But Still They Bring Me Back

I have, like seemingly half of my Twitter feed, been watching The Beatles: Get Back over the last few days, intermittently. It’s something I do passively, almost — the nine-hour runtime and exhaustive (and exhausting) approach to what to include make it near impossible for me to sit down and concentrate exclusively on it, so I put it on as background in the evening when my attention wanders — but it has, unexpectedly, been a revelation in ways that go far beyond the music for me.

Something that stuck out from the first episode was a reference to the band being 28 or so at the time it was being filmed; turns out, that was only true of half of the band — Paul McCartney was 26, and George Harrison just 25. That feels extraordinary to me, today. Imagine being that young, and having done so much, having lived through all of that — Beatlemania, writing and recording what was essentially the basis for modern pop music for the next half century at least, being celebrities of such status — and you weren’t even thirty yet. For that matter, imagine knowing, as I suspect at least McCartney did, that your career and creativity might have already peaked at such a young age…!

When I was 25, I was at a loss; I’d graduated a year earlier and was teaching, but I had no long term plans that seemed achievable, or at least, no idea how to achieve them. Nonetheless, I felt young and at the start of things, as if I had the whole of my life ahead of me to accomplish everything and anything. Imagine being at that age and having already created With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver, et al.

Stranger still, for me, than re-contextualizing the Beatles as young men, was the realization that my father was a contemporary of the band, at least in age; he was born in 1941, a year after John Lennon and Ringo Starr, and a year before McCartney. At the time Get Back was being shot, he was 27. That feels almost impossible, in some way. (I always, always imagine/remember him as being in his late 40s, the period I’m in now.) I watch the footage and try to imagine him that age, in the late ‘60s fashions, young and vital as the band seem. It’s a dizzying, bracing experience, but an oddly affirming one.

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