Apple Rot – Why the Beatles had to break up

Peter Doggett’s new book about the end of the Beatles, “You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup,” is out now, and while I haven’t read it yet, let’s just assume it’s truly interesting and cool and extremely well done, if only because it’s truly unfair to assume anything else.

But then I read this review in Businessweek, and bristled at the critics’ analysis/deconstruction of the book/story, in which the entire gothic tale gets reduced to a series of personality flaws and corporate mismanagement, as if the artistic/personal/passionate bonds between Lennon, McCartney & friends were more or less akin to, say, the Time, Inc/AOL disaster.

“Imagine what the Fab Four could have raked in over the years if they had behaved more like their rivals, the Rolling Stones, and not let their personal indulgences and adolescent resentments drive them apart,” critic Hugo Lindgren harumphs.

Well, sure. But there are so many things wrong with that sentence (e.g., the Stones as “rivals,” e.g. Apple to the Fabs’ Microsoft) you want to toss the whole thing against the wall, hard, and turn on the TV.

Again, I’m not going to offer a word on Doggett’s actual book/thinking/argument, but Lindgren’s boil-down version (proposing variations of the Evil Yoko theory; the evil Linda theory; the evil Klein theory; the crazy John theory; the power-hungry Paul theory) presents a corporate-friendly reductionism that offers basically no insight into the reality of the situation.

Here’s the thing: It’s all true, to an extent. And it’s all wrong too, because there’s no conclusive answer to any relationship rooted so deeply in the fiery viscera of love/hate/joy/grief. Except to say that the same thing that united the Beatles into such a transcendent group of artists was the central factor in tearing them apart. Certainly, you can argue that better, more sensitive management might have helped, or that the women in J and P’s lives might have shown a bit more restraint in their partners’ musical/business affairs. But the truth (to me) is that all of those externals were created by/set in motion by J and P themselves, who used them as animations of their own personalities. Because no matter how non-logical and heartbreaking it is for us fans (and analysts of cash flow and potential profits) some artistic/creative bonds can’t last forever.

Together they channeled a kind of creative/artistic/spiritual lightning. When they held hands God’s own light crackled through their nervous systems. Beautiful, majestic, ultimately deadly. You can only ride that energy for so long before it begins to do you in. Cue the drugs, the dissolution, the crazed assassins. Every yin has its yang, every explosion of light leaves a shadow. But the light remains, too, and that’s what matters the most.

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