Thursday, January 13, 2022

Beatles Get Back 9: January 13

Part 2 starts with the same basic info that opened Part 1, including the warning about “explicit language, mature themes, and smoking.” The next slides remind us that George apparently quit the project and the band on Friday, and that a meeting on Sunday didn’t solve these issues. Ringo is the first Beatle to arrive, and as he, Michael, and Tony cross to the director’s chairs to chat, Michael greets the overhead boom mic.
Mal asks Ringo about the meeting. Ringo says it was “fine… a lot of good things, but it sort of fell apart at the end.” While he and Michael discuss what kind of film they have so far, a bouquet of flowers from the Hare Krishnas arrives for George, to much levity. As Paul and Linda arrive, we hear Glyn telling Tony that his wife is pregnant. (Ethan Johns would grow up to be a musician and producer himself, and even work with Paul McCartney in 2013.) Neil arrives and reports that he couldn’t reach John on the telephone.
We learn more about the meeting the day before, for which Linda was apparently in attendance, and it is revealed that Yoko did most of the talking on behalf of John, who was silent. “In the middle of all that,” says Paul, “George went.” He goes on to say that he understands why John and Yoko would want to be together around the clock, and that the songwriting dynamic had already changed before Yoko showed up, as he and John weren’t “living together” on the road anymore. He has no doubts about their musical ability as a band, but he finds himself writing about “white walls” to appear to John and Yoko’s artsy airs. While the “young lovers” may be “going overboard”, Paul knows that’s just how John is—he’s always been impulsive and all-in on whatever captures his fancy. He thinks it would be silly “in fifty years’ time to think ‘the Beatles split up because Yoko sat on an amp.’”
Michael asks again about the The Big Show—which is understandable, because cameras are rolling and money is being spent on the ongoing production—and Paul believes that each day they lose, like today, should push the dress rehearsal day back as well. He goes on to explain an idea about the TV show intercutting their songs with news reports from around the globe, earthquakes and whatnot, ending with the bulletin that “the Beatles have broken up.”
Paul’s body language gives away a lot here. He’s fidgeting, whistling, chewing his nails, picking at his beard. Michael asks if Paul thought he had any influence on John to bend his way. Paul replies, “I don’t know, you know.” A pause. “And then there were two.” His eyes are wet and he’s trembling.
Blessedly, Mal has apparently reached John on the phone, and comes to get Paul, who follows him off the stage. Linda and Michael expound on their love for the Beatles as fans; we also see photographer Ethan Russell sitting quietly to the side. Paul returns to the gathering, almost beaming, as John is on his way in.
An hour later, John and Paul are in the studio canteen. Michael has hidden a microphone in a flowerpot to capture their conversation, which we hear, captioned onscreen. They discuss George’s attitude; John says he understands George not wanting to “compromise” himself to be creative. “It’s a festering wound that we’ve allowed… and yesterday we allowed it to go deeper, and we didn’t give him any bandages.” Paul feels that despite their changing musical inclinations, they can still combine and be great, but John cautions that their egos will still cause them to bend things to their will rather than letting each other contribute naturally. The natural hierarchy of the band is brought up; Paul feels John has always been “boss”, while John counters with all the times he felt “frightened” of challenging Paul’s arranging instincts.
It’s fascinating to hear what seems like a natural conversation between these partners. While it’s frustrating to hear them interrupt each other, it’s still clear that they do communicate in their own way, despite all the conjecture that has built up over a half-century.
They return to the soundstage with the intention of going to George’s house together in a gesture of goodwill and friendship, but he’s apparently visiting his parents in Liverpool, and won’t be back for two days. Ringo suggests the three of them rehearse, and they go to their instruments.
We don’t hear much playing right away, as Paul is stuck trying to come up with Loretta’s last name in “Get Back”. John looks bored, but he’s still actively contributing to the process. Ringo even chimes in, suggesting “looking for a blast from the past” to rhyme with “but he knew it couldn’t last.”
While packing up, Michael asks again about the plan for the show. Paul figures they should delay it another week to be on the safe side, but they still plan on doing something. John even says, “I’ll leave my favorite guitar here as a sign.”
Other sources than Jackson’s edit show that a lot more happened on this day—and also that a lot more didn’t happen—but many theories have been expunged, such as John’s total apathy, Paul’s megalomania, and Yoko’s interference. The whole story is certainly more complicated than what we can see and hear today.