"Indeed, on top of whatever other reasons John had for suddenly deciding that Yoko needed to be by his side at all hours-including at Abbey Road, including at writing sessions with Paul- there is the element of the long-standing infinite game. It's hard to believe, for example, that it is merely coincidence that John's Jesus freak-out, immediately followed by his Yoko freak-out, occurred just after he'd witnessed, at extremely close hand, a jolt of electricity between Paul and a woman named Linda Eastman, who within a year would be his wife. Linda connected with Paul on the New trip, and he invited her to ride in the limousine on the way to the airport. "There was something awfully steamy going on in that car... a lot of body heat," another passenger in the car said. "It was palpable; you could feel it." Two days after Paul brought his future wife in front of John, John found himself a new woman-and a new partner. He always had to top Paul."
Joshua Wolf Shenk, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs
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I’ve just listened to the two parter episode with Jude Southerland Kessler on the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast and boy do I have some thoughts!
Before I start I’ll just preface this by saying that I’ve also listened to her podcast on the Something About The Beatles podcast and that was pretty similar in terms of tone.
1) So Jude is a John Lennon fan first and foremost then a Beatles fan, which is fine since her books are focused on John’s life but I find it disappointing how she feels the need to diminish the Lennon-McCartney partnership in order to elevate John. In the Glass Onion episode she was asked why she thought John dominated the “A Hard Day’s Night” album and her explanation was that because John “was the leader” and George Martin recognised that he had the best rock voice he ever heard so would always give him preferential treatment over Paul which was why his songs were always picked to open and close albums... There are so many issues to unpack here so here goes:
- John undoubtedly had a hot streak in 1964 and was bringing in a lot of songs but we know that the L/M partnership was at its strongest in the early years when they were still touring so why the need to pretend that John was creating these songs singlehandedly? Or is the L/M only a myth until it’s John helping on a primarily “Paul” song?
- She spoke about John’s songs always starting and closing the albums but the very first song on the Beatles very first album is “I Saw Her Standing There” so what is she talking about?
- Again she dragged George Martin into her argument and stated that he always gave John’s songs preferential treatment but that ignores the fact that George time and time again, both during and after the Beatles, highlighted how essential both John and Paul were to their partnership and how fundamentally equal they were, different strengths and weakness but ultimately equal. Since George was there I’m gonna give his opinion some credence, definitely more than Jude’s
- There’s always I think this method of looking at John’s dominance of the L/M partnership during AHDN and assuming that that was the natural order of things and depended solely on John but it completely ignores what was going on with Paul at that point in time, newly in London, newly in a relationship with Jane Asher and exploring everything that had to offer, maybe Paul wasn’t pulling as much weight as he should have at that point in time?
2) There’s always this weird view, in my opinion and of course it’s a view that Jude is all over, that Paul only started dominating on later albums because John essentially let him, either through his drug intake, depression, whatever you name it. Again, why is it so taboo to mention Paul’s immersion in Swinging London and the inspiration that would have given him? Paul was almost 2 years younger than John, why is it crazy that his peak years would have come later in the decade? Also, by many accounts from day 1 in the studio Paul was pretty assertive and we know he was working extremely closely with Brian in driving projects for the band before he died so it’s not like once the coast was clear Paul’s evil plan to steal the Beatles from John was good to go
3) Finally, one of my bugbears is when people take a quote and remove it from its context to fit the purpose of whatever interpretation they want to fit on to the Beatles. Both Jude and Mark Lewisohn have quoted Paul’s quote from his secretly recorded conversation with Hunter Davies where he referred to John as his “fairground hero” and use that as their catchphrase to describe the whole L/M relationship, Paul always admired and looked up to John so he would never leave him and John was the centre of his universe, so now to unpack this:
- I don’t think it’s wrong that when Paul met John as a 15 year old and John was a teddy boy looking almost 17 year old that Paul would have looked up to him so I think that quote is accurate for the earlier part of their friendship
- Where I digress from the Lewisohn/Kessler interpretation is where they have Paul fixed in that mindset forever more... Firstly, Paul is clear that that was his initial view of John but as he grew older he grew to share in things with him and become his equal, which ultimately threatened John, which I think succinctly explains why a lot of the Beatles story unfolds the way it did. In my view, Paul initially looked up to John and John felt secure in the knowledge that Paul looked up to him and would never leave him. Once they get older and Paul is writing incredible songs on his own like Yesterday, is asking other people like Mal Evans and Pete Shotton to help with the lyrics to Eleanor Rigby instead of John, marries Linda and starts a family with her, that’s a big factor in why John freaks out and lashes out at Paul because he doesn’t want Paul to leave him, that’s something that Jude doesn’t mention and Lewisohn has disappointingly never mentioned either. In my mind to understand the L/M relationship and the axis that the Beatles story turned on you need to understand not just how much Paul loved, appreciated and needed John but how much John loved, appreciated and needed Paul, otherwise the story just does not make sense.
We need more female authorities in Beatles historiography, unfortunately Jude Southerland Kessler is not it.
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