Two weeks ago I asked, “Is there anything else to say about the Beatles that hasn’t already been said?” In Myself revision 1964 A hard day’s Night. Now, EVERYONE is talking about the Beatles again for the first time since… well, probably Ron Howard’s 2016 documentary. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. During Thanksgiving weekend, The Beatles: Get Back fell like an atomic bomb on Disney + and the world is once again infected with Beatlemania, albeit in a very 2021 way; Listening parties and album premieres have been replaced by Twitter threads, memes, and Pinterest boards of her wonderfully dated wardrobe.
With almost 8 hours of duration in three episodes, Return was directed by Peter Jackson from Lord of the Rings fame and assembled from more than 60 hours of film and 150 hours of audio recordings. A comparatively small part of this material was previously seen in the 1970 Michael Lindsay-Hogg film. Let it be and heard on the album of the same name. Released a month after the official breakup of the Beatles, both are pretty tough affairs that portrayed the band at its most bitter and uninspired. ReturnRather, it paints a more nuanced and comprehensive picture of a group struggling through personal and artistic growing pains as they tirelessly strive to write, record, and perform a new album of material within a month’s time.
The Beatles retired to the studio in 1966. Excited for a live recording to promote their 1968 single “Hey Jude,” the group decided to record their next album in front of a live audience. The writing sessions and rehearsals were filmed before the final concert, which would later air as a television special. Seeing the group’s equipment set up on a cold and cavernous movie soundstage, one wouldn’t be wrong to think that this is the perfect environment for a young rock band to implode. “I don’t think this is a very good place acoustically,” says guitarist George Harrison, one of his many practical observations that will be duly ignored along with his composition, leading him to leave the group seven days after rehearsals.. “If he doesn’t come back by Tuesday, we’ll call (Eric) Clapton,” John Lennon responds to the news. Returnfirst episode.
Harrison is persuaded to rejoin the following week, but tensions persist. Having started out as teenagers, the four Beatles had grown into very different men. Paul McCartney is the most disciplined, sometimes overwhelming his bandmates with a plethora of musical ideas and suggestions. Lennon had a comparative shortage of new material and often it seems they haven’t. Harrison, the youngest member of the group, felt limited because he was only allowed two songs per album. Ringo, who had left the band briefly the year before, serves as their peacemaker and emotional center. Lurking in the shadows were business disputes, drug addiction, and the trauma of manager Brian Epstein’s sudden death 16 months earlier.
Even if the storm clouds that would tear the band apart are visible on the horizon, Return shows that at the time of filming, in January 1969, the Beatles were still very much a band of brothers. There are disagreements but voices are never raised and the camaraderie of the group is evident. John and Paul, always painted as the grieving extremes of the band’s character, seem united in their concern for their bandmates and delight in collaboration, exchanging admiring glances after nailing a vocal harmony or guitar part. From a fan’s perspective, it’s fascinating to watch them bounce off song ideas that would appear on their solo albums. Yes, Yoko is a somewhat annoying presence, but let’s not forget, it was John who insisted that she be there. I can’t imagine how boring it must have been the whole time. Even Paul defends her.
Due to scheduling constraints and a lack of consensus, the Beatles’ live album presentation is reduced to a set of five new songs, some performed multiple times, on the roof of Apple Corps, the record label, and the company of group administration. Having endured seven hours of stacking, it’s a pretty big payoff when they finally connect and move in the final 49 minutes of the movie. The group plays on hitherto lost excitement and joy and draws an enthusiastic and unsuspecting crowd of office workers, chimney cleaners and members of the London Metropolitan Police Service. Watching them perform, you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if they had put their differences aside and toured in the era of modern sound systems, just then starting to emerge.
Rivaling in length with Jackson’s Middle-earth trilogies, Return not easy to see, not even for a musician and Beatles fan like me. If you’ve ever been curious about the sheer boredom of songwriting, recording, and just being in a rock band, by the end of the film’s 468 minutes, you’ll be an expert. If Jackson had simply edited out half of the fake musical starts and bad versions of the songs, he could have shortened an hour and still captured the song writing process and brought home the highlight that the Beatles still have fun together. It’s the curse of the modern age that all we watch must be a 3-minute YouTube video or a 10-episode Netflix series that we passively binge on autoplay. Jackson could have told the same story, better, in less time.
Despite its flaws, Return it’s still an extraordinary viewing experience. Both epic and intimate, it allows the viewer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a fly on the wall as one of the greatest musical acts of all time creates a new album out of nowhere, amid great personal turmoil and professional pressure. . Perhaps most importantly, it humanizes the Beatles and dispels the myths of their ultimate end. Due to its enormous importance, artistically, culturally, and personally, we want to believe that there was some cataclysm or supervillain responsible for the Beatles breakup rather than the very mundane and very understandable reason why four young people who grew up together became adults and grew up. Besides.
Benjamin H. Smith is a New York-based writer, producer, and musician. Follow him on Twitter: @BHSmithNYC.