From Review, International Socialism (1st series), No.59, June 1973, p.25.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Apple to the Core: the unmaking of the Beatles
Peter McCabe and Robert D. Schonfield
(Martin Brian and O’Keeffe, £2.00 / Sphere Books, 40p)
Once upon a time the autobiographies of singing stars were carefully ghosted by Fleet Street entertainment correspondents. They were breathless little brochures about the artiste’s early (happy) relationships with parents and present tastes for blondes and Chinese food.
But nowadays pop is not just show-biz but big-biz. Rock and roll, the music half created and half pinched by white kids in the late fifties to demonstrate their defiance of the world of Eisenhower and Macmillan, has become the biggest commodity in popular music history. In the process the music has become product, something to be handled by a small army of pushers, pluggers and ‘rock writers’ with the assistance of producers, promoters and A and R and PR men. And, as in big business everywhere, the object of the exercise is to make a very small number of people very rich indeed. To catalogue this world, Donald Zec is not enough.
The authors of this work are equipped with degrees in the New York Graduate School of Business Administration, shop floor experience on the New York Stock Exchange and associate editorships in Rolling Stone magazine. One chapter is contributed by a financial consultant guesting from the Daily Telegraph’s city page.
Together they cover in fascinated detail the legal and financial battles over the Beatles’ wealth. And they inadvertently give a series of stinging little portraits of the financial and emotional vultures who circle a pop musician who makes it; the talentless underground drones who sucked out the sweetness of Apple, the Beatles, attempted coop, the giggling Maharishi a kind of missionary in reverse who took the Beatles money and gave them beads, Brian Epstein their first manager who was so clever at never implying he was interested in money, Allen Klein the financial thug now managing 75 per cent of the Beatles who is at least frank about his own greed, and Linda Eastman upperbrow Park Avenue wife of Paul McCartney whose advice to the other Beatles’ wives is that they are being far too lenient with their servants.
To this unpleasant world, the authors bring their own unpleasantness. They have written a sensational book in order to make themselves money yet affect a high tone of moral outrage at the Beatles’ concern for cash. They are obsessed with power but pretend to be rather offended at its use. They delight in retelling gossip but always in a tone of high moral superiority, a snobbier version of what the News of the World does every Sunday. What is amazing, reading this nasty sneering little book, is how the Beatles, either together or as individuals, ever produced any music worth listening to. Yet it was in the midst of these crises that John Lennon wrote and recorded some of his finest socialist stampers and revolutionary anthems. It was from the centre of the vileness McCabe and Schonfield so lovingly chronicle that Lennon produced his remarkable musical self-analysis of the working-class hero, the, serene socialist version of Imagine and the deliberately unsubtle agit-prop of Some Time In New York City. The trouble is that although Lennon moves towards politics in his music, his personal attempts seem only to have landed him with certain New York poseurs whose idea of the revolution is snorting cocaine on chat-shows and voting McGovern, or Australian ex-antique dealers who build large dumps of electronic equipment in Lennon’s Ascot back garden so as to better ‘coordinate’ the world revolution.
Lennon longs for commitment, to return politically to the working class, but the politicos he meets are all middle-class bullshitters anyway and he actually prefers Allen Klein. He is able to envisage revolution only from the vantage point of his own alienation. Hopefully one day soon a revolutionary working class movement in Britain will recover Lennon from his present appalling isolation.
Last updated on 25.12.2007