It’s boring. At least the first half to two-thirds. That’s what they don’t tell you in the endless hosannas about this miniseries, that if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool Beatles fan, you’re gonna have a hard time sitting through it.
Having said that, what we’ve got here is the inner workings of a band. You remember bands, don’t you? Well, there aren’t many left anymore, other than in the active rock/hard rock world, because it’s so hard for people to get along! Furthermore, today you can do it all yourself, there are so many online tools, you can even buy the beats to rap over, where as before you had to do it from scratch and you needed others.
It’s astounding how rough they sound at first. Without the studio effects, never mind rehearsal. We’re so used to the Beatles being perfect, but that is far from the case here. The guitars are thin, the vocals imperfect. And then…it gets better.
You watch this episode and you wonder how anybody can get along, not only the Beatles! People don’t want to compromise, or they’re too eager to compromise. And it’s the same today, just look at politics.
As for music…
“Get Back” was a protest song, against anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.K. What’s astounding is this is still an issue fifty years later, it’s the main driver behind Brexit. But unlike Clapton (who is referred to on a regular basis, you feel sorry for George, who feels inferior in that he cannot solo in the same way) the Beatles are on the side of the immigrants. This was a feature of music back in the sixties, not a bug. Saying something was important, unless you were maybe on AM, well at least in the seventies, singing meaningless ditties, just like today, when you don’t want to offend a single potential customer. People burned Beatles records but that did not change their direction, not a whit.
And they’re writing songs in the studio. This is how they do it! Not that most people can afford this experience, at least not anymore, when the few big studios that are left are far from cheap and almost every act’s budget is small.
As for the writing of these songs… This is not how they’d been doing it. Before Yoko arrived, John and Paul would get together and write.
As for Yoko… It’s less about her than John. He’s insecure, he’s exploring his inner life after succeeding at outer life. In truth, if someone brought their significant other into this situation and they sat right next to them I’d be pissed off. It inhibits creativity, it affects the power balance, but this is what John needs to attend and perform.
As for George… His music is different from John and Paul’s, and he’s a party of one, and he gets the short end of the stick. Not that this has not been detailed previously, exhaustively. But you are still surprised when he walks out. That’s a flaw in the movie, there had to be more that preceded this, some statements, more arguments, then again a film is always just a facsimile of real life, and editing can change the meaning, isn’t that what we’ve learned watching reality TV?
And they do watch TV, they talk about what they’ve seen, shows are their inspiration. But in the U.K., there were many fewer channels and shows. And now it’s a completely different universe, there’s so much visual entertainment that the odds of your bandmate watching the same stuff are essentially nil.
So in truth they play many more songs than just those on the “Let It Be” album. And that’s a thrill. But it also shows that “Abbey Road” wasn’t composed singularly, after the “Let It Be” project was discarded. They’re picking up pieces from the past to try and create enough new material for the show. And their creative styles are completely different. I love when John says when time is ticking down he’ll deliver. Some people need that deadline to get motivated, to get inspired.
And another thing…bands need a manager, to lay down the law, to make the peace, to get all the members on the same path to a destination. Turns out the death of Brain Epstein was as huge a factor as portrayed. Well, big in history, not so much at the time.
Everybody’s so YOUNG! Especially Michael Linsdsay-Hogg. How did he get this job?
And the references to Magic Alex, and George Martin saying not to rely on him and then one of the band members saying that Alex doesn’t really create anything, he just finds stuff and tells them he did, invent it that is.
And Mal Evans… Funny how he transcribes the lyrics, and he’s got that awful haircut. Long hair was a badge of honor back then, to be included you had to grow yours.
But not Dick James, who is so jive, just like people in the music business today. The upbeat fake intimacy. Dropping in and talking. Then again, publishing was more than the song back then, there was print and now you just steal it from the internet.
And James looks completely different. He’s a businessman, not an artist.
And Glyn Johns… You’re not quite sure what to think of him. He does weigh in creatively at one point, but what kind of producer was he? And the fact that he was cutting the Eagles just a couple of years later!
That’s one of the amazing things, how short a period of time this was, how compacted it was. Music was vital, it was constantly changing, and the songs that are remembered most come from this era.
So, the Beatles had been slogging for over a decade. You watch and you start to think they’re entitled to break up. You watch and you think every band should break up, in order for the people to grow.
So on one hand it’s like encountering Oz. THIS is the group that made all this legendary polished music? But they do coalesce at the end of the episode, the evolution is astounding.
Oh, and when they call out chords and keys… You realize these are not studio musicians, who can read music, but guys who rehearsed in the “garage” and figured it out along the way. On some level they’re still amateurs, but they’re also experienced professionals.
So if you want to know how a band works, how a record is recorded, this is probably the best peek inside the machine ever. But it’s so often boring. Even more boring in real life.
Not that you wouldn’t want to be there. How did people get this job?
Well, being friends is primary, as well as being in the right place at the right time, Evans was a bouncer at the Cavern Club.
But it was a long, long time ago. Two of the Beatles are dead. Ironically the ones most detached in this episode.
But the music is pristine, as are these images, it’s like it’s happening right now.
But it’s not.
You’re not gonna get it unless you think IT’S THE BEATLES! Which probably means you were there the first time around.
And the pressure, Lindsay-Hogg saying how the show has to be bigger and better, how they owe their fans.
But if you did live through the Beatles…
You still might find this episode too much to sit through.
It does set up the second episode, which deals with George leaving, where there’s more story, more plot, where it’s more like a conventional movie. But…
Watching “Get Back” makes you wish there were footage of all the recording sessions. You learn a lot watching Paul talk to Rick Rubin on Hulu, but you don’t see the band creating the songs.
But one thing is for sure, it’s a bygone era. There was so much LESS! And the Beatles were so much BIGGER! But watching this film you realize they were just people. Imperfect. Experienced and talented, but also at times with rough edges.
And then there’s the power shift, Paul saying it used to be John’s band, now it’s his.
There’s a lot here. But it takes almost three hours to get it. An endurance test even for hard core fans. Turns out watching history can be a chore. But you ignore it at your peril. This is the best evidence of how it was. And forevermore shall not be.
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