So, I went to see Across the Universe the other night, which I enjoyed although I can certainly see how someone might not. I always enjoy Julie Taymor's striking imagery, and so for that, it was great. A story based all around characters from Beatles songs (Jude, Sadie, Prudence, etc) thrown into a sort of weirdo narrative, however, was less convincing. Nonetheless, a good time. And the songs are still really great.
After seeing the film, I was sent into a bit of a Beatles fit, dug out my copy of The White Album, and listened. First: what a weird record this is. Great, yes, but totally weird. Second: "Revolution 9" is amazing in how it contextually illuminates what was going on culturally at the time. (John Sinclair talks a little about this in his book Guitar Army; The Beatles and Freak Culture.) What listening made me realize, however, is why I have always disliked Paul McCartney.
Now, those who know me know that I have always had issues with Paul. For a while I thought it was because I am a composer and he is a fake-composer. But that's really not it. I don't really care if Paul writes "classical" music. Someone has to, since none of my friends do it anymore. What really irks me is, I now realize, is his public persona; the character he appeared to play in The Beatles, and has continued to play since. (Regardless of whether it is sincere or not).
Each of The Beatles had their own public image, which has since become their little myths. John was the martyred rebel artsy weirdo who fought the law (even though the law won). George was the spiritual one who--perhaps the most brilliant musician of the lot--was trounced by the Lennon/McCartney musical personality. Ringo was the lucky one. The worst musician of the lot who wrote all of their dopiest songs (Octopus’s Garden?!) and who was the ultimate right-place-at-the-right-time stand-in for Pete Best. (…but more on Ringo another time) And Paul? Well, Paul was the nice one.
And what does it mean to be the nice one? Well--and perhaps this is unfair--to me it always suggested a lack of personal conviction. It was clear that John and George had beliefs. Even Ringo had them, even if his beliefs were more along the lines of "I am going to ride this magic wave as long as I can." Paul always struck me as a bit of a goody-goody who always listened to his record execs. Sometimes I fantasize that he sold his soul to the corporations, which is why he has outlived his more noble band mates.
It will be interesting to see how his myth plays out. What will Paul's legacy be? Will they make movies about him like they have about Lennon? They may, but I can't imagine they will be all that interesting. What could they be about, really? How nice he was? His dramatic friendship with Michael Jackson? ("Paul I told you, I'm a lover, not a fighter!") Who really cares about any of this anyway?!
On a side note, has anyone ever thought how amazing it would be if wacko artist Paul McCarthy were to be inserted into The Beatles line-up? Now that’s a band I'd love to see--all mop tops and Heinz ketchup! Something more akin to GWAR than the Crickets I suspect!