"Yoko Ono was only credited last week as a co-writer of John Lennon’s world-famous ‘Imagine’"Nationaal Archive

Why did the Beatles break up at the tail-end of the 1960s? If you’re a proponent of the popular fan theory that just won’t die, it was Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s second wife who was to blame.

In spite of several different sources, including Paul McCartney himself, discrediting the notion, it has lived on since in public consciousness. Even I once swallowed the idea of Ono as a disruptive femme fatale, only later to realise that, like the heavy-handed treatment of Marla Singer in Fight Club, the suggestion that Ono was the sole corrupting influence at the heart of the Beatles’ split is a persistent misogynistic trope.

“the suggestion that Ono was the sole corrupting influence at the heart of the Beatles’ split is a persistent misogynistic trope”

It comes as no surprise then that Ono was only credited just last week as a co-writer of John Lennon’s world-famous ‘Imagine’, almost fifty years after its release. This late credit is made even more disheartening by the fact that it was back in 1980, just before Lennon’s death, that he revealed he had borrowed lyrics from Ono’s own work, but was too “macho” at the time to give her credit. Clearly it only occurred to the National Music Publishers Association just recently that it might be fair to finally give Ono her dues.

As a life-long female fan of the Beatles, this sexism smells all too familiar. In spite of the band rocketing to fame in the 1960s precisely because of their female fans, the Beatles’ music seemed to fall into the hands of men as their style developed and moved away from the innocent riffs of ‘Love Me Do’ towards the trailblazing experiments of Sgt Pepper’s, and has remained this way since.

One of the best things about growing up a generation after the Beatles’ success is the pleasure one is able to take in slowly discovering the immense breadth and range of the music they produced over a decade. Like many British children of my age, I grew up with the Beatles’ number ones in the background, and knew every word to their earliest hits by rote. I’d watch their live performances on YouTube and envy the girls who stood screeching and swooning in the audience, their excitement a thrill that every teenage girl since has known.

It wasn’t until I was around 18 that I happened upon their later albums, and found myself transfixed one summer as I listened to Abbey Road right the way through three times in one day, picked a new favourite from Revolver every week, and learned how much I detested ‘Yellow Submarine’; the only blight on that otherwise genius album.

Naturally, in my new-found phase of enthusiasm, I wanted to read everything I could about the Beatles – what they were like, how they wrote their songs, who they were friends with, and so on. It was then that I began to notice that almost all the Beatles ‘experts’ were male, a phenomenon that I am not the first to intuit. Most of my friends who were into the band were male, and almost every single in-depth book on the subject was written by a man. Take, for instance, this Rolling Stone list of the ten “best books” on the Beatles, which is comprised entirely of male authors.

Worse than this was the kind of cynical questioning I received more than once from other men my age, who asked what my favourite track on X album was, or whether I knew X fact about George Harrison’s playing habits. It became slowly clear to me that my avid interest in the Beatles was being treated with the same degree of suspicion directed at young women wearing band T-shirts; the assumption being that they don’t know the band, or that even if they do, they aren’t appreciating them properly.

Though I am inclined to disagree with Amanda Marcotte’s slightly reductive analysis of Sgt Pepper as music for men, she certainly has a point about the way in which their music moved from being considered “silly”, that is, music for women, to being artistically significant and intelligent, and thus for the consumption of men. As Alexandra Pollard so aptly pointed out last year, it is not female fans but male ones by whom the seriousness and worthiness of music is measured, and the Beatles are not an exception here but a rule.

“it is not female fans but male ones by whom the seriousness and worthiness of music is measured”

This feeling that the band belongs so steadfastly to men is further embittered by the misogyny not only in the band’s earliest work (“I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man”), but that of Lennon, who was widely speculated to have physically abused several of the women he was in relationships with, writing on the 1967 track ‘Getting Better’: “I used to be cruel to my woman / I beat her and kept her away from the things that she loved”.

When I think of this misogyny, and, perhaps even worse, the sexism I have experienced and seen in the 21st century surrounding female interest in the band and music more generally, Ono’s long overdue credit seems symptomatic of something larger than this singular event. The Beatles remain one of my favourite bands, but it is disheartening that in 2017 female interest in, and even contribution to their music is still something to be proved rather than assumed

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