Paul's case<BR>

Paul's case

Sender: news@math.ucla.edu

In article <2ak1c2$a8d@vixen.cso.uiuc.edu> lmeydrec@ux4.cso.uiuc.edu (Astrid) writes:

>I think the only reason Paul emphasizes his role in Sgt. Pepper so much
>is because everyone else seems to always be saying that John was the
>primary member of the band. I would think that it would get annoying
>after a while to hear everyone say that that you were nothing, when you
>know otherwise.

That was a difficult impression to shake. The group started out with John as the avowed leader (in a closed-circuit radio interview in October 1962, the Beatles still agreed to this!) though inarguably it was John *with* Paul that really sparked the group's creative growth. Had they not had each other to inspire, and to engage in some friendly competition, it would have been irrelevant who was the leader; likely they wouldn't have made much of an impact. :-)

The press was rather relentlessly simplistic, pursuing the idea of a group leader and creator long after the Fabs knew it to be untrue. Contemporary assessments of the Beatles always seemed to ignore Paul's accomplishments within the group. John was actually given great credit for his capabilities (not unwarranted, I hasten to add), partly on the basis of his more "mainstream" extracurricular activities---prose and poetry, as well as acting, both of which were slightly more palatable to non-teenage culture than successful pop-music composition.

In trying to "figure out" the Fabs, analysts of the time focused on what *they* could understand as artistically valuable to an *adult* population, because rock-and-roll was still a subgenre of what was considered to be legitimate artistic expression. "Yesterday", being almost entirely Paul's (with George Martin's arrangement) did make people sit up and take notice, but it was considered an almost crossover work, a song which could appeal to teens and adults alike. This distinction of music is largely gone now, since two (even three) generations now share rock music as their defining style, but it was a major source of speculation among critics and journalists alike what the Beatles would do once they "grew up" and (like all good grownups, it was felt), left rock-and-roll behind.

Things look very different now, with our advantage of hindsight. And it's really remarkable what Paul *alone* accomplished within the Beatles, when you tally up the score. Primarily, his songs were the ones deemed successful for other artists---look how many were given away in 1963- 1964. Personal contractual reasons required that Lennon-McCartney get dual credit, but it's indubitably Paul who fueled the careers of Peter and Gordon, as well as Cilla Black; their style is almost pure McCartney. Billy J. Kramer covered three songs by Paul and three by John, so you might say he's a toss-up. :-) Other artists (Chris Barber, Carlos Mendes, Mary Hopkin, Badfinger) made their mark (though in Chris Barber's case not his *only* mark, as skiffle fans know) through tunes penned by Macca.

A McCartney partisan could easily argue that Paul was the innovator, the only Beatles member who could consistently manage the tenderest ballads and the most raucous screamers---his stylistic range was extremely wide. Paul was the clever titlemeister ("Rubber Soul"), the champion of classical instrumentation ("Eleanor Rigby", "Penny Lane", "Yesterday"), the progenitor of "Sgt. Pepper" (a coup both musically *and* artistically), a budding art-director (the cover of "Abbey Road"). Among Paul's accomplishments are musical experiments that remain unpublished ("Carnival of Light", 1967). And he was also the one Beatle with the irrepressible drive to perform. He wanted---and eventually failed---to keep the band alive in both the studio and the concert forum simultaneously.

And he knew, far better than his mates, the value of keeping his public in mind. Paul, on tour, was inevitably the band announcer (even if it was rather perfunctory), the clear-headed spokesman, the public-relations man. He knew something about the ties that bound the Beatles to their fans...maybe because he never forgot the lessons he'd learned in his own teen years, when he met his own idols. The others---particularly John---were just as happy to move away from all that.

Perhaps upcoming books (more scholarly and, one hopes, reasonably objective) will put Paul's contributions in proper perspective. As you've seen, when Paul himself tries it, it doesn't quite come off right...understandably! It's not easy for the artist himself to point out how great he was. :-)

--
"They are 'The Beatles', the smash hit, refuse-all-imitations, Number One Group in the sensational Beat craze now devastating, if not deafening, the British Isles."
------------------------------------- saki (dmac@math.ucla.edu) Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.