I read this article and it was very thought provoking for me:http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/25/musicians-touring-psychological-dangers-willis-earl-beal-kate-nash?CMP=share_btn_fb
It made me think of John Lennon.
I have studied John's life extensively, and I am of the very strong belief that he was bipolar. Something about certain things concerning him just fundamentally connects with me. There's his history of violence, his drug and alcohol abuse, his rampant sex addiction, his extremely well documented moodiness, his frequent suicidal periods, and what he said in an interview once, that there are "just some days when he wants to throw himself off a building." (He claimed the mood swings got better as he got older -- in the last years of his life, he'd stopped taking drugs. Also, surprise surprise! He's a jumper, like me.)
And now, after reading that article above, I want you to consider a couple of things:
1. If it's that hard being an ordinary musician, what would it have been like being a Beatle? With the screaming fans, the utter impossibility of ever going outside, and the constant demands for yet another album or tour?
2. And if it's that hard being a Beatle, what would it have been like being a Beatle with mental illness?
Because being bipolar is hard. You can't stand crowds. You can't take loud noise. You need a certain amount of exercise per day. You can't take drugs or alcohol unless you want to cycle into an episode. You need plenty of sleep. And even then, you're moody and prone to periods of extreme panic.
Can you imagine being a Beatle and being bipolar?
There's one moment I remember keenly. I was watching video footage of John Lennon's apology after the Bigger Than Jesus scandal. A little background:
John, a great reader, gives an interview in which he mentions Nietzsche's theory of the decentralization of Christianity in the twentieth century. John predicts that at the rate we're going, Christianity will soon disappear. Some asshole disc jockey from Alabama takes one part of one sentence from a whole paragraph, reads it so that it will sound like John thinks he's better than Jesus, and then bans Beatles music from his station. No one bothers to verify with the original source, of course -- it makes for a better media story if John's just an asshole.
So John's sitting there, crowded on a couch that's too small for all the Beatles to sit on together, with a clamor of hundreds of voices shouting accusations at him and wall to wall cameras flashing really bright lights. And I remember watching that footage, and feeling so intensely what John felt. The isolation, the pain, the fear (people were setting things on fire and threatening to shoot him), and the anger.
Later, a photographer tells the story of barging into the bathroom to find John hiding inside. John is crying. "Why couldn't I have just kept me big mouth shut?" he says.
And I think that was the first time John thought he really couldn't do this anymore.
Because being a Beatle basically ruined his life. It totaled his relationship with his first wife and oldest son. He was never home, and even when he was he was either busy or exhausted He got addicted to drugs and alcohol to try to deal with the pain. He went through periods of extreme depression and extraordinary self hatred. (His pictures from the mid sixties are hard for me to even look at, the self hatred and despair is so clear to me.)
They asked for two albums a year. Two albums a year. On top of all the touring. And the noise. And the screaming. And the never seeing his family.
And then John fell in love with Yoko Ono. He tried to include her in his world at first, and when that didn't work he did the right thing for the first time in a decade. He dropped the band and kept the family. It was an incredibly courageous thing to do, frankly.
I think by the end of the Beatles, John just couldn't do it anymore.
And when I think of it like that, all his anger makes sense to me. I can totally understand John thinking, by the end, "Fuck them! I gave ten years of my life to that fucking band! Isn't that enough?"
Isn't that enough?