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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
While watching "The Beatles Anthology" I had to ask the question, can a producing
company make an accurate documentary about their own history? Can the Walt Disney
corporation tell the real story of it's founder if they control it?

The Apple coporation made this 'documentary' if that word applies to this 8 volume
box set. Apple is the holding company for "The Beatles" songs, likenesses and other

I had read books about John Lennon and Paul McCartney which uncovered their
complex working relationship and impact they had on rock music in their era. Yoko
Ono's problems she caused with the group, the extensive lawsuits and litigation
surrounding them were examined in detail. The moptop haircuts were not unique or
original and had been previously used by Ish Kabibble and Moe Howard. They
had their own cartoon series on television. However, you're not going to see anything
about that in this Anthology. It's more of a 'homage' of the band than an actual
examination of their life within the context of sixties culture.

Fortunately, it's better than the type of 'puff piece' you'd see on most television
bios. There is a lot of footage of the band and how they changed from their
early roots in beatnik type of venues to their Beatlemania phase to the late period
where each member indulged themselves in a personal type of music.

The interviews of Paul, George and Ringo were derived from mid-nineties discussions
with them individually and hanging out together. This is before George died of lung
cancer. The problem is, other than discussing some influences of particular tunes, they
don't seem to have a handle on their career. To a large degree their manager, Brian
Epstein and record producer, George Martin knew more than they did about
what was going on. It would appear that Beatlemania was well beyond their control
and they were somewhat lost in it. The band at first enjoyed this massive popularity
but they became wary of it's danger. Mob hysteria or mob rule is very frightening
regardless of it's context (music, sports, politics). When they were in public, fanatic
screaming fans tries to maul them or get a piece of their hair. At any point they
could've been swamped or hurt by attacking fans in the areas they gave concerts
in. You do see footage of police trying to keep the histerical mobs back as they
try to run towards them. In 1969 a fan got killed in a Rolling Stones concert
and of course a fanatic fan killed Lennon in 1980. From their perspective, they
were just a very good rock band and were not trying to influence or corrupt the
youth of America. As George stated, "The world used us as an excuse to go mad".

The absence of Lennon makes this documentary rather curious. Lennon is a real mystery
man and it's very difficult to relate to him because he comes off as so weird. Paul worked
with Lennon on many songs but wrote others independently
even though as a courtesy they are credited jointly. When they were on tour, it was Ringo that Lennon
roomed and bonded with. "The Beatles" (not a mispelling of the bug but referring to the Beat Generation)
was Lennon's group that the others joined although it's clear Paul was the leader.
He acts as the band's spokesman and introduces their tunes during the live performances.
He also appears to be the most at ease as a pop singer along the lines of Elvis Presley.
Lennon never appeared to be comfortable in that role and saw himself more along the lines
of a counter-culture icon like Bob Dylan. After the break-up Paul continued as a pop musician
whereas Lennon got involved with politics and acted as a front man for numerous radical groups
which made the FBI investigate him. Lennon doesn't make too much sense in the archival interviews
during his "Beatles" days and oftens makes goofy faces or mugs whenever the camera is on him. He
rarely explained what he was doing unlike Paul so we'll never know what the Eggman is or other
bizarre lyrics in his tunes.

The archival footage they found is not in very good shape nor has it been restored. Grainy
and scratchy kinescopes or faded color film. While it's interesting to watch the filmmakers
really didn't put it into a historical context so you watch the anthology objectively rather
than subjectively. You don't get much of a feel for what was going on during the sixties.
Very little mention or coverage of the civil rights movement, hippie/yippie radicalism, sexual
revolution or the conservative backlash which put Nixon in office. This is disappointing and
unless you are very familiar with that era, all the strange psychodelic imagery on display here
could've been taken place in another country or planet. You really don't get any feeling for
how "The Beatles" fit into this era.

Another strange thing about this Anthology is that most of the music you hear are out-takes
of songs, flubs or tunes they never finished on the soundtrack. Apparently George Martin
saved all the recording sessions. Unlike other groups, the Beatles tended to compose and
create their songs in the studio rather than just record a final version of a rehearsed number.
It was a long process to get a polished, mixed track for the vinyl. You won't hear too many released
tunes and will listen to a lot of blooper tracks which is fine if you're familiar with their output
but if you haven't heard the band at their best, you might wonder what the fuss was about.

A lot of their interviews are quite different from earlier comments they made about the same
subjects. I had read that Paul and John didn't like "A Hard Day's Night" or "Help!". Paul didn't
even want the first movie released and John stated he felt like an extra in his own film. That's
because the only member with a distinct and likeable screen persona was Ringo which is why
he's the star of both pictures. However now they seem to think they're good movies.
Since they needed Yoko's permission to use John's likeness her volatile relationship with
the other group members isn't covered.
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