A change of venue leads to a change of genre, the tragedy become espionage thriller become comedy become fairy tale. We leave King Lear on the blasted heath of an emptying Twickenham Studios, playing “Oh! Darling” on the piano, which in this context now seems like it might be a song for George.
When you told me you didn’t need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and cried
And he did, he really did.
Paul’s philosophy is laid out: give it a week, something will happen. Something will turn up. He’s a Beatle, and he’s seen it happen over and over again.
Meanwhile, Sparky, an ugly duckling who once admired the swans from afar, happens to drop by as they are discussing the need for an extra swan in the band. “Me? A swan?” he cries. Suddenly, Sparky’s magic Fender Rhodes piano appears in front of him.
‘Don’t let me down Sparky!” sings John.
And, MY GOD what a moment. Those hands stroke those keys and it’s there, all at once, like it had always been there.
I often use the beginning of George’s quote, “It was decided it would be better if we got back together and finished the record,” as an example of the use of passive voice to elide agency. Somehow, George was persuaded, away from the cameras and the HIDDEN MICROPHONES IN FLOWER POTS to return to Savile Row in his Mercedes and floppy hat.
A new dynamic takes hold. George is quieter and less prone to wanging on about Eric Clapton. Paul is chastened, still collaborative, but less of a Professor Higgins about what people are playing. John has had a personality transplant, and explodes into mischievous life once they are in the Apple basement, literally surrounded by cups of tea and rounds of toast. And Ringo is clearly miles happier, goofy, sweet, and brilliant, as he dials in that shuffling pattern and the real “Get Back” is born.
Everything is coming together – but before they become five, they have to become four again, and that all happens off camera. The Last Days At Twickenham feature disconsolate Beatles coming down from the crazy Friday high of George walking out, and discussing the bleak future. Paul seems sanguine until he says, sitting in a circle that includes only Ringo from the group, “And then there were two.” And just saying it out loud seems to make it real for them, and their eyes brim with tears.
And everyone watching at home realises: it’s Paul and Ringo, January 1969, thinking about being the only two Beatles left. Cue Oh! Darling…
Then comes the not-so-secret talk between John and Paul, surreptitiously recorded by MLHQ, during which John lays some pretty heavy thoughts on his partner. George (Smiley) would have smiled in satisfaction as he listened in the room next door.
Once in Savile Row, the narrative takes shape, and the music flows, with slight hints that Glyn Johns is no George Martin, not quite in tune with the way they like to work. Yet somehow, with this cobbled together studio full of borrowed equipment, things start to sound good. But excuse me, title writers, what does “lashed together” look like? Two four track consoles connected together makes eight, sure. But lashed together sounds like it involves straps and roof racks.
Lindsay Hogg is now less in evidence. Still coming on to push the show, but has abandoned Libya in favour of Primrose Hill. He’s yet to understand that they don’t need spectacular backdrops; it’s the bloody Beatles, shut up.
Eventually Primrose Hill falls through (into a sink hole?) and there’s a scene of building tension as John admits that the project has got away from Paul, who sits acknowledging his unhappiness. Once again we’ve just ended up in London recording an album, he says. He clearly wants something more, and talks about finishing the thing with some grand gesture. George points out that they’ve never planned anything, it just happens in its own way. Something will turn up. It’s the Beatle way.
At which point, Peter Jackson introduces a cheeky bit of slow motion as we see Paul hear for the first time the idea of doing it on the roof.
The look on his face.
The look on all our faces. Forgive Peter Jackson for the slo-mo: he really wanted us to see.
This episode felt much happier, less tense, more joyful and loving. And now it’s time for my toast and fifteen cups of tea.