McCartney accompanied by ghosts
When Paul McCartney takes the stage he is accompanied not only by his band but by at least two ghosts.
The two most significant relationships of his life, that with his wife of nearly 30 years, Linda, and his collaborator, John Lennon, at once both enrich and imprison him. No matter what he does, he cannot escape them, even if he wished to.
Whatever Paul does, he can"t avoid comparison with John. Whatever his strengths as a performer - and they are formidable - the ghost of John Lennon weighs upon him.
No matter that John"s career was not perfect; he in fact recorded more unlistenable songs than Paul did in the post-Beatles period. Never mind the fact that Paul has tried to represent the Beatles legacy with dignity and respect.
No matter what he does, Paul will always be compared, generally unfavorably, with his dead bandmate.
It is a role with which few people can sympathize; perhaps one of the few living people who can is Sen. Ted Kennedy. Like Paul, he, too, suffers daily from unfair comparisons to fallen friends. Of course, in Ted Kennedy"s case, the ghosts are his assassinated brothers.
Paul suffers from the same problem. Because he is not John Lennon, he is criticized. Because John himself escaped much scrutiny in life, Paul must be judged by an even harsher standard.
With an objective eye, it"s obvious that Paul"s solo career, though not without its embarrassing moments, was more successful, artistically and commercially, than John"s was from 1970-"80.
That fact is irrelevant to revisionists, who seem not only to want to punish Paul for his own (considerable) artistic sins, but those of John"s and George Harrison"s. At their worst, all three artists have recorded unlistenable albums and songs. But Paul bears the brunt of the ridicule.
Revisionist history has also tarnished the Beatles" legacy, transforming arguably their most successful album, Sgt. Pepper, into a failure. According to this theory, the album is a Paul wankfest with minimal participation from the other members. John and George both expressed doubts about the album"s greatness during their lifetimes.
Wherever Paul goes, he is trapped. He is trapped not only by his own success but by that of his comrades. No matter what he does, he can"t escape the Beatle Paul label. His forays into experimental music are ridiculed, as is his artwork. Never mind that John"s artwork was just as amateurish and his experiments even more unlistenable. Paul must pay for his sins as well.
The only face of Paul McCartney accepted by the masses is that of Beatle Paul, so it"s no surprise that he dons the 40-year-old mask, grabs his Hofner bass and trots out the old standards. He has no other choice.