The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back ★★★★★

Part I: Day 1-7

I'll be honest, you're not going to get an objective review out of me here.

As an absolute Beatles obsessive who spent much of his late teens and early-20's trawling through hours and hours of A/B Road bootlegs of Get Back sessions, this is pure crack to me.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the narrative around Let It Be. There was to be the album, and a one-off gig that would bring the Fab Four back to the stage for the first time in many years since they had disappeared from under the lights and into the studio to produce a set of albums that changed popular music like no artist or band, before or since.

Things didn't quite go to plan, and the black cloud around this period usually centres around the collapsing relationship between Paul and John... oh and Yoko... who can forget Yoko...

But it was never that simple. Even before Peter Jackson's attempt to set the record straight, the idea that Yoko drove a wedge between John and the increasingly dominating ego of Paul never quite fit. There's too many questions in the way. How does George fit into this narrative, since it was him who left the band first? And more significantly, if the situation was beyond repair, how in the hell did they regroup to produce, without question, their greatest album, and one of the two or three finest records ever produced by anyone in Abbey Road?

Well, Jackson's Get Back does pull away the curtains on many of these questions - ones that were never covered in the Let It Be film, and not even fully explored in the magnificent Anthology docuseries.

And he does it, by simply showing us. Nothing more, nothing less. Simply letting the endless hours of recorded footage play (with the odd title card), and letting us make our own minds up.

So, what did I glean from this first episode? Well, firstly, the tragic loss of 'Mr. Epstein' as the band lovingly call him, continues to prove a factor. The boys were great at one thing - making music. And they were absolutely appalling at another - making business decisions. The predicament they place themselves in with Let It Be, to produce a record of new music, within such a short timeframe, with a reunion gig, in which they have no idea even where it will be hosted, let alone how it will go or what they will play, is the kind of thing Brian would have dismissed almost instantly.. just like Magical Mystery Tour... just like Apple Corps... just like Allen Klein...

Throw all this together, and you have a downward spiral in the group that is reaching its apex, despite the music never suggesting so. And especially in George, we see a guy who seems to have reached his wits end. And it is the lead guitarist, at least in this first episode, who drives the negative vibe around the place. He's no longer the 'Quiet Beatle' by this point, his voice growing not only as a brilliant songwriter in his own right, but also as someone who will say exactly how he feels, and never is this clearer than in the snipes at the now de-facto leader in McCartney.

Paul, for his part, is still about the music. And he remains a masterful songwriter within the group. But he has become consumed by the idea of leading the group, to the extent that he has to constantly bring up the idea that he's the one trying to push everyone forward whilst always being attacked. There is a truth to that, but what the film really sheds a light on is how Lennon was not the antagoniser.. at least not yet. The most revealing shots in the film are the wordless expressions on his face, behind his teashades. He was never a man shy in coming forward, but it's almost as if he knows to keep quiet at the risk of this bent twig snapping with the force of any barb that leaves his mouth.

So, it's quite the refreshing take on the idea that John had disappeared up his own arse and Paul's head had become too big to fit in the huge sound stage at Twickenham Film Studios... There's a lot of joy that comes across in the film. Yes, they've partially outgrown each other by this point, but they are still pushing forward as a band, right to the very end, and when the music arrives, it doesn't get any better...

There's a handful of moments in this film that are purely about the music. And for everything else interesting contained within the film, it's these scenes that remain the most appealing, particularly Paul working out the bones of Get Back. It's one of those truly special moments caught on film and even if there was nothing else on offer, it would be worth it for this scene alone.

That said, there's plenty more on offer in this first episode, and I'm sure much more to come...

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