Sunday, November 28, 2021

Live-Blogging Get Back

EPISODE 1: DAYS 1-7 January 2-10

My live-blogging of the second episode HERE 

My live-blogging of the third episode HERE


GOOD: Although it makes total sense when I think about what Let it Be was to begin with, I'm fairly shocked at how much this is geared to super-fans. I *guess* I was expecting a kind of Anthology Part 2, but this is a super-inside look at how a band - THE band - works, and for a super-fan like me it is beyond intoxicating, and something I consider a gift to myself and fellow fans.

BAD: While I understand that watching them vamp through golden oldies shows us how much fun they have with each other and how much connective tissue they have with their own learned canon of rock n roll after having grown up together, it gets quite wearying. It probably takes up an entire hour, I mean camon. As much as they were musical gods, The Beatles - particularly John & Paul - were also great comedians, but we can get this across without repeatedly having to watch them them goof around to Blue Suede Shoes.

1:00 The intro to the brief “Here’s the entire career of The Beatles!” kicking off with In Spite of All the Danger does in fact make you think it’s just another part of the Anthology. Not sure why Peter Jackson, who made this entire thing for super-fans, felt the need for this run-through?

5:37 I didn’t think I’d comment during the career retrospective part but George, after being asked about the infamous dust-up in Manila, bitching that he hadn’t wanted to go to Manila in the first place is about the most George thing George could possibly have said at that moment.

10:01 Enough isn’t made of the fact that The Beatles had to wrap these recordings up so quickly because…Ringo had to start shooting a movie? Wouldn’t this be like D-Day being scheduled on June 6th because General Eisenhower had his Kick-the-Can Fantasy Draft on the 7th?

11:33 Michael Lindsay-Hogg looks like he’s 12 years old. The legend, unconfirmed, was always that Orson Welles was his father. Much like Ronan Farrow, what is is about famous kids who have unconfirmed famous fathers that makes it look like they’re pre-pubescent? MLH looks like he’s a fetus and yet he’s older than each of The Beatles!

11:33 First Beatle sighting: George!

Interesting that the first song heard in the entire doc is Lennon’s On the Road to Marrakesh, which would become Child of Nature, which would eventually become Jealous Guy, a track on his second solo album. Like All Things Must Pass and Gimme Some Truth, I don’t know why McCartney didn’t jump on this one to be on the album.

12:22 Interesting that The Beatles sit on normal, drab wooden chairs during rehearsals. I guess I'd pictured them being hoisted up by puppies dipped in gold while practicing with each other?

The idea that the band is putting themselves under the pressure of writing and recording an entire album to be presented on a live tv special is even crazier when you really that they’d released The White Album - not just an album, but a double album - JUST A MONTH AND A HALF EARLIER!!!

12:52 Lennon seems to have Don’t Let Me Down pretty well down right away but as you people recall it’s not even my favorite song called Don’t Let Me Down.

13:28 It’s pretty shocking to hear them quoting A Hard Day’s Night since in Beatles time it feels like that was a million years ago,…but it was only 4 1/2 years ago! Jesus.

14:38 It's weird that they’re basically given an airplane hangar to rehearse in and the band immediately pretty much huddles in each other’s laps.

15:27 I just realized at this moment that in only 6 months I will literally be twice as old as George Harrison was while filming this goddam thing.

19:50 McCartney’s flip-flopping sense of diplomacy within one sentence is both impressive and alarming: “the sound in here is terrible but you never know it just might be great.” What?

24:00 George tries to bring up “gee, I have a bunch of songs ready to go…” to Paul and is somehow cock-blocked by Ringo deciding at that moment to learn how to play piano. Ouch! (We don't see the footage of Paul slipping Ringo £5 for his efforts)

36:11 Again, I have no idea why Gimme Some Truth didn’t make it on this album.

One great thing in particular about this whole doc is a fresh viewing of John Lennon himself. Even as he’s one of the most well-documented people in human history, over the years fans like myself have kinda gotten used to the same set of a dozen or so Lennon “moments” - pictures, quotes or video frozen in time and by themselves: here’s Lennon being brilliantly Lennon, here’s Lennon clowning around, etc. But seeing him just sitting around with the other Beatles is incredibly refreshing - sometimes he’ll say something brilliant, sometimes he’ll start cutting up, sometimes while playing a song you can tell he wants to please Paul, and sometimes he’s just sitting there looking like a dope, like anybody else. Very illuminating, and, again, a real gift this film has delivered for fans.

37:21 George finally gets them to do Sunrise, which will become All Things Must Pass. The song sounds amazing, the three of them singing together is magical, and so of course they don’t bother recording it. Useless, gentlemen! Like tits on a bull, some may say.

39:11 George’s earnestness about how he and Paul should feel connected with each other as though they’ve each written each other’s songs is incredibly moving. Being a Liverpool man of 26 I'm sure Paul will make fun of this to John & Ringo the second George leaves the room (hey this has always been how it is, unfortunately), but I really liked it.

41:35 Okay now they’re considering doing an older Beatles song and George wants to do Every Little Thing so now we hafta officially question everything about George. WTF George all those amazing hits and incredible album cuts and THAT’S the song you pick?! That's like Derek Jeter going back and wanting to bang his high school girlfriend instead of his Murderer's Row of Mariah Carey./Jessica Alba/Minka Kelly/Scarlett Johanson/Adriana Limna OKAY DAMMIT GEORGE MY FINGERS ARE TIRED OF TYPING!

Over the next 90 seconds George gives a remarkable speech about how he wishes he was a better guitar player AND foreshadows the coming of Billy Preston, to which John and Paul blink while waiting for the appropriate amount of time before they can talk about, you know, anything else.

44:26 Weird that they present themselves as being under the single greatest pressure any humans have ever been under and yet…have their weekends off? What? Are they Matthew Crawley during the Battle of the Somme?

It’s kinda weird/sad seeing George Martin throughout this doc. The way I’d always read it was that he was like “fuck this” and was never around for the Let it Be sessions. But throughout Get Back there he is just kinda standing around, looking fairly useless, the master for whom the pupils no longer have any use. He is THE only person I will ever accept as “The 5th Beatle”, so it’s painful to see him so seemingly useless here. Thankfully we know he comes roaring back months later during Abbey Road after the band comes crawling back to him, hat in hands asking for help.

54:37 Brutal 4 minutes of Paul doing all he can to completely ruin Don’t Let Me Down with terrible backups, all the while with John just staring at him until sanity reigns again with George calling it, in a word, “shit”. 
(Director Peter Jackson: “George is this wonderful, pragmatic guy who takes all the romance out of the other guys who go supernova into these flights of fancy. He just says, ‘That’s never going to happen.’ I really relate to George. You want John and Paul in your group, because you want that genius to be going into these crazy directions, but you always want George in your group as well to say, ‘That’s a bloody stupid idea.’ I really appreciate George for that. He would be great on a film set because he’s a let’s-just-cut-all-the-crap-out guy.)

57:54 OH NO HERE IT IS - the legendary argument with Paul & George! It’s always been framed as Paul accusing George of being annoyed by Paul’s musical instruction and George snarkily telling Paul he’ll basically play whatever Paul wants him to play as long as it will shut him up; now with the fuller context presented it’s pretty much Paul saying “I feel like I’m annoying you” and George saying “you’re not annoying me”. END OF SCORCHED-EARTH FIGHT!   

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR: when Paul gets frustrated, he tries to blame the process. When George gets frustrated, he questions himself. When others are frustrated John doesn’t seem to really care, and Ringo is the drummer.

1:00:03 One of the more remarkable moments of the doc: while sitting around waiting for John to show up McCartney pulls the song Get Back out of thin air. Let’s be honest - it’s a fairly simple rocker song, it’s not like we’re watching the creation of A Day in the Life, but watching it from the moment it’s birthed is pretty thrilling, and a testament to the genius of McCartney people have spent decades rightfully espousing.

1:06:20 Lennon walks in late as they’re running through Get Back and, as half of Lennon/McCartney, instantly calculates how much $$$$ he’ll be making off the song.

1:09:57 Paul pleading to the rest of the band that they can still "ROCK!" is a ballsy move in this sweater/shirt combo.

1:14:04 Things are getting tense - George has even brought up the word “divorce”. And if we’re getting worried this is going to be curtains for the band it turns out it’s even worse than we think: Paul’s introducing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer to the band. Jesus.

1:19:30 The fact that they can go directly from playing Paul's abysmally stupid Maxwell’s Silver Hammer to John's brilliantly transcendent Across the Universe is yet another indication of how great a band they truly are, or that Paul has some photo evidence of John doing some really weird shit.

1:22:52 For being “The Quiet One” George is one chatty motherfucker, but I actually like it - everything he says is very earnest and well-intentioned, while Paul wraps himself up in riddles of what/who they are/aren’t, and John just wants to run out the clock being funny. Ringo is just delightful, of course.

I wonder if a reason we find something like this 8-hour doc digestible in 2021 is that we’re so used to reality tv? I mean if we can sit through hours of the Real Housewives of ________ throwing wine glasses at each other before commercial breaks then surely we can sit through watching The goddam Beatles for a few hours, n'est-pas?

1:24:22 Paul seems to actually like George’s new song I Me Mine, then immediately tries to point out a grammatical mistake in the lyrics. George thoughtfully bites his tongue about Paul one day marrying a woman with one leg.

1:25:22 Paul confronting John to ask him if he’s written any songs has all the warmth of a bill collector but without the entertaining threat of violence.

1:26:25 If you’re worried about what happened to Scott Farkus after A Christmas Story then please don't, he went on to find work:

1:42:20 Paul brings in Linda for the first time, and the entire world decides to blame her for breaking up The Beatles OH WAIT A MINUTE she's white and American. Never mind. Great job, Paul!

1:49:42 As someone who’s read a million Beatles books and LOVES the Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End medley at the end of Abbey Road, I for one am shocked to see that Carry That Weight started out as Paul writing a country song for Ringo. Thankfully, knowing this still doesn’t take away the heavy emotion the song holds in its final resting place on Abbey Road. Superslice.

1:55:40 Lennon’s “yes?” responses to Paul during Commonwealth is legit LOL funny. It’s easy to see why, while he was obviously frustrated by Lennon’s lack of professionalism from time to time, it was virtually impossible for Paul to actually get angry at him.

2:04:55 Okay, getting to witness Paul McCartney introduce Let it Be to the rest of the band for the first time is a pretty special moment.

"I'm gonna spend years & years being like a beloved part of the band!"
"Oy vey." 
2:22:20 Aaaaaand this is the moment George quits The Beatles. “I’m leaving the band now.”

Nobody at the time seems to know what he’s meant, one way of the other. Historical consensus has been that he simply got fed up with McCartney hectoring him about what to play. Watching Get Back, it’s also obvious he’s anxious about the Lennon/McCartney team never giving him a chance to record his songs, which have gotten better and better over the years. It’s probably a mix of the two. They had always treated him like the kid brother but hell, he had the lead-off track on Revolver and four songs on The White Album! Of course we know he comes back - he almost single-handedly saves Abbey Road later in the year - but this is of course great drama and history for the documentary. 
END OF EPISODE 1!!!!  I can't wait to see Episode 2, when they move out of dreary Twickenham and back to their studio at Apple. And might I say, this is easily the greatest Beatles moment in 26 years, since the Anthology. :) As always, The Beatles simply make this world a better place to be in.

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