‘Get Back’ – A Glorious Look At The Turbulence Of The Beatles Later Years
If you’re a Beatles fan, or even mildly curious about history’s greatest band, ‘Get Back’ is simply must watch TV. ‘Get Back’ is a docuseries…of sorts. In reality, the 3-part docuseries is a spliced and remastered collection of over 60 hours of footage which has never been viewed by the public. There is very little narration, other than the occasion appearance of some text which fills in details which otherwise wouldn’t have been obvious.
The 3-part series has an eye-wateringly long run-time, which I’m sure will turn off some viewers. While some may feel that way, I can tell you that I enjoyed every second. Originally, I wasn’t going to mention the run-time, as I feel, contextually, it is largely irrelevant. Would one complain about sitting in an amphitheatre for a full-day while William Shakespeare instructs his actors on how to perform Hamlet? Would one complain when watching Michelangelo carve the statue of David? This is several hours of history’s greatest musicians plying their craft. It’s raw, it’s uncensored, and it’s awesome.
What Is ‘Get Back’ All About?
As far as the docuseries goes, it really isn’t ‘about’ anything. As we mentioned above, it is essentially a beautifully remastered collection of videos depicting a series of recording sessions. Now, these recording sessions didn’t exactly go to plan, which makes ‘Get Back’ an even more interesting TV production.
Initially, The Beatles were attempting to create a live TV performance. This was to become a ‘comeback’ special, of sorts. But, from the beginning, it was clear that not everyone in the group was keen on the idea. Additionally, the group squabbled over locations and couldn’t seem to make decisions about anything.
No one in the documentary, including both band members and external staff, are presented as the docuseries’ antagonist. Despite what people would have you believe for the past 50 years, there was no yelling, hatred or aggression. The band clearly just wanted different things, and were trying, somewhat hopelessly, to keep The Beatles dream alive.
A Perspective Of The Beatles As Intimate As We’ll Ever Get
‘Get Back’ is really The Beatles in their purest form. It couldn’t have been easy being so famous. Nor could it have been easy having the pressure of an adoring public pleading for more tunes. The Beatles were always going to implode. With so much unmetered talent in one room, it was inevitable that, for some, wishes and dreams would be left unfulfilled.
Now, the famous 1969 sessions weren’t the exact moment that the band fell apart. However, the January ‘Get Back’ sessions showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the band was on it’s last legs.
I found it utterly fascinating watching the power dynamics at play throughout the docuseries’ first episode. Stuck in a large recording studio in Twickenham, you could tell the band was unhappy. Paul was frustrated at the lack of structure. George was frustrated at Paul for being overbearing, and John, although appearing largely relaxed, was also clearly frustrated at Paul’s instructions. Ringo, it seemed, just wanted a nap.
Speaking of Ringo, I was perplexed at his level of input. Of course,musically speaking, Ringo has never been held to the same level as Paul, John and George. Still, I was expecting the odd quip or opinion, however, Ringo barely said a word throughout all the sessions.
The George Harrison Effect
When discussing the band’s breakup, many point to Lennon, McCartney and Yoko Ono. However, based on the ‘Get Back’ footage, it seemed of all the elephants in the room, the biggest was that of George Harrison. Harrison was a cornucopia of unbridled talent. To this day, despite releasing some of the best songs you’ll ever have the privilege to hear, Harrison’s talents remain largely underappreciated. It must have been extremely difficult for a man with an ambition to create meaningful music, to sit behind two of the greatest singer/songwriters of all-time.
As the band was working through their set pieces in the Twickenham studios, it was evident that McCartney was taking the reigns and attempting to set the course of the next few weeks. Although it doesn’t appear to be deliberate, you can see that the band did not enjoy being forced to play through Paul’s vision. Despite being more of a pacifist than a warmonger, it was obvious that Harrison was reaching the end of his tether.
This tension would result in an early walkout, with Harrison famously quoted as saying, “See you round the clubs”. Now, this didn’t last long, and within a week he was back in the band. But the seeds of division had already been sowed.
Marveling At The Musical Process
I don’t want to entirely focus on the tension and division. This is, afterall, a review of a docuseries about The Beatles writing and practicing music. We have to talk about the songs, right?
It truly was just incredible to watch the process by which the fab 4 would build their songs. Consistently, the writer/creator of each individual piece already had the main tune and lyrics down. But watching them piece together the rest, knowing what they would ultimately become, was wonderfully engaging.
For instance, ‘Get Back’, the song which would become the single from the 1969 sessions, was probably only 1/4 complete when the sessions began. As they progressed you could see both McCartney and Lennon agonise over the rhythm and the wordings. With 52 years of hindsight in my favour, I kept wanting to shout “it’s ‘Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona'” at the TV screen. But don’t worry, they eventually figured it out for themselves.
For a large amount of the footage, they band is either riffing or playing someone else’s music. Because you don’t often see these celebrities being themselves, it was nice to know that they truly just loved music. Additionally, it’s frankly insane to see them come up with ad hoc riffs on a whim. To be that talented, hey?
Why You Should Watch This
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am clearly an enormous fan of The Beatles. Although I am certainly not of their era, their sound and style resonates strongly with what I love about music. While I still have a ways to go, I feel I’ll never grow tired of listening to their music. Now, despite my clear bias, I truly believe this is a much watch docuseries, whether you’re a fan or not.
The Beatles are essentially a pivot point in musical history. Their techniques, sound and style has, and continues, to link a great many generations together. For this reason alone it’s worth understanding how this band was able to craft the music that they did.