Amid the unfolding horror and confusion of allofthis™, we all made a few promises to ourselves about lockdown. We would read more books, maybe learn a new language… and we’d do puzzles! Lego started selling out everywhere. Not the easy, ‘help-your-nephew-at-Christmas’ type, but the big bastards – the Tower Bridges, the VW Camper Vans, the kind of thing where an adult could say to themselves, ‘It’s OK – I’m still being an adult, because bridges and cars are ADULT things.’
Another of the things I was especially looking forward to in September was the new Beatles movie, Get Back, the Peter Jackson-directed re-telling of what became the fated ‘Let It Be’ film project. But, like so many things this year, it was not to be. Covid has put paid to many cultural events – Glastonbury, Tokyo 2020, theatre – and now 2020’s big Beatles release has joined them; we won’t find out until August 2021 whether Ringo retrieves the Precious.
This is therefore the first year in many that Apple Records won’t pillage its archives for unreleased material to shove into a box set. How are Beatles fans supposed to find a way to part with their money now? Don’t worry – Lego have it covered. In collaboration with Apple Corps, the brick-lovers have released Beatles Lego Art, whereby you can recreate the famous ‘White Album’ portraits, but with Lego tiles. You’re only able to make one Beatle per set, but still: what a wonderful way to waste your time.
And so, over the hottest weekend of the year, in I go. 2993 pieces. Just me, some chilled alcoholic beverages and the accompanying podcast you access by scanning a QR code in the instruction book. The box is about the size of a large pizza, and on opening it you are confronted by bags upon bags of little coloured Lego dots. I’ve chosen to make a McCartney. If you want all four Beatles side by side, you can spend around £450. In the words of your bank manager as your mouse hovers over the basket: get back!
The game works on a grid system, so the picture is made up of nine squares and you work on one square at a time. Each coloured dot is assigned a number, and you just follow the pattern in the booklet. Got it?
Good – we’re off. For the first hour, I am accompanied by the aforementioned Beatles podcast, featuring comedian Nish Kumar and journalist Samira Ahmed. The podcast also features a small yet interesting contribution from the product designers themselves, who remind you, just in case you were beginning to waver, that this is Lego for adults – the kind of Lego you could take out for a pint or a dirty movie once you’ve finished building it.
By the end of the hour, and a couple of drinks down (it was hot, OK?) I have finished almost two squares. The companion audio also lasts for an hour, at the end of which a friendly – if syrupy – American voice asks me if I’m ready to hang my work of art on the wall yet. I wonder if this is sarcasm, then remember it’s American. No, I am not ready.
I’m on my own now with just two of nine squares complete – no more Nish or Samira to keep the voices at bay. Just me, the heat, some alcohol and my five-and-a-half-hour-long Deluxe version of the ‘White Album’. I mean, I might as well double down on this. I reach panel three, entering a trance-like mindset as ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ plays somewhere in the real world.
Two hours in, and by panel four I start seeing sequences of dots with numbers on them whenever I blink. I may well be entering some sort of transcendental state – I no longer know if I’m blinking or phasing out for hours. Time is elastic – ‘Revolution 9’ plays in the distance. I’m either on a mountain in Rishikesh or a sofa in the south-east of England. Who the hell knows.
When I open my eyes again, everything is pixelated, like The Matrix but with plastic bricks. My cat, made of orange bricks, walks into the room and asks for food. I pour him a bowl of brown rectangles. I seem to be on the sixth panel – I don’t remember this happening. Paul’s eyes and half his nose are complete. Did he just wink at me? No, that’s silly… Isn’t it?
By ‘I Will (Take 29’), I am now merely a vessel with which to assemble Lego. Hunched over the table, the mild ache in my neck a distant memory, I progress to panel seven, comprehending what it must have been like to be in the studio with Paul while he attempted to perfect ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’. His mouth is finished now – did he just say something? I shake this off – it’s OK. I’m on panel eight… Nearly there… he can’t tell me what to do. No, Paul – shut up.
I come to while putting a blue tile in the final gap, and there he is, staring back at me, my new best friend. ‘Long, Long, Long (Take 44)’ rings in my ears: ‘It’s been a long, long, long time’. And it sort of has, you know – around five transcendental hours that have lifted me out of reality and into an altered state, where everything can be solved with an instruction manual and small bits of plastic.
Who needs the real world? Certainly not me – I’m fine here and I don’t need to go out any more because my best friend Paul is with me now. We have the best chats. He just winked at me again.