MILK and HONEY and MONEY: Do What Thou Wilst

Beatles for Sale.The early Beatle’s lyrics,were seemingly so naive, yet they  revealed so much: Their plans and schemes have vanished like the merest of dreams. The occupations with which he kept himself so terribly busy were the pleasant bubbles of childhood. By stressing as they  did, that there is a worthwhile quest in finding real love, they also implied that there is an unreal love. They may or may not have been   fooling themselves.  Beyond shadows, illusions and utopian dreams; the stark reality is there was no fooling with the business of music .

Like the new Broadway production of the Scottsboro boys, the Beatles themselves were also essentially poor boys “riding the rails”. Like Quebec writer Pierre Vallieres incendiary attack on the establishment in his “White Niggers of America”, there is a troubling echo of those assertions in the darker corridors of the Beatle’s history; as if the Beatles are in white-face converting a form of minstrelsy into a more accessible and succesful metaphor than vaudeville or cabaret, in much the same manner that  Bob Dylan defined himself as “a song and dance man”.

Oh dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away
And she never walk down Lime Street any more
Oh the judge he guilty found her
For robbing a homeward bounder
That dirty no good robbin’ Maggie Mae
To the port of Liverpool
the air it turns me tool
Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay ( Maggie Mae)

Aziz:Lennon had been through some difficult times, some hard times, and some dirty times. But he had come through. When I first heard Double Fantasy, I formed the view that Lennon had started writing songs more radically original than any in the history of modern pop: he had started writing the songs of the householder.

Who owns what is a complex issue.The Beatles as commodity is a market science in itself.  While EMI releases the Beatles’ albums, the publishing rights to words and music of 251 Beatles songs are owned by Michael Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The company also is instrumental in continuing the Beatles’ popularity. They were behind the release of the 2000 hit album “1,” which featured hits as diverse as “She Loves You” and “Hey Jude.” Sales of that album topped 24 million.The Beatles set up Apple Corps to be a corporate utopia, said Peter Doggett, the author of several music books including one about John Lennon.

What to make of all this money changing hands over popular music. Italian opera started as housewives hanging out the laundry singing to one another. Minstrels and Troubadours were known in Medieval Spain and Chaucer’s England; and the Black experience in America is intimately tied to Minstrelsy. The whole idea of justice in the music business is murky and obscure.

…”In their two most famous works, Cabaret and Chicago, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb used popular forms of entertainment as metaphors for our tainted world. A resigned Sally Bowles insisted that “life is a cabaret,” while cocksure Billy Flynn asserted that “it’s all a circus … the whole world, all show business.” The Scottsboro Boys, Kander and Ebb’s troubling new musical, begins with a slightly less definitive pronouncement. “Everyone’s a minstrel tonight,” sings the Interlocutor John Cullum, Caucasian  at the start of this show that repurposes the trappings of minstrelsy to revisit a racial injustice from the not-so-distant past….

Founded in the flower-power days, the company( Apple Records) was going to behave in a relaxed way where artists could pop into the offices and not be confronted by stuffy men in suits.”It began as an ideal corporation,” Doggett said, “which, in Paul McCartney’s words, was supposed to operate in a nice kind of western communism.”

"Lennon took a rather high view of the artist’s role and mission in society. He not only preached it, he indulged himself (and his second wife) in living the life of the socially-conscious avant-garde artist, and living it rather expansively. There was a rationale, if not an ideology behind it. One could conceive Lennon producing a manifesto to the effect that the role of the artist is to animate people by mediating a cultural influence, and, in rare cases, at the tip of the flower of culture, a spiritual influence. This influence comes through in the artist’s work, but as the Lennons saw “art” as a river without banks, it also flowed through their lives. If artists have the privilege of being opinion makers, leaders and teachers, there are also responsibilities and prices. Artists are responsible to use their public profile to spread a positive message. But this profile exacts a price, the notorious down-side of living in the public eye, and being vulnerable to misunderstanding and abuse, especially from the jackals of the media."

Last week’s announcement by Apple to digitally hawk Beatle’s songs on i-tunes is an indication of the Tech companies ability to dominate popular culture through superior distribution. Revenue from downloads may be of secondary value. The principal  marketing coup is the ability of Apple to use Beatles music and video in commercials.Thus, the Fab Four become the marketing face of Apple cultural products. John, Paul, George and Ringo become avatar pitchmen for Apple; shilling eternally for corporatism.

But then, were not most of these iconic performers, the “rock stars” somewhat in the role of puppets caught in a much larger scheme? Some conspiracy theorists allege record company connection to British Military intelligence and to the drug world, though the evidence is expectedly unsubstantiated.   As young artists, they are not in position of financing publicity, tours and recordings. From the moment they receive their first recording royalti

hey seem to fall into a pattern of spending  beyond their means and all matter of hedonistic pleasures. Dionysian fantasy in lockstep with Apollonian financing and control.Tony Sanchez wrote that iconic  “stars” such as John Lennon of the Beatles and Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones, were heroin addicts. Richard had to obtain blood transfusions, replacing his entire heroin-laced blood supply, in order to get a visa to enter the United States.

---The fact-inspired show is about nine black teenagers accused of a crime against white women — a crime they didn't commit — in 1931 Alabama. According to the Vineyard, "The Scottsboro Boys is a new musical that explores the infamous 1930s 'Scottsboro Case', in which a group of innocent African-American teenagers are falsely accused of a terrible crime — ultimately provoking a national outrage that sparked the American Civil Rights movement."---

“…Now getting its Broadway premiere in a powerful and unsettling production by Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys is in fact the final collaboration between Kander and Ebb, assuming the former doesn’t have any unfinished shows hiding away in a drawer somewhere. (Ebb died in 2004.) Under the command of the Interlocutor, a company of dynamic African-American performers perform the true story of the Scottsboro boys with a little help – and hindrance – from the sadistic stock minstrel characters Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones (the formidable caricaturists Forrest McClendon and Colman Domingo),Riding the rails in 1931 Alabama, nine black boys aged from 12 to 19 were arrested and accused of the gang rape of two white women. After they were sentenced to death, their objectionable convictions became a cause célèbre that led to the Supreme Court and, at one point, to 300,000 Americans protesting in 110 U.S. cities.”

Also after Epstein’s death, in 1969 James sold the rights to the Beatles songs from under them. “It was the single most contentious deal arising from the Epstein-James era,” says Coleman. “The Beatles were angry at what they regarded as betrayal.”  Marc Elliot notes that James sold “his interest in Northern Songs to the notorious British media mogul, Lew Grade, known in the film industry as Low Grade.” Epstein also had “good communication” with Grade’s brother, Bernard Delfont, “one of the czars of London show business.”

Beatles in Hamburg. 1960.

All my little plans and schemes pass like some forgotten dream.
Seems that all I really was doing was waiting for you.
Just like little girls and boys playing with their little toys.
Seems like all we really were doing was waiting for love.
No need to be alone, no need to be alone.
It’s ree-yal love, it’s re-e-e-e-eal, yes it’s ree-yal love, it’s re-e-e-e-eal.
… No need to be afraid, no need to be afraid.
Thought I’d been in love before, but in my heart I wanted more … ( John Lennon, Real Love )

The easy answer is that they lost them, before they knew any better. It happened to a lot of artists back then. They didn’t understand the business. Artists commonly signed away everything just to get a deal. In the Beatles case, their manager, Brian Epstein, created a company called Northern Songs. Northern Songs owned the rights to the songs, and of course at the time it was still pretty close to home. Then in 1965 the company went public with Lennon and McCartney only owning 15% of the company’s shares each. The controlling shares went to Northern Songs chairmen Dick James and Charles Silver.

In 1969 the Beatles put in a bid to get contolling shares but James and Silver instead sold their shares to Associated Television Corporation.The dominance of the corporation behind these acts does pose the question on the extent to which the artists are artificial media creations. Their public image, as well as their music, was often fabricated from behind the scenes by controllers.It was reported for example,that when the Beatles first arrived in the United States in 1964, they were mobbed at the airport by hundreds of screaming teenage girls. The national press immediately announced that “Beatlemania” had besieged the U.S.A. But the girls had all been transported from a girl’s school in the Bronx, and paid for their screaming performance by the Beatles’ promoters.

“…As the illiterate Haywood Patterson, who eventually learned to write and penned a book in prison, Winnipeg-born Joshua Henry gives a tremendous lead performance. Throughout his incarceration, Haywood remains defiant and tells the truth even when, in a cruel paradox, a lie would set him free. Henry plays him with a quivering, furious integrity, but also enough flawed humanity that he never turns into a symbol.”…

The money of the 1960s rock groups, which in somes cases mounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, was also apparently under the control of less than scrupulous promoters. From 1963 to 1970, the Rolling Stones allegedly grossed over $200 million, yet the group’s members were all nearly bankrupt. None of them had any idea of where their money went.

There’s no denying that the Apple-Beatles deal  is a financial coup for both companies. Apple (Corps.) gets to place its marquee artist — and all of its studio recordings, live performances, commercials and movies for which it owns rights — in the world’s largest media store. Meanwhile, Apple (Computer) gets the world’s biggest act, the product of one part political jujitsu, one part business interest and a healthy dose of nostalgia with appeal across all ages.

"The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibilty, do what you want and try not to harm other people, right? DO WHAT THOU WILST, as long as it doesn't hurt somebody. . ." ("The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono", by David Sheff & G. Barry Golson, p. 61)

The question, of course, is the price. But we’ll never know. But the big takeaway here is whether it all matters. To be sure, having The Beatles accessible on a current medium — “digital” — is a big deal. No more copying MP3s from CDs or vinyl records, etc. But does it matter? It’s highly likely that if you’re a Beatles fan, you’ve found a way to get the Fab Four’s music on your iPod already.

“…Her most chilling staging comes during Electric Chair, a dream tap ballet in which the youngest of the boys (the naturally talented Jeremy Gumbs) has a nightmare about his upcoming execution that turns into what seems like a mad Mickey Mouse cartoon (Mickey being one of the few remaining pop-culture icons still to bear the traces of minstrelsy and blackface).

While Stroman’s choreography and the energetic performances keep tempting you to enjoy The Scottsboro Boys‘s spectacle, the form the show takes never allows you to do so with a clear conscience.

The minstrelsy aspects – including a scene in blackface – have proved controversial, with small protests organized outside the show on recent weekends. But the cast’s twisted portrayal of the women who made the accusations and the boys’ Jewish lawyer are more potentially offensive than anything involving the African-American characters, whose side the show takes unequivocally.

The Beatles first began performing in the late 1950s in jazz clubs in England and West Germany. These clubs, always located in the seediest part of the cities, served as a marketplace for prostitution and the circulation of drugs. Beatle biographer Philip Norman writes: “Their only regular engagement was a strip club. The club owner paid them ten shillings each to strum their guitars while a stripper named Janice grimly shed her clothes before an audience of sailors, guilty businessmen and habitues with raincoat-covered laps.” (Philip Norman, Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, p. 81)

The Beatles got their first big break in Germany, in August 1960, when they obtained a booking at a jazz club in Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn district. Describing the area Norman writes it had, “red-lit windows containing whores in every type of fancy dress, all ages from nymphet to granny…Everything was free. Everything was easy. The sex was easy… Here it came after you.” (Philip Norman, Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, p. 91)

Far from the picture of innocence, the Beatles, even in their first performances, were always high on a drug called Preludin, “John (Lennon), would be foaming at the mouth, he’d have so many pills inside him…John, began to go berserk on stage, prancing and groveling…The fact that the audience could not understand a word he said, provoked John into cries of `Sieg Heil!’ and `F____ing Nazis’ to which the audience invariably responded by laughing and clapping.” (Philip Norman, Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, pp. 152,91)

Off the stage, the Beatles were just as evil. Norman continues, “while in Hamburg, John, each Sunday would stand on the balcony, taunting the churchgoers as they walked to St. Joseph’s. He attached a water-filled contraceptive to an effigy of Jesus and hung it out for the churchgoers to see. Once he urinated on the heads of three nuns.”(Philip Norman, Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, p. 152)

hoSexy Sadie what have you done
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie ooh what have you done.

Sexy Sadie you broke the rules
You laid it down for all to see
You laid it down for all to see
Sexy Sadie oooh you broke the rules.

One sunny day the world was waiting for a lover
She came along to turn on everyone
Sexy Sadie the greatest of them all.

Sexy Sadie how did you know
The world was waiting just for you
The world was waiting just for you
Sexy Sadie oooh how did you know.

Sexy Sadie you’ll get yours yet
However big you think you are
However big you think you are
Sexy Sadie oooh you’ll get yours yet.

We gave her everything we owned just to sit at her table
Just a smile would lighten everything
Sexy Sadie she’s the latest and the greatest of them all.

She made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie.

However big you think you are
Sexy Sadie.

Michael Jackson did have control of the majority of the Beatles catalog for about 10 years. In 1995 Sony paid Jackson 95 million dollars to merge the companies in a 50-50 joint venture. They formed Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which is where the songs still are

Do Paul McCartney and John Lennon (his estate) get royalties? Yes they do. Publishing royalties are typically split 50-50 with the songwriting royalties. Lennon and McCartney still retained those. They also own a small portion of the Northern Songs catalog as mentioned above. Incidentally George Harrison and Ringo Starr had 1.6% of Northern Songs. I do not know if they kept or sold their shares.

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