Friday, December 30, 2005

Fame, Fortune and Fear

I'm reading the new book, "The Beatles", by Bob Spitz. It's been a long time since I've read a Beatles bio (I'm a huge fan, of course) and my mom got me a copy of the book for Christmas. She also got me a copy of Paul's new CD.

I'm up to the part of their history just prior to their first recording when they fired Pete Best and hired Ringo Starr. When I was a kid, I felt badly for Pete Best. Who wouldn't? The guy was by all accounts the best looking guy in the band and McCartney was extremely jealous of him. In this particular version, the author takes pains to point out that his drumming wasn't as good as Ringo's. If that's true, he did need to be sacked. But quality and history be damned, it was still a rough move for a band that eventually became as big as The Beatles.

I felt even worse for Pete Best when I read that no one felt particularly bad about his being sacked. Here's a guy who gigged with John, Paul and George for years in Hamburg and in Liverpool, making lousy money and living in squallor. To my knowledge not one of The Beatles has ever said, "Poor Pete. He got a bum rap. Wish we could have handled it better." Did any of them think to throw Pete a few million pounds? Doubtful. That would be like saying, "I'm sorry" and they definitely were not sorry.

Truth is, The Beatles were savagely ambitious like many "successful" artists or businesspeople. They wanted nothing more than what they got - fame, fortune and lots of adoring "birds". The music was important, sure, but the main thing that motivated these middle class boys was the allure of riches and attention. And boy, did they get their wish.

I would even argue that they got much of what they wanted in part because they were ambitious to a fault. While the rest of us got a lasting legacy of wonderful music, The Beatles, themselves, received what amounted to a life of seclusion and fawning and "it'll never be as good as yer old stuff, Paul." And you know what? It ain't! Paul's new CD is pretty, well...weak.

Certainly, I'm in no postion to judge these guys. After all, they were in their early 20's and without any of the benefit of hindsight that I'm applying to their behavior and subsequent success. It's not altogether fair for me to berate them and question the decisions that they made in concert with George Martin for the betterment of their sound. Any company that keeps on its weaker employees just because they have a soft spot in their heart is well...doomed to be less successful, huh? Yeah, I think that's the hard truth.

But I'm wondering - and here's my question/concern - do Beth and I lack the necessary ambition and ruthlessness to make it in the big leagues? Are we stuck at our current level (at the top of our musical game in our early 40's) because we lack the drive to push forward with an intensity that knows no bounds? Part of me has always believed this to be true. I worry that we're too nice and not egocentric enough to break through to the top. Are we the victims of our own philosopy which is to be peaceful, to treat others with respect and love so much so that we're unwilling to see our friends in the business as competitors to be beaten? Hmmmmm.

The Beatles and many folks I know of in the business world had what some refer to as a "healthy animosity for the competition". There exists - and we all know it - a certain type of animalistic, dog-eat-dog mentality that is shared by many in this world who acheive material wealth and fame in the arts, politics or business. To me, that is scary and yet I feel that I have to face that fear in order to transcend it. I cannot let it stop us in our quest to be better, to let more kids hear us, and - yes - to acheive more fame and fortune for me and my family.

And so, I am left with this conundrum: I believe in my heart that Beth and I have been selling ourselves short for years. I believe that we're far better than our current station and deserving of much more material success. I believe that we have much more to write and say that can be beneficial to children and families if we can only get ourselves into a position of power where our voices are heard. And, yet, I look at what we have acheived - a new home, a successful mom and pop business with a great reputation in our corner of the world that feeds our family and makes a lot of kids happy. Who are we to want more? Who are we to crave the trappings of fame and fortune? Y'see I can talk myself into a corner quite well, thank you very much.

Well, we're not Lennon and McCartney. And there's no Pete Best in our band. And we're not destined for BethandScottomania. I don't even know why I worry so much about stuff like this at all sometimes. But then there's a little voice inside of me that keeps repeating, "You're scared, Scott. Don't get side-tracked and start today in a direction that leads you in the direction that you want to go. Face your fear of failure or success and forget about what anyone else thinks about your career. This is the only shot you get at life. Believe in yourself and your dreams (you wrote a song called that, remember?). Now, go for it and let the chips fall where they may. No regrets. Do it."

Okay, I've shared that with you. I've said it aloud. Now, let's see what I'm made of.

1 comment:

Monty said...

Hi Scott,

Deep thoughts! I too am a huge Beatles fan. It's tough not to compare their success to my own.

But then they spent their youth performing long hours night after night in German bars, developing their talent. I spent mine in college getting a Master's degree in math. Even though it's done nothing to propel my children's music career into the stratosphere (indeed, it's hard to even find a connection!) I'm glad to have accompished it.

I've been talking a lot to Mr. Billy on the phone lately as he drives all over the country gigging in the schools. I could quadruple my income and increase my visibility twenty fold if I was willing to travel as much as he. I've been talking with my wife about it. I'd be away from home two weeks out of each month. I'd hate to be away from her and our four year old daughter that much of the time. They would hate it too. It's a tough decision.

I guess I'm saying that in the successful pursuit of fame and fortune, many things can fall by the wayside, whether it be kindness, education, family... It just takes so much time and drive to accomplish!

Hopefully we can find a balance. I very much want to do more with my music than I have. I feel the same as you - that I'm deserving of much more success than I've managed so far. And I'm always planning and scheming ways to bring that about. Hopefully we'll both manage it without compromising our values. I think it's possible!