Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Modern Marriage Template


A lot of people don't like Paul McCartney.

That sounds silly, a little, I know. I've been alive to see Elvis, and Sinatra, and everybody else who thinks they're a big deal in music in the last forty years. None of them ever approached the popularity of the Beatles.

No one ever will, either, as the moment for the great mass of people to pay attention to one thing, coupled to the ability to experience it, will never come again. They were the guys standing in the right place at the right time. Attention is atomized now, along with the ability to indulge our atomized tastes. When there was only three TV networks, the Beatles were on all three. I distinctly remember an AM Top Ten List in 1964 with eleven Beatles songs on it, as one slot was a tie. Beat that.

I'm too young for the Beatles, sorta. It was people my older brother's age that went loopy for them. Fifty something now. I was a kid, watching them on Ed Sullivan in my footie pajamas, after watching grainy video of bandaged, bloody men in fatigues, half a world away, being lifted onto choppers on the news. The yin and yang of the trivial and the life and death washes over a six year old. It gets in, but in a diffuse way. You gain impressions.

Well, here's an impression: Paul and Linda McCartney are the template for the modern marriage. You heard it here first.

Poor Paul is getting the second wife treatment now. Or his second wife is. Or they both are. At any rate, they're saying dreadful things in public about one another in an attempt to get the dough or the kids or the kid's dough or notoriety or something. But it wasn't always that way for Paul McCartney.

The hipsters hated Paul, if you asked them. It was John Lennon they adored. John Lennon was kind of a nasty guy. They liked that. They couldn't sing like Paul McCartney, but they could be as antisocial and rude and mindless and addled as John Lennon. Paul was just a music hall musician, lost in a modern time. He sought to entertain. Why settle for that?

But how they aped him. They looked for a handsome spouse -- not a golfer's wife, but a woman like Linda Eastman. They acted bohemian. They didn't do a bed- in. They indulged their ideas of back to nature living, in a sort of Vermont version of Marie Antoinette's peasant house, and played farmer. They grew Paul's beard and gave wildflower immortelles to their beloved, after they married them in a ceremony only official, not official looking. And the women part of the audience went looking for a sloe eyed scruffy rich bohemian guy to sing songs to them and give them handsome children. Their husbands volunteered to change the diapers and wash the dishes as often as they did. Which was never, they had nannies and housekeepers, but the intellectual exercise was performed to everybody's satisfaction.

They attempted to give the appearance of never soiling their hands by grubbing after money, all the while being quite well off. They had ferocious intermediaries looking after their finances while talking ragtime about socialism. They included their family members in all their affairs, because they could, and ascribed it to being familial, not nepotism. And they were immensely casual about the appearance of all their affairs.

Tell me the vast majority of married people didn't emulate the family scene shown there accompanying Paul McCartney's magnificent first effort as a solo artist. Pretty much everything after that was a joke.

They really did love one another, and their children, and seemed happy. That's the rarest of things in popular entertainers. And then she went and died on him, and left him to the machinations of the world, and it ate him up.

He's still a Beatle, you know. But he's not the husband of the woman he loved any more. I wouldn't trade places with him for anything. There was a time, I assure you, that a great many people would have.

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