Imagine the world without The Beatles. I cannot.
We would be deprived of such incredible music, yes, but the loss would be so much more than that.
From the moment The Beatles arrived in America, the Earth spun with a different groove. “She Loves You” had such energy and enthusiastic vocals, yeah, yeah, yeah. Not since Elvis or Jerry Lee or Little Richard had tunes bolted from the car radio, guaranteed to make a teenagers scream and parents a bit horrified.
The Beatles were those lovable mop tops, parents might have had their worries when Lennon’s statement about popularity was misconstrued that they were greater than God, or when his distorted guitar introduced “Revolution” and added an exclamation point to the changing world events, or when he and Yoko did full frontal for a solo album cover. Okay, those were bold, but by 1968, the world was bleeding Vietnam and students were marching in major cities and clashing with police. The Summer of Love was not “She Loves You”, it would become Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
This year, fifty years after The Beatles ceased being a band, we get a look at the lads working together while they recorded what would become Let It Be. The resulting film, Let It Be, originally called Get Back, was a sad coda to the band that changed everything. What we saw was the wreckage of a decade together and what success and the 1960s did to them individually and as a group. Little wonder, Let It Be has been out of circulation for years. The surviving Beatles, and Yoko and Olivia, had little interest in the film tarnishing The Beatles brand.
When The Beatles were together, their records and Beatles product generated millions and millions of dollars. Unfortunately, The Beatles, through poor contracts, saw many others benefit from their efforts. In years since, through shrewd licensing and renegotiated contracts, The Beatles, through their company Apple Corps Ltd. and subsidiaries, have righted that financial ship.
The Beatles Anthology was a film, record and book project many years in development. When it was released 25 years ago, it was our first significant trip through the band’s history. It was not just a rehash of already released material and music, this project went deep into the vault, and with The Beatles participation, the viewer received history and perspective directly from them and others who were on the journey. Two newly produced songs, “Real Love” and “Free As a Bird” were the first new Beatles music since 1970.
So, back to the “new” film project. Director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) went back through the vault from the Let It Be sessions. Jackson worked with over 55 hours of film, and more than 100 hours of audio, including the entire rooftop concert, to produce a new look at The Beatles creative process and their relationships with each other. Let It Be was criticized for the dour and disintegrating status of their relationship, one big reason the film has been out of circulation. The Beatles: Get Back has a release date of August 27, 2021.
After The Beatles broke up, it took their legal teams years to settle lawsuits and claims. The relationships between them was somewhat fractured, although they would work together in various groupings on each other’s albums. Almost from the start, rumors circulated about possible reunions. The Beatles Anthology was as close as it would ever get.
The Beatles were about many things. Yes, they were primarily a musical group, who happened to own the world stage. They changed music, colored outside the technical and creative lines, pushing the boundaries off the page. When they stopped touring, we lost that live connection with the band, but as they retreated to the studio, bold and incredible things happened. The Beatles often denied they were out to change the world or be spokesmen for messages, but they were. When The Beatles spoke, everyone listened, in part because their music contained their most important messages, and their songs were played everywhere. Sometimes the messages were subtle, other times not.
Folk songs of earlier America carried messages, just as gospel songs did. Wherever people gathered, around the campfire, place of worship, living room, tavern, or probably in the cave, music has always been a conveyor of the human condition.
It is hard to think of the 1960s and not immediately think of The Beatles and then hear one of their songs playing in your head. Paul and Ringo are now in their 80s. How did that happen? For many of us, John, Paul, George and Ringo will be forever young. A part of me, is forever young too.