Soviet Pact, was self-serving to the point of fictionality and contradicted by other evidence, much of which only became available following the fall of the Soviet Union. It was also published over a decade following the death of Josef Stalin, a key figure in Molotov’s life and memoir and, additionally, was published decades before any openness was available to certain areas of Soviet Archives.
In the source analysis I provided, I noted these serious structural weaknesses. I stated that Molotov’s version of events was highly problematic, and why. Then I put that evaluation under my primary sources section of my paper’s Annotated Bibliography. Acknowledging a memoir’s weaknesses is necessary: Lewisohn points out a crucial weakness with these memoirs in the above comment. But according to historical methods, their status as primary sources demands acknowledgement by historians who study that subject. Acknowledging a memoir’s existence is not endorsing its contents or credibility: it is a fundamental requirement of historical methods.
Questions and comments are welcomed and will eventually receive responses although, in all honesty, it may take some time.
Unfortunately, my hiatus is still underway, as our extended family member continues to struggle with their serious health issue.
In better news, for those of you who did not have a chance to attend Fab4ConJam, the virtual Beatles conference from February 2021, SATB’s Robert Rodriguez has repurposed the Q&A I did into the most recent episode of his podcast: you can check it out here:
Questions and comments are welcomed; I will try to answer them, time permitting.
Those of you who have been following this blog for some time know that its updates have been sporadic at best, as my time has been severely limited following the births of two children (one in 2018, one in 2020), which brought my sum total of kids to a Fab Four. The blog’s co-admin, Karen, and I have attempted to keep some new content coming, primarily through podcast interviews, both those done with other podcasters, and through our own podcast, All Together Now. Even those podcast interviews required extensive schedule juggling on my part, meaning I had to secure babysitting and/or my spouse’s running interference on our two youngest in order to devote the several hours needed in order to get uninterrupted time. This entire system, which allowed me to produce any Beatles-related material, balanced on a precarious edge which relied heavily on the contributions of not only my spouse but other extended family members to provide child care.
Over the last two months, the landscape has changed. My primary source of child care is no longer available, due to serious health issues. Further, that same close extended family member now requires and deserves my husband’s and my time, care and support as they grapple with their health situation. In addition, my husband undergoes foot surgery later this month, and will be on crutches for 4-6 weeks. All of these factors have essentially extinguished what little time I could scrape together to devote to any Beatles’ related work.
Given everything, I’m stepping back, and closing the door on all Beatles work for the moment. I don’t know how long the door will be closed. I don’t intend for it to be forever. I understand that this hiatus will not help in a “publish or perish” atmosphere, but believe this is the only option available to me, given the extensive demands on my time and the needs of my immediate and extended family. My interest in the Beatles has not waned: I would love nothing more than to sit and binge-watch Peter Jackson’s “Let it Be” and dissect it according to historical methods, and place it in the larger arc of Beatles historiography. I simply don’t have the time. For the duration of this period, I ask for your patience and understanding, especially from those who might have been interested in asking me for podcast or other kinds of interviews, publisher copy reviews, personal correspondence/emails regarding Beatles questions/issues, etc. Please do not take it personally when my response is a polite refusal and reminder of my hiatus, because I will be offering that same polite refusal and reminder to everyone.
This one deals primarily with the John vs. Paul debate in Beatles historiography and Beatles fandom (those of you who have either read my book or are constant readers of this blog will know precisely where I stand on the questionable merits of that particular approach). As always, questions and comments are welcomed.
So, everyone in Beatledom is rightfully obsessing over Peter Jackson’s “Get Back,” the first part of which was released on Thanksgiving. I have added nothing to the discussion for the very simple reason that I haven’t had a chance to watch a minute of “Get Back.” I’m currently swamped in conferences and paper grading, and don’t want to divert my attention too far. (Plus, I get offering it on Thanksgiving, trying to catch the non-football watching couch potatoes. But show me any mom with toddlers (and older kids) hosting, cooking, cleaning, and refereeing a multi-family Thanksgiving holiday, and I will show you a woman who barely has time to take out the trash, let alone sit and watch a new documentary. Although, given the reviews I’ve read, at least, unlike the old “Get Back,” the new one seemingly offers more optimism than the Detroit Lions game that was on in the background).
Having not seen any of it, my only methodological assessment is this: It’s another person’s interpretation of primary source material. That’s neither good, nor bad, it’s just the reality of the source analysis, the same way Michael Lyndsay Hogg’s was an interpretation, and Sulpy and Schweghardt’s Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image offered a differing interpretation. The major issue lies with our inability to directly contrast *any* of the interpretations (Hogg’s, Jackson’s, Sulpy’s) with the actual primary source material — *all* the audio and video tapes they utilized to create their interpretations. What we are getting is essentially their translation. And as a translation, it qualifies as a secondary source.
So, now for the update:
I am excited to post the first part of a video interview I did a few week’s ago with Matt Williamson, from Pop Goes the 60’s. (I had to do it in my 10 year old son’s bedroom, since it’s the only one that has A. a desk and B. a door lock to keep the toddlers out, hence the Travis Kelce pennant on the wall. Yes, I’m a Chief fan, but I don’t have Chiefs posters/pennants on my bedroom wall. I’m *forty*, not fourteen). We did discuss a bit of “Get Back” — much of the same stuff I wrote above — and other Beatles/historiographical issues as well. For those interested in the link, here it is:
Questions and Comments are welcome, but please grant me a grace period on responding: I’m presenting at an international conference tomorrow, at the University of Columbia in Bogota, via zoom, and then fully expect to be buried, once again, under Finals and research papers.