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Come Together

Mark Jacobson on how rock’s latest unholy alliance—Sean Lennon and Elizabeth Jagger—has reopened the old Beatles–Rolling Stones divide.

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Sean Lennon and Elizabeth Jagger  

Tabloid reports of the two-month-old liaison between Elizabeth Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stone Mick, and Sean Lennon, son of Beatle John—a match made “in rock ’n’ roll heaven,” according to the Daily News—were received with no small degree of mind-blow by certain baby-boom elements.

After all, Beatles and Stones were not supposed to mix. Surfing the culture-consuming tidal wave of the Brit Invasion, the bands washed up on these shores as twin polarities of pop sensibility. The Beatles, with their little boots, coiffy cuts, and smart-ass Running, Jumping, Standing Still movies were the cute ones, the lovable ones, the good guys. The Stones, nasty and leering, plumbed the Dionysian dark side. Back at Francis Lewis High School circa 1964, the need to declare for one side or the other, to be a Beatle or Stone fan, was for many a first-ever aesthetic choice, an irresistible self-defining decision. For our bunch, at least among those who smoked and affected a flint-eyed detachment, the Stones, with their Aleister Crowley–ist blues-based faux-negritude, were ascendant. The Beatles, not that we would ever quite come out and say it, were for girls. Did we know, or care, that Jagger was some frumped-up semi-rich art kid from the London School of Economics, while John, Paul, George, and Ringo actually came from the Liverpool working class? Even then, it was the look that mattered.

Forty years later, with more than half the nine original group members dead, knighted, or both, this Beatle-versus-Stone dichotomy is somewhat frayed. Indeed, the group-shattering schism between John Lennon’s take-it-to-the-streets irony and Paul McCartney’s recessed Brechtian music-hall sunniness seems a more compelling artistic standoff than the disparate stylistic postures of the two bands. Still it persists: this reflexive divider, to stand for the Beatles or for the Stones.

Which is why this hitherto unthinkable news about the potential marriage of young Sean and Elizabeth is so depressing. ‘Cuz it makes you wonder, now that those great songs have been safely stowed on the iPod, is this all that’s left? This corporate synergy of two of rock’s most recognizable brand names? To the grizzled fan, the entire affair has the vibe of a union arranged by two teetering nineteenth-century Central European monarchies, with Yoko, the Lady Macbeth of pop music, up there in the Dakota with her calculator, tallying up the merged publishing-rights receipts.

This is not to say that Sean, the aspiring rocker and Tibetan Buddhist, and Elizabeth, the “new face” of Lancôme cosmetics, do not seem like a very nice couple, at least as nice as any of the hundreds of rock spawn currently clogging the gossip pages and playlists. They could very well be a modern-day, non-tragic Romeo and Juliet, healing an old feud with their love. And their progeny would be fun to watch, too: We enjoy the prospect of John’s thinnish lips battling in the Mendelian trenches with Mick’s likely dominant thick signature smackers. “Sean’s adorable,” says Elizabeth’s mother, Jerry Hall. “He looks so like John and writes beautiful poetry.” Apparently the young couple likes to get together at the Jagger mansion in Surrey “for these incredible family singsongs” of old Beatles and Stones tunes. Sean especially likes to croon his father’s “Imagine,” says Hall. “They are so in love.”


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