Peter Jackson’s brand new Beatles documentary Get Back has just been slated for release at the start of September this year. Yes, another Beatles doc. There are absolutely loads of them, all of which feature McCartney saying something like, "We were a good little band, you know," at some point.
But this one's important. It's bit Yer Da to say it, but the Beatles were and are a historically important thing in British culture, like Hampton Court Palace or the Boer War. Get Back will be culled from hours of unused footage which could change the story of the Beatles.
The original Let It Be film is a legendarily tense and uncomfortable watch: John snide, George frustrated, Paul gratingly overbearing. It's been basically out of print since the 1980s, but is set for a remastered rerelease at some point this year. Like the new Get Back film, it follows the making of a new album in early 1969, originally titled Get Back but eventually released as Let It Be.
That film records miserable sessions on a Twickenham soundstage which culminated in a big barney between George and John, who was in the grip of a heroin habit, and George stalking off. George's diary entry from 10 January 1969: "Got up, went to Twickenham. Rehearsed until lunchtime, left the Beatles, went home."
He eventually came back, but that original film chimes with John’s 1970 assessment of the Let It Be sessions when he called it "the shittiest load of badly recorded shit – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever", and for almost 50 years it's been the definitive account of a band breaking up in real time, as well as the definitive end of the Sixties dream.
The sense that it was a bit of a hatchet job has lingered for a while, and Get Back is an attempt to rewrite things. You can see that in the statements Paul and Ringo released yesterday. "I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about The Beatles recording together," said Paul. "The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had."
"There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the version that came out," Ringo added. "There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this version will be a lot more peace and loving, like we really were."
But why do Get Back at all? For millennials and Gen Z, coming to the Beatles without the context of having witnessed the collapse first-hand or got the vibe off all the sniping the band did at each other through the Seventies, all that stuff’s irrelevant. The sunny, optimistic Beatles are the Beatles that this generation wants, and that's what Get Back will give them.
Look at the streaming stats: top of the heap on Spotify is the breezy, spring-like 'Here Comes the Sun' with nearly double the streams of reassuring anthems 'Let It Be' in second and 'Hey Jude' in third. A film that presents a "more peace and loving" Beatles is savvy, and might be closer to the truth – but it won't be the whole story.
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