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Beloved as the Beatles


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Dear Reader,

I have an amiable quibble with your music columnist. Bill Wyman writes in his April 5 column, "At some point the uniqueness of the book [Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles: Recording Sessions] struck me; no comparable document exists for artists of similar stature in any other medium. There's no similar accounting of Shakespeare's drafts, no guide to every scrap of music Mozart wrote or tapes of him playing each of his pieces; nor, in more recent times, does there exist an analysis of every frame of film shot by Griffith, say, or even Bergman. What can match this meticulous account of the evolution of inspiration?" Well, you're not far off the mark, Bill, but there is one such accounting. I refer you to the documentary series Unknown Chaplin by Kevin Brownlow, which aired on PBS in the mid-1980s. It seems Sydney Chaplin not only saved every single take his famous brother made, but also carefully labeled each according to what film it was from and when it was shot. There was a lot to save; Charlie's working method was to shoot hundreds of takes of a given scene until he was sure he had it right. Seventy years later, this archival material gives a very precise look at how Chaplin developed his ideas on the fly without a detailed script, and how he refined them so that the end product displayed none of the effort behind its creation.

None of which diminishes Lewisohn's achievement, except to note that its uniqueness doesn't quite extend to all mediums.

Frank Rawland

N. Wood

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