Saturday, December 10, 2011


I seem to remember that it was maybe from Quentin Tarantino that I heard the phrase, “I truly believe that everyone in life can be categorized as either an Elvis man or a Beatles man.” I think he stated this during an interview that comprised one of the extra content shorts on the Pulp Fiction DVD, or some such interview from the time. I say “seem to remember” because this simple, yet wildly and analogously packed, statement rang so true to me that it has become part of my underlying psyche and basic outlook on life. This observation is so powerful that the man who first came up with this idea, and planted it in my head, has become irrelevant in opposition to the strength of this simple truth. The easiest way to demonstrate the insightfulness of this observation is through an analogy itself. Picture these two rock stars, and their body of work, in your mind: Bono of U2 and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Bono is an Elvis man. Eddie Vedder is a Beatles man. If you can’t understand and easily see what this simple observation reveals then “nothing wonderful will come of” the observations below, to paraphrase one of this season’s most read, respected, and retread writers…

…but I do believe that the true rock and roll fans out there, and those with a reasonable good ear for the genre (okay, I had to work this blog’s title into this somehow—sorry) will get the analogy though. I also believe that it will open up a whole new way of looking at rock stars, their music, the everyday people and friends in their lives, and our current, incredibly volatile, and downright petty government gridlock and animosity in new and interesting ways. I’d like to take the analogy further, or rather, apply its logic to another analogy that I’ve been mulling over. It’s one that is most likely and already easily discernable. It’s also an analogy that I feel is just as valid as the “Elvis man vs. Beatles man” descriptor. One that I think is an equally valid way of thinking about rock music, its fans, its many listeners, American politics, and larger social and political questions. The analogy that one can be either a “Lennon man or a McCartney man” is just as insightful and relevant to the world and people around us as the “Elvis man vs. Beatles man” analogy is, as far as these pop culture analogies can be seriously relevant that is. I make no claim in any way that asserts that I’m the first person to think of this. Honestly, this analogy might just be another one of the now collectively conscious musical analogies that permeate our pop culture fueled minds. It’s probably one that I absorbed somewhere along my journey through life (as a rock music fan) from another more brilliant, educated, and insightful writer or life long rock fan. I’m going to expound upon it anyway, and in my own way, as it’s just one of those things that I’ve got to get down in ink, i.e. on the internet (as we all know, “the internet is written in ink”—another brilliant observation that I’m sure most of the readers of this blog already know the source of). 

While I’m totally being tongue in cheek with my reference to this analogy not being vitally important or literarily insightful, it is an insight that is incredibly telling, if only because of the music styles and the messages that the Lennon/McCartney dichotomy refers to. Overall, both of the Lennon/McCartney approaches to music, and their messages, are fueled by the same accelerant. If nothing else, Lennon and McCartney both worshiped at the altar of love: love for one’s fellow man, love for one’s significant other, love for one’s children, and love for life in general. How these two musicians expressed their love through their music and message was incredibly different, yet complimentary, though. First, let’s look at the two’s musical styles and compositions. Paul McCartney is known for his “Silly Love Songs.” He even wrote a song about writing songs about “silly love.” McCartney asked, “What’s wrong with that?” to which I answer “Nothing.” To those in the Lennon camp, McCartney’s contributions to the overall Beatles catalogue might be a little more pop-like and therefore more throwaway in a sense. They were great little songs that usually told simple stories of love lost, shared, or newly entered into. Early on, some of the songs were simplistic to be sure, but eventually grew into complex and powerful meditations like “Hey Jude,” a song about love and using love to overcome a difficult situation. John Lennon is known for his more angst ridden compositions like “Revolution,” “I Am The Walrus”, and later on, songs like “Working Class Hero,” “Cold Turkey,” and “Gimme Some Truth.” Lennon was more radical in his outspokenness. He engaged in angry diatribes against various injustices, often getting himself in trouble, as well as getting himself branded a rebel rouser. When one looks at both of these legendary Beatles songwriters, it can be easy to label McCartney the more conservative (and therefore safer) songwriter and Lennon the more liberal (and therefore more dangerous) songwriter. (Remember now, we’re talking in terms of surface generalities as perceived through the multicolored lens of the pop culturally advertised and absorbed snippets of both men’s songs. (To an extreme conservative, both Lennon and McCartney were dirty hippies…) In a specifically musical sense, while both were masters of their craft, McCartney was much more a master of melody. Lennon was much more a master of experimentation, bluesy sounds, and what many punks would consider the Dylanesque “three chords and the truth” angst that would later inspire political punk rock music, spiritually if not musically (although a strong case can be made for a musical influence as well). So, to a Lennon Man, McCartney’s silly love songs are nothing more than an annoyance. They’re directed towards mass marketing (and therefore, mass profiting) songwriting, and are totally throwaway. To a McCartney Man, Lennon’s liberal and angry songs are much more socialistic in tone and therefore incredibly dangerous towards profit generation, and not nearly as smooth and melodious sounding. They’re songs that are grating and annoying for pointing out an alternative to the mass culturally accepted way of doing business and living…see where we’re going here dear readers?

So, based on this very cursory, and not incredibly deep, assertion, would it be safe to say that not only do Lennon Men and McCartney Men exist, but that Republicans/Conservatives are McCartney Men and Democrats/Liberals are Lennon Men? I think so. I’ve personally had, as a Lennon fan and a moderate leaning liberal, a fun, mutually admirable and amicable, and slightly alcohol tinged argument with some friends of mine, one of which is a conservative and a McCartney fan, over which Beatle was the better songwriter. Our “argument” was a fun debate between passionate fans that admired each others’ favorite Beatle, but was much more enamored with the work and lives of our own personal favorite. As a conservative and a moderate/liberal, we were both arguing by extension for our political views as well, as they were reflected in our admiration for our favorite Beatle (well…maybe in mine more than theirs…), and there was no animosity between us. Our group was quite tight knit at that point, but now for most part has gone our separate ways due to the selling of the original company we all worked for at the time. So obviously as friends with similar goals in mind, in a business and personal sense at the time, we totally agreed to disagree and for several years afterwards fondly re-ignited our “argument.” Unfortunately though, the Lennon and McCartney Men on Capitol Hill, the vast majority of whom share the same life goals and overall ideals as well, simply can’t seem to civilly compromise or agree to disagree with one another in order to serve the American people. They would rather cater to the lobbyists and corporate spenders. Tough times call for tough measures. Being able to give and take is what makes the world go around. As was the case with The Beatles themselves though, the split seems irreparable and the Lennon and McCartney Men seem destined to go their own ways and never work together. John and Paul never did work together again after The Beatles collectively called it quits. Is this indicative of where our country is heading politically and socially?

While the analogy of being a Lennon Man or a McCartney Man (and by extension being a Republican or Democrat),as applied to Washington, might seem to be a doom filled one, at least as far as the prospects of a return to sanity in our political process goes, there is one fact that is glaringly obvious and well worth the consideration of the Lennons and McCartneys of Capitol Hill: Lennon and McCartney’s solo careers (like all of The Beatles’ solo careers) failed to approach the magnificence and success that their joint endeavor did. More importantly, the Lennon/McCartney dichotomy produced some of the most poignant, introspective, and powerful songs ever. It is entirely possible that Lennon would have come up with “All You Need Is Love” and that McCartney would have come up with “Helter Skelter” each on their own, but one cannot disregard the fact that each other’s position was softened somewhat through an admiration of the others’, and possibly even influenced by each other’s songwriting strengths. After all, while both had different approaches, they both had the same goal in mind: spreading the message of love. Both the Republicans and Democrats on The Hill should take a lesson from Lennon and McCartney insofar as that they should put their differences (i.e. special interests) aside for once and focus on their mutual love and goal: that of serving America and the American People in the best way possible by legislating with the best interests of the American People in mind.  After all, Congress isn’t a rock band. It’s the fundamental governing body, and mouthpiece of The American People. Congress will not split up, as hard as some of our legislators might try to make it. It can’t. So while it’s totally fine, and in fact healthy, for a nation to be comprised of Lennon and McCartney Men, in many aspects, these men should remember that they can only write the great songs when they work together, listen to one another, and admire each other while pursuing their goals in the best way they see fit. Maybe then there’ll be some harmony, of the best kind, in our land…    

1 comment:

  1. There is some truth to your observation I suppose, but I think the real differences between Lennon and McCartney were musical and there was far less of a dichotomy between their outlooks on life. I know you're not "calling McCartney a Republican", but to suggest that there is even a political or social link there is a bit tenuous. As a musician, I can say with some evidence that McCartney also took musical risks and could be quite progressive. Sure, Lennon was more experimental in the care-free, break-the-rules sense, but McCartney was breaking just as many musical boundaries by exploring new timbres and song structures and chords. His melodies were ALWAYS catchy, so I suppose that side of things is conservative. But in any case, I'd say conservatism in music is about seeing what works and sticking with it, while conservatism in other fields is about being reluctant to change. So the analogy maybe doesn't carry across too well.