Re: Paul vs. John<BR>

Re: Paul vs. John

References: <> <> <> <>

In article <> (Karen Pepper) writes: > (Nancy Rudins Cray Operations) writes:
>>I've been reading this newsgroup for about two years (!) and I never posted
>>prior to this because of all the Paul-bashing I see going on here. I am not
>>ready to admit that Paul's music is the best but neither am I ready to admit
>>that about John's music. I equally like all four boys' music but for
>>different reasons. They all had a quality in their own music that I enjoyed.
>The reason why so much Paul-bashing goes on is because *Paul* continually
>brings up this "Paul vs John" thing in interviews, in order to complain
>how badly done-by he is and how no-one respects him just because *he's*
>not dead.

If anyone's reluctant to post merely because Paul gets bashed, I'd suggest a slight adjustment of view; if that's really the case, it would seem that Paul could benefit from your support, not your silence! :-)

The really odd thing is that John was/is just as worthy of criticism, if personality quirks are an issue here. Both men have always been complex characters, as befits the artistic soul. Neither man was a saint; both were capable of cruelty and pettiness (look at the way Paul handled some early romantic relationships, during the Hamburg years, and his treatment of both Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best; John's volatility and insensitivity we already know about).

The primary difference is that all John's faults were on the surface, shifting and coexisting with his surprising vulnerability and sincerity; Paul's faults are buried deep, except when in moments of weakness they work their way to the surface. There are many of those moments...and Paul's good and bad sides never quite fit together.

It's too simplistic to claim that John is forgivable because he was a martyr. And it's a shame that Paul doesn't understand this point; it makes *Paul* sound like the fellow who was wronged by John's assassination. Paul suffered the loss of many things with John's death (some of which we suffer also) but he didn't lose his own life. What Paul lost, among other things, was his ability to prove who was the better, more talented, more creative Beatle... and what strikes me as sad is that Paul still has the desperate *need* to prove this fact.

Paul's not unlike the younger brother who exists permanently in the shadow of someone older; the competitiveness that existed between John and Paul is still quite alive, despite the events of almost eleven years ago. This competition was a healthy part of their dynamic for more than a decade, while they were creating miraculous music. And it's arguable that this game of creativity was, in fact, won by Paul. Through any objective standards (if there are any :-) you'd have to admit that Paul showed the more spectacular growth in his ability to reach commercial heights; to blend the artistic and the popular; to try different studio techniques on his own; to adapt different media (recording, film, live performance) to his own vision. And post-Beatles, Paul showed the greater drive and tenacity, the willingness to create new music (not all of it successful) with new groups, and the desire to branch out into less-explored areas (the Liverpool Oratorio).

Even so, he still manages to put his foot into it, doesn't he? It doesn't sit well with most Beatles fans to hear him claim he's the only one who really *knew* Lennon; he may well have been, but it's the motive behind the words that we hear, not the potential truth of them. And in that motive is a veiled threat: to wit, I could destroy your precious illusions about John, more wholly and legitimately than anyone else...but I'm a nice guy so I won't.

The problem with this mostly-implied revelation is that it does Paul more damage than John. I don't think this is what he intends; I think there's some strange twist of Paul's psyche that makes him hope that we, the great mass of Beatles fans, will be greatful for his self-control. I believe that this was operating in his mind when he gave virtually the same interview to Hunter Davies about six years ago (i.e., John was a right bastard but you won't hear *me* admit to it). Either way, Paul's trapped: he can let all loose and appear like an irreverent wretch, or he can keep a lid on his damaging impressions while telling us we ought to be grateful. Trouble is, we're not grateful; and the final impression we're left with is that Paul's not a nice guy, after all.

It's a tough lesson, and I suppose Paul never learned it: to keep one's mouth shut and be gracious. He's really too concerned about his own stand in history to do that...and I don't blame him. As he sees it, there's an inequity in the historical record. He'd much prefer that someone else corrected it, but that someone else is dead now. Maybe if Paul and John had grown into ripe middle age, on their opposite shores, and rebuilt some of the relationship that was damaged at the end of the Beatles era, they would have come to terms with this conundrum. And perhaps we, as appreciators of their music, could have come to a greater understanding of that complicated Lennon/McCartney dynamic.

As it is, this is an inevitable---and permanent---paradox. Paul may spend his life cycling between sincere mourning and resentment for the man he undoubtedly loved. And the world may continue to read the sensationalistic spoutings of the Albert Goldmans and Fred Seamans---maybe even of Paul McCartney, if he gets ticked off enough---but will forgive John anyway.

Lloyd Rose, writing in "The Boston Phoenix" in December 1985, had some insightful things to say about the Lennon mystique which flourished amidst the plethora of biographical material, whether good or bad, whether truthful or libelous. "It hardly matters," says Rose, "that [John] was `on' in these interviews, playing the media game, hiding behind a show of candour; he still had a force and reality none of the writing about him conveys.... Just as you're getting fed up with reading about his silliness or meanness, his own words spark up off the page---savvy, funny, rueful---and you understand why people fell for him. `He was a terrible guy, actually,' [said] a Liverpool Art Institute acquaintance, `but I liked him'."

"`I write them in my spare time,' it says here."
saki ( Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.