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  Abstract 0436
  McGrath, James (2008), "Imagine all the Lonely People: Belonging and Isolation in the Songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney". In: Richard Ganis (ed.), Displacement and Belonging in the Contemporary World. Salford: The European Studies Research Institute/ University of Salford, 2008, pp. 113-128.
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  "You want to belong but you don't want to belong because you cannot belong": this is how John Lennon summarised his lifelong perspective in 1980, weeks before his death (Sheff, p. 159). In 1967, Paul McCartney sang: "And it really doesn't matter/ If I'm wrong, I'm right/ Where I belong I'm right/ Where I belong" ("Fixing A Hole"). These quotations reflect the complexity of belonging as a theme in both Lennon and McCartney's songs. This essay compares the songwriters' distinct yet frequently convergent approaches to ideas of belonging via representations of home, class, nation and religion in their work, both as leaders of the Beatles and as solo artists. The essay also explores ideas of not-belonging in key songs, through expressions and depictions of isolation.
  Two modes of belonging are explored: passive belonging (compliance with culturally-given ideas of shared existence) and negative belonging (resistance to such ideas of such social and cultural norms, but through opposition, engagement with these).
  Addressing both micro-cultural and macro-cultural ideas of belonging in Lennon and McCartney's songs, the essay draws on two interdisciplinary cultural studies: Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-class Life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments (1957), and Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983).
  Comparing Lennon and McCartney's sung narratives in "A Day In The Life" (1967), the essay considers how experiential aspects of home, class and nation are reflected across the song, suffused with British metonyms ("the House of Lords", "the English Army", "Blackburn, Lancashire" and "the Albert Hall").
  Metaphysical realms characterising McCartney and Lennon's lyrics are distinguished and compared. McCartney usually prioritises "the personal and concrete"—values which Hoggart, in 1957, called the "core" working-class attitudes (p. 32). Lennon tends to focus on the personal and conceptual: the realm of the imagination, including the nation as, in Anderson's term, "imagined community" (p. 6).
  Lennon and McCartney's family origins in Liverpool are compared via exploration of their lyrical narratives in "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Lennon) and "Penny Lane" (McCartney). The essay then contrasts these lyricists' approaches to "class" as a theme, demonstrating how, while Lennon explicitly critiques this as a notion of passive-belonging ("Working Class Hero"), it is more subtly embedded in McCartney's songs (for example, "Lady Madonna"). "Working Class Hero" and "Lady Madonna" are respectively likened to Hoggart's arguments concerning implications of grammar-school education for working-class adolescents following the 1944 Act, and his commentaries on the daily lives of post-war working-class mothers. While class remains implicit in McCartney's lyrics, in Lennon's, it gradually becomes an explicit theme, facilitating a more questioning, indeed critical approach to this idea of belonging.
  Lastly, the essay compares Lennon and McCartney's depictions of organised religion, focusing on "Eleanor Rigby" (McCartney) and "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Lennon), and then "Let It Be" (McCartney) and "Imagine" (Lennon). The discussion concludes that although McCartney's lyrics usually invoke the concrete and passive belonging, and Lennon's, the conceptual and negative belonging, these distinctions are not mutually-exclusive, but are, in their correspondences, mutually-complementary in a cultural study.
  Other songs discussed in the essay include "Rain" (Lennon), "Your Mother Should Know" (McCartney), "Give Peace A Chance" (Lennon) and "School" (McCartney). The study also includes the first known commentary on a most obscure Beatles artefact, McCartney's unrecorded lyric "Everything Is Coming Up Tuesday" (circa summer 1968).
  This book chapter is based on the author's Cultural Studies doctoral thesis, Ideas of Belonging in the Work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. For further information on the 2008 essay, please contact James McGrath at j.mcgrath@leedsmet.ac.uk.
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  Works referenced:
 
  • Anderson, Benedict (1983), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.
  • Sheff, David (1981), Last Interview: All we are Saying—John Lennon and Yoko Ono. London: Pan, 2001.
  • Hoggart, Richard (1957), The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-class Life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992.
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