Thanksgiving weekend is over! I got my Christmas shopping done and shipped, including boxes for packing, decorated a little bit…put up the tree with my angel on top, set up my little Victorian Christmas ladies, swapped out my Desert Rose dishes for the Spode Christmas Tree set, went to dinner with my mom and dad and took a jaunt to the casino before mom returns to Michigan. Al watched football and helped the crew decorate the outside of Building 9 here at Long Bayou.
We also subscribed to Disney+ and watched all eight hours of “Get Back”– the Beatles doc out now. What I found most interesting about this lovely bit of nostalgia was watching their creative process. Paul was for sure the leader, even though he said John was. Paul seemed more into it than John, who was so in love he mostly cuddled with Yoko and cut up with fake voices and accents. Paul and John did seem to get along really well, though. When they hit a groove with their guitars, they were so in sync.
The lyrics part was less polished than the music, which was improved when Billy Preston came on to play keyboards in episode 2. Billy’s work and his upbeat attitude, his obvious thrill at being a part of the Beatles, all made the documentary, not to mention the eventual album, so much better. Before Billy, it seemed clear the Beatles were running out of juice. They knew it, too, and Billy was the only person ever credited on a Lennon/McCartney record. Ever. He filled more than the musical holes. George’s eyes gave him away; he felt left out of the Lennon/McCartney collaboration. But he was the one who first mentioned getting Billy Preston in to do keyboards. Twice. Everyone ignored him. He briefly quit the band.
Then Billy dropped by the studio just to say hi and John said “We’ve been talking about how we need a piano man, if you’ve got the time…” and Billy, who was as upbeat as George was down, smiled wider than usual and said “Hell yes.” I’m paraphrasing from the body language. Billy and then George coming back after a week made things better.
The original idea, conceived by Paul, was to write an album (14 songs) in a month, hold a concert, write a book, and make a movie of the entire thing. They started rehearsing in a television studio but migrated to Apple records basement where a rough recording studio was set up. The way their creativity worked together was everyone wrote on their own, brought in their ideas, played and sang (there were more lalala bits or nonsense words than actual lyrics) and everyone kind of kicked in with their parts. Ringo did his drums just naturally coming in when needed with the right sound. Well, Paul corrected him at times. Paul corrected everyone. Paul was bringing in most of the material they worked on.
George had a new song every day and he’d say “I’ve got one” and play it and everyone would listen politely and then move on. The eventual album was called “Let It Be” — their last original album — making their output an even dozen LPs. “Something” (George’s lovely song) was on that album. At one point near the end of the eight hours, and as it turned out the end of the Beatles, George talks to John about how he might just go off after the record is done and make his own album. I recognized several of the tunes George auditioned for his bandmates later appeared on his first solo album (a double album) “All Things Must Pass.” He chose the right path and I wonder if Paul and John ever thought about how much more George could have contributed to the Beatles.
Ringo, like George, always had a token song, too, but he didn’t seem bothered. Ringo was fine being the drummer. He relished that role. He did it well. Oh and John called Billy Preston “the fifth Beatle” while nobody seemed to remember bringing in Billy had been George’s idea in the first place. George brought it up twice in the documentary. Of course I only saw a cut of many more hours of film, so that’s the story presented. A few word scribbles here and there, but I just assumed they each did their lyric polishing on their own.
It may seem as if I am championing George here, and in a strict sense, that’s true. He got shafted by Paul and John. But his life outside the band didn’t make me like him any better. He was the only Beatle who screwed another Beatles’ wife. George’s wife, Olivia, seems to have accepted that “George loved women” but John said “It’s like incest!” Patti, George’s first wife, never had a chance, what with all the Krishna’s living in the house and finding her husband in bed with Maureen, Ringo’s wife. In Patti’s book, she talks about George and Maureen running through the house naked. Running and laughing right past her. No wonder she left him for Eric Clapton! George’s take on it all was “free love.” I always thought that hippie idea was a convenient way for men to get laid in the 60s and 70s.
So Paul near the end is frustrated as his master multi-media idea slowly falls apart. They couldn’t even find a venue to do a final concert. Then two of the engineers came up with the idea of the roof of Abbey Road studios. John liked the idea. So did Ringo. George hated it. Paul seemed wistful as his original vision had altered beyond recognition. But as we all know, they did it and it was fab. They probably didn’t write the album in a month as planned, but they had six or so songs finished and six more ideas. They must have finished up in the studio after the one off concert on the roof. The police have a cameo in that part of the documentary.
All of which served to remind me why I’m a novelist and why I write alone.