Writing a Demystifying Song for The Beatles: Get Back

A unique look at the Beatles in the three-part documentary series The Beatles: come back Peter Jackson is an eye opener for many reasons.

He’s reshaping the narrative about Yoko Ono and her influence on the band (hint: it was a lot less important than fans thought it was though we can all agree it was weird seeing her 18″ John Lennon any time), reinforces the close relationship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon and, most importantly, glimpses behind the curtain the operation of one of the greatest group of songwriters in pop music history.

The latter seems to have captivated and surprised many fans of the Beatles and music in general. Rarely anyone outside of the music business has a front row seat to the inner workings of the songwriting process, especially from such a famous duo as Lennon/McCartney.

Broadcaster Howard Stern, who has become one of the best radio interviewees in business, frequently gives interviews to musicians including McCartney. Since he’s always wanted to be a musician, his questions are often of a childlike quality, equating songwriting and the musicians’ influences on an almost magical level. This seems to be a feeling shared by dozens of viewers get back and see how it works.

In one clip, McCartney randomly plays his bass while singing different tunes. At first, it feels like noodling until, about a minute later, we hear the formation of “Get Back,” the raw melodies and chord progression that would make up one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs in history. And it all happened in just a few minutes.

The truth is that when you watch any work of music, popular or otherwise, the writing process can fizzle out very quickly. Obviously not all great (or awful) songs pop nearly as fully as McCartney and the Beatles’ “Get Back” seems, but it’s perhaps surprising for fans to realize that many of the songs they’ve loved and sung to for decades were written in just a few minutes during a jam session.

In the documentary Classical Music Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersPetty retracts what he considers to be a poorly written song by his friend Roger McGowen of The Byrds. He blames the studio and railroad record company rep, “I can smoke a joint and come out with three better lines than that.” The truth is that he is probably right. Often a petty crammed over songs with Heartbreakers and developed them in the studio in near real time.

This is not always true, of course. Some songs take months to make and are treated honestly as a religious experience, but the revelation in them get back Not really discoveries for musicians. What McCartney did in this scene is part of the normal writing process for most artists, especially teams where the collaborative process is necessary to write and make what has already been written better.

None of this means that what the Beatles did was not magical. He was. It is precisely that creativity and spontaneity that makes them so amazing. This didn’t mean getting rid of the end of the album he was writing, after all.

But it underscores the fact that so much of what goes into writing songs and playing music is a mixture of creativity mixed with a relentless pursuit of excellence and lots, lots and lots of practice. Not every musician can do what the Beatles did (almost no one can or will ever do), but nearly all of them follow a similar path even if the results are strikingly different.

And don’t let it disappoint you if you think it all happened through an invisible inspirational process with chants and sacrifices to musical gods. If anything, it should remind us not only how good these people are but also how hard they have worked to get that way. This is their greatest legacy.


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