Monday, November 17, 2008

Artie Lange & Howard Stern Get It Wrong

I love 'The Howard Stern Show'. But like everybody else out there, Howard and his co-hosts love to ramble about the Beatles and often get it wrong.

Today they were discussing Paul's desire to release 'Carnival of Light', a 14-minute Avante Garde recording the Beatles made in 1967. They mentioned how Paul needs the permission of Ringo and Yoko and Olivia Harrison to make it happen. This began a diatribe from Howard about why Ringo needs to be asked and why he is/was an equal partner in the group.

Monday morning quarterbacks might think this a valid question, but the Beatles were a democracy. That's one of the reasons they were so damn good. If any one of them didn't want to do something, it was a no-go. To give John and Paul the power to override decisions would've been disastrous. Sure, we all know, the Beatles were basically the 'John and Paul Show'. But was also 'a band'. It wasn't two guys and two sidemen.

And regarding the money: John and Paul had enough extra cash as songwriters. To impose a larger cut of the 'band's' earnings would've been ridiculous.

And besides, if it did cross their minds, at what point in their career would J&P have made the call to tell the others, 'We're the real stars, so from now on, we're making all the decisions and giving you guys less money'?

They all came into the business with nothing. They all made the same initial gamble to throw themselves 100% into the game to make it big. Can you imagine a broke and unknown 17-year old Paul telling a 16-year old George that he's taking a bigger cut? A bigger cut of what? A few pounds per gig? So what about after they'd made it? Say after the 'Ed Sullivan' show, where it was obvious they were the biggest musical act in the world? How would've that been for the moral of the band? 'Great show guys, but John and I have decided you two don't deserve an equal share of our earnings anymore. Now let's do that tour!'.

And Ringo was important. His drumming was tailor made for them (strong, simple, solid), his persona as the lovable homely one fit nicely with his more handsome partners, and his participation in the films was huge (he's basically the star of all their movies except Let it be). His sense of humor fit in with the others and he came up with the titles for 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.

Another misfire on Stern's show today were comments from Artie Lange. He's reading the new Lennon bio (I haven't got it yet, but hope to find it under the Christmas tree!) and Artie said that 'during Sgt. Pepper they wrote 'A Little Help From My Friends' to 'give Ringo something to do' because he was just 'sitting around playing chess'.

The fact is, Ringo (and George) had a song on every album (with a few exceptions). That was part of the act. One of the Beatles' greatest strengths was the 'variety show' feel of their albums. Unlike the Rolling Stones or The Who, bands that had just one singer, the Beatles had four. The 'sitting around playing chess' bit is half-true. Pepper was the first album made after they decided to stop touring. A lot of time and effort went into it. The idea was to 'send the album on tour'. So yes, Ringo is quoted as saying 'Pepper is where I learned to play chess' because once he laid down the drum and percussion tracks, there wasn't a lot for him to do.

But they weren't throwing him a bone by writing 'A Little Help From My Friends' for him. It was the formula. People expected a Ringo song.

And to suggest that John and Paul should've had more of a say in the direction of the band, or a bigger cut of the money, dismisses another of the reasons the Beatles were so great. They were friends. They did everything together. They were confidants in the most exclusive club in the world. For J&P to decide to tell G&R that they were 'more important' is unthinkable.


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