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Marilyn and Monet by Paul Levinson

Marilyn and Monet

by Paul Levinson

Giveaway ends November 28, 2017.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 17 of X: The Split

We arrive in Rob Sheffield's documentary/docudrama in print - i.e., vividly told book, Dreaming the Beatles - at a sad juncture.  Not the saddest, to be sure. That still awaits.  But sad enough, and the lowest ebb we've encountered so far:  which is the Beatles' final album, and whither (not wither, I'd insist, but we'll get to that) Paul McCartney.

The question of the final album is Abby Road vs. Let It Be, the former recorded after but released before the latter (I think I have that right).  Sheffield sees pros and cons to both albums being final, and goes with Abby Road, assuming the we don't take Let It Be to be an album.  It's certainly not a purely Beatles album, for sure, having been mutilated with the worst overdubbing of Phil Spector's career.  Now, I've always loved much of Phil Spector's work, from the Teddybears to "Black Pearl," but what he did to Let It Be just ain't it.   So whether it's an album or not, since it's not just something The Beatles recorded - it's much more than that, and for the worse - the prize of final goes to Abby Road.  I don't blame Paul McCartney and in fact admire him for releasing the album in the 21st century stripped of Spector's sounds.   (I should add: my group The Other Voices was co-produced by Ellie Greenwich, and she loved Phil, and she's gone now, so sincere apologies to Ellie's spirit.)

But this brings us to McCartney - the album as well as the man.  As I've told you now in these reviews a bunch of times, my very first published article was "A Vote for McCartney," sent into The Village Voice as a Letter to the Editor but selected by editor Diane Fischer as an article, for which I was paid $65 in 1971.   This started me, for better or worse, on my career as a writer.

The letter turned article was a defense of the album and the man - and its follow-up, Ram - from a snooty, vicious attack by Voice critic Robert Christgau, who at some point was appointed by someone as the "Dean" of rock criticism.  You can read my full article here (if you missed the link above), but, to make a long story short, I consider "That Would Be Something" and "Every Night" to be superb (along with "Maybe I'm Amazed," which Sheffield acknowledges is excellent) from McCartney, and "Too Many People," "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," and "Heart of the Country" to be masterpieces or close to, which would fit well on Abby Road as Beatles songs.  But the Paul McCartney overdubs make everything on these albums breakthroughs in music production, which go beyond the Beatles insofar as they were pretty much done by one person.

As I've also noted in these reviews before, Sheffield admires Christgau, and doesn't share quite my high opinion of McCartney, certainly not in these years.  But that's ok.  Certainly Sheffield is right that the combination of these albums and the way he left the Beatles - with the infamous Q & A that said he wouldn't even miss poor Ringo - marked McCartney the man with a reputation as the wheeling-and-dealing Beatle, who played at business and egoboo in a way that supposedly hurt the music.  Or, at least Sheffield is right that that's what many regularly published critics started saying back then and some are still saying to some extent.

As for me, most  of what I publish is not rock criticism, but I suspect my view of McCartney as great in his solo years (as were Lennon and Harrison) - different, of course, from the Beatles, but still unsurpassed -  is shared by millions of fans to this very day.

More reviews of this outstanding book soon.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of x: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of x: "I'm in Love, with Marsha Cup"

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It started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began to hear a haunting song in her head, "Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

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