For a band that hasn’t recorded anything in 50 years, the Beatles sure are having a moment. It’s driven, of course, by Peter Jackson’s documentary Get Back. Starting with a trove of over 100 hours of unused film and recordings, and using today’s technology to clean and restore them, he’s created something of unquestioned importance. If you’re a baby boomer or older GenXer, you’ve probably seen it. If you’re not, you’ve no doubt heard your parents talk about it.
Get Back is amazing because in 1969, people just didn’t document their lives like that. It was a major undertaking to get that kind of footage and it cost a lot of money, something the Beatles had at at the time. And the payoff is spectacular: there are moments when you could literally see the moment that a song came to be.
I’m sure that all this renewed interest has driven a lot of traffic to BeatlesBible.com, a blog dedicated to aggregating everything that is knowable about the band. You’ll find songs, biographies, more than you could ever hope to know. There’s a robust user community too, keeping the blog’s authors on the straight and narrow.
This sort of resource really wouldn’t have been possible in the 20th century, which is sort of the irony of the whole thing. It’s easily found, easy to search, and open to everyone instantly. Back when Beatles fans were obsessing over the group for the first time, you needed a mix of books, apocryphal essays, and old magazines to get anything even close to this level of data.
Of course data doesn’t equal understanding, and there are a lot of excellent essays and books that delve into Beatlemania with an academic slant. If you’re curious about that sort of thing, you can find links to those books. But, for those of us who just get curious who played the harmonium on the Abbey Road album, this is an incredible resource. (Spoiler alert, it was Paul and George, depending on the song.)
“Will there ever be another band…”
The younger generations accuse boomers and genX folks of casting their culture as “the definitive, the only, the final word,” that sort of thing. We greybeards ask, “will there ever be another band like The Beatles?” as if that question could be answered. Let me say I don’t know. The Beatles came along at a time when music was becoming international. All of a sudden broadcasting made it possible for one song to be everywhere at once. Just a few decades earlier, the only way to spread popular music was through publishing sheet music and going to local performances.
It’s very fair to say the 1960s were a time of great change and great social evolution. This was definitely a time unlikely to be repeated in quite the same way. But does that mean that there will never be another band like John, Paul, George, and Ringo? Well of course there will never be another band like that. But there may well be another musical phenomenon that unites and dominates popular culture in the same way. Or there may be a completely new aesthetic that makes everything else seem ancient by comparison.
And when there is, I have a feeling there will be a blog about it.