Byron York: Music to Shave Moths Toes

The Beatles’ music and its reception by the public have been all over the place in the more than 50 years since they broke up.

The band’s first single “Love Me Do” has been called the modern day “Elvis Presley.” But there was one song from the group that garnered immense popularity and generated huge profits: “Get Back,” “Martin Bregman had always been an enormous radio fan. I told him that his obsession with the Beatles was wrong and that they had no real talent. Bregman said he had a tape and put it on.” The truth was better than the distortion and distortion of the distorted Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.” And that is, no question, what I’d call “Get Back.”

The song hit #1 on the Billboard chart on Feb. 8, 1964, and it remains the band’s second most recorded track with the release of its eighth studio album, “Abbey Road,” due in November. The album will feature a remixed version of the song featuring additional female vocalists, as well as an all-new music video. Of the popular recordings on the album, only the Beatles and John Lennon in the first person, speaking their song. The album takes the musicians back to the immediate aftershock of one of the greatest flop album sales in history. To me, this is an exciting bit of information. This message, in a couple of words, conveys the film “Get Back.”

“Get Back” is as defiant of a song as the Beatles were during their golden age. The album’s dynamic piano intro, powered by George Harrison’s soaring voice and then Yoko Ono’s winning contributions, is a clear message of protest that the group doesn’t shy away from. Within the song, the singer gets back at the fact that the world’s response to the Beatles has been something much different from the expectations they inspired. As the screen door opens and doors close on a master with the greatest gifts in music, each individual expresses frustration with the world’s values. From Kanye West’s self-centered paean to self-esteem to Joni Mitchell’s paean to a wish for peace, love, and charity, there are nods to the present culture of selfishness and outsized self-importance that seems to be consumed in cultural conversation today.

However, it’s not just the history of this song, and the “Get Back” video and album that holds my attention, this one time they made music that reached us. That is really the power of music — it connects us to one another. Art is an excellent communication medium, that can, within moments, make you smile or make you cry or make you happy or angry.

The Beatles themselves used the medium of music to tell me what was on their minds. I had moments when this music (and the Beatles themselves) not only articulated, but reflected the hopes and fears of people across the globe. As an admirer, or fan, of the Beatles for many years, this is as true today as it was a half century ago. This song, made through this great writing group, reflects the brainstorms of people who look at a problem with different perspectives, and come up with a creative solution. That’s what makes us special.

We all need to hear this message on repeat — we are unique, without a substitute, and so gifted that a mere handful of people can make a great change. “Get Back” is a wake-up call. We live in a world with no shortage of destructive forces, in which any behavior born out of ego can be destructive to communities and societies. Through the Beatles’ “Get Back,” we are reminded that truth, art, passion, generosity, and love can heal. And it gives me hope that “Get Back” continues to reach people in 2019.

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