I know they have their titillation value—and I’ve indulged in a few in my distant past—but I now think they're a waste of people’s time and have contributed to Americans' overwrought distrust of institutions these days, especially in government and business. Not good in a dangerously fragile period in our history.
I can’t deny that some fraction of conspiracies may be true, but I can't listen to the Golden Oldies anymore. I don’t ASSUME that national elections in the US have fraudulent outcomes, that the Deep State & Big Pharma orchestrate pandemics, that most acts of terror are inside jobs, that a small cabal of "international bankers" (of a particular ethnicity) run the world, that global warming is a hoax (a deliberate deception, with conspiratorial actors), or that alien lizards have taken over the minds and bodies of our key leaders. (Ok, I'll keep an open mind on the last one, but I await the evidence.)
Something I noticed early in my rock & roll years was how much conflict arose in bands from simple misunderstandings. Especially when musicians ascribed the worst possible motives to each other’s behavior.
Perhaps it was the dangerously high levels of testosterone in the air at the time. Or the fragile egos of 20-something-year-old “artists.” But if someone did something that bothered you, you would take it personally, and retaliate.
This was obvious with many classic rock groups I had a chance to observe up close—for example, Eric Clapton’s Cream in a 1968 concert. Whenever Jack Bruce, the bassist, turned up the volume on his Marshall amplifier, Ginger Baker, the drummer, took it personally and pounded his kit with greater ferocity, pushing Clapton on guitar to angrily crank up his volume. An inevitable arms race in decibel production ensued, to the detriment of the tympanic membranes of audience members.
I heard about it with other top bands too, even The Beatles. Their associates told me of the interpersonal disharmony, especially in their last year together, fed by the growing distrust between Lennon and McCartney and between McCartney and Harrison. Lennon even came to believe that McCartney wouldn't put in the effort to get Lennon’s tunes to sound at their best because of competitive jealousy. Lennon claimed that some of his greatest songs, like "Across the Universe," were given short shrift in the end. After the band broke up, they sniped at each other in the press and in songs, before later reconciliations.
Of course this phenomenon is not peculiar to the music world. When I started consulting to business—in finance, health insurance, mining, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, etc.—I encountered it everywhere within organizational teams and began to point out its dangers.
It’s the holidays and once again I’m arguing with friends about the latest Beatles’ release! This time it’s about Peter Jackson’s sprawling but captivating miniseries, The Beatles: Get Back. It documents the Fab Fours’ creation of the Let It Be album, including the rooftop concert that would become their last.
For those of my generation The Fab Four seemed to dominate our Decembers, beginning in 1963 when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” jumped out of our transistor radios just before Christmas, signaling to young American teens that rock & roll was back! A year later the Beatles 65 album was released (in December 1964) and 12 months later Rubber Soul served notice that The Beatles were serious recording artists and songwriters. The week after Thanksgiving in 1967 we were presented with Magical Mystery Tour and a year later The White Album. Where I lived, snow dropped when a new Beatles’ record dropped.
Here is the continuation of my conversation with Ron Ryan, which I began in my previous post. In Part One, we discussed his early involvement with Dave Clark and how he began writing songs for the band. In Part Two he expands on his claim that Clark went back on his word and failed to give Ryan credit or compensation for his songs. A lesson in protecting intellectual property!
Me: Initially Clark gave you his word that you would be given songwriting credit on the songs you wrote for The Dave Clark Five, yes? And later you say he reneged on it?
RR: We had an agreement that I would write the songs and give Dave 50% of them (which was his idea). I said at the time that it was a deal that not many songwriters would go ahead with, but as we were friends, and I am not a greedy man, I said OK. I thought that 50% of something was better than 100% of nothing. If you look at some early DC5 songs you will see they are credited to “Clark/Ryan” like “Sometimes” that Oliver Reed recorded. But when the band got famous Dave wanted to drop my name as his ego was growing by the day, and he said he wanted him and Mike Smith to be seen as the John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the DC5. I did not like the idea, as they were my songs!