Several tributes to The Beatles will hit the airwaves this year including Peter Jackson’s biopic based on recordings made for an unaired 1970 special called Get Back, Mary McCartney’s release about the band’s Abbey Road album, and Paul McCartney’s autobiographical Lyrics. Add to that the release of McCartney III, Paul’s 18th solo item, and you’re probably thinking “that should be plenty.” But if like me, you can never get enough of The Beatles, famed record producer Rick Rubin is about to give us even more.
Slated for release as “coming soon,” a short trailer for the special was released in late 2020 on Paul McCartney’s YouTube channel providing a glimpse of what’s in store for lucky viewers. In the 90-second black-and-white video, Rubin and Macca are in a stark room that includes a playback /mixing board where they listen and comment on some Beatles’ classics like “Come Together” and “Lovely Rita,” often with Paul on drums or playing his classic Rickenbacker bass. McCartney can be heard joking that “We realized we were writing songs that were memorable, not because we wanted them to be memorable, but because we had to remember them.” A few Fab Four clips are interspersed along with snippets of Paul describing thoughts about the role of the bass in their music. It ends with the crescendo from “Live and Let Die” – fade to black.
Allegedly this marks the first time the original Abbey Road analog tapes have left that studio. The duo seems to be using these tapes because Paul and Rick are clearly isolating various instruments on the tracks, and discussing interesting thoughts on each one.
However, for such a project, getting the right person in the driver’s seat is key. Rick Rubin was one of the key forces behind introducing the general public to rap music, including starting Def Jam Recordings and signing LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run DMC, and The Beastie Boys. He produced Jay-Z’s The Black Album, an obvious reference to The Beatles’ White Album. Rubin has been nominated for over 20 Grammy Awards, winning 9 times, including several Albums of the Year. In 2007, he was also selected as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” So, this man has music creds.
But does he have the respect for The Fab Four that would be needed to truly create a loving tribute to the talent at work? Well, when asked by The Daily Beast, “What is it about The Beatles? What made them work?”, his reply was, “It transcends everything. It’s much bigger than four kids from Liverpool. For me, the Beatles are proof of the existence of God. It’s so good and so far beyond everyone else that it’s not them.” That would be a “yes.”
Although we don’t know the release date yet, the documentary is planned to be delivered in six-parts and is being produced by Frank Marshall, who recently completed The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.
Some sad day, there will be a time when no Beatles will be around. In the meantime, the more we can document the magic behind one of the greatest bands of all time – with the help of the founding members – the better.
Photo: Screenshot from Rick Rubin/Paul McCartney documentary (YouTube)