The Beatles in 1967

The Beatles in 1967

In the mood for a musical interlude — one that doesn’t involve the endless loop of holiday classics? Consider “The Beatles: Get Back,” running now on Disney+. (Don’t have Disney+? Find a friend or relative with young children who will let you borrow some time with their screen, or maybe try one of those free trials. Watch a little “Frozen” while you’re at it.)

I was mesmerized through almost all eight hours of the mini-doc, which follows the Beatles through one exhausting month in 1969 as they write, produce and perform a new album. I say “almost” because there were passages of rapid-fire, garbled squabbling in which the four lads were talking over each other in a personal shorthand I couldn’t follow and that got a little repetitive. But maybe that was the point: They were pulled deep into their own world, wrestling through the same stuck places again and again until they found the way out. Kind of like writing a big story, isn’t it?

I’m still figuring out all that I learned from the doc. Nope, not about Yoko Ono, or even the undergirding of the Beatles’ groundbreaking music; I don’t know enough about music to understand what I was seeing on that score. My fascination was watching the heart of a creative process that, while breathtaking with the Beatles, contains the elements that come into play with most collaborative project work: How closely they watched and listened to each other, even when they were goofing around (There was a lot of goofing around.); how they understood each other’s roles song by song; how they pinged off each other, elevating ideas as they went; how they invited in additional expertise — Billy Preston on the keyboard — when they needed it; how they squabbled about group dynamics and then pushed past those squabbles to make their music; how again and again and again they let themselves into the magical realm of “What If?”

What if Paul has a few beautiful bars of music but no words? What could we make of that? What if Ringo threw out a line about an octopus’s garden? Is there a full song story in that? What if we had someone bring an anvil to the studio for a note from Maxwell’s hammer, or climbed up on the roof?

What If can be scary territory. But it’s also the place where problems are solved, ideas percolate and creativity takes flight if we dare to trust it.

And ps: If you secretly dig those holiday classics, consider this grammar riff pinging off one of the oldies.

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard