Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Capitalism ruined the Beatles

Somewhere over the holidays I saw a notable-2010 book list that included Peter Doggett's account of the Beatles after their breakup, You Never Give Me Your Money. Not a bad read, but be forewarned that there is little discussion of music in the book. The solo post-Beatles albums show up as milestones in the unending legal battles that consumed the group starting in the late 1960s, while they were still releasing group albums. Even as late as 2009, with two of their members deceased and four decades after the band's demise, their label EMI and Apple Computer each paid dozens of lawyers to squabble about the percentages they would get from the remastered recordings on iTunes.

The primary reason to mention the book here is to note the stark contrast during the 1970s between the Beatles and their armies of litigators and Cornelius Cardew's hard line Marxism which he practiced during the same period. Cardew, of course, was only too aware of the conditions facing workers during the miner's strike in the mid-1970s as well as the winter of discontent later in the decade. Neither of these events fazed the Beatles, living by this time in isolated opulence. One could not find a better example of the forces against which Cardew struggled than the sad disarray, personal and professional, where the Fab Four found themselves. Doggett, who also hosts a Beatles blog, has done extensive research tracking down obscure details, dispassionately revealing a rather seamy underside to their glittery success.

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