21st Century Beatles: I’m a Fan! [part 1]

January 11, 2022

21st Century Beatles: I’m a Fan! [part 1]

Part 1 — Get Back: Not since Dallas, or at least The X-Files, have I seen anything approaching a water cooler moment like the way a diverse crowd of folks responded to the nearly eight hours* of Peter Jackson’s documentary Get Back, starring The Beatles. With the bevy of reviews and articles, and in online conversations with various friends, a faint echo of the shared Beatles experience blew through the windows this past Autumn. Their artistry, family dynamics, creative process, the tedium, all was laid bare in what amounted to a unique, extended document, something that hadn’t been tried before outside of the avant garde. Which is what The Beatles always do. In this case, they take all the energy that had—throughout their time as the most famous group in history—pushed them to the spectacular. On these reels, they reverse that energy, directing it away from the spectacular and towards the ordinary. Because they’re that, too.

From that hours-long experience:

  • The absolute highlight is witnessing McCartney compose “Get Back” as it happens. In this stunning moment, God hands him another hit. He starts out strumming chords and just throwing his voice out there, half-listening to others’ conversations, and then the others hear the music and join in.


  • There’s bracing exposure of the rift between Paul and George. I was expecting a whitewash, but a tip of the hat to Paul for showing the bickering and the fallout. A spectacular show of ordinary people having ordinary people’s problems.


  • It led to Harrison quitting and even leaving town for a short vacation. On his eventual return, what’s more powerful than the group departing the cold Twickenham soundstage and setting up at Apple’s studio is their retreat to George Harrison’s home. And the entire next day, back in the studio, back together they exclude all press, observers and film crew. Then and only then do the artistry and camaraderie overcome their conflicts.


  • Yet the common experience of the studio—rehearsal and screwing around and tedium ad nauseum—are on full display.


  • Don’t Let Me Down is so Lennon, or so I thought. A lot of input from Paul and George went into the song, much more than I imagined.


  • During the too few seconds of George showing the group All Things Must Pass, John and Paul start harmonizing, and though George’s version on his album is fine, it would have made a great Beatles song, fitting for Abbey Road. Truly a missed opportunity.


  • Over the course of the film, you get glimpses of many songs that would appear on Abbey Road and on Paul’s first two albums. But with John, except for a short, alternate version of Gimme Some Truth, which would show up on Imagine, he kept his cards close to his chest and shares nothing from either Imagine or Plastic Ono Band. Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam make brief appearances.


  • One of the funniest parts is how the staff, with British feigned innocence, delay and detour the bobbies who wanted to get on the roof to stop the live show that was “disturbing commerce.”


  • Having rejected Glyn Johns’ version of the album called Get Back, we know that the tapes went to Phil Spector, who produced what was released to the public as Let It Be. This all happens later. Phil Spector doesn’t really exist during this film.


  • And one friend commented on how the supposedly fashionable fur coats that adorned the rock stars and their entourage, do not age well.


*Seven hours and forty-eight minutes.

Go to next post for Part 2 >>


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