Dec 102013


Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

– The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I came across this picture the other day with attached caption and vaguely remembered it from years ago. So I posted it on Facebook for a laugh and was immediately admonished. “Not true,” said one person. “Fake,” deadpanned another.

It occurred to me that this is not the first time I had seen or heard this quote, which is attributed to John, but I think refers to Paul.

The reason it pops up, I suspect, is that the “legend was fact,” arguably. I think you could argue that Paul was the best drummer in The Beatles. And the best guitar player. And singer. Guitarist. Piano. Sitar? I’m not saying you would win every argument, but there is an argument to be made there.

Can you think of another example, in all the world of rock, like this? A story that has been proven false beyond the shadow of a doubt but survives because it makes perfect sense?


  20 Responses to “Print the Legend”

  1. It must have been a pain in the ass to have Paul emerge as the best singer/bassist/guitarist/pianist/drummer and have the most A-sides and big hits, also being the “cute one” etc. He was also by for the most prolific. To say it went to his head was an understatement. I can see why the others were so over him by Pepper. He could have done it all by himself (and did for some of their most loved songs) and he was never humble about anything.

    It also saved the Beatles 2.0 (post Pepper) though, because they survived on his ambition and willingness to write “pop” songs when they could have easily retired or turned their records into Zappa like noise music.

  2. diskojoe

    The story that comes to mind is Keith Moon’s 21st birthday party during their ’67 US tour w/Herman’s Hermits, in a Holiday Inn in MI where it was alleged that Moonie drove a Lincoln into a swimming pool.

  3. 2000 Man

    Right off the bat I thought about Nick Kent’s bulshit story about Keith Richards hijacking Mick Jagger’s Cherry Picker on the 82 tour of europe. During Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Mick would go up in a bucket like they fix phone poles and replace streetlights with and sing above the audience. Supposedly Keith stole the cherry picker and went up and played a twenty minute solo. Too bad you can hear that concert on a bootleg, and Jumpin Jack Flash is the same as every other night.

    Poor Rod Stewart’s stomach pumping is the worst story, though. I feel bad for the guy!

  4. Suburban kid

    I’m confused about what the disputed fact/legend is supposed to be.

    Is it that John (or Paul) ever said those words?

    Or is it that the sentiment was true?

  5. misterioso

    I believe there is a certain twice-told tale that involves Rod Stewart, a stomach pump, and certain alleged bodily fluids…

  6. misterioso

    I take it that the idea is that the made-up quote about Ringo (and Mark Lewisohn, for one, has established beyond doubt that it is made up) continues to be believed because it is taken to express something true.

  7. misterioso

    That’s funny–I haven’t heard that one. I wonder if Keef himself believes it. Based on his memoir, he seems to have bought into all of the other mythology about himself, why not this, too? It would nicely reinforce the idea that he is (literally) above it all.

  8. ZZ Top. Livestock.

  9. Funny, I had no idea that quote about Ringo was false! I’m not sure if the first instances like this that come to mind are apocryphal or not, such as David Lee Roth’s quote about critics liking Elvis Costello because he looks like them or Costello’s (or was it Zappa’s or some jazz cat’s) quote about “writing about music being like dancing to architecture.”

  10. mockcarr

    How about the story that Jimmy Page played the guitar solo in You Really Got Me?

    I believe Keith is the best bass player in the Rolling Stones, and it’s possible at this point that he’s a better “singer” than Mick. How does he fare on the drums?

  11. misterioso


  12. cliff sovinsanity

    The whole Ronnie Van Zant VS Neil Youn thing:
    1. Despite popular thought Lynyrd Skynyrd never meant to be hatin’ on Young with the line “..a southern man don’t need him around anymore”. It was more of a “the south will take care of it’s own problems you hippie”.
    2. Ronnie wasn’t not buried wearing a Neil Young shirt, although it would have been neat if he had.
    3. Neil was not a pallbearer at Ronnie’s funeral, although this seems like something he would be up for alongside members of Black Oak Arkansas and Molly Hatchet

  13. pudman13

    One story that will just not go away is that the Cathy Smith who was a prominent part of John Belushi’s fatal OD is the same person as Kathy Smith, who released two of my very favorite singer-songwriter albums on Richie Havens’ Stormy Forest label. They are two completely different people (and Cathy—with a C—even wrote a biography, which proves it beyond a doubt), but because Kathy with a K has mysteriously disappeared, nobody makes an effort to contradict the story.

  14. Rod says in his book that a fired publicist made that one up and it took.

  15. I have been waiting for pictures from the ZZ Top camp to share — but here goes —

    I had a chance to talk in person with Billy Gibbons on his bus after a show at Wolf Trap this fall. I asked him about the legend in a generic way — “I’ve heard you had livestock on stage . . . ?”

    He immediately told me that it was the 1975 Worldwide Texas Tour and they had steers and other animals on stage during some shows. I told him that there is zero photographic evidence on the Web and he said he would try to dig up some pix, but of course, I’ve never heard back.

    Billy was a heck of nice guy and very forward-looking. I walked away from the visit with ZZ Top’s 1970-1990 studio album set, which I have not cracked open. Also, each of the ZZ Top guys has his own bus, which makes quite an impression rolling down the highway. Probably a good way to keep the peace too, if you can afford it.

  16. misterioso

    That is really interesting. I remember some years ago spending some time trying to find out who originated that phrase–I remember Anderson and Costello being prime contenders–but had no idea that Martin Mull appears to be it, though the article makes clear that he was working a variation on a considerably older phrase.

  17. BigSteve

    You’ve probably read a variation on this ‘quote’ from Hunter Thompson — “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

    According to this guy, he never wrote that:

  18. jeangray

    That one was debunked years ago.

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