Re: "Girl" - John's comment about Christianity?<br>

Re: "Girl" - John's comment about Christianity?

Summary: And a few words about critical thought....
Sender: news@math.ucla.edu
References: <2jgug1$ici@cass.ma02.bull.com> <1994Feb12.223321.8320@math.ucla.edu> <michalak-140294090032@michalak1.lib.tju.edu>

In article <michalak-140294090032@michalak1.lib.tju.edu> michalak@jeflin.tju.edu (Ed Michalak) writes: >A couple of people wrote:
>
>> >Citation, please?
>
>As if I have to PROVE something that was said by John almost 30 years ago.

No, you don't have to prove it, but it helps the rest of us follow your analysis if we can understand what you're quoting from. That way, we can decide for ourselves---and perhaps add a bit more commentary to your insights---if we know the circumstances of John's quote.

None of the Fabs *always* spoke the absolute truth about their own work; sometimes they lacked simple critical distance which would allow them to rationally expound upon their own creative process, rather than respond to their work emotionally. Not that their own opinion is valueless, let me make clear. But it must be balanced with other evidence.

And citations are simply a part of good scholarship; it's not a challenge. Please don't take offense!

>I have two books that talk about it. One is "Beatles in Their Own Words",
>page 80. John is quoted on the Rubber Soul album.

Now that is really curious. "...In Their Own Words" is maddening for its lack of proper attribution; there's no recourse for the Beatles scholar to check the source and see if some vital part of the quote was left off, or even to see if the transcription was accurate. And on my copies of "Rubber Soul"---all of them :-) ---there's no text whatsoever involving song meaning. It's just song titles, vocalists, and instrumentation. Certainly nothing about the meaning of "Girl"!

>I'm curious. How do you know that it is of tenuous reliability,
>considering you have never even seen it?

My article didn't say I hadn't seen it; you've jumped to an unfortunate conclusion. Some Beatles academic I'd be if I hadn't read it. :-) But I don't own it. After having read it several times (a library copy), I decided against owning it, considering the circumstances of its genesis.

> You are able to tell whether John
>is maturely reflecting on HIS WORK (who knows it better than him?) from an
>interview? Forgive me, but THAT is a stretch!!!!! :)

Not at all. As George said, "Think For Yourself". You've not implying, I trust, that a serious seeker of information is at the mercy of the informant, not matter what he says, or how many times he contradicts himself?

I can certainly tell whether John is maturely reflecting on his work. So can you. We may come to different conclusions, but each of us is possessed of a mind of our own, capable (under ideal circumstances) of rational opinion, once all the facts are in. I trust you've compared John's thoughts in "Lennon Remembers" to those in the Playboy Interviews some nine years later? And you want to make a case for "Lennon Remembers" being a *mature* reflection on his work with and without the Beatles?

It's not just the lapse of time between the two interviews; it's not merely the fact that Lennon was 31 in the first and 40 in the second example. John's life had undeniably reached a plateau by 1980, from which he could better assess his own accomplishments. By his fortieth year, he was less inclined to rant against the musicians he was emotionally still "divorcing" in 1971; the wounds, real and imagined, were still fresh in 1971; and his work with the Beatles was almost entirely vilified in 1971, the result of John's not having established his independent professional persona at that time. What a difference a decade makes!

Yes, I'd say that IMHO John was a more trustworthy *and* mature analyst of his life and work by 1980. He was also, inarguably, more clear-headed, the result of having left behind him the fog of substance abuse. And he'd had time to wrestle with the resentments of a songwriting partnership which still had a hold on him after all those years.

Please be clear on this. I'm not saying that "Lennon Remembers" is worthless and the Playboy Interviews are pure gold. But I am saying that, while both are essential to understanding the totality of John Lennon (as are many other sources), one of the two is certainly more valuable as a source reflecting greater information and accuracy by the interviewee. Guess which source that it. :-)

>What has to be SHOWN? John SAID the song was a reference to Christianity.
>Given John SAID that, then some lines HAVE to refer to his feelings about
>Christianity or Catholicism. Remember, John SAID it. This is not a clue
>or backwards message given to conjecture.

Right. But your argument was that specific lines refered to equally specific events and people within Christianity---Jesus, his death, the gospels, the persistence of faith, etc. You didn't prove this. It's impossible to do so, I'd suggest, because John didn't specify how Christianity was to fit into the song. His statement was too vague for us to even begin to make a case for such specificity.

A reference to Christianity is not the same as a lyrical analog of Christian symbolism. Where's that reference? In what line? Can you be absolutely certain that John's mental reference was not actually *outside* of the song, and doesn't even make an appearance in the lyrics? Can you also be certain that John, in 1971, wasn't making a mistake about "Girl"? Could it have been another song entirely? This is what I mean about the trustworthiness of the source material. The fact that John didn't give us an explication of the song---"You see, in line two I was referring to Gnosticism...."---means we're at a deadend as far as lyrical mapping is concerned. The fact that he doesn't seem to have referred to this Christianity reference during subsequent interviews suggests to me that a) John had forgotten all about what he'd said in 1971; b) John didn't mean it in 1971; c) John was confused. A really sharp interviewer might have asked Lennon to explain what he meant in 1971; an equally sharp one might well have done his homework in 1980 and asked *then* what the meaning was. But we'll never know, alas. The moment was lost.

>I think you are reading far more into it than is necessary. Again, John
>said the song was about Christianity or Catholicism. Isn't that enough?

But you miss a vital point; John didn't say that the song was about Christianity or Catholicism. He said his negative feelings about these areas of religion were an influence. The clue is in his *negativity*, not in the existence, worthiness, or persistence of religion itself. And since the song is primarily (by John's own admission) about a "dream girl", we have to try to see in what faint manner John might have interwoven his feelings about a woman whom he loved but who hurt him badly with a negative image of the Christian faith. And we have to do it without John's help, using the sources we think are most reliable.

>I don't mean to be harsh, but if John SAID it, then no amount
>of conjecture or selective reasoning applies.

You are still the analyst here. So are we all. In doing what we do in rec.music.beatles, we all try to make sense out of the grand conundrum of Beatles music. You are not restricted by what the artist says. You may choose to accept it or debunk it; or more properly, weigh it with other sources and quotations. As much as there is of value in what each Beatle has said about his own work and the collective efforts of the group, you would be privy to only a segment of the analytial universe if you stopped there.

Frankly, sometimes they were dim about their own songs; sometimes they were incapable of deeper introspection. Artists are often blind to their own gifts. John himself couldn't fathom what William Mann was saying about "aeolian cadences" and "pandiatonic clusters" in 1963; I'll wager that much of the musicological analysis of Beatles music since then would be over the heads of the composers (even our own esteemed Dr. Pollack's works!)

It doesn't mean that such things aren't in the songs; all it means is that the artists didn't perceive these complexities. And why should they? They wasn't trained to do so. They were operating from a level of great creativity, using talent and intuition to feel their way through the morass of musical and lyrical development. If they'd stopped to think about clusters and cadences, I'll wager that none of us would have much of a reason to invent this newsgroup. :-)

Just a vivid illustration, for your enjoyment. Ray Coleman recounts an altercation between trad-jazz singer George Melly and John Lennon circa 1964. Admittedly, a party was involved; and admittedly, John was not at his level-headed best when drinking. Melly made some reference to the contribution to black singers and songwriters to pop music---specifically Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, who Melly credited with virtually inventing the musical idiom which both he and John shared. John refused to admit any influence, Coleman reports, and further mentions that the conversation almost came to physical violence over the argument.

Now, John *said* it. No Muddy Waters, no Chuck Berry. Good think Melly didn't bring up Buddy Holly or the Shirelles. :-) Are we not to argue with this? Is the discussion ended?

Heaven forfend.

>The point of rmb (I hope) is open communication, with an OPEN mind, open
>to all and any discussion of Beatledom, open to all points of view. Why
>try to deflate something that perhaps you find hard to accept?

The same reason I'd expect you to return the favor, in the spirit of good scholarship, if I were missing out on something you felt I should consider. But here's the vital distinction. Having an open mind doesn't mean accepting *all* opinions as equally valid. It means listening to the thoughts of our compatriots, and debating/ deflating/discussing as befits the topic. The central thought is *expanding* the mind...not just leaving it open to collect all that's blowing in the wind. :-)

--


"But how their bewitched and bedazzled fans love it...."

saki (dmac@math.ucla.edu ) Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.