So, everyone in Beatledom is rightfully obsessing over Peter Jackson’s “Get Back,” the first part of which was released on Thanksgiving. I have added nothing to the discussion for the very simple reason that I haven’t had a chance to watch a minute of “Get Back.” I’m currently swamped in conferences and paper grading, and don’t want to divert my attention too far. (Plus, I get offering it on Thanksgiving, trying to catch the non-football watching couch potatoes. But show me any mom with toddlers (and older kids) hosting, cooking, cleaning, and refereeing a multi-family Thanksgiving holiday, and I will show you a woman who barely has time to take out the trash, let alone sit and watch a new documentary. Although, given the reviews I’ve read, at least, unlike the old “Get Back,” the new one seemingly offers more optimism than the Detroit Lions game that was on in the background).
Having not seen any of it, my only methodological assessment is this: It’s another person’s interpretation of primary source material. That’s neither good, nor bad, it’s just the reality of the source analysis, the same way Michael Lyndsay Hogg’s was an interpretation, and Sulpy and Schweghardt’s Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image offered a differing interpretation. The major issue lies with our inability to directly contrast *any* of the interpretations (Hogg’s, Jackson’s, Sulpy’s) with the actual primary source material — *all* the audio and video tapes they utilized to create their interpretations. What we are getting is essentially their translation. And as a translation, it qualifies as a secondary source.
So, now for the update:
I am excited to post the first part of a video interview I did a few week’s ago with Matt Williamson, from Pop Goes the 60’s. (I had to do it in my 10 year old son’s bedroom, since it’s the only one that has A. a desk and B. a door lock to keep the toddlers out, hence the Travis Kelce pennant on the wall. Yes, I’m a Chief fan, but I don’t have Chiefs posters/pennants on my bedroom wall. I’m *forty*, not fourteen). We did discuss a bit of “Get Back” — much of the same stuff I wrote above — and other Beatles/historiographical issues as well. For those interested in the link, here it is:
Questions and Comments are welcome, but please grant me a grace period on responding: I’m presenting at an international conference tomorrow, at the University of Columbia in Bogota, via zoom, and then fully expect to be buried, once again, under Finals and research papers.
9 thoughts on “Update: (But not on what you were expecting).”
When you do finally have the time to watch Get Back, we all very much look forward to your observations and insights about it.
Quick question: as a historian, how would you classify, quantify, or assess the added influence of Disney on this source material? Yes, we’re getting Jackson’s interpretation of the source material, but where and/or how would you put Disney on this spectrum, especially in light of the fact that they, for example, wanted to cut out all smoking and cursing?
My perception at the moment is that Disney adds another layer of control/translation that can muddy the accuracy the way other businesses or streaming services may not have. Would Netflix have requested the no smoking/swearing interpretation? (Which, for the record, I find utterly ridiculous). We have no way of knowing, but Disney did, and that’s an issue that needs to be acknowledged. Disney’s purpose isn’t to give us the most accurate version possible (nor is Apple’s, of course) but the most consumable one.
And every time you have that disparity in agenda, it needs to be acknowledged. Jackson’s interpretation of the material is one layer of distance between the viewer and the primary source; Disney’s sale of Jackson’s interpretation is yet another. It’s why I find our inability to access the primary source material — all of the audio and video tapes — so frustrating: I have no issues with reading and analyzing other people’s interpretations of primary source material, however accurate or flawed they may be, so long as I also have the ability to analyze the primary source material directly myself, and come to my own interpretation. Then there’s the element that full access has been granted to a limited amount of figures, which skews their influence even more, regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of their interpretation.
Excellent. I really enjoyed watching this Erin. Thank you
Thank you, Keith. Feel free to ask any questions you may have either about the Beatles, historical methods, or particular historical events: I’ll freely admit when there’s something I’m unaware of. I’m not sure when Matt will have the next part up, but hopefully it will be soon.
One correction: In the interview, I identified the Galveston hurricane as the single deadliest day in American history. That’s incorrect: it is the single-deadliest day in American history which is non-military related. The single deadliest day in American military history occurred on September 17th, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam.
Well I for one am very disappointed that those AREN’T your sports pennants on the wall. 🙂
Seriously–I looked for that vid on Pop Goes The 60s just the other day; pretty fortuitous you posted that now.
Haven’t had a chance to review but hopefully this week.
Edited to Add: have you had a chance to listen to any of the Nagra audio tapes, Erin? I find the comparison of what those tapes include and what Jackson left out quite compelling. For example, the morning after the meeting which occurred after George walked out is much more revealing about Yoko’s involvement/John’s acquience in the nagra reels than the few seconds Jackson devoted to the discussion in Get Back. I believe Pop Goes the 60s has several good episodes on that one issue.
Its been some time since I listened to the Nagra tapes, Karen, but that issue of Jackson’s editing the lunchroom conversation (that’s the one you’re referencing, right?) is one I’ve seen others bring up, too. The criticism I’ve heard (again, caveat I haven’t watched Jackson’s version) is that it’s edited to the extent that the other people in the conversation (Linda; Yoko) are seriously diminished in their conversational contributions, and that the removal of some of the comments/discussion in Jackson’s edit can leave viewers with a more simplified, if not inaccurate version.
Hi Erin – I’m a fan of the ‘Pop Goes the 60’s’ YT channel anyway, so your discussion with Matt appeared in my feed anyway and I saw it earlier today. It was all I’d hoped for, and more; I’m already looking forward to Part II and would love you both to find further opportunities for discussion since the approaches you take always get me thinking! Thanks for that.
PS – I’m in the UK and have no idea who Travis Kelce or The Chiefs are and so was less distracted by your backdrop than I might otherwise have been :-).
Thanks for the comment, Robert: I’m pleased you enjoyed the podcast, and are looking forward to part II.
I’m glad the backdrop didn’t distract you. I just had to chuckle to myself a little; it was the first video podcast I’ve done, and most people try and have the traditional bookshelf/fireplace, serious-looking backdrop for those, but my only option was my 10 year old’s bedroom.