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Reference Library: Goldman and Beatles Fans

From: saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu (saki)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: Lives of JL (was: Don't Blame Yoko!)
Date: 1 Dec 1995 16:52:01 GMT

In a previous article, alowry@acs.ryerson.ca (GEOG/W94) wrote:

It is important that I get to you, before *snobs* at RMB fill you with lies. Because Goldman painted a terrible picture of Lennon, most people in RMB hate and despise Goldman.

It's not a question of hating or despising Goldman; it's a matter of using a source which is dependable, trustworthy, and carefully researched. You cannot hope to form balanced opinions of a man's life and work unless his biographer is equally balanced.

Goldman failed to interview primary sources, and relied on people whose views of Lennon's life were colored by ulterior (and questionable) motives. This is no secret. Goldman's sources were heavily flawed, his research often laughably inaccurate, and his own motivations for writing the book quite questionable.

As a professional researcher myself, I would never rely on a sourcebook like Goldman's, but naturally anyone is free to do as they see fit. You, Mr. Lowry, have stated that you intend to accept Goldman's hypotheses as true. Please don't expect the rest of us to feel obligated to do the same.

Allan Kozinn posted an interesting article some time ago about Goldman's problems and unreliability as a source. I hope he won't mind if I reprint this here. I know you've made up your mind, and you're welcome to it, but perhaps others are still curious why Goldman can never be considered a solid reference:

Allan Kozinn's article begins here.

-------------------------------

From: kozinn@aol.com (Kozinn)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: Goldman
Date: 22 Feb 1995 13:41:55 -0500

The best reason I can think of not to believe what he says is that too many people disputed it. He seems to take parts of Lennon's life and generalize them to his entire life.

Well, there's that, but there are more concrete reasons too. One is that there are certain verifiable facts about a person's life, particularly one as public as Lennon's. When you have a book by someone who makes great claims for his "exhaustive" research, yet whose errors on basic facts are legion, you know that you have a problem. Here are just a few of Goldman's howlers: that "Love Me Do" was released on a 10" 78rpm disc, that McCartney was the composer of "Hello Little Girl" (Lennon's first song), that the Feb '64 Sullivan Shows took place at the Maxine Elliott Theater in Times Square (!-- as with the Peter Brown errors, all one has to do is watch the videotape of the show; Sullivan actually gives the address of the theater, which was not in Times Square); that Pete Best was a far better and more interesting drummer than Starr (again, all you have to do is listen to the Decca auditions, the early BBC performances and the Sheridan recordings); that "Any Time At All" is "the most exciting song in the Beatles first filmscore," ... and so on. When I read the book I came up with 10 typed pages of this kind of error, and other writers have found other mistakes.

There are also contradictions all over the place. At one point he says that all of Yoko's children were born by Caesarian section; later he says that Tony Cox delivered Kyoko. At one point he describes Yoko as a careful Oriental cook; elsewhere he says she couldn't cook rice without burning it. On one page Lennon is described as a semi-comatose drugged out invalid, and it is claimed that this was how he was all through the "house-husband" years; elsewhere he has him out on sprees buying furs or flying off to Cairo with Yoko in search of antiquities. In each of these cases, and many others, which is it? This is real sloppiness.

His musical analysis is absurd -- he claims that "A Hard Day's Night" is entirely in the mixolydian mode, which isn't at all true, and he uses terms like major and minor, modal and tonal as though they are "opposites," rather than merely different, which is something no musician would do. At one point he suggests that Lennon was such an incompetent guitar player that you can't even hear him on the Beatles recordings.

My point is, if you're going to publish an iconoclastic book, the first thing you have to do is persuade your readers that you 1) actually do know your subject, and 2) that you have carefully researched your material and 3) that you have judiciously weighed all the evidence you've collected before reaching your conclusion. If a reader familiar with the story runs into errors and weird contradictory assertions on page after page, the value of the book is diminished accordingly. So, even if Lennon were the character Goldman describes, Goldman's own slovenliness undercut his own case.

Allan (kozinn@aol) or (a.kozinn@genie.geis.com)


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