I knew that Peter Jackson was making a three-part, 8 hour series incorporating never-before-seen Beatles clips, but I didn’t realize that it’s already out. Yes, it’s on Disney+, but who cares. I’ve liked everything that Jackson directed, and this movie most resembled “They Shall Not Grow Old,” which was great.
Here’s the trailer, with the YouTube notes below it:
The YouTube notes (there’s also a Wikipedia article which gives the episodes and more information):
Made entirely from never-before-seen, restored footage, it provides the most intimate and honest glimpse into the creative process and relationship between John, Paul, George, and Ringo ever filmed. Be sure to check them both out, and don’t forget to watch “The Beatles: Get Back” when it rolls out over three days, November 25, 26, and 27, 2021, exclusively on Disney+.
Directed by three-time Oscar®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “They Shall Not Grow Old”), “The Beatles: Get Back” takes audiences back in time to the band’s January 1969 recording sessions, which became a pivotal moment in music history. The docuseries showcases The Beatles’ creative process as they attempt to write 14 new songs in preparation for their first live concert in over two years. Faced with a nearly impossible deadline, the strong bonds of friendship shared by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are put to the test. The docuseries is compiled from nearly 60 hours of unseen footage shot over 21 days, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and from more than 150 hours of unheard audio, most of which has been locked in a vault for over half a century. Jackson is the only person in 50 years to have been given access to this Beatles treasure trove, all of which has now been brilliantly restored. What emerges is an unbelievably intimate portrait of The Beatles, showing how, with their backs against the wall, they could still rely on their friendship, good humor, and creative genius. While plans derail and relationships are put to the test, some of the world’s most iconic songs are composed and performed. The docuseries features – for the first time in its entirety – The Beatles’ last live performance as a group, the unforgettable rooftop concert on London’s Savile Row, as well as other songs and classic compositions featured on the band’s final two albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be.
It took Jackson four years to edit the material. Wikipedia adds, “It was created with cooperation from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon (Yoko Ono) and George Harrison (Olivia Harrison), as well as music supervisor Giles Martin (son of George Martin and a regular producer of Beatles projects since 2006). In a news release, McCartney said: “I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about the Beatles recording together”, while Starr echoed: “There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the Let It Be film that came out [in 1970]. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that.”
I found three short clips from the series on YouTube, which, since I’m a big Beatles fans, really whets my appetite to see the series. The first one seems to be when George Harrison introduces the song “I Me Mine” to the group:
Rehearsal of “Something in the Way She Moves”. And yes, Yoko is sitting there, and Linda McCartney is taking photos. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the band rehearse, but it’s lovely.
Rehearsal of “Don’t Let Me Down” with Billy Preston on the keyboard.
If anybody’s seen it, please report below.
It’s no secret that I think the Beatles are by far the best rock group that ever was, and ever will be. They could write everything from love songs to hard rockers, and nearly all of it was superb. What rock song today is the equal of “A Day in the Life”, or “In My Life”, or “Blackbird”, or “Strawberry Fields Forever”, not to mention “Yesterday”. (Well, there’s “Octopus’s Garden” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” but I prefer to think of them as mutations.)
It’s unimaginable to me that such talent could come together more than once, and that, combined with the demise of the genre, means that this is the apogee of rock music.
33 thoughts on “From Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie “Get Back”: Beatles songs come to life”
I’m definitely going to watch it. For those that haven’t signed up for Disney+, there are multiple clips from this movie in addition to those listed here. If you like the Beatles, it’s definitely worth it. If you have kids, you probably are already a subscriber. If not, there are other videos on the channel that may interest you. If you’re into Star Wars, there’s “The Mandalorian” now and “The Book of Boba Fett” coming out soon. There’s Pixar’s “Soul” and “The Right Stuff”.
I’ve seen it and for anybody who considers themselves A Beatles aficionado, it’s fantastic. For the ordinary guy it’s going to seem very long.
I’ve never owned a single single or even listened to them on Spotify, but I loved the first episode. The only people who shouldn’t watch it are those who dislike the Beatles.And they’re not ordinary guys. They’re plain odd.
I’m half-way through the 8 hours.
The Good: It’s absolutely, definitely, for sure fascinating to see their creative process. George makes suggestions on what the form of “I’ve Got a Feeling” should be, and he goes back and forth with Paul. IIRC, Paul is screwing around on his bass and comes up with the first bit of “Get Back.”
They are constantly cracking stupid jokes (when one of them isn’t quitting the band, etc.). John keeps making the same weak joke about “Your host: The Rolling Stones” again and again, over several days, grinding it in. Gotta respect him for honking down on a nothing line. When in doubt, push harder.
I’ve gotten a vastly greater sense of who they are as people by seeing them interact with each other for so long.
The Bad: George quits the band. To their credit, John and Paul (in an audio clip, no video) analyze and acknowledge how they froze George out of things.
George acknowledges that he (nor any of them) could really improvise when he says that that’s something that Clapton does (Paul references that that’s jazz, he’s not wrong).
The Ugly: God Awmighty, they wasted a lot of time screwing around in the studio.
“The Ugly: God Awmighty, they wasted a lot of time screwing around in the studio.”
Clapton noted that too when he came into play on Something. He mentioned that when Cream went into the studio to record they had already practiced the songs before and went straight away to recording. The Beatles, according to him, used the studio mainly for rehearsing.
Wasn’t that mainly because the Beatles were so hot by then that the studios basically gave them as much time in the studio as they wanted. Most bands have to practice elsewhere and get very limited studio time. If they aren’t ready to record, their heads will roll.
They owned the Apple studio. Less than 30 days to write/complete an album, a film and a rooftop concert doesn’t seem too bad.
There was a part where someone mentioned how much the recording time was costing them
It has to be kept in mind that Abbey Road Studios had to be used by EMI for other artists’ sessions as well as The Beatles.
Oops, Clapton played on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and not on Something.
Given how the Beatles used the studio as its own instrument on albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I’m not surprised that they were quite happy to screw around in the studio at that point, even though Let It Be was deliberately not so experimental.
John’s repeated mention of the Rolling Stones is because he was asked to do a brief intro to “The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus” during the Get Back sessions. Both films were by the same director.
Hang on. Does this mean that Jerry loved the Sodomy sequence in “Meet The Feebles”? If so, kudos.
I didn’t see that and don’t know the movie.
Me neither: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meet_the_Feebles
Braindead is a (sick) work of genius though (provided you like zombies being dispatched in imaginative ways), as was Jackson’s debut, Bad Taste, which features latex character masks that his mum produced in her oven when doing the Sunday roast dinner. That first film took four years, which was a sign of things to come.
For what it’s worth, The Guardian‘s critic wasn’t very impressed: “The Beatles: Get Back review – eight hours of TV so aimless it threatens your sanity” https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2021/nov/25/the-beatles-get-back-review-peter-jackson-eight-hours-of-tv-so-aimless-it-threatens-your-sanity
But then at eight hours it is probably one for the fans.
Nor was Philip Norman in The Times (here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-beatles-get-back-what-is-not-shown-q7tggzcbk; but probably paywalled for most readers, sadly). Norman wrote one of the best biographies of The Beatles, and he accuses Jackson of omitting too many inconvenient details, such as the malign influence of Allen Klein, plus (he says) Lennon’s heroin addiction. And the great George Martin barely features.
Norman concludes: “Jackson’s Pollyanna thesis of smiling, happy, super-creative Beatles falls apart at almost every seam. Just as Epstein turned four hard-boiled Scousers into loveable moptops, it’s as if Jackson has reverted to his Oscar-winning Hollywood milieu and tried to turn them into four
cute, hairy hobbits”.
The songs are still great, though.
Yup, Glyn Johns was very scathing about Klein (and the original film) in his autobiography Sound Man. He is also highly critical of Phil Spector’s work but was glad that ‘At least my version of the single of “Get Back”/” Don’t Let Me Down” had been released in April 1969’ (page 141 in my paperback edition).
Martin wasn’t the official produce for Let It Be, so I wouldn’t expect him to be there.
Martin does appear in it, but not in a prominent way.
How exactly was Jackson supposed to demonstrate the malign influence of Alan Klein? Was there any film of him? Does Norman suppose that the film has been edited to remove the sequence of John jacking up? What motive could there be for excluding George Martin from the movie? The suggestion that the film is an 8 hour whitewash strikes me as being a little silly. Some parts of his review read like he hasn’t seen the film at all. Or not looked.
My thoughts, exactly.
We’ve watched all of episode 1 and half of episode 2. They are very long episodes. We’re old fans, of course, and so it is very interesting to watch the lads as they develop songs in the midst of escalating tensions between them. You watch, for example, Paul struggling to find the lyrics for Get Back and want to shout the end result to him from your chair.
I’m guessing that young people who didn’t have them as a central part of their youth will find it boring. But we’re looking forward to the rest of it.
The part I find interesting is just how attached at the hip Yoko was to John. And the others don’t seem to mind, maybe because their girlfriends or wives feature fairly prominently in the video, at least Paul’s. It wasn’t she though that broke up the band, it was creative differences and strong personalities that did them in, and Yoko seems to have been the easy scapegoat for the tabloids. Her caterwauling in some of the recordings did help her any, though.
Among the many things that made them great was that each song on an album had a significantly different sound and style. And each one was done expertly, like that alone was their perfected sound and style.
I’ll be honest. I started watching it tonight, and while watching the creative process was interesting at first, it quite rapidly became rather boring. I’m not giving up on it, but let’s face it – the Beatles’ most creative period was in the rear view mirror by the time this film was made. The making of “Rubber Soul” or “Revolver” would have been much more engaging. And yes, I am a huge Beatles fan. The intro, with clips of their amazing early songs, practically had me in tears.
The nagra audio reels have been around (a- and b-rolls, and in the case of the rooftop ‘concert,’ c- and d-rolls) as bootlegs for years. There’s about 90 hours of them. Even Beatles scholars have a hard time getting through them. It’s nice to see some of the audio paired to visuals; it makes them infinitely more enjoyable.
For rabid Beatles fans, this is a gold mine and this long doc will seem brief. I’m a casual Beatles fan and a fairly recent one at that. I watched the entire 8 hours of this over the last 3 days. It’s fascinating to be a fly on the wall and observe the band’s creative process. Much of the doc is the repetitive drudgery of rehearsals and I fell asleep a few times watching it (the Thanksgiving gluttony didn’t help). What I loved seeing most was the playfulness between the bandmates, especially Lennon and McCartney. Paul was clearly the leader, with the band taking his direction much of the time. John seemed to be in another world, with his creativity and whimsy on full display. George Despite the pressure, they seemed to be having so much fun. It’s sad knowing that despite how well they got along here, they would break up soon followed by years of acrimony.
I heard of Billy Preston but didn’t know much about him till I watched this doc. He has a magical aura about him and his joy is infectious whenever he flashes on screen. The Four clearly have a ton of respect for him and he makes an impact on the sessions. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Billy.
I found Yoko’s presence annoying. Sure, Lennon needed/wanted her there but she just is in the middle of it all, like furniture and doesn’t seem to be adding anything (except perhaps to John’s psyche). The chain smoking is ever present and jarring. The cigarettes earned the title of the Fifth Beatle.
The technical quality of the doc is very good. There are times when the audio appears out of sync or the video and audio don’t match. Given that footage is 50 years old, Peter Jackson must have summoned all the technical wizardry he can muster to modernize the output. You feel like you’re in the room with these guys, not watching some ancient 16mm footage. I found the video makes scenes of Paul incredibly vibrant and his range and energy is astonishing. I’m used to seeing Paul in his old age but this video shows what a powerhouse he was in his twenties.
The climax is the rooftop concert, interspersed with reactions from the surprised onlooker on the ground, with the cops threatening to shut the whole thing down. This was really enjoyable with a bit of drama thrown in.
Although it’s hard to forgive him for how terribly he botched The Hobbit movies, Peter Jackson did a terrific job with this. Not easy to condense 60 hours of raw footage into a compelling doc but this is clearly a labor of love worth watching.
Ii watched it all. Being a big fan, I totally enjoyed every minute of it. To touch on something said above, lots of the audio didn’t have video accompanying it so with the audio he wanted in there he just put in a random shot so you get the words not matching lips or people. Far as Alan Klein, they touched on him quite a bit. Obviously they had no footage since he wasn’t in the building and I doubt he would have allowed them to film him. Glyn John’s did try to sway Lennon away from him. Overall I loved being a perverbial fly on the wall. Sure there was a lot of messing around but that seems to be how they always did it. I enjoyed seeing that. I loved hearing all the different songs even the ones not theirs. Can you dig it was one I really liked. I would have liked to seen that one worked on enough to be on the album. For the original intent of the album, it worked far better than say I me mine or the long and winding road. Whether he was always like this I don’t know but at least by this time Paul had become a perfectionist and it just didn’t seem the other Beatles were that way. George was always like it will work itself out and John just seemed to be in la la land sometimes and didn’t really care. It’s obvious their musical taste were individually diverging. I could go into a lot more but too much for here. I’m a weird Beatle fan in that I was a fan as a kid but have slowly evolved through the years into the huge fan I am now. For me, get back is probably the best cinema I have ever seen far as my interest and everything that goes with it. The rooftop concert just kind of brought tears to my eyes. I never saw the original film but as I believe it was only 80 minutes long. I don’t believe it really ever had a chance to tell the story the way Jackson’s does. Interestingly, Jackson hinted at a 18 hour version. I would be all over that.
Octopus’Garden and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer stand out in their own way: they revive classic English music hall music, with its simple tunes and rhythm. This doesnt make them second rate by any means. But if you have never heard English music hall music then you won’t really “get” what they are about. It’s like writing a modern piece in baroque style….something by the way that Grieg did with his suite From Holberg’s time, which does homage to renaissance dance forms (and which Respighi did, second rate, in Ancient Airs and Dances). When you watch videos of some live Beatles performances and you see grown men weeping, you know in your heart that the Beatles were not first among equals but first among all, by any measure.
I never heard English music hall music (at least not with that on the label) but I’ve always loved both Octopus’s Garden and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. They’re fun (in different ways), the melodies are great, George’s guitar on Garden is brilliant, and neither song is to be taken TOO seriously. They both always bring a smile to my face, and THAT is not an easy thing to do.
Leaving out George Martin is like leaving out pianist Wilhelm Kempf from a recording of a Brahms piano concerto. Martin didnt just produce; he ORCHESTRATED all of the Beatles’ tunes…every note of them. This in no way denigrates the tunes themselves, some of which McCartney said came to him in dreams (which I believe, having had similar musical dreams). George Martin was an impeccable and learned musician who lent his genius to other musical geniuses. He should be right up there with all of the Beatles…in fact I think he and they did ultimately get knighted by the Queen. England’s musical prize was producing the Beatles, the greatest musicians after Purcell and Handel who ended up there. As the critic Alex Ross said, “The rest is noise”.
First of all George Martin wasn’t left out the film. And part of the point of the ‘Let it Be’ project was to keep away from high levels of production and orchestration. I agree that George Martin was a huge part of the success of the Beatles but to say he ‘orchestrated every note’ of the Beatles songs – well you’d have to explain what you mean by orchestrate. To me Martin was a facilitator of the highest order but he couldn’t have written great melodies like the Beatles did. They were the geniuses.