Man, their accents are so cool.
It’s all I can think as I attempt to watch The Beatles: Get Back, Part 1 on Thanksgiving Day.
Unfortunately, it’s a suboptimal viewing environment. The house is filled with holiday bustle. Friends are about, banging and clanging in the kitchen, engaged in conversations that, astonishingly, have nothing to do with The Beatles whatsoever.
I have tried, quixotically, to force Part 1 of Peter Jackson’s opus recutting of Let It Be upon my assembled friend group. It is in only fractional jest that I tell them not only should they watch it, they need to watch it. It will be good for them.
Alas, nobody gives a shit.
And the problem is, I can’t hear. Not the music–the early scenes are light on music but heavy on conversation. Snatches and fragments picked up on mics and caught on camera and—I am learning—of only passing interest to the non-Beatles obsessed.
So I take my ball and go home, retreat into the bedroom with my iPad and AirPods and bliss out, able to finally hear this thing as it must be heard.
Thinking The Beatles’ accents cool, or cute, or odd, or lyrical or some combination of all these attributes probably occupies a very low rung on the ladder of Beatles fandom, leftover from sometime around 1964 along with commentary on their hairstyles.
But here in 2021, it’s all I can think about. It has long been my belief that the Standard American accent is rendered immediately uncool when put in the presence of almost any other accent from the English-speaking world.
My British neighbor down the street is tall and handsome and sets my wife’s heart a-flutter every time he stops by to say hello. But it’s not just the broad shoulders and good looks–it’s that goddamn accent. How can I compete? Next to him, I am all hard, clunky consonants and uptight vowels. I am the White Guy Voice from every episode of Def Comedy Jam embodied. In his presence, I am reduced to a blustery Jell-O of inadequacy, tossing out lame burns about the Revolutionary War and what the fuck is “tea” anyway? Over here, we call it “lunch,” amiright…haha…*wipes sweat from brow, tugs at shirt collar*
Which brings me back to Liverpool, linguistically at least.
It is, in my opinion, a great accent, perfectly matched to the grimy imagistic connotations of the word itself: Liverpool. It lolls and bobs with an oceanic rhythm. It knows of murky depths. In its opacity, feelings are expressed but not explained. Spoken but not articulated.
You watch these four guys communicate–four guys kind of known for expressing deep and profound emotions, four guys whose relationship is disintegrating in real time–and you’re struck by how laconic they are, how they talk around and above and under things, the Liverpudlian lilt rolling lazily on like the Mersey itself.
They are, for lack of a better term, fucking cool.
I immediately become self-conscious about my own voice and my own yearning, straining (highly American) need to articulate myself. My cerebral neuroticism. Merely watching these guys talk, I am reminded that art always comes from somewhere deeper than the intellect, that it illuminates but does not necessarily solve. I see another kind of mind there.
It’s what keeps The Beatles electric and compelling all these years later: the unquantifiable alchemy at work, the sense that, on a chemical level, perfection existed for roughly 7 years on this planet and its code cannot be replicated. Ours is but to marvel, to enjoy…to blog.
As far as the actual content of Part 1, well…if you are here, you have very likely watched it already (and you are also very likely my Mom–hi, Mom!). I’m not going to give you a review or even a rundown, I’ll just rip off a few observations:
- Peter Jackson is A Good Filmmaker.
- He wisely underplays, to the point of outright ignoring, the Yoko aspect. A very successful move. At this point, we know Yoko as the villain of The Beatles breakup is hack, untrue, unfair, reductive. Watching this footage, one almost forgets she is there. Almost. Because…
- A wonderful thing The Beatles story evokes is the feeling of having buddies. Like, childhood pals. Guys you got into trouble with, but not too much, or the wrong kind, of trouble; guys you could trust. And we all remember what it felt like once a girl or two started invading that sacred space, the judgements passed, the lines redrawn.
- Paul has great hair. Truly great.
- George’s discontent is palpable and becomes the dramatic focus of the episode. He is mistreated, insofar as his place in the pecking order is clear and fixed. Again–buddies. You have to grow up, move out, move on eventually. Isn’t it a pity?
- Most of the music-making scenes are wonderful. It is as magical as you would expect, watching songs like “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “Golden Slumbers” be birthed.
- Ringo is the nicest guy who’s ever lived.
- It is Paul’s show. We know this already, and we know–and can see–how his creative assertiveness rubbed some (mostly George so far) the wrong way. But we have to be honest–dude was on fire. Like fully consumed in a righteous conflagration. Songs are pouring out of him. He is overflowing with creative ideas, spearheading the entire project. He is a masterful diplomat, always conscious not to push too hard or to veer into aggressiveness in his dealings with the others, but his confidence and mental acuity are on full display (if there is any real villain in Part 1, it is Dick James, who seems to represent squareness and establishment meddling. He shows up trying to sell the guys on investing in sheet music, for Christ’s sake. It’s amusing to watch Paul beginning to flex his big-boy muscles in his interaction with James, tossing off asides about the paucity of he and Lennon’s stake in their own publishing. James is clearly the old, and Macca the new. The intervening 50 years serve only to prove true what is apparent in nearly every frame of this thing: McCartney is a formidable motherfucker.)
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll have time to write about Parts 2 and 3, but I’ll try. I really enjoyed Part 1 and I hope you did, too!
All for now.