There has been a disturbing phenomenon for many years at Beatlefest - which I cannot believe still continues. It goes like this. During the screening of "Let It Be" - every time Yoko One appears on the screen - a section of the audience boos and hisses. Hello! Can we talk respect?!
There are two issues here. First of all I really don't think Yoko deserves all this negativity. And I will explain why in a moment. But even if 'fans' dislike her - can't they find a more civil way to express that emotion than publicly deriding her in such an audible and ungracious fashion?
Whether you like or dislike Yoko Ono is clearly a matter of personal reaction - though of course as with most celebrities - we react to our IMAGE of the person and his/her deeds - which is not necessarily the same as the reality.
I have never understood this negativity. For all her faults - real or imagined - this is the woman who directly inspired John to write some of his finest songs. "Imagine," "Jealous Guy," "Woman" etc. etc. She may not have been the easiest person in the world to get on with. But then John Lennon was no picnic either. We rightly make allowances for some of John's personal failings because of what he gave us. When you think what Yoko gave John - the same applies. She was his creative and political soul mate. An intellectual equal who gave vital stimulation to John's endlessly curious mind. As John's muse she inspired not just his music - but also the social and political odyssey he took which gave deeper context to John's music and actions.
She didn't give John his talent. Before Yoko, John was an incredibly talented composer and performer. But - like Paul in earlier years - she sparked the fire within him. Yoko was the lightening rod which connected John's heart and soul to his social and political conscience - and THAT led John to channel his reflexively rebellious nature into actions and art which changed the world.
She also brought him to a new maturity which connected John to his fullest potential as a father. Think of "Beautiful Boy." And this was an area of his life in which he had previously failed - to the detriment of Julian.)
Neither Yoko (nor Linda) broke up the Beatles. THE BEATLES broke up the Beatles. Particularly John and Paul - who were growing in different directions. Artist versus entertainer. Performance art versus private domesticity.
And of course all four Beatles were missing the maturity, wisdom and unquenchable love of Brian Epstein - whose death deprived them of the bond which united them through all the squabbles which afflict all families.
While i haven't agreed with every single decision Yoko has made about the presentation of John's work since 1981 - in the vast majority of cases she has chosen wisely. And she has been a tireless and powerful upholder of his legacy.
If you disagree with some of what she's done - either during John's Beatle and post-Beatle years - or in the past 20 years - then voice those feelings by writing letters to magazines such as this one - or by posting your feelings on the Internet.
But let's have an end to this pathetic and puerile behavior of treating Yoko like a villain in a Victorian melodrama or as some type of Beatle-world Cruella de Ville. When you see Yoko on screen - treat her as you would if John was in the room with you. With the respect that this resilient woman who loved John - and who John loved so much - deserves.
RESPECT THE APPLE CORE!
There's a grumble I often hear from Beatle fans - particularly 1st and 2nd generation American admirers. Why don't Capitol release CDs of the original American albums? Fans who grew up on the Beatles between 1964 and 1986 became accustomed to hearing their Fab Four songs in the sequence of the US albums released on vinyl (and later on cassette) by Capitol during the 1960's. But the Beatles never ever liked those American releases. Those albums were recompiled from the original UK releases by Capitol executives at a time when the Beatles lacked the power to object to the interference with their work.
But when in the mid-80's Apple and EMI/Capitol finally settled the long-running disputes that had caused ructions in their relationship - thus paving the way for the Beatles catalog to be released on CD - certain major decisions were made by the Beatles. They wanted their catalog to be standardized worldwide - and standardized to the way that they had originally conceived the albums. And this meant that the albums should be in their original British format. No "Meet The Beatles" or "Yesterday & Today." Nor "Beatles '65" or "Beatles VI" But the original "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles" etc etc.
There were a couple of exceptions. In Britain "Magical Mystery Tour" had originally been released in a unique format - a double E.P. (extended player) This consisted of two 7" vinyl singles each containing three songs. For the CD release the Beatles went along with the American configuration - which was an album collecting together those six songs together with the other singles released during 1967.
And all the various singles, EP tracks and other material not featured on the original British albums were collected on to two albums - the rather unimaginatively titled "Past Masters" Volumes 1 and 2.
The reason for all of this was simple. The Beatles wanted fans to experience their albums in the sequences which they had intended the music to be heard. They took the time (especially on later albums) to put together a running order for the albums which reflected how they (and George Martin) felt the songs worked best. Capitol changed the albums around for several reasons - almost all of them financial - certainly not for creative reasons. One of the biggest reasons related to the number of tracks per album. In the UK - the norm was 14 tracks. In the US in the 60's music publishers made it uneconomic for there to be more than 10 or 11 tracks per album. And - even more crass - leaving 3 or 4 tracks off an album meant that Capitol could accumulate unreleased songs and thus issue more albums.
Now of course the US fans knew none of this at the time. They bought the Capitol albums and simply became familiar with the song sequences. It is completely understandable that those fans now want CDs with the songs in the order to which they became accustomed. But I think we should really respect the Beatles' wishes. After all - they were the guys who created the music. And modern-day technology allows people to make up their own compilation tapes or CDs - or just simply set CD players to play songs from multiple CDs in a pre-set sequence.
So if fans crave the experience of hearing the songs as they first heard them (rather than as the Beatles intended) - then it's easy enough to do it. But let''s not mess with the core catalog. We owe the Beatles that respect.
Regular readers of my column know how I feel about politics. I have not been shy about reminding folks that the Beatles were unashamedly politically to the left - especially John. And Paul has described himself as a life-long supporter of Britain's Labour Party (broadly equivalent to the Democratic Party) And of course their philosophy was avowedly supportive of progressive ideas and principles of compassion. (And I don't mean the phony kind that some politicians offer today. True compassion isn't just a slogan or a camouflage to help you snag the same job as Daddy had.)
During the recent Republican convention we had the appalling vision of Richard Nixon's party using John's song "Come Together" as a feel-good anthem. This conveniently overlooked certain irrefutable facts. 1. John detested conservatives of every stripe. 2. Nixon and his Republican cronies spent several years in the mid-70's illegally using government resources to harass John and to attempt to have him deported. 3. The song is RIFE with sexual and drug allusions! 4. The tune was originally created by John as a campaign song for his pal Timothy Leary - who was considering running for Governor of California in 1970 - against... Ronald Reagan! Talk about irony!
On the other hand - there was the fun side of discovering that Joe Lieberman was a Beatles fan. On the day he was formally introduced as Al Gore's choice for VP - he commented that the previous day had been such a whirlwind that it reminded him of "that Beatles song 'Magical Mystery Tour'" ! Go Joe Go!!!
Anyone want to bet that Dick Cheney (founder of the minority group "Oil Millionaires Against Nelson Mandela") was a Beatles fan? (Yeh right!)
All I urge you my dear readers - is that you vote in honor of the Beatles' principles. We lost John to a nut with a GUN. Let's support candidates who support strong sensible gun control. Paul and Linda cared about the environment. Let's support candidates who care more about the environment than toadying up to oil companies. George and Olivia have been powerful supporters of charities such as the Romanian baby appeal - caring for others less fortunate than themselves. Let's support candidates who are genuinely caring of the downtrodden - not just the rich and powerful. Ringo and Barbara have been strong advocates for education about drugs and alcohol to prevent others falling prey to the demons they had to conquer. Let's support candidates who will fight for programs which provide a supportive environment for families. Drug prevention is cheaper than drug cure. And much cheaper and healthier for society than drug imprisonment.
Look at all the candidates for House, Senate, Governor, and especially for President. In the case of the Presidency - you're not just voting for the next four years. You're voting for the next FORTY years. That's how long the Supreme Court appointments of the next President could affect the social fabric of this wonderful country. So vote like your life and the life of your children depend on it. Because they do. And most of all - I urge you to vote for those who come closest to the heart, soul and passion of the Beatles' wonderful philosophy of love, peace and TRUE compassion. Power To The People! (Not the powerful!)