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.


Thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Book Review Questions and Requests

Hi everyone;

Awhile back, Erin and I suggested that you email one of us should you have questions about the blog or ideas for a book review. Upon reflection (and after finding a bunch of emails in my file folder that somehow missed my attention–sorry!) we decided that emailing us probably wasn’t the best method of communication. In the future, please direct your questions and suggestions to the comments section of the blog and that way we’ll be sure to see it.

Your imput is important to us!

Erin and Karen

An Inside Look

As I mentioned, I’m thrilled to be participating the upcoming Fab4ConJam. But my two presentations will be very different in nature.

The first, the book analysis and discussion, is right in the middle of my comfort zone. It’s a book review! (Eons and two toddlers ago, book reviews were this site’s bread and butter). What’s more, it’s a book review and discussion that includes analysis about a severely underserved subject in Beatles historiography. It is, frankly, the stuff I love to geek out on. And I can’t wait.

The second is a bit more outside of my comfort zone.* I’m a lecturer by nature. I can ad-lib in the classroom, but usually attempt to direct the conversation back to the subject after I feel a digression has gone on long enough. When I do podcast interviews, I methodically go through my notes before hand, researching for several weeks beforehand. (And yes, I re-read my own book). But I usually have a rough idea and/or outline of what the discussion is going to be.

So the Q and A on Sunday is what’s going to test my nerves. I’m looking forward to it in the way you look forward to a challenge that makes you flex skills you feel you don’t use terribly often. (I have done multiple Q&A’s before, but all of them have been live and in-person).

All of this is not to discourage anyone from asking questions. I hope one thing I’ve managed to convey with this site is that I genuinely enjoy the back and forth of questions and discussions we have, with people of different generations, perspectives, analyses, etc.

I do want to make something very clear, however, for those who are considering submitting questions: I have not studied music. I don’t know music theory. I don’t know how to play an instrument. I can’t read music. I can’t even play chopsticks on a piano. I’m not saying this out of some false sense of humility or in the hopes of gaining some reassurance from readers but to lay the foundation for this next statement: If you want to ask me about music, you certainly may, but know that I know about as much regarding the physics of rocketry as I do about the mechanics of music. So any and all answers from me in that regard will be informed by nothing more than my opinion. There are people far more qualified than me to answer questions on that subject.

The preceding paragraph probably left a few of you wondering how someone who doesn’t know a b flat from a treble cleft can analyze books that go in-depth into musical analysis. I did, after all, analyze Wilfred Mellers, Ian MacDonald, and various others in my own book who go deep into musical analysis in their books. The simple answer is that I didn’t analyze other authors’ musical analysis when they were using musical terminology with which I was unfamiliar, because it may as well have been written in Urdu.

Instead, I analyzed the areas of the book that I could understand. I started, as always, with the bibliography and/or works cited, to see if they had one and, if so, what sources they used. I noted the time period of their publication, assessing what primary sources, such as The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, were available to them at the time of publication, and which weren’t. I looked to see if they offered any source analysis of frequently used primary sources, and addressed or noted contradictions or issues with those primary sources. I looked to see if they published, like Mellers, in a time period in which the primary sources available to them were limited in both amount and accuracy. I assessed whether they used fundamentally flawed secondary sources as the basis for their basic understanding of the band’s creative and personal relationships even after methodologically superior biographies were available.

If the book’s author was analyzing a song where a significant amount of its songwriting authorship was under dispute, I noted whether that dispute was acknowledged, or whether only one version of authorship was provided. I evaluated whether a disproportionate amount of attention was devoted to one particular artist’s material, with other artist’s material being analyzed or neglected. I looked at whether authors demonstrated reciprocity in acknowledging contributions regardless of who made them, or only noted contributions if they came from particular individuals. I compared musical evaluations with the evaluations of others, determining whether there was a broad consensus on a song’s greatness or whether the evaluation of one writer seemed to be an extreme outlier, such as Ian MacDonald’s dismissal of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I paid attention to what attention was granted the creation of the songs in the studio, and whether the contributions of non-writers were acknowledged. I analyzed the musical analysis within the greater context of the book, and whether other areas of writing demonstrated issues with bias. I noted sweeping and absolutist statements. And finally, I laid an extremely low bar for any other author’s musical analysis: their evaluation of a song had to be defensible. As in, if pressed, they could make any argument to support their stated view of the song, good or bad. (Shockingly, a few authors *still* somehow managed to trip over that bar at least once).

That’s how I analyzed books written on a subject I am no expert in. So, to bring us back to the beginning, if there are people who want to ask me music questions during the Q&A, you’re welcome to; just know you’re getting nothing more informed than my personal opinion. And I look forward to talking with you on the 21st.


*(You know, like Patrick Mahomes was out of his comfort zone, running for his life — he scrambled for 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage — on every snap Sunday night, getting pressured faster and more than any quarterback ever in any Super Bowl. Turns out having one original starter on your offensive line is not a great recipe for winning the Super Bowl. And thus concludes my final football reference for a while. I’m disappointed, but I’d still bet Mahomes gets at least two more Super Bowl victories, and I get to watch him play for my team for the next decade. And as a Chiefs fan who desperately hoped not too many years ago that somehow Tyler Thigpen/Tyler Bray/Damon Huard/Ricky Stanzi/etc. would somehow magically transform into a decent starting-level quarterback , I will *so* take that. )

Comments and questions (even about music!) are welcomed.


Fab4Con Jam, or: Shameless Self-Promotion, Take Two.


I’ve been looking forward to posting about this and participating in this for months, ever since I discussed the possibility with Robert. (For more on why I didn’t get this news out sooner, see the note at the bottom). Not only do I get the chance to delve into an in-depth discussion of Christine Feldman Barrett’s new book, A Women’s History of the Beatles, with Robert and Christine herself on the 20th, I will also be available to do a live Q&A on Sunday the 21st. And that’s just some of the awesome stuff planned for this conference. But I teach history, not advertising, so lets have the pros tell you about it:

Here’s the link to the official page: Home » Fab4Con Jam Feb. 20th & 21st >> Tickets On Sale Now

And here’s a promo blurb, to give you an idea:

Two years of development later and we’re ready NOW! I’m about to burst with excitement over here…We created an event to celebrate the inspiration that The Beatles have on us, and we’re doing it in a way that’s never been done before.

We’ve teamed up with artists, speakers, and other legends to Come Together and celebrate The Beatles. It’s a virtual event on another level for it’s interactive element. We teamed up with our livestream partner, In.Live, to take you on a ride of entertainment, fun, and discovery. All on a cutting edge video platform technology with HD streaming and interactive capabilities to even interview the guest speakers! 

Come Together and join us for this special event February 20th and 21st

This is going to be an amazing experience, and everything is going to be top-of-the-line. I had a tutorial on the technology and staging for the video part of the conference (for those who are interested, I’m gong to have to flee my own house and spend the weekend participating in exile at my sister-in-law’s, because there is no way on earth I would be able to get through this otherwise without constant interruption) and I can’t wait for this weekend to get started. For any readers who are interested, please let me know, and leave comments or questions!



I fully intended to post this days ago. Then my 11 month old came down with a fever, conveniently timed for the middle of the night. (Cue parental sleep deprivation). After a few days, when he started getting healthy again, my two and a half year old came down with it. I won’t gross you out with the details of caring 24/7 for two sick toddlers, but I admit the juxtaposition of the announcement of this conference (which I am very excited about participating in) and the reality of my situation wiping noses and distributing children’s Tylenol amused me, even in my exhaustion.

At one point I had to chuckle at myself, imagining one of those narrator voices: “Here we see Erin Weber, historian and well-respected Beatles author, operating on three hours sleep, scrubbing regurgitated cheerios off of her be-slimed couch. Erin, what can you tell us about the lack of authorial diversity in Beatles historiography, and why you find that to be a detriment?”

Cheers! (Both little ones are doing better, btw, but neither is back to 100%). And, apropos of nothing, because I have been a Kansas City fan since I was 12: Super Bowl Prediction (Do you know Lamar Hunt coined the term Super Bowl?) Chiefs 34, Bucs 27.

Employing Historical Distance

In both The Beatles and the Historians, as well as various podcast interviews, I’ve mentioned the concept of historical distance: the passage of time which allows for more objective analysis of an event of individual. One of the elements of historical distance which, incidentally, can but does not automatically ensure revising or reevaluating history, is the willingness of authors to re-evaluate their own work. As I’ve mentioned in previous interviews, this was an understood element among the first historians of the First World War: intelligent enough and politically savvy enough to understand that there were documents and sources unavailable to them, the first wave of French historians of the Great War made a conscious effort to accept new evidence as it became available, and adjust their interpretations accordingly.

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