COLUMN 101, JANUARY 1, 2004
(Copyright 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)



Are self-proclaimed Beatles purists giving Paul McCartney a bum rap? I mean, read this excerpt from a New York Observer column by Ron Rosenbaum, a journalism stylist I've always admired:

Sir Paul McCartney is a fool.  I just wanted to get that on record before I proceed to the chief focus of this column, which is the Phil Spector tragedy.  I'll get to Sir Paul, and his idiocy in relation to Phil Spector and the "Naked" Beatles album---Sir Paul's deluded ego trip---in due time.

Ron Rosenbaum's column meanders like the Pacific Coast highway from San Francisco to Bolemas before getting to these final few paragraphs:

On one Web site, some wise guy said that whether or not Spector was guilty of the murder he's charged with in LA, he's guilty of the "murder" of the Beatles songs on Let it Be.

I disagree.  I think that Sir Paul has deluded himself that his syrupy ballads like The Long and Winding Road---the ones that lacked the edge that John Lennon brought to their collaborations and made them brilliant together--?were syrupy because of Spector's syrupy orchestrations.  But, in fact, they were syrupy in and of themselves, and sound even more syrupy when "naked." Spector, one might say, was trying to go over the top to make it a self-conscious syrupiness, a meta'syrupiness.  Sir Paul doesn't get it.

But the thing that really makes me think Sir Paul is a fool is the way he rejuggled the order of the songs.  Let It Be originally opened with one of the most perfect and beautiful and memorable Beatles songs ever written or sung, Two Of Us. After that everything and anything they did on that album could be forgiven.  It cast a super-powered spell over all that followed, however uneven.  Two of Us is the perfect road-trip love song, but (as Mr. Riley has noted) it also allows itself to be construed as the story of Lennon and McCartney---the two of them---and their long and winding road.  After all, it's about riding and writing, which not only sound alike but in some ways resemble each other (both narratives that wind from a beginning to an end).  And in the song, the "two of us" are always writing postcards, letters, chasing paper .... Come on!  It's a loving look back at the very, very best part of a long and winding road of a writing partnership.  It defines the album, defines the Beatles.

But the delusional Sir Paul doesn't get it.  He's still bitter about John and Phil and who the Walrus was.  He's still fighting old Beatles battles.  This is the Sir Paul who wants to be known as the principle author of the very worst Beatles song (Yesterday---you know he's petitioned to have its authorship read "McCartney and Lennon" rather than the traditional "Lennon and McCartney." That tells you everything.  Let him have it, Yoko.) This is the Sir Paul who buries Two of Us in the fifth slot, in the middle of the album, after making us endure the "naked" version of The Long and Winding Road. Switching the order makes the album a lesser work of art.

Sources I've talked to give a confusing story of how this "Naked? version of Let It Be came to be. We can't just blame it on the engineers. My own opinion? The surviving Beatles in-crowd that runs Apple Corps Ltd. are more purist than the more recent "purist? variety, typified by Ron Rosenbaum. Or typified even by me.

Were the Let it Be tapes the last ever recorded by the Beatles as a group? The Fab Four, then managed by Allen Klein, were hardly talking to one another and couldn't agree on anything. John considered the album unfinished and, as leader of the band, let Allen talk him into the idea of getting madman genius Phil Spector to put on the finishing touches. The release of the album had to coincide with the looming premiere of Let It Be, the movie and they were in too much of a hurry to wait for the four partners to agree.  Besides, John Lennon was a madmen geniuses, too. And madman geniuses are attracted to madman geniuses.

Phil, for whom I have the fondest of memories, did a masterful job---an opinion I think shared by all Beatles fans. The Beatles aura endures to this day. Their music remains as magical as it was the day we first heard it.  New Beatles fans continue to be born daily. The Beatles are eternal. Their ability to enchant us remains unrelenting. Since that day when the possibility that the Beatles could ever again perform for us ended with a turd's deranged desire to  be wiped onto a newspaper's front page, the surviving Beatles in-crowd has kept us spellbound. Apple continues revealing to us almost everything we ever wanted to know and hear about the Beatles---their inside jokes, their unedited tapes, their untold  thoughts, their written confessions, their anthologies.

Stories of the Lennon-McCartney breakup have by now become folklore. There is no secret that Allen Klein's management left a sourness in the psyches of the surviving Beatles in-crowd. A survivor's prerogative is that he always gets not only the last word but he also gets the last laugh. The surviving Beatles in-crowd considered Allen Klein's partnership a mistake and the "naked? CD is one way of correcting that mistake.

Paul hates my guts," Phil once told me. Paul has no time for me, either, but I see no use in re-fighting the wars of our now-ancient fancies. That's kid stuff. We're long past our days of Beatles fanhood. Why take the time to condemn Paul as the 'snooty? one at this late date, even if he is? He's still one of the four giants that carried an era of good cheer into this world. Paul's a "Beatle." A living shrine and I think he's earned the right to behave like one. The world faces more important disagreements than John versus Paul. Let's not be guided by petty prejudices spawned when we were kids. The world faces more deserving of our venom and ire.

So, now Apple is readying a DVD of Let It Be, the movie And the CD that goes with the movie is Let It Be minus madman Phil's however eternal adornments. It's not like the Taliban blasting the ancient Buddhas out of the mountainside.  I see it as a good business move. Now, true Beatles fans will have to own both versions.  ##



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