17 Short Stories About Get Back

  1. Hubble bubble. Like many people in the Beatles bubble, I’ve been rewatching Get Back on a day-by-day basis in January. And it really is very enjoyable watching it this way, both accentuating the aimlessness of the project and providing daily jolts of happiness. 
  2. Your podcast companion. It’s also been fun to do the daily listen in parallel with the I Am the Eggpod podcast’s daily chats. Presenter Chris has lined up a roster of (mostly returning) guests to talk through each day in turn. Inevitably, this can get a bit repetitive, as most guests can’t resist making the kinds of comments that everybody has been making, including me, but the enthusiasm and joy is infectious. And of course Nicky Campbell [🙄] spent his episode trying to show off and ended up being a brilliant example of how the mainstream media can never hope to match up to dedicated podcasters with access to all the bootlegs. If I may use a random food analogy, the mainstream media offers a sachet of microwaveable rice; podcasters cook a lot of rice. In a dedicated rice cooker.
  3. Dissociative. Aimee Mann turned up, too, on Diana Erikson’s One Sweet Dream podcast, discussing Get Back from the point of view of the kind of musician-fan who hasn’t exactly done the “deep dive” into the Nagra reels that many podcasters and bloggers have. I haven’t either, and I’m happy to listen to the musician’s take, though it’s odd to hear someone offering a remote diagnosis of John Lennon’s personality disorder across a gap of 50 years.
  4. But while we’re offering amateur diagnoses. Might Paul be a little bit on the spectrum? He’s a savant, according to some, and he clearly thinks in songs, and there are an awful lot of sentences that seem to lack a verb (or a noun). And he seems to ignore George and avoid eye contact a lot. But then again I think to myself, how would you deal with someone as pathologically passive aggressive as George?
  5. Ringo wasn’t miked up. Is this correct? It puts all the “Ringo doesn’t say much” comments in a different perspective. Perhaps he was chatting all day long and it just wasn’t captured on tape. Also: a constant reminder that as wonderful as Get Back is, it’s pure artifice: everything is an edit, just like reality TV.
  6. George’s songs weren’t ignored. Everything’s an edit, redux. There’s a danger, watching Get Back that you might think they didn’t spend any time on “All Things Must Pass”, when they worked on it for at least four days and bought in a Lowry organ especially for George, because he wanted to capture the Music from Big Pink sound.
  7. They were looking for rockers. The whole reason a lot of these slower ones are being set aside is that the Beatles couldn’t imagine doing a live show that didn’t consist of up-tempo rockers. They’d never done it.
  8. It wasn’t always procrastination. Sometimes, the tapes needed the be changed. The used tapes rewound, labelled, boxed. Sometimes equipment needed to be tweaked, and all of that white coat stuff is still something the Beatles don’t know how to do. George Martin even adjusts the controls on Paul’s bass. It was all white coats at EMI. All that’s about to change, but it hasn’t quite. So while the technicians were being technical, the Beatles messed around.
  9. Yoko wasn’t silent. I’ve never been a member of the “she broke up the band” school of thought, but there’s something off about her portrayal in Get Back, as someone silently knitting or reading or writing or performing Japanese calligraphy: as if she wasn’t saying anything. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the inevitable misogyny, who knows? There is something unspoken here: even if Paul didn’t have a problem with Yoko (and there’s plenty of evidence that he didn’t), that wasn’t necessarily true of George. The first post-walkout meeting ‘ended badly’ — perhaps because he couldn’t stand Yoko talking for John. And anyone who saw Lewisohn’s Hornsey Road show knows about the digestive biscuits.
  10. The Beatles Don’t Do God. Like Tony Blair’s government according to Alistair Campbell, they don’t do God, which perhaps explains George’s lack of traction with “Hear Me Lord”. But also, and here’s the problem, the Beatles don’t ever say out loud that they don’t do God.
  11. Weekends were still sacrosanct in 1969. I love the fact that it took them almost until the end before they decided they had to work through a weekend. I long for those days when people kept work in perspective. I don’t do God, either, but I try my best not to work on the weekend.
  12. Was there really a deadline? The cameras stopped rolling and they carried on, didn’t they? Ringo was making a film, but isn’t he there in February when they’re recording “I Want You”? I’m sure there was a finite amount of time for film stock and Glyn Johns, but all the calendar stuff is a conceit, I think.
  13. The drinking culture at 3 Savile Row. Topical: I wonder how much they were drinking. Paul often looked tired and emotional and they often seemed well-oiled after lunch. Along with the sacrosanct weekend, habitual lunchtime drinking is a thing of the past. In my first few working years, at the tax office, I would often spend a couple of hours in the pub, but those days are gone. A shame, I think. I don’t think it really matters if people drink at lunchtime, as long as they don’t drive. It’s not as if anyone is really doing any work in offices, especially in the afternoon. Of course, one of the reasons Friday afternoons can be perilous on the motorway is because some people still do take a drink at the end of the week.
  14. And the Beatles were driving. Some pretty anti-social parking too! I was very disappointed to see George parking his Rock Star Merc right on the corner of Savile Row, without leaving even the Highway Code advised 15 metres of free space. Also, where were they supposed to park in London in 1969? I’m assuming there were meters to feed around some corner, but that would involve more walking.
  15. The awkwardness in the air about India. Such an interesting sequence towards the end of Part 2. All the home movie footage from India, and George’s interrogation of Paul. “Do you regret going?” Lennon: “I regret nothing.” Paul trying to say how the cine film shows them all behaving unlike themselves. George talking about how they were supposed to be finding themselves. Does George feel some embarrassment about the whole affair, since he took the lead?
  16. And now we’d like to do how the Angels come. I’m still convinced that there’s an underexplored issue here as to why George is a little bit estranged. Shame. Not about India, but about inviting the bloody Hell’s Angels to Apple, which had happened just a couple of weeks before. He may have enjoyed hanging out with Dylan and the Band, but that wasn’t all he was doing in the States in November/December. He also invited the bloody Hell’s Angels to set up camp in the Apple offices. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?
  17. I’m still proud of my T S Eliot pastiche, written in the white heat after watching Part 3. Too proud, perhaps.
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