Novels Made the Beatles Great?
The first number one Beatles single that was not about love -- and that launched their lifelong project to reinvent rock and roll in terms of the electic, the absurd, and the mystical -- was a little song called "Paperback Writer."

This recent "London Times" article lays it all down, and talks about how McCartney and Lennon's obsession with literature permanently changed the way they thought about music:

"Creation of the Beatles song Paperback Writer"

Prevailing wisdom says that the Beatles discovered their confrontational, discordant, and revolutionary style as a result of experimentation with drugs and youth culture. However, the "Times" posits that it was instead the Beatles fascination with reading, born of days spent traveling in tour buses and waiting backstage for gigs, that gave them their genre-smashing edge:

"The Beatles clocked up enormous numbers of hours in vans and buses, going from concert to concert, TV studio to recording studio. Cassette tape recorders were not yet in use, so they passed the time with books and magazines..."

The Beatles broke out of their "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rut with their sly proclamation that instead of being sex symbols and rock icons they simply wanted to be paperback writers. Was this irony? Or was this a desperate plea to be taken seriously by the only art form they actually admired, after they saw how easy it was to climb to the Top of the Pops?

Thanks to pitiless biographers, the Beatles' problems with women are widely documented, and so their youthful love anthems are therefore difficult to take seriously. Was the first line they wrote that was an honest assessment of the true nature of their struggles with love: "it's a dirty story of a dirty man, and his clinging wife doesn't understand"?

Certainly, the Beatles had a proletarian reverence for those gifted with words, which is why there are more writers than anyone else on the cover of the "Sgt. Pepper's" album. According to his friends, one of John Lennon's favorite writers (as is evident from his lyrics) was Edward Lear, the minor rhyming poet who gave us "The Owl and the Pussycat."

The line "it's based on a novel by a man named Lear," was an obscure reference for American ears, but every British citizen knew that it was just John advocating his favorite working-man's doggerel.

Lennon, at least, wrote two books ("In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard in the Works"), but neither of them made a million overnight and both works have been critically panned as celebrity self-indulgence, relying as they do on half-hearted gags and cheap puns.

In fact, none of the Beatles have accomplished the seemingly trivial goal of breaking into publishing fiction, and now there's no chance in hell: trying to become a paperback writer these days will bankrupt you faster than custard leaks from a dead dog's eye, which is no joke if you have to pay Ringo or Paul's alimony. With shock and chagrin, we must now all wonder -- were the Beatles simply failed fiction writers who set their half-baked pitches to tunes they made up on the spot?


Posted by miracle on Wed, 23 Apr 2008 21:13:36 -0400 -- permanent link

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