Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Favorite Beatle: Past And Present

When I discovered the Beatles I was eleven years old. I know because I found out about the Beatles by going to see the Bee Gees movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and some older person must have taken pity on me and kindly explained that in fact, those songs weren't really the Bee Gees, they were, in fact, this other band.

I got really into the Beatles between ages eleven and thirteen, and even though I don't listen to the Beatles any more, I'm happy for this phase of life, which I feel was an appropriate introduction to the world of English Language Pop Music.

Given my age, it was inevitable that I would form deep opinions about My Favorite Beatle, and also that My Favorite would basicall correlate with the one I thought was Cute and Attractive and Someone I Would Like to Date.

For me, that Beatle was Paul McCartney.

I know that people like me are supposed to like other Beatles best. Intellectuals and politically savvy people are supposed to like John. Non-conformists and introverts are supposed to like George. I'm not sure who has Ringo as their favorite and maybe I'm not alone: this quora question says "Who is your favorite Beatle if it is Ringo explain why" and none of the answers are "Ringo." But Paul is considered the sillier choice, the obvious choice, the lightweight.

Over the years since, I have occasionally thought about the Beatles about my interest in Paul as my favorite Beatle. For a while I was very dismissive of my former self. I wanted to like Wings, but I couldn't even get interested. OK, maybe "Live and Let Live," but you know what I mean. Meanwhile, John was making art with Yoko Ono and being Mister Interesting. While I have always agreed with the sentiment that when it comes to Silly Love Songs,  sure, "what's wrong with that?" I also felt like "Really, is that all you got?"

Then for a long time I didn't think about the Beatles, as I got obsessed with The Cure (not embarrassed to admit this), T. Rex (still think they are the best), The Velvet Underground (talk about obsession) and Pavement (not trying to be pretentious, just like their music).

Then around the time that Linda McCartney died (in 1998), I remember thinking: maybe I wasn't crazy to have Paul as my favorite Beatle, at least if I was thinking in terms of romance. I mean, this guy got married to an interesting woman, Linda Eastman, who was an artist and activist, and stayed married to her for 29 years until she died of cancer. OK, things didn't work out with Heather Mills, but then immediately after divorcing her he married Nancy Shevell. Paul seems to enjoy family life and spending time with his wives and kids. I thought to myself: "Paul could have actually been a good person to be in a romance with. He seems like kind of a romantic guy."

Lately, though, I've soured on the idea of Paul as a favorite Beatle. Paul is boring, and the older I get, the more I feel like boring is not OK. This sentiment was reinforced when Paul appeared on the WTF podcast, which I listen to obsessively. Usually, Marc's interviews get people to talk about some things that are painful, or conflictual, or that they just feel weird about. Paul's interview, by contrast, was like a PR plug that went on for an hour. Crushingly dull.

With respect to the other Beatles though, I'm not sure. John's particular brand of humorless activism feels kind of smug to me, and George is still a cipher. Ringo, perhaps? Songs like Octopus's Garden are weird, amusing, and lighthearted -- and isn't weird, amusing, and lighthearted in short supply these days? On the other hand, as one of the manifestations of the weirdness of modern life, I just learned that Ringo is a Brexiteer.

Maybe the moral of the story is that the more you know about pop idols, the less they can be pop idols -- something that seems obvious once you think about it a bit, but something the emotions of fandom never wanted me to admit.

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