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The shifting popularity of the solo Beatles
24 September 2013
3.18pm
Expert Textpert
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I'm currently a little more than halfway through You Never Give Me Your Money, and I'm surprised at some of the things I'm learning...for instance:

At the beginning of his solo career, McCartney was largey despised by both critics and fans, with RAM widely considered as a failure, and the first two Wings albums considered "substandard material."

Lennon was the least commercially successful Beatle of all.

George Harrison was the most successful Beatle, with world-wide acclaim.

Ringo Starr had more hits than both Lennon and McCartney.

This challenges some preconceptions I had.  Today, Lennon is probably the most popular Beatle (at least in terms of the exposure he gets), Ringo is despised, George Harrison is almost never mentioned, and McCartney is popular but there is a myth surrounding him (unfairly) that he is the "pop music" Beatle, when in fact he is very versatile and even experimental.

Was it Lennon's death that changed his public image into, as McCartney says, "Martin Luther Lennon"?  I recently read that Lennon is one of the most successful dead celebrities (I think he was number three just behind Elvis, and Elizabeth Taylor was number one).

Any thoughts on all this?

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon

24 September 2013
4.20pm
meanmistermustard
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Its certainly true that John has been turned into a something like a saint since his murder, helped massively by a very successful reworking by Yoko. A kind of love affair with John remained in the US and UK throughout the 70's and there was a real delight by many in his return to the music scene but the initial reviews and public reaction to Double Fantasy were not all that overwhelming, it was really his murder that got the album and related singles (plus Imagine which I don't think was actually ever deleted) to the top of the charts and selling well. Maybe it's that whole you appreciate it more when it's gone. A lot of people felt they lost John when he stopped making music in '75, to get him back for such a short period of time and then be robbed forever in such a horrible way was very traumatising, people weren't ready to let go again.

 To be truthful his solo albums did ok but nothing amazing and even John knew that. So it might be fair to suggest that even in the 70's it was more based on John and his being than his music, the way it is now tho to a lesser extent without the legend status. That's not to say everything he did was mediocre, far from it, but overall it isn't spectacular material looking back. Outside the hits compilations how many know Johns work, its more based on his personality and attitude, what he stood for, and what he has been shaped into being.

Nobody expected any success for Ringo music-wise outside the Beatles, it was that concern and friendship that helped get so many musicians to help out on It Don't Come Easy and the Ringo and Goodnight Vienna albums (and they were strong albums). The trouble was that the concept only works for a time, the material presented has to be strong, and the music scene and the times change. Rotogravure, and going by reports certainly the following albums, all fell down on those, he got left behind and by the beginning of the Eighties nobody cared (kind of like what happened to George). I wouldn't say Ringo is despised, there is a lot of love for Ringo just not his music. He now could record the greatest solo album of any Beatles and 99.9% of the world wouldn't give it the time of day.

George was huge in the early solo years but his want for privacy, spiritual desires, speaking/writing/singing his mind/heart, doing what he wanted, and dislike of the critics meant that by the mid-70's folk were gunning for him regardless of what he put out and that didn't stop till the mid-80's. The Dark Horse and Extra Texture albums did a lot of damage to his reputation.

To me there seems to be the on-going idea that folks don't know what to make of George as he never bought into the celebrity lifestyle and that way of living. He rarely did the whole look at me 'im doing this, it was always kind of on the quiet and unassuming. Simon Leng's book of George is fascinating as it really helps to show how George went about things, what drove him along and why things panned out as they did.

Paul has never lost the stigma of being the cute soft one. It doesn't matter what he does, be it in the 70's or nowadays. Its only been intensified since John was killed. Sadly what we now get is that to redress the balance of John being great and the others tagging along some go too far and hold Paul up as the brains of the Beatles and the rest pretty useless in comparison. That will never work tho as all four were crucial in making the Beatles what they were.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
24 September 2013
4.29pm
vonbontee
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Wherever you read that, I wonder how they measured the posthumous success of Liz Taylor? It's not like she's got any album sales to guage. Did she have a fragrance named for her, or some other kind of name-brand business interests?

Also, George and Ringo's successes were really only during the first half of the '70s, weren't they?

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
24 September 2013
4.31pm
parlance
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^^ Really insightful, MMM. I don't have anything to add, just a thank you.

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

24 September 2013
4.42pm
vonbontee
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Expert Textpert said

I recently read that Lennon is one of the most successful dead celebrities (I think he was number three just behind Elvis, and Elizabeth Taylor was number one).

Any thoughts on all this?

Wherever you read that, I wonder how they measured the posthumous success of Liz Taylor? It's not like she's got any album sales to guage. Did she have a fragrance named for her, or some other kind of name-brand business interests?

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
24 September 2013
4.49pm
Expert Textpert
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This link doesn't have the exact same rankings that I quoted (either they changed since 2012 when this article was created, or I remembered incorrectly)--but here you go:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-20.....celebrity/

As far as Extra Texture and Dark Horse, I think those albums are very good.  They are certainly better than many other Harrison albums.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon

24 September 2013
4.49pm
meanmistermustard
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Maybe Liz Taylor has books, perfumes, ongoing film receipt claims, image rights etc to whatever is sold. I know next to diddly squat about her, don't think I've ever seen one of her films.

An article by Forbes details where it comes from and considering a whole heap of the money ($184m) is from auction sales she is unlikely to reclaim the spot.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
24 September 2013
5.00pm
Expert Textpert
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What gets me about McCartney being unpopular in the early 70's is that his songs were so good.  Was there something wrong with people's ears, or have our ears changed over time?

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon

24 September 2013
5.08pm
Inner Light
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Meanmistermustard said:

George was huge in the early solo years but his want for privacy, spiritual desires, speaking/writing/singing his mind/heart, doing what he wanted, and dislike of the critics meant that by the mid-70's folk were gunning for him regardless of what he put out and that didn't stop till the mid-80's. The Dark Horse and Extra Texture albums did a lot of damage to his reputation.

To me there seems to be the on-going idea that folks don't know what to make of George as he never bought into the celebrity lifestyle and that way of living. He rarely did the whole look at me 'im doing this, it was always kind of on the quiet and unassuming.

I agree with you. This was very well put. I like the line: 'he never bought into the celebrity lifestyle' and 'look at me I'm doing this'. I have been saying this for a long time. If you don't play the game in the entertainment business, you will never survive. Trying to live a private and spiritual lifestyle doesn't work. You have to play the game! George once said 'you have to be a showoff to be famous'.

 

The further one travels, the less one knows
24 September 2013
9.24pm
HeyTrud
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I know Liz Taylor had a perfume line, but I'm not sure what else? 

I am half way thru this book myself.  I have found it enlightening in many area's as I haven't read a lot about what happened after the break-up.

I also have nothing to add - but agree on the great insight by ExpertTextpert and MMM.  Thanks!  apple01

"....take a sad song & make it Meilleur"....

24 September 2013
10.26pm
AppleScruffJunior
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Expert Textpert said
This link doesn't have the exact same rankings that I quoted (either they changed since 2012 when this article was created, or I remembered incorrectly)--but here you go:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-20.....celebrity/

As far as Extra Texture and Dark Horse, I think those albums are very good.  They are certainly better than many other Harrison albums.

 

Really, what other albums of George's do you think are better then Dark Horse?

 

And I pretty much agree with the views expressed above don't forget Elizabeth Taylor has her many auctions, movie sales, jewels worth over a billion dollars...

INTROVERTS UNITE! Separately.....In your own homes.----Make Love, Not Wardrobes!
25 September 2013
1.18am
meanmistermustard
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I haven't heard either Extra Texture or Dark Horse in a long while (Dark Horse isn't available for download or on cd - its on youtube but I'm not one for listening to albums thru youtube and my memory of ET is not wanting to go back) but i'd be surprised going on memory of those what albums they are better than. Maybe in a close run contest Somewhere In England but the others, for me, not a chance.

Gone Troppo is usually mocked and made out to be a cant be arsed phoning it in LP but upon recent listening its actually a fun album because George is having fun and not taking it seriously (on SIE you get the feeling he's pissed off on a few of the songs for a handful of reasons). He'd given up on doing what the music exec's wanted and demanded and was doing what he felt like, knowing he had reached the end of the number of albums he had to submit. Finally free from all the hassle he didn't want in his life.

Was reminded of I Really Love You, no idea how this one got forgotten. George pays homage to doo-wopheart.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
25 September 2013
2.01am
Expert Textpert
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I got Dark Horse on CD from Amazon.  Extra Texture is also available there.

Of the Harrison studio albums where he sings (not counting instrumental, best of's, collections, live albums) this is my order of preference:

All Things Must Pass

Living In The Material World

George Harrison

Extra Texture

Dark Horse

Cloud Nine

Brainwashed

Gone Troppo

Thirty Three & 1/3

Somewhere In England

 

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon

25 September 2013
2.22am
trcanberra
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Expert Textpert said
What gets me about McCartney being unpopular in the early 70's is that his songs were so good.  Was there something wrong with people's ears, or have our ears changed over time?

Well, I was there at the time and my personal take on it is that Paul took a lot of stick for the court case; plus for me "Wild Life" and "Red Rose Speedway" were just not as strong as the albums the others were putting out at the time (yes, even Ringo).  "Ram" was a bit of a guilty pleasure back then, I didn't even buy "McCartney" because I was so mad at Paul.  "Band on the Run" and "Venus and Mars" changed a lot of that, for a while at least.  But then "London Town" took a lot more flack than it should have, I quite liked it at the time.

Since then I have matured (a little bit, though my wife may not agree) and have come to like a lot more of Paul's early work, and realised that all four of them had a hand in the Beatles demise.

For the rest, I think MMM has done a great analysis.

 

25 September 2013
8.58pm
acmac
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Expert Textpert said
What gets me about McCartney being unpopular in the early 70's is that his songs were so good.  Was there something wrong with people's ears, or have our ears changed over time?

A bit of both, I think. I’ve seen Ram referred to as the “granddaddy of indie rock,” which is a good description, and explains why it’s aged so well and been favorably reevaluated in the past ten years or so. Plus, back in the early ‘70s there was the Beatles breakup PR war going on, which must've muddied the waters. There was Paul's passive-aggressive press release with the McCartney record, and then of course the court case made him very unpopular, as Trcanberra points out. But even before that, politics was getting in the way of the music: Griel Marcus, an editor for Rolling Stone, has talked about how the intial RS review of McCartney was positive, but Jann Wenner persuaded him to browbeat the reviewer into changing it into a negative review -- which Marcus inexplicably describes as an act of exemplary editor behavior. (See full quote here).

Meanwhile, another RS journalist, Al Aronowitz, published an article wherein he clearly takes a side, writing this line among others:

Come walk with George Harrison in New York's parade, brightening the city's sidewalks as he leaves a trail of double takes behind him, a long-bearded figure in faded denim while the sun puts a halo through the spray of his flowing hair. When George smiles, golden Palaces materialize on the hillsides of your brain. Poor George, the forgotten Beatle, seeking asylum in our garbage air, a refugee from Paul McCartney's declared war on his brethren.

Six months later, Aronowitz would receive his first royalty check from the All Things Must Pass album (George gave him a small percentage of one of the tracks). 

25 September 2013
9.05pm
acmac
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meanmistermustard said
George was huge in the early solo years but his want for privacy, spiritual desires, speaking/writing/singing his mind/heart, doing what he wanted, and dislike of the critics meant that by the mid-70's folk were gunning for him regardless of what he put out and that didn't stop till the mid-80's. The Dark Horse and Extra Texture albums did a lot of damage to his reputation.

To me there seems to be the on-going idea that folks don't know what to make of George as he never bought into the celebrity lifestyle and that way of living. He rarely did the whole look at me 'im doing this, it was always kind of on the quiet and unassuming. Simon Leng's book of George is fascinating as it really helps to show how George went about things, what drove him along and why things panned out as they did.

I wonder if the bad reception of “Dark Horse” had a lot more to do with the tour than the album. He sounds a little scratchy on the record, which I like a lot, personally! I think it sounds good -- dark and gritty. But the rigors of touring quickly had him sounding very rough. And of course people weren’t expecting that much Ravi Shankar (even though the posters made it clear he was a major part of the show). I’ve also seen articles describing George “haranguing” the audience about his spiritual beliefs. I don’t know how accurate that description is, as I’ve never seen transcripts/footage of these shows; this may well have been the press exaggerating. But it all combined to produce a bit of a media bloodbath around the tour, and it seems George gave up live performance for the most part, after that. 

As for George “never buying into the celebrity lifestyle,” well, that really depends on what elements of the lifestyle you’re talking about. He was quite a hard partier, sex-and-drugs-wise, especially during the ‘70s.  And in terms of the typical displays of the superwealthy (material acquisition, tax avoidance, litigiousness), he was no shrinking violet, either. That said, I do agree that George craved privacy, was dedicated to his spirituality, and generally had a “don’t give a damn” attitude toward the press, fans, critics, etc., and didn't seem interested in the various hassles involved in staying in the public eye. And thanks for the plug about the Leng book; it comes highly recommended and I must remember to pick it up soon. 

25 September 2013
9.12pm
mccartneyalarm
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This is purely my own perception, but I think the reason that Paul was not as well-received in the '70s as he is now is that he was doing his own new material. The world still wanted the Beatles. It wasn't until he started doing his material plus old Beatles material (something John and George never did)...and Ringo does only minimally...did Paul become the Superstar that he is today. Just my opinion. I remember hearing his first album and feeling let down, like something was missing.

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

26 September 2013
2.55pm
fabfouremily
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^ But surely they all would have received the same reaction then, because none of the others did old Beatles stuff either? The other three didn't get as much slating as he did. I think it's more to do with the quality and genre of music he was doing, plus the image that it was he who split the Beatles up.

''We're just knocked out. We heard about the sell out. You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people. We're so happy we can hardly count.''

26 September 2013
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trcanberra
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fabfouremily said
^ But surely they all would have received the same reaction then, because none of the others did old Beatles stuff either? The other three didn't get as much slating as he did. I think it's more to do with the quality and genre of music he was doing, plus the image that it was he who split the Beatles up.

Well, they all did a bit of Beatles stuff when they played live, just not as much as Paul is doing nowadays (hence my thread on that topic elsewhere).

But then again, Paul WAS a superstar mid 70's - and not on the basis of the song mix he has today - the world tour I saw him on around 1975 or so was huge.  I think his success added to John's insecurities at the time.

 

26 September 2013
11.49pm
Ahhh Girl
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trcanberra said
[snip]  I think his success added to John's insecurities at the time.

 

Berry, berry interesting thought. I wonder if Lewisohn will cover this idea in V3.

I wonder if I will still be alive to see V3.

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