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Folks, I’m rushing out to Thanksgiving dinner, but here’s the promised open thread on the Peter Jackson film. Put any thoughts/observations in the comments. For all my grouchiness, I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Enjoy!
This was an amazing thing to watch this morning. I had many observations. But mainly felt that because Lennon was on smack, and very quiet and passive mostly, all the pressure had to be between George and Paul. And so it was. No wonder George felt hurt. He’s the one showing all the anger. But gosh, there’s that moment after George walks out and the other three Beatles hug each other.
It feels very organic. Watching the songs be birthed is amazing. Paul writhes on a chair and hums and suddenly “Get Back” emerges. And seeing Mal Evans… I nearly fell off my chair when I saw Glyn Johns. He’s a gorgeous young man. He’d just been a name to me before.
I loved the montage of the early Beatles history leading up to 1969 as well.
Paul seemed manic at times to me. Hypomanic, maybe.
“Paul seemed manic at times to me.”
Wasn’t Paul doing a lot of coke in 68 and 69?
Yes, he was wired and working nonstop. Totally manic in his long list of plans, daft or otherwise, for the Beatles. He also threw his legendary tidiness out the window. Linda was shocked when she first arrived at his house and saw dirty dishes piled up in the sink and nothing but a carton of sour milk in the fridge. I wonder if this, along with John’s heroin addiction, will be in the 18 hour director’s cut that Jackson says he hopes to release one day.
I wonder if he will wait till Yoko passes. I’d be first in line for that. I’d love to see it.
I think Paul had stopped the coke by 69. He says he stopped(I mean honestly I’m pretty sure he and Linda both did some in the 70s when “everyone” was doing it but it seemed very sort of recreational) in 1968. He said he didn’t like the crash, where you’d get overwhelmed melancholy when it wore off and he didn’t like how it numbed the back of throat, reminded him of going to the dentist. So he figured why am I paying to feel like crap? And stopped.
As for the state of his housekeeping I’m pretty sure that was because he was depressed. When someone who was normally neat suddenly seems to stop taking care of things, while it certainly isn’t always a sign of it, it definitely can be. And we know he did start going through periods of depression. He says his mother came to him in that dream that he wrote Let It Be about when he was depressed at the time, and Let it Be first appeared in 1968 at the White Album sessions.
However it is important to remember that I think Paul was always tending to be figitty and moving.
I haven’t watched it yet, but here’s a review from the Washington Post.
From the article, Peter Jackson:
“The Beatles were icons, these four mythic guys,” Jackson said. “Their music still makes me smile and still means the same to me as it always had. But after making this film, they’ve come down off the pedestal and are no longer these mythic figures to me. They’ve become these four human beings now.”
Love it so much so far. Among so many other things, it made me think about the dynamic with George. As Michael G said, I think (and I’m paraphrasing), we kind of see their story through our own lens. I was reminded that George was only 13 when he joined them, and Paul was 15 and John 16. That’s a big difference at that age. So he kind of got stuck in the baby-brother role. (I have 2 older sisters.)
I’ve never seen “Let It Be” but I’ve read other people’s tales of it. Maybe if you combine the two films, you get the whole story.
Paul and George were only NINE months apart in age. Ever year between February 25th and June 17th, they were the same age. 🙂 John was almost 18 months older than Paul and 27 months older than George. Paul and George were quite a bit closer in age than Paul and John were.
Whups, my bad. Thanks for clarifying!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this documentary, and the ways it confirms things that we’ve heard before, while also offering new information that may help us to revise our thinking. There’s lots of both. (I’ve just finished the first two installments.) There’s a moment in the first episode, where George is trying to sync up with Paul, and he gets rudely blown off. I can see why he was fed up. We’ve all heard the story of George abruptly quitting, but it was amazing to actually see it (and it’s a shame they stopped filming then). The Beatles treat Dick James with contempt. Then there’s that unguarded conversation between John and Paul (they didn’t know they were being recorded by a hidden microphone). Both of them acknowledge, kindly, that they’d been taking George for granted, and that they’d become reticent to express their creative opinions with one another. It seems like the move to 3 Savile Row did wonders for them. Another thing that surprised me is Yoko – she’s basically mute during the first 5 hours. She just sits there next to John, knitting or reading. No one seems to mind her presence.
I had big hopes for this documentary — I wanted it to be magical — and at moments, it truly is. I love seeing the Beatles shyly expressing affection, enjoying each other’s company, and playing with such warmth and chemistry. Ringo, it seems, can hear just a few notes of an incipient song and then start drumming perfectly. The first bits of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Get Back” gave me chills. I think the film dragged a bit in middle of the second episode. Beatles obsessives will love all of it but I suspect the film could have been better if it were a bit shorter.
The other thing I keep thinking is that I wish I could go back in time and wring their necks. “Be nicer to George! Don’t take that call from Allen Klein! Maybe seriously consider letting Billy Preston in the band. Don’t fret so much about the venue, any place will do. Just get out and jam! And Yoko, stop sitting on Paul’s amp.” I can’t help but think if the Beatles had gotten through this rough patch, and shown a bit more flexibility, they could have stayed together for a lot longer. They sure didn’t stop because they weren’t good anymore.
Anyhow — these are my hastily composed first thoughts. I’ve appreciated this blog for a long time — thanks for keeping it going.
OK, watched Part 2 today.
Wow, that scene where they discussed India was fascinating. So tense… a lot unspoken. It was like Paul was trying to bring John out of his shell, even mentioning Cyn’s name twice. Anyone else notice the (very quick) mimed blowjob? Interesting that John said, “I don’t have any regrets.”
The music was really coming together, and Paul doing “Her Majesty” in falsetto was a nice surprise!
Yes, I see what Peter Jackson meant about them being four human beings now. That’s true, although Ringo has gone UP in my estimation. He’s so zen!
I saw the clip. I thought it was me who had a dirty mind. Agree about Ringo. Can’t wait to watch this next weekend. They look like they’re having so much fun.
You should enjoy the end, Michelle. It’s great. I love the on-the-street interviews of Londoners watching the show.
I’ve decided I’m not going to watch another Paul is The Beatles production. One question, though. Do they show them recording Brian Wilson’s favorite Beatles song, the one John pulled out of his bony ass, Across the Universe?
Reply button not working: @Gabriella said: “Anyone else notice the (very quick) mimed blowjob?”
Now that I’m through Part 2 and saw the whole India clip, it occurred to me that Paul does the same thing at the end of the ‘My Love’ video. Or am I imagining things?
Great documentary so far! Kind of addicting even as it drags in parts. Didn’t know there were so many Lennon/McCartney songs that never saw the light of day (I never heard these titles before), or Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr songs besides ‘Flying’ off of Magical Mystery Tour!
I’m not sure whether the Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr were actual songs or Jackson just credit jam sessions to the whole group. Cause there was also some where Billy Prestons name was mentioned.
Also I loved the montage of John and Paul singing their pre Beatle teenage songs and the fact that they could remember the words after nearly 10 years. I do think they made the right call though in going with One after 909.
I think you’re absolutely right, LeighAnn. The “Freak Out” was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Ono. If it were more than just an impromptu jam session, we certainly would have heard about that one. Preston is a treasure. And I think a side project with John, Paul Linda and Yoko would have been cool.
I thought it was so interesting seeing songs named that weren’t really songs. I imagined Ringo and Paul having to go through and choose what to name random jam sessions and thinking about how that must have gone kinda made me giggle
I’ve started watching the documentary again and am through Part 1 so far. During the Yoko/John/Paul/Ringo jam, I didn’t see the title “Freak Out” (Lennon/McCartney/Ono/Starkey?) on the screen this time. I rewound and it wasn’t there. Did I imagine it being there (as with all the other titles that came on the screen), or was it removed from the film. Strange…
Anway, this documentary demands repeat viewings. There were some things I missed the first time. And for some reason I laughed louder and more often. These guys and their entourage were hilarious. Sometimes the whole stream-of-consciousness format and this famous little band being filmed in a huge warehouse was absurdly funny to me on second viewing.
Fully agree. I started a second viewing yesterday and details are emerging which somehow I had missed.
Indeed, there was a glaring absence as you noted. One suspects a request was made to Mr Jackson directly soon after Disney released the full length documentary. The director’s cut shown at our London premiere must have left this interesting, although relatively minor, scene out.
Enjoy part 2-3.
Hmmm I’m almost positive that the jam was credited. If I had to guess which one of “Lennon/McCartney/Ono/Starkey” objected I think I know which one Id pick lol. Have you watched the second part again Michelle? Because I definitely remember that the jam with Yoko Paul and John was credited.
LeighAnn, is there another one in Part 2? I must have forgotten and will keep an eye out for it. The jam was in the end credits if Part 1 (though without the title “Freak Out”) but I thought I saw it on the screen as they were playing it, title and credit, the first time I watched.
Yeah there’s one at Apple where John gets all excited afterwards when George arrives and tells him he missed out. I’m thought it was super sweet because I interpreted it as John being excited by the fact that Paul and Yoko- his two partners- were bonding and creating with him together.
Just wathed Part 2 and you’re right LeighAnn, the Freak Out jam is in that part and is credited. The first jam they did with Yoko was untitled.
I agree 100% about the mimed blowjob when discussing India. I noticed that when John sang the song Road to Marrakesh, the next day Paul talked about India. Maybe just edited that way. I also noticed when John and Yoko danced or got close, Paul looked sad and then the next day brought in Linda.
Not sure what is happening there. I have always thought John needed Paul. But maybe Paul needed John also, watching someone you love drift out of your life and knowing you can’t do what it would take to reign that person back in. Yoko became John’s shield. Seems that he felt he needed her after India. Klein was a big reason for the break, but I will believe India was the main reason for the break. I wanted to scream, “you all could do side projects, but come back to the mother ship The Beatles”. I loved the music, but I hope I am not manipulated because of the editing.
Ever since I became a Beatles fan years ago, when the Compleat Beatles was the only official documentary on the band, I always had the impression that Paul needed John more than vice versa. Not musically, necessarily (although John seemed to be an inspiration to him and still acted as editor) but psychologically. Like he drew strength from John. I remember something John said about how each individual Beatle would not have made it if they had started on their own, the reason given for Paul was that he wasn’t strong enough. That obviously changed after the phenomenal success of the Beatles, but he pretty much admitted he was at a loss when the Beatles broke up, as if he wouldn’t survive (it seems ridiculous to us now).
“I had an appreciation how utterly painful this must have been for Paul. Because he’s watching his closest creative collaborator — someone he’s known since he was fifteen or sixteen years old — start to drift and go towards Yoko. John’s not pushing Paul away, but Paul’s watching Yoko now become the creative collaborator John’s excited about. And can you imagine how painful that must be for Paul? How utterly, utterly painful.” — Peter Jackson
“They needed each other like mad.”
George knew, and I tend to agree.
Thank you for bringing up this mic moment! It’s been running around in my head for weeks now.
I would love to see the original footage and figure out how much editing Jackson did to this particular scene.
John: who was writing all them songs *in your room*
Paul: (knowing nod) I remember, yeah
George: do you regret going?
John: (staring at Paul, going down on mic) I don’t regret anything, ever
What I wouldn’t give to see Paul’s face when John is doing that! I’m so glad I’m not *completely* imagining it, even if I have let my imagination run a bit wild 🙂
I’ve recently read comments by Kevin Harrington, perhaps more commonly known as “the red haired guy holding up the lyrics for John” during the rooftop concert. Kevin was appointed right-hand man to Mal Evans and eventually took over many of Mal’s duties. Kevin worked on the last three Beatle albums. He thought the Beatles were a good band to work for, all of them polite and welcoming to him. He was careful to stress his opinions as his own, but thought during this time there were too many people surrounding them, which made them tense. I wonder if the seeds were sown during the White Album sessions when all manner of people made themselves at home in the studio. Yoko Ono, Francie Schwartz, Linda Eastman, Pattie and Maureen sometimes dropping in, Apple scruffs, fellow rock stars, celebrities, you name them. By Get Back, add to the list, camera crew, directors and set assistants. Were the boys trying too hard to impress? They’d lost it as a disciplined working band. No wonder George Martin got fed up with them.
Main first impression from watching Ep 1: John Lennon – the great John Lennon! – is so out of it and absent. I found it very sad to see. Also very sad that the others don’t even discuss it. It’s a huge elephant in the room. There’s that moment when John half-apologises for wearing the same clothes as the day(s) before, joking that he’s keeping continuity for the filming, and the others join in the joke. A very telling and sad moment. As a man from the north of England, this strikes me as a very masculine and Northern way of handling difficult matters: relying on humour to deal with awkward moments, rather than discussing things head-on.
Lennon’s ‘absence’ changes the whole band dynamic. It feels like Paul and the others are at points waiting for someone to take the lead and make the difficult decision, but it never happens. Would be fascinating if we could watch similar in-studio footage from, say, 1965 when John was at his pre-heavy drugs peak. I suspect we’d see John driving the band through the difficult sticking points, and the rest of the band would be comfortable in their respective roles in the band’s hierarchy. Here, in 1969, that balance and hierarchy has been broken. From all this it is clear to me that Lennon’s heroin use was a big factor in the break-up. Left me with a very sad feeling after Ep1.
So did this change or confirm your perception? When you say that John was so out of it, what do you mean? That he was uncommunicative, incoherent, unresponsive? He looks like a typical musician working on his music in the clips I’ve seen. Paul seems to do most of the talking, which to me is not new.
Yeah, I had much the same feeling of Lennon being a black hole, a vacuum of energy. It IS sad to see. But I think that his humor is what used to make the band work. George Martin made the big decisions and Paul seems to have made most of the creative decisions. Now GM was gone. But what’s interesting to me is that Lennon still tries, at points. He’s not all there. But he’s not completely zoned out either. He does seem to still get some pleasure in the music.
Once Paul defied him about Allen Klein, I don’t think he cared anymore. So these really were the last poignant moments of the four of them being Beatles. Much as I love Abbey Road, he barely participated.
It’s a painful period. About to get more painful.
He stayed in the studio all night laying the guitar parts down for “I Want You”, worked endlessly with Paul and George on the “Because” harmonies until they got it just right and added his parts to the medley. Barely participated? I don’t believe that Paul made most of the creative decisions. He was big on arrangements. John had his own ideas on what to do with his songs, creatively.
I wrote the above comment only having seen part 1. Part 2 showed Lennon in completely different form: energetic, funny and fully involved in the music. Great to see him in this form! So his being zoned-out at Twickenham is largely just the heroin, I guess. But it must still have taken a big toll on the group – I mean, imagine: the others not knowing each day whether they would get funny, engaged John or zoned-out, junkie John. A telling moment in Pt 2 is when John alludes to his drug taking in a jokey way – Paul looks very, very sad about it
Or maybe it was largely Twickenham itself. John and George, at least, hated the place. It was reportedly a dismal studio and the acoustics were bad. Why do you think they moved their sessions to the Apple headquarters? And the whole band, not just John, were instantly in better spirits from that point on.
@Ben – I don’t really see that, and I’m surprised by it. I thought John would be disengaged and zonked out for much of the time, and he’s really not. Of course, we have the footage of the Canadian TV interview to prove that he was zonked out at least some of the time, so it’s obviously an editorial choice to present him as happy and functional, but even so.
On the other hand, Paul is a complete mess. No wonder George couldn’t work with him – they are total opposites. Where George is still and self-possessed, Paul is all over the place. He’s like a kid with ADHD – he never stops fidgeting. And where George dithers when he has to make a musical decision, Paul works quickly by powering through.
I feel sorry for Paul in this – much more so than John because he’s visibly falling apart, and John isn’t (even though that’s likely more to do with editorial choice than truth). But I’m not surprised he got on people’s nerves!
I hear that during one scene, John pretty much has to talk Paul off the ledge.
I think Paul was just like that, I seem to recall a comment from I think but don’t hold me to it, Ringo once, and I believe it was from while the band was still active, possibly even mid 60’s, about how Paul never stopped moving. So while the work styles being odds is true and big part of their issue, this wasn’t something new. I mean it isn’t a sign he’s falling apart in and of itself. He was always one of those ridiculously energetic people. Still kind of is. I mean he’s 78 years old and while he’s slowed down, he still seems to put a lot of younger people(you know some of us lazy 50 year olds LOL) to shame with his energy. Not long before Covid he was still playing 3 hour shows.
Also John was addicted to heroin during this. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. Even John and Yoko talked about their heroin addiction during this time. John might not be “visibly falling apart” possibly because much of the time he’s too numb, or whatever heroin does to you, to do so. The very fact that he’s addicted to heroin is really kind of sign he has already fallen apart You generally don’t get addicted to heroin because you are in a good place in the first place, esp not when like with John it comes after years of constantly doing pot and massive amounts of LSD showing he was already trying to use drugs to escape or as a coping mechanism. I mean they all did drugs but heroin is really kind of another level and he was addicted to it. He didn’t just stop being addicted because suddenly they aren’t showing him zonked out like he was most of the first episode
@MG it’s more likely that John started adding more coke or uppers to his daily drug intake in order to be more functional for the cameras and sessions. He was addicted throughout ‘69 and on and off for much of the Seventies.
@Michael Bleicher Thanks I wasn’t sure if he had just cut back to taking just enough to be functional but not go into withdrawal but that makes sense taking another drug to balance out the obvious affects of the heroin.
Hey, I think it’s possible that Beatles’ drug activity is overstated. First, people may exaggerate. Lennon told someone he thinks he took 1000 LSD trips. That strains credulity. (He would have to be doing acid roughly every other day from 1965-1970). And people have different experiences with heroin addiction. Some people succumb to the addiction completely, to the point that their every waking moment is consumed with getting high and figuring out how they’re going to stay high enough to ward off withdrawal. Obviously Lennon did finally suffer agonizing withdrawals but he was still functional the whole time he was using. (Also, he was snorting the drug, not injecting it. (If you’re gonna do H — which you should not! — at least don’t put in your veins.)
“(He would have to be doing acid roughly every other day from 1965-1970)”
That seems to be more or less what he did, at least from 1965-68.
“Obviously Lennon did finally suffer agonizing withdrawals but he was still functional the whole time he was using. (Also, he was snorting the drug, not injecting it. (If you’re gonna do H — which you should not! — at least don’t put in your veins.)”
He was functional — and as I’ve stated, if you’re rich enough to maintain a steady supply without any variance in strength, it is possible to live a long, productive life as a gentleman junkie. But I just don’t believe a guy who, when he drank he drank to excess; when he used uppers, used them to excess; when he used pot, used it to excess; and when he used LSD, used it to excess, suddenly showed restraint when it came to heroin. I WANT to think he did, and WANT to believe his story of kicking…but it doesn’t mesh with the way he did everything else in his life, from being in a rock band to his love affairs to, yes, his drug use.
But shit, who knows? I think why I come down on the side I do is the countercultural myth that “some people can handle their drugs,” which has led many a person into an addiction.
“Also, he was snorting the drug, not injecting it.”
I’m not sure how true that is. Magic Alex said he saw syringes at Tittenhurst. And one of the Krishna devotees staying there in ’69 stumbled on some syringes that had been pushed behind a file cabinet.
Then you have the “shooting is exercise” comment during the Get Back sessions; the triple shooting entendre in ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun;’ and “shoot me, shoot me” in ‘Come Together,” all of which suggest more than snorting.
Well, he couldn’t have been a frequent user then. He didn’t have scars on his forearms or anything. Maybe I’m naive and have seen too many drug movies.
Ben that’s true but part one covers only a few days. Watch the whole thing and you seen John having an uproarious good time (and people responding to his good cheer). I don’t see any good evidence — contrary to what’s been written here — that anyone in the movie is on drugs at all. (It’s possible they were. But I’ve been around a lot of drugs and I just don’t see clear evidence. )
That’s what it looks like to me. John involved with the others, totally into it, and having a good time – most of the time. Let’s be honest, the project was probably a drag at other times. The heroin thing… I sense some confirmation bias if that’s the takeaway that someone gets from this.
You’re right – the later parts of Get Back show John in great form. But at points in Part 1 he seems very, very out-of-it. As in barely aware of what is going on around him. For me it’s clear he’s high on something very heavy. I don’t think it’s confirmation bias to see this. Believe me, I don’t want to see it: it makes me sad. And I was shocked to see this when I saw Part 1. Also, it’s not like this is a contentious point of history: various accounts have John doing heroin during this period.
This documentary — and especially the second half of part three — is by a wide margin the greatest Beatles thing of the past fifty years. I went into this skeptical about how the film was being marketed. (The gist was that this movie will cause us to think differently about their breakup.) But it really does accomplish that! It’s apparently a balanced portrayal that adds new wrinkles to what we thought we knew. (I’m a professional historian so this is the aspect that most fascinates.) The rooftop show, rendered here, is fantastic beyond belief, and the last minutes of the film put a lump in my throat. This film shows them harmonious and cool at the end of the “Get Back” sessions, but later Allen Klein got involved. He should be scorned as the biggest villain of all — more than drugs, or Yoko, or George’s brewing dissatisfaction.
Yes, the rooftop show was fantastic.
Allen Klein was already involved! That’s the tragedy. They had had their first meeting already (well, John and Yoko had anyway). I’m so grateful to this doc for clarifying the timeline.
While I certainly really enjoyed a lot of “Get Back” – especially part three – I think there have been a number of projects that equal (and surpass, IMO) the film: the work of Mark Lewisohn in general, but “Tune In” and the recording sessions book in particular; the Anthology series, which I still go back to from time to time; and the remarkable “Recording the Beatles” book all spring to mind. Of work that approaches Get Back – even if it doesn’t equal it – I’d cite the BBC recordings, the White Album and Abbey Road box sets, as well as any number of the second wave (1975-1980 or so) of biographies.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed “Get Back” but, having heard the Nagra tapes, there’s a bit too much of a shift in narrative due to Jackson’s choices to put this onto the highest level for me.
I haven’t watched yet, but it’s quite interesting that the comments here are differing in what was seen.
Some folks see John as despondent and out of it, and others don’t. Our personal beliefs obviously color our perception.
Also, @Mick, it’s well documented that Lennon was using heroin at this point. Michael Lindsey-Hogg confirmed that in an interview recently.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been around anyone on heroin – other drugs, definitely, and alcohol, but I wasn’t expecting John to be anywhere as alert and “there” as he is from all the talk of it. Not saying he didn’t do it, but I don’t feel like his energy level during this particular footage (again, I’m naive about heroin energy) is that of someone on H.
A few things about George. Some observers have seen him as the problem not the solution by 1968/69. Interestingly, I found a facsimile of a newspaper clipping from an interview with the Beatles in early 1965 by a reporter from CBS that I’m pretty sure I read on a Tumblr blog. Sorry, I can’t provide a link (I find they don’t work here anyway for some reason unless it’s my device). The reporter was honest for the time in not being taken in by the image of four moptop boys, lads, but of four adult men in their twenties smoking, drinking and swearing. His observations of John, Paul and Ringo were fairly usual, but his observation of George was surprising, perceiving him to be the most egotistical of the four, the least unsettled by the experience they were undergoing, and constantly flicking his hair (and people accuse Paul of being the feminine one), and pausing briefly before the mirror before moving on. Yet it was not that surprising to me, because as a kid at the time, it was also how I perceived George and difficult to put my finger on exactly. More interesting still, it was then, from early 1965, that John and Paul surged ahead with their songwriting to such a point that their egos supplanted George’s and where George found it increasingly difficult to keep up. It made sense to me later that it was in late1965/1966 that George discovered eastern religion after his acid experiences, took up the sitar, went to India, became adamant about not touring, and by 1967 had effectively disassociated himself from the band in being largely absent during the Pepper sessions.
I’m uncomfortable about constant criticisms of John and Paul’s treatment of George. I don’t think they deliberately set out to hurt him. Their musical collaboration by then had stretched over several years. It must have been second nature to them in approaching each other so easily that the others may have felt left out. I understand that. Not that there weren’t issues there as well, but I sense John and Paul themselves may also have had undercurrents of resentment towards George. That they then reached an awareness of it, and that the ‘festering wound’ would need to be bandaged. But what is it that people want from John and Paul? That they should have sacrificed their genius to help George? In the Sulphy tapes where John says that in effect he and Paul were the backbone of the band, the ‘twosome’ of it, I can’t help but feel that he was right, despite how unpopular or even offensive that view may be today. It’s easy to look back with 21st century hindsight, but the record-buying public was a lot different then. George may have wanted the Beatles to treat him how Dylan or Clapton did, or for the band to be like Led Zeppelin or Cream. But they weren’t. They were the Beatles. Their idiosyncratic sound and their genre bending tendencies could never make them into a virtuoso rock and blues band of the sort George maybe wanted. So by the time the Get Back sessions began, George was a simmering cauldron of resentment and disillusionment. For me, neither the original Let it Be film or the current Get Back footage will ever be in context of the Beatles musical and personal development. There is no fly on the wall footage of their recording sessions from the beginning through to Sgt Pepper. Instead we are left with four stereotypes that have been discussed for 50 years and probably for another fifty years. Zoned out John, bossy Paul, poor George, and patience of a saint Ringo, none of which point to much understanding of how they got there.
I think it’s interesting that they agreed to go to India, no? That shows George did have some power in the band.
George gets a lot of guff on here too. The guy was brilliant and one of a kind. Also, @ Lara: vanity = femininity?
Mannerisms not mirrors.
I remember George Martin speaking of George leading the rest towards India; George Martin said George had something more than power, he had influence.
I agree with this whole comment. I think George had a passive aggressive personality, in some respects(I also think he had some really great traits too) and I actually think he made some of their issues worse because IMO he still retained some of his John hero worship from being a teenager in that he wanted John to like him best. IMO he tended to use little cracks to try and insinuate himself into Paul’s place. He did it in Hamburg, where he seemed gleeful about Paul’s issues with the “Exis”, he did it when he and John took LSD and they made a little “clique” against Paul, and IMO he did during this era too. And John realized this and so in turn he’d use George when he wanted to “get at” Paul or needed numbers on his side(see Klein) But he never actually viewed George as his partner, as his equal, the way he did Paul.
I mean John and Paul were the backbone of the band, they were Lennon/McCartney, it was Lennon/McCartney songs which got them their first big hits and did so for years and drove the engine. In the Anthology George says even in like 1966 he didn’t have very many songs he’d written and that’s 3 years into them being massive international megastars. It was John and Paul who had the stress and pressure on them to keep producing hits and keep the ball rolling and they did so magnificently. Honestly why SHOULD they be expected to give George an equal number of songs just because he finally was able to write good songs and in quantity? That’s really not how it works. If George wants to release songs, make a solo album, literally NOTHING was stopping him from releasing a solo album.
I mean he got great experience having a front seat to watching John and Paul learn and watching them write an almost unprecedented streak of hits, while he had none of the pressure of actually producing hits but if his song did get on the album, he’s actually benefitting from John and Paul’s success in terms of the audience his own songs are getting.
Yes, Jackson was careful not to apportion blame, and that was obviously an editorial choice necessitated by the involvement of Paul and Ringo and the estates of John and Paul. He chose to turn George into a victim, whereas he could just as easily have framed it so it was clear that the reason they ended up with seven songs instead of fourteen was George’s behaviour.
I get that George felt slighted and sidelined and that his resentment had been building up for years. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it was extremely unprofessional of him to flounce off like a spoilt kid and have to be coaxed back, costing everyone – the group, the production company, the record label – valuable time and making them miss their deadline. You can’t act like that at work, but it was really obvious that only Paul and Ringo had the maturity to recognise that.
Not that it comes across like that on screen, but I’m sure Jackson’s hands were tied – much like he was obviously instructed to leave the bits that showed John zonked out on the cutting room floor.
It must have been very hard to deal with George, especially for Paul, who obviously cared more than John about what people thought of him. You could tell that George was on a different wavelength to John and Paul when it came to songwriting. His way of working was slow and methodical; he could only do one thing at a time and had to get that right before moving onto the next thing. Conversely, their way of working was to power through and not worry about the finer detail of things. It must have been very frustrating for them to have to adjust their way of working to accommodate George, especially as they were on a very tight deadline. And with John not pulling his weight, all the responsibility was shoved onto Paul. But in all the focus on making sure that no one was blamed, that didn’t really come across.
Regarding your first paragraph; Tony Bramwell also elaborated on this. He said how everyone was so shocked when Brian took John to Spain, but that no one would have been surprised had it been George who was invited. He implied that George could often be very “camp”.
I haven’t had a chance to watch yet on the account of Peter Jackson deciding to release this at the start of my work week 🙁
But I appreciate the fact that a lot of the reactions I have seen both online and in reviews have been along the lines of “huh, Yoko really just sat there quietly minding her own business”- that she was there because John needed and wanted her there.
I’m so excited to watch! And I’m loving all the reactions in this thread so far.
Well, arguably, guys in their 20s – not taking into account individual traits and quirks – are still young guys (same for gals). George was only 26 – and we know now our brains don’t even fully develop until late 20s. While they can be called “adult men” on the one hand, they’re still very different than who they were/would have been (in John’s case) later. They weren’t “the lads” anymore, but they also weren’t the men they’d become yet. A liminal state, I believe it’s called.
I think there’s a lot of truth to this, and I think you see it most clearly in George.
“Get Back” is really putting things in perspective to me, not in a sense that it showed new parts of the story or that it has groundbreaking new information, but it’s in the details, it’s in observing how their body language was and what faces they made and how they behaved around each other. It’s in observing Paul on the verge of tears, and saying vulnerably “I’m scared to be the boss”, it’s in the way George looked at them while playing “Two of Us” (which we find out was a Quarryman original and not about Linda), the way Ringo is sitting there with his big eyes trying to clutch onto everything, and so many more little lost moments like that. It’s in the fact that we can see them existing as humans, talking to each other, making conversation, smiling and sometimes not smiling and just- being people. those small details that don’t change the story in a groundbreaking way, but shows us that they were not these mystical, larger-than-life figures, but oh so desperately human. It shows us that they were multifaceted and full of dimensions and that things are not as simple as “Paul was an asshole” or “John didn’t care”, or “George resented Paul and John” – not in so much as proving those things are wrong, but showing that they are only part of the truth, because they were real people and there was more to it. We all know that, in some level, even before “Get Back”, but seeing it makes it so much more concrete.
John loved Paul and The Beatles so much he showed up even through he was in the throes of his addiction. Some days he was more engaged than others (the group hug at the end of part one got me). He talked Paul down when Paul was spinning in anxiety. Gently and with eye contact.
If there was major editing it was the softening of Yoko. The lunchroom tapes were seriously edited as was her “singing” JOHN (although a funny moment is when she’s back at the mic and the camera goes to little Heather who make a scrunched up nose face).
There were so many details and smiles and sadness and anger that are so human and that we never had a chance to so much as glance at before like this, and now with Get Back we get to witness it more fully. To me, that’s where it gets wonderful and transforming and just magical: because it allows us to look at them and go, wow, they truly were human beings. they lived breathed smiled laughed cried and existed in this world, once upon a time. They were here. They felt everything you can feel, the good the bad and the ugly. and in the end, that just – and I didn’t even know this was possible – makes me love the four of them even more than i did before.
Really love your comment. Well said.
“The lunchroom tapes were seriously edited as was her “singing” JOHN”
Easily the most annoying moment in the documentary for me was when John, George Martin and Lindsay-Hogg are discussing what to do next, and she’s screaming for his attention. Though there was a great cutaway, perfectly placed by Jackson, of Maureen, no doubt thinking what we were all thinking.
I think my favourite line from a review I have read yet is in Variety- “Get Back isn’t a breakup movie — it’s a miniseries filled with great musical makeup sex”.
I’ve only watched part of Part 1; here are a couple of observations so far. [This isn’t so much a reply to Leigh Ann as it is a response to the general thread.]
Michael Lindsay-Hogg looks like he’s about 20 years old! And yeah, he absolutely cannot read a room.
I also concur with Michael G that “there are times watching Get Back when I get so bored I can’t even.” This doc makes me so aware of how much editing and shaping goes into the kind of “reality television” we’ve grown accustomed to. I bet if this were being filmed today there’d be people finding a narrative arc and coaching everyone around it.
Yoko so far comes off as a silent cypher. My husband (who likes but doesn’t love the Beatles, and has no particular take on Yoko) asked “Is Yoko just going to sit there the whole time?” As someone who’s worked collaboratively on writing, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone in the room who is not contributing, and not seemingly engaged, but constantly watching. That would inevitably shift the dynamic. I want to make it clear that I’m not blaming Yoko, just noting that her presence could not be neutral.
Finally, it’s amazing how many takes on this doc are already circulating. Paul is a stone cold genius, or he’s a megalomaniac who broke up the band. George is the unsung hero or unduly petulant. Etc. etc. It’s reminding me of the Le Tigre song “What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes?” “Misogynist!” — “GENIUS!” — “GENIUS!” — “Al – co – ho -lic!”
I don’t know whether that’s a reflection on the documentary or everyone’s own confirmation bias. I think for people passionate and invested in the Beatles I don’t think this documentary was going to change opinions too much but flesh out of make things more well rounded. I’d be curious to know what newer viewers to the Beatles who don’t have that level of investment what impression they walked away with.
I think the huge number of polarized takes is a reflection of fan culture more generally.
yes yes this always this
It reminds me of politics. (Sigh)
I like coming here to get away from politics, but it seems like it’s Team John or Team Paul and no one’s minds will be changed.
It’s helped me to think about connecting with others based on how we best “get” life rather than on being “right” or “wrong” about a particular artist. I resonate most with McCartney while also seeing that he can be a jerk, because I’m someone who apprehends the human condition primarily through narrative. His story and character songs connect powerfully with me. And I absolutely respect that many other people connect most powerfully with Lennon or Harrison (I think everyone loves Ringo).
One of my closest friends is a major Lennon fan, and I’ve learned so much from her. It doesn’t have to be “vs.” We can chose to replace that with a “&.”
My expectations of the doc were high but were exceeded. I will be rewatching it and studying for some time but it’s fascinating to see the four interact and the most impressive thing is the palpable energy and emotion that is channelled and observable. Some thoughts:
1) You can can almost hear George’s patience snap when Paul tells him to stop ‘vamping’ on the his guitar because it distracted/competed with John’s. Clearly, Paul’s (and John’s) dismissiveness of George’s work was an ongoing issue but I think the reason it really comes to a head here is because George’s attempts to assert himself on the songs/process through his guitar is changing the dynamic of The Beatles. George comments earlier about how he feels more able to play throughout songs and weave his lines all the way through a la Clapton, or at least that’s what he aspires to do. It’s not surprising he wants to do this as lead guitarist because at that time Clapton, Hendrix and Townshend were doing this to high acclaim (albeit in different ways/styles). But the crucial difference is that those three were the sole guitarists respectively in Cream, the JH Experience and The Who. Having played in bands with two guitarists, a surefire way to improve the sound immediately is to tell one of them to stop playing! Not so The Beatles, of course, but the sound worked most successfully when John and George’s parts were blended in a structured way, which usually meant George playing lead in a more traditional ‘riffing’ sense or the more predictable rhythmic rock n roll/rockabilly-influence style. The thing is, they end up getting it just right and one of the joys of listening to the rooftop concert is the way John’s darker Epiphone Casino chugs and chops in the left channel while George’s (beautiful) rosewood Telecaster sparkles in the right.
2) On the subject of the rooftop, it was incredible to watch the energy just explode up there. I got the sense The Beatles were even taken aback by it at first. It’s like the rehearsing had just built and built and then Bang! There’s even a specific moment where it looks like it’s been unleashed. It’s like they suddenly remember their power.
3) You could search the annals for a very, very long time and not find any film footage that represents and typifies England as well as the rooftop footage once the police become involved.
4) The documentary really brought home to me that Let it Be minus the filler, Abbey Road with the (albeit glorious) medley replaced by finished and the sprinkling of those early solo songs is the follow-up double (or triple?) album to the White Album that The Beatles couldn’t be bothered to make.
5) The creativity for the band during this period flowed through Paul but once in Savile Row, the energy flows through John. It’s like the load is shared in this way and that makes the difference from Twickenham when John was absent or largely zoned out. It’s like it’s John’s job to keep spirits up. He’s plugged in and crackling.
6) The conversation about India did as much to show the growing chasm between Paul and George as the notorious argument in Twickenham. George is flat-out offended by Paul’s interpretation of the trip and exasperated by what he sees as Paul’s lack of understanding of the purpose. Paul in turn looks despondent and almost lost at the end of the encounter in a kind ‘I can’t say anything without upsetting you’ kind of way, aware that their relationship is breaking down.
7) Didn’t expect the chemistry between John and Paul to be so strong and evident at this stage but there it is.
8) Certain moments speak to the wider dynamic of the band. When George tells John of his solo album ambition, it’s both a deliberate signalling/protest of his frustration but he’s also kind of squaring it with John and asking for tacit permission. He almost seems nervous about and there’s a father-son, teacher-pupil vibe to the encounter.
9) Glyn Johns and George Martin are such cool dudes in very different ways.
10) Billy Preston is a sparkling jewel, both as a character and a musician.
“3) You could search the annals for a very, very long time and not find any film footage that represents and typifies England as well as the rooftop footage once the police become involved.”
Can you say more?
I mean, to start with, those policemen. It’s hilarious. They’re baffled by the whole situation. They can’t imagine how this could happen. The cultural value or significance – or even the sheer novelty – of the event is lost on them. They just perfectly represent this kind of Daily Mail philistine streak that runs through the centre of British society, especially the closer you get to authority. But, you know, they’ve had 30 complaints. 30!
Then there’s the reaction of the Apple staff. I like Jimmy the doorman – he’s being polite and retaining his cheeky smile but sensibly keeping his distance from events while the receptionists do likewise. No one really knows what’s going on or why, the knowledge and decisions are all somewhere upstairs.
The police bumble on with a mixture of incompetence and incredulity. No one knows what do to or how to resolve this and it just gets more and more awkward until Mal tries to break the stalemate by turning the amps off. Even John doesn’t quite know how to react and it seems like high act of rebellion when George turns his back on again.
As much as Paul relishes the sight of the police when they first turn up, knowing it’s a win-win for The Beatles in the unlikely event of the police getting heavier, you also sense there’s a bit of relief when they finish the song and they can wrap it up without further awkwardness; they’ve exhibited a reasonable amount of rebelliousness in public without the need for the crossing of any further lines of politeness – that bass comes off very quickly.
Even after all that George suggests exaggerating the role of the police to explain the supplementary studio footage in the manner of someone coming up with an excuse for being late for a doctor’s appointment.
I just found it all very amusing and very British.
I read an interview in Rolling Stone with Tom Petty (great friend of George) after George passed.
Petty says George was indeed a curmudgeon (ha!), but very funny. He said George almost idolized John, and looked up to him. Right there is probably why he sided with John on the Klein issue.
He said George loved Paul too, but obviously not in the same way.
I think Paul and George just grew into totally different people, and didn’t see things the same way. If you look at their lives after Beatles, George was a hermit, didn’t want to tour, even with the Wilburys. Petty says he begged him, but George wouldn’t budge.
Paul LIVES to perform, and he’s fantastic at it. (I’ve seen him 3 times and he’s unbelievable)
I think if John had lived, Paul and he would have made up. George and Paul would have been stickier.
I’m glad however, that before George died, he and Paul were able to make peace with each other. Both of them have referred to one another as brothers.
Indeed, they were all brothers.
If it had been anyone but the Beatles, it would have been too slow and minutiae-filled to watch, but the thing always about the Beatles is that it was mesmerizing to watch them do ANYTHING at all (anytime at all, hee). Through the years, other groups have mistakenly thought they could do it, too – WRONG.
I was 8 years old when they debuted on Ed Sullivan and I revert to that when I see them: Oh my God, it’s THE BEATLES!!!!! I could watch them think about washing a cup.
“It doesn’t have to be “vs.” We can chose to replace that with a “&.”
Thanks Nancy. I couldn’t reply underneath your comment.
I too am more of a McCartney girl, but as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate and respect the other 3 so much more.
I also realize that the answer is John AND Paul.
As I expected, many trenchant points being raised in the posts here.
I imagine we are now in what Beatles aficionados will probably, henceforth, call the Post Jackson era as it already seems to be a milestone of sorts.
The phrase “It’s not who is right that is important but rather what is right” is something I saw hints of in the film–both being applied and also at times obliquely being ignored. I wonder how often it was a factor in their pre January 1969 sessions.
Apart from obvious muggings for the cameras, as I viewed I sensed that the four were subtley adjusting their behavior. Yes, Lindsay-Hogg let some cameras run and Jackson was able to tease out a number of the discussions among the protagonists, but still… George even mentions the Candid Camera so they were aware. The question is how much they altered their everyday behavior because of it. Sadly, we might never know.
I thought I had always been pretty good at guessing anyone’s age within two years. Normally it is really not that hard if one closely observes and thinks for a moment, but I swear George looked to be 44, Ringo over 40, Paul 38 at least, and I still can’t figure out John quite yet. Yes, a couple of shots made them look younger, but look at any average 26 year old (George’s age in this film ) or 29 year old (John/Ringo’s age) and tell me that they look anywhere near as old as these gents. Remarkable.
Jackson and others talk about how this series shows the Fab’s humanity. Well, George tripping over the mic stand was pure gold.
Last, I wonder if Jackson will tackle any other Beatles projects. Four years of this might have sated his curiosity or, conversely, merely have whet his appetite for more. Either way, I think he did us a great service. Perfect? No, but that oddly makes it better in my mind and this definitely did not seem to be fit for a casual or beginning fan. He has, however, produced a product that will be kindlingt for millions of printed and spoken words commentary and discussion. It well also spark interest in the group and its cultural, artistic, and historic contributions and effects. That’s not a bad innings at all!
Okay finally finished part 1. I’ll try my best not to cover already tread ground.
First off if there is an award category for the documentary then Peter Jackson deserves. Just on the technical ability alone to make such old and grimy footage come to life. But also the ability to find a narrative in the editing choices. Like the scenes where he intercuts the Beatles performing Rock and Roll music for screaming fans in 66 with them singing a half hearted exhausted version three years later as though they lived ten years since then and now (which they probably felt they had). I really enjoyed The Producers vibe of a movie about making a movie which eventually leads to everyone falling apart.
Which brings me to Michael Lindsay Hogg who in my mind is the Dr Evil-like villain of the film. It’s clear to me that even though he took all this footage the reason he wasn’t able to find the same movie is because he had a pretentious idea of what he wanted the film to be. Like he was directing Ben Hur and the Beatles were prima donna actors not respecting his artistic vision. What a pompous individual and frankly I thought he made some very condescending remarks and condescending opinions about the Beatles in general. I loved every time the Beatles especially Paul just took the piss out of him. Also the hero moment is Ringo sticking up for his fellow Beatles against MLH whining and when he says he’d be happy to watch an hour of Paul playing music. I felt the “Show some fucking respect Mike” vibes there.
Also the Get Back scene was soooo freaking cool. From start to finish. From the passive aggressive filled with subtext “Lennon’s late again” to watching Paul slowly bring the song to life while Ringo and George first sit their bored and tired and slowly catch on and get more excited and involved, to the poignant ending of John walking in like he clocked in late for his shift and immediately picking up his guitar and starting.
With all the talk of Paul being the boss and the one with smarts, and whether that makes him a controlling asshole or being an essential worker and saviour, in my mind it was GEORGE who was coming up with the most sensible practical and smart observations. He was the one concerned that doing only never heard before new material might be jarring for the audience and was suggesting they play some old tunes so the audience could connect to new material. When everyone else was coming up with fantastical or imaginative ideas it was him trying to bring them down to earth by reminding them of the practicalities and expense. It was George that was worrying about how hard it would be for controllers to get good sound out of their location and how hollow the location was.
I loved the little jam montages through out and pisstaking around and having a blast and it seemed like those where the moments they came alive the most when they were just four friends having a jam. But it’s also those moments where I was reminded why they needed a Brian to come in and tell them to stop pisstaking around and to focus and get to work. I think by that point George Martin had lost his power to be able to do that.
I was pleased to see just how emotionally close John and Paul seemed even while there was something heavy between them at the same time. From Paul working over time to keeping him engaged and John on mission to make Paul laugh. I had a couple of fave Paul and John moments. The first being John, exhausted, lacking energy from likely going through a depressive episode and drugs trying to give his all for Paul when singing I’ve Got a Feeling even though he just doesn’t physically have the energy.
Second fave Paul and John moment is when Michael shows a drawing of concept he’s come up for the show and Paul tells him it looks like another stage setup “Around the Beatles” and then says to show John and the first thing John says is “That’s ‘Around the Beatles’” Synchronicity.
Third fave moment is Paul and John taking the mickey out of each other with microphone over their heads and John playfully punching Paul in the shoulder.
Fave John and George moments is at one point John has spaced out and George gets all concern and gets his attention and becomes all attentive with him. Also how proud and sweet John looks while watching George play Bob Dylan cover.
Fave Paul and George moment is the two of them with Ringo giggling over a Beatles fan mag and then George telling Paul the beard suits him.
My general feelings about John from part one is not so much him being drugged out on Heroin – though I’m not disputing that isn’t a factor- but more mentally checking out. Like “is this my life” From the “nothings going to change my world- I wish it fucking would” to John bemoaning during the debates over the direction of the show that they keeping having the same discussions. One moment that really stood out for me is where during one of the endless what show are we going to do discussion loops that the camera is just close up on John’s face while he looks likes he’s inner monologuing to the lyrics “is that all there is” and then Paul brings up his name and he gets this sweet beautiful smile on his face. He doesn’t want to be a Beatle for the rest of his life but he loves Paul.
Another telling moment to me is when he gets all excited and comment that “only two more days and then another two days off” it made me go “wow he’s just like the rest of us” then a more loaded “WOW he’s just like the rest of us-counting down the days till the weekend”. He’s in a job too long and doesn’t want to be stuck in that job for the rest of his life. The sad thing is that it’s juxtaposed against an anxious Paul who desperately wants to be a Beatle for the rest of his life and wants his childhood friend and musical soulmate to be there with him.
(Also John acting like he was wearing the same outfit for continuity and not because he was going through the lows of depression and/or drugs)
Final thoughts is that are we suppose to assume that the sequence of events goes like this, Dick James comes in the morning to talk about royalties and how well the albums are selling, while Ringo commiserates with George over their “half a percent”. Then George has to sit there while Paul and John rehearse Two of Us, seeming to be in their own little bubble and connecting on their own unreachable level, after days of Paul and George rubbing each other up the wrong way and nitpicking at each other. Then they cut for lunch where isn’t this allegedly where George walks into the cafeteria to find Yoko eating his special biscuits and loses his shit, causing him and John to tussle and then he quits the band. Its like George’s own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Final thoughts, the Beatles getting all up in their feelings playing thrash metal after George leaves and then cutting to Isn’t it a pity while they all come down sad and tired and have a group hug is just the perfect ending.
Starting part 2 and Peter Sellars looking like “what the F have I gotten myself into and how do I get myself out of it” is the funniest thing lol.
@Leigh Anne, I’ve noticed two comments here (at least one from you) about Get Back revealing that “Two of Us” was a Quarrymen song. I may have missed something, but it doesn’t seem possible… Can you clarify?
About when George quit, it was hard to follow, but I listened to Peter Jackson talking about it on a podcast. It happened right before they went to lunch rather than after or during lunch, and right after George had watched John and Paul in, as you said, their little bubble. Paul and Ringo had walked off toward the cafeteria and probably didn’t hear George telling John he was leaving. I don’t know that there’s any evidence John and George argued, much less… fisticuffs! But if there’s some truth to the newspaper report, perhaps John and George argued after the cameras stopped rolling, and maybe George Martin was still there since he said they fought (do we see him there that day?). GM certainly wouldn’t have talked to the press about it, but there must have been other people around. Based on the way John and George H talk about the newspaper report at Saville Row, I think it’s unlikely any punches were thrown, but maybe a little shoving – enough for GM to say what he said? As for the infamous biscuit episode, that happened during the Abbey Road sessions.
I finished watching GB episode last night. I loved the whole thing, but this aPaulogist wanted to slap some sense into Paul during the discussion the day before the rooftop concert.
@Laura thanks for clearing up. I had always been under the impression the biscuits incident was during Let it be. I too don’t believe that George and John got in to a full on punch up. I to think it was probably just shoving and tussling.
I also love the sequence where they are laughing and mocking the article and the writer dissecting them. The imagine I have of the Beatles if they were all still with us is of them at a pub together laughing about the fact that the world is still endlessly debating them 59 years later.
Finished part 3 and have to say the hero moment of the whole series is George who quits in the first episode- who butts head with Paul, who fights with the others about the direction of the movie, who expresses to John and Yoko (with their support) that he’s ready to be his own man, who was dead set against going up on the roof- turning the amp back on in the middle of the performance.
Honorary mentions: Ringo after Paul stressed out and trying to convince John to agree to roof concert saying he wants to play on the roof and all of sudden so does John and George. Also doorman Jimmy and receptionist Debbie do a good job playing interference for the Police and angry neighbours. And finally George Martin when you feel the tension start to snap and the Beatles voices beginning to raise over the sound/instruments being all “chill boys, I’ve got this” and they instantly calm down.
Favourite Paul moment of the whole series was him becoming an excited little school boy when he sees the Police have arrived. Also Daddy Paul with Heather was adorable. As was Uncle John and Heather. And Heather partaking in her own Freak Out jam session. Also the level of chill Linda had to have to be okay with how freaking high Paul was throwing her baby lol.
I like that Paul also got his own Captain America rousing the Avengers speech when talking about their backs being against the wall and the way he had a shout out that when push comes to shove John delivers.
Also despite all the talk of Paul being the driving force, I was pleased to see that when Paul leaves the studio John George and Ringo stay productive and keep working on not only their songs but Paul’s as well. I also liked the glimpse of leader John when he lays down the law to Paul that they are going to stop trying to improve on songs they already got down and work on ones that still need developing, like George’s heartfelt song about pomegranates.
For the melodrama I actually liked the whole Klein as the he who shall not be named/Voldemort figure… but ugh John sweetie, being so besotted.
Also I had only ever heard the Yokos divorce came through on audio but I was pleasantly surprised that Paul George and Ringo all looked happy for them both. I also agree with the Rolling stone review that said that John was trying to play it cool about Paul singing Strawberryfields.
Fave underrated moment, all the Apple staff and/or film crew jamming on the instruments after the Beatles go home for the night. Also Ringo bringing up that he farted out of the blew.
Also I think Peter Jackson picked the perfect line to end of with Glyn John’s telling them they got take and Paul telling them will just doing one more. Sums it up lol.
Overall I loved the whole thing but I think the first episode was the strongest from a story telling and editing perspective, I think the second episode was the weakest and agree with whoever said the rooftop and street sequence was the most deeply British thing ever and almost Monty Pythonesque.
I too have spent a lot of time wondering about why John seems more together at Saville Row than at Twickenham. I’ve come to the conclusion that Saville Row probably had better access to decent tea than Twickenham. The low quality of tea bags against the better quality loose leaf tea (I fancy Darjeeling) probably made a big difference. He certainly seems on good form when fuelled by a decent cuppa.
I’m not a student of Tolkien (even though I saw LOTR), so maybe someone here can enlighten me. Why is it obvious that Paul would be Frodo and John would be Gollum? (Peter Jackson interview with Colbert)?
I think Gollum is more of an oddball character so maybe John who had a oddball personality himself and seemed attracted to that in other people connected more with him maybe.
And Paul who was “man in charge” at the time was maybe naturally drawn to the playing the main character/protagonist and hero of the novel.
That sounds about right, thank you. Yeah, I liked PJ’s hands-off approach other than the technical aspects which he did a great job with. I didn’t sense that he was pushing any particular narrative, just letting the footage speak for itself.
@Michelle, no footage ever “speaks for itself.” The act of editing footage requires a story to be told. Editing footage is deciding on a narrative, and then telling that story.
The people may think they are being as even-handed as possible, but it’s impossible to make a film where “the footage speaks for itself.” This is Film Studies 101.
Speaking of I appreciate that Peter Jackson said in the Colbert interview that he discarded early in the idea of having talking head interviews by Paul or Ringo or other people there at the time to tell the story as it was the lazy way to make a documentary and instead took the time to find the narrative in the footage itself
@LeighAnn, you mean, “create a narrative out of the footage itself.”
He didn’t find anything. He made something. It could be fair, or unfair, close to the truth or far from it — he’s the only one who knows, because he’s the only one who’s seen the footage. I suspect he was as fair as he knows how to be, but that doesn’t mean his narrative is unbiased. The only honest thing to say is, “I told the story I wanted to tell.”
That’s really well put. And I do think there’s ample evidence – from the many (MANY) Nagra tapes out there – that Jackson did indeed fashion a narrative that he thought we be compelling (and rewarding) to viewers. It’s certainly a lot of fun to watch, but to my eyes (and ears) doesn’t feel any more “true” than the original. Just IMO of course.
@Daniel – Have you listened to the One Sweet Dream and Another Kind of Mind podcasts about Get Back? Both discuss how Jackson edited the lunchroom tape etc. to create a specific narrative.
@Laura, it was heavily edited to make it seem like it was just John and Paul at that lunch. Ringo, Yoko and Linda were there too and joined in the conversation.
@Michelle – I’m thankful to Jackson for what he gave us, but aside from wishing he’d included more of the conversation, I don’t like that he explicitly says John and Paul were alone. (According to the latest Another Kind of Mind podcast, the bit where John’s microphone gets lucky is also heavily edited.) Jackson buys into the tired “poor Paul John didn’t love him any more he only had eyes for Yoko” narrative. It’s especially odd since HIS OWN WORK illustrates the opposite. Like Paul, he’s selling the party line.
@Michael Gerber, I certainly never claimed that Bowie wasn’t influenced by the later Beatles albums, but someone suggested that he started his career much later and that Ziggy was inspired by Pepper. Bowie loved to experiment in the studio, but he wrote a lot of his songs on a 12-string guitar and made sure they were solid before adding more elaborate instrumentation or effects. John Lennon was very much involved in exploring different recording techniques, all the way back to A Hard Day’s Night, where he layered his own harmony vocals into a Spector-esque wall of sound, and later as he pushed into early granular synthesis, transposing songs so they could be played back at slower speeds. After his initial encounter with Yoko, the first place he took her was his home studio where he played her all of his weird experiments, and then together they recorded Two Virgins. He and George did embrace LSD on a philosophical level, and Paul didn’t; after they stopped touring in the wake of being labeled as Satanists, John and George did not want to be Beatles, but both eventually concluded that being a Beatle and using that opportunity to bring about positive change was actually their moral obligation. Paul never seemed to wrestle with that quandary, as he was mainly concerned with how to package their songs, make movies, and then return to the stage with some big cheeseball production. Someone mentioned that Wings were big in the ’70s, but to that I’ll add…so were Captain & Tennille.
Fun fact, @Michael Gerber: The Beatles launched Apple Records in 1968, and one of the first artists they signed was James Taylor. Taylor recorded his debut album while they recorded the White album, and he introduced both John Lennon and Eric Clapton to heroin during that time. One year later, Lennon had kicked the habit. Two years after that, Clapton was performing at the Concert for Bangladesh under the condition that he would be supplied with heroin for the entire event, during which he passed out on stage and was revived. To dismiss Lennon as a junky is ridiculous, since he must’ve been the highest-functioning junky in history, recording not just some of the material for the White album and Let It Be, but the entirety of Abbey Road.
I loved it. I noticed that the only times Paul smiled, seemed happy or laugh was with John.
Agree Maggie. John definitely seemed like he was the group pep cheerleader in that he and Ringo seemed to be the ones who would lighten up the mood.
The “Get Back” film reminds me that playfulness is part of genius.
At first, as I watched the Beatles “ruin” a potentially solid take with funny accents or ad-libbed gibberish lyrics, I found myself feeling frustrated at how this behavior was elongating the process of perfecting the songs and getting ready for the performance.
But then I realized that, when the Beatles were being playful, they were deepening their motor-memory of the songs, exercising their nimbleness within each song, and exploring the songs’ possibilities.
My wife reminded me that the self-help books on creativity all remind us how important playfulness is to the creative process. “Get Back” confirms that the Beatles’ playfulness increased the joy and richness in their work.
Great observation! You watch the film and wonder for 5+ hourse how in the world they are going to pull off a live concert. But when the bell rings, they deliver. All of them nailed every song. The Beatles were the ultimate professionals.
1969 was the Beatles’ “Soul year,” and “Let it Be” is a Soul album.
If 1965 was a year for folk-rock influence in the Beatles, 1966-67 for psychedelic, and 1968 for acid-tinged white blues, then 1969 was the year for the Beatles to be influenced by Soul and Gospel.
This doesn’t apply, of course, to every single song. But “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Dig a Pony,” “Let it Be,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Get Back” all bear Soul and/or Gospel influence, as do songs that were introduced during the sessions but appeared later, namely “Something,” “Oh! Darling,” “I Want You,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers.” And Billy Preston’s arrival in the Apple studio helped make that influence even more palpable.
It’s no coincidence that many of the Beatles’ 1969 songs were covered by Soul artists who found affinity with them. (A stunning example is Aretha Franklin’s version of “The Long and Winding Road.”)
The Soul influence continued to affect the Beatles as they went into their solo careers. You hear it in many of John’s solo tracks, including “Mother,” “Isolation,” “God,” “Power to the People,” “Imagine,” “How,” and “Mind Games.” In Paul’s oeuvre, hear it in “That Would Be Something,” “Every Night,” “Momma Miss America,” and especially “Maybe I’m Amazed.” I once read that George asked Billy Preston for advice on how to write a Gospel song, and “All Things Must Pass” is, of course, steeped in Soul and Gospel influences.
The Get Back sessions were the Beatles’ gateway into the Soul-world they inhabited for at least the next two years.
I love this! I definitely agree that there seems to be a mutual affinity between Black artist and the Beatles. The Beatles started their career covering mostly Black artists and then often times those same artists ended up covering Beatles songs.
I read a funny anecdote I read some time ba k about how a young photographer in the 70s was taking pictures of John at The Dakota and John was playing What’s Going On. The photographer mentioned with out thinking that something along the lines of it was the best album in years, forgetting he was standing in front of a Beatle. After a few seconds of silence, John was like “Agreed!”.
IIf I may, I want to share this episode of Beatoons -Get Back edition- that I find hilarious, sums up the chaos of that period well.
Thanks for this Alejandra. I love Beatoons! Yoko screeching at the end was hilarious!
The author got it right: when everybody runs for the sake of their ears Paul stays till the end.
My favorite moments are of George pointing out that Paul’s arranging of “Don’t Let Me Down” “just sounds like the same old shit” – and after trying to get them to focus on any of his songs, decides “I don’t want us to play any of my songs, because they’ll just turn out shitty.”
What isn’t covered in the documentary is that it must’ve been George that complained about Yoko sitting there on an amp, even though that meeting wasn’t shown. And the fact that everyone was getting real tired of Paul’s showtunes when they all just wanted to play rock and roll.
And George is absolutely right that Paul’s arrangement of “Don’t Let Me Down” is bad. I think that one of McCartney’s blind spots, and the one that may have had the biggest impact during the “Get Back” period, is that he reacts to anxiety by working harder. Often he doesn’t seem to recognize that letting others’ ideas breathe, or taking the time to understand that they are doing something differently than he would, is the best way of “working” in a situation.
I don’t, however, think that it’s accurate to say that McCartney always wanted “showtunes” while the others wanted “rock and roll.” The song “Get Back” certainly seem to be rock and roll. I think it IS fair to say that he beat the showtune “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” into the ground.
I’d think Get Back, I’ve Got a Feeling, and the beginnings of She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and Oh, Darling in the Get Back documentary would hardly be called Paul’s show tunes. In the sixties, bands like the Kinks, the Small Faces, Herman’s Hermits and others built their careers around English music hall, and the Kinks, in particular who did it best, were serious rivals to the Beatles with their beautifully written songs. Paul’s suggestions for Don’t Let Me Down may have been lousy but I didn’t see George coming forward with any useful ideas. I’m not sure about Paul not letting ideas ‘breathe’ based on one song observed during one three-week period as a working band. As the song turned out the way they finally wanted it to, then surely Paul went with the flow? I have read comments elsewhere where people have astutely pointed out that both John and George also rejected ideas, chords, whatever, in each other’s songs, and accepted it, but the ‘I’ll play whatever you want me to play’ from George to Paul has become so ingrained in Beatles history that it’s become difficult to see past it. There is no way that George would have behaved in that manner towards John. In my opinion, I think it was the imbalanced interaction between the three of them that created major tensions within the band. Which makes me wonder now whether the time spent on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was an act of hostility from Paul, who by the mid to late 1969, was fast becoming an angry young man. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Lara, those are fair points. Overall I do think that McCartney’s tendency to at times be overbearing stems in part from anxiety. He tries to “fix” things, and to keep things going, and that doesn’t consistently work. I’m not blaming him so much as just observing a pattern. When George feels anxious or uncomfortable, he’s more likely to withdraw.
During the “Get Back” period the differences in personality types and styles of working start to create new tensions — I think because of the absence of both Brian Epstein and George Martin as authority figures (I know Martin was involved, but he wasn’t there all the time as he was in the studio).
George Martin wasn’t in the studio because Lennon had told him, ““I don’t want any of your production shit. We want this to be an honest album…I don’t want any editing…overdubbing. We just record the song and that’s it.” Glyn Johns was there because Martin wasn’t willing to sit there while they rehearsed long enough to get an acceptable “single-take” performance.
John never told George what to play- the footage from the ‘Imagine’ sessions shows what a healthy collaboration looks like. There’s a moment in ‘Get Back’ where Paul keeps telling Ringo exactly what and how to play, and John is glaring at him and says, “Why don’t YOU just play it?” I imagine George, who had just been playing and recording with Bob Dylan, The Band, and Cream, was utterly unimpressed with Paul’s material and direction.
Not to pick sides in the Paul/George fight, but George’s penchant for “jamming” during this period suggests to me a person growing increasingly bored with being a Beatle. Beatle music hadn’t been created that way, and so it was a little unfair of him to expect Paul to adapt to that completely different method, which works great for groups of slightly high pals playing blues- and folk- structures, but maybe less good for highly machined pop, Beatle type stuff?
For me, Get Back is the Beatles attempting to be a roots music band for political or trendy reasons—rockstars in overalls—and mostly failing, with John and George’s work being particularly weak, when compared to the rest of their Beatle output. “All Things Must Pass” is a spectacular collection of songs, but The Beatles aren’t the band to perform them, just as John couldn’t have done POB with the other three.
As the film shows, the song ‘Get Back’ is two chords and one line – the rest is mostly nonsensical filler to make it resemble a song. You can even see them cheer in relief when they run through a song with a stopwatch, and oh good – it’s just over three and a half minutes as-is, we don’t need to write any more verses! John or George would craft songs the same way, but they’d rewrite those off-the-cuff placeholder lyrics with something more meaningful.
Something not covered in depth by the film is the fact that they were actively signing other artists to Apple Records with every intention of giving them their crappier songs to record, so that they could focus on their best material while still making a boatload in royalties – and the other three all thought things like ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ were prime contenders for the giveaway. So much effort was put into arranging and recording those songs, but the lyrics were rubbish – and it somewhat demoralized the others, as heard in a number of goofball tracks on the white album. George spent the next decade recording all of the songs he wrote during that period, because they were kept off of the Beatles’ albums by that same “granny music shit” (as John put it).
John even mentions in their private conversation that Paul had been pulling his “I’m Paul McCartney! (“Greatest Songwriter in the World”) crap for years when he or George would try to contribute anything to his songs. I think time will tell, and time had told – Paul’s solo material has not aged well, despite being far more prolific than the others. John and George effectively retired within a few years, but still have more noteworthy songs than Macca or Wings or whatever. A good comparison is Roger Waters, who has long claimed to be the creative genius of Pink Floyd but somehow never wrote another memorable tune after he left the group.
Oh, I think this opinion vastly overpraises John and George’s solo work. Is it not worth mentioning that after going through their backlog written during the Beatles era, John and George were basically one-and-done? That’s harsh, but what is George’s solo career after ATMP? A handful of tuneful, forgettable, workmanlike stuff (which I like btw, but “Living in the Material World” is no better/more important than Wings from the same era, and vastly less successful.
Lennon fares better, as you’d hope he would, but POB is so embedded in his personal story—it’s work on such vastly different terms than pop music—it’s not really fair to judge pop against it. But after POB, and a few songs on Imagine, Lennon’s a spent force; “Walls and Bridges”, which I like, is 70s pop no more important than Wings’ output; and one must remember that, without the terrible context of his assassination, Double Fantasy was another pleasant, unimportant Lennon LP that didn’t sell.
Having lived through the 70s and seen that Paul really was still a rockstar of the first rank, while John and George were decidedly less than that—Lennon especially was more a cultural figure than a musician—I want to pipe up. John and George bitched a LOT about Paul McCartney and we all can understand why, but the music they made after him was nowhere near the same quality, cultural durability, or commercial success. And in Lennon’s case, prior to his murder, “imagine” was much like “instant karma”—a fine pop song in the Lennon manner, but not especially poignant, not a world anthem. Imagine only became Johns Sermon on the Mount after he was martyred. All judged by the same standards, John and George’s claim that Paul hurt or blocked them as musicians simply isn’t backed up by their solo output. I wish it had been.
John and George really didn’t pursue solo careers, mainly because of the unrealistically high expectations put on them and the constant questions about a possible reunion; Paul was happy to lower the bar. I don’t think they wanted “Beatles stuff” to be highly machined pop music, because that wasn’t what they were interested in or influenced by. Their back-to-basics approach was necessary if they were going to attempt a return to performing live, and you can even watch them discuss their options if a particular song’s arrangement would require additional musicians. Even at that point, they were worried that no matter what they did, it would never match the audiences’ expectations, and anything other than a single performance sounded like a nightmare to them. Double Fantasy was notable because it was John rediscovering his love of highly machined pop music, so it was no coincidence that he was then expressing an interest in working with Paul again.
“Highly machined” is a term that needs to be unpacked here. I’m having trouble figuring out what you’re using this to mean.
The Beatles covered songs originally done by 1960s girl groups (the Cookies’ “Chains,” the Shirelle’s “Boys,” etc), and Lennon was a big admirer of Phil Spector’s production style. I think one of the things that made the Beatles great was that they drew inspiration from many types of music and also produced such diverse types of music.
What I meant by highly machined is “the result of planning and craft and structure, rather than the tools of loose improvisation.” The Beatles did not just go into the studio and jam until enough songs came out for a record; they came in with fairly finished songs, and gave them fairly polished arrangements. Something like the calypso version of “I’m Looking Through You” is notable for its rarity.
It’s a working method that was formed by studio time — and recording equipment — being a precious commodity.
One of my major takeaways from “Get Back” was how fully formed Paul’s songs were from the start.
Why can’t someone prefer John’s solo work over Paul’s? Impartial listeners would probably say that between 1970 and 1980 both John and Paul made just 2 solo albums apiece that were good from start to finish (which the Beatles never failed to accomplish), rather than containing a handful of great songs and the rest filler. Wings at the Speed of Sound is largely unlistenable. Venus and Mars is boring except for “Letting Go”. I could go on. When Paul produced something great, it inspired John to go to the studio. The fact it took him 5 years to come out of retirement tells you all you need to know about Paul’s solo work from 1975-80. And even though Paul had more #1 singles, in my opinion John’s singles are stronger, more memorable (not including “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, as much as I enjoy it, his first solo #1 go figure). Maybe Paul just wasn’t good at picking singles, because he had other songs on his albums that were more worthy of being singles. If “Walls and Bridges” is a nice pop album but just as inconsequential as Wings’ output, why was John a spent force and Paul was not? It’s kind of an insult to Paul to think, well he always produced fluff and MOR music, so in the ’70s he never missed a beat!
Oh, and George’s solo career was pretty abysmal IMO, save for one disc’s worth of ATMP and the occasional “Badge” and “Crackerbox Palace” and “Cheer Down”, until Cloud Nine and the Wilburys where he really took off.
They were fully formed, but they were innocuous pop tunes – Herman’s Hermits is a good comparison. The others didn’t always want to rock out, but they were more interested in conveying a message or an idea with conviction. I think McCartney is a gifted musician and lyricist, he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say. Compare his 26 albums to David Bowie’s 26 albums and see whose songs have had more impact. Meanwhile John and George each released less than a dozen in their lifetimes, but have far more memorable songs.
@Jon, if you’re genuinely comparing McCartney songs to Herman’s Hermits, I think we’re hearing very different things.
Bowie is wonderful, but he’s as much performance artist as musician, and I’m glad we have his work. But McCartney’s work before the age of 30 far culturally surpasses anything that Bowie did. Bowie was impossible without The Beatles coming first, and Paul was the driving creative force behind The Beatles after Revolver. Would Bowie even been a pop musician had Pepper not existed? Not just musically, but the idea of performing as a different entity, which was entirely Paul’s idea? Or would Bowie continued his searching through mime, theater, etc?
I am very aware of Paul’s faults—a sort of overfecundity, a tendency to stay surface, lyrics that aren’t very interesting—but he, not Lennon, was the person that pushed the biggest most popular group of all time out of the three minute pop song and into the multimedia expression of Art Rock…without which the history of rock, and Bowie in particular, would’ve been unrecognizable.
All that having been said, I don’t much like McCartney solo stuff; but nor do I like Lennon or Harrison much either. All three of them feel rather spent after 1971, to me, but I’m commenting because Paul’s given so much for so long — have so much before he turned 29 — thst it’s easy to dismiss or diminish him, or assume that if it hadn’t been him, it would’ve been someone else. That’s not so. Pepper—white—abbey road—these are the core of the Beatles legacy and at least two of them might not even exist without Paul, and at times get damn close to Paul McCartney and The Beatles. He’s an utter giant. And THEN you have the solo stuff which, if it didn’t shape the 70s as Bowie did, it was still artistically valid and hugely commercial—by which I mean, people loved listening to it. Which to me is the point; “Listen to What the Man Said” was, in that time, no different than, say, “Young Americans,” and the perception of one as tuneful pop and the other as part of An Ouvre is a distortion based on meaningless perceptions of cool/uncool, serious/unserious, etc. To me; many feel as you do.
Suggesting that Pepper/White/Abbey forms the core of their legacy is strange, as it all came post-Beatlemania and the many bands that it inspired; it’s also strange because 2 or 3 of the 4 members were not happy with that material and direction, particularly Paul’s material and direction, and that feeling of being Paul’s sidemen was what doomed the group in the first place. Sgt. Pepper started with “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and the group name and image was inspired by the far more outlandish psychedelic/avant-garde/jugband groups that were already around – Paul just took that image and made it mainstream. Cream, Pink Floyd, and The Velvet Underground already existed by the time Revolver came out, so it was the Beatles’ earlier work that secured their legacy; Lennon himself said that Abbey Road was a “competent album” but certainly not their best. Also, Bowie had already gone professional in ’63 and had been performing under various names since then, while exploring musicals, theater, mime, and Eastern religions virtually in tandem with the Beatles own diversions.
@Jon, I interact with so many different fans, and have written at such length about all the issues you bring of — the Beatles’ legacy, John/Paul, the breakup, etc etc etc — that I was trying to reply in the terms you seemed to be setting. Pepper/White/Abbey Road are the three LPs that sound the most modern, and serve as the entry point to most modern fans. (For example, 33 of the 60 songs in this list come from those 3/4 LPs, as opposed to the earlier 7). You seemed to be dismissing McCartney because he was still writing 60s pop, and so I wanted to say that The Beatles’ most timeless LPs were all late-period McCartney-led productions. (Revovler’s great, but it sounds like 1966…except for “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yellow Submarine,” and John’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Rubber Soul is great, but it sounds like 1965, at least to my ears. Pepper/White/AR exist in a more timeless state.)
I personally like all their phases; because they were/are so big — orders of magnitude more important than any other rock band ever — I judge The Beatles primarily as an historical force, musical/economic/cultural; I even think they had a significant impact on the Cold War. My opinion is that both artistically, and as a commercial fact stimulating a massive talent search for the next ten years, every band created after 1963 in the UK and 1964 in the US was influenced by The Beatles. But after they broke the world open, The Beatles relentlessly expanded what was acceptable within the form of first “pop” and then “rock.” To not see late-period — by which I mean, McCartney-led, studio-as-an-instrument — Beatles music as an influence on David Bowie is peculiar. Bowie might have preferred Lennon’s persona, and might have connected with him as a person a lot more, but without McCartney’s endless studio experimentation and precisely the exactitude that Lennon/Harrison hated (and that you don’t get from jamming), Bowie’s musical palette would’ve been different. When I listen to “Hunky Dory” I don’t hear raw, one-take, no studio fuckery rock and roll! That is, I don’t hear Lennon’s late-Beatles obsession. In Bowie, in Floyd, in Cream, even, I hear studio experimentation and musical adventurousness. And that wasn’t what Lennon was interested in, mostly. And it WAS what Paul was interested in, mostly.
“that feeling of being Paul’s sidemen was what doomed the group”
A closer reading of events, and some healthy skepticism towards John’s statements, makes this a very, very debatable statement. Did John and George even WANT to be Beatles after touring stopped? Often seems not. Should we, as Lennon and Harrison fans, be mad at Paul for keeping the Beatle thing going after Brian’s death? I can’t be. Should we take Lennon’s perceptions as accurate, during the time when he was seriously using first LSD, then heroin? Should we take Harrison’s perceptions as accurate when he admitted stuff like this? That is, that he’s a lazy musician who only picks up a guitar to make an LP?
I’m not blaming John or George for any of this, but I am saying that we as Beatles fans should be wary of joining in with John here. He was a junkie and George preferred jamming with Delaney and Bonnie. Okay, but as somebody who loves Pepper/White/Abbey Road, I think the trade-off was worth it. I’m not in charge of John and George having the life they wanted; they were — and they made a LOT of money off the stuff where they were “Paul’s sidemen.” If The Beatles had stopped after Revolver, they would’ve had to become a tribute band — like the zillion other 60s groups did. Lennon would’ve REALLY hated that.
I personally have worked with creatively overbearing people, and it’s no fun. But John and George were not victims. They were not driven from The Beatles by Paul’s being an asshole — they were deeply conflicted about being Beatles after late 1966, and Paul was not. That’s not Paul’s fault, and he shouldn’t be blamed for it. John never really grew up from the vision of rock that he had as a teenager, and the presence of Paul and George Martin to help him put his ideas across with more musical sophistication and range, was of great creative benefit to him. He resented that, and felt insecure about it…but that’s silly, he was John freaking Lennon. The breakup was complicated, and John’s excuses for it circa 1971 — “Paul’s square” “Paul’s bigheaded” “Paul was too bossy” — are about 10% of the story. He can slag Paul McCartney in this way, because he knew how amazing Paul was in toto; but I think we as fans shouldn’t.
@ Michelle – re “ Why can’t someone prefer John’s solo work over Paul’s?” Who here has said they can’t? As far as I can see, only @Jon has said anything like that but the reverse – that Paul’s music is objectively not as good John’s or George’s.
@Michael Gerber, do you think Paul’s 70s work would have been better, might even have measured up more closely to his 60s work, if he hadn’t been so dependent on pot? Sometimes I think yes, definitely; sometimes I think without it he’d have spun out psychologically too much.
Not the White Album. Lennon was more of an influence on Bowie.
@Michael, I’m not sure why you include the White Album as a “McCartney-led” production. John is very prominent on that album, and they all shaped their songs the way they wanted. They weren’t even working together much in the creative process.
And by my count, over half of the list you link to contains songs that were either not Paul’s not solely Paul’s.
@Michelle, my point is that fans who complain about “McCartney taking over after Brian died” and “turning John and George into sidemen” want it both ways. They want to enjoy all the amazing stuff that the band produced after August 1967 — or, really, August 1966 — without acknowledging the reality that, if Paul hadn’t pushed pushed pushed the other three, all (or at least most) of that music would not have been made. And further, the LPs that people love the most now — younger people especially — are from that later period. You can be Talmudic about it, slicing and dicing who did what, but if Paul was the slavedriver, then he’s gotta get some credit for what that slavedriving produced.
I think this is a pretty obvious and fair conclusion, but YMMV.
I’ve both been “the Paul” and worked with “the Paul,” and it’s no picnic for anybody involved. But we fans should remember that John and/or George could’ve quit at any time; they could’ve vetoed any project or album; really, they could’ve. But they didn’t. This idea that John and George were somehow VICTIMIZED by Paul makes no sense; it didn’t make any sense in 1971, and it doesn’t now. And even after George quit in January 1969, John doesn’t go, “Thank fucking Christ! I’m outta here, too!” Or “You’re right, George! Paul, you’re out of the group!” He says, “Let’s get Clapton.” That is, “I so much want to keep being a Beatle with Paul and Ringo, I’ll do it without George.”
If John was “sick of being Paul’s sideman” why didn’t he just quit? And how to explain songs like “The Ballad of John and Yoko” where Paul surely seems like…John’s sideman? Maybe John was pissed off at Paul in 1971, and wanted to sell some records with a controversial interview? Doesn’t that seem to fit more closely with his behavior?
John’s blast is and was emotionally satisfying for people who dislike Paul’s stuff, or style, or whatever; but just say, “I don’t like Paul’s songs (or persona, or whatever).” That’s a perfectly legit stance. But if we’re analyzing Paul’s flaws as a creative partner, we gotta do John’s and George’s too, and fans generally don’t.
@Michael wrote: “Bowie might have preferred Lennon’s persona”
Probably his music too, as he covered three Lennon songs.
I find the observation that fans don’t discuss John and George’s flaws extremely odd- when it seems that is like 90% the discourse about John definitely.
I personally agree McCartney is a genius. I don’t necessarily believe he’s somehow a better genius then John or George or a better Beatle then John of George or that he has influenced musicians while John and George have not (In fact there’s a video on YouTube where some reporters asked famous musicians and some celebrities to pick “John Lennon or Paul McCartney?” and John and Paul were almost even and a good portion picked George over both of them)
If anything the pony of Get Back and what it showed was how the Beatles weren’t Paul McCartney. It was the combination of all their talents and all their personalities and relationships that made them what they are.
The question of whose solo material is most satisfying is a real “your mileage may vary” situation, in my opinion.
However something was received at the time it was released, it always gets reevaluated by subsequent generations. Case in point: there are fewer and fewer Elvis fans as time goes by.
Yeah Nancy. And there is some truth to what John once said, that if people keep yearning for the Beatles, just take some of the songs from his solo album, from Paul’s solo album, from George’s solo album and from Ringo’s solo album and you have a Beatles album. It’s not the same, really, without their contributions to each others’ songs; nevertheless, you could make a classic album out of that.
Michelle, in the early 70s George did this himself, making compilations of his former bandmates’ solo work, and I’ve sometimes wondered which tracks he used. 🙂 I’m also curious which solo tracks Allan Klein considered for the Blue/Red compilations, which he wanted to take into the 1970s (as the unlicensed Alpha Omega compilation, which Blue/Red was a response to, did).
I also think that Paul was very conscious of the cameras, and tried to control the narrative that would eventually be seen by the public. During his initial spat with George, he doesn’t want to say anything on camera, but after George quits he sits there “visibly” upset. Pulling a rocker out of thin air on screen was just the kind of thing that could salvage the project and their reputations, but you also see how many songs he was writing at home during those same weeks – including “Backseat of My Car” and “Another Day”, which he put no further effort into when he recorded them.
Paul himself has admitted to being overbearing during this period. I agree that anxiety had a lot to do with it. It’s not so much blaming anyone but how one-dimensional the narrative has become from some sectors of the fandom. Paul, the control freak; George, undervalued and not taken seriously. But did George take John and Paul’s songs seriously once they started taking leaps and bounds in their writing? Did he embrace them as fully as he could have? To my mind, from about 1965 onwards, George seemed to be admiring yet sardonic towards the Lennon/McCartney collaboration. It’s almost as if he’d thought: I can’t keep up with you guys now but I’m going to do something you can’t do – play the sitar. In fairness, John and Paul may not have taken it so personally because they had each other, but they might have found George’s ambivalence exasperating (and went overboard in their response). George wanted to be a Beatle yet at the same time he didn’t want to be a Beatle. He could have left at any time if he really wanted to, but his ego in being a member of this most heralded band wouldn’t allow him to. A complex character, as they all were, caught up in an almost unprecedented level of fame and adulation. George wanted Paul to keep his bass lines simple for Something. Paul did the opposite and ended up creating one of the most iconic bass lines in any of the Beatles songs, a result which George himself was very pleased with. But what if Paul had done exactly what George had asked of him. What if all of them did exactly what was asked of each other? Or the opposite – fire away guys, do whatever. This is what I find so perplexing. Do fans really not like the Beatles catalogue, and if so subjective, then why bother listening? Maybe we think they would have been even better if they had all behaved towards each other in the way we wanted them to. And of course we could give them our knowledgeable advice on their chord patterns and nonsensical lyrics.
George did explain that he had completely lost interest in being a Beatle or even playing guitar, and hadn’t played one outside of their recording sessions for over two years, but ultimately decided that it was fate that led him to join this band that would become phenomenally successful, and that he should embrace it for whatever good it would do in the world; John essentially says the same thing during the sessions. George realized that there were thousands of sitar players that were much better than he would ever be, and Ravi Shankar encouraged him to search for the root of his love of music, which was the guitar. He did throw himself wholeheartedly into becoming a better guitarist, spending a lot of time with Dylan, Clapton, Hendrix, Cooder, etc, and developing his own style. This effort led to his “Put an ad in NME, and get someone else” comment when he abruptly left the sessions. After their process of demoing songs for the White album, they were all aware that George had a ton of songs ready to go – Paul just didn’t think they were very good, even though many of them would appear on ‘All Things Must Pass’. Other than that title track, the only songs he convinces them to attempt during the Get Back sessions were ones that he’d just written the night before, which, again, were ready to go.
@Jon. George was their lead guitarist and soloist – a position he wasn’t going to relinquish during their Hamburg days. I think it’s reasonable that the others expected a high standard of commitment from him starting in 1962, not1968.
@Lara, that’s really not accurate – George did play melody lines while John played rhythm, but many of his parts were dictated by George Martin, and there was little to no improvisation. Even as their songs began to feature actual guitar solos, they were often played by John or Paul. He did put a lot of effort into finding his own style on the guitar, so if Paul wanted to dictate his parts, George didn’t feel the need to be involved.
Well Jon, I just read Paul is going out on tour again this year, in the U.S. I can assure you there are thousands of people who will pay good money to see him.
You may not care for him, but as someone who has seen him in concert 3 times, let me assure you, he is amazing.
BTW, some of us were teens in the 70’s, and Wings were very popular. That’s how I first learned of Paul McCartney. At his concerts, people are singing along with Wings songs, just as much as his Beatles songs.
I do agree with Michael however, that none of the Beatles solo output matches what they did as a group. Pure magic.
I’m sure folks will continue to line up to see Paul. Roger Waters still breaks records with each new tour, but the amazing thing is that no one buys his solo albums, even though he does his best to incorporate them into his setlists alongside Pink Floyd classics. Paul is a living relic, and people will try to see him one more time while they can. The average Beatles concert was 35 minutes long, and George only toured once and even then only played one Lennon/McCartney number; this has left enough of a demand to see a live Beatle that even Ringo has been able to tour steadily for the past thirty years. Since I belong to the Oregon Trail generation, I’ll be curious to see how McCartney’s solo career is viewed after he’s gone.
I’m with Michael G. on this one. I can’t recall Herman’s Hermits writing anything remotely like Helter Skelter, For No One, Hey Jude to name just a few. Cynicism aside, these sort of backhanders at Paul wrapped up in grudging acknowledgement of his skills are disappointing more than anything. What may be uninteresting to one person isn’t necessarily so for another. I think the ambiguity of Paul’s lyrics tend to require reading between the lines, whereas John and George’s political/philosophical/religious lyrics do the work for you in three-minute sound bites. This divergence became very clear once they went solo. Everything they did post-Beatles was reactionary to the fallout. In the end it constrained and limited them in my opinion. When did rock music start to become so portentous anyway, and why? It depends what people want and what they get from it. I’m not a great fan of the solo careers either. That doesn’t mean to say they didn’t write any great Beatles worthy songs, even at mid/late career. But most artists, and that includes Bowie, only have a consistent creative surge lasting ten to twenty years followed by long plateaus with a few dips and peaks here and there. Blackstar is no more Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane than Double Fantasy, McCartney III, or Brainwashed is Revolver or Abbey Road, regardless of how respective fans may laud them.
I would go one step further and argue that Bowie was best musically when Mick Ronson was with him and wielding the axe. Everything else was just theater and of significantly reduced quality.
I am relieved to hear that there are others in this world who are not enamored of the post 1971 solo efforts. Frankly I no longer even try to listen. I gave them a solid effort but just had to eventually drop back and punt.
It was quite a process however, as I thought that I was missing something and wondered what the key was to unlocking the supposed beauties of these recordings…of Yoko bleating or John’s pap for example. What were others hearing in it that I seemed to be missing?
It all circled back to the realization that the Beatles were, from their earliest days to their last as an ensemble, at the van in so many ways and a whole that far exceeded the sum of their parts and for which they’re is no comparison or equal. I almost, but not quite, envy those who like the post 71 solo work, but I have to stick between the goalposts of the 60s.
I grew up listening to The Beatles, but didn’t dig deep into their solo work until much later. After that, I found myself listening to George’s 70s output much more frequently than anything else they’d done together or apart. As I mentioned earlier, the Get Back documentary led me to focus more on John’s songwriting within the band, and I now find it all more enjoyable if I just skip Paul’s songs. I know they were credited as a partnership, but Paul did find the time to have his songs relabeled as “McCartney/Lennon”, and they always sang their own songs anyway. Paul always sounded like he was serenading an elderly woman, and these days, he really is – stadiums full of them. I’m sure it’ll be the super-spreader event to remember; some playful exit music for the baby boomer generation.
. “Paul always sounded like he was serenading an elderly woman, and these days, he really is – stadiums full of them.”
Ouch! No need to be nasty Jon!
There are all kinds of folks at Paul’s concerts: all sexes, races, and ages.
I don’t know why you feel the need to disparage Paul. If you don’t like him, that’s fine, but why the snark? Peace out!
There is only one John Lennon album from 1970-75 that even features Yoko at all. I’d rather have solo Beatles than no Beatles, and like Lara said they all have certain songs that were Beatles worthy. Other artists would love to have come up with Mind Games, Out the Blue, #9 Dream, Jet, 1985, I’m Carrying to name some post ’71 songs from Lennon and McCartney. But that’s just my opinion. You may have already decided you don’t like these songs, or haven’t heard them.
I certainly will concede that there are some catchy songs here and there post 1971. I definitely don’t presume to come onto a Beatles fan/student/history forum just to diss that entire catalog. I meant it more of a confession that try as I might (and I have indeed given it applied effort), I just don’t like a lot of it and, as I mentioned, I kinda/sorta envy those who can see great value in it.
I remember in the late 70s when hearing Wheels or Woman or My Sweet Lord and the only emotion they conjured was to be free of them. For me they were as annoying as Rosanna and other such things. I know this is a distinct minority opinion and perhaps extremely low brow, but to me there were simply too many other good listening options in that era.
So please understand my comment was not meant to be snarky or unappreciative of others’ musical tastes (my wife does not understand my deep appreciation for late 60s and early 70s Funk for example), but rather that I was sort of glad to read that there are others out there who are also not wild about the post Beatles oeuvre–particularly in comparison to the blinding brilliance of the 1962-1969 offerings.
Fair enough, @Neal. I didn’t think you were being snarky, and hope I didn’t come off that way either! I think 99% of people would agree that the solo output of the four Beatles doesn’t hold a candle to their amazing work as a unit. The band just never released anything that could fairly be called a clunker, which is a feat that is unheard of for every other artist.
@Neal, not for nothing, but Stevie Wonder’s run from “Music of My Mind” to “Songs in the Key of Life” make him my candidate for The Beatles of the 70s.
I’d be interested in your list of late 60s-early 70s funk.
I penned a short article about my appreciation of Funk here in which I offered a number of suggestions: https://justaverageinc.com/funk-by-far-the-coolest-of-the-cool/
The TLDR version is that I have found real gems in everything from James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and particularly Curtis Mayfield whose music reflects his thoughtfulness. Earth Wind and Fire also deserves mention as Fantasy on good headphones or speakers is sublime.
There of course is then Rufus Thomas, P-Funk from George Clinton, and more “classic” Funk from ensembles such as the Meters. Gee Mack, a modern era musician pays tribute to the Meters here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hikhsgu2XmY&ab_channel=GeeMack
If I had to name one Funk song that has really caught my attention it is called Colors from the Black Pumas. This young man hails from your parts on the West Coast and I swear I am watching the reincarnation of Curtis Mayfield with some Sly Stone vocal inflections. This is really six minutes well spent and the organ/electric piano solo at the 4 to 5 minute mark is Funk and Soul brilliance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G383538qzQ&ab_channel=BlackPumasVEVO
Another modern homage to the early days comes from Shaka Loves You–some Scottish guys who mixed this up with a young dance troupe from their area. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C02fdV4x3M&ab_channel=Bombstrikes
I hope that’s not TMI! I was just an average white kid from the suburbs who was mesmerized by Don Cornelius Soul Train program. He was, to many of my classmates, the absolute coolest of the cool.
To bring this back to a Beatles conversation (and I apologize for the detour), it is remarkable what listening to these 60s and 70s songs on good headphones or speakers does for the overall experience. I was watching part of A Hard Days Night again last night and with the headphones on I was, as I am sure many of you are, staggered by the little details that are revealed–so much more than what I could hear on my 1970s little AM/FM radio. I consider ourselves lucky to be able to enjoy it on good equipment in 2022.
@Jon, it was the extraordinary musical development in less than eight years from1962 to 1970 which secured their legacy. It was was, and still is, unprecedented and unparalleled in popular musical history. The same engineers who worked with the Beatles also worked with Pink Floyd in the 60s and 70s. When asked about Floyd, they said they were awe inspiring; when asked about the Beatles, they replied they that they blew everyone out of the water. THAT is the difference. It has nothing to do with who did what first. You are using a straw man’s argument. John and George said they wanted the band to become underground while Paul wanted to remained pop. He was right. While the confessional style of Plastic Ono Band was influential in some quarters, it was the early indie style of McCartney I and Ram that ultimately had greater reach. Once The Two Virgins flopped, John went back to writing strong radio friendly music that made his name. After the success of All Things Must Pass, George missed the boat, and seemed oddly conservative in his attitudes towards new music genres for the rest of his life.
Well said Lara.
@Lara, I’m guessing you’re referring to Alan Parsons and Chris Thomas, one of which barely worked with The Beatles (as a tape operator), and the other of which barely worked with Pink Floyd (as a mix supervisor). It’s worth noting that during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, The Beatles visited the adjacent studio at Abbey Road where Pink Floyd were recording their debut album, because they had seen them live a number of times and were interested in what they were doing. The Beatles never developed into a live group that could improvise and change their songs from one night to the next, while the Floyd began their professional career almost solely focused on improvisation, and gradually transformed their live performances to match the quality of their studio recordings. Alternate takes from the Beatles’ sessions are so interesting because the vast majority of them were never played again.
“The Beatles never developed into a live group that could improvise and change their songs from one night to the next”
The Beatles in Hamburg would like a word, @Jon. 🙂
The Beatles’ recording style was designed to produce a releasable track as efficiently as possible — for expense’s sake, but also for time, as well. Their schedule was so packed from 1962-66 that efficiency was paramount.
And it’s important to remember that it was the Beatles’ success with stuff like Pepper that changed how bands recorded; long hours, irregular hours in the studio, it was all much looser in early 1967 than in early 1963, and would get looser and looser still until you get arrangements like the Stones had for “Exile,” and legendary booze- and coke-fests like Nilsson’s “Pussy Cats.”
Hamburg showed that, without the constraints of time and money, The Beatles’ could and did improvise. By 1968-9, it was difficult for Paul to go back to that working method, whereas John and George preferred it, perhaps because it allowed them to live their lives when they weren’t in the studio — one thing “Get Back” shows is just how much being a Beatle was a 24/7 job for Paul at that period. Beatling was Paul’s JOB, and John and George didn’t want a JOB.
During their Hamburg days, they were required to play for hours on end, essentially lived backstage, and they were all on uppers just to be able to function. They played the same sets three or four times every night, and dragged songs out just to fill their time slot. They said it didn’t matter what they played, as long as it was loud. That’s not quite the same as Pink Floyd songs that grew in length from five to fifteen minutes over the course of a tour.
@Michael Gerber, they had unlimited resources, and were free to be as self-indulgent as they wanted. Sgt. Pepper didn’t change how other bands worked, 8- and 16-track studios did. They simply didn’t exist until then, and you couldn’t put that much on tape without a significant loss in quality. In the film, Hogg tells them something like, “If you say that’s what you want then it has to happen.” George has his “home studio equipment” (a rare, state-of-the-art, 8-track recording system) carted into the sessions, and then says, hey, make sure someone keeps an eye on this because it cost (the modern equivalent of $100,000). They then sit around while Glyn Johns builds a new studio in their office. It’s very odd to give Paul sole credit for studio experimentation, because John and George were probably more interested in that aspect than anything else – the problem was that they didn’t think those efforts should be spent on rubbish like “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, songs that, without that level of embellishment, were rather weak and uninteresting. No one’s looking for stripped-down remixes of those! John was there singing his heart out on “Ob-La-Di”, and George provided “Maxwell’s” signature Moog solo – but let’s give Paul all of the credit, because those other guys were just lazy junkies.
Why would anyone want that job when they were repeatedly demonized for changing or simply being honest, and they already had more money than they knew what to do with? Pink Floyd suffered a similar dilemma after achieving mainstream success, because anything they did after that would get crappy reviews; the group dynamic shifted and left one dominant personality pushing forward for recognition, while everyone else would’ve preferred to either retire, or return to an enjoyable, no-pressure pace of working when they wanted to. It’s easy to spot the odd man out because the others continue working together after they leave.
I’d be wary of using any group’s history to prove anything important about another group. These personalities are too complex, the eras are different, the industries are different, and so forth.
Kurt Cobain, Lenny Kravitz, Bono, and Dave Grohl are just some of the artist who I can think of that have praised Plastic Ono Band or credited it as being influential on their musical style. It’s also largely credited with being a precursor to grunge music and is largely along with All things must pass the most critically regarded solo Beatles album. It’s also the album that Ringo said was the best experience of his career. So I don’t think it’s fair characterisation to say “some quarters”.
It’s frustrating that it can’t be acknowledged that both Ram, All things must past and Plastic Ono Band are great – if not as great as Beatles- albums in their own right without diminishing them to boost others.
And because it’s only fair Ringo was a very successful album in 1973. It got to number 2 in the US and UK abd Number 1 in a couple of other countries.
What is indie about Ram? Because it’s a bit quirky? It’s a conventional, major label record that was produced with the help of session musicians. I’m not sure John’s style on POB didn’t influence Nirvana and the entire grunge movement of the ’90s. What makes indie more far reaching? Making records in one’s bedroom is the trendy thing to do these days, but will it be ten years from now?
I was actually thinking of how, yes, The Beatles were the first to try a lot of things in the studio, but they were also the first to have access during that brief period before consumer-grade recording equipment became available. Making records in one’s bedroom or living room is now the norm, with the exception of only the highest paid performers, many of whom have all of their songs written by the same two professional songwriters. The sound quality is the same, and record labels generally don’t pay for studio time anymore.
Depends what definition of indie you want to use. Kurt Cobain did a cover of And I Love Her. What does any of this prove?
@Jon, Ken Scott and Geoff Emerick worked with the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
@Lara, I actually couldn’t find any specific Pink Floyd releases that Scott or Emerick worked on, only that they were regularly shuffled around along with everyone else at EMI – that shuffling was how Emerick ended up working with the Beatles, when Norman Smith was reassigned to the Floyd’s debut album, but Geoff then famously quit the White album sessions because he couldn’t stand the Beatles themselves. Either way, they would only have encountered Pink Floyd at the very beginning of their professional career, so it’s just an odd source, especially considering they released six more albums before they even got to Dark Side of the Moon. I did find Alan Parsons’ generous Get Back screen time peculiar (and I’ll add that he quit working with Pink Floyd immediately after Dark Side of the Moon).
Since David Bowie came up I’m going to say something potentially controversial- in terms of stage presence David Bowie IMO out performs the Beatles, together or solo. I’d also say that Heroes and Space Oddity can stand up to any of the Beatles biggest songs.
@LeighAnn, I agree! Their Hamburg era was a different situation – similar to one of the ideas floated during the Get Back sessions, where people just go to a nightclub, and the house band just happens to be The Beatles. The comment about Mick Ronson is interesting because it was such a brief period in Bowie’s career; on the next album, Bowie played all of the guitar parts himself. There are now three live albums taken from various points in his Diamond Dogs tour, and they all sound completely different. That same year, Harrison was criticized for switching up the live arrangements of his own songs. The expectations put on the Beatles were simply bizarre, and John and George both clearly stated that it’s what prevented them from ever wanting to tour again.
Side note: Plastic Ono Band had a very direct influence on Dark Side of the Moon, which outsold every Beatles album by far.
Also talking about Bowie and Beatles influences made me then want to listen Bowie and then made me think of one of my favourite versions of Space Oddity which like many comment in the comments section sounds very like Mother when stripped back and in its raw acoustic state.
If you’re going to limit yourself to the pre-1971 solo catalog, at least bother to listen to George’s “See Yourself”, which he wrote in ’67 in defense of Paul’s public LSD confession, but didn’t release until 1976, along with “Woman Don’t You Cry For Me” and “Beautiful Girl”, both dating back to ’69.
I personally like the “Beware of ABKCO” version of Beautiful Girl, but it’s super-super-slight.
@Michael Gerber: “John and/or George could’ve quit at any time; they could’ve vetoed any project or album; really, they could’ve. But they didn’t.”
Oh, um…BUT THEY DID. As did Ringo. And in each instance, they had hoped that it might get Paul to back off a bit and give them back some leverage, and it did, briefly.
As John put it: “The cartoon is this: four guys on a stage with a spotlight on them; second picture, three guys on stage breezing out of the spotlight; third picture, one guy standing there, shouting, ‘I’m leaving.’”
I don’t think it was any particular project that they took issue with (other than the live performance aspect), but the critical response that tended to praise what they considered to be the weaker elements.
“And in each instance, they had hoped that it might get Paul to back off a bit and give them back some leverage.”
How do you know this? In all my reading, I’ve never come across any of them saying that. In fact, Ringo has never said it was because of Paul that he quit. It was the combined tension off all of them, plus Yoko.
I think there’s some confirmation bias going on here
Fun Fact: Paul is the one who got James Taylor out of his Apple contract. Taylor was not happy when Allen Klein came into the picture, and wanted out. Paul made it happen.
@Jon, don’t believe everything John, George or Ringo said in and around the breakup period. For one thing, they had a lawsuit to try and win. Ringo has said he didn’t leave because of Paul, and not long after George quit he said he and John had had a falling out. We also don’t know what conditions George imposed for his return. It’s rarely the case that only one person is responsible for everything that goes wrong.
@Jon, the expectations on Paul were far higher than for George in 1970 yet he managed. Nobody can seriously compare Bowie performing in the 70s, once huge advances in sound and stage technology had been made, to the Beatles performing 1960 to 1966. To say The Dark Side of the Moon outsold any Beatles album is meaningless. Statistically, the age group who purchased popular music in the sixties were mainly aged 10 to 22 years. By the mid 70s this had stretched from 10 to 35+year-olds (and consumer power greatly increased by a large young generation by then earning their own income), today anywhere from 5 years to 80+ years. Norman Smith, Ken Scott and Geoff Emerick worked often enough with both bands to know what they were talking about. @Michael and @Neal, I love Stevie Wonder! He’s one of my favorite artists. I played Songs in the Key of Life on vinyl until it wore out!
@Lara, I think citing POB’s influence on one of the highest selling albums of all time was relevant to the discussion; I mean it sold two or three times more over a shorter period of time. If your point about the consumer power holds true, then perhaps Band on the Run should’ve sold closer to Dark Side’s 45 million copies rather than 4 million, since they were released in the same year.
@Jon, I think your viewpoint has been expressed. Thanks for commenting — time to move on.
I missed this review from Slate when it came out. It’s pretty good: https://slate.com/culture/2021/11/get-back-beatles-documentary-review-disney-plus.html
A snippet: “There are sweet moments between all of them—Paul playing piano while Ringo does a spontaneous soft-shoe, George and John having an animated conversation about watching the newly formed Fleetwood Mac on a late-night TV show, Ringo slyly laying his hand overtop of Paul’s and Linda’s in the control room as they listen back to the rooftop recordings, which turns into a playfight. But the romantic friendship between Paul and John, fraying yet unbroken, is the band’s, and the film’s, emotional center. It’s constantly flickering in their eyes, in the physical chemistry between them, in the rhythms they fall into that leave everyone else a few inches outside.”
I’m just glad someone was at least willing to dip their toe into the pool of obviousness and call it a romantic friendship.
@av, while some in the music press parroted John’s own characterization of the friendship as businesslike and competitive, it would be wrong to suggest that the idea of John and Paul having a deep bond of love is in any way a new one. Because, as you say, it’s obvious.
“One afternoon, engineer Glyn Johns comes out of the control room to suggest, as if it’s a bright new idea, that perhaps what the group should do is finish one number, record it, and then go on to another song and record it. What about that as a plan? Nobody even dignifies him with a response.” This is a quote from the Slate Review. Since when did the Beatles do anything that made sense? And it made me laugh.