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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Father and Son and Paul McCartney

Today's a great day for the Vozick-Levinsons.   Son Simon's pathbreaking interview with Sir Paul McCartney has just been published in Rolling Stone.  It contains such gems as McCartney reminiscing about "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" -
I have great memories of writing it with John. I read, occasionally, people say, "Oh, John wrote that one." I say, "Wait a minute, what was that afternoon I spent with him, then, looking at this poster?" 
If you've ever loved the Beatles, this interview is bound to bring a smile to your soul.

But I take a special pleasure and pride in this interview.  Turns out that my very first published article was "A Vote for McCartney," which appeared in the Village Voice in 1971.  The story of how I got it published is a story in itself.  I had read a scathing and lame review of McCartney's latest album - a post-Beatles album - by the dyspeptic Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau, and fired off a letter to the editor with my counter-arguments.   To Christgau's claim that McCartney's Ram was "a classic form/content mismatch," I systematically explained why that was manifestly not the case, and concluded that the mismatch is "apparently in the wires and components of Robert Christgau's stereo."

That was about the gentlest criticism I offered of Christgau, and I had doubts that the Voice would even publish my letter.   I poured over the "Letters" section of every new issue, and had pretty much come to the conclusion of, oh well, at least I had gotten this out of my system ... until, one day, a Thursday, my phone started ringing.  At least three of my friends had seen my "article" in the Village Voice.  A check for $65 arrived in the mail the very next day - accounts payable departments rolled a lot better in those days - with a note from Diane Fischer, a Voice associate editor, saying she hoped it was "ok" that rather than publishing my letter as a letter, the Voice had published it as an article in its "My Turn" section!

That first published article not only set me on a career of writing, but teaching.  When I applied for my first teaching job at St. John's University in 1975 for a "Creative Journalism" course, I  brought with me "A Vote for McCartney" and two other articles I had subsequently published in the Village Voice. I was hired on the spot.

Reading the article from where we are now in 2013, I think I went too far in my criticisms of Lennon and Harrison.   But I was right-on about Christgau's tin ears, and about the transcendingly enduring beauty and power of Paul McCartney's lyrics and music.   And what a joy it is to see my son bring that point home today in the online pages of Rolling Stone.


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