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The Road to a Song

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Title : The Road to a Song
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The Road to a Song

Sometimes I ask myself if I just lack talent. But then I read something like this and think, nope, I just don't work hard enough: The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson's Get Back. There was so much kerfuffle over the release of the new documentary that I was avoiding all mention of it for a while. But then I ran across this, an excellent long essay on just what the series uncovered. The very best section, for me, was this one:
There’s a truism in sport that what makes a champion is not the level they play at when they’re in top form but how well they play when they’re not in form. When we meet The Beatles in Get Back, they’re clearly in a dip, and that’s what makes their response to it so impressive. Even the best songs they bring in are not necessarily very good to begin with. Don’t Let Me Down is not up to much at Twickenham. George calls it corny, and he isn’t wrong. But John has a vision of a song that eschews irony and sophistication and lunges straight for your heart, and he achieves it, with a little help from his friends. They keep running at the song, shaping it and honing it, and by the time they get to the roof it is majestic.

The already classic scene in which Paul wrenches the song Get Back out of himself shows us, not just a moment of inspiration, but how the group pick up on what is not an obviously promising fragment and begin the process of turning it into a song. In the days to follow, they keep going at it, day after day, run-through after run-through, chipping away, laboriously sculpting the song into something that seems, in its final form, perfectly effortless. As viewers, we get bored of seeing them rehearse it and we see only some of it: on January 23rd alone they ran it through 43 times. The Beatles don’t know, during this long process, what we know - that they’re creating a song that millions of people will sing and move to for decades to come. For all they know, it might be Shit Takes all the way down. But they keep going, changing the lyrics, making small decision after small decision - when the chorus comes in, where to put the guitar solos, when to syncopate the beat, how to play the intro - in the blind faith that somewhere, hundreds of decisions down the line, a Beatles song worthy of the name will emerge.

But I really recommend you read the whole thing.


 Forgive me for putting this up: when I was 19 years old it pretty much summarized life for me. Then I discovered Bach...



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