A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004 :::
Welcome, any LA Times readers who make it here. There are three "greatest hits" on August 10 you can check out if you like.

Here is the full text of the longer answer given by a certain pudgy, balding English teacher when Randy Lewis of the Times asked him for a reaction to Paul McCartney's latest interview, where he contradicted previous statements by all of them about the drugginess of various songs. The quotes in the Times came from an earlier, shorter answer:

When I was young, I pretty much caught all the drug references. In the Uncut interview, Paul said no one caught the one at the opening of Got To Get You Into My Life at the time. I am not sure how fast people caught on, but by the time I clued in, around 1970, it seemed pretty obvious to me. Nearly all the references were couched in the language of englightenment and liberation, and I would take that part for my own and discount the drug stuff. Certainly, when Lennon was trying to regain some standing in society at large, at the end of his life, that was how he interpreted it.

At some point in my life, I decided that the best way to love someone was to see them whole, so I stopped editing out some of the nastier stuff. They were not nice guys when they were on top, to each other or to the people around them. That's why Geoff Emerich became their engineer at age 18: no one else wanted to be in the room with them. And I pretty much rejected the 1960's view of enlightenment, so that little mental safeguard got dropped. I suppose some people want the public image to be true, but I bet they didn't enjoy the "Let It Be" movie very much, whereas I ate it up.

When I read their interviews, it is to understand all of them as individuals and as a group, and that adds to my understanding of a song. But I think if you have your eyes open at all, you are seeing into the heart of genius, not of love.

What it comes down to is this: it is the music itself that you get attached to, that makes you love them. None of those guys would be that interesting if they had not given us what they gave us. But once you are hooked, you want to know all there is about them. If you find out that the guy who wrote "All You Need Is Love" neglected his older son, that's a shock, but you understand more about him than if you thought that he lived it. And maybe you will think twice about whether your own affirmations excuse your own bad behavior. Surely, the image of Cynthia raising a son alone while her ex is hopping around the world for peace is one of the most arresting in the whole story, and I am a major John Lennon fan.

If a work of art is worth loving, its meaning will deepen. Not alter: I don't think you can listen to the Velvet Underground and ever come away in a good mood. There is some objective meaning to the work, but it repays all the attention you give it. And then it acquires some meaning for your own life, because of when you learned to love it or something else. I suppose that if you are completely wrong about something--for instance, if you thought "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day" was a love sonnet, and failed to notice what a nasty dig Shakepeare gets in at the end--then it will be a shock when you find out.

But how can you not assosciate drugs with the Beatles at some level? Whether this song or that song turns out to refer to something you hadn't understood, certainly it can't alter your overall picture of them. "Dr. Robert" is one of their weakest songs, but even as a kid, when I had no idea that he was their dealer, I figured all the "we-ll, we-ll, we-ll, we-ll" stuff was druggy.

That's the great thing about the Beatles: if the story behind your favorite song turns you off, pick one of the other 200. Or make all of them your favorite, each in its own turn, the way I did, unintentionally. One fact shouldn't trip you up.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 3:06 PM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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