The new Beatles doc has a lot to teach us, says Tom Hodgkinson
All I can think about this week is the new Peter Jackson Beatles series, Get Back. As you have probably heard or seen, Jackson has taken hours and hours of film from the “Let It Be” sessions and crafted an eight-hour fly-on-the-wall special that follows the Beatles through a month of rehearsals in 1969.
It’s gripping and fascinating for many reasons, and you can read Peter Fincham’s excellent review on Idle Thoughts here.
For me, one of the main appeals is witnessing their collaborative genius and creativity in action. Watching the Beatles at work – or at play, we could say, since most of their time seems to be spent mucking around – has reignited my desire to be a Beatle, or at least to be more Beatle-like.
Perhaps my self-identification as a Beatle looks to others a trifle big-headed. Watching episode one, which follows early rehearsals in a warehouse in Twickenham, Victoria said, “They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves very much,” at which point I retorted haughtily, “Oh, that’s what band rehearsals are like, you wouldn’t understand.”
Victoria said that was one of the most absurdly self-aggrandising comments she’d ever heard me utter. Was I really comparing myself to Paul McCartney?
Well no – but I do think we can all be inspired by the example of the Beatles and the way they combine hard work and idling so well. Paul’s always saying things like, “We need a proper schedule of work,” and gently berating others for being late (their working hours seem to be roughly 10 to six).
I also like the way they all have clipboards in front of them – clipboards, I think, are such a reassuring presence. They ground you.
So they’re quite well organised but they’re also masters of “going with the flow” and indeed at one point George says something along the lines of, “The best things we’ve done have always been unplanned.”
They also chat and laugh non-stop. They’re always talking, and putting on silly voices, and pulling silly faces. One tip for creatives I’ve picked up: when you get attacked in print (or online), read the attack out loud in a really silly voice. Paul does this and it works brilliantly. Also, put some daffodils in your work room.
They’re always open to outside influences. Billy Preston is welcomed in and magically gels all the songs with his gorgeous Fender Rhodes playing. John moots the idea of inviting him to join The Beatles. It’s joyful.
I’ve now watched the first two parts twice and I have a feeling that this doc is going to be as creatively inspiring as Socrates or Lao Tzu or Dr Johnson or Dickens.
I actually wouldn’t mind buying a transcript in book form to have lying on the bedside table, to consult. You never know, maybe Get Back will be shown to young managers in corporations as a lesson in team management, and having fun.
These comments were mailed to us after an earlier version of this piece was sent out as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts.
I said exactly the same thing – that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Riveting and so many goosebump moments. The third part is just mind-blowing bathos – the beauty of the rooftop gig enhanced by the ridiculousness of the invading cops. (McCartney’s reaction is so cool.) It’s got everything, hasn’t it, and white Rolls-Royces too. There is a published transcript, edited by John Harris.
I’m 100 per cent with you; the film is a masterclass in so many things. It also made me warm to Ringo in a way I never have before.
This made me chuckle!
Subscribe to the Idler here and get 26% off the cover price plus a free copy of An Idler’s Manual and a free “snail” tote.
Buy single issues here.