Wearing the clothing we would forever identify with the closing moments of their careers as Beatles, the four musical revolutionaries gathered at John’s Tittenhurst estate for one last memorable, historic encounter.
I don’t care how simple John thought it should be for us to let it go, there is something about the finality of the Beatles’ break up that always seems like a novel without a good ending. On the rare occasion when I can actually watch Let It Be (the dvd that is currently available), the end of it is so bittersweet. The irony of them looking as though they really are having a good time up on the roof, and then the closing credits. It’s all too sad, perhaps not because they ended it, but because we were all so invested in it yet had no say in it’s outcome.
The music loving public, the fans and fanatics were all left out of the decision making process. Intellectually I know we didn’t have a voice. I mean, I was barely a teenager at the time, and didn’t have a clue what all had been evolving within the group. Most of us in America were fairly ignorant, I would think. Ours were the rose colored glasses back then, and our actual knowledge of Beatle business was limited to what the news could stand to report. The Beatles weren’t the top story they had been earlier in the decade, and you had to be really in to be in the know.
To observe their story now, after all of it has passed into history and culture, it’s hard to believe that they actually weren’t fiction. Except, how do you conceive of something so extraordinary, so utterly fantastic? How do you make it all come together in such a way as to make it turn out perfectly, so relevant and integral to the developement of an entire decade? How does it happen that four kids from England can turn the world upside down in such a way that now, nearly 50 years later, we still can’t get enough of who and what they were?
And then, how does it all just stop? How can anything with that much power and influence, creativity and will power just cease to exist? Crash and burn doesn’t describe it. They didn’t OD on anything except each other. We (many of us) still want to blame it on someone, or cast a stone or two at ego or self-promotion.
Perhaps what we can’t fathom is that these people might have just grown weary of it all. That, regardless of the peaks of stardom, the valleys were too low and too often. Making music is a joy, and anyone who has ever played with other musicians can chime in on how fulfilling it really is when it’s good and the energy is high. But the down side, the chilling part, is when it no longer feels right, and the magic lifts from the group, from the ability to make it magic.
Looking at the picture of them standing together but so very apart, I can’t help but run through all of the thoughts I’m writing down here. The solo efforts are good, some of them ground breaking in nature. It would have been tragic for there to not be anything left over for them after the split.
Obviously Paul McCartney has carved out a place in music history by his sheer persistence and the quantity of good songs he wrote, recorded and performed. Being the world’s most anything is notable, for instance the most prolific songwriter ever, and he doesn’t seem to ready to stop.
John’s contributions are like his life: brilliant and tragically less than we wanted or needed from him. I know grown people who still tear up just at the thought of how he left this world. The obvious stares back at us in the story of fame recruiting lunatics out of the fringe. It’s something that both he and George had to encounter, the youngest man surviving only to be assasinated by disease rather than the dreaded face of insanity.
But George left beautiful music, and a legacy of good works that graces the material world in which he really did live his life. His search for the spiritual did not remove him from the needs of those around him. If you don’t understand his viewpoint, you won’t get his music. There is a layer of spirituality in practically everything George Harrison wrote and recorded, and unless you identify that without prejudice or disdain, you miss the point. You miss George. And, once you get George, it’s hard to not be sad for his absence from among us.
But Ringo…is Ringo. Still out there, still happy and optimistic and full of Beatle spirit. He will probably live to be at least 100 just out of sheer good will for humankind. He still has music to make, and songs to sing…maybe even compose something. But mainly, we love Ringo for keepin’ on and being who he is. It’s understandable how he was a good friend to all of the others, no matter what.
I admit it: I am a fan. I never tire of the music, or the images or the philosophy of promoting love and peace. It isn’t necessary to agree with everything they ever did or how they did it. No one gets that kind of endorsement, so they don’t need it. But, bottom line, I love the Beatles. The photo shoot at Tittenhurst was the last of it’s kind, but it’s images will last, and so will they. Their music will never fade away.