Guide to British Music of the 1960s

August 2022

DVD Review

Get Back

The Beatles - Get Back

Walt Disney Home Video

Released: 12 July 2022

It has been a long wait for the definitive film of the "Let it Be" sessions but it has been well worth it. The original film was seen to portray the Beatles on the edge of break-up but this new and expanded version seeks out to redress that. This is a major work that comprises three DVDs with many hours of footage. Get Back was the original title of the project and the LP with the cover shot replicating the original photograph on the cover of the debut LP Please Please Me.

The film was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg of Ready Steady Go fame. The original idea was to produce a new LP and launch it with a live concert in January 1969. The Beatles had not played live since 1966 so this would not be an easy task and the band never seem unanimous in their desire to play live. Many locations are discussed including Libya and Primrose Hill. All of these would have to be organised at very short notice and, in the end, the infamous live performance is on the roof of the Beatles' Apple offices.

The film starts at Twickenham film studios. The band are shown rehearing new songs, many of which would appear on the Let It Be or Abbey Road LPs. Some songs are released on later Beatles solo LPs. There is also a wealth of "oldies" played, not just Beatles tunes but also rock & roll, soul tracks and other standards. This is not the ideal rehearsal location. The acoustics are poor and there are so many people visiting that it is a wonder that they made any progress at all! There are tensions within the group, not helped by the surroundings. Paul McCartney is clearly the driving force. His songs and John Lennon's make up the bulk of the new material although George Harrison makes a few notable contributions. It could be argued that by Abbey Road Harrison was providing the best songs. It was at this point that George Harrison had finally had enough and quit the band. "See you around the clubs, guys" was his leaving contribution. However, George was soon back in the band and things certainly improved when the entourage was moved to the basement of Apple where "Magic" Alex had built a state of the art recording studio except there was nothing there. A recording console was brought in from EMI at Abbey Road and George contributed some of his home equipment. Top engineer Glyn Johns remained in control of the recording and his wardrobe has to be seen to be believed! There is a much tighter team around the group in Abbey Road with people who were genuinely making a contribution, not just calling in to say "hi". Long-time friend Billy Preston arrives in the studio as he happened to be in London. His contribution is vital and he cements the band together as friends but his keyboard playing fills a musical gap. The band had been struggling to fill gaps and Preston achieves that. This also shows that the music was played almost live, not full of overdubs and too many instruments. Fewer hangers-on, a tighter group and playing "live" in the studio certainly worked.

What is particularly interesting is to see how the new songs evolved. The band warm up and lark about playing oldies before the serious work starts. The new songs are incomplete and are not much more than riffs or ideas. They are then evolved together. The best example of this is what turns out to be the next single, eventually known as Get Back. This begins life as a protest song with Paul McCartney leading its development. Ideas are kicked around before George and Ringo develop the famous riff. Towards the end George Harrison is allowed to bring in a new song. John Lennon had advised him to finish a song once he had started it. This one had been several months in development and help from the others would take it towards its glorious conclusion. Often the words have not been written so temporary words are used so that the tune can develop. "Something in the way she moves attracts me like a pomegranate" suggests George but John changes it to "attracts me like a cauliflower." Other songs would not appear on Let it Be but on the follow-up LP Abbey Road. Ringo has made a start on Octopus's Garden while Polythene Pam, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, I Want You and Mean Mr Mustard are also works in progress. Alongside Get Back the Let It Be songs are the stars with the band working on I've Got a Feeling, I Dig a Pony, Let It Be, The Long & Winding Road, I Me Mine, One After 909 (an oldie resurrected) and For You Blue. George shows he had developed the riff of Old Brown Shoe on the piano.

There is a marked change when the band move to Saville Row. They are in the basement of their old building. The tensions appear to have gone and they are four friends enjoying playing music again. They have familiar people around them such as George Martin and Glyn Johns and far fewer visitors. However, they are still prevaricating about the live show. George is the most hesitant while director Michael Lindsay-Hogg tries to encourage the band to stick to the original brief. In the end they opt for the easy solution of playing on the roof of Apple. This is, of course, shown in full including vox pops with members of the public in the street. There is the famous scene where the Police arrive as there have been complaints about the noise. Here we see a wonderful example of stalling. There is so much discussion in the Apple reception with different members of the staff that by the time the officers reach the roof the concert has virtually finished.

This is a wonderful document of some of the Beatles' final recording sessions. Rather than showing a band on the verge of break-up the DVDs show, especially after the move to Apple, that the four musicians still love playing music together and that the songs were a true collaboration of their individual talents. Watching some of the best-known songs evolve from mere ideas is fascinating. It's amazing what you can do on a diet of tea and toast!

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