Saturday, April 08, 2006

Documentary tackles Beatles' contentious breakup

Even younger music buffs are fans of the Beatles. Like their parents-and grandparents-they marvel at how the '60s group's memorable songs have remained fresh and vital to this day. Thus, they rue the group's demise, and wonder how and why it happened.All sorts of theories have been advanced to answer this baffling question. Many versions focus on the "Yoko Ono factor," blaming the Japanese visual and performance artist for "poisoning" John Lennon's mind against the other Beatles.Result But, a recent TV documentary indicates that the group's breakup was the result of a more complex skein of factors:From the very start of the Beatles' spectacular musical career, the relationship between John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr was characterized by a volatile but productive creative rivalry.More specifically, John and Paul were engaged in a constant "friendly battle" to see who could come up with the best original songs.John held the preeminent position in the group, Paul kept pushing him due to his exceptionally productive output when it came to coming up with original songs.In the long run, this potential source of conflict benefited the group, because it pressured John to be similarly productive as a composer.Fueled by the great new songs penned by John and Paul, the Beatles surged to the top of the pop and rock scene, exciting millions throughout the world with their songs' memorable tunes and lyrics.Indeed, the Beatles' songs eventually defined their generation-and decades afterwards, continue to delight music lovers belonging to different generations.So, why did the Beatles' amazing upward trajectory eventually self-destruct? Their creative rivalry turned into a destructive force when their manager, Brian Epstein, died.Power vacuum A power vacuum opened up, and John and Paul had different ideas for filling it. John wanted Alan Klein to step into Brian's shoes, but Paul pushed the group to hire his father-in-law. John won that battle, but it divided the group.In addition, Brian's death pushed John into a deep depression that caused him to stop being the group's leader. Paul stepped into the breach to keep the group together, but George and Ringo periodically got ticked off with the new arrangement.The next bone of contention was that infamous "Yoko Ono factor," which caused John to turn even more inward and to further distance himself from the group.The rift became even more pronounced when Sir Lew Grade made an offer to purchase the Beatles' publishing empire. Reports have it that Paul secretly bought more shares in the group's holding company, and John was incensed when he found out about this underhanded move.Official announcement Paul then announced that he would no longer perform as a Beatle, and John got even angrier because it was his decision to break up the group, so he wanted to be the one to make the official announcement regarding this momentous move.The case reached the courts, where all of the Beatles' "dirt" came out, further souring its members' interrelationships.Then, in 1980, John was shot dead. This radically changed the situation because "it instantly turned John into an angel, and Paul into a devil."The impression was created that Paul was "second-rate" compared to John-and Paul "had to fight with John's ghost for his rightful place."These days, Paul has reasserted himself as an exceptional musical artist in his own right. As for the Beatles' legacy, the documentary concludes with the observation that both John and Paul have become musical icons whose songs have transcended the teapot tempests of the past. -Beatles forever!


At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Doug Leess said...

I've had the good fortune of leading the same band for fifteen years. Two of us are original members, our drummer of twelve years having moved to Chicago last month. The dynamics of making music together, over a significant period of time, are very complex indeed. The Beatles had, essentially, a ten year run. During eight of those ten years they had no life outside the group. In terms of the sixties, a three year run was a long time. So not only were they enormously prolific, they were around "forever." What ultimately keeps a band together for protracted spans is having common goals and needs. For the Beatles, their musical, financial, and social needs were being met from 1960 to roughly early 1969. By that time their growth as people and musicians would have to evolve through other means. It's pretty much like trying to explain a divorce in retrospect. You want out, you get out, and then thirty years later you wonder what forces conspired to motivate the destruction of a family, a home, and a relationship.
There is never a "factor." There are usually a litany of emotional, financial, and social factors. Such, I suspect, is the case with the Beatles, who are in many ways, a perfectly preserved myth.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Fender said...

I completely agree with you.


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