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Thoughts on Get Back

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead
– John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Two of Us

Watching close to eight hours of the creative process as The Beatles hash through two album’s worth of material in the Disney+ series Get Back was fascinating and informative. Fascinating as a lifetime Beatles fan watching these four guys work through songs you know by heart from the first basic notes to the arrival at magical songs that became so essential to your own life’s soundtrack. Let It Be and Abbey Road songs developed before your eyes and ears. Informative as you see four guys on the edge of breaking up, still pushing through with the work.

They knew who they were. The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, the biggest band that ever was, and they recognized that what they released mattered a great deal. That must in turn be both an enormous burden and a cattle prod to get to it already. But then you had this other dynamic at work, with each of them building their own lives, four egos growing increasingly independent of each other. Paul deeply involved and at his peak creatively, pushing for more contribution from the rest of the Beatles. John nonchalant and locked in on the ever-present Yoko. George rising to a higher level and chafing at John and especially Paul’s perceived dismissiveness. Ringo showing up early, ready to go, watching things falling apart and trying to be the glue that kept it together just long enough.

And then they started playing music preparing for their live rooftop concert. Originally it was going to be an indoor affair, maybe even some exotic location, but they wouldn’t have anything to do with that. They were tired and weren’t going to leave the country for a show, nor were they going to do the same old thing they’d done before. There was a captured moment when they told Paul about the rooftop idea and his eyes lit up, “That’s it!” all over his face.

Growing up with The Beatles larger than life, you tend to stick each of these four young men into a bucket, representing something in your mind. But each turned out to be much more than you thought they were. Get Back reminds you of this. They were just four guys with a special chemistry that became a force of nature. And you see that as they jam together, mastering the new songs and plucking old ones out to play. Playing music together is when they rose to be The Beatles again. And the room filled with joy.

They had memories that were longer than the road that stretched out ahead. Together for over 14 years at that point, they were about to break up and go their separate ways, still competing and trying to one-up each other for years to come. But John would be dead in just less than 12 years. This was their famous final scene as a band, something the viewer knows all along. We find ourselves wishing they’d snap out of it and focus on the work a bit more. Squeeze just a little more brilliance out of their time together. But in the end celebrating what they did give us.

And maybe turning a bit of the spotlight back on yourself, recognizing that you could be producing more too. For if there’s a lesson in Get Back, it’s that even the most brilliant magic starts off as an awkward tune in your head. Put yourself into the work and see what grows from it.

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