The Beatles broke up in April 1970. But the music never stopped for any of the Fab Four. Even after their breakup The Beatles music has never really gone out of fashion and has remained popular. "Let it Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" made it to #1 on the charts even after the break up. (April and June 1970) And "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was re-released in January 1975 and it made it to #1 at that time.
1990s "critics began to concede that his solo career was stunning in its own right. He was the ex-Beatle who went on to cover the most stylistic ground—from reggae, soul, disco, country, trance, demented techno, bagpipe campfire sing-alongs, and psychedelic swamp-rock freak-outs with his side project The Fireman to full-length symphonies and ballets." As Bob Dylan once said of Macca (Paul's nickname), “His melodies are effortless, that’s what you have to be in awe of … He’s just so damn effortless.”
Though Paul and John's relationship was strained after the Beatles broke up, Paul would not give up on making contact with John. He would call when he was in New York. But John was often mean or demeaning: "You're all pizza and fairy tales," John spat at him. But Paul's persistence paid off and soon they were back to just hanging out. "It was lovely" said Paul simply.
John was clearly the most angry of The Beatles about the breakup of his beloved band and it took him years to say anything nice about the group or any of his band mates. But after Sean was born and Lennon took over the care taking role as a parent (after 1975), "John reflected back on his time in a softer light. 'When I slagged off the Beatles thing, it was like divorce pangs, and me being me, it was blast this, fuck the past,' he said. 'Why haven't I ever considered the good times instead of moaning about what we had to go through?'" (Partridge) In a rare and honest moment his life and his music can be consolidated down to this statement: "I want people to love me. I want to be loved." Just a few hours before he was murdered, John said, "The thing that the sixties did was show us the possibility and responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility." [Civil rights moved into multicultural awareness. The hippie movement spawned the environmental protection, alternative medicine, and the peace movement. Questioning social norms led to feminism and gay liberation.] (Partridge)
"After befriending the Monty Python crew, Harrison created the production company HandMade Films to produce their Christ-figure comedy Monty Python's Life of Brian. Harrison sold his interest in HandMade in 1994, but by then it had already produced some of the most successful and influential works in recent British film history, along with its fair share of turkeys." (Houston Press)
This got me thinking of Paul as a bass player. Some say that he is such a talented bass player that even if the Beatles had never made it big, "McCartney would still be deified for his catchy, lyrical bass guitar playing." (Dashow) Here are three of his songs which really highlight his bass playing:
- "Come Together" ...the bass line is dominant in this class, popular hit.
- "Goodnight Tonight" (1979 with Wings). John said he didn't like anything about this song except McCartney's bass line. This song really shows off Paul's musical versatility.
- "Taxman"...lots of times I have trouble hearing the bass line but I can hear it clearly on this song.
All of the x-Beatles members had trouble with drugs and alcohol. John very famously got involved in heroin use with Yoko and then just as famously the two went through withdrawal cold-turkey one three-day period of time in 1970. He spent the first half of the 1970s drunk and high on alcohol and other drugs./ Ringo said that he wasted two decades in a "lost" haze of alcoholism after the Beatles' breakup./ Paul said he started down the road to alcoholism after the Fab Four split up. He admitted that he turned to "the Bevvies" and considered leaving music during those dark days. / George's 1974 tour in the USA was a flop in part because of the mountain of cocaine he was snorting. By the end of the tour his voice was shredded. He never toured alone again, with one exception in 1991. George was not shy in blaming his throat cancer on his tobacco use. All four of the Beatles eventually made their peace with drugs and found their way back to a level of sobriety before their death (John and George) or before they were able to continue making music into their seventh decade (Paul and Ringo.)
John and Paul could write up a whole new song in a few hours. It would take other artists days or weeks to do the same. They were the most successful and prolific song-writing team of all time.
"In their songwriting, Paul often came up with the tender, sweet lyrics about love, while John moaned about how bad the world was treating him" (Partridge). This ying and yang of song writing worked in the beginning but often caused conflicts near the end of their songwriting partnership. John would complain endlessly that Paul was too pop, too frilly. One critic, who must have agreed with John, ranked Paul's "Good Day, Sunshine" as the worst song every recorded by the Beatles. Why, I wondered to myself when I read that remark, because it is a happy, upbeat song?
The Beatles--- Paul, John, Ringo and George---had something magical together. Some have criticized that Ringo wasn't at the same level as the other three, but actually I disagree. It was the music that they made, all four of them, that we all love so dearly. Perhaps they could have gotten a more talented drummer but then the group and the music wouldn't have been the same.
Musically, [The Beatles] intuitively tuned in to one another, effortlessly getting in synch the moment they began playing. Paul was the best all-around musician, great on the bass, drums, guitar, or piano. George could give any rock'n'roll guitarist a run for his money. John wasn't technically very good, but as he put it, he could make the guitar 'fucking howl and move.' With Ringo on the drums and George [Martin] in the studio, it wasn't a question of if a release would hit number one---just a question of how fast (Partridge).Many thought the Beatles would never last. They would come and go just like so many musical groups of their day. But when Bob Dylan heard them, he said of the Beatles: "They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid...it was obvious they had staying power." He was right, in spades.
George Martin, the producer of the Beatles music and oft used arranger, visited John once after the breakup. During their conversation John said he'd do over everything he'd recorded as a Beatle, even "Strawberry Fields Forever," which Martin thought was John's best, a masterpiece. "Most of what the Beatles did was rubbish," John said. George Martin said later, about that conversation, "John's vision was always better than the reality. Everything inside him was greater than its expression in the outside world. That was his life." Other musicians wanted to heard. That wasn't enough for John. He wanted to be felt. (Partridge).
And you know what? That is what we do when we listen to the Beatles songs today. We feel. We remember. We sigh. We blush. We do all these things because the Beatles have been playing in the background of our lives since 1962. Their music is our music. We fell in love to their songs. We played house and dress-up as little girls, imagining we were married to one of them. We played their songs loud on the car stereo when we got our drivers licences. We may have had one of their songs sung at our wedding (as my cousin did.)We have followed their careers---we've wept when they died, and cheered when we see them on TV or, if we are really lucky, in person, as the folks in Brooklyn did just last month at a McCartney concert.
Almost all the quotes in this blogpost came from the very excellent book John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth: A Photographic Biography by Elizabeth Partridge. It won a Printz Honor in 2006. This was a reread for me but I read it as for the first time. I am so obsessed with the Beatles right now I am always looking around for any new crumbs of information not gleaned previously. She does a well-rounded job with the highlights of John's life. from start to finish, and I highly recommend it. John was such a tortured soul. He was so hurt by the death of his mother and the abandonment by his father that it nearly haunted him all his days. But you know what? If he hadn't been tortured internally, he probably never would have been compelled to make such great music and the Beatles would never have been formed. The phrase "Screwed up people make great art" certainly applies to John Lennon.