Things artist say about their work you don't believe

I was listening to Jethro Tull’s “Thick As A Brick” album today and was reminded that frontman and lyricist Ian Anderson has long denied that it’s a concept album. The odd thing is that when I read the lyrics I swear it’s a relatively straightforward song about how society and its wars harms a sensitive man, much in the vein of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. What things has an artist said about one of their works that make you say “I don’t believe that for a second”?

John Lennon’s contention that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was based on a drawing by one of his kids. It’s pretty clear it’s about an acid trip. (not to be an ass but don’t bother with a cite confirming the kid picture story)

Tolkien’s claim that his works have “no allegorical intentions …, moral, religious, or political…" Riiiiiiiight. And I’ve got a shiny new ring to sell you.

Thomas Kinkade: I am a serious artist.

Hahaha I came in to say this. I was just thinking about it the other night, for no apparent reason.

George Lucas says he had the prequel trilogy planned out from the get-go. Bullshit.

Are you saying you disbelieve John & Julian’s story, or that you think the song is about an acid trip despite the origin of its name? Because I think I can get behind the second.

Was it in So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish that Douglas Adams had Arthur Dent tell Fenny a story about some stranger eating cookies out of Arthur’s cookie package at some train station or something, and Arthur defiantly eating his own cookies out of the package to show the guy up? And then, it turns out that it wasn’t Arthur’s cookie package at all, but it belonged to the stranger who didn’t say a word about Arthur eating his cookies?

Douglas Adams claimed that it was a story that really happened to him.

Actually, the story is an urban legend descended from the similar story of the jogger’s stolen wallet.

I had respect for Douglas Adams before I heard about him claiming that.

I rather doubt the picture would be based on Julian’s acid trip.

I also came in to cite this one, and I’ve always believed Lennon was waiting for his old age to finally say “Of course it was about LSD, who could possibly believe that bullshit I’ve been saying for all these years?”

I always kind of figured that Julian did have a drawing he called “Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” and Lennon took the title, and wrote a song about LSD using that phrase as a title.

That’s sound plausible.

This one I believe. Tolkien was using a much more rigid definition for “allegory” then is common today. Nowadays, people use the term to mean, “kind of metaphorical.” In Tolkien’s day, an allegory was as story in which every element had a one-to-one correspondence with some facet of a moral lesson the artist was attempting to communicate, and putting across that lesson was the primary purpose of the work. I don’t think Tolkien ever denied that aspects of his story were inspired or influenced by his own experiences in WWI, or the events of WWII as he was writing it, but that’s not the same thing as a proper allegory.

Now, when he said Leaf by Niggle wasn’t an allegory, that was a load of crap.

I listened to a documentary on Radio 1 in the '90s in which Paul McCartney explained to the interviewer that nope, when Wings released Mary Had A Little Lamb as a follow up to *Give Ireland Back to the Irish * (which had been banned by the BBC) that it had been NO WAY a commentary on the banning. Paul went on about how it was just a cute tune that happened to be in the form of a nursery rhyme. Suuuure. Own it, Paul - it was one of pop music’s cleverer responses to a radio banning.

In Tolkien’s day, and still today if you happen to be talking to a professor of Middle English at Oxford, an allegory is a story where the characters are direct representations of abstract concepts. By saying that *Lord of the Rings *“is not an allegory”, Tolkien meant that Frodo did not represent Perseverance, Merry did not represent Adolescence, and Saruman did not represent Fear of Cheese–they were characters reacting to events in a reasonably realistic fashion.

I have not read *Leaf by Niggle *recently enough to know if there was actually an allegory there, or simply a metaphorical representation of life in a totalitarian state.

There was no state presence at all in “Niggle”. You must be getting it mixed up with some other story. And even by Tolkien’s strict definition of “allegory”, it’s still clearly allegorical (certainly more so than Lewis’s works, which Tolkien complained about as too allegorical).

Me, I’m going to nominate Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Heinlein claimed in letters written years later that the military was not the only path to citizenship in the book; that any sort of civic service (delivering mail, say) would also qualify. But that’s flatly contradicted by the book: If you couldn’t cut it in the infantry, then there was nothing left but testing experimental spacesuits on Titan, or other creative ways of committing suicide.

I serious doubt Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol’s emotional sincerity.

I so don’t think that song is about me.

I remember seeing Adams tell this story, I think on Late Night with David Letterman, as something that happened to him. Snopes has a page on this sort of incident, which notes that “His claim is doubted by many who point out the self-same tale was around years prior to that, but it is not impossible for events in real life to mimic those of lore. (Indeed, the actual folkloric term for such an event is ostension.) In any case, whether the incident happened to him or not, it is clear the legend did not begin with him.”

I thought etv78 didn’t want links because he was aware of it, but yes, the picture in question and Lucy were real. If you look at it, it hardly explains the whole song, and I think it likely it was about a drug trip. But I happen to think the “L-S-D” was coincidental.