Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Wonderful Tonight" by Pattie Boyd

It's hard to imagine that a book by Pattie Boyd would be mediocre, but this effort definitely is.

Only a few interesting insights. One is that there was a Liverpool/London divide with the Beatle women (Pattie & Jane/Maureen & Cynthia).

Another is that whenever George found himself saying something negative about John or Paul he would stop himself.

And she explains how Brian Epstein would separate John and Paul when the boys were touring or vacationing. Apparently because J&P spent so much time together anyway, that they would get on each others nerves. This explains the awkward moment in the extras disc of the Beatles Anthology DVD, where the three surviving Beatles are discussing when Ringo first joined. It's a kind of "wink wink" moment where they don't want to discuss the details, but to simply say it was a good idea to have Paul be Ringo's roommate instead of George.

Like Cynthia's recent book John, Pattie doesn't seem to have been privy to George's innermost thoughts about the Beatles. And like Cyn, Pattie talks about being madly in love with George, but never explains what was so wonderful about him (other than "I'd never met anyone like George"). Both ex's seem full of stories about their husband's callous sides with minute details of their shortcomings. But when it comes to insights of their kindness or thoughtfulness, there's very little. Why this is, we can only speculate.

The pictures are good, but there's not enough of them. And again, regarding Pattie's view of things, there's one picture of George laying on a bed and she describes as him looking "relaxed and calm". Now Pattie knew George and I didn't. But after looking at pictures and film of him since 1964, to me, he looks uptight in the picture. Like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Lennon vs. McCartney (Who's the Better Songwriter?)

McCartney was more of a natural musical genius, better able to play with harmony and genres than Lennon. But Lennon had better pop-song chops, with a gift for writing unique but catchy melodies.

Their vocal talents follow the same pattern. John is a better singer from a strictly organic point of view, whereas Paul is technically superior. Their strengths (Lennon the true rocker and poet, McCartney's incredible range of sound and style) cancel out their weaknesses (Lennon's lazy three note simplicity, McCartney's old fashioned, surgery ballad style).

But let's talk lyrics. Paul's lyrics have a much bigger range of message and subject matter than John's do. Paul easily moves from various points of view, whereas Lennon is almost always in the first person. And when he does third person, or the rare second, it's usually nonsensical, psychedelic or "In His Own Write"-type prose.

John often criticized Paul's lyrics as being "about characters" whereas his songs were about "John". But some of Paul's "characters" were super. "Eleanor Rigby", the broken family in "She's Leaving Home", "The Fool on the Hill", "Maxwell", "Desmond and Molly Jones" and "Lovely Rita". All great songs, and major ingredients of the Beatles' overall imagery and tone.

And besides, contrary to Lennon's claim of having a more autobiographical style, he had plenty of characters, too. "Mean Mr. Mustard", "Lucy" "Dr. Robert", "Nowhere Man", and "Bungalow Bill".

John's characters might be more interesting, but Paul's are more human. It's true that most of my favorite Beatles' songs are by Lennon ("Come Together", "Help!", "Strawberry Fields"), but Paul also wrote what may be the best lyrics of any Beatles' love song, "For No One".

Paul had more range lyrically and better insights to the human heart. Lennon wore his heart on his sleeve, which was lucky for us, since he was one of the most fascinating people of the 20th Century.

Paul's talents are a lyricist need to be reevaluated. It used to be fashionable to criticize Ringo's drumming, but people are coming around and realizing he was good. Damn good. A solid recognizable style, and fills that fit in perfectly with the songs ("A Day in Life" has some of the best drumming of any pop song).

So let's look at Paul again. It wasn't all "Pizza and Fairly Tales" as John once described him. There's a very introspective, talented wordsmith there who had the brains to be vague and not wrap up every story in a neat little package. Too bad he hasn't written anything worthwhile in 15 years. But that's another story.