From bcm.tmc.edu!news.msfc.nasa.gov!news.sgi.com!csulb.edu!hammer.uoregon.edu!news.uoregon.edu!vixen.cso.uiuc.edu!uchinews!not-for-mail Sun Nov 10 13:00:24 CST 1996 Re: Let's talk about Lewisohn/MacDonald/Hertsgaard

Re: Let's talk about Lewisohn/MacDonald/Hertsgaard

X-Nntp-Posting-Host: ellis-nfs.uchicago.edu Sender: news@midway.uchicago.edu (News Administrator) References: <55e8pk$lh5@newsbf02.news.aol.com> <19961104181900.NAA01622@ladder01.news.aol.com> <55v9t1$6p4@pheidippides.axion.bt.co.uk>

In article <55v9t1$6p4@pheidippides.axion.bt.co.uk>, Bullitt <laceyj@sydney.btap.bt.com> wrote:

>...you've provided one of the few positive comments on MacDonald I've
>seen here...I find it a little surprising that so few people here
>consider him very highly. I fully agree with those who believe his
>analyses are occasionally, er, questionable, but these are rare in my
>view.

To each his/her own. :-)

I keep trying to read MacDonald, I really do. But excluding the introduction to the book (a morass of socio-musicological analysis that comes very close, IMHO, to being one-hundred-proof codswallop), I find that *almost* every entry has some maddening leap of logic that just can't be supported by evidence, or otherwise is extremely questionable, admixed with perfectly decent (so it appears on the surface) research.

MacDonald's analysis of "If I Fell" dismisses it as "immature", but he fails to comprehend that *this is the point of the song*. It's about extremely innocent first love, or first flirtation outside of one's predetermined relationship. And the reality of such sojourns is that you needn't be fifteen years old for this to happen. You can be twenty-three, as John was when he wrote it. You can be forty. At any age, you can realize, with all attendant horror, that you don't know why you're where you are but suddenly you're enraptured by another.

He seems wide of the mark in talking about "It's Only Love", which he dismisses as "hollow", evidenced, MacDonald says, by Lennon's "laughing delivery" and comical working title ("That's a Nice Hat"). So does that mean "Yesterday" was not a serious song because it was once called "Scrambled Eggs"? And if you can detect a laugh in the vocals, it perforce *must* mean the singer disparages the song?

Of course sometimes MacDonald does a perfectly nice precis of a song like "Tomorrow Never Knows" and then tells us that a mellotron was used on it---and doesn't cite this source (Lewisohn---not always perfect himself---describes a number of instruments, but definitely no mellotron). One would like to know.

Minor irritations, I realize. :-)

>Personally I rank him as second only to Lewisohn in terms of depth
>of musical background (former classical music editor for Q magazine;
>author of "The New Shostakovich"(!)) and the sheer amount of pleasure he
>has brought to my listening.

I'd like to hear what a musicologist has to say about this area of MacDonald's analysis. I was finally getting around to learning about aeolian cadences and pandiatonic clusters, and now MacDonald has to throw things like "descending scalar crochets" at us. :-)

>I was very surprised to see Alan Kozinn in his book's Bibliography
>describe Mark Hertsgaard's book as superior on the basis that Hertsgaard
>had access to unheard tapes...

As you mention, Hertsgaard heard some of them, but relied heavily on previous research (Lewisohn et al), and then promoted himself (Hertsgaard) as a superior scholar. Perhaps Mr. Kozinn would like to clarify.

>I'll close by observing that Macdonald *appears* to have more support in
>the UK and here in Australia than in the USA, based on the previous
>year's posts.

This seems to be true, though I'm not sure why.

I do recommend MacDonald's "Revolution In The Head" over Hertsgaard any day, but I wouldn't recommend MacDonald to anyone just entering the world of Beatles scholarship for the first time. It takes more than training wheels to keep up with him! :-) --


"They still represent the twentieth century's greatest romance."

saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu * dlm3@midway.uchicago.edu Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.