“It just makes you cringe,” said Glyn Johns, the recording engineer and producer who plays a leading role in “The Beatles: Get Back,” Peter Jackson’s marathon documentary series about the fateful Beatles sessions in 1969. which culminated in “Let It Be”.
Mr. Johns wasn’t talking about the nearly eight-hour series, which critics and fans have embraced as a watershed television event, but about the You live at Austin Powers his 26 year old self wears it everywhere. “I look like a goddamn clown,” he added.
It is not easy to stand out in a documentary with four of the most famous characters of the 20th century. But with his knack for accessories and skinny pants, Mr. Johns found a new circle of aficionados half a century on.
For Mr. Johns, 79, the experience was fun, up to a point.
“I’m sick of this now, I tell you,” he said with a laugh in a phone call from his home in Chichester, England. “I have 9,000 emails and messages from people from my past, all taking the Mickey Mouse mercilessly.”
“Some people are saying, ‘Oh, the jacket you wore on day X was great’ or ‘Where did you get the goatskin coat?’ But in general, they are laughing at how ridiculous I was, which of course is true. “
Mr. Johns was certainly not the only peacock during those fateful weeks, as the Beatles worked to overcome their differences and return to their roots with a no-nonsense rock n ‘roll album, accompanied, in theory, by a television special from a concert.
What to know about “The Beatles: Get Back”
Peter Jackson’s seven-plus-hour documentary series, which explores the most controversial period in the band’s history, is available on Disney Plus.
While John Lennon and Paul McCartney generally looked dressed for comfort, as befits long hours of studio work, Ringo Starr showed up for a session in a lime green pinstripe suit with a forest green musketeer shirt. George Harrison wore a similar ensemble in pink and purple. (Fashion sites including W and Marie Claire offered guides on how to buy the looks in “Get Back”.)
In such company, it is somewhat surprising that Mr. Johns has garnered so much attention. He was already an industry heavyweight, who would later become the go-to sound man for The Who, Eric Clapton, The Eagles and many more. But at that point, Mr. Johns was anything but a Beatles insider. He was associated with the Rolling Stones, with whom he had worked from the earliest days. In fact, when the Beatles first contacted him, he was dubious.
“I was home on a very rare free night and the phone rang and the person on the other side announced himself with a Liverpool accent like Paul McCartney,” he said. Mr. Johns thought it was Mick Jagger making a joke, so he told him to get lost, albeit in saltier language.
“And of course there was silence on the other side of the phone,” added Johns. “It started all over again, and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s’ is Paul McCartney, Jesus Christ! “
The influence of the Stones fashion on Mr. Johns is undeniable. “I remember Brian Jones once took me to a shop on Carnaby Street and we bought things,” he said. “I remember that Mick gave me a fabulous shirt”.
“The coolest thing I think I wore in the film was the Levi crocodile jacket, which was actually a gift from Keith Richards,” he added. “We were in Paris and Keith had this jacket made in France and it was delivered to the hotel. He took it out of the box, put it on and said, “Here we go, I don’t want it.” I have no idea what happened to him. Perhaps I he gave it away. ‘
Nor can he remember where he got the goatskin coat that viewers are obsessed with, even though he remembers what it smelled like after a thunderstorm.
“I distinctly remember queuing for a plane wearing that coat, and the people in front of and behind me walked away from me because it actually stank,” Johns said. “And of course in those days, if you had long hair you were a suspect anyway.”
Fans rightly praise Mr. Johns’ appearance in the film as the epitome of the 1960s British cool rocker, and the costumed fantasy he (and various Beatles at various times) displays in “Get Back” has it all. color and exuberance of the psychedelic peak-moment.
In 1969, however, rock was taking a tougher and darker turn, as evidenced by the Rolling Stones’ “Let it Bleed” and Led Zeppelin’s first self-titled album (both of which Mr. Johns worked on), not to mention Beatles songs like, yes, “Come back”.
The public image of the Beatles was starting to reflect this. For the cover photo of “Abbey Road”, taken on August 8 of that year (coincidentally, on the same day four members of the Manson family left for Sharon Tate’s home in Los Angeles.) Mr. McCartney and the Mr. Starr opted for dark navy blue and black, Mr. Lennon slate white and Mr. Harrison, “gravedigger” denim – at least according to the Paul-is-dead viral conspiracy theory of the day.
Nor did the Beatles seem to cheer themselves up for their latest public appearance on a London rooftop, the culmination of “Get Back”.
The Technicolor satins were gone. Mr. McCartney was practically dressed for the office in a sombre black three-piece suit and an open collared shirt. Mr. Lennon, in trainers, and Mr. Starr went black-on-black minimalists, although the former wore a fur borrowed from Yoko Ono and the latter, his wife Maureen’s bright red raincoat, presumably to protect themselves. from the winter cold. George Harrison looked a little festive, if a little thrift-store chic, in bright green pants and a grizzly-like Mongolian lamb fur coat. And then, of course, there was the inevitable Mrs. Ono herself, in her inevitable black.
A traditional analysis was that the Beatles had stopped putting on showbiz airs because they were fighting over money and management, and headed for a breakup. This vision became canonical after the release of “Let It Be,” Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s sombre 1970s documentary, who plays a leading role in “Get Back,” and captured the hours of unreleased footage that appear. in the series.
For Mr. Johns and many others, “Let It Be” has all the joy of a divorce proceeding.
“It’s terrible, terrible,” Johns said of the previous film. “My memory was that we really enjoyed ourselves and everyone had a great time. The fact that George left the band for 24 hours is no different than any other band I’ve ever worked with, or anyone who works in an office. People who work together for years, fall apart and eventually settle down. It’s normal.”
He never imagined the Beatles were heading for a split.
“The four of them have had this mammoth experience, ever since they were unknown, to be four of the most famous people in the world,” he said. “There was this huge bond between them. They were like family, really. “
She remembers much less what she wore and why.
“Listen, man, it was 50 years ago, how can I remember?” Mr. Johns said with a laugh. “Everyone has their own style, I suppose. But I was busy working ».