“They now viewed the studio as a tool for crafting sounds that need not ever be replicated onstage”
The Beatles have been broken up for half a century and yet they still capture our attention and are a force to be reckoned with in the marketplace. The Peter Jackson documentary Get Back has been viewed by millions of people. A new and comprehensive look at Revolver is coming with a new multi-disc release. And, we have the guy to capture your interest in the Beatles.
This fall we are truly excited to welcome noted Beatles podcaster Robert Rodriquez to our team. Robert was the first person to interview Peter Jackson about his new Beatles documentary The Beatles: Get Back (2021). Community Education staff asked him about Get Back, the new Revolver release and his upcoming class.
To you, what was the most significant thing that came out of the Get Back documentary? What captured your imagination?
Robert Rodriquez: The personal dynamics between them as people. I have studied the audio and some extant video for years, but what Get Back gave us was a much deeper immersion. With the added visual, so much that is NOT evident from the audio is now clear, revealing the smiles, exchange of glances, the locking of eyes and just how at this purported creative low point, how deep their friendship is. One may make the argument that they surely were aware that they were being filmed and adjusted their behavior accordingly, presenting a more entertaining version of themselves, but my impression is that the novelty wears off after the first few days. I was very struck by how what was on display was universal to every band I’ve been in or around: how moments can change on a dime, tensions arise and dissipate, replaced by clowning just as fast. They may have been The Beatles, but in some ways, they were just like every other group of guys who came together to make music.
What new things will be revealed in the new Revolver release?
RR: A sonic upgrade is first and foremost. While Beatles recordings were state-of-the-art productions when new and it isn’t as though they were unlistenable, the expectations of modern audiences have certainly been raised, as has the means of accessing music. No one in the 60s could have envisioned 5.1 surround sound or Atmos, so bringing these recordings into a place where the magic they captured can be brought into higher relief is certainly welcome.
Advance word suggests that, through alternate takes and demos issued as part of the package, their creative process will be further displayed. Arguably, Revolver was the first recording project where they consciously chose to approach their work from a fresh perspective, essentially throwing away the rule book on how to make records. Though the decision to quit the road had not been made at the start of the sessions, it is clear that they now viewed the studio as a tool for crafting sounds that need not ever be replicated onstage. This point seems to be getting some emphasis: how pioneering the approach was, and how different from what came before.
Do you really think that Revolver was the last time the Beatles truly collaborated as a group?
RR: Revolver represents a definite high-water mark of the four-way collaboration, inasmuch as what followed did not include the same level of engagement with all four at once. Each project that followed tended to be dominated by Paul’s leadership, while hard feelings began developing regarding accepting – or not – creative input from others on material they did not originate. You don’t see that with Revolver – instead, there are myriad examples of each Beatle stepping up to contribute to the greater whole, or to step back if not needed. They seem excited and united in purpose in a way that was still fresh; an exploration with an uncertain endpoint. Even their finest regarded work afterward seemed, by comparison, slick and professional rather than an excursion into the unknown.
What is the thing you are most looking forward to sharing with your class this fall?
RR: In my work, I always hope to get fans to consider what they know from a different perspective; not to change their opinions on things necessarily but to consider alternate viewpoints. The material is so rich and layered that to adhere to one position is to overlook other aspects of value. We all know that the Beatles were some kind of secular miracle, but maybe fall short on the specifics of what made them stand out alongside their peers, or why their story is so compelling and attractive. It was evident in real time that they were special, even if folks struggle to articulate why that was. With the benefit of hindsight, we can certainly connect some dots but mostly what I hope to do is take a familiar subject and get people to see and hear it with fresh eyes and ears.
Want to learn more about the Beatles?
Get Robert’s perspectives on the entire career of The Beatles in his class Why the Beatles. Spend three Thursday evenings online in October, starting October 6, examining all the recordings and the artists that made up the most discussed group in rock history.