Just when I thought I couldn’t be in any more awe of the Beatles, along comes The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s three-part, uncut version of their 1969 documentary, Let It Be, to blow the top of my head off.
I’m old enough to have seen Let It Be when it was originally released (and buy the album). I don’t remember too much about the movie but I think it’s mostly remembered as an account of the Beatles’ breakup, most of which was blamed on John Lennon’s girlfriend and soon-to-be wife, Yoko Ono.
What I see when I watch the uncut version, however, is four men who clearly love each other, particularly John and Paul. Their relationship is so close, it’s like they’re two halves of the same person. Most of the film is taken up with the four of them laughing and joking.
Yes, it’s true that George Harrison walks out of the recording session and threatens to leave the band at the end of the first part. That seems to be the real reason for the Beatles’ breakup (among other things): the fact that George felt that his opinion wasn’t valued and not enough of his songs were being included on Beatles albums.
But the real revelation of this film is the sheer depth and breadth of the Beatles’ talent. During the course of Get Back, you hear songs that not only are not included on Let It Be. (Some of them wound up on Abbey Road, some of them wound up on Hey Jude, some of them wound up on Paul and Linda McCartney’s Ram and some of them wound of on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.) Some of them are not on any of the Beatles’ studio albums (and I had all their albums from Rubber Soul onward)! Some of them are not even on their Anthology collections! I’m hearing Beatles songs I’ve never heard before!
Beyond that, their knowledge of the pop music that preceded them—people like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, as well as lesser-known artists—is truly encyclopedic, as is evidenced by the number of these songs that are in their repertoire.
But the thing that will truly blow your mind is watching songs you know like the back of your hand come to life.
They’ll start out with maybe just a bit of the melody and no lyrics and they might just hum along or sing nonsense words. Then they’ll gradually start adding lyrics until the whole thing takes shape. And finally, at the end of the film, you see them performing some of the finished songs. It’s nothing short of miraculous!
Oh yeah, and one more thing: Paul was absolutely beautiful.