As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
FOR most of the New Year I was isolating with the Beatles. Our family had done the same dance around the Omicron variant as everyone else; test, result, repeat. Eventually one of us was caught up in the merry jig of a positive result and although myself and Himself dodged a bullet we were now close contacts.
This was definitely the time to get stuck into the Beatles documentary of six hours plus, Get Back (Dir. Peter Jackson, Disney). So we went down that rabbit hole and I emerged feeling like I finally knew them better. John, Paul, George and Ringo, will never be quite the same in my eyes. In fact I was blown away all over again.
I was a child when, in 1963, the Beatles were formed from a previous band called the Quarrymen. John, Paul, George and Ringo were actually childhood friends, playing instruments and composing songs since their first jamming sessions as young teenagers. Their meteoric rise to fame was a mere few years between then and 1969.
‘So did Yoko Ono break up the Beatles? Well it can’t have helped to have her sitting in on every session glued to John like a shadow’
I remember their early appearances on a small black and white TV in the corner mainly because it was older kids and even our parents who were so fond of them. Then in school the daily debate as to whether you would marry Paul or John began in earnest? This was how the question would be put in the playground.
‘Paul or John?’
‘George? No way!!!’
There was a general air of disapproval of the Beatles on one level, but there was also a toe tapping love of the music by the adults. The songs were magic, catchy, unique, melodic. But it was their first big colour TV moment that caught my imagination. The ‘All you need is Love’ live broadcast around the world was a spectacular demonstration of what the new BBC satellite could do.
Love, love, love was already the message of my generation. This short performance, seen only once, seeped into my soul. No doubt the impact on us kids was helped along by the studio set of rainbow colours, flowers, incredible clothes from Carnaby Street, a gum chewing John and the hypnotic mantra of the chorus.
In no time after this, the cracks would begin to appear in the Beatles as a band. My deep immersion in the Get Back documentary is set at the time of their very last project together, the creation of the Let it Be album.
There are so many song highlights from this wonderful project, songs like; The Long and Winding Road, I’ve got a Feeling, Across the Universe. The documentary finds the four lads knocking out the songs in a day by day recording session, filmed during the month of January 1969.
Of course we got the record in our house as soon as it came out. I remember I would bring it around to my friends’ houses and we would play the divil out of it, each side over and over again. In those days, too young to be allowed out, we played a lot of cards and monopoly. But always the soundtrack was the brand new wonderful and enduring Let it Be.
I had forgotten all this until I found myself singing along to the tracks in the documentary, I still know every word of it, it seems. But in those days we never saw any more of the Beatles than these records and a few photographs in the music magazines. Last week in the documentary I saw them interact like a gang of noisy brothers; arguing, laughing, chatting, plotting, composing and drifting apart. It’s like watching any group of friends as they grow up and find the need to be themselves and follow their own path.
So did Yoko Ono break up the Beatles? Well it can’t have helped to have her sitting in on every session glued to John like a shadow. Did Paul and John fall out? Apparently they did for a while in the transition between being Beatles and being individuals. George, the ‘kid brother’, was clearly a talent in his own right too, straining at the leash to do his own thing. And there was a very affable Ringo always agreeable and along for the ride.
But of all of it, the musical talent, obsession and creativity is magic to watch. Songs leak out of Paul in particular. One minute he has a chord, the next a few words to go with it and then Get Back emerges. The songs and the attention to detail of their development is joyous to witness.
As a kid all I knew was the music. How incredible to be in the studio with them, a bunch of lads still in their twenties who changed the face of popular music forever. And now, I’m a big fan all over again.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com