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Still, a quarter-century is a millennium in pop music. When Lennon was killed, a teenager sadly remarked, "This is the death of a generation--my parents'." Beatlemania II might amount to little more than a geriatric palpitation for a Boomer Brigade that has no Lawrence Welk to usher them into their twilight years. What are the Beatles to the kids of the mid-'90s? Last month Anthology video director Bob Smeaton had Ringo on the editing screen as a 19-year-old watched. "I said to him, 'Who's that?'" Smeaton recalls, "and he says, 'Ah, that's Paul, isn't it?'"

Such a remark had to give McCartney the cringies. He composed the group's top-selling single (Hey Jude), its most widely covered song (Yesterday) and much of its most enduring music. He was the Beatles' most versatile singer, and not just as a balladeer; his scorched-throat rendition of the raver I'm Down is a highlight of the Anthology show. Yet Paul always shivered in John's shadow. Partly it was his looks. He was cute, coquettish--almost the girl of the group--so how could he be smart? He was the favorite of the girls whose screams dominated the early Beatles concerts, but he was not a guy's guy. No way could he satisfy the emerging establishment of rock critics, a male coterie. He just tried too hard. Paul wanted to be loved, and that is the essence of the pop star. John didn't care; that is the essence of the rock star.

From the start John had a spooky, modernist poise. His taut mouth, his appraising eyes made him the group's soul and wit as surely as McCartney became its prime musical mover. Cynical, cool, Lennon was the eye of sanity in the Beatlemania hurricane. Asked, during the first U.S. tour, when the Beatles found time to rehearse their songs, he replied, "We wrote 'em; we recorded 'em; we play 'em every day. What do you rehearse? Smilin'--that's all we rehearse." His edginess suggested a roiling interior life; you could write a novel about what you imagined to be inside John Lennon. And then he had the rock star's karma to die violently. Now he's in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, and McCartney isn't. "Since John's death," says Smeaton, "Paul has faded into the background. It has become very much 'John Lennon and the Beatles.' And I think Paul wanted to put his side of the story across."

So, after much coaxing by cronies and business associates, the survivors agreed to play a little new music and reminisce for the camera--a decision that could be as much a career move (there have been reports that Starr and Harrison could actually use the money) as it is a clearing of emotional sinuses. Doing the interviews, says Smeaton, "we felt we were scratching at wounds that had almost healed. But this is an exorcising. You carry this stuff for so many years, and then you think, 'Sod it, let's tell it how it is.'"

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