I’m too old for Disney+. Yes, I have grandkids, and they might like it, but even though I love those grands with a fierceness I previously thought was only reserved for my kids, I still don’t have it in me to get Disney+. I think you will understand unless you’re one of “those Disney people,” in which case I have nothing to say to you. But I’m tired of piling on more and more subscriptions for streaming services, and I refused to get Disney+.
So how in the heck did the Beatles 6 hour documentary Get Back, on the making of Let It Be end up on Disney+? That doesn’t make any sense. And worse, it puts me into that whole dilemma of having to either miss Get Back or get Disney+. Ultimately, we worked it out within the family, and I’ve now screened Get Back.
Get Back is great. It’s not perfect, and at times it drags a little. But it shows not only the creative process at work, it shows the best band ever demonstrating how the creative process works. And it’s a very cool thing to watch. The other high level thing about it is that it smashes some stereotypes about the Beatles, reinforces others, and makes you fully appreciate how wonderful this band was.
Let’s get one thing straight. At least in the post-Brian Epstein world, Paul McCartney is the force driving this band. He is impatient, keeps the others on schedule, and demonstrates leadership that I previously believed would have been in John’s bailiwick. And Paul is a really hard worker. He stays in the studio all day with the others, and then shows up the next day with a new song that he wrote overnight. And they’re not just any songs; they’re songs like Let It Be.
Did you ever see that movie Yesterday? It’s basically about a struggling singer-songwriter who gets hit by lightening and wakes up in a world without the Beatles. He then “writes” and performs all of their songs to huge world-wide acclaim. Anyway, the point about Yesterday is that the guy is trying to play Let It Be for his parents and one of their friends, and it’s the first time that anyone in the world has heard it, and he can’t get them to focus on the song. They keep interrupting about little silly things, and it frustrates him. Well, in the real world, the real Beatles are sitting around while Paul is playing Let It Be for basically the first time, and lo and behold, the other Beatles are messing around, saying that it needs another verse, etc. It was funny to see a movie somewhat imitate real life.
Here’s two more thoughts. One is that Ringo clearly knew that he had hit the jackpot and just needed to keep riding the train. Yes, he was a great drummer and yes, his drumming was the key to the Beatles ultimately gelling into the Beatles. But during this movie, he pretty much just hangs back, watches Paul and John (and sometimes George) write and haggle over songs, and then cracks a few jokes that everyone likes. He’s a good guy, it’s obvious, but he also knows that he’s just not in their league, but he’s happy to be a part of it. Oh, and the guy could simply play the drums. He was the human metronome.
The second is that George was a frustrated dude. He can see what Ringo sees: John and Paul are simply in another orbit, but he knows that he’s a pretty good songwriter in his own right. He tries to get his songs taken seriously, and while he gets respect, it’s a little late in the day to break the formula that was so well locked in. So he quits, has to be coaxed back into the band, and pretty much signals that this is his last hurrah. Now I know some people who think While My Guitar Gently Weeps is the best Beatles song ever, but those people are simply wrong. It doesn’t make the top ten in my book. Nonetheless, there was a lot of good George material that was simply left on the cutting room floor.
Let’s get on to the two meteoric stars, shall we? By this point, John and Yoko are inseparable. And I mean inseparable. Yoko is sitting there in every scene like she’s the fifth Beatle or something (that role should have gone to Billy Preston, who shows up at the studio and is drafted into the entire recording process). It’s weird. George has some hari krishna guy in the studio, too, but that guy was respectful enough to sit away from the lads as they wrote and rehearsed. Not so Yoko. However, it didn’t seem to bother the other Beatles. They seemed to take it in stride, and just went about their business. And that brings me to another thought: the Beatles weren’t at each other’s throats and yelling or screaming at each other. You can tell that they still genuinely like each other, and more importantly, they treat each other with respect. In fact, they're downright playful with each other much of the time. For instance, there's a great scene where Paul and John both sing a song with their teeth clenched together - it's goofy, fun, and charming. It’s hard to know what broke up the band, but how about a decade of simply being the Beatles and wanting to do something else?
John is an interesting cat. He’s witty and smart, but he also has an ear for songcraft that he shares with Paul. And it’s pretty clear that those two needed each other. Sure, at this point they weren’t writing songs together like they did in the early days when they were constantly on the road, but they both turned to the other when working out a new track. And the other always seemed to know how to make the song better, how to avoid a silly concept, and how to make it sound like, well, the Beatles. You can appreciate the absence of the other from their post-breakup work. Yes, occasionally one of them would write a really good song without the other one, but not nearly as many times as when they wrote them together. In fact, their post-Beatles catalogs are a lot more mediocre than, say, George’s, as George wrote alone and so wasn’t hampered by the absence of his long-time collaborator.
Anyway, John seems really likeable (as does Paul, by the way). But I was told that he really wasn’t all that cool – check out what he did with Julian, his son not from Yoko, and you’ll get a sense that he could be cruel and heartless. Nonetheless, you can also see in the film why he was revered – really strong arrangement chops, great lyrics, an interesting way of looking at the world, and a joy of life itself.
Paul has many of the same attributes, but is much more of a pop-song kind of guy, and more grounded in the real world. Businesslike? Yes, somewhat, but still an artist. And he was thoughtful, too, but simply showed it in different ways. And at one point, young Heather McCartney (about 5 or 6 years old) shows up in the studio and Paul and all the other Beatles play with her and have fun with her. It made me think a lot of them that they would treat a young child so lovingly.
Here are some other observations. First, it’s still post-war England. They didn’t seem to insist on heat all the time, they were sometimes working on crappy recording equipment, and the food they were eating left a lot to be desired - lots of toast. Second, Ringo had a badass looking house. Next, the lads could have used more regular personal hygiene – I’m glad the movie didn’t come with a scratch-and-sniff card because they showed at times looking pretty grungy. Also, they all smoked a lot. Lots and lots of ciggies being smoked during the movie. Finally, they were still so super-British. Some of their jokes and observations needed explanations by the filmmakers for them to make sense to an American audience.
The movie centers around the making of the their final album, but also around their final performance. Most Beatles fans realize that the final live performance was on the roof of Apple Studios in London, but it was a long and winding road for that performance to take place. It wasn't the original plan at all. And it was kind of a crazy thing to do. There was no audience in place, but of course, it drew a crowd on the street. Many liked it, there were a few curmudgeons, and it even drew the cops. The funny thing about the cops is that they didn't really know what to do, and didn't appear to want to arrest anyone. They ended up on the roof and simply watched the last few songs - they're probably still talking about the fact that they got to see the final Beatles performance. Anyway, a few of the tracks performed live on the roof ended up on the Let It Be album, and of course, they were memorable tracks.
I really enjoyed Get Back for many reasons. But the one that I haven’t said before is just how intimate and human the film is. You forget that these guys were still very young men when they were doing what they did. Their music is incredible, but their personal lives and interactions as bandmates were also really interesting. With George temporarily gone, they sort through some names of potential replacements, but in the end, they realize they need the 4 together or they simply weren’t the Beatles. That’s kind of quaint but it’s also kind of cool.
The Beatles were one-of-a-kind. This movie proves that yet again. Spring for Disney+ and watch it. Then dump Disney+ until they come back with the same type of movie for the Rolling Stones or the Clash, hahaha.
10/6/2022 10:18:49 pm
Medical hair tough trip any simple. Heavy agent house put.
Leave a Reply.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.