A little-talked-about Beatles documentary(!) was released in December on Disney+. Joking aside, the column inches that Peter Jackson’s Get Back has generated must have the execs at Disney rubbing their hands with glee.
It’s a sign of how obsessed people are with John, Paul, George and Ringo that spliced-together footage that’s over 50 years old can still be such a massive deal.
That said, for me, watching the documentary made The Beatles seem more real than ever. Filmed in glorious colour (unlike much of the black-and-white footage of their career) and seeing them going about their ‘work’, you’d barely know it was filmed in 1969.
However, one particular detail stood out for me in Episode 1 that demonstrated what a different world we live in now.
Paul McCartney complains that he’s effectively having to ‘lead’ the band and make decisions on their behalf and that it’s not a job that he wanted.
This is all because the group’s original manager – Brian Epstein – had died 18 months previously in August 1967, and they didn’t find (or possibly even look for) anyone to replace him.
In the documentary, various members of the group then mention that they don’t have anyone to guide them and they make numerous references to ‘Mr Epstein’. And it’s that respectful use of ‘Mr’ that struck me.
It’s easy to forget that none of the members of The Beatles were older than 28 at the time the footage was recorded. In fact, Paul was only 26 and George just 25.
In that context, it’s understandable that they were clearly so reliant and respectful on Epstein, even though he was just six years older than John and Ringo – he was just 32 when he died.
Britain may have undergone a cultural revolution during the 1960s and been far less permissive by 1969, but John, Paul, George and Ringo owed a huge debt to Epstein for steering them from obscurity in 1961 to being the biggest band in the world.
It’s a sign of that era and how things have changed, that you can’t imagine any modern music artist calling their manager by the title ‘Mr’ of ‘Mrs’.