Who knew that John Lennon could be silly, smiley, and fun? Most books I’ve read about him portrayed him as surly and not too nice. Peter Jackson’s eight-hour Beatles’ documentary (yes, 8) this past weekend shows the lighter side of John Lennon.
Aside from the introduction where Jackson misstates the ages of Paul and George when they joined John’s band (Paul was 15 in July of 1957 and George was turning 15 in Feb in 1958), the documentary was fascinating. Jackson also glossed over the drummer back story, ignoring Pete Best and claiming that Ringo was in the band when Epstein first heard them at the Cavern Club (he wasn’t).
Since I spent the pandemic reading every Beatles book that I could get my hands on, I’d seen the names of the extra players go by many times (George Martin, Brian Epstein, Mal Evans, Derek Taylor, Linda Eastman, etc). To have each person identified as they appeared on screen was a nice touch. So many of them are no longer of this earth.
During the hours of footage showing the four of them working together as they wrote songs in front of the camera, here’s what I noticed:
- Ringo seemed bored a lot of the time.
- George was underappreciated. He could take a new melody and find the perfect accompaniment for it.
- Paul heard the whole song in his head and tried to explain it to each Beatle, telling them what and how to play. Yes, he seemed a little bossy, but what a genius mind for music!
- John and Paul still had their great chemistry for harmonizing.
- Yoko Ono never left John’s side.
- Linda Eastman was head over heels in love with Paul.
- The director of the movie that never happened loved his cigars.
- Mal Evans (road manager) also acted as Paul’s secretary and wrote down the lyrics as Paul made them up at the piano.
- The red-haired guy bringing everyone coffee and wine was John’s childhood friend (Pete Schotton) and an original member of John’s band, the Quarrymen. He played the washboard.
- Billy Preston was a gifted pianist.
There is something magical about watching the Beatles write songs during 52-year-old footage, songs that I knew when I was in 9th and 10th grade, songs that I listened to regularly. I didn’t have the Let It Be album, but I had the Abbey Road album.
Half of the songs in the documentary ended up on one album, and the other half ended up on the other one.
The concert the Beatles performed on the roof of the building on a brisk January day was only heard by a few dozen people, and it was the last time they played together in public. I’d seen clips of the concert, but not the whole thing.
Only people with Disney+ streaming could see the documentary this past weekend. I joined Disney+ last week. I wonder how many people subscribed, just for the Beatles’ documentary. I might keep it so that my son can see Hamilton.
Watching eight hours made the weekend different and special. My youngest came to visit, so I watched most of it while she was asleep. She and her brother stayed up late and slept in.
I didn’t learn much else, but it was interesting to see the foursome working together, and it was a hoot to see their late 60s wardrobes: lots of vests, bright colors, and ruffles. John was the most casual dresser, Paul the snappiest, although George had a few striking outifts, including one pink striped suit with a ruffled blue shirt.
John, Paul, George and Ringo. Still relevant after all these years.
P.S. As I was writing this, a commercial came on for Kohl’s, using the Beatles song, From Me to You. GAP currently uses the song All You Need is Love in its commercials.