Myths You Can Stop Believing About The Beatles

The Beatles are almost mythic in their position in modern popular culture. It took a lot of work and time to get there, listening to each other, listening to managers, maybe even listening to critics. Lots of performers will claim they don't read their reviews. After all, why do critics even exist? Does a critic write to help an artist improve? (Dorothy Parker once wrote that Katherine Hepburn ran "the gamut of emotions from A to B." Not helpful.) Or does a critic act as a sort of consumer watchdog — "this is good, this isn't." For that matter, does anybody listen to critics?

Case in point: Fred LaBour, the music critic for the Michigan Daily, campus newspaper of the University of Michigan back in the 1960s. Back before the internet, back before social media, waaaaay back in time, there was a rumor starting to circulate that Paul McCartney — "the cute one" of the Beatles — had died. Just a rumor. Nothing more.

LaBour, majoring in Wildlife Management, decided to poke the bear — or the Beatle. Mind you, there was no evidence whatsoever that McCartney had kicked the bucket. But it was LaBour's contention that critics got waaaaay too nit-picky about art, even recorded art, tearing everything apart down to the subatomic level in search of meaning.

He wasn't dead then, either

He got out all of his Beatles albums and started writing. The story broke in the October 14 edition: Paul was not only dead, but he'd been dead for years, killed in a 1966 car accident. John Lennon had replaced Paul with a look-alike. The clues were everywhere. You just had to look. The University of Michigan's Michigan Today says the piece contained over two dozen "clues" — all of which LaBour made up.

The story was never meant to be journalism. "I wanted to poke fun at over-zealous critics who try to find endless meaning in every nuance of an art project," he told True West Magazine in 2008. "I thought then, and in fact still do, that this was funny. Almost everybody else took it seriously." The Alabama website's interview with him includes this nugget: "I always thought I could have made some money off of it at Beatle conventions, but I didn't. But now it's amusing to my children."

Another Beatles myth that's also rooted in criticism (mostly of the whiny "They aren't the same!" variety) had to do with the often-believed rumor that Yoko Ono broke up the band. (If it weren't for that darned Yoko....") Lennon admitted that his relationship with Ono was the final nail in the coffin of his marriage to Cynthia Powell, but breaking up the Beatles? Not so.

Plenty of blame to go around -- but Yoko didn't break up the band

No question that John trusted Yoko's artistic judgment and relied on her support and affirmation. She was the only spouse allowed into recording sessions. But as CNN reports, the band, which had been laboring together for years, was already starting to fragment when Ono appeared on John's arm. As Biography relates, McCartney himself (who still isn't dead, at least as of this writing) told more than one interviewer that she "certainly didn't break the group up, the group was breaking up." Part of it was artistic, part of it was money, part of it was temperament, part of it was simple exhaustion of being Beatles.

As for being Beatles — what about Ringo? Is it true he wasn't really valued by the other members? The fact is that as the group started to come apart, it was Ringo who was the first to walk out, back in 1968. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the remaining three very much wanted Starr back behind the drum kit: "(T)hey soon realized they needed Starr, and sent him a telegram asking him to return, saying that they thought he was the best rock n' roll drummer in the world and that they loved him." When he arrived at Abbey Road, his drums were "decorated in flowers spelling out 'Welcome Back, Ringo.'"

"Ringo felt insecure and he left," McCartney said later, "so we told him, 'Look man, you are the best drummer in the world for us.' I still think that."