I think I hate Paul McCartney. I never thought I’d say I hated any members of the Beatles. I did not think I had it in me. But here it is, the feeling, undeniable. It’s hate.
I love the Beatles. Their music works for me simultaneously as an aphrodisiac, comfort food and religious text. Art, I think, is a lot like religion in that sense — music especially. We worship works of art. We go to a painting exhibit, we watch a film, we listen to music like we pray. If a work of art is worthy of our praise and worship, we spend time with it — listening, watching, taking it in — like we would with a work of religious significance. We fill up our temples (be they concert arenas or museums or movie theaters) and we devote our time and attention and commitment to works of art– praying to them, memorizing them like we would scripture.
That’s the Beatles for me. I worship them.
That’s why my newly born feelings of hatred toward Sir Paul are difficult to articulate. It’s like insulting God.
I can’t help but think of an old Denis Leary bit, about how Jesus was lucky to get crucified when he did. Otherwise, he would have become the holy equivalent of latter-day Elvis: a fat has-been, probably married to Mary Magdalene. He would have burned out like all the rest.
The Beatles, as per John Lennon at least, were bigger than Jesus. And so I feel the same way about Paul. He is alive, today, bringing just a bit of shame to the legacy of his great band, adding a tacky, superfluous epilogue to the history of the most important musicians of the 20th century.
What exactly is Paul doing? If you have failed to turn on a television in the past six months, you’ve missed seeing Paul sweating off his hair dye as he rocks out to a crowd of drunk Americans, plucking out some rehashed Wings tune that nobody remembers but Paul– or worse still, you may have seen Paul playing his recent placating ode to the United States, “Freedom.”
The fact that this is a song associated, in any way, with the Beatles is forcing me to lower my eyes as I write this whiny little column. “Freedom” belongs somewhere between the seventh and eighth circles of pop music hell, right between Bob Dylan’s “Saved” and the circle devoted entirely to Jefferson Starship. The chorus of said song is a simple one: “I will fight for the right to freeeeedummm!”
Paul McCartney has become Ted Nugent. What is that, the ninth, 10th sign of the apocalypse? This is the most stomach-turning of tunes, a song that makes even Jack Kemp cringe with its armchair quarterback patriotism. At least Neil Young’s abysmal “Let’s Roll,” is about an event in specific. “Freedom” is about nothing in particular. It’s about, uh– you know– freedom. And, uh– why we should have it. Listening to the song is like taking a social studies class taught by my roommate Matt, who is an idiot.
Suddenly, at this crucial moment in history, America needs all the support it can get from its friends around the world. But because America already has too much of everything humans need to survive, the form this aid takes must be, it seems, pop music. Suddenly, the support is pouring in — a musical celebration of America: Tribute songs, benefit concerts, compilation albums, etc. But is anyone as disappointed as I am that the music we’re getting is TERRIBLE? Our anthems for this war are worse than “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” They’re worse than that song Elton John put out during the Civil War.
Why, exactly, does Paul McCartney suddenly love America so much? And WHY, exactly, is Paul McCartney suddenly a greater American hero than Bono? Why are Paul McCartney and U2 playing the Super Bowl? Shouldn’t we have Bob Seger or someone out there? Better yet, Springsteen, a REAL American rock hero?
Oh, no– wait– Bruce Springsteen is the man who wrote “Born in the U.S.A” — one of the nastiest anti-war, anti-America songs ever. For events like the Super Bowl, where the whole drooling world watches, it’s best to have McCartney up — someone with a song as simple and stupid as “Freedom.”
(As a side note — On that same Super Bowl broadcast, Paul joined Terry Bradshaw et al. in the FOX broadcast booth to discuss his lifelong love of American football — and the desire he’s ALWAYS had to play at the Super Bowl. Well, Paul, you can check that one off your list now.)
Paul, who exactly are you sucking up to? Americans? Don’t waste your time. We’ve got awful taste.
Paul was always my least favorite of the Beatles. John’s the best, for obvious reasons. Then George, because he could give a damn, then Ringo because Paul sucks, and then Paul. Again, because Paul sucks. OK, Maybe he didn’t suck– But who Paul is NOW is affecting the way I’m looking at Paul THEN. Everything’s being filtered through resentment.
I honestly feel as if I’ve been betrayed by Paul. Now not only can I not stop hating him, I cannot forgive him for making me hate him. I feel as if I’ve been betrayed by my religion. It’s as if God decreed a new book to be added onto the Bible — a book about talking cats and Easter eggs and how great soda is — something neither worthy of my worship, nor worthy of its precedents.
“Freedom” is sacrilege.
I had always admired the members of the Beatles for pursuing a wide range of projects after the dissolution of the group. It must be hard to live, knowing deep down that your best work is behind you — knowing that your best work was the result of the chemistry of a specific time.
Times have changed, especially since September. The world has changed, and so have its artists. So has Paul.
Paul, I’m not asking you to change back to the way you were with John. I’m just asking you, politely (you are a knight, after all) to please shut up.
Greg Yolen is in love with you.