Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
I’ve been running these lyrics through my head lately, as something about them does not fit. The song Yesterday was supposedly written by Paul McCartney in 1964 when he would have been age 20 or 22, depending on which Paul McCartney we are talking about – the original Beatle who performed the song, born 6/18/1942, or the twin brother given a spooky birth date of 1/7/44.
The thing that bugs me about the lyrics is that they are too old and wizened for a twenty something. Kids that age don’t talk about being half the man they used to be, especially since they are barely old enough to be called a man. The song itself is a sophisticated melody, supposedly running through McCartney’s head while he lived with Jane Asher’s parents. Remember, Asher’s mother, Margaret (nee Eliot), was a music professor at Guildhall, and one of her students was George Martin. I have long speculated that much of the Beatles body of work originated there in that house, and that Paul and John had little to do with its composition. Yesterday has a lovely chord progression and refrain, one might even say sophisticated. It reminds me of a comment received here not too long ago from the mother of a classical pianist:
“My son is a bona fide musician. He has a master’s degree in piano performance from the university of Southern California. … He believes that from the earliest days the Beatles did not write their own music because they did too many complex things that amateurs would not and could not do.”
The question running through my mind is as follows: This song has had over 1,600 cover versions, and was voted in some polls as one of the greatest songs of the twentieth century, with over seven million live performances. Someone of great musical talent wrote it and ought to be given credit. Instead it is attributed to a mop-top kid, who to this day takes credit. Why? Why? Why does the real artist not step forward?
(Quite) some years ago, McCartney was nominated for having written the best song for a movie … Vanilla Sky. It was made in 2001 and starred Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The only three things I remember were Diaz complaining to Cruise in the movie that she had swallowed his ejaculate and yet was being ignored, Cruise yelling “Tech support!”, and the song. I just listened to it for the second time in my life. The first was the Oscar presentations of 2002. I remember thinking how mundane the song was, and wondering if they nominated him for the sake of TV ratings? Would they do such a thing?
That triggered another memory, John Denver. In the piece I wrote about how he most likely faked his death, the opening was a video of Denver singing Mother Nature’s Child, again, not a memorable piece of music. But I wondered about nature boy in effect paying tribute to McCartney, as McCartney is as far away from nature as anyone on the planet. Could it be that the song was written about Denver as an inside joke? His public role was mother nature’s child. In private, he was probably nothing like that.
But no one talks out of school, ever.
I realize that the Beatles were a project, that “Paul” McCartney was a set of twins, and that among their uses was introduction of drugs into mainstream culture, feminization of men, and making Brits more likeable to Americans. McCartney, to this day, holds sway and power, and others bow at his feet even as they must know he is mostly sizzle without much steak. These projects are of high importance.
A few years back I was privileged to visit with a woman in our area who is a professional ghost writer. She told me she had written a best seller or two, and when I asked her to name them, she said bluntly that the contract she signed is bullet proof, and that if she named the work, she would lose her means of living. She seemed matter-of-fact and believable. There is power behind the silence in all of the fakery that goes on around us.
Mozart’s undeserved reputation
This reminded me of this work by Dr. Pei-Gwen South called Exploding the Myth of Mozart. It’s a 10,000 word essay not to be skimmed lightly. I first read it over a year ago and have been meaning to return to it when I had a better grasp of classical music. But who can wait that long?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was, in South’s view, a complete fraud. As the old saying goes, his work was good and original, but that which was original was not good.
As one of the most recognized composers of the Western musical canon, the music and reputation of Mozart is as celebrated today as it was disregarded in his own time. In fact, the eminent status he has come to enjoy, both in print and performance, has become so entrenched as to deflect any question or criticism of its deservedness; by its very magnitude (and the notion of value it invokes) it has cast a pervasive, and consequently detrimental, influence over the tone and direction of Mozart scholarship. … Like so many myths, separate the fact from the fiction, the truth from the untruth, and there remains little of substance that is worthy of all the adulation. One has only to consider the authenticity of his works, the contradictions and incongruities which musical scholarship has uncovered (but largely failed to pursue), and the man himself, and the myth begins to crumble before our very eyes.
South goes on to describe various works attributed to Mozart which I have never heard and never will, so I struggled through that part of the essay. Perhaps Maarten can indulge us, hint hint.
Thus, far from being a compositional genius and creative force, one is left with the undeniable impression of Mozart as rather a master of appropriation and imitation, and a musical hack, who was guilty of fraud and deception. The doubtful might well ask if Mozart was indeed capable of this, and if it was even in keeping with his character, and the answer to this is most definitely ‘yes’.
South goes on to describe a disreputable person, a lazy womanizer, a resentful man who lashed out at his betters, the kind of guy we have all worked with at one time or another. It seems that the real talent behind the myth was his father, Leopold, which makes me wonder why those who rewrote the landscape of the western musical canon did not simply give Leopold his due and bypass the son. It makes no sense!
Mozart’s boorish and vulgar nature is a little-known fact amongst the public at large, and one that is seldom publicized or mentioned even within musical circles. It was this crude demeanour that Milos Forman aptly captured in the film, Amadeus, though, judging by all accounts, his portrayal of the composer was a somewhat watered-down version of his real personality. …
… Leopold, who was well aware of his son’s flaws [in 1782] wrote that his son was “far too patient, or rather easygoing, too indolent, perhaps even too proud, in short, that he is the sum total of all those traits which render a man inactive”, and that “if he is not actually in want … becomes indolent and lazy”
So, according to South, all of Mozart’s unjustified fame and alleged talent is posthumous. In his time he was not well-regarded. My question is, then, why? Why did they choose to make an icon out of this very ordinary composer?
South delves into this, and the answer, while not entirely satisfactory to me, will have to do.
The western musical canon is essentially an Austro-German musical canon, the invention of which took place over the course of the nineteenth century, and whose “ideological significance” issued from its association “with a dominant national culture, perceived as both specifically German and at the same time representative of universal values, a paradox well in tune with German classical art and the new philology” … Beginning in 1850, Breitkopf [a musical house] began publication of an extended series of collected editions of the works of major composers that centered almost exclusively on the Austro-German school. Completed over a 40-year period, it helped to consolidate the notion of a German musical tradition, and effectively gave “official” recognition to its chosen composers, bestowing upon them the status of a “great” composer and the connotations of prestige and value the title carried with it. Mozart’s transition from mediocrity to greatness was facilitated by his inclusion in this series. … By inclusion, Mozart automatically garnered universal approval.
So it appears that much, if not all, of the quality work attributed to Mozart was given to him after his death. But why? Why not simply attribute the work to its real author? The answer, if I understand South correctly, would be that the real composers of these works were not of Austro-German origin.
I thought when I sat down to write this out that I was going to stumble on similarities between McCartney and Mozart, and there are indeed many. Both are of lower talent than is ascribed to them, and both benefit tremendously from the work of anonymous geniuses who are never given credit for the work. But there is a significant difference – McCartney is widely admired in his time, while Mozart was not.
And that reminds me of one final tidbit, a bold prediction by Miles Mathis that he made while writing about the odd fact that Michael Jackson ended up owning the Beatles’ music catalog, and was able to buy it for a relative pittance. It is because, I summarize, that the Beatles don’t really own the work, but are merely a front.
“Another prediction. Due to copyright law, Paul McCartney is due to get his publishing rights back in 2018, without paying a penny for them. I don’t see that happening. I predict Paul will “die” before then. His family will then mysteriously sell the rights back to Sony for far less than they are worth. Lie and let die. Oh, I mean live. If Yoko is still alive then, she will also dump the publishing rights like a hot potato.”
We will have three months of 2018 left to see if this prediction comes true.