the beatles

    Get Back to Christmas

    We subscribed to Disney+ last night, so that we could watch Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back. I had thought it was going to be a movie, but it turns out it’s a miniseries: three two-hour episodes. The second drops today, and the third tomorrow.

    It’s built from hours of footage that were recorded for the Let It Be documentary back in 1969. I remember watching that once and being disappointed by it. The main problem was that it was presented as a fly-on-the-wall thing, but the fly was aurally challenged.

    In other words, you couldn’t make out much of the chatter between the guys. That, almost as much as hearing them rehearsing and working on the songs, was kind of the point.

    If you were making a documentary like that today you’d probably have all the band members wearing microphone packs, as the participants in reality TV shows do, so that what they said would make it to storage. Back then, though, even if that had been practical,1 it was far from obvious that the individual Beatles would all have complied. Plus we’d want to hear from Brian,2 and Mal, and Glyn, and the other George, as well as John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

    That’s a lot of microphone packs. So of course, the original producers relied on ambient miking. It’s fine when the speaker is near one of the vocal mics, or when they’re right under a boom, but otherwise… well, as I say, Let It Be was a frustrating experience.

    However, technology has come a long, long, way in the succeeding fifty years. Every word in this is clear as a bell,3 undoubtedly with the help of modern digital audio editing. It’s slightly ironic to note that one of the first things the band say is that the place they’re working in – a warehouse in Twickenham – is acoustically bad. An odd choice of a place in which to work on writing and performing songs.

    Anyway, as of the cliffhanger ending of episode one, this series is fucking amazing! Totally brilliant!

    But only if you’re a fan. If you only take a passing interest in The Beatles, or (weirdly) none at all, you probably shouldn’t waste your time on this.

    The Disneyfication of Christmas

    Disney have made a genius move in launching this when they did. We will be far, far, from the only people who took out a subscription to watch this, with the intention of cancelling it after a month.

    A month. What’s a month after yesterday, the 25th of November? Oh yes.

    All those subscriptions that are due to renew on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? So many of them won’t be cancelled, either just to have things to watch over Christmas, or to keep the kids happy, or because people will forget with everything else going on.

    I don’t mind, I’ll probably try to catch up on some of the newer Marvel and Star Wars stuff, of which there is just far, far, too much now, in my humble opinion.

    But there’s not too much Beatles.

    1. It wouldn’t, because they would have had to be wired microphones ↩︎

    2. I don’t know what I was thinking here. Obviously Brian Epstein was dead by 1969 and isn’t in the film. My thanks to Tony for pointing this out. ↩︎

    3. The odd line is given a subtitle, but I think those are more about Scouse accents than inaudibility. ↩︎

    The Beat(les) Generation is Slipping Away

    Sad to read in The Guardian that Astrid Kirchherr1 has died. She was 81. That’s not a bad age, and it’s not like I had followed her career. I just knew her as a photographer who had worked with The Beatles, and been Stuart Sutcliffe’s partner till he died.

    But from my early reading of Beatles books – like The Beatles: An Illustrated Record – onward, I was aware of her as part of their story, their mythology.

    More than that, though, as the article above, as well as her obituary, will tell you: she was the one who gave them their early look. She made them the “lovable moptops.” They’d have been successful without the haircuts, of course, but there’s no denying the importance of that early image.

    I think I’m saddened more because of what her death represents. I was born the year The Beatles took America. They had long split up by the time I developed any musical awareness.2 But they were the first band I really got interested in, when my sister gave me a tape. They were my favourites until punk came along, and I love them still.

    But that whole generation is ageing – well, who isn’t, of course – and will soon be gone. And mine not too far behind it. So what it all comes down to is that Astrid’s death reminds me of my own mortality, and there’s no excuse for that!

    Brilliant photos, though.

    1. I note that I always thought her name was Kirchnerr. But there’s no “n” to be found. ↩︎

    2. Though I did shock my grandma when I was very small, by singing “Obla-di, Obla-da.” She thought I was “swearing”. And it might have been The Marmalade’s version that I’d heard at that time. ↩︎

    2023: A Trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (Books 2018, 6) 📚🎵

    This book could have been written for me. Seriously, during the first part it felt like it was targeted right at me.

    I am, as you probably know, a fan and repeat reader of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. As clearly are Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, or the KLF, as they used to be known. This book is — what, a spoof of, a homage to? — Illuminatus. Explicitly modelled on it, referring back to it constantly.

    Plus there are lots of Beatles references, and I’ve been into them for even longer. Then among the characters are Alan Moore, who (in this corner of the multiverse) is a member — along with Cauty and Drummond — of Extreme Noise Terror. Our world’s version of that band did collaborate with the KLF, but as far as I can tell they had no connection with Moore.

    So don’t expect to get too much accurate information about popular culture out of this. Plenty of references, though. Other characters include Michelle O’Bama, M’Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono (two versions), Lady Penelope, and her chauffeur/hitman Aloysius Parker.

    It’s a lot of fun. The downside is that it’s not very well written, at least as far as the dialogue is concerned. Most notable is the complete absence of contractions. Which is fine for an odd thing, or maybe to give one character a particular voice, but when no-one uses them, it all gets a little strange.

    The story is fun, though, and I finished it and immediately started rereading Illuminatus yet again, so there’s that.

    And Then it Was All That

    One of the blogs I follow is called And now it’s all this, by the mysterious Dr Drang. He writes mainly on engineering and provides lots of interesting Python scripts.

    What I’m interested in his blog’s title and subtitle, though. “And now it’s all this”; and “I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong.” I’ve been reading it for years, and had only idly wondered about why it was called that, or what it really meant.

    I’ve also been listening to, and reading about, The Beatles for years — for a great many more years. And so I was very familiar with John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” line, and the subsequent furore.

    But not that familiar, it turns out. Or not with his apology, at least.

    We recently watched the excellent Eight Days a Week film, which has lots of Beatles footage I’d never seen before, and puts it all together into a compelling narrative.

    Of course, it covers the “Jesus” period. So there was John, at a press conference, making an apology of sorts. And out pops:

    I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong. And now it’s all this.

    Oh. OK. Right. I should have seen that years ago.

    Of course there are two remaining questions:

    1. Why did the good doctor choose to name his blog that?
    2. And what does the “leancrew” mean in his domain name?


    I never cared that much for Joe Cocker’s highly-rated cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but I just saw it on BBC Four’s … Sings the Beatles, a programme whose title tells you exactly what it’s about.

    And… hell, yeah: it’s really good. Apparently Steve Winwood and Jimmy Page are on the recording. But we won’t hold that against it.1 Sometimes all you need is the passage of time; sometimes it’s just about the mood you’re in. But it’s often worth giving things another chance.2

    Now it’s on Petula Clark’s weird-arse version of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” during which the caption tells us that Petula is Britain’s best-selling ever female artist. I’m guessing this was made before Adele.

    1. What? The Punk Wars never ended. ↩︎

    2. I guess. But how far do you go? Napoleon Dynamite? I think not. ↩︎