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The Beatles and unfulfilled potential
6 May 2015
5.47am
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vectisfabber
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I’m not intending to be argumentative or destructive, but I am quite happy to provoke a discussion where not everyone will agree, and that may be the case here – I’m going to do some thinking out loud.

I’m a first generation fan, born in 1952: The Beatles were the soundtrack to my teens, and much of my young adulthood.  While recognising that not everything they produced was perfect, their recorded output spoke to me in a way that nothing else before or since ever has.  I bought every recording I could get my hands on, and still do buy everything previously unreleased which legitimately comes onto the market.

I was unhappy about the split, but I hoped my enthusiasm would be taken up with solo recordings – after all, I had liked all four, I should like the solo careers, shouldn’t I?

Hindsight and brutal honesty tells me that I was massively disappointed across the board.  It wasn’t that the songs were bad – many of them were as good as the songs they recorded as a group – it was just that the recordings were missing something.

John’s were cold, angry, hostile, unhappy, and fatally flawed by his reliance on Yoko as his creative collaborator.

Paul’s were sketchy, and he sounded lost, and a prisoner of his own inability to be harsh on his own output.

George’s were overproduced.

Ringo’s – well, bless him.

None of them sounded like Beatles recordings.

In every case, they badly needed the other three to bring out the full potential of their solo material.  That collaboration – even if it was “we can’t bring anything to this to improve it” made every released Beatles recording the very best it could be, and the absence of that collaboration is there on all the solo recordings to be heard (or, perhaps, not heard).  As a result, in my view (and I emphasise that it is just my view) nearly all solo material fails to reach its full potential.  None of the four is a genius – "The Beatles" was the genius.

And the point when things went artistically sour was the moment when John stopped taking account of Paul’s creative input and started taking account of Yoko’s.  That's what broke up The Beatles.

There.

I feel better now.

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6 May 2015
6.21am
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I was thinking about that today in light of Todd Rundgren's clear disappointment in John at least in an interview in the 1970's which provoked an amusing letter back from John, who actually liked Todd's work but wasn't going to apologize for not matching up to expectations. In fact, none of the Beatles were at all interested in that, even if Paul was biologically unable to stop writing and performing, Ringo more interested in partying and George intent on getting every last song perfect. It's hard to be a fan and not keep wishing that magic to continue, but nothing lasts. I do agree that the combination was the genius, but also the time and it's undeniable that they started with amazing good luck and that luck ran out. I'm glad they quit when they did because I'm horrified at the possibilities if they'd continued much longer.

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6 May 2015
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trcanberra
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I don't agree that every released Beatles recording was "the very best it could be" as even when they were together time constraints or other factors meant that some tracks were released that possibly could have been made better. But overall their output was astonishing.

I agree on the lack of collaboration hurting the solo songs; I find many of them hugely entertaining but rarely astonishing.

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6 May 2015
10.58am
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Hildy
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An interesting opening post.

The Beatles individually have created a great body of work but some of it falls short of the mark. As a band the standard was higher, but they were young, dynamic and ambitious. By the time they were pursuing solo projects, they were multi-millionaires with other distractions. Even during the time when the band was together, it needed Paul to organise the others to get into the studio and get some work done.

As a first generation Beatles fan myself, I and many others drifted away from the work of the individuals after the band broke up. The Beatles had opened the door for us to get into other music and many did just that - but always with a recognition that The Beatles were untouchable as an influence and as a band.

Not too many were impressed with John and Yoko working together, and when Paul brought Linda into his band, and I understand why he did it, it cheapened the product. Paying good money to buy up everything each of them did was a non-starter - records were expensive back then - so fans, who remained as Beatles fans, did not follow the individuals as closely as they had followed the band.

Curiously, I'm listening to The Beatles as much now as I did when I was growing up, but in between then and now, I moved into all sorts of different musical areas, but I always acknowledged The Beatles as THE major musical influence in my life.

The initial pecking order in the band - John as the senior member, Paul as a young up and coming talent, George as an even younger member and Ringo as the gel that helped bond them together - made the band work. Each had his place in the grand scheme, but even when Paul became John's equal, the band still functioned. These two were friends and competitors - this was healthy. Towards the end, George was coming through and the band was still able to function, but only just. The studio presence and general influence of Yoko was not a good thing. I've yet to meet a first generation Beatles fan who has a good word to say about Yoko however she and John seemed to get along well and he was entirely free to have whatever relationship he wanted. Taking it into the studio, though, was disrespectful and maybe even immature. You don't take your partner to work with you.

I always felt that the key to the success of The Beatles was the chemistry and relationship between all of them, but particularly between John and Paul. The two were quite different but they balanced each other out and brought the best out of each other. There's a strong argument to say that The Beatles had to be four - John, Paul, George and Ringo - but the band could conceivably have continued with another lead guitarist or another drummer if circumstances had demanded it.

Take Paul or John away though and it would have been over. This pair, for all their fallouts and differences, were the twin spearhead of the band both on stage and behind the scenes. 

When they parted, even though they were not co-writing to anything like the degree they once had, it was a loss to them both, and although they continued to write good music, the level of consistency dropped.

When Lennon and McCartney are together, there is magic in the room. When they stand alone, they are still great talents, but the competitive edge has gone. Neither of them has to stand aside while the other takes the lead either in songwriting or singing.

John and Paul needed one another to tell each other when it was crap. When The Beatles became individuals, no-one was able to say that to them any more. They were Gods. You can't tell God where he's going wrong.

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6 May 2015
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I think it was awesome that John brought a bed into the studio for Yoko to sleep in.  The whole "johnandyoko" thing is criminally underrated, and in my opinion it was much more hilarious and interesting at the time than listening to Paul blather on about nothing or tell George what to do.

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6 May 2015
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I've always thought there was something very pleasing about Yoko's attitude.  She was very "punk rock" before punk was even a thing. The Beatles relationship was no longer working and she and John got together and killed it.  It needed to happen.  If you listen to John and Yoko songs like Cambridge '69, Don't Worry Kyoko, and Mind Train, they were onto some really brilliant things that were miles ahead of The Beatles in terms of their originality and even their influence.  Yoko's influence on John laid the groundwork for future post-punk and noise rock artists.  Not exactly the sort of music your "classic rock" Beatles fan will understand or enjoy, but important nonetheless.  I think Yoko is a genius.

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"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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Also, I've learned that Yoko was a major influence on John's radical politics, which, while not a big moneymaker, was in my opinion the most interesting thing about post-Beatles John.  I relate to John because the things he says make sense.  The world is run by insane men with insane objectives.  John was confident enough to come out and say that to the masses, but look what it got him.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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"It needed to happen.  If you listen to John and Yoko songs like Cambridge '69, Don't Worry Kyoko, and Mind Train, they were onto some really brilliant things that were miles ahead of The Beatles in terms of their originality and even their influence."

Perhaps, but I'd rather more of the Beatles, as I suspect most would. I'm also not sure that it needed to happen. Drug-addled egomaniacs might be interesting but 4 friends collaborating at their prime would have been more interesting still if they could have managed it.

On the politics, John had this to say:

"I dabbled in so-called politics in the late Sixties and Seventies more out of guilt than anything. Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn't enough and you have to go and get shot or something, or get punched in the face, to prove I'm one of the people. The idea of leadership is a false god. If you want to use the Beatles or John and Yoko or whoever, people are expecting them to do something for them. That's not what's going to happen."

Sounds like he wasn't too impressed with his earlier 'radical' phase.

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6 May 2015
5.48pm
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So he wasn't impressed with himself. It's still the same John who was radical.

And he probably said those things because he lost money and was trying to appeal to a broader base.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
6.33pm
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C.R.A.
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On the whole Yoko influence thing... I've done a fair amount of reading on The Beatles of late and there's evidence to suggest she wasn't as responsible for the detrimental effect as people want to pin on her.  I'm not entirely excusing her, she's an intelligent and reasoning person and had to be aware of what was occurring and could have created changes -but she didn't.

It needs to be reiterated that John Lennon was a bit of a control freak, long before Yoko or even The Beatles.  He also had a destructive nature.  You can blame that on all sorts of psychological factors but the end result remains; time weighed on him and he reacted.  His dismantling of the Beatles, either through manipulative actions or blame-casting, was his doing and his alone.  When it came from others, it was always in reaction to him.

As for why there was such disparate differences between their group work and solo efforts, I fall to a long-used analogy.  That of a sports team and that mysterious element of chemistry.

I think we've all seen a sports unit comprised of individuals who might have all received individual accolades for being among the very best at their respective positions and together were absolutely dominant at their game.  Yet, when disbursed, did not experience the same level of dominance with other teams.  Only together, and in that original configuration, were they preeminent and amazing.  They didn't have to be friends or fall into an order of authority.  They just developed a chemistry that allowed them to excel beyond their individual capabilities.  Confidence; in themselves and in each other - belief - that they were the best, allowed them to be just that.

This is just my opinion.  But it makes sense to me.  The Beatles were a group of men who each possessed a high level of talent, competence and confidence in their craft.  They believed in themselves but they believed in each others' ability just as much.  Together, they believed they were the very best and could not be beaten.

Breaking up destroyed a part of that confidence and the chemistry.  It left each of them naked to their own respective talents, none of which could compare to what they were able to achieve as a group.

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6 May 2015
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Expert Textpert said
So he wasn't impressed with himself. It's still the same John who was radical.

And he probably said those things because he lost money and was trying to appeal to a broader base.

Also, when the FBI follows you and taps your phone and the president tries to deport you, it can change your opinion.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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brian-epstein death was probably the "beginning of the end" for The Beatles!  Sure we could blame yoko-ono_01

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6 May 2015
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Expert Textpert said
…………... I think Yoko is a genius.

You're in good company……….so does she and so did John.

 

She isn't.

6 May 2015
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Atlas said

Expert Textpert said
…………... I think Yoko is a genius.

You're in good company……….so does she and so did John. 

 

She isn't.

Oh, thank goodness an expert on the subject has arrived! two-virgins

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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C.R.A. said

As for why there was such disparate differences between their group work and solo efforts, I fall to a long-used analogy.  That of a sports team and that mysterious element of chemistry.

I think we've all seen a sports unit comprised of individuals who might have all received individual accolades for being among the very best at their respective positions and together were absolutely dominant at their game.  Yet, when disbursed, did not experience the same level of dominance with other teams.  Only together, and in that original configuration, were they preeminent and amazing.  They didn't have to be friends or fall into an order of authority.  They just developed a chemistry that allowed them to excel beyond their individual capabilities.  Confidence; in themselves and in each other - belief - that they were the best, allowed them to be just that.

Breaking up destroyed a part of that confidence and the chemistry.  It left each of them naked to their own respective talents, none of which could compare to what they were able to achieve as a group.

I agree……You can weave the very best material but the quality of the suit still depends on the tailor.

 

Their talent, chemistry and their producer woven together made the most wonderful bespoke music for a generation……… Charlatans in their story like Magic Alex and Yoko used the same fairy-tale weave as 'The Emperor'    

6 May 2015
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Atlas is an expert because he throws around words like "charlatan" to show his biases.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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Now, now, children, no fighting. Some people like Yoko and others don't. *throws bucket of water on hot coals

And for goodness' sake, spell-checker, hush. I know how to type. 

May we please stay on topic? Just 

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6 May 2015
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I'm just tired of the know-it-alls throwing rotten tomatoes at Yoko. It may be the cause of me leaving the forum.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

6 May 2015
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Expert Textpert said

Atlas is an expert because he throws around words like "charlatan" to show his biases.

@Wigwam has the right to opinions you disagree with without being sneered at. Try to accept there is more than one side to the story. John was prone to look at others to be The Answer and many were clearly and verifiably not.

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6 May 2015
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ewe2 said

Expert Textpert said

Atlas is an expert because he throws around words like "charlatan" to show his biases.

@Wigwam has the right to opinions you disagree with without being sneered at. Try to accept there is more than one side to the story. John was prone to look at others to be The Answer and many were clearly and verifiably not.

He didn't give an opinion. He said "she isn't" a genius and that she was a charlatan as if it were a matter of fact. I think I have the right to sneer at that attitude.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

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