Today we sat on the deck with our daughter Ella and her friend Nick. Nick knew that I was fascinated by everything to do with the Beatles and gave me a Japanese 45 from Get Back that was filmed with Don & # 39; t Let Me Down. His gift coincided with a 5-minute cut from a newly authorized production of a new version of Get Back, the movie. A short story follows.
In the dwindling days of the Beatles' partnership, the band decided to return to a stripped-down style of production, with no overdubs and with a live feel. After the first few sessions at Twickenham Studios, the group retreated to the basement of their Apple headquarters and a hastily remodeled studio made available by their usual producer George Martin and loaned equipment from EMI Studios.
In the years since Sgt. Pepper, Beatles records had begun to retreat from their highly produced studio experimentation. The most recent double album, The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album), was largely recorded individually, creating a wedge between the group and their producer that sparked a two-week vacation during which Martin turned production over to his assistant.
The multiple recordings also exacerbated the growing tension between the band members, as hundreds of attempts to perfect Paul McCartney songs like Ob-La-Di and Ob-La-Da drove Lennon further into his heroin experiments with Yoko Ono. Quarrel led Ringo Starr to quit for two weeks before being lured back with flowers draping his drums. George Harrison invited Eric Clapton for a meeting to get the rest of them on their best behavior. That move worked again four months later in January 1969 with Billy Preston in the Get Back sessions.
It may be difficult to understand the context of these tensions in a world ravaged by a global pandemic and the worst president in free world history, but this was the middle of the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's first term. His re-election in the landslide in 1972 would prevent voters from removing him from office, and the Watergate scandal that led him to resign was only just beginning to unfold. Compare the emotional turmoil of four rock musicians to today's terror over the actions of an autocrat who will be removed from office in endless thirty days. But then as now it was really sucking.
Part of the problem was the worrying concern of the postwar boomer generation that we didn't really deserve the respect we wouldn't get from a heterosexual society. The silent majority of our parents and peers scoffed at our experiments with free love and drug-induced "insights". The counterculture we called ourselves was as lonely a place as the Deplorables of 2016. We had no power, no real leaders, and could only go down when Woodstock in Altamont collapsed, murdered, and became dependent.
So we didn't know what we were talking about, and yet here we owned the pottery that we broke. Our heroes in London were at the top of the world and couldn't stand each other. What should I do? Let's make a film about who we really are. On the plus side, there was real alchemy between these four young men. Though fed up with each other, they loved the results of what they found together. Lennon was haughty but funny, McCartney was pleasant but curled up like a big cat. Ringo was everyone, with an actor's surprise at his luck and proud of his true role as the ignition switch.
Harrison is the crucible in which the steel is forged. In post-breakup interviews and narration, George seems to be the one who realizes the true value of the partnership, even if he explodes it with solo success. The backlog of his material became so successful on his first album that McCartney and Lennon tried to keep up for the next 8 years until Lennon's death.
Of everyone else, he was the one who saw the value and responsibility of keeping the door open to what they had together. When Lennon recorded his vicious attack on McCartney, How Do You Sleep, George not only played the record, but fed the emotional power with a surging slide guitar lead that he had only developed when the group was done. During the White Album sessions, which were producing some of Lennon's best work, he suggested that Lennon change the title from Maharishi to Sexy Sadie in order to lose the personal attack on the guru who might turn out to be jealous of another Coterie of the group has identified.
In the film fragment released for Christmas 2020, Harrison can be seen starting Get Back. For the first time ever, you can really see the role George played in driving the track. As with many players, this is best understood if he is dropped because of a repetition or a tempo adjustment led by Paul. The guitarist's absence shows how central he is to the mix. In the only footage released prior to this new material, Harrison appeared muted on the rooftop version of the track. He was reportedly opposed to a live concert in general and didn't agree to go on the roof until Lennon finally signed up.
It is this context that is so striking in the new material. The tensions within the group show not only in the inevitability of their breakdown, but also in their courage to be filmed and shown for all to consume. As a die-hard fan of the band and all of their dynamic at the core of the century, the new footage looks like The Godfather and its sequels. Like Godfather II, the Beatles studio phase when they gave up live performance in 1966 surpassed their initial success in a way that essentially invented the modern Hollywood business of sequels.
The return to the live phase, which began with the White Album and continued through the Get Back sessions, broke up with the last Beatles recording of Abbey Road. In this way, the Get Back film appears to include early footage of material from Abbey Road, as well as tracks by Harrison and McCartney that were never completed by the group. Unlike the Let It Be film, which was created as the director's section of the group's breakdown off Abbey Road, this new Get Back film is likely to serve as a document of the group's final stages of defeat and breakup.
The last Beatles recording of all four plus Billy Preston produced I Want You (It's So Heavy), the long blues track that ends next to one of Abbey Road. It's a tantalizing glimpse into the future that has never been from the largest group ever. Like Francis Ford Coppola's reinterpretation of the final installment of Godfather, Get Back is a coda based on the tragic ups and downs of the 1960s. At that time it was impossible to imagine where we could go from there. Today we share the same feeling of despair, but perhaps hope of what the future might bring.
from the Gillmor Gang newsletter
The Gillmor Gang – Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live on Friday, December 18, 2020.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
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