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Open Letter

Please, just stop.

I'm considering putting my children into foster care and devoting my life to a relentless study of quantum physics for the single purpose of developing a time machine, so I can travel back to 1982 and deliver this message before you record "Ebony and Ivory."

We must, however, face a cataclysmic possibility: I may not succeed. So I beg you, begin the damage control which is now sadly necessary to preserve your musical reputation for future generations

Memory Almost Full, your new CD with its insipid, loathsome single "Ever Present Past," is slated for release June 5, a day that could live in infamy if you don't act now. (As my husband said after hearing it on the radio: "Lennon's gotta be laughing at that.") The CDs may be already pressed, crated and rumbling on trucks toward innocent fans. But take heart.

Your 2005 record, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, has sold only a little over 500,000 copies in the U.S. So Starbucks, your new label, will likely keep initial numbers of this latest abomination to a reasonable level. To be conservative, though, let's say Starbucks has produced one million units of "Memory Almost Full." At $15 per, you could buy the entire inventory for $15 million. This is doable. The Sunday Times' annual Rich List, released last week, says you're worth $1.4 billion - and that's after divorce costs. Kill two birds with one stone: Save your musical legacy (or at least reduce its tarnish), and shoot to the top of the charts.

If you doubt me, remember there are two current songs claiming you as an inspiration, and neither is a good thing. The Scissor Sisters' latest CD, Ta-Da, features "Paul McCartney." Here, you're supposed to be a positive influence. Jake Shears says he dreamed about you, woke up and wrote the song. His colleague Babydaddy, speaking to Bullz-Eye.com, says, "We got really into the Paul McCartney catalog while making this album."

Here's the thing: Scissor Sisters are often referred to as "glam-pop," and that's a pretty accurate description. I enjoy them, but they're either a guilty pleasure, or an embarrassing pleasure. Sadly, "Paul McCartney" definitely falls under "embarrassing," due to its mawkishly disco style. And if Scissor Sisters were listening to anything you did in the past twenty years, that makes sense.

Then there's Cinemechanica, an Athens, Georgia band usually called "math-rock" or "punk." I'm no rock critic, so I'll just quote from a review with which I heartily agree, posted by Sam on .3hive.com: "Twitchy time signatures, fiercely intricate drum patterns, dualing guitars, and speak/shouting about things not quite right in the world . . . I don't want to say they're a breath of fresh air . . . more like a swift punch to the gut that knocks the wind out of you . . . " In short, they kick ass. Unfortunately, this is the band you inspired to write "I'm Tired of Paul McCartney."

Much as I enjoyed listening to "I'm Tired of Paul McCartney" repeatedly on my iPod, attempting to decipher the lyrics, I was ultimately unsuccessful. So I e-mailed Bryant Williamson, one of Cinemechanica's guitarist/singers.

"The lyrics of the song don't actually discuss how annoying Paul McCartney is . . . only the title," Williamson wrote back. "But then again, the song's lyrics are similarly about global problems that need to end or be given up on (Paul also should end his career)."

Your interview currently featured on the Rolling Stone website convinces me of the righteousness of my message. You're asked, "What would you like people to remember of the work you've done?" On the audio clip, you answer: "For people to understand what I did. There's a lot of it, y'know, and it's still comin', there's an awful lot of it." Talk about cold fear. When I heard that, in your own Liverpool accent, it was like seeing Psycho for the first time.

If you must compose new music, if you just can't stop yourself, do it in a hermetically sealed room located at the bottom of a steel ladder approximately one mile below your Peasmarsh estate. Like an Egyptian pharoah's tomb, the workers who build this musical bunker should be killed afterward, as humanely as possible, to guard the terrible secret of their final labors. Their sacrifice will be honored by rock fans for eons.

You shall be the only living person with knowledge of the bunker's entrance. Don't make it too obvious, like behind a picture or something. Remember The Great Escape, where the prisoners put the tunnel entrance under a shower drain? Something like that. You have imagination - I know you'll think of something. In addition, anyone crossing the bunker's threshold who is not Paul McCartney will be instantly obliterated by that new heat ray recently tested by the U.S. military. Set it up so you're identified by a retina scan; I believe that method is still foolproof.

By the way, if I haven't been sufficiently fawning in my admiration of your accomplishments, it's because I assume your exalted place in the pantheon of music is a given. I don't bother heaping accolades on Beethoven or Shakespeare either. Any young punks who dismiss your contribution to rock are just that, young punks.

The fact that your best work is behind you is nothing to be ashamed of - not when "behind" means being one quarter of The Beatles. There is much for you to savor in your '70s music, too. Why is it so hard for us to accept that a person can create amazing work, but at some point, even most great artists are tapped out?

Most of us tend to hold ourselves to higher standards than we expect for others, and you are likely no different. So consider the careers of two literary giants. The towering achievements of Harper Lee and Joseph Heller are diminished not one inch because each produced just one single book that deserves to be included in an infinite, universal Top Ten of literature. Lee never published another book after To Kill A Mockingbird. Heller, you may argue, wrote inferior novels after Catch-22. True, but books like Something Happened and Good As Gold aren't vast pages of inky drivel. I keep them on my bookshelf without shame. Not so your post-70's work, which is unsafe in any respectable CD rack.

On a lower rung of popular culture, the puzzling thing to me about the Michael Richards controversy was the constant assumption in all accounts and analysis that Richards' hecklers were right - that Richards is a loser because he hasn't had any commercial success since Seinfeld. Richards' subsequent rant was ridiculous and indefensible, and perhaps his stand-up act was as well. But excuse me: if an actor who creates one of the most hilarious characters in the history of comedy on one of the most popular television shows of all time is a professional loser, then give me a generous helping of failure.

Many artists have been saved from your fate, Paul, by meeting an untimely death. I hate to think what Jim Morrison might be up to these days, for instance, if he was still with us. Perhaps hosting Deal or No Deal. Yet death is not the only way make a graceful exit. (Not that these deaths are, themselves, usually graceful. Think Elvis - or rather, try not to think of him, a bloated addict sitting on a toilet. And, of course, it's unfortunate his overdose couldn't have come before he ever bought a white jumpsuit.)

Paul Newman and Robert Redford spring to mind as two people who, rather than making movies like Grumpy Old Butch And The Sundance Kid II, have channeled their energies into other worthwhile enterprises. You've already begun that chapter of your life, with your work on animal rights, mine fields (sorry to remind you of Heather), and your many charity concerts. You just need to drop the new records. Relax. You've earned it. With your new spare time, go get that Cinemechanica CD; it's called The Martial Arts.

Your fan,

Cate Plys

*

Maybe I'm an ingrate, but I'd rather remember what the man did before he would have ever contemplated recording with Michael Jackson. Does that make you want to ram something down my throat? Open Letter is open to letters: cateplys@sbcglobal.net.

*

And catch up here with such Open Letter classics as "Dear Macy's" and "Dear New Skin Cancer Specialist."





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Posted on May 2, 2007


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Corporate Spies Like Us.
SPORTS - Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?

BOOKS - Postdictatorship Argentina.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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