Even if you don’t love the Beatles, you probably have your favorite. Maybe it’s John, the anomaly or at least to me. He is a man who sang of peace and love yet was cold hearted mean, passive aggressive, a horrible bandmate, a horrible husband and worse father. He was abusive. Maybe it’s quiet George you love, he of the impish grin and a quiet spirituality that vied with the burning rage he sometimes felt. Maybe it’s loveable Ringo, comic relief not as cute as the others and a bit of a goof who provided the band with the steady hand of rhythm they needed. He too had his demons.
For me it’s always been Paul McCartney. Many still blame him for the breakup of the Beatles. They would be wrong and they would also be a little right. All of the fab four had a bit of responsibility. If you don’t know the story then I will summarize. The festering began with the recording of the White Album when John allowed an outsider, a disruptive horrible outsider, Yoko Ono into the recording studio. It was the first time and John passive aggressively allowed her to wreak havoc on the band offering criticism and suggestions because she called herself some sort of an artist. Meanwhile John wanted to quit but sat idly by when he did show up usually high on heroin. When the Beatles began recording the next album anger boiled over. Paul had said to George that on Hey Jude he didn’t want any of the ideas for fancy guitar riffs that George suggested and rehearsed, It was Paul’s song and he wanted it done his way. George got angry but he was angry anyway as he was sitting on a cache of songs that he couldn’t record because John and Paul wouldn’t let him. So he drank. So did Ringo and the sessions disintegrated. Ultimately these sessions would be gone through by Phil Spector who somehow some way managed to create Let it Be out of the mess. Before that the Beatles found their way back together for one more album, the compromise album Abbey Road. Paul was thrilled and thought it was the solution to working their way out of the issues they had and so he suggested another album. There was no polite response from John, Ringo or George and the four Beatles went their separate ways without breaking up. Paul retreated to his country estate. He made numerous offers to return to the studio and get back to work. He had ideas and he had songs. No one was interested. Meanwhile Phil Spector began cleaning up the mess and creating Let it Be. Paul began recording on his own. He wanted to work, wanted to record. Since no one else was interested he recorded an album, what would become the Bowl of Cherries album, or the Cherries album, named for the cover. The actual title is simply Paul McCartney. He set a release day which unfortunately coincided with the release of Let it Be. Suddenly everyone was interested with what Paul was doing. They asked him to change his release date, to delay it. He said no. They offered to go back into the studio and record again. Paul said no. They sent Ringo to his house to plead the band’s case and Paul said no. Now it was Paul who was realizing that he could have a life outside of the band. I truly believe if John had gone to speak with Paul it would have changed things but John Lennon was not that kind of bandmate, not that kind of person. When the media asked Paul about the solo album and if the Beatles had broken up he said that he guessed they had.
I remember what a big deal it was. I remember driving around one night, the entire family stuffed into a Volkswagon and going from store to store looking for Let it Be but nowhere could that album be found. Ultimately we settled on a single of Let it Be. I wish I still had that.
I was born in 1963 so the Beatles were introduced, thrived, and ended without me being overly familiar with their music. I remember the song Hey Jude playing on the radio my mother ironing and that ending that never ends na na na na. It’s not my favorite song however it always brings that cherished memory with it, one of my earliest. I remember the breakup only because we went searching for the album. I remember Paul McCartney and Wings though. I loved Paul and for the longest time I wanted the album Band on the Run. I loved that song and I loved the song Jet. I make up songs for my dog Rosco and one of the songs I use to do that is Helen Wheels. I remember that so well especially considering that I didn’t own the album for a very long time. Paul wrote pop songs, songs that you could love and songs you didn’t have to do a lot of work with to figure out. They were simple and enjoyable and they make people happy. They make people sing along. It is the best kind of music.
In junior high I fell in love with the album London Town for that song but more for the hit song With a Little Luck. I still love that song. In college I discovered Venus and Mars and played it all the time loving the song Magneto and Titanium Man which still makes me smile. The title track and Rock Show make my heart skip a beat when I hear them. These are fond memories, songs and music that I love. Later in my life I grew to really love George Harrison and gained so much respect for him, his deep spirituality and the fact that he didn’t dwell on the past. He was always asked to play Beatle songs, songs that he wrote and performed with the fab four but he just didn’t and I loved that about him. Paul loves being a Beatle to this day and why shouldn’t he? A lot of the Beatles favorites are his songs. Certainly a lot of my favorite Beatle songs are Paul songs. You can tell which ones he wrote for the most part. John always disliked those simple songs and always had something to say but that’s the very reason why I have always loved Paul. His music has always matched his spirit, his smile and almost laughing personality never taking his self too seriously.
I am discovering that one of the worst things about being born in the 60’s is that so many of the great rock stars I grew up on and loved are slowing dying. No matter how much people joke, Keith Richards will die, and so will Mick and so one day will Ringo and Paul. While they will leave a huge legacy of music their deaths will be huge and the world will be a lesser place. For now we get to still enjoy them as they all remain active and touring. Others have not been that lucky. Until that day…