You couldn’t escape the anticipation for the The Beatles Anthology documentary: everyone was waiting to hear the first “new” music from The Beatles since 1970. Taking rough demos from John Lennon the rest of the band got together to finish them. And while you can debate the merits of “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” the chance to go behind the scenes with the band as they evolved into legends is an undeniable delight.
I’ve always been obsessed with getting that peek behind the curtain of creativity. Audio commentaries, documentaries, outtakes and the like have always helped me to better understand the “how” of art and allowed me to incorporate it into everything I do. And hearing interviews and various takes and demos of some of the most popular songs in the world was eye-opening. I own the DVD set and all three compilations of the music, and one of my favorite things is putting those into large playlists and having in between songs those snippets and false starts pop up and disappear again.
Taking as a whole the 6 discs that comprise the compilations are a bit overwhelming, and I find myself usually going to second and third sets, seeing as how they contain all the work from the later, more experimental period. Demos and alternate takes of classics from Revolver and The White Album in particular show how much songs would evolve and mutate in interesting ways before settling into what we know now.
One thing I learned going through the glut of Beatles music I own is a new-found appreciation as to how versatile the group became in such a short time. There are so many moving parts to the band’s sound and art that it can get to be a bit too much devouring it all at once, which accounts for a little of the burnout I experienced going through it (oh man, wait until we get to Zappa…). But taking the small breaks and coming back, especially ending on these compilations was eye-opening. After so many years there are still surprises to be found, even in something I though I knew inside and out.
And if that isn’t the mark of musical genius, I don’t know what is.