There’s a new film out about the Beatles. It’s about them being in the studio doing stuff that you do in studios. It’s really good. Have you heard about it? Of course you have. I am referring to the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Get Back, Peter Jackson’s reanimation of the Beatle Band’s last days in the bunker. It’s a bit like Downfall, but without Hitler.
As a middle-aged doctor of rock ‘n’ roll, I am required to take the cultural temperature of what we now call Heritage Rock. This is the music that middle-aged (and rising) men like when they can’t keep up with young people’s music anymore. Think Neil Young, and that pretty much covers it. And when Neil Young is not re-releasing live albums from his pomp, then think the Beatles. Whenever there is new (old) Beatle product spat out, the middle-aged Beatle-maniacs get rather excited. The temperature of Heritage Rock is breaking out into a fever.
The Fabs were the second-highest album-selling band of 2021 — behind the hugely popular BTS and ahead of the hugely popular Metallica. COVID has made us reach for the metaphorical comfort blanket that is John, Paul, George and Ringo. A comfort blanket needs to be comforting, and Peter Jackson’s documentary grabs that concept with a vice-like grip. The original Let It Be was brown and grumpy. Get Back is Glyn Johns purple-loon-pants happy. The Fabs as their Yellow Submarine cartoon image is what we all want.
Speaking of brown, one of Get Back‘s less cuddly and un-polishable elements is the state of Beatle John: smacked out of his mind. The middle-aged Heritage Rockers don’t like Heroin John. John was lazy in 1969, they sniff, not like goody Paul. “John only wrote ‘Don’t Let Me Down,’” they whine. “Paul wrote ‘Get Back,’ ‘Let It Be’ and ‘The Long And Winding Road.’ And he was almost a vegetarian.”
Look, I like Paul as much as the next middle-aged care-home resident. It just seems to me that John Lennon is now experiencing something of a decline in reputation. It’s been a long four decades since the death and Marley-fication of the best Beatle. But in comfort-seeking 2021, the cultural lawmen are wobbling Lennon’s statue off its perch.
I have an idea: when the Let It Be film is next dusted off for whatever anniversary — and you can bet your kids’ lives that this will happen — why not go for a total re-edit? Instead of just enhancing the old 1969 footage, how about enhancing the whole Beatle story? After all, the ending is a bit of a downer. In my edit, the Beatles won’t split up. They will still be going and none of them will be dead. I will keep a few key elements from the original story. They will all still be suing each other, but also recording albums via their lawyers. Paul will also get put in prison in Japan. We won’t have them recording too many albums after the ‘70s; instead they will become a stadium rock band, a bit like the Stones and, er, Wings.
The cherry on top of this Beatle re-imagineering is that Paul and Ringo won’t need to record any solo albums. They can call them all Beatles albums. The Beatle-loving public the middle-aged men (who are now old) and their now Beatle-loving children (who are now middle-aged) will have become so stupefied by the endless Beatle product that they will no longer realize that John and George are actually dead.
This is your future Heritage Rock dream, middle-aged men. It could all become a CGI reality. Is this what you really want? Maybe you should also just let it be.