New Yorker Contributor Asserts Lockean Right to Write Recycled Claptrap

So Mollie Wilson took issue with John Colapinto’s article, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” a Paul McCartney profile riddled with the kind of spoon-fed, been-there-done-that tone of a bona-fide hack. Why, asked Wilson, would The New Yorker, one of the top magazines in the country, revisit the same tired legends? Any remotely educated culture vulture knows very well that “Yesterday” started off as “Scrambled Eggs.” Further, Colapinto idiotically suggests that some hard-core fan asking for an autograph “could have been another Mark David Chapman” and then has the temerity to put this social gaffe in his piece!

colapintotrue.gifBut the story gets even stranger. Colapinto began leaving comments on Wilson’s blog, including this morsel:

As for my re-telling of the often-told tale of “Yesterday” beginning with the nonsense lyrics about scrambled eggs: any true Beatles fan would know that the point of re-telling that story was that Paul has added vital new info–something of which he’d only lately been reminded: that the actual lyrics to Yesterday were written while on a 3 hour car trip from Lisbon to southern Portugal with Jane Asher.

I’m a true Beatles fan. And Colapinto is dead wrong. The information concerning Jane Asher has been floating around for some time. And while my Beatles books are currently still packed, I do know that this information has been reported since at least 2003. (e.g., see “McCartney’s Yesterday had a nudge from Nat” by Maurice Chittenden, The Times, July 6, 2003). In fact, the far more interesting question, which came up around the same time, is how close “Yesterday” is to Nat King Cole’s “Answer Me.” Then again, since Colapinto is less concerned about the musical origins of one of the most remembered pop music ballads of the past fifty years and more interested in who McCartney was fucking when he wrote “Yesterday,” one shouldn’t look to Colapinto for compelling arts criticism.

This is by Colapinto’s own admission:

You, instead, wanted an essay on the subject. And that’s why you’re a blogger and not a writer. And, if you can handle hearing this, it’s why you’re barely a reader. You should also understand that the New Yorker is divided into sections; there are feature stories, like the kind I write, and there is the critics, at the back; I do not and never will be a critic. I don’t like them. They’re usually up-their-ass on precisely the matters you and I have been discussing here.

So there you have it. A New Yorker writer, vastly uninformed about the origins of “Yesterday” and their ubiquitous availability to any Beatlemaniacs, isn’t interested in writing, much less reading the kind of in-depth music features that you and I might be interested in. This is arrogance of the first order. And I’m truly stunned that the New Yorker would be dumbing down their features by assigning them to clumsy thugs like Colapinto.

If a 5,000 word essay that goes out of its way to investigate in a way that nobody else has tackled the subject makes one a blogger and not a writer, then call me a blogger any day of the week. Even if my “blog post” is published in a newspaper or a magazine.

Mabuse on Music

1. I have recently discovered The Avalanches. If you enjoy goofball hip-hop with a wide range of samples and influences, then I highly recommend their album, Since I Left You. If you’re interested in sampling the Avalanches, “Frontier Psychiatrist,” one of the album’s grand highlights (with something in the area of 50 vocal samplings), exists as a highly inventive music video that truly needs to be experienced. Strangely enough, these folks originate in Australia of all places.

2. I’ve loved Weller from the Jam onwards, but Paul Weller should probably not be experienced live. He is (or, at least, at the Warfield, he was) an extremely bitter performer with a generic-sounding blues band who showed remarkable contempt towards an audience that demanded that he perform Jam and Style Council songs. Let’s put it this way. He smoked two cigarettes on stage just before performing “That’s Entertainment,” did a lifeless cover a full stop below the recording, and then threw his guitar down at the end. I don’t blame a performer for getting annoyed when they perform their back catalog. But Weller could have easily reinvented the song and found a way to love it, the way he reinvented “English Rose” for his “unplugged” album, Days of Speed, and actually enjoyed himself in the process.

3. M. Ward (who I saw not too long ago with the magnificent Tito Perez) puts on a nice no-frills show, but I’m not sure if I like his baseball caps. Then again, I have a problem in general with baseball caps. So I’m sure it’s just me.

4. Elbow, the Manchester band that sounds dangerously like Coldplay but thankthegoodlord is not Coldplay, has a new album out called Leaders of the Free World. Alas, like the BRMC’s recent move towards undistinctive acoustic blues, this new album represents an unfortunate shift from the nuanced inventiveness of Cast of Thousands into the unfortunate territory of Travis/Coldplay clones. Do we really need any more? Even Guy Garvey’s voice suddenly sounds like Chris Martin’s. And the lyrics have shifted away from riffs on “sex toys” and are now more straightforward whinings about lost love. A shame.

5. Rick Moody wonders if rock ‘n roll is still for him at the age of 44. The real question is whether such a question can be answered when he genuinely believes that “the new Rolling Stones song has some pep.” But I’m sure he meant to write that the new Rolling Stones has one reaching for Pepto-Bismol.

6. And while I haven’t yet heard it, the new Paul McCartney album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, is of interest because McCartney, in an effort to try something different, enlisted Nigel Godrich (producer of OK Computer) to produce this album. While Mick and Keith have demonstrated time and time again that they are incapable of growing old gracefully, it’s interesting to see rock icons attempt reinvention when they’re financially solvent.