Okay, an interesting NPR interview-once-removed, with a fellow (never did catch his name, which I could no doubt find through a little on-line research, but we’re capturing my listening experience here) who did a series of interviews with John Lennon, armed with a tape recorder.
Fair disclaimer: I should say that, year in year out, I never do remember Lennon’s birthday. There is always a time, a few days after my own birthday, when I’ve got the car radio on, and the Beatles are a little heavier in the rotation of whatever station we’ve got tuned in, and I think, Oh, yeah, it must be Lennon’s birthday.
Not all that long ago, I read The Act You’ve Known for All These Years: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt Pepper, and the Philip Norman biography of Lennon.
So, the interviewer-with-tape-recorder spoke of the fact that they were discussing the albums, LPs in hand, song by song, and that Lennon would dismiss some songs as ‘things [they] knocked off’, and here the interviewer is thinking, “But, you’re talking about songs that CHANGED MY LIFE!”
It’s all of a piece, meseems, with the fact that a work of art, piece of music, once it’s done and it’s out in the wide world, can take on a life of its own. And did not Lennon himself (rather famously, I thought) reject the whole three-ring-circus of Beatlemania, bridling at the fact that there was this juggernaut with their four names on it, and how it bore decreasing resemblance to . . . reality?
Parenthetically, I enjoyed the Pink Floyd saga narrative running through The Act You’ve Known for All These Years, about as much as I enjoyed the Beatles narrative. And while that was obviously the time of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, one recalls the remark by a band member that they “all wanted to become rich.” They also became rather publicly unable to get on one with another. And at times made wry comment on The Circus, even while that was the vehicle of achieving their stated goal of personal wealth.
In listening to the NPR interview (only a partial, broken-up affair from my end) I got the impression from the chap with the tape recorder that he felt disappointed that there wasn’t going to be some epic story of the artist/songwriter wrestling with his Beethovenian sketch books to produce This Song Which Like Changed My Life. Now, the disappointment is good, you might say, a necessary part of the process of Getting a Grip. Only I was, well, disappointed to note that the interviewer gave off the impression of being dissatisfied with things external to himself.
Where, I think, the fit object for dissatisfaction is the baggage he carried to the interview, as a worshipful fan. It is a commonplace to create a world of artistic importance in one’s own mind, a world which revolves around star-like gas jets of The Things the Music Does for Me. I don’t think the interviewer really benefited (as he might have done) from the lesson that, that song belonged to Lennon and the Beatles before it “belonged” to the interviewer, and that the musicians are not responsible to the maintenance of any individual’s sand-castles.