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John and time
3 April 2012
11.47am
Ben Ramon
Candlestick Park
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Happiness Is A Warm Gun said
The Walrus said:

I have autism (well, AS, but AS is just autism without a speech delay). Whilst John showed some autistic traits (his poor responses to criticism, humour often inappropriately dark or sarcastic, lover of routine), as far as I know he didn't really have any of the major symptoms. He didn't seem to have any problems socialising, he didn't have any documented sensory issues of the right type, he didn't have meltdowns, and whilst he would be fascinated by topics, as far as I know he didn't have any fixations with particular objects beyond normal sentimentality, nor was he locked into a genuinely obsessive routine or have any qualms about changing homes fairly often.

It's possible, even likely, he was some sort of musical genius, but autistic savants aren't the only geniuses in the world.

As I've stated elsewhere on this site, I strongly believe John had bipolar disorder. I have Asperger's. I've known many musicians with either bipolar disorder or Asperger's, and I can't make John out to be autistic in any way. There are traits of autism that overlap with other conditions, including bipolar disorder. But the most telling thing is that John was a natural leader and formed the Beatles around him, in particular around his very successful working relationship with Paul. We with Asperger's would find that very challenging. I can be leader, but only if I'm pressed. But it's role I'll happily differ to someone else, because it's just so taxing for me and my lacking social skills to maintain such a role. By contrast, people with bipolar disorder often are very talented with interpersonal skills and can maintain very successful relationships with far more ease than us with Asperger's--that is, when their disorder is not severely disabling. And I haven't known a musician with bipolar disorder who wasn't a natural leader, including one my closet friends, who's been a choir director for almost 20 years straight, despite being bipolar.

 

Seconded. I have bipolar disorder and although it can be difficult a lot of the traits which are ascribed to John, particularly to do with his musical and artistic sensibilities, are ones which I often see in my own attitude to music, songwriting and playing in bands.

As for John's sense of time: John could play in stricter time with more skill than he's usually given credit. It's one of the thing I love about watching him perform during the Beatles' early years--he was actually very good ensemble player, a skill he developed as a teen, and could deliver some really great rhythm guitar parts. But when he started writing more on his own, and writing songs to would not have to be performed live by the Beatles as an ensemble, his timing became looser and more free-flowing, not unlike old solo folk and blues singers. As a musician, I don't find any of this unusual, nor is it necessarily the product of John being self-taught or anything "romantic" like that--simply put, playing in loose, free-flowing time can be more musically expressive in ways that more rigid ensemble playing doesn't allow. It's just another option for a songwriter, and while not all songwriters are comfortable with it, John was and made use it in some really excellent ways.

John was an ace rhythm guitarist- see All My Loving- and had an idiosyncratic lead style which wasn't very technical but seemed to predate grunge and things with all that distortion and string-bending. I'd say he was the weakest guitarist when compared to Paul and George, but that doesn't mean he was bad. I believe when asked about it he said "I'm not technically very good but I can make it move, and howl." I'd rather hear a guitar "move and howl" than have some pretentious wanker stand at the front of the stage noodling as fast as he can on it for two and a half hours.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
3 April 2012
3.01pm
Joe
Pepperland
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I really don't think John was a very good guitarist. As a songwriter he was one of the true greats, but his solo playing really wasn't all that special. Get Back's was OK (basic blues scales), but his work on The End was unremarkable. You Can't Do That was OK, as was the first solo on Long Tall Sally. Did he do any more?

I do wonder whether the kudos he received from his peers (Clapton etc) was more a reflection of how glad they were to be performing with him, rather than his technical prowess. Can't really blame them – it would have been amazing to record or perform with Lennon.

But yeah, the performance on All My Loving was excellent.

Go on, prove me wrong. Where else was he ace? I'm with you on the passion/pretentious thing, but I can't recall that many times where he was much more than a solid rhythm player.

Please don't spoil my day; I'm miles away

Can buy me love! Please consider using these links to support the Beatles Bible: Amazon | iTunes

3 April 2012
3.53pm
Ben Ramon
Candlestick Park
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No, you're right, he wasn't a great guitarist, but I'll make a couple of cases for him being maybe better than you give him credit for. He played the jazzy solo on Honey Pie, which George described as a very good solo that "sounded like Django Reinhardt." Also Hey Bulldog- I know there's been some contention over whether John or George played it but it sounds more Lennon-style to me, and that's a GREAT solo. As for his solos on The End, I don't think they're "unremarkable", they certainly give the section the grit it needs compared to George and Paul's more melodic bars. And what about those awesome riffs in Cold Turkey and I Found Out? I'd say John was a good guitarist in the same way Ringo was a good drummer, adding to the sound and the feel.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
3 April 2012
3.58pm
Inner Light
Friar Park
Shea Stadium
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Joe said
I really don't think John was a very good guitarist. As a songwriter he was one of the true greats, but his solo playing really wasn't all that special. Get Back's was OK (basic blues scales), but his work on The End was unremarkable. You Can't Do That was OK, as was the first solo on Long Tall Sally. Did he do any more?

I do wonder whether the kudos he received from his peers (Clapton etc) was more a reflection of how glad they were to be performing with him, rather than his technical prowess. Can't really blame them – it would have been amazing to record or perform with Lennon.

But yeah, the performance on All My Loving was excellent.

Go on, prove me wrong. Where else was he ace? I'm with you on the passion/pretentious thing, but I can't recall that many times where he was much more than a solid rhythm player.

That was George who played the solo on 'Hey Bulldog' and do agree he was a solid rhythm player. As far as him being a technically good guitarist say in the same league as George I would so no. I remember George saying that when he first met John he was playing with only five strings on his guitar and George said to him 'John what are you doing' George has said it in a few interviews that he taught Lennon a lot of chords and helped him become a better guitarist.

The further one travels, the less one knows
3 April 2012
4.22pm
Ben Ramon
Candlestick Park
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He was certainly not as good as George and always seemed to play using power chords rather than proper barre chords from videos I've seen of him playing, and of course Donovan taught him how to fingerpick properly in Rishikesh, but I would still argue he was a good player in his own right. As for the Hey Bulldog solo, my bad, I always thought that was John!

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
5 April 2012
12.48pm
Joe
Pepperland
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I think it's the power chords I don't really like in his playing. He always seemed to run out of ideas and bash some chords rather than find individual notes to play.

That solo on Honey Pie was praised by McCartney (Harrison may have done so too). However, listen to it again. It trails off, doesn't really last that long, and is well out of time. The guitar sound is perfect but technically it's a disaster. Four bars, only the first two of which have any merit, plus a random splurge on the mono mix.

That said, it seems to fit really well in the song if you don't pay too close attention. Maybe that's where Lennon's flair was – his playing fitted the song despite his technical limitations.

Please don't spoil my day; I'm miles away

Can buy me love! Please consider using these links to support the Beatles Bible: Amazon | iTunes

5 April 2012
2.00pm
The Walrus
Working for the national health
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A great example of that is more or less the entirety of Plastic Ono Band. Well Well Well and I Found Out in particular.

And I neeeeeeeeed her all the time
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