Song of the Week: I Me Mine – Rehearsal / Mono by The Beatles (Yes, that specific version)
Over the break, I had the pleasure of watching nine hours of almost-raw footage of a band writing music, goofing around and struggling through the difficulties of planning a show as a way to hold together what had begun to fall apart. Nine hours of anything is intimidating, and I knew that going into The Beatles documentary, Get Back. I won’t lie to you and say I didn’t fall asleep a few times, because I did.
But it also gave me chills.
When George Harrison played the first few lone guitar notes of I Me Mine for his bandmates, I had never heard the song before. The solemnity of it struck me. Simple, stripped down, his voice carried a haunting lament. I loved it, and I wanted more. In the final recording, however, even in the verses, this element is lost. Perhaps lost to overproduction, to the intensity of choruses, or to the great magnificence of the Beatles. George would probably attribute it to the latter. That is not to say the song would have been better without the band or to take sides between them and George, but simply to acknowledge the way the two were growing apart.
Trivia will tell you the song is about Buddhism and the idea of releasing the ego in favor of the no-self. Trivia will also tell you John Lennon was absent for the official recording of the song. Everything else—George’s process when he sat alone figuring out the strumming, the thoughts and feelings in his head that lead to the lyrics—is lost. I find only a semblance of it in this recording—that troubled, melancholy self-expression.
I’ll leave you to discover the rest of the documentary on your own, but I will say this moment is more pivotal and revealing than it first seems.
Watching it, I’m reminded of my sophomore year of high school, struggling to record the last album with a band I had mentally parted ways with. A month prior, I had learned of some unforgivable actions my then-bandmates had committed. It took time to let go of our history together, to let go of the joy of writing and performing. When we finally recorded the album over one long bittersweet Saturday in November, I was grateful to the people who had helped me create something I loved, and simultaneously furious and hurt that they took it away from me.
I watch George looking at his bandmates, knowing it was time to move on, knowing they weren’t treating him the way he deserved, but also wanting to share and make something beautiful with them.
I think about what an act of trust it is to pull a piece of art from yourself and bare it, naked, to other people.
These feelings can be summed up in the softness of his voice, the way his body moves with his guitar, the way his fingers touch the strings. These feelings are forever immortalized not in the footage documenting the rehearsal. They are embedded in the art, the music, because we don’t know any other way to share pieces of ourselves with other people.
Today I am grateful for the music I made, and the people who enabled me to make it. I am grateful for those I’ve been able to be vulnerable with since then, who have helped me to heal and remember why we make music and art in the first place.
I’m sending warmth and compassion to those of you who have lost these connections, or had them taken away from you. Your voice and your work are still valuable. Know that there will always be someone willing to listen, even if that someone is yourself.