I read this monstrous 7500+ word substack newsletter in multiple sittings, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the observation at the end that sums it all up:
A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it. Art involves a kind of conjuring trick in which the artist conceals her false starts, her procrastination, her self-doubts, her confusion, behind the finished article.– The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson’s Get Back
I guess we can say the same thing about personalities as well, that we often see people – especially people of a higher profile – as the finished article, hardly contemplating what it took to get them there or the scars that lie underneath.
I also enjoyed this analysis of a particular conversation that took place between Paul McCartney and John Lennon:
The first thing to note is that John and Paul are talking to each other without talking to each other. This is partly because they’re aware of the cameras and also because they’re just not sure how to communicate with each other at the moment. John’s contributions are oblique, gnomic, riddling, comprised only of songs and jokes, like the Fool in King Lear… But right now, Paul is not much in the mood for it. His speech is more direct, though he too adopts a quasi-poetic mode (“canyons of your mind” is borrowed from a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) and he can’t bring himself to make eye contact. “To wander aimlessly is very unswinging,” he says (another great line, I will pin it above my writing desk). Then John does something amazing: he starts talking in Beatle, dropping in lyrics from the early years of the band, I Want To Hold Your Hand and Ask Me Why.
When I watched the docu (probably in like ten sittings or so) I didn’t get what was going on at all. But since it was so long I just watched everything go by without thinking too much of anything, just wanting to get to the end. But wow what a thing to respond in lyrics in a ongoing conversation, like the writer noted about Lennon’s genius:
His gift for comedy was not far short of his gift for music. He uses jokes to obstruct, obfuscate and deflect, and yet the undeniable truth is that he is a genuinely brilliant, lightning-quick, Peter Cook-level improviser…Lennon, at least when he was in the mood, was a master of it. His linguistic jamming made its way into lyrics, most unforgettably on I Am The Walrus. Written down on the page, it pales somewhat (his poetry books are thin stuff). It is Lennon’s delivery, his voice, his physical self, that make his wordplay such a thrill.
What a read. I liked that it was so gloriously long.
On a meta level I appreciated the mind and personality the writer possessed to make these observations in such beautiful prose. I was also slightly disappointed that everything is on Substack and it took me two clicks to find out more about the writer, and an actual google search to get to his twitter profile.
But writers have to make money, and so they put their writing in walled gardens. I just wish there were better independent solutions that enables better ownership, archiving and SEO, like shopify (which is still somewhat planting your own garden on someone else’s land but at least you can do whatever you want with it and it is brightly in your name) for writers. If I search for “Ian Leslie” there is no mention of Substack of the first page of result, and without further deliberate digging I wouldn’t know such writing exists.