In his new series for Slate about creative partnerships, Joshua Shenk explores one of the most fruitful creative collaborations in history: that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Part three, about the break-up the Beatles, comes to a conclusion that’s different than some of the theories you may have heard previously.
Yet, looking for concrete divisions in their labor, though not irrelevant, can certainly seem myopic. It feels, from Davies’ account, as though the two men were bound by a thousand invisible strings.
Davies looked on at the partners before Yoko, before The White Album — “the tension album” Paul said. But tension had always been key to their work. The strings connecting them hardly dissolved, even in the times when the collaboration was adversarial, the kind of exchange that Andre Agassi described when he said that, if he hadn’t faced Pete Sampras, he’d have a better record, “but I’d be less.” Picking up on that incisive line, Michael Kimmelman wrote in his review of Agassi’s book Open that “rivalry … [is] the heart of sports, and, for athletes, no matter how bitter or fierce, something strangely akin to love: two vulnerable protagonists for a time lifted up not despite their differences but because of them.”
This is nasty stuff. But the opposite of intimacy isn’t conflict. It’s indifference. The relationship between Paul and John had always been a tug of war — and that hardly stopped when they ceased to collaborate directly. Asked what he thought Paul would make of his first solo album, Lennon said, “I think it’ll probably scare him into doing something decent, and then he’ll scare me into doing something decent, like that.”
I’ve said it before: love and hate are the same emotion. (via @tcarmody)