Ignored Obscured Restored
Last November, Disney+ relased The Beatles: Get Back. The three episode documentary, directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame, took 60 hours of film footage and 150 hours of audio tape — from 22 days in January 1969 — and reconstructed it into an 8 hour, “fly on the wall” experience that seeks to revise the negative vibe and historical record of what actually occurred during the sessions that culminated in the original Let it Be movie from 1970. At that, The Beatles: Get Back succeeds.
However, it can’t be denied that a mere 15 months later, on April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced that The Beatles had broken up through his ambiguous answers to the questions he was asked during an interview about his first solo album, McCartney.
I was browsing through the recent Paul McCartney book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present that my wife gave me for Christmas. It has the lyrics to 156 McCartney compositions along with his commentary and loads of photos and memorabilia.
I was interested in his explanation of the lyrics to “Too Many People”, from 1971’s Ram.
This song was written a year or so after The Beatles breakup, at a time when John was firing missiles at me with his songs, and one or two of them were quite cruel. I don’t know what he hoped to gain, other than punching me in the face. The whole thing really annoyed me.
The key lyrics blame John for the breakup and scold him for preaching and telling people how they ought to live.
That was your first mistake
You took your lucky break and broke it in two.
Now what can be done for you?
You broke it in two.
Too many people preaching practices
Don’t let ’em tell you what you wanna be
Too many people holding back
This is crazy, and baby, it’s not like me
What surprised me was that John’s most scathing song aimed at Paul, “How Do You Sleep”, was written as a response to “Too Many People.” I had originally thought it was the other way around. “How Do You Sleep” was on Lennon’s Imagine that was released about 4 months after Ram.
John’s basic personality had an acerbic, mean spirited side that was foreign to the genial McCartney. So John’s swipes were direct stabs to the heart where McCartney’s were more subtle. John says:
So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother’s eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head
You live with straights who tell you, you was king
Jump when your momma tell you anything
The only thing you done was yesterday
And since you’ve gone you’re just another day
Those last lines are references to McCartney’s signature Beatles’ tune, “Yesterday”, and the soft rock of his solo song from Ram, “Another Day.” Ouch!
I’d like to think that if John were still alive today, these past grievences would be forgiven and settled, and the Lennon/McCartney team would be friends again.
Enjoy… until next week.