"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together": Bakhtin and the beatles

Ian Marshall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


At FIRST, my favorite Beatle was Ringo, a fact that surprises me now. I was young, and I had watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and I think (now) that maybe Ringo was the first to make an individual impression. I mean, the concept of Beatles meant long hair, electric guitar, and Liverpool accent. John, Paul, and George ran together in my young mind (they are common names), but Ringo stood out-the name, the rings, the only one playing something other than guitar. Obviously, I was not alone in being quick to identify a favorite Beatle. Everyone did. Is it too much to say that your favorite Beatle was a teen and preteen version of a Rorschach test? It spoke volumes about who we were. My Ringo phase did not last long. The appeal must have been his goofiness, and his grin, which were all a nine-year-old could hope to aspire to in terms of being cool. For a while after that it was John and Paul together-after all, they wrote the songs. That lasted through my first purchase of an album, Sgt. Pepper. After that it was George, and by that time it was becoming clearer to me what the appeal was. George was the unrecognized talent, the lead guitarist who was not the leader, writing great songs (by then) that nobody seemed to recognize as great songs, the one who was dealing with the really important stuff, such as the state of one's soul. He was like Superman springing from Clark Kent, another "quiet one," and that was me, too, in my mind, a quiet one concerning myself with the spiritual essence of life, whose genius nobody yet recognized. In college, on my way to becoming an English major (and becoming interested in changing the world and finding out about the milder forms of mind alteration), my allegiances shifted to John. I admired his way with words, his intelligence, his social conscience, and his passion. I imagine neither that my shifting identifications are universal, nor that my reasons for the identifications are unique, but I am struck, in the wake of George Harrison's death, by the numerous media references to George as the "quiet Beatle," the "spiritual one," or the mystical or soulful Beatle. John, of course, was the intellectual, the wordsmith, the activist. Paul was the cute one, the source of mellow melody to accompany John's hard-hitting rhythms and words, playing the role of heart to John's mind and George's soul. Ringo was the genial goofball with the easygoing, tolerant, accepting nature. A clear tendency exists to see the Beatles as distinct personality types or as different aspects of the self. Maybe a fully integrated self, or a functioning society, contains all of these, or allows for the interplay of these aspects. And perhaps it is that sort of interplay that accounts for some of the enduring appeal of Beatlemusic- And Beatlelyrics, too.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReading the Beatles
Subtitle of host publicationCultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)0791467155, 9780791467152
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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