I’ve been watching Get Back, Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary that is now streaming on Disney+. And, after completing part one of the three-part series, I have to wonder: Could the Beatles have stayed together longer if only they had a good project manager?
Seriously. I’ve been a hardcore Beatles fan since sixth grade and have read, watched, and, naturally, listened to everything I could get my hands on over the years. So, I wasn’t surprised to see the lads at odds with one another, but I was surprised at the conditions that this — the most famous band in the world — were working under. More importantly, I found myself more and more frustrated with their choices.
For starters, after on-screen wording informs us of The Beatles’ longtime manager Brian Epstein’s death, Paul is shown speaking with the other three bandmates saying that they were “going to manage themselves.”
Well, that’s big red flag.
Then we learn that they have slightly more than two weeks to write at least 14 new songs so they can perform them in front of a live audience — the first time they have played live in more than three years. Oh, and the entire process would be filmed, so at the end of it they would have a documentary, a concert film, and a new album
No pressure, right?
But the thing is, these were all self-imposed pressures! They only had two weeks because the cavernous film studio they rented, which they all hated how they sounded in it, was due to be used for a new film that Ringo was starring in. Plus, the documentary’s original director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, kept insisting the band play live in Sabratha, Libya, on the coast of Africa. It is a beautiful amphitheater, but the Beatles, particularly Ringo, were dead set against it. Still, it came up again and again…and again.
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I mentioned that they hated the make-shift space they were in, but they only moved to a proper space after George Harrison quit the band.
When asked if they could play some songs they had already written, they were told no — it must be all new songs. Why?! No one had heard anything off Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, or Magical Mystery Tour played live. The fans would have gone insane to hear any of that for the first time, along with a few new songs.
As I am sure you are aware, creative teams require a different set of management skills than, say, a sales or finance team. Right off the bat, I would have worked to kill that ridiculous two-week deadline, then find a better space for them to create in, and finally help find a suitable concert venue, which ended up being the roof of Apple Corps. That’s pretty cool, so at least that part worked out somehow — I’ll see how in part three.
I know that those fixes wouldn’t take care of all the issues the Fab Four were facing, but it would have been a smoother project, and maybe we could have gotten a few more albums out of them. If only… (It also isn’t lost on me that hiring Allen B. Klein as their new manager was what finally pulled them apart for good, but that just highlights the need for the right manager.)
The bottom line: Never underestimate the power of a good project manager.