Twitter Space-cast chat 2
1:02AM Dec 6, 2021
He did this last week and it was really good. I did a lot of talking. I'm hoping there's more people will want to talk this week. But I'm just really, you know, I'm really I've been watching all of the reaction and the coverage of the GET BACK movie and I've listened to a lot of few more Peter Jackson interviews, he's doing a ton of press. And you know, so there's we're going to be compiling some of those references on our, on our site so that people can can reference some of the things that I'll be talking about today. And if you're interested in getting updates about things that are going on, and the book that's in the pipeline that's scheduled to come out in the spring, you should sign up for our email list. It's one of our working titles for the email list is infrequent emails. So you get them infrequently. And it's really just about updates in watching the website is going to keep expanding and expanding and then early birds will get a discount on the book when it comes out. So that's what that's about. I am expecting some more people but I don't like to be rude to the people who show up on time. So I'm going to start talking. We do a lot of people don't know this, but you have to be on iPhone to participate in this stuff, which you already know because you're here and participating. But that's something that people I'm not sure if people know. We will be taping these things. I'm taping them here on a different unit and we post them to the website so if you miss it, you can catch up. And if you want to participate, you know you can raise your hand, etc. I'm sure people will have disagreements and questions and that's what this thing is all about. It's just you know, a Beatle author talking about the reaction his reaction to the stuff. This week I'd like to talk more about how about placing it in rock history and Beatle history because I think that is a piece of context that a lot of people are missing in the coverage. Because January of 1969 is a is you know I once had a history teacher said you can basically get away with calling any period of history a transitional period. The 18th century is a period of transition. And it's true but in in 69 what we're what we're seeing is a very particular transition. And we have to understand that in January of 69. The only time we have cameras rolling on Beatle sessions on like on everything is you know, it's post of White Album. So the White album comes out I think it's like November 20 1968 and that the next month well like then, before November is out John Lennon gets arrested on a setup marijuana bust. And then Yoko has a miscarriage in December and that's when he goes and joins her in the in the hospital and that's where we see those pictures of him lying on the floor next to her hospital bed. And so you have to in order to orient ourselves to January of 69. You have to really understand that the White album is at the top of the charts. It's obviously this big new thing and it's an explosive release in a very interesting way because it's a double album so there's 30 songs and the Beatles have really solidified this comeback that they have put together since Magical Mystery Tour and when you look at the Beatles career as a whole you understand Magical Mystery Tour is a dip. It's you know, it's subpar work compared to everything else as a follow up to Sergeant Pepper especially it's kind of like a it's kind of a belly flop, especially the movie. And I've been thinking this week about how Paul McCartney solution to how to rally people is to do a movie. And he does it first with magical mystery tour after Epstein dies. They are not going to do they're not going to work that fall. They're going to take that fall off. They're planning to go visit the Maharishi in India. And then Brian Epstein dies and they decide you know the best thing for us to do is to get back to work. So let's make a movie. So they they have this very naive idea. They'll they'll hire a bus and a group of actors and they'll take off and just film a movie without a script, right? Never a good idea. And that movie's a mess. And you know the score is not up to the Sergeant Pepper standards, although, like everything with The Beatles, you know, a not so great Beatle Artemis still heads above a lot of other stuff. And we get I Am the Walrus from those sessions. We also get a really interesting George song from those sessions. Not booj way but it's all too much. And it's all too much. And old brown shoe kind of count as two of the great last Beatle tracks and they're George tracks and they're not very well known and they're actually all too much is very much in the thrall of Hendrix. And it's kind of a tribute and, you know, very, very odd Beatle song even even for the psychedelic period, it's way out there.
And so then they take their retreat to India, and they visit with the Maharishi February and March of 68. And then they spend 68 doing the White House now The White Album, were notoriously down sessions not not nobody's happy. They're working themselves to death and they're, they're often not in on each other sessions. So there will often be three Beatles in a room working on a track and the fourth Beatle will be in another studio working on a different track. And it's famously you know, one way of understanding how far apart they are moving from each other in the White album is that there are no vocal duets anywhere on the record. Right so Lennon and McCartney are not harmonizing anymore. It's one of the great things they do his Beatles every Lennon McCartney Duet is a special thing. It sounds different from every other duet and it's one of the ways that they convey their their commitment to the group together is when they do it together. But there are no duets on the White Album. And the White Album famously ends with revolution number nine and then Good night. And revolution number nine, you have to put yourself back in January 1969. People are still kind of fretting about revolution and we're not going to how did this get on the record? Like what does this mean? Like? It's kind of a difficult track and it actually is, you know, people, the early reaction to this track is not good, right? And people are saying there's a lot of wonderful material here. But what is this thing doing on this record and it really sort of, you know, it's it raises these giant question marks around the band. So it's a hit record. Then McCartney decides to rally them by booking a studio and trying to fulfill some of their film contracts by doing a TV show and making it rehearsal and then we'll do it. We'll do a TV show. We'll invite an audience in. They very much want to replicate the Hey Jude film they made for David frosh show. And they felt like that was a good experience. And it was one song and they liked the experience they had with that and Michael Lindsay Hogg directed that so they hired him to direct this new thing. So when they gather in January of 69, to this giant Twickenham, soundstage which has actually been booked by the Dennis of Dell guy who is head of Apple films and he's also producing magic Christian. He's gotten it as part of a package deal with his magic Christian thing, this particular soundstage The Beatles get to use however they want for whole month. But you notice when you watch part one, that it's this enormous soundstage. And they don't realize till after they book, everything that they have to show up and start filming at 9:10am Every morning because the film crew is unionized. So the film crew is not going to adapt to the Beatles schedule. The Beatles have to adapt to the film crew schedule. So this is another way in which the history of the Beatles the context gets really important. It's Brian Epstein would never have booked this thing for them because he would have understood oh, we need non union camera people to be filming this. So the Beatles can just do it on their own schedule. That's when they make good music is when they're comfortable. And the idea that they're getting up every day and doing this at at 9:10am is just weird, because you're the biggest band in the history of entertainment and you can't even book a studio and the studio turns out to not have any recording or playback equipment in it. And it's cold so they bring in space heater. So you're the biggest band in the world. And you have to troubleshoot on the fly while you're filming this film about rehearsals and you need space heaters and people are bringing in sandwiches. It's just not very well thought through. And so that's that's a really important piece of context to understand. So all of that is happening. And the Beatles at the same time are trying to run apple core which is signing new bands, producing other people's records, building a roster and putting out having complete control over their own stuff and all of that and they're busy. They're beginning to they're beginning to tire of all this administrative work, which they just again, they didn't anticipate. Again, if Brian Epstein was around, this wouldn't be happening. It's just very odd to contemplate how how rudderless they were right. So the tensions that you see on film during these rehearsals are completely par for the course right? These are normal tensions that every band would have only if you're the biggest band in the history of entertainment and you're running your own record company. And you're starting to veer apart anyway aesthetically like your last record. This question of like getting down to a month's work and trying to do a TV special with all new material. Get what's weird to me about it is that Michael Lindsay Hogg never sits them down and says,
Hey, why don't you just start with back in the USSR? Why don't you play a few of the songs that people know from your current hit record? Any other band would have said? Oh yeah, we have 30 songs that we just released two months ago. We could pick a few of those songs and pad out that they know they are committed to doing all new original material and McCartney is very unhappy with Lennon because Leonard shows up and doesn't he doesn't have any new material. So they're going back to across the universe, which is over a year old. And you know, it just is it's it's very curious to see them this way. Their thought sort of thrashing about not understanding that Paul is giving them direction, not being really very committed to the direction so of course, he looks like he's being a schoolmarm and cracking the whip and trying to get everyone on board and they're just really ambivalent about it. They don't they don't really care if this thing goes south. And they just don't are not invested in the way that he is. So there's this giant tension building. But there's a way in which that the stuff on film is it's basically showing them at rally points. So what we're seeing is all of the most interesting parts of 60 hours that Peter Jackson could get his hands on, right. And we're seeing all of the moments at which they rally so even this, it's still kind of boring, like non music specialists are not really it's not very entertaining. It's unscripted. It's just the Beatles hanging out and a lot of the gags fall flat and a lot of it is kind of forced here. And that's because they're trying to rally and trying to get on board. There is this really interesting sense in which they appreciate that the Beatles they feel responsible to their audience. They're not trying to slough it off, but they really just their heart's not in it. So that's why George's ultimatum ultimately shifts everything and when we get to part two, when we go to the Savile Row basement, they it's their own building, and they built a studio in their basement and this is supposed to beat make things easier, and they're gonna gain more control over it. However, the problem is this studio is not finished. So the first couple of days they're there and they don't have the right sound equipment setup. So they spent a couple days spinning their wheels and you see them kind of pushing Glyn John's the engineer. Hey, can we do a take now like we're ready to do a take and he's like, we got to wait till after lunch. We're not quite done. They're doing everything on the fly. It's very, it's very curious to see because it's all about the missing management piece. They do not have management in place where they could say to someone, alright, we have a staff of a dozen or whatever it is. We need to x by Monday morning. That's sort of like their it's very 60s in a way to it's very kind of haphazard and sloppy. And like that's just the way it is, man. We're just going to show it the way it is right. So we get to we get to the second part of the film and we're in the Apple basement and George now has really rallied and he's actually bringing in a couple new songs he brings in old brown shoe that's really fun to watch. That's one of the great last Beatle tracks. They actually record that I'd have to look it up in February or March. So that's really going to spin right out of these sessions. And then they kind of just decide it's interesting to see in the movie because it's McCartney has talked about it a little bit as his idea but it's clear that it's either Glyn John's his idea or Michael Lindsay hogs idea and they go to him and they suggest it to him and they show him his eyes lighting up like that's the solution. We'll just go play on the roof. And that's the one piece of the film that I was really kind of disappointed in because that's when Peter Jackson goes into slomo which again, is like that's just a trick. That's a manipulative trick. You shouldn't do that. You could go you could show it again. You could but the slomo business is really manipulative and it's not a documentary and I really objected to that. But you know, the headline is, oh, these sessions were a lot better than we thought it's like, yeah, but the subtext is still very ominous, right? Because here's how I think about it. You have just not just climbed Mount Everest with Sergeant Pepper, you basically invented Mount Everest with Sergeant Pepper, then you've invented a different kind of Mount Everest. The negative image of Mount Everest, which is the White Album, right, which is these are two very curiously different records. Sergeant Pepper is everything that can be made. That is great about the Beatles. The White Album is everything that is everything that is coming apart in the Beatles and they still sound like a great band and but they sound curiously like a different band on every single track. And they're it's a it's an album that does not Blair togetherness, it really blares Fischer, and, and anxiety. In fact,
I really liked this essay that Devon McKinney wrote for a conference I was at. And he wrote about how it's almost free floating anxiety on every track and then it kind of coalesces into this free floating piece of collage anxiety, that is resolution number nine. He puts it a lot more elegantly than I can and I'll try and link to that piece on the site so that people can see it, but it's, it's a very, very intriguing idea about how chaos is the organizing metaphor of a White Album. I also like what my co author called, but he called it a dog's breakfast. But anyway, you're, you're the biggest band in the world. You have done your conceptual coup with Sergeant Pepper. You have done what Mark Moses called the renunciation of that coup with the White Album right? So this question of what's next, which comes up, you know, basically every record with the Beatles like what do you do after revolver? Right? What do you do after pepper? What do you do after the White Album? Right? That's a very, very threatening and for ambitious people. It's it's a motivator, but it also just scares. It scares the daylights out of them. You can tell how tentative they are in some of these early sessions. So I think of the I think of this footage as it's been very clarifying, to look at and think about again after 5050 years, and at the same time it's also really deepened our, our ideas about like, what makes this band tick and why they're doing what they're doing and why they're showing it to us. And all the stuff that's happening off screen. Because you know, what we have is 60 hours from January of 69. What we don't have is all of Hamburg all of Beatlemania all of the global tours, all like the shared experience that is just beneath the surface and all of their four minds. Is is rumbling just beneath the surface here this whole movie, and it's barely acknowledged and barely hinted at until they get to the rooftop. Now when they get to the rooftop, there's this incredible payoff and the payoff is years and years of years of playing together, and sleeping together and traveling together and being being intimate with each other in musical and almost every other way, in ways that come out through the music and the music helps channel it and express it and they're at their very best when they're playing together and they bring out the best parts of each other when they're playing together. So that rooftop is sort of a it's a giant magical payoff. They all know that they have this payoff inside and then Michael Lindsay Hogg. does not know he's, he's kind of freaking out about how they're going to finish the movie. I was really rapturous to see Peter Jackson's cut of the rooftop sequence. I
think it's really an inspired piece of filmmaking. I love the cross cutting. I love the split screen. I love the all of the added interviews with man on the street
they did. I love the cops. The cops look younger than the Beatles. I don't know it's just it's so bizarre to see the cops showing up and being all British and like, Look, we're not nobody's gonna get arrested but we really do have to this is this really necessary you know? We're going to be really super polite in this very aggressive way. We're gonna you know, like we we would never do anything that we've upset anybody but we have to express how upset people are in a very mannered way in a very mannered, elegant fashion. And they finally get up on the roof and they convince valve to unplug and amp so this is their this is their world historical moment. is they're going to unplug the Beatles app in the middle of their last song man was busy trying to calm them down saying look, it's just the last song it's all over. It's only 40 minutes, don't get upset, they're being delayed and delayed. And I'd love to have Ringo talked about the secrets in the anthology, you know, 20 years ago as he said, we thought it would make a great ending to the movie The Beatles The Beatles get carted off by the police like shoving us into police van and taking us away I think a great ending right?
So I don't know it's all very very it's it's given it's it's opened up a lot of new
avenues for research for Beatles scholars. We're all kind of we're all kind of mesmerized by it all over again. And I wrote a piece in the conversation that you can get to off the website that is about how this context is really important to understand and how you know the the headline is oh, these sessions weren't so bad but what nobody's asking Peter Jackson nobody's asking Paul McCartney Ringo Starr is so if the sessions were so bad so why did you wait 50 years you know like there's there's this giant hole in the in the way people are treating is like, oh, yeah, it's good to finally have is, it is good to finally have it. We could have had it 20 years ago, we could have had it 40 years ago, right? Why did they why were they so cautious about going back to this material. And the reason they were so cautious about it is because it really left a bad taste in their mouth and because they got the events and the lawsuits in 1970 confused with the sessions of January 1969 when it started to unravel and the sessions were a lot better than they remembered it. But they remembered these sessions as being very, very disheartening and not worth not worthy of the Beatles. Brand. Because they wound up being so acrimonious and their breakup and this in no way erases some of the blood that was spilled during their breakup. It was a very difficult, fraught, tragic breakup a lot of trauma in that breakup and the trauma measures how close they were and how great that friendship was among all of them. So what I don't like is how people are looking at this and trying to rewrite legal history from it. For me, this confirms a lot of things that we knew and suspected and you have to remember we have an eight hour film here. But Peter Jackson waded through 60 hours of it I mean, if we had to watch 60 hours of it, you might see why the Beatles why it left a bad taste in their mouth because he's just assembled eight hours of them rallying and the things that bands do when they rally is, you know, they show up to a session everyone wants to work when they if they've gotten themselves to the session they want to produce good material. That's just kind of the attitude they have. They're professionals. But that doesn't mean that you know, the other 52 hours have a lot of slog in them. You know, I think Lenin was exaggerating when He called these sessions, you know, the worst sessions ever in the history of the world, but he was known for exaggeration, but you know, you can't argue with this 50 year gap. Like why did they wait 50 years to restore this material? They waited because they couldn't bear to go back and look at it. They thought it was gonna stink, they thought and they're relieved that they get to have you know, a nice chunk of change and a whole, you know, introduce themselves to a whole new young audience with this material. But people are glossing over, you know, some of the more interesting contextual parts of this. So the I'll finish by saying there's a couple things that really impressed me about the whole thing that I haven't seen articulated elsewhere. One is they do finally get up to the roof and they actually run cables all the way down from the roof down. I think it's four stories down to that basement mixing board where you see them doing listening to playbacks, you notice how they get traction on their playing in their arrangements and everything else when they start listening to playbacks so the Beatles in the playback room. That's some of the best footage because they are listening to themselves and they're hearing Oh, this is working. This isn't working. We know exactly what we need to do next time we play this because they can hear themselves. That's one of the biggest things that we're missing at Twickenham. That's something that hasn't been articulated very much in the coverage I've seen. The other thing I'll say is, I think that the rooftop is an extraordinary feat of musicianship because the temperature is around 40 degrees. And again, this is another management issue like other managers would have said, don't play outside January 30. It's going to be too cold, it's going to be a nightmare. You're going to be uncomfortable up there, the winds gonna blow,
right and they found all of those adverse conditions when they went up there, and like they weren't expecting it like they they lived in London for years by now. They grew up in Liverpool like January 30 is not a good day to go play outside, but they commit to playing outside they run these cables to the basement. And you know, the scholars that I check with, everybody agrees there's no sweetening on these tapes like that live sound on the rooftop, that's what you're getting. They did not go back and redo guitar parts and redo vocal parts. And what I hear is pretty much a bull's eye on everything. Those guitars are not falling too far out of tune those vocals are all perfectly into the vocal harmonies are in tune the ensemble is, you know, magical. I think that we still underrate that rooftop performance just on the level of technical musicianship because they're complaining about how cold their hands are, but they're still churning it out. It's kind of amazing. So I'll finish by saying, you know, one of the big my big takeaways from the whole thing has been to understand the January 69 sessions in a different context, which is the it is a transition between White Album and Abbey Road and let it be is a waystation between White Album and Abbey Road, and the Abbey Road songs that we see introduced in these sessions. Those are the songs that really pull them forward towards a much bigger project. And that's the project they commit to and so we see them as they're getting. They're beginning to climb the ladder of the Abbey Road thing as it begins to take shape. And they find their sea legs in that basement studio. And it's satisfying enough especially after they do the rooftop concert that they they call George Martin and say okay, you know, this is the other thing that nobody's talking about. Is George Martin is hanging around there in the studio, but they're not saying to him, Hey, we wish you would start producing this now. They're just saying it's fine if you hang around but we're just cutting some tapes. We're not really you know, we don't need a producer here. They're being very kind of weird with him. And it's it's a measure of his good faith that his humility that he's just hanging out but he's not. He has never been officially asked to produce these sessions. And in fact, he's not ever asked and he does consider that a snub. He's on record feeling snubbed about it. So those are my thoughts after a week. It's fun to see people come again, raise your hand if you want to get called on I hope people have questions, disagreements, et cetera. I I'm hoping to do this on a weekly basis or maybe a monthly basis depending on what kind of turnout we get. I think Twitter spaces is kind of a good platform for this kind of thing. Because I don't want to be on camera. I want to be on mic. And I want to drive people to the website and collect your email so I can give you all a good sweet deal on the book that's coming out in in the spring. And you know, I think I think this is an interesting space. To kind of try and do some some rock history talk. Next week I'd like to talk about Springsteen because I had a bad week I didn't get to look at the Springsteen no nukes concert but that is the next thing on my list that I am really excited about and the trailer to that thing just knocks my knocks me sideways. I saw Springsteen in June of baking 78 on the darkness tour in Red Rocks theater, Denver, Colorado. I mean, it was really it was a decisive moment in my life. And this this footage looks a lot like that. And if you have never seen Springsteen live, really urge you to go spend the 10 or 12 bucks whatever it is on Apple and watch it and watch it with headphones, watch it loud. Watch it with people that you dig music together with. You will you will it will be it will be appreciable. You will be glad you did it. So that's my suggestion for next week. Who's here who has questions who has comments who'd like to talk? Who'd like me to keep talking? Oh my goodness, no reactions, nothing at all. Crickets out there. Yeah, baby. No. All right. What do we got? What do we got Stevens here? Hey, Steven, good to see you. Has anyone read like an article or something that they thought was really really good? I thought Carl Wilson and slate was pretty good on the sessions. I did have switched on pop podcasts that I liked. I thought they did a really good job. I will post the links to the mic to the Peter Jackson interviews that I found good one of them was on. I think it's things we said today the Alan cosin podcast,
I think did another one too. Anyway, two very long interviews one to one interview we did for podcast was over three hours and it was really substantial. And he's really clearly a big fan. One of the other takeaways I have from this material is that I think that the ideal audience for this stuff is musicians and engineers and producers. And that it's a it's a real film about the work ethic and about process. And that process is messy and often uninteresting to those not participating. It's it often makes sense only to the people involved in the process. Right? So you know, you get interviews with people about how they songwriter or how they write novels or how they make movies and like they can go off and they can just blow a lot of smoke. And frankly, I think if if the most honest people who are going to describe their process to you are going to are going to be like, Well, it's pretty messy. I really I have like I lacked direction much of the time. I try and show up and commit stuff to tape or paper every day. That's kind of what they're doing. And it's not. It's not meant to be riveting. It's not meant to be compelling. It's not meant to be entertaining, right? It is they it is performative for one another. It is, you know, this is it's part of the way I think it's a very interesting, intimate project from the Beatles. This is how we work and it's often like not magical. It's often boring. It's often tedious. Everyone's talking about that great moment in part one where McCartney goes into a kind of a trance and he literally closes his eyes and he strumming his bass and he comes up with get back and you sort of hear, get back sort of like emerge from the ethos. It is really a wonderful moment. It's not often that you get to see a songwriter do that kind of channeling on camera, and it looks very authentic to me. But, you know, we don't know if he had done that channeling the night before and decided to repeat it again for the cameras that day. Not that I'm being cynical and thinking he would do that but again, we don't know what's off camera, right? I think it's a pretty magical moment. I trust him if he told us that was the first time he did it. But you know, those those moments come very seldom in rehearsal sessions, right? It's not like you're it's not like you're having those moments, morning and afternoon and evening, right? You're having we get one of those moments and eight hours of film. So that shows you how rare it is or was and the rest of it is about taking these germs of ideas and developing them and working on them. And you know, bouncing them off one another. I think George's stock really goes up with this material not only because he he serves the other three and ultimatum and you see John's attitude towards George really change in the second half. And and he also brings in Billy Preston and he brings in this great material, but he's also Georgia's very, very active in the arrangements of Get Back and don't let me down. One of the illusions that Peter Jackson makes which is very questionable to me is the bass counterpoint to bill me down he leaves it out. I mean, they clearly worked on that. I think that's probably a McCartney melody that he writes that he hears as they're rehearsing the bridge, but it's, you hear it in in one take. It's not there in the next take of the film. It's right there. They have clearly spent some time working that out. I really would love to have heard how they came up with that counterpoint because the bridge of don't let me down with the bass counterpoint is is just one of my favorite passages, one of my favorite baselines in all the Beatle catalog and they don't show that