Traditionally on Thanksgiving morning here in the United States we wake up early get some bagels and get ready to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. However as the editor of a classic rock sites\ and a long long time Beatles fans, that tradition changed this morning as I sat down to watch the long awaited Beatles documentary Get Back. I wish I could break tradition like this every year after watching this wonderful film.
The opening screen at the beginning of the documentary noted that in January 1969 there was over 60 hours of film footage that had been taken from the Get Back sessions. Also, over 150 hours of audio recordings. The Director makes the statement that numerous editorial choices had to be made. The opening screen also states that they will be representing pictures supplemented with audio only material. And that’s completely understandable. In a few seconds the legendary Green Apple appears and the excitement builds to a furry. So here we go…… watching Get Back for the first time.
The documentary starts where it should in the city of Liverpool in 1961. Black and white photos fill the screen as the titles run down some of the Beatles early history before they actually became the Beatles. Almost instantly, photographs and videos that we have never seen before (some we have) appear on the screen. They start to move through the years pretty quickly. In less than five minutes we are already seeing clips from the Ed Sullivan show. One minute later it’s the first two films Hard Days Night and Help. The video clips go from black and white to color and back to black and white.
The hair is getting longer, the press isn in an uproar over John Lennon’s we are bigger than Jesus quote and all of a suddens we are in Strawberry Fields and walking down Penny Lane. This is a history of the Beatles being shown in about ten minutes. It’s brilliantly done. Yet what it really means is that if the director is going through almost the entire Beatles career in less than ten minutes, there must be an incredibly long story that he wants to tell to fill out all the time that’s left even in this first episode that is almost two and a half hours long. Before you know it, Yoko appears on the screens and things are heading towards what this entire documentary is all about, the Let It Be sessions and the breakup of the Beatles.
What we learn early on is that the live promo that was shot before a studio audience for the song “Hey Jude,” so inspired the Beatles to perform again, they decided to record their next album in front of a live audience. Thus the Lets It Be live rooftop performance and tv special was spawned from the “Hey Jude,” experience.
What anyone watching this special will soon be blown away by is the quality of the footage that begins to appear on the screen. The reason behind the films high quality footage is that Ringo Starr had been set to start filming a major motion picture with Peter Sellers entitled The Magic Christian. The film was being produced by the head of Apple Films. The film studio offered the movie stage that was going to be used for the film to the Beatles to rehearse in and shoot their television special before Ringo’s movie was start to start production.
The motion picture film director for the Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr film Michael Lindsay-Hogg agreed to film the Beatles rehearsals and the television special. It would include the rooftop concert for the TV special. So with the help of a major motion picture film director and all the professional movie equipment the Beatles wound up with incredible footage shot and very high-quality film that would eventually become the material used for this special. It is unbelievable.
As the film begins to unfold in all it’s stunning glory you will start to question what you are watching. It’s so clear and close, you will ask yourself if these are actors portraying the Beatles because it’s so intimate, clear and close, and how in the names of rock and roll have we never seen this before.
We are going to stop right there because this needs to be experience by everyone. It’s wasn’t long before I was overcome with emotion watching this breathtaking film. The four Beatles sitting together on wooden chairs all facing Ringo and learning the song I Got a Feeling. Wow, John Lennon singing the lead and Paul McCartney singing harmony right next to him while Yoko Ono knits a sweater. Ringo Starr tap dancing while Paul McCartney plays the piano.
At times the group is just hanging and jamming out. George get shocked by the mic and almost jumps out of his skin. John Lennon jokes all the time yet has a pretty serious look when he is listing to what Paul McCartney is doing musically. The pint that will send shivers through your heart is when George starts talking about getting more of his songs on the albums and Paul sort of just shrugs him off. Later in the film there is a somewhat heated exchange between George Harrison and Paul McCartney over the parts that Harrison is playing that Paul McCartney is not happy with. In a very telling statement McCartney talks about being the leader of the band over that past couple of years and its in that exchange with Harrison as Ringo and Lennon stay silent, we see it was McCartney who was indeed the leader of the group at the time.
It just keeps getting better and better with every minute of the film that passes by. Don’t miss this, it is your rock and roll birthright to experience it. What a Thanksgiving gift this is.
Beatles Get Back Debuts Today On Disney + And It’s Stunning article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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