Meanderng Thoughts about the Beatles Anthology

beatles
In Australia, my first recollection of hearing The Beatles was at the tender age of six.  In primary school we danced incessantly to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Yellow Submarine. It seemed like a daily exercise ritual and I became increasingly disheartened and ininspired and nothing has really changed for me about the Beatles ever since. 36 years after the Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da drilling, I decided to watch the eight episode Anthology of the Beatles, to confirm if indeed I had missed something.

I enjoyed episodes 4 and 5 (the middle years) which had references to their influences including Dylan who two of them claimed was an idol. Easily the most thought-provoking episode is the final which deals with their inevitable divorce.  I was completely bored in episodes 6 and 7 except for their Indian vacation about Transcendentalism.

The Anthology overall, like my primary school had this incessant need to repeat songs, like She Loves You, as if repetition will sign and seal their enduring greatness. How many times do you have to hear Love Me Do or Help, or any of the other songs they repeated in their entirety in this series? I would have just preferred to hear the Beatles and co talk with song snippets in between, in a similar vain to how Scorsese directed Dylan’s ‘No Direction Home’.

My favourite part of the whole Beatles Anthology is presented in this the transcript below from episode 5 which really sums up, how I have always felt about the Beatles and why I always enjoyed their solo works much more. Excuse the format, but I copied it from an English subtitle text:

Then they got interested
and got to really listen and like us

Then this screaming thing started

They used us as an excuse to go mad

The world did, then blamed it on us

We were just in the middle, in a car
or hotel room. We couldn’t do much

We couldn’t go out,
we couldn’t do anything

For us it was a drag –
we knew they wouldn’t hear anything

because it’s just like a riot,
not like a show

It felt dangerous because
everybody was out of hand

Even the cops were
just caught up in the mania

It was like they were this big movie

We felt trapped in the middle
while everybody else was going mad

We were actually the sanest people
in the whole thing

The realisation was kicking in
that nobody was listening

That was OK in the beginning
is that we were playing so bad

We were now a big band. When we
went ‘Whooahh’ and shook our heads
everyone went mad

I don’t really think it was that bad

I was playing just shit
all I could do was…
hold down the off-beat

I couldn’t come off that, really
because if you went to do anything
on the toms, it was just nothing

There was no noise

I just felt that we were
playing really bad

I’d joined the Beatles because
they were the best band in Liverpool
I wanted to play with good players
and that’s what it was all about

First and foremost,
we were musicians

George Martin
Record Producer
Their musical creativity
showed no signs of flagging

On the contrary, they were becoming
more and more productive

The work they were giving me
was much more interesting

They were finding new frontiers
all the time
Our whole attitude was changing
We’d grown up a little

I think grass was really influential
in a lot of our changes

Especially with the writers

Because they were writing different
stuff, we were playing differently

We were all expanding
in all areas of our life
opening up to a lot
of different attitudes

The direction was changing away
from the Thank You Girl poppy stuff

the early stuff –
From Me to You, She Loves You

All the early stuff was directly
relating to your fans
kind of saying,
please buy this record

Thank You Girl, PS I Love You,
it was all very that
There came a point where we’d done
enough of that and branched out
into songs that are a bit more surreal,
more entertaining

Other people were arriving on the scene
who were a little bit influential
I don’t really know whether
we’d been influenced

Dylan was starting to influence us
quite heavily at that point

When it got sort of contemporary
as it were, a contemporary influence
I think Rubber Soul was about
when it started happening

It was just around that period

when we were all getting into
different kinds of music

George’s became Indian

We were all listening to classical music
and various types of music
other than our own
and our rock’n’roll roots

and George moved into the Indian thing

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'I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.' - The Master

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