winners write the history books. where does that leave paul mccartney?

beatles-carnival-of-light

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?

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9 thoughts on “winners write the history books. where does that leave paul mccartney?”

  1. I was a big fan of John’s BEFORE he got shot, and, the thing is, if Paul really wanted to impress the world on how damn artsy he was, he probably should have worked that angle during the seventies, as Lennon did, instead of subjecting us all to fucking Wings.

    There is no redeeming social, political or artistic import to anything Paul did post-Beatles and pre-Lennon murder.

    I’m sorry he’s jealous, but that’s just how it is.

  2. Okay — one minor exception being the single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” But that ain’t much compared to Lennon. Sorry.

  3. This will sound bad, but I’m just gonna say it anyway — I’m glad I’m gonna die a long time before Raul, barring freak effects-pedal mishaps. Whenever you have an intense, creative relationship, especially between men, and one of them drops dead young and at the top of their game, the other invariably spirals down, down, down and seems to linger forever. There’s just no way to compete, and besides, survivors in these kinds of circumstances just get weird. We see it again and again.

    John Frusciante recently started a blog. His first post started out as a musical exercise, moved on to the mathematics of music, and then ended demonstrating how the details of human relationships can be expressed mathematically. Okay, he’s weird. (See above.) But, in the course of all this he pointed out the fact that the bigger or smaller a number is, the harder it is for the human mind to cope with. One is the easiest number to envision, for instance, and the bigger or smaller from there you go, approaching either infinity or absolute nothiness, the mor difficult it is to fathom. It got me thinking — on a purely rational, unsentimental level, this is why humans have such a difficult time with death. In death, absolute Zero meets up with Infinity, and this is one of if not the only everyday situation that can be reduced to that particular mathematical paradox.

  4. harveyblues: i’m not comparing them. i have no horse in this race. but i do find it interesting–and yes, unfortunate–that so much of the past 15 years has been devoted to paul trying to rewrite what is assuredly an unfair history of his band.

    but that’s just the point: history IS unfair.

    as for “carnival of light”, if three of four members of the band didn’t like it, that’s good enough for me–and it wouldn’t matter which three. i trust the decisions made by the young men creating the music forty years ago. not the nostalgia.

  5. I don’t really care about any of it. In fact, I don’t really get emotionally worked-up about much, especially pop-culture (though I have to admit Prince is seriously pissing me off today). I can’t even say I typically “compare” them. Always liked John. Never liked Paul. No comparison needed. I just find this weird scramble for artistic cred kinda bizarre.

    I mean, let’s be honest — they BOTH married their way into artistic respectability, which is kind of cool, because for just about ever we’ve seen women doing that with men, because so few doors were open to them. I mean, Frankenstein kicks ass and all, but if it weren’t for Percy, Mary Shelley never woulda gotten anywhere. Now here we’ve got two working class pop musicians who married their way up the art establishment ladder, one of them dies young, and the other starts going way out of his way to prove he was always the real deal and the other guy was a celebrated poseur.

    That’s just fun.

  6. and I should add that I’m not dissing either of them for marrying as they did. I actually respect them deeply for marrying women with brains, unlike most of their peers who went for supermodel bimbos.

  7. interesting point. marriage as a vessel of social promotion but shorn of the money element. when you’ve fulfilled every material need, what do you do next?

  8. While nowhere near as good as The Beatles (not even close), I still think a good amount of Wings songs are solid. Simple breezy pop songs, but still good.

    And I am a certified McCartney lover. I like Lennon too and love the combination of the two. But my favorite is Paul. Yeah, he’s guilty of some incredible simple songs, but he is also the unabashedly more emotional one. Lennon was a musical genius too, just doesn’t reach me as much. Neither created anything solo that is as good as their best work together.

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