The process of filming the documentary for The Beatles’ “Let it Be” seemed so hopeless at one point that the director of the film told the fab four that there was no “payoff” or “story” in what they had filmed. Little did they know that the payoff has come 50 years later, and “The Beatles: Get Back” is the perfect tie-in with the 50th anniversary of “Let it Be” being last month. It goes without saying that “The Beatles: Get Back” is the most up close and personal that The Beatles have been filmed during their career, and it’s truly something to be thankful for as a fan of the group.
Moreso than anything else, “The Beatles: Get Back” is a great educational experience behind the songwriting process. The Beatles are arguably one of the greatest groups of all time, but the way that they work through their songs is a sight to behold. Despite “Let it Be” being released after “Abbey Road,” the former was recorded first, and a lot of the songs on the latter spawn from these sessions. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is worked through extensively during the Twickenham sessions, and it almost made it onto the show for “Let it Be.” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” originates here, and Ringo even writes “Octopus’s Garden” in the process of “Let it Be.” Most interesting, however, is the evolution of “I’ve Got a Feeling.” While much of the melody and lyrics stay intact throughout the sessions, it is constantly referred to as “All I Want Is You,” which is a line in the song. It also happens to be the name of a classic U2 song that came 20 years later. “Get Back” was spawned from Paul jamming on the bass, which is weird when a song is usually created from a guitar or piano riff (where you can hear a full chord). “Two of Us” is also played as a “rock-n-roller” for most of the documentary, with a time signature significantly fast than what is featured on the actual album. But this paragraph alone tells you what you need to know about “The Beatles: Get Back”; it’s a documentary for fans of the band. Sure, the music could be enjoyed on its own merit, but it is unlikely a non-Beatles fan, or at least a musician, would want to hear the extensive evolution of songs with plenty of tidbits to be found.
The docuseries is also a great reminder that The Beatles are human too. Their breakup was not long after the “Let It Be” album, and some of the bad blood that was magnified by the press would lead you to believe that the band members were all on bad terms with each other during this time period. Granted, there is a lot of bickering and battles between egos, even to the point of one member leaving the band for a period of time. George openly expresses wanting to have more of a role going forward and gets into arguments with Paul for not being able to play specifically like Paul. But “The Beatles: Get Back” also shows the human side of the group. The fab four were practically brothers, and moments where John and Paul sing “Two of Us” while grinning their teeth or George and Ringo share a funny conversation remind you of their boyish charm. It’s a shame that Paul’s sentiment, “When we’re all old, we’ll sing together,” does not come true, but one could wonder what The Beatles’ future would have looked like if the four were alive. It’s hard to imagine them not playing another performance. Paul also mentions being “shy” about the idea of a live performance which is ironic considering Paul has gone on to be one of the greatest live performers of all time after The Beatles.
For as great as “The Beatles: Get Back” is, it certainly feels like a “members only” kind of series. It’s not that a casual fan couldn’t go into the docuseries and enjoy it, but it’s also so mundane and so focused on the music. And for fans who just want to see the famous rooftop footage, you’ll have to wait until the third episode. Yes, 60 hours of footage was sifted through to make an eight-hour documentary, but even as a hardcore fan of the band, it features some filler. Sure, it’s cool to hear The Beatles warm up by playing old covers that influenced them, or impromptu versions of their back catalog, but a three-hour episode was not necessarily needed. There are also attempts at creating suspense, as seen in the closing of the first episode when one member “leaves” the band. But most likely know that the quartet finishes the album. It’s not to say that you don’t want intrigue from episode to episode, but mysteries are not what draws viewers into “The Beatles: Get Back.”
Peter Jackson did a lot more good than bad with “The Beatles: Get Back.” He almost cleaned up footage too much, but as it stands, it looks wonderful. The documentary is also significant being that the original TV special was hard to find prior to the recent 50th anniversary CD releases. “The Beatles: Get Back” is certainly for fans of The Beatles, but those who are will be in for a treat in the form of eight hours of pure Beatles content. Enjoy it this Thanksgiving like The Beatles did while in the studio for “Let it Be”; surrounded by their loved ones.
“The Beatles: Get Back” Is available to stream on Disney+ on November 25.