By Hannah Claridge
Like most Beatles fans I was hugely anticipating the new ‘Get Back’ film. Although this did come out in November, I waited to watch it with my dad [who got me into The Beatles] thus why this review is slightly late. The film – or rather three films – were compiled by Peter Jackson who has restored film footage before, particularly in the amazing ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ documentary. Jackson had to sieve through hours and hours of original footage in order to create a new narrative to the ‘Get Back’ or ‘Let it Be’ sessions. The original film – which I managed to watch late one night on BBC Four – was a brilliant insight into the recording sessions but it also famously captured a lot of the tensions between the bandmates. However, Jackson attempted to create a more positive piece of media and when watching the film it is clear that the sessions weren’t all fighting and arguments. Jackson has been able to perfectly create a new piece of Beatles media for the fans and honoured the genius of the band at the same time.
The film starts with the band at Twickenham Studios, where they were planning to rehearse and then eventually perform in front of a live audience – in order to bring some spark back to the band. However, it soon becomes clear that there wasn’t really any direction or one set goal, which I think caused the initial problems. Not to mention them being in a cold studio in January rather than in the comfort of their iconic Abbey Road studios, or their newly constructed Apple studios. Peter Jackson decided to set the film in a day-by-day order, cleverly crossing off each day on a calendar throughout the film, which I thought was a nice touch and brought some coherence to the project. Each member of the band brought their own songs and then they immediately began working on them. What impressed me was how the band were able to immediately start contributing to the songs. These parts of the footage demonstrate why The Beatles worked so well together, they clearly just got each other in a musical sense. They had their own language and quirks they had developed over their many years of friendship which evidently aided the success of their songs. Particularly because it is clear that they were all able to showcase their talents so easily. Take for example Ringo, throughout the whole documentary he never really gets told what he needs to do – he is such a brilliant intuitive drummer that he just knew instantaneously what was required for the song and of him.
Of course the film does highlight some of the tensions. Paul is clearly trying to bring some order and control to the band – because in my mind he viewed it so dearly – and without the guiding hand of Brian Epstein he then became a reluctant boss. With Epstein, the band were bonded in their annoyance at the pressure brought, but when one of the band members takes on this role the band becomes slightly divided, which is why I think Paul was reluctant to take charge. In many scenes John Lennon does look completely out of it (rumoured to be because of his then problems with heroin), with Yoko Ono’s presence a constant throughout the film. The other members did have their partners come into the studio but it is clear that Ono was perhaps there more than she should have been which would understandably grate on the other members of the band, who didn’t have the same affection for her as John. Similarly, we also see George’s self-deprecation, most likely caused by John and Paul brushing off his songs in the bands former years. However, it is clear that Paul showed a lot more interest in George’s brilliant songs than John – or rather that is how it came across in the film. Although this does all seem slightly less jovial it is a central aspect of the history of the band. The first half of the documentary ends with these tensions at a high and George quitting the band.
However, things soon pick up when they go to Apple studio and Billy Preston enters the scene. The bands awareness of their own stardom arguably forced them to behave, when outsider Preston came onto the scene – to show to him they were as great as the critics claimed. Preston is a brilliant musician and a friend of The Beatles and when he comes in the sessions and therefore the film it seems to spark to life more. Perhaps because we already know what the songs sound like but his instrumental talents bring the songs together so perfectly and it all sounds fantastic. Similarly, it is also evident that the band feel much more confident in the studio and they were able to slip back into their old routine that aided them to produce so many chart topping albums. Then at the end of the film we finally see the famous rooftop performance – which brings everything together in perfect harmony – particularly when as an audience we were waiting for it. The performance highlights the band’s joy and their talent, they easily perform the songs that still didn’t quite seem together before hand and they all seem to be genuinely getting a kick out of it. Particularly when the police eventually make their way up to the roof and McCartney comically changes the lyrics to the situation and George defiantly turns his amp back on [after proclaiming that he didn’t even want to go on the roof].
Some of the best scenes are when the band are just jamming together and joking – it is a wonder that they managed to produce an album – but there was magic in the scenes. It was such a spectacular insight for the fans and the power of The Beatles was their vast knowledge of music which is clearly demonstrated throughout. It also demonstrates their friendship so well, something which the original film didn’t quite manage to do. My personal favourite scene was when the band decided to call off any performance – something which Paul had been particularly keen on – then the camera pans to Paul being suggested the rooftop idea. The pure elation on his face was brilliant and clearly demonstrated his strong desire to perform and to bring the band together. Jackson’s documentary was one of the best Christmas presents for any Beatles fan and it was perfectly put together and gave a huge insight into the Beatles recording sessions [something which they had managed to keep secret for a long time]. This film definitely demonstrated that my love for The Beatles is a love that will last forever!
Photo Credit: Fedor via Unsplash