Dear Paul McCartney
A six-part television series on the Beatles starts on Sunday, and technology resurrects John Lennon for two new songs. Paul, just what are you trying to prove?
Friday 24 November 1995
A generation of people remember what they were doing when Sgt Pepper came out, in all its ground-breaking glory. The next generation (mine) grew up with your music in the air. We first heard "Yesterday" in our cradles, sung as a lullaby. Beatles songs were folk songs that everyone could hum.
Both these sets of people will be by their televisions on Sunday: the Sixties nostalgics who listen to non-stop Gold radio, and the sons and daughters of the Summer of Love.
You refused to look back for more than 20 years. You knew this money- spinning reunion would not have been possible while John Lennon was alive. So why the new enthusiasm? Isn't it because you want to rewrite history in your own cheerful image?
You always wanted us to love you, and we do. As Macca, Mr Thumbs Aloft, the good egg, the smiling, winking wonderboy. You worked hard to become the most successful solo Beatle, a clean-living family entertainer, the Gary Lineker of pop. The only mystery is why you have yet to get a knighthood, like Sir Cliff. It can only be a matter of time.
Never mind music industry talk of you as mean, highly demanding and driven by a thirst for the adulation you used to enjoy. We love you more than dour George and daft Ringo, and differently to late, lost John. Because you're normal. You're all about life on the farm, green concern, having well-balanced kids and saving your local hospital. The richest working- class lad in the world.
But you are not a real, risk-taking artist like Lennon. That hurts, doesn't it? You still hate us thinking that it was your hip, arty, savagely witty friend and nemesis who really drove the band.
After all, you were the first Beatle to admit taking LSD. You mixed with the artists of Swinging London counter-culture while John was out of his head in the country. It was you who made art films - and who released one about the Grateful Dead earlier this year. You played guitar with Allen Ginsberg when he brought beat poetry to the Albert Hall. You paint, have classical pretensions and have just become a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.
So why aren't we convinced? Is it because you are trying so hard?
Let it be. Your place in 20th-century culture is guaranteed. But only in conjunction with George, Ringo and John. Four less-than-fab boys overtaken by magic, despite their bickering and failures, who collectively became an icon to match Elvis and Marilyn. Apart, you just seem self-obsessed and lost.
This is the last time you'll be able milk your old Beatles identity. Unlike the Stones, you are unable to reinvent yourself and keep on trucking. The future, even retired to the life of a country farmer, looks pretty bleak.
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