Monday, January 10, 2022

Beatles Get Back 7: January 10

Paul and Ringo, with Michael and Glyn, are sitting in directors’ chairs to the side of the soundstage with Dick James, their music publisher, going over a list of song titles he’s acquired for Northern Songs, their publishing company. Paul is noticeably testy around Dick, but he lights up when he recognizes some of the “golden oldies” the company now owns. George arrives, thanks Dick for the Christmas present (glasses—“something to drink out of or the wife can throw,” says Dick) and sits by Ringo, who shows him the list of “what you have half a percent of.” John and Yoko arrive, and there is some discussion about a meeting the band is to have with Neil Aspinall—roadie since the Cavern days, and now director of Apple—that’s supposed to be very good news. This is more interesting to them than Dick’s crowing about Vera Lynn recording two Beatles songs, and the boys walk over to their instruments to start playing.
Despite not having finished the words yet, Paul leads them into several rehearsals of “Get Back”, trying to hammer out chords and dynamics. George makes some suggestions, which Paul dismisses. George supposes that Eric Clapton would be better at figuring out what Paul wants, and noodles while John and Paul huddle over the lyrics.
There’s an edit halfway into “Two Of Us”, which still has the more rocking arrangement, juxtaposed with shots of John and Paul connecting, and George brooding. They call for lunch, and then George says, “Uh, I think I’ll be… uh, I’m leaving the band now.”
“When?” John asks.
“Now,” replies George. “Get a replacement. Write in to the NME [a music trade publication] and get a few people.”
Soundman Tony Sutton asks if the camera is still rolling. Tony Richmond calls “cut” and the screen goes black. A caption informs us that George walked out of the studio, and we see a page from his diary that day, confirming that he “left the Beatles.”
The captions go on to report that after lunch, John, Yoko, Paul, and Ringo returned to the rehearsal space. We hear them literally wonder what to do as a camera focuses on the vacant cushions by the side of Ringo’s drums. They commence playing loud, aggressive versions of “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down”; based on their manner, plus the beer bottles and wine glasses in view, they have likely been imbibing. We move to a montage of furious jamming with appropriate crazy camera work, with Yoko wailing at what had been George’s microphone, Paul coaxing feedback out of his amp, and Ringo playing his drums harder than he’s been seen all month. Suddenly Paul is on drums and Ringo is providing commentary into an offstage mic. Then cut to John leading a falsetto chorus of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” while Paul is shown climbing about the scaffolding at the side of the soundstage.
After the music stops, Michael wonders how George’s exit should be treated in the film they’re making. John is dismissive: “If he leaves, he leaves… if he doesn’t come back by Tuesday we get Clapton.” Michael asks if anyone else had ever left the band so abruptly. John hesitates, and replies, “Yeah, Ringo.” Meanwhile, Yoko calls John’s name loudly over a microphone to Paul’s piano accompaniment.
Neil and George Martin have arrived, and explain to Michael “the box” George has been in for years, having to play second fiddle to the Lennon/McCartney dominance. Even though John and Paul don’t write much together anymore, “they’re still a team.” Ringo’s wife Maureen is there too, and Paul tells her if she learns the chords A7, G7, and D7 over the weekend, “you’re in,” to much laughter.
Michael again asks the gathering what the plan is; John says, “Split George’s instruments.” Michael goes on to relate an anecdote about Orson Welles from his acting days as John and Yoko walk away. He then tells the remaining people that they should think about a location. George Martin remarks, “Location isn’t really a main problem at the moment.”
Slow-motion images are accompanied by George’s solo demo of “Isn’t It A Pity”, which was actually recorded a few weeks later. The camera focuses on a shot of John, Paul, and Ringo huddled together with their coats on, as their arms extend around each other in a group hug.
***
This installment is the one Beatlemaniacs had possibly anticipated and certainly dreaded the most. Certain dates loom large in the band’s legend, and the fact that cameras were around for this one adds to its significance.
Some notes for context:
• Dick James was the publisher who took a chance on the sheet music rights to the Beatles’ first two singles for EMI, and partnered with their manager Brian Epstein to form Northern Songs, which would be the exclusive publisher of Lennon/McCartney compositions going forward. Due to standard practices of the time, John’s and Paul’s shares in the company were less than those of Dick James and his team. Even after the company went public, John and Paul each owned less of a percentage of the company than James and Co. did, with George’s and Ringo’s shares in the low single digits (hence Ringo’s remark about “half a percent”). Since forming Apple, and speaking with other songwriters among their peers, John and Paul were feeling increasingly resentful about having naively agreed to a deal wherein Dick made millions off their work through sheer circumstance. This relationship would soon deteriorate to the point where Dick sold all of his majority shares, leading to a buy-out by Lew Grade’s ATV Corporation, which not only didn’t benefit John and Paul financially, but would one day lead to Michael Jackson buying the catalog, depriving the Beatles from owning their own music yet again. Paul would go on to become very involved as well as very rich in the music publishing industry, to the point where his MPL Communications company is now one of the largest in the world, owning the rights to several lucrative entities—but not anything originally administered by Northern Songs, save those first two singles.
• Most sources have reported that the band had just returned from lunch when George left, although this edit suggests he left before lunch. (The official tie-in book is vague on this point.) It’s also been suggested that George’s beef that day was with John, and not Paul—the latter belief usually supported by such evidence as the tension depicted in the Let It Be film.
• Ringo did indeed quit the Beatles during the recording sessions for the White Album, feeling unappreciated and not as close as “the other three” were to each other. After two weeks away with his family, and receiving telegrams and flowers begging him to do so, he returned—just in time to film the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” promo films, which were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
• It’s curious that as of this installment, we’ve seen Yoko, Linda, and now Maureen, but not George’s wife Pattie. She was definitely around during the White Album, and even sings on “Birthday” with Yoko.
• As Michael makes his comment about Orson Welles, the band reacts with laughter. It could be that they’ve already heard his suspicion that the famous auteur was his biological father, a claim that has been disputed as physically impossible by biographers. There is a mild resemblance between the two; what we find more interesting is that Michael apparently had the story confirmed by his mother’s best friend, socialist and designer jeans pioneer Gloria Vanderbilt, with whom he went on to have a “relationship”. Whatever the truth, we can’t imagine anyone with Michael’s grating vocal timbre being cast in any stage play, so it’s best he pursued directing.

1 comment:

  1. Ardmore and Beechwood, EMI's in house publisher, handled the first single (Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You). Dick James did not get involved until their second single.

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