‘Get Back’, the ‘Big Brother’ of the Beatles who has collapsed several myths about their separation

On November 25, the Disney+ streaming platform finally premiered the long-awaited documentary ‘The Beatles: Get Back’. Peter Jackson, responsible for the trilogy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has worked for two years with more than one hundred hours of unpublished audiovisual material from the recording of the penultimate album recorded by the Beatles, and last published, ‘Let it be’, in January 1969. And it has brought many things to light.

Let’s put ourselves in a situation: ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ is a 468-minute documentary (seven hours and 28 minutes) directed by Peter Jackson. The director of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy had access in January 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ famous last concert, on the roof of his company’s building, Apple Corps., in downtown London, at 55 hours of footage and 140 hours of audio compiled for the edition of what would be the group’s last ‘official’ film, ‘Let it be’ (1970).

The Beatles were already tired of almost everything, and mainly of making movies after the delirious experiences of ‘What a night that day’ (1964) and ‘Help!’ (1965) and the flop of the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (1967). John, Paul, George and Ringo had even skipped the production of the animated feature film ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1968), in which they didn’t even bother to voice their own cartoon characters, and were only shown in the last two minutes of the film, singing ‘All together now’.

When it was evident that the Beatles were already going downhill as a group (not as musicians), Paul McCartney, undisputed leader of the group in its last stage in the face of John Lennon’s passivity, had the idea that it would be a good idea for the next The Beatles project, after the chaos from which the White Album arose (a double album by four more singers than one group) would be a documentary for television in which ordinary people witness the creation and recording process of the Beatles’ next album. Beatles, which would also be finished off with a performance by the group three years later, since in 1966, tired of the ‘Beatlemania’ phenomenon, they had decided to stop the exhausting group tours around the world.

For this reason, McCartney hired the young director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (‘Brideshead Revisited’, 1981) to film the Beatles in a ‘Big Brother’ style, with multiple cameras around them, while they rehearsed and recorded said next album, which It was going to be called ‘Get Back’ (something like going back to the original essence of the Liverpool band, with less deep and more ‘rock’n’roll songs) and which would later become ‘Let it be’.

And for this, the Beatles rented the huge film studios of Twickenham, on the outskirts of London, for the making of both the album and the documentary. Lindsay-Hogg’s original television project ended up being released on the big screen as a film, ‘Let it be’, in May 1970, a year and a half after it was made, and just a month after the official dissolution of the Beatles as a band. . For this reason, the world received this film as the ‘testament’ of the Beatles, the exposure of the bad vibes that ended with the most important musical band in history.

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But it was all really just posturing, because, although it was true that there were doses of bad vibes in that project of ‘Get Back’ by the Beatles, especially in its early days, the truth is that, after that experience, the Beatles returned to his environment, to his house, to his lifelong studios, in Abbey Road, to record the true goodbye of the band, the self-titled album with which they said goodbye to the world… although commercial interests made it the penultimate album released by the band, before the aforementioned ‘Let it be’.

Lindsay-Hogg’s film, although it was the only Oscar the Beatles won (although they didn’t even bother to pick it up) for the song ‘Let it be’, only picked up the worst moments of the group, George’s growing anger Harrison that ended with his abandonment of the group for a few weeks, the apparent ‘dictatorship’ of Paul McCartney, acting as the supreme leader of the band, and John Lennon’s nonchalance and state of constant delirium due to drugs… and of Yoko Ono, whose persistent presence at John’s side during the hours and hours of recording increased the legend that ‘Yoko Ono is to blame for everything’ in the separation of the Beatles.

history revisited

Lindsay-Hogg’s film became, over time, ‘cursed’, and since the 1980s it has been almost impossible to access it, since it was neither released on DVD nor has it ever been available on platforms. For this reason, from Apple Corps., the failed company that the Beatles founded after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in 1967, but which still today continues to manage the impressive heritage of the Beatles, put in the hands of Peter Jackson all the material recorded by Lindsay-Hogg in 1969 for a ‘second version’ of that Beatles project.

What was originally going to be a two-hour documentary has become three seven-and-a-half-hour episodes… because of the coronavirus pandemic. As its scheduled release date was 2020, Jackson, after the arrival of the global pandemic, had a lot of extra time to dig into the final story of the Beatles and offer us a product that, although it is a hard drug for those of us who do not consider ourselves ‘ Taliban’ by the Beatles, does put the true end to the history of the Liverpool band, massacring various myths that we have swallowed in the last half century.

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‘The Beatles: Get Back’ is divided into three chapters, which we break down one by one in the following lines:

We see the worst roll of the entire documentary in the first days of work on the ‘Get Back’ project.

1st part: Days 1-7. George’s bad vibes.

The Beatles arrive at their new ‘studio’, the Twickenham cinematographic facilities, to undertake their next project, ‘Get Back’, which is not only the recording of a new album, but also the making of a documentary about its creation process, in addition to performing live again, three years later, in a show that will be televised live.

From the first moment, we noticed that McCartney’s idea is not the best, since the drawbacks of recording in Twickenham are greater than the advantages: constant cold inside a giant ship, in the middle of January; acoustic problems in a film studio, not music; and constant discussions about how and where the projected televised concert will take place: there is talk of doing it on board a ship off the coast of Libya, in a park in London, in… Everything turns into a constant ‘brainstorming’ of ideas, each one more delusional, making it clear that not even the Beatles themselves are clear about what they want.

But at the same time, we begin to see the Beatles in full swing, in full work of what they do best: music. How the songs are developing, not only Lennon and McCartney, but more and more by Harrison, how they build, note by note, chord by chord, correction after correction, what in the end will be a new Liverpool classic. We hear and see the genesis of songs from the Beatles’ latest album such as ‘Two of us’, ‘The one after 909’, ‘Don’t let me down’, ‘The long and winding road’, ‘Let it be’ or ‘Get back’, interspersed with improvised ‘jam sessions’ of his old hits as well as lifelong rock and roll classics, in spontaneous sessions that, oddly enough, light up the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo with smiles.

Although it is just in this phase of the project when the worst roll is noticed among the Beatles. And especially between McCartney and Harrison. Paul has long since taken the reins of the group in the face of Lennon’s nonchalance, more aware of Yoko Ono, and he strives until exhaustion so that the final product is perfect. But of course, so much effort sometimes turns into an almost dictatorial attitude, that he ends up sulking Harrison, fed up with Paul correcting his contribution over and over again with the lead guitar. And all that bad vibes, as exacerbated in the 1970 film, ends with George leaving the band a few days after the start of recording at Twickenham.

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The brutal moment in which McCartney is moved to (re) realize that the Bealtes have very little left.

2nd part. Days 8-16. Paul’s tears.

The ‘Harrison crisis’ is resolved by accepting Harrison’s conditions to return to the group. Chief among them, leaving Twickenham and returning to a more familiar yet new environment: the studio the Beatles had built for themselves in the basement of Apple Corps headquarters. in Savile Row, the posh street of London’s tailor shops. And although the bad vibes are partially diluted, there is a brutal scene in which, with only Ringo and Paul present in the studio, it is clear that, although the crisis has been overcome, the separation of the Beatles is closer than ever. And the camera focuses on the face, on the eyes of Paul McCartney, which in the midst of an uncomfortable silence moisten in a display of ‘humanity’ of the one who until now seemed to be the real ‘führer’ of the group.

Billy Preston (left), hardly believed that the Beatles would let him play with them.

But this chapter, which lasts more than three hours, also shows moments of great tenderness, such as the incorporation of the considered ‘fifth Beatle’ to the group. American keyboardist Billy Preston, only 22 years old, known to the group in his years in Hamburg, comes over to greet his colleagues… and ends up being part of the group, even if it’s just for the recording of ‘Let it be’. Preston can’t believe that, without intending it and almost without believing it, he is playing keyboards in the most important band in history.

The mythical last concert of the Beatles, on the roof of their building in London.

3rd part. Days 17-22. The rooftop concert.

The third and last part of the documentary has as its main protagonist the mythical concert on the roof of the Apple building, in Savile Row, on January 29, 1969. After many back and forth, what was going to be a great concert on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea evolves to a final performance on the roof of the Apple building, in Savile Row. And also by surprise, without summoning the media… and without asking for the…

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