The Beatles invade a florist’s shop.
First, the news: Paul Mc—sorry, Sir Paul McCartney wants to release “Carnival of Light”, an apparently legendary 14-minute clusterfuck of random noise composed by the Beatles in 1967. It hasn’t been released because the other three B’s thought it was, if not shite (which they were probably too properly British to call it), at least “too avant-garde” (according to G. Harrison).
Sir Paul wants to clear its release now with the associated estates as part of his continuing effort to prove to the world that he was the artsiest-fartsiest Beatle of all. This effort took off in the mid-90s with the release of the Beatles Anthology and has really picked up steam since Harrison died.
I’ve always been a defender of McCartney—not because I love his post-Beatles work, but more as a bulwark against the fetishization of Lennon, which is skeevy beyond words. You could populate a small European nation—and not Luxembourg small; I’m talking Switzerland, Austria-sized—with people who list John Lennon as their “hero.” Whereas you miiiight be able to fill a racquetball court with McCartney-worshippers.
That said, Sir Paul’s struggle to reshape popular history fills me with a mixture of fascination and contempt. Look, I want to say to him, you can release your art-noise “masterpiece”; you can put out Let It Be . . . Naked to prove to the world you were right to criticize Phil Spector’s original overproduction. But nothing you do will ever change the fact that your partner/rival was shot to death almost thirty years ago.
. . . I want to say that, yes, but since I can’t, I instead have to watch a man trying to wage the first successful PR war against a pop-culture martyr. Maybe he’ll succeed. Maybe the next generation of kids will grow up sporting McCartney haircuts and enduring Wings albums instead of telling themselves how brilliant the Plastic Ono Band was. But I doubt it. Lennon’s artistic adventurousness, his anti-Nam bona fides, his iconic look, they might not be any more real than anything Sir Paul ever mustered. But four bullets magnified them far beyond the ability of facts—or a cacophony of McCartney-engineered noise—to change the world’s perception.
I think. Am I wrong?