Get Back – The Six Months Post
Celebrating our half-birthday with four talented Liverpudlians in mind | Non-Fiction | Fresh Soup
A few days ago I watched Peter Jackson’s Get Back, the mini-series that follows the making of the Beatles’ album, Let It Be. There is something very neutral, almost plotless, about the wonderful footage that comprises the series, which means that each viewer has to work at deriving their own meaning and themes from what occurs onscreen. My own takeaway from the series was the almost unimaginable bliss to be found in artistic creation, and particularly in the collaborative creation between these band members.
The three episodes depict four nice guys, all witty and somewhat complicated, talking and bickering about almost every single thing: Where should they perform? Who will their agent be? Should the footage they’re collecting become a film or a television series? And then comes the moment when they start playing and working on a new song together, and all the power games and the sense of futility disappear, leaving simple happiness—the pure joy of inventing, imagining, refining, or helping a bandmate find the perfect solo. Almost instantly, the entire weight of the world, the successes and the egos, seem like nothing compared to a sensational new line in a song or an unexpected voice joining in for the chorus.
The climax of the series, of course, is the Beatles’ famous last performance on the rooftop of Apple Corp. Given the context, the setting makes complete sense: by this point, the Beatles have long ago stopped performing for live audiences because the crowds’ ecstatic screaming had completely overshadowed the band’s art, and because they, as musicians, could no longer hear themselves sing. Instead of showcasing their music, the concerts had turned into a celebration of fame and glory. But such a long period of making music only inside the confines of a studio had disconnected the band from their audience and had a sterilizing effect. They struggled to perfect their songs when there was no one on the other side of the guitar to hear them.
In the famous rooftop concert, they shout, “Get back to where you once belonged!” as if it were a mantra they were addressing to themselves. The abstract place they once belonged to no longer exists, but the spontaneity of the show helped them find something close to it: artistic creation that does not occur in a vacuum. Instead of hordes of fans who’d shelled out for expensive tickets, they played for regular people who happened to be passing by when they heard someone singing from the rooftop.
Today, six months after the first issue of Alphabet Soup, I can say that the newsletter has become the rooftop where I regularly perform. And even if I’m not as famous or as talented as the Beatles, my outlet is suspiciously similar to theirs. Having been unable to give live readings throughout this Covid era, working on my next book has felt a little bit like reading my stories into an echoing well. And Alphabet Soup became my rooftop gig: my subscribers are like those passersby outside Apple, glancing at their inbox as they go about their day, only to find me shouting a story at them from the rooftop of their Gmail account. Some of them delete the newsletter, others let it sit there unread, but the few who open it are the most natural and appropriate readers I could ask for.
I don’t know what you wish yourselves for the future, but I’d definitely sign up for another fun and creative six months. Unlike the first half year, when I worked on the newsletter 24/7, I’ll need to start investing more time on the lower floors, beneath the rooftop, so that I can shore up the foundations—and make a living. But even if it gets slightly less frequent, I promise to keep sending out regular issues of Alphabet Soup, and that my writing will be as genuine and original as I can make it. So thank you for walking past my street for these six months, and for looking up at the rooftop, pricking up your ears, and sometimes even singing along with the chorus.
My special gratitude goes to Alphabet Soup’s small but mighty group of paying subscribers. This newsletter was designed to be read, not to be a financial bonanza. But thanks to you, it’s a hobby that keeps going (even if it’s not very profitable) and keeps bringing joy—to me, and hopefully to you as well.