Beatles fans can’t get enough of this Peter Jackson-directed three-part series The Beatles: Get Back on Disney+, despite its nearly eight-hour length (it was recorded over a 22-day period in January 1969).
Based on footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s crew during the Let It Be movie rehearsal sessions, Get Back gets to the heart of the Beatles – what really made them tick and what ultimately caused their breakup. By ’69, tensions were threatening the band; George Harrison wanted more participation and John Lennon introduced Yoko Ono to the mix. She’s in every scene with Lennon, but rarely speaks (except for a couple of shriek-y jams). Harrison’s two-day departure bums Paul McCartney out, since the complaints are mostly directed at him (he’s a bit of a control freak). Lennon sides with Harrison, because he too had a foot out the door, but mostly Lennon proves to the be the glue that held the Beatles together for that long with his humor and intellect. McCartney probably was the most talented of the four; his falsetto soars and exquisite melodies just ooze out of him.
McCartney’s Let It Be hits dominate the series, from “The Long and Winding Road,” to “Get Back to “Let It Be.” There are also favorites like “She Came in Through the Bathroom” and “Maxwell Silver Hammer” that ended up on Abbey Road instead. When Harrison’s mates pass on “All Things Must Pass” (it would become the title song of his first solo album in 1970), the sensitive guitarist stages a walkout. Harrison comes back and is allotted his usual couple of songs on the album – “For You Blue” and “I Me Mine.”
"In one scene, George Harrison blurts out, 'Legalize pot.'”
The gum-chewing Lennon contributes "Don't Bring Me Down" and “I Dig a Pony." Ringo Starr doesn’t sing any leads, but plays flawlessly on drums; he's the least of anyone's problems. Billy Preston arrives mid-recording and adds R&B flourishes on electric piano. All the wives make appearances with Linda McCartney logging the most time after Yoko.
The best part of this deep dive is watching the Beatles construct songs, the give and take between Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. They break out plenty of covers too, mostly homages to early rock & roll heroes like Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers, as well as some of their original hits like "Help!" and “Love Me Do.”
Get Back culminates with the famous London rooftop concert on January 30, 1970. After eight songs, police shut down the impromptu show atop the Apple Studios building on Saville Road as McCartney notes they should "get back."
There are a few drug references in the series, though no pot is visibly smoked (many cigarettes are and even McCartney chokes down cigars). In one scene, Harrison blurts out, “Legalize pot.” In another, Lennon jokes about “needles lying around” to Peter Sellars, who makes a brief studio visit. But Lennon, who used heroin, is very sharp and attentive throughout, clean so to speak.
The four lads from Liverpool spend January 31 (Day 22) in the studio. They never performed live again as The Beatles. The Fab Four officially broke up in 1970.
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