Macca vs. Legend<BR>

Macca vs. Legend

Sender: news@math.ucla.edu

In article <1993Jun16.134049.11254@dg-rtp.dg.com> smithjc@hitchcock.rtp.dg.com (Jay Smith) writes:

>It was only a very few years ago that Paul was forced to defend his wearing
>of leather shoes while preaching vegetarianism and animal rights with such
>lame excuses as there being no practical alternative. (Hey, ever heard of
>canvas, Paul? Or synthetic leather?) ....

>It's this sort of thing that makes me question his commitment and wonder if
>he is simply striking a pose in a quest for legendary status. If he can't
>do it through music, then he'll try politics!

Just like his famous erstwhile songwriting partner, eh? :-)

How much alike those two have grown over the years. Both John and Paul have had their share of bumpy roads---a long hiatus between hits; times of diminished creativity; forays into other political/philosophical fields.

Now it's hard to know who influenced whom.

Hindsight muddies the waters, rather than clears them. Where there was once a band called the Beatles with a leader named John, there is now a legend based on ever-shifting patterns of creative tension. Despite the fact that it's in the past, we can't seem to fix that movement in time. Different factions provide different interpretations. John was the guiding light. Paul was the innovator. George was the spiritual center. George had a talent for borrowing. Paul was a prevaricating diplomat. John was a political nutcase.

Ringo was the easy one. :-)

The two really complex members of the team were, of course, Lennon and McCartney. And they remain that way, even with John's output frozen by historical circumstance. It's a tragedy in innumerable ways, but for Paul it seems to create a perpetual competitive flame, something his creative wings can't help but pursue. All this remarkable life of his, so it seems, is woven of well-used threads: his need to be loved by all, and his need to be like John. It would be facile for *me* to suggest that this is all there is to the man. But these strands seem to predominate in his psychological core.

What Paul lost with John's loss, 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. I see this current preoccupation with vegetarianism as an offshoot of this need. John sought power through politics, when music failed as his medium of choice. Not surprisingly, Paul's now seeking the same avenue.

Is it sincere? Is it posturing? Hard to tell. Are we right to erupt with righteous indignation? Not sure.

Whoever has had experience with conversion to a cause will have some sympathy for Paul's situation. It is said that there is no enthusiasm like that of a convert, who is inevitably making up for lost time as well as perpetually reiterating his sincerity (beset as he is by the doubts of others). Such piousness is not easy for others to take, but piety is in plentiful supply. This year---and last, and the next---it takes the form of vegetarianism, as in 1967 when Paul temporarily followed John and George's lead. In the years beyond, it may be some other activism, some new transcendence into political/environmental/ religious vision.

What familiar territory! Weren't there similar searchings in the sixties, that decade of divination?

I don't know where John would have ended up in his own personal search for beatitude---a search that was inevitably borne on the shoulders of his fans, some of whom followed his footsteps like acolytes: religion, surrealism, politicism, primal screams, drugs, macrobiotics...while the most intriguing search was tragically left off in mid-stride. Emerging from a complex decade, some of it exhibitionistic, some of it reclusive, John seemed to be making peace with his own familial past (he'd asked Aunt Mimi for relics from the home he shared with her in Liverpool, and began to show particular affection for his Quarry Bank tie), and with life's simpler pleasures (anathematic to spiritual diets!) like chocolates and Gitanes. He was learning to please himself.

That's a hard lesson. There are no such simple pleasures for Paul, it seems, a man whose need for love and acclaim drives him to try some of the same avenues as his erstwhile partner. Yet the fabric hangs ill on Paul's frame. Why is that? Is he somehow less suited to activism? Is he too much the proselyte? Is he guilty of urging us too vociferously, beating his audiences with icons and tracts till they turn away?

But John did the same thing, didn't he? And it seems in hindsight that we forgive John for the same transgressions made by Paul.

Maybe that's an inevitable complication based in the fundamental differences between them.

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 candor; 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'."

How is Paul different? Hasn't he been accused of the same faults--- the media manipulation, the false candor? It's not just me, I guess, who was willing to forgive John his faults, while punishing Paul for the same transgressions. Is there something fundamentally distinct about the two men? Perhaps something related to the need for love?

It's a tough lesson, and I suppose Paul has yet to learn it: to follow his inner light without the need to be loved for it. But he's too concerned about his own legend to do it...and I don't blame him. As he sees it, there's an inequity in the historical record. I wonder if, through the pursuit of politicism, Paul is hoping to show us how like John---and how worthy of love and respect---he really *is*.

Winning respect is no easy matter. Would John's seemingly-incipient serenity (if we read the clues at the beginnings of his fortieth year) have allowed him to acknowledge Paul's creative contributions? Perhaps if Paul and John had grown naturally 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...and been better able to sit still and be polite when the good Doctor tells us what he thinks we ought to know.

I give Paul credit for one thing among many: he's still searching for a path to righteousness, or what he believes is righteousness these days. Decades past, it was assumed you'd get all that angst out of your system by the time you were in your twenties, then settle down with the one true answer in your head, convinced you'd found out all there was to know. Faddishness is no real crime, I suppose, if it's just a part of the man's search for an answer.

To me, and to others, it may seem like the wrong goal is being sought (to wit: becoming a bona-fide Legend), but that's Paul's weakness, his handicap. He will bear it all the rest of his life. This impediment of his may cause me occasional irritation, but it seems to me that if I can afford Lennon the necessary excuses for his excesses, I could extend the same graciousness to McCartney. Through his musical gifts, he's certainly given me enough in return.
--

"Decca disc producer Mike Smith tells me that he thinks the Beatles are great. He has a continuous tape of their audition performances and he is convinced that his label will be able to put The Beatles to good use."
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