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Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Beatles were Philip K. Dick fans? [UPDATED!]

Philip K. Dick, paperback writer 

Martin Wagner posted this comment on my post a couple of days ago about the Beatles' Revolver album:

"Tessa Dick, the last wife of PKD, said in an interview with the German Spiegel, that John Lennon called her husband in the 1970s to tell him that The Beatles wrote "Paperback Writer" in his honor."

I was surprised to see that. Here is a bit more: 

"In an interview given to Der Spiegel in 2016, Philip K. Dick's last wife, Tessa Dick, said that John Lennon had called her husband during the 1970s and told him that Paperback Writer had been written in honor of him. Source (in German): [1]. Quote from the linked interview: "In den Siebzigerjahren rief einmal John Lennon bei ihm an und sagte ihm, den Song 'Paperback Writer' hätten die Beatles ihm zu Ehren geschrieben." ("In the 1970s, John Lennon called him [= Dick] to tell him that The Beatles had written 'Paperback Writer' in his honor.").

"Of course, we also have John's own quotes in the article that it's mainly Paul's song, but if you look at those quotes closely, you'll see John actually talks about the tune as being entirely Paul's, not the lyrics."


My old friend Brett Cox (mentioned in the Revolver blog post) once wrote a parody of "Paperback Writer" for a fanzine about a person who wants to publish a science fiction novel; from memory, I believe the first line was "Donald Wollheim won't you read my book?" Wollheim, a famous SF book editor, was one of Dick's editors. So perhaps Brett was more right then he knew? This reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson's bit  in Illuminatus! about Beethoven being a member of the Illuminati, which RAW apparently put in because he loved Beethoven and it was a good joke. RAW later read Beethoven biographies and discovered he was more right than not. 

Many of Dick's titles were first published as paperback originals (much like Illuminatus!, as a matter of fact) and the Philip K. Dick Award is given to the best paperback novel published in the previous year. 

Thanks for the tip, Martin! 

UPDATE: Martin wrote to me and shared this passage from Tessa Dick's memoir, Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright: "On another occasion, Phil took a telephone call from a man who said he was John Lennon, and he was in a hotel room in Canada with Dr. Timothy Leary. 'Yeah, sure, you bet,' Phil said. He did not believe it, but eventually the man convinced him he really was John Lennon of the Beatles and that he and Dr. Leary were both fans of Phil's writing. He told Phil that the Beatles song 'Paperback Writer' was about him."

I still don't know what to make of this, but the additional details are intriguing and seem to add to the possibility the claim is true. A possible date for the phone call would be 1969, when John Lennon recorded the song "Give Peace a Chance" in Canada. Timothy Leary was present. Details here. 


Lvx15 said...

I have trouble believing this one. If it were true seems likely PKD would have been on the cover of Sgt. Pepper and I think he would have boasted about it in print somewhere.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I have read a lot about the Beatles and I've never seen this claim anywhere else. So yeah, it really is kind of a "maybe."