“The sound you make is muzak to my ears,” sneered John Lennon, as he savaged his former song-writing partner in the vitriolic “How Do You Sleep?” His normally sweet-sounding voice which gave us ‘All You Need Is Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” was now laced with poison, as Lennon went on to claim that the only Beatles composition McCartney had been responsible for “was ‘Yesterday’… and since you’ve gone you’re just ‘Another Day’.’”
Harsh words indeed. Almost as harsh as Keith Richards’ criticism of his own former band-mate. Mick Jagger, the great sex symbol of the 60’s and 70’s, could apparently only boast a “tiny todger” according to his former best friend and drug-binging partner-in-crime. And the hits? Well, the implication is clear. ‘Keef’ would come up with the riff, the tune and the main idea of the song and leave Mick to polish it up a bit.
And now another famous duo whose glory days are long past have publicly fallen out. Aging rockers Bobby J. and Paulie K. have spent the last week squabbling over who came up with precisely which bit of their greatest hits.
“It was basically me what wrote the entire “Float the Dollar” album,” Paulie told me, lounging back in his gothic mansion, his eccentric rock star collection of antique French clocks all madly ticking away at different rhythms and chiming at different intervals. “It may as well have been a solo album. I wrote all the songs. Even designed the cover.”
Bobby J. will have none of it, of course. “I don’t wanna get into some Paulie slanging match over all that again,” he said, downing a schooner of beer in his harbourside retreat, the beautiful Blanche curled up on the leopard-skin sofa beside him fondly stroking his silver mullet. “But Paulie really only played a minor part in the whole thing. It was a collaboration. I got all sorts of different people together, assembled ‘em all in this big room together, and told ‘em all to let rip. It was beautiful. Paulie never really liked the idea anyway. Me and the others had to talk him into it.”
“You gotta be pulling my plonker!’ explodes the ever-acerbic Paulie when I confront him with his former partner’s comments. “Collaboration? The only thing that twat ever collaborated on was nearly bringing down the whole show! Not once, but twice! Way back before I came on the scene and it was just him running the act – or the ACTU as it was called then - he gave every two-bit hanger on and groupie as much dosh as they wanted and they nearly destroyed the label! I had to step in, crack a few skulls together and restore some common sense.”
Bobby J. shakes his head and his craggy face breaks into a smile, a twinkle in his eye affording me a momentary glimpse of the charismatic idol who drove the fans wild all those years ago. “Paulie was very much under the sway of his guru, the Mahareshi Stone, back in those days. He was dead set against the whole thing. Said it would bring on a “revolution.” I knew it was all bollocks. Me and the other guys had to basically talk them both into it.”
But recently released documents tell a slightly different story. Dated November 2, 1983, the scribbles on the back of an envelope in Paulie’s distinctive spider crawl handwriting make it clear that he was already flirting with the main concept six months earlier. In an unfinished couplet labelled ‘Quantum Leap’ Paulie wistfully points out that "Beyond these essentially technical changes/ Lies the possibility of a floating exchange rate.”
Tensions between the two are not new, with Paulie claiming he “carried” Bobby through years of “emotional and intellectual malaise” in the mid 80’s. Following a secret gig in Kirribilli, it was even rumoured Bobby had offered to let Paulie take over lead vocals.
So who is right and who is wrong? The answer, of course, is both are right and both are wrong. What made the Beatles and the Stones great is what made Bob and Paul great. That intangible, indefinable thing that happens when two great talents spark off each other. The sardonic humour of Lennon combined with the warmth and melody of McCartney. The gritty earthiness of Richards combined with the prancing sexuality of Jagger. The shopping-mall popularity of Hawke combined with the ruthlessness of Keating.
One of the rarest and greatest political couplings. Together they made magic. But in the end, it tore them both apart.