There’s a theory about the knocking in Macbeth (at the end of Act 2 Scene 2 and the beginning of the following scene) that it signals the intrusion of the real world of politics and consequences into the cloistered “night time” world of curtained sleep and wicked dreams/deeds.
And I feel there’s been a little bit of that going on in the world of Beatle fandom this week, as the publicity machine ramps up in the lee of the forthcoming Let it Be release and Get Back film. My copy of the Get Back book arrived today, and this is the week that Paul McCartney has been widely quoted, discussing, for the 500 millionth time, the break-up.
And not saying anything new. Not saying anything he didn’t say in 1971, and not contradicting anything Lennon said in 1970. In fact, for as long as I’ve been a Beatles fan, I’ve been aware that John was the one who instigated the break-up. And even in those long-ago days of my early Beatle fandom, before John was killed, when I was reading whatever books were available, like The Beatles in their Own Words, and The Beatles, An Illustrated Record, I was fully aware that Lennon boasted of breaking up the band and that the media and presumably some fans, laid the blame at Paul’s door. So I have never once in 40-odd years thought that it was Paul who caused the break-up.
How weird it has been then, to hear the knock-knock of the mainstream discussing The Beatles and their break-up, and to have the mainstream reporting Paul’s remarks (that ‘our Johnny’ asked for a divorce) as if it were news.
(I’m aware that they don’t really think it is news. I’m aware that it’s just churnalism, but still ever so slightly infuriating.)
Even weirder to hear one of the luminaries of one of the top Beatles podcasts interviewed on BBC Radio Five, and to endure the painful questioning of at least one poorly briefed presenter. That Steven Cockcroft (of Nothing is Real) was able to reply with patience and forbearance is all you need to know about why it was him being questioned and not me. I wonder if other Beatle podcasters were a little miffed that the call from the mainstream media went to him and not them?
This is where we are, then. Worlds are colliding. Some of us have reached a level of sophistication and understanding about this story where we’re not questioning whether John asked for a divorce first, but whether he meant it when he did. We’re delving into time-lines and wondering how many Beatles can dance on the head of a pin. Whereas others are making fatuous comparisons between the breakup of The Beatles and that of One Direction. Which is not me sneering at One Direction or their fans (I totally am) but pointing out that The Beatles weren’t just some boy band. This is more like making meaningful links between the theme of equivocation in Macbeth and the trials of the gunpowder plotters.
And who’s behind all this nonsense in the mainstream media? Step forward Maccabeth himself, who was asked a damn-fool question and presumably gave this damn fool answer. Knock knock knock. Who’s there, in the name of Beelzebub? Faith, here’s a journalist who sold his soul for a byline and “the exposure” who has been asked to write 1000 words on The Beatles so reached for his trusty 1975 NME Encyclopaedia of Rock…
Anyway, deep breath. It’ll all be over soon, this mainstream interest, and then we can all go back to being obsessed with the lyrics to “I Know (I Know)”.