By Ace Backwords
John Lennon summed it up as neatly as ever: “I started the band, and I disbanded the band.” The Beatles were basically John Lennon’s band. He was the driving force. “You could see he was the spark behind the whole thing,” said boozing buddy Harry Nilsson. Even though McCartney may have come up with the concept and the packaging for albums like Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, it was Lennon that gave the concept its psychedelic power. “We were all in love with John,” said Paul. And THAT was the driving force behind The Beatles.
Everyone in Lennon’s orbit competed for his friendship, his approval, and his love (so-called). “John rarely tolerated a dissenting opinion and always had to get in the last word,” said Lennon gofer Fred Seaman. What broke up The Beatles was that McCartney finally got tired of playing second fiddle to Lennon. By the time of the White Album, McCartney realized he was a musical genius and began to notice that he was the one coming up with most of the hit records. So he began veering off on an independent path. Something that Lennon would never tolerate. Lennon demanded complete subservience. He demanded total loyalty. Even as he rarely gave it back. He often pointed out that when he was young he always surrounded himself with a gang of friends — “toadies” — who would do his bidding. That’s just the kind of guy he was. McCartney would talk about the incredible “peer pressure” that Lennon and the other Beatles inflicted on him when he initially refused to take LSD like the rest of them.
In retrospect, the weirdest thing about The Beatles to me was how they always looked, dressed, acted, talked, and drugged alike during the different phases of The Beatles career. Lennon would have tolerated nothing less from his “mates.” But it’s kind of weird when you think about it. Could you imagine walking around everywhere with 3 other guys who dressed and talked just like you?
“John was always the loudest person in every room,” said Paul. But as McCartney pushed into his late 20s, I guess he got tired of being a toadie. The final rupture occurred when McCartney — an astute businessman — decided he wanted nothing to do with a rat like Allen Klein, the guy Lennon wanted to hire as The Beatles manager. Subsequent events would prove McCartney right, as even Lennon would later concede. But to Lennon, McCartney’s actions were an example of the highest form of treason. Why, he refused to go along with what Lennon wanted. So Lennon, as was his character, spent the rest of his life viciously attacking McCartney.
In truth, the amazing thing is that The Beatles (or any band) stayed together as long as they did. Not that they eventually broke up.###
Still Ringo After All These Years
By Ace Backwords
Ringo Starr was on this late-night talk show last night. The host asked him about why the Beatles image kept changing over the years, from the mop tops to the long hair and mustaches of Sgt. Pepper and etc, and what was the reason for that?
“That might have been because of Timothy Leary,” quipped Ringo.
Ringo, of course, was the consummate hammy show biz professional. Did three songs, the first two I hadn’t heard before, probably plugging his new album (as if anybody cares). Sort of generic, middle-of-the-road rock. Ringo drummed on one of them, which was great. There was always something special about his drumming — nothing spectacular but like the perfect, cozy old armchair. And it was mostly exciting because, well, there’s RINGO over there, live on stage, and it’s like watching a little bit of instant history. Even as in the back of your mind, you know that when it’s over it’s really just one more forgettable show biz moment in an endless series of forgettable show biz moments. But its Ringo, so we’re rooting for something to happen, like the possibility of magic is in the air. Along with this ever-present under-current of disappointment. Because nothing is really happening. And you can see what a weight that must have been for the Beatles to live up to. This burden of expectations. While at the same time, Ringo is getting a free pass. All he has to do is ham along and make with some semi-clever show biz patter and the audience will roar its approval because they’re just so happy to see him. “He’s alive and well!” It’s impressive how liked the Beatles are. Probably half the audience weren’t even born by the time the Beatles disbanded. The talk show host is practically shitting himself with excitement just to be in the presence of the great man, “Ringo!!” And he joins the band for the big encore, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” naturally.
And Ringo makes a corny (or is it touching?) appeal for everyone in the audience — and everyone everywhere — at the stroke of midnight on the date of his birthday, to say “peace and love” at the same time. And the Beatles are once again bringing us all together (now) and spreading waves of good vibes across the planet. Of course, I feel cynical about the gesture, this little voice in the back of my head that is scoffing at the whole thing. Even as another part of me is thinking: what’s wrong with a little friendly reminder to try and make the world just a little more peaceful and loving? All we need is love, after all. Have I turned into one of the dreaded Blue Meanies or something? But it’s just such a strange stew to me. The Beatles, with their never-ending mixture of hammy show biz theatrics, Timothy Leary, and heart-felt idealistic appeals for cosmic love. I’ve been down that road before, and I guess I’m not that impressed with what the whole package, the whole message, amounted to. And yet, it’s like a sucker bet that I always fall for, where a little part of me still feels this little twinge of weakness . . .