Gary Raymond analyses the emotional reaction to the final Beatles record “Now and Then” released last week.
Philip Norman sits pale and hunched on Sky News waiting for that opening question, his lips trembling in the studio lights anticipating the bloodletting of his latest Beatles hatefuck. Has there ever been a writer so disdainful of his chosen life’s work? Maybe Dostoevsky.
Norman, of course, who wrote The Beatles 1981 biography, Shout!, the book that claimed Lennon was three quarters of the band, and painted McCartney as a whiney manipulator. (McCartney went on to call the book Shite! in future interviews). Norman went on to pen an ungenerous biography of Lennon (not quite as “extravagantly spiteful” as Albert Goldman’s famous book on Lennon from 1988, but still a bit of a shocker), and now has one out about George, who by all accounts he grew to like more and more as his research went on. That fact makes me very suspicious of the man I thought George was, the quiet Beatle – okay, serial philanderer, arch-misogynist, and spiritual hypocrite (As Norman painted him in Shout!), but also the man who wrote “Something” and “Here Comes of the Sun”. Whatever the behavioural actions of Harrison, you’ll struggle to find anyone who didn’t love him. Seems George’s powers of persuasion even got under the saggy ol’ skin of Norman who has recently says he would never write about Ringo, the last remaining subject of his preoccupation. Nobody, after all, needs a writer to give the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine a biography-sized kick-in.
Norman, somewhat inevitably, hates “Now and Then”, The Beatles’ final song, 45 years in the making, taken from a Lennon demo of 1978, pored over during the Anthology sessions of the mid-90s, and now assembled and birthed with the help of AI technology. He doesn’t simply not like it, he hates it; it’s “terrible”, “a mess”. Grumble grumble grumble something something. I don’t know, but Norman strikes me as the sort of dickhead who, when pressed, would name his favourite Beatles song as “Blue Jay Way”. He does come across, in case I haven’t emphasised the point enough, to be someone who cannot stand The Beatles. Not the band members, not their music.
To read the rest of this article, sign up to the Wales Arts Review substance newsletter by clicking here.