Ever feel like you stumbled through some black hole in the universe, only to find yourself in 1969 London? I did when I watched all eight (!) hours of “Get Back,” the Disney documentary on one of the Beatles last recording sessions. The quality of this video is so good, I felt like I “lived” with these icons for a week. It taught me several things, and even knocked out some long-held beliefs…
First…there they were — John, Paul, George, and Ringo, all in their twenties, were at the height of their creativity, popularity, and beauty. Dressed almost debonair compared to the grunge bands of today, they wore vests, jackets, and paisley shirts. George duded it up the most with interesting “feathered” coats. It took me a while to get over the thrill of seeing them “in the flesh,” listening to their morning chit chat in those famous lilting accents.
They sure goofed off a lot – The mean schoolmarm in me almost lost my mind. I had pictured the Beatles knocking off a recording in a week. Instead, the messing around during these 21 days was epic. An arbitrary tinkling on the piano, someone singing a line from any song, or casually hitting the table would set off jamming for hours. Even I started nervously watching the clock. At one point, I swear I saw smoke coming out of producer’s George Martin’s ears.
But when they finally focused –– Once in a while, the skies parted, and “The Beatles” appeared. The harmonies of Lennon and McCartney could melt stone. “Two of Us,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Dig a Pony” brought back eighth grade and miniskirts and bell bottoms. On the piano, during breaks, Paul noodled the chords of “Let it Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.” I saw then how much their music had been the backdrop to my life, especially the hopes and angst of adolescence.
The women – I still can’t decide how I feel about Yoko’s constant, watchful presence. I guess John wanted her there and since the others wanted John, they had no choice. (They didn’t seem bothered by it). It just seemed strange to have this person next to John the whole 21 days as the group rehearsed. Linda McCartney also showed up but busied herself taking pictures. Pattie Boyd Harrison and Maureen Starkey made brief appearances, each looking every inch the mod chicks from Carnaby Street.
John and Paul loved each other – I could see it in the way they interacted. They kept their eyes on one another a lot, and even at their most crazy, time-wasting moments (singing “The Two of Us” with gritted teeth like two misbehaving schoolboys), it was hard not to laugh. Creative energy crackled between them. They shared their own language, much to George’s envy, I sensed. He even quit the band for a few days, but wisely came back. Ringo (who they all called “Rich”) stayed mostly silent and unreadable.
The final concert – After much going back and forth over the venue (they even considered an outdoor theater in Libya!), they decided on the rooftop of Apple Records in London’s Savile Row. As is everything about this video, the concert was bittersweet to watch, as it turned out to be their last. In a way, it was an interesting metaphor for how they ended as a group – from the gritty night clubs of Liverpool to a place high and unattainable, like gods. And after that, they went their separate ways. The Beatles were over.
The video ended – After seven days, I looked up and it was 2021 again, with its cell phones, raging pandemics, and political upheaval. John’s been gone over forty years. George died young and so did Linda McCartney. Paul and Ringo are in their 70’s and 80’s, still viable and healthy, but those beautiful young men of 1969 are long gone.
I’m glad I watched this documentary. Much you can take or leave, and I get those who give up in exasperation. But for me, I not only visited John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but also a part of my childhood. I saw what a gift their music was and still is.
It was nice getting back.
(This is my final post for 2021. Have a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year! Stay safe and healthy, everyone).
Did you watch this documentary? What did you think? Comments are always welcome and if you’d like, please share.
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