Thursday, June 16, 2011

#34: You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup by Peter Doggett

Harper Collins, 2009: 390 pages.

Peter Doggett takes his title from the opening lyrics of the "Abbey Road Medley", and it is apt on multiple levels. Ringo Starr is referred to throughout the book as Richard Starkey, who admonished the author "Don't use my stage name." Doggett quotes my favorite George Harrison line: Avant garde is French for bull shit. Also, Doggett covers in detail the contributions of Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor. Aspinall started off as the road manager for the Beatles in 1961 and worked as the chief executive of Apple until 2007. After Aspinall was fired, Apple press officer Geoff Baker stated "I fear for the integrity of the Beatles' legacy without Neil." (347) Derek Taylor worked for Apple from 1968 until his death in 1995 and was instrumental in pushing the creation of the Beatles Anthology. Far too often, the contributions of these two in the history of the Beatles is ignored.

You never give me your money/you only give me your funny papers
This book is about money, first and foremost. Consider that EMI and Apple took roughly 23 years to conclude their lawsuits over the Beatles catalogue; that Harrison and Lennon spent most of the 1990s and 1970s respectively being close to bankrupt; that all four Beatles spent most of the 1970s and 1980s having no idea how much money they had or where it was going. Business is something not usually covered in histories of rock bands, but here it is essential. Even though the Beatles were no longer a working rock band after 1969, they were a corporate entity until 1972 and Apple still exists today. Doggett's work is excellent, and he lets all those involved speak for themselves.The title stems from Paul McCartney's opinion of Allen Klein, the manager favored by Harrison, Starkey and Lennon. It also steals from Harrison, who said that all of the legal documents at Apple Corps were equivalent to funny papers.

She came in through the bathroom window
The she is, of course, Yoko Ono. Doggett avoids the trite "she broke up the Beatles" nonsense. This is perhaps the first book about the Beatles that I have read that did not cast her as a villain or a victim, but as a person. That in itself is very refreshing. Doggett's comparison of the media coverage of Ono and Linda McCartney is quite interesting. McCartney wrote this after a female fan climbed into his house through, you guessed it, the bathroom window.

Boy/You're gonna carry that weight/Carry that weight a long time
The breakup is really secondary to the rest of the book; in a sense, it is the least important item in the book. It happened, and Doggett treats it as the Beatles themselves treated it, a decision made over the course of several years. The Beatles attempted throughout the 1970s and then the 1980s to not be the Beatles. The music industry would not let them, and neither would the fans. I was constantly reminded of Lester Bangs, who wrote this for the LA Times on Dec 14, 1980:

John Lennon at his best despised cheap sentiment and had to learn the hard way that once you've made your mark on history those who can't will be so grateful they'll turn it into a cage for you. Those who choose to falsify their memories -- to pine for a neverland 1960s that never really happened that way in the first place -- insult the retroactive Eden they enshrine.

All of them wanted to escape the cage, and, as Starkey's quote at the beginning shows, they are still attempting to escape. Doggett writes "Almost alone of their generation, they did not want the fantasy to continue." (x) Who could blame them? Fame made them rich, yes. It also made them bitter, recriminatory, jealous and paranoid. Harrison was nearly stabbed to death by a fan in 1999, an event that Eric Clapton and others tied to the recurrence of cancer in Harrison. (320-325)

Doggett has extensive credentials covering the media and popular music, and his views considering the differing coverage of McCartney's divorce in the early 2000s with the failed marriages of the other three Beatles are sharp and well constructed.

This book is recommended.

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