Devoured this book after reading Tyler Cowen’s endorsement. Here are two samples:
How freaking interesting are the Beatles?! Even their names. John and Paul.
If you had a Catholic boyhood like I did and Paul did how can it not have some meaning that these guys are named John and Paul?!
The world these guys came out of!
Mentioned reading Dreaming The Beatles to my buddy, who looked at me like I was an adorable if foolish schoolchild and suggested I get serious and read The Love You Make, written by Peter Brown, who was Brian Epstein’s assistant.
My God, this book! Incredible tale! Brian Epstein:This pained, tragic, wonderful man! Born in to a Jewish family that owned department stores, frequently beaten and hurt after soliciting rough gay sex in public restrooms, one day walks into the Cavern Club and essentially falls in love with the Beatles, who perceived him as somehow fancy and posh, they could not have become what they did without him, his devotion was unquestioned and yet his naivety and inexperience cost them millions.
Both books talk about how phenomenon of being the Beatles almost overwhelmed the Beatles, and everyone around them. At its best it felt something like living in a yellow submarine with all your friends aboard, suggests Sheffield.
At its worst it seems so oppressive and scary it nearly / did kill them. At least once the Beatles were almost crushed to death in their car from the pressure of fans.
Started listening on Spotify to all the Beatles albums, in order.
I would say the biggest leap that hits me is when you get to the third song on this one. You’re listening to like two hours of very solid pop music, and then you get to You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.
Then, you get to this:
and we’re on another planet.
On their first album the Beatles covered this:
Hard to find some Beatles songs on YouTube. The hash that was made of the Beatles’ finances and rights is a whole interesting story on its own. Epstein meant the best for the Beatles, can he be blamed for not realizing that lunchbox and doll rights would be worth millions?
The predators that descended on the Beatles later are a dark parade. When Allen Klein heard on the radio that Brian Epstein had died at 32 of a drug overdose, his reaction was to snap his fingers and say “I got em!”
The Beatles were taxed at something like 94%. Various tax avoidance schemes like investing in “related businesses” were somewhat doomed by John’s, especially, disgust at the idea of becoming anything like a businessman.
A publicly traded company, Northern Songs, owned the Lennon-McCartney songs for awhile:
During 1965 it was decided to make Northern Songs a public company to save on capital gains tax. 1,250,000 shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange, which were worth 17 pence each ($0.28), but were offered at 66 pence ($1.09) each. Although the trade was scoffed at by various financial institutions, it was expected that the application lists would not remain open for more than 60 seconds, which is exactly what happened, as the lists were oversubscribed. After the offer was closed, Lennon and McCartney owned 15% each, worth £195,200 ($320,000), NEMS a 7.5% interest, and James and Silver (who served as Northern Songs’ chairmen), controlling 37.5%, with Harrison and Starr sharing 1.6%. The remaining shares were owned by various financial institutions.
At some point Paul bought up more shares without telling John, a bit of sneakiness which Peter Brown treats very harshly. Peter Brown is, in my opinion, a little too brutal on Paul, but then again he was there and I wasn’t. It does seem like all the Beatles could be rather heartless to Brian Epstein, who meant a lot to Peter Brown.
To me, a degree of forgiveness comes in when you think that everything we think of as The Beatles happened to these guys by age thirty. When they were recording the White Album, George Harrison was twenty five. How would you be at twenty-five if you’d been world famous since you were eighteen?
None of them were from stable homes. Ringo’s childhood, in particular, was like some cruel Roald Dahl story. (OK fine it was Dickensian). At age six he’d regularly be left at home all night alone while his mom was at work. Says Brown:
At the age of six, only a year after starting St. Silas’s Junior School, Ritchie developed what was thought to be a simple stomachache. But when the pain lasted through the night he was finally taken to the hospital in an ambulance. It was too late; his appendix had already burst and periontis had set in. He remained in a coma for ten weeks, and with various complications including falling out of his hospital bed on his seventh birthday, he spent a solid year in the hospital. By the time he was back in school he was so far behind the other children he couldn’t read or write, and what little he learned from that point on was taught to him by a sympathetic neighborhood girl.
One rainy morning a big black car came to fetch him in the Dingle and took him away to the Heswall Children’s Hospital, a huge, gray children’s sanitorium in the Wirral. There he was put to bed, where he remained for the next two years.
Ringo is underappreciated, in my view. I’m not qualified to speak to his drumming, which was believed by Paul at least as well as some producers to be not too great. Ringo was treated rather cruelly by the other Beatles but without his good-natured willingness to play diplomat and either forgive or ignore slights and insults it seems clear the Beatles probably would’ve collapsed.
Now it’s time to declare what I consider to be the single most beautiful Beatles song and I declare it to be:
I may be projecting but I believe in the runup to the White Album you can feel a competition of insane excellence between John and Paul. With Blackbird the competition is over. In my opinion some subsequent tension between Paul and John had to do with John’s belief that it was semi-criminal a guy who could write Blackbird would also write some of the stuff Paul McCartney later put out. Thus what was best and greatest about Paul was, to John, tangled up with what was most frustrating about him, as can so often happen with lovers and friends.
Reading about Casey Jones:
Railroading was a talent, and Jones was recognized by his peers as one of the best engineers in the business.
our local classical radio station, the DJ just said (I’m paraphrasing)
if you like the classical music you’re hearing, roll down your windows and share it with your neighbors!
then he said, mild as all hell,
just a suggestion.
Mirga! I swear I won’t forget
Ottensamer ist clarinet bae.
Clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer’s third solo album is dedicated to the Mannheim School: an 18th-century melting pot of musical revolutionary experimentation.
Van Jones: He was very interested in the world. He wanted me to explain how the White House worked. He asked very detailed kind of foreign-policy questions. And then he’d ask, “Why doesn’t Obama just outlaw birthdays?” [laughs] I’m, like, “What?” He said, “I was hoping that Obama, as soon as he was elected, would get up and announce there’d be no more Christmas presents and no more birthdays—we’ve got too much to do.” I said, “Yeah, I don’t know if that would go over too well.”
Van Jones: Prince wrote music the way you write e-mails, okay? If you were transported to some world where the ability to write e-mails was some rare thing, you would be Prince. He was just writing music all the time. He slept it, he thought it. And it wasn’t all great—some of it was good, some of it wasn’t. But he had no expectation, he was just being himself. It’s like you cut the water faucet on—I don’t think the faucet is sitting there thinking, “This is the best water ever!” The faucet is just doing what the faucet does. That’s kind of how he was.
The Van Jones ones were the best, which led me to Mr. Jones’ wiki:
He has described his own childhood behavior as “bookish and bizarre.” His grandfather was the senior bishop in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jones sometimes accompanied his grandfather to religious conferences, where he would sit all day listening to the adults “in these hot, sweaty black churches” Jones was a young fan of the late John and Bobby Kennedy, and would pin photographs of them to a bulletin board in his room in the specially delineated “Kennedy Section”. As a child he matched his Star Wars action figures with Kennedy-era political figures; Luke Skywalker was John, Han Solo was Bobby, and Lando Calrissian was Martin Luther King, Jr.
I think his “dirty little secret,” if you will forgive the pun, is that once you get past the first album he wasn’t much of a true Dionysian, but rather a playful polyglot who assumed various poses. Most of all I was impressed by his urge to create, and how strong and how internal that drive seems to have been.