The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

I Weep For Cinema Dec 2, 2021

It’s nothing but a monumental undertaking to shift through over 200 hours of audio and video footage to compile a documentary of a band making an album. But that’s exactly what Peter Jackson did with The Beatles: Get Back project, and the result is something so amazing, as long as you are a fan of The Beatles, and watching masters do their craft away from prying eyes.

Some history about me; I have always been a Beatles fan ever since I was extremely young. Young enough to not fully understand any of the lyrics and the real meaning behind their songs, but I always thought they were catchy and knew that the band was well known. Everyone knew of The Beatles. I remember sitting listening to the new Anthology cassette tapes in 1995 and hearing the discussions of how John and Paul tried to get Strawberry Fields Forever down right. I was the weirdo in elementary school listening to “oldies” when everyone else was starting to get into modern music. The Beatles have been one of my earliest bands that I loved.

The Get Back Project was originally conceived back in the end of late 1968 as a part of a marketing multimedia blitz for The Beatles. Part Documentary, part TV show, part movie; and it started filming in January of 1969. Following The Beatles coming in and having a plan to come up with new songs for a new album, and film a live TV special/movie, but in the midst of trying to come up with new songs and practicing, they somehow realize the band members all want something different, and it’s the start of the breakup.

There isn’t much to the documentary other than recording 4 full weeks of real life. And I always find those types of documentaries the most fascinating. In a world where everything now is sugar coated with PR speak and fake claims to protect the real story from being published, it’s nice to see what really happened, as a fly on the wall almost. The project changes multiple times in the midst of recording because of time management, budget, location, and personal feelings. Going from a full simultaneous live recording of an album and concert for a TV special, to probably one of the most memorable and infamous concerts ever put on.

Peter Jackson decided to take this archival footage of these events, and turn it into a three part mini-series, with each episode running roughly 2 and a half hours. While I initially was disappointed to hear that these episodes would be dragged out over the Thanksgiving 2021 holiday weekend, however after finishing it, I understand why. Nearly 8 hours of watching The Beatles spend a month playing songs in a studio and doing a small concert outside on a rooftop is just too much for a movie, and it needed to be split up. Even trying to watch it all in a marathon like I originally wanted to, is just not really feasible, and so I ended up watching it over the course of a couple evenings, allowing the events to be uninterrupted until I had my fill.

These events, the Beatles initial breakup, and the rooftop concert have all been known for decades, but never have I really understood the concepts behind them and who was responsible for what. Seeing John, Paul, Ringo and George all come up with songs, and work through the melodies and instrumental parts, learning how songwriting was done by them is some of the most interesting stuff, and held my attention the entire time. At certain points, they just end up messing around and playing covers of other people’s songs, or even going back to their own catalogue and performing the songs with silly voices to keep things interesting. But, a key standout moment, and what gives the whole documentary project it’s name is watching Paul sit alone, and work out the beginnings of the song Get Back. It’s just a moment that will stick in my mind when I think of The Beatles for the rest of my life. Another moment was seeing the full culmination of the concert project go from a live recorded performance that was going to be on a soundstage with extras surrounding The Beatles, to what turned into the rooftop concert and recording on top of Apple Studios. Seeing the full film, each camera shot, the reaction of passersby and onlookers, and even the police getting involved was almost breath stopping. Seeing George have the courage to turn his amp back on after it was turned off, and all of them to continue playing was just, in a word, awesome.

Watching The Beatles interact with each other and how they write songs together and also get into arguments is just so interesting to watch, I feel like I could watch the whole thing uncut and have it still keep my interest. Watching George especially, and seeing him get up and walk out and quit the band was eye opening and another key moment in the documentary. While Yoko is always the reason why The Beatles started to splinter, with her never leaving John’s side, and even speaking for him in private meetings, George was the one who initially walked away, and even near the end, you can hear his personal feelings of how he wants to go out and record his music on his own. It’s also nice to know that everyone watching the documentary now gets to experience a bit of what the Plastic Ono Band is like, with the “unforgettable” Freakout Jam sequence in the film, now modern audiences get to experience Yoko’s wailing and “music”.

It’s a very large request to get someone to sit and watch musicians fiddle around with their instruments and try to come up with songs and get them to where they want to record them, even bigger if you aren’t a fan of the band. So Get Back becomes more of the extra bonus material for die hard fans that can’t get enough of The Beatles, but by the introduction of the first episode alone, you can clearly see that the majority of the population is a fan, and why they are still as popular as ever even forty plus years after these events. Get Back becomes the definitive way to watch the beginning of the end of The Beatles, and sheds a new light onto the inner workings of the band.


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