The Beatles: Get Back: I Me Mine   Books Included 
November 27, 2021 5:51 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

On the recording of Let it Be, directed by Peter Jackson, with access to lots of unseen 1969 footage. Trailer, show, review, review, interview. 'Books included,' because there are no spoilers with The Beatles.
posted by box (85 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've watched two episodes of it so far and I'm really hoping these 4 lads work it out and have a long career ahead of them.

I think that we have enough data now, with the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and this, to be able to declare that brevity is not a skill Peter Jackson possesses. While I'm enjoying this 6-hour long treatment of the material and I'm glad it's out there now, I think it would have been nice if he had also made a tight 2-hour version of the film. I'm sure his argument would be that a 2-hour cut imposes a narrative on it that lacks nuance and overemphasizes the fractious parts of the lads' relationships, but I mean, come on.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:20 AM on November 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Plus I don't know where the romantic subplot with the elves came from. That's not in the book is it?
posted by wabbittwax at 7:21 AM on November 27, 2021 [15 favorites]


I've only gotten most of the way through the first episode, and I get the complaint about Jackson not being able to sum things up, but I have to admit that there's some appeal in seeing how these guys, who were still together in my very early childhood, actually worked things out (or didn't) in their working relationship. There are also some moments that make it all worth it; some of the guys are trying to figure out the staging of this public concert/recording session, and suddenly in the back Paul is playing the early version of "Let It Be", maybe for the first time that any other human being has heard it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:10 AM on November 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


We made it about 20 minutes and gave up. I guess watching how they made the magic just isn't that interesting to us.
posted by COD at 8:22 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Guardian review.

I watched part 1 last night and am not inclined to watch the remaining 2. Dear God, it's interminable; and the high points -- John singing a song that you suddenly realize later became Jealous Guy, Paul pulling Get Back out of thin air, George abruptly quitting -- are bookended by hours of frankly boring noodling.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:35 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


A friend told me that part two (nearly three hours!) is worth watching and has at least some uplifting moments. Good thing, because part one was such a drag that I wasn't going to commit any more of my time to this series at all. I love the Beatles' music and have my entire life, but every time I watch another documentary about either an individual Beatle or all of them as a whole, being reminded about how great fame and wealth tends to warp humans in not-nice ways, it tends to remove some of my love of their music for a while.

(or as my spouse puts it "how many hours of "your heroes were jerks" do we need to watch, anyway?")
posted by 41swans at 8:53 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Partway through episode 1. Probably just going to watch each day or two separately when I feel like just dropping in to the studio and seeing what the Beatles are up to today, rather than watch part 1 all the way through.
posted by thefool at 9:41 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


I’m two episodes in, and I’m finding it interesting. I definitely understand why some will be bored by it. This kind of goes into the “don’t watch your sausage being made” category. Producing an album is a long, messy business, doubly-so when you’re arguably the most famous band in the world and everyone expects great things out of you.

Some thoughts so far:
• Yeah, it’s kind of a slog at times. Then again, it’s a pretty accurate look at the sausage being made.
• The restoration is stunning. The original film was 16mm. This restoration is incredible.
• Fab fashions
• You get a far more accurate feeling for the dynamics surrounding the much-discussed temporary exit of George (and the possibility of the band dissolving altogether) The short answer, at least according what you see in this film, is Paul playing boss.
• I did not know about the original producers secretly hiding a microphone in a teapot in the commissary, so they could surreptitiously record John and Paul’s private conversation about George’s departure. I can’t imagine J&P being happy about that at all. That said, it’s the only time, as far as I am aware, where you get a really deep peek at the close relationship J&P had, and they way they could talk with each other and be blunt and open while respecting each other with not a drop of animosity. I was also struck by how much Paul took what John was saying to heart and, I think, understood his responsibility for George's exit. If only married couples could communicate so well.
• It’s fascinating how quickly the dynamics changed for the much, much better once the band abandoned the movie stage and moved back into the studio. Home sweet home, indeed.
• Billy Preston! Man, did his arrival gel things.
• Holy shit, I forgot how people smoked like chimneys back then!
• I was really struck by how much of what ultimately ended up on Abbey Road was already getting fleshed-out during these sessions.

In the end, this is more a piece for Beatles completists as well as music history buffs. It’s definitely overly long for the casual fan, I think. Maybe watch if you’re interested in film restoration? I mean, there is no way you can look at this and not be stunned the original film is over 50 years old and shot on 16mm.

There’s also the really interesting look at how primitive music tech was back then. So maybe it’s a good watch for musicians, sound tech, etc?

Anyway, if you’re going to watch any night of this, tonight would be the good one, as we’ll be seeing the oft-copied/satired rooftop concert.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:41 AM on November 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Did George bring his hare Krishna friends to just sit there doing nothing because John was bringing Yoko? (Honest question, not a joke, and I am not at all a Yoko hater, love her work.)
posted by thefool at 9:43 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


No. I think he was simply doing something nice for his friends.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2021


I enjoyed part 1. As long as they keep playing music, I can't imagine it being too long.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:44 PM on November 27, 2021


Having now watched all three parts, some observations:

- The longer cut does give a much clearer picture of the interpersonal dynamics that were fracturing the band at the time
- You can really see in part one the extent to which Paul has become "That Bitch Eating Crackers" to George. But it's also clear that it's not exactly Paul's fault. He got the role of bandleader in part because somewhere in 1968 John decided to be an agent of chaos and not much else. Most of the ideas are coming from Paul in this period and he's also the only one who seems to care about those ideas.
- The way George just matter of factly announces he's quitting the band really illustrates how he got called the "Quiet One"
- When George is bringing in ideas though, they're all good ones. "I Me Mine" is a unique song that couldn't have come from Paul or John, and you can see both of them being supportive of George's songwriting throughout this footage. They're very encouraging without being domineering about it.
- When there's conflict in the band, Ringo seems to say very little, but you can see he's kind of traumatized by years of being caught in the middle of this dynamic.
- The musicianship on display is really impressive. Everybody plays the piano at some point. We see George and Paul get behind Ringo's drumkit a few times, though not John.
- My daughter on observing John and Yoko, asked why they wanted to be together ALL THE TIME, and the best answer I could come up with was "well, they're co-dependent" ... That being said, there's no evidence here that anybody was really that bothered by Yoko Ono's presence.
- My previous understanding of these sessions was that the lads shut out George Martin, but he was clearly there the whole time, and still helping a lot.
- Glyn Johns' fashion situation is... very of the moment.
- I had heard the "Pakistanis Go Home" version of "Get Back" before on a bootleg record but I didn't understand until watching this that the Beatles were actually pro-immigration. So that was a nice surprise.
- Paul McCartney is a musical genius.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:45 PM on November 27, 2021 [15 favorites]


Has Paul started pointing to things using his middle finger yet?
posted by Beholder at 6:05 PM on November 27, 2021


I don't think the first episode portrayed Paul as being supportive of George's songwriting. He seemed quite dismissive of it. Perhaps it was partly due to Jackson's editing choices, but the way the first episode played out it seemed like that was one of the reasons leading to George's abrupt departure.

George's $10,000 eight-track recorder. Bonkers.

It really was thrilling to hear a germ of an idea turn into Get Back, Two of Us, etc.
posted by emelenjr at 6:21 PM on November 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Very poignant in the last episode, the scene of George working out a very early iteration of Something.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:37 PM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


Lots of guitar players end up pointing at things with their middle finger when they’re holding a pick with their index & thumb. Best not to read into it.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:55 PM on November 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


The thing that made me the most sad in the whole running time were the moments where Lennon was talking about that absolute trash-bag of a human, Allen Klein, so excited and so utterly duped by him. At one point Ringo says, "he's a conman, but he's on our side." Such a huge red flag.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:08 PM on November 27, 2021 [8 favorites]


I am totally absorbed by this after watching three nights in a row. Always loved the Beatles and I like music-bio's/docu's in general so this is like catnip for me.

I do understand that for people not into rock-docu's or "the Beatles as a social phenomenon" this will be really weird to watch. Most will switch it off after 10 minutes and right they are. But if you're into this kind of stuff there's nothing quite like it in scope or depth.

Utterly fascinating to watch the interaction of the people involved plus seeing the songs develop out of nothing. What a treat!
posted by Kosmob0t at 4:00 AM on November 28, 2021 [11 favorites]


I'm ready loving this. It's long but I love seeing how messy and sometimes ugly the creative process is.
posted by octothorpe at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I was going to link that Guardian review mentioned above, but I see someone's beat me to it. It's the only newspaper or magazine piece I've seen about this project which doesn't simply gush about it.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:19 AM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


Ringo was just a rock. He showed up on time and was always ready to play.
posted by octothorpe at 10:42 AM on November 28, 2021 [13 favorites]


John does step behind the drum kit, I think when George is helping Ringo work out Octopus’s Garden (which in itself was brief songwriting masterclass), and John comments about how he hadn’t been behind the drums yet.

I’d call myself a casual fan of The Beatles, and I really loved this. You get a really amazing window into the personalities, hints (and more) of the fractures between them, and for me, a new appreciation for their music and musicianship.

When they talked about doing cover songs as part of the project, it was funny that John insisted he didn’t know any other songs considering how often he’d launch into other songs when they were noodling around.

Their discussion of how they should have been shooting on 35mm if the project was going to be a film instead of for TV was a funny meta-moment considering how amazing this looked.
posted by jimw at 10:49 AM on November 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


Interview with Michael Lindsay-Hogg (original director).
posted by Kosmob0t at 10:51 AM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


It was brilliant of them to release this on a long holiday weekend. It's just the thing to watch during a gloomy November sunday while you're avoiding Football.
posted by octothorpe at 12:24 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


Their discussion of how they should have been shooting on 35mm if the project was going to be a film instead of for TV was a funny meta-moment considering how amazing this looked.

16mm can look great even when shown in theaters. It's not common but a few recent films have been show in that format: Carol, Moonrise Kingdom, The Hurt Locker, a whole bunch of Aronofsky films. I assume the problem with this footage was that it was 50 years old and degraded. I actually find it a little wonky, there's a posterizing effect sometimes and the facial tone look a little plasticky sometimes.
posted by octothorpe at 1:04 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


In the late 1980s, Kodak made significant improvements to the grain structure of their film stocks, so the film used in something like Moonrise Kingdom has a much higher resolution than what they would have had in 1969. Plus, they didn’t have Super 16 back then, so that’s a cropped frame we’re looking at, with even lower resolution.

Weta did a really good job with it, but they must have done a massive amount of upscaling and grain reduction to get it to look like this.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:31 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


It still looks kind of muddy and smeary at times.
posted by octothorpe at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


What I learned years ago from a bootleg DVD of the Let It Be film is that Yoko manifestly was not responsible for the breakup of the Beatles, but Paul might have been. Nothing in Get Back changed my mind in that respect.

Both films are a slog at times for me, but in Get Back the payoffs are a lot better. It was a lovely surprise to hear John tell George "a wind" should be "a mind" in "All Things Must Pass." Watching Paul conjuring up "Get Back" was amazing. The flower pot conversation had me nearly feeling guilty for eavesdropping. I loved George helping Ringo with "Octopus's Garden." Mal Evans and Glyn Johns are now more fleshed-out characters in my head. I nearly fell off the couch laughing when Ringo explained very earnestly to George Martin that he had just farted, and had considered not saying anything, but decided to be frank about it. The rooftop concert is still a lot of fun, and I think Paul is still a little disappointed that the cops weren't more heavy-handed. I think he wanted to be arrested on film.

I found Michael Lindsay-Hogg really hard to take. Was ready to completely melt down if he mentioned the Libyan amphitheater and the 2000 screaming Arabs one more time. Dude did a lot of whining about what the film wouldn't be, and perhaps didn't pay enough attention to what he had, and what it could be. The film he made was dour and sulky. Peter Jackson has shown it didn't have to be.
posted by /\/\/\/ at 6:29 PM on November 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


The Beatles were already imploding before this. See: the sessions for the White Album. The reason: Brian Epstein's tragic death. These boys needed a manager and they lost theirs very suddenly and never replaced him, thinking they could manage themselves. They couldn't. They even acknowledge this fairly early on in Part 1. Brian kept the ship moving. He gave them timelines and deadlines and a modicum of discipline which is how they managed so much output in 3 years of touring+albums and 4 years in studio all before the age of 30. The moment Brian Epstein was found dead in his apartment of an accidental OD is the moment the Beatles began falling apart: August 27, 1967. It's earlier than many people realize. This has been my working theory for years and this docuseries basically confirmed it for me. There was a vacuum in Epstein's absence and Paul decided to step up because no one else would, and then... well, we all know what happened.

I have more to say about this film/docuseries but I'm still digesting it; I'm a life-long Beatlephile and I am a bit overwhelmed by the intimacy of what I just watched. But just wanted to put that out there: Yoko didn't break up the Beatles. Paul didn't break up the Beatles. The Beatles imploded because Brian Epstein, the most grounding figure in their lives, who managed literally everything about being a band aside from the music for them, was snatched away from them too early.
posted by nayantara at 7:23 PM on November 28, 2021 [23 favorites]


Brian Epstein's tragic death...They even acknowledge this fairly early on in Part 1.

It was very telling in that scene, where the four of them are talking about him, in that they all refer to him as Mr. Epstein. Not Brian. Mr. Epstein. Like he was the adult in their lives. Definite respect.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


It was the Beatles themselves discussing the perceived shortcomings of 16mm film, once it was clear they were making a movie. Attention to detail. Even though they disagreed, it seems that they each correctly perceived that they should strive to put out the best possible product they could. Likely it drove them to do take after take of their songs, leading to Lindsay-Hogg recognizing that they had reached the time to do something, namely, the gig on the rooftop, and get it on tape.

I quite enjoyed this. My only nitpick would be that, while a bit of studio shenanigans is a good way to show how relaxed they could be, perhaps the take with the clenched teeth was a step too far. By then they had polished that song, had played it countless times serious and otherwise, and coming right after the Sunday with Linda's daughter (Heather?) being indulged at every turn, it made the third part seem overlong.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


I found Michael Lindsay-Hogg really hard to take. Was ready to completely melt down if he mentioned the Libyan amphitheater and the 2000 screaming Arabs one more time.

The funniest part of the interview with Lindsay-Hogg linked above is that he apparently still believes that other people were really into his idea.

I think the idea that Yoko Ono was the cause is put to bed by the conversation in the first part where Paul (IIRC) chalks up their need to be around each other all of the time to “young love”. I think the worst thing said about her in the series is how she apparently spoke for John at the first meeting trying to get George to un-quit, but that really seems more like a John issue.
posted by jimw at 8:23 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


The Beatles were already imploding before this. See: the sessions for the White Album. The reason: Brian Epstein's tragic death. These boys needed a manager and they lost theirs very suddenly and never replaced him, thinking they could manage themselves. They couldn't. They even acknowledge this fairly early on in Part 1. Brian kept the ship moving. He gave them timelines and deadlines and a modicum of discipline which is how they managed so much output in 3 years of touring+albums and 4 years in studio all before the age of 30. The moment Brian Epstein was found dead in his apartment of an accidental OD is the moment the Beatles began falling apart: August 27, 1967. It's earlier than many people realize. This has been my working theory for years and this docuseries basically confirmed it for me. There was a vacuum in Epstein's absence and Paul decided to step up because no one else would, and then... well, we all know what happened.

Yes. And the founding of Apple Corps shortly thereafter in January 1968. The Beatles were brilliant musicians and shitty businessmen.

One thing that made me sad was when their music publisher came in and touted all the music they had purchased that would create an income stream, because it reminded me that Paul McCartney would later recommend that to Michael Jackson as a sound business idea, and Michael Jackson would turn around and purchase the entire Beatles catalog.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:49 AM on November 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


I'm very envious of the perspective that people who are musicians (or otherwise creative) themselves bring to the discussion of this film. My wife and myself are both entirely non-musical, and I agreed with her when she said, "I keep hearing them play something that's almost right, and I want to intercede and help them get it right!"

Which, to be clear: she and I both know that's ridiculous.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'm a musician, but I feel the same way! I'm about halfway through (watched the first hour of Part 2 last night), and they still haven't worked out some of the most iconic bits of some of the songs.

For example, it was particularly frustrating listening to them struggling with the "I'm in love for the first time" bit in Don't Let Me Down, trying to fill the space with screechy background vocals that don't work at all. I'm just waiting for them to figure out the guitar-and-bass counter-melody that makes that section work so well.

Ditto with the shuffling drum beat on Get Back - thus far, Ringo has been employing a pretty standard backbeat, which makes it a very different (and less interesting) song.

It just goes to show how much of the iconic nature of our favorite songs is in the little details.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


One of the things I enjoyed was the way John and Paul regularly grabbed words out of nowhere as lyrical placeholders. Some dude’s name? Sure that’ll work for now. Headlines from the Daily Mail? Why not?
posted by wabbittwax at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


We just watched part one last night, and I was riveted through most of it. I'm not a huge Beatles fan, but as someone who works in a creative field, watching the process and the jockeying was just fascinating to me. There was a tiny moment on day 3 which almost had me running out of the room. George said something along the lines of how on the last album he finally felt like he was being accepted as an equal contributor, and Paul made this tiny little "yes, well..." face - he just couldn't stop himself and be generous for one second. And you could just see - this is where a creative relationship dies. I've been in that room. I've seen that face, and I've also caught myself (and hopefully am aware enough of it to generally stop myself) making that face.

I never thought I'd find Paul the most insufferable Beatle, but I'm 3 hours in and I can't stop watching how he works. There's so much brilliance there, and it's amazing to watch things take shape (and yeah, I keep wanting to somehow text him into the past with what the next lyric should be instead), and then I see him tell George or Ringo something and it's so condescending or intrusive or disregarding of their own creative process that I'm completely put off... but then they play it his way and he's right... I don't want to subscribe to the idea that true geniuses are assholes. I've worked with too many genuine geniuses who aren't. But damn.
posted by Mchelly at 11:49 AM on November 29, 2021 [13 favorites]


I've only just started the second episode and witnessed the startlingly intimate and honest eavesdropped conversation between Paul and John, and personally? I could watch 100 hours of this. Watching Paul write songs is genuinely stunning, and hearing the bits and pieces from the rest come together is absolutely spine-tingling for me.

I say "watching Paul write songs" because so far, at least, John seems completely checked out. Whether that's up to love or to heroin or some combination of the two, I don't know. But the absence of Brian Epstein and John's complete detachment leaves a big vacuum that Paul maybe felt compelled to step into, to the band's detriment.

It's quite clear that Paul is someone who, as he and John point out, hears a thing a certain way and then expects everyone else to do it exactly that way. And George is so far inside his own head about Clapton that he can neither play like Paul wants nor even like himself. He's so frustrated that he's not the musician he wishes he were that he forgets how to be the one he actually is.

And poor Ringo looks completely beleaguered (and when he shows up at the top of episode 2 by himself and has to sit and fraternize with Boss Baby ... jeez).

In any case ... yes, they're obviously-broken here, in lots of ways, but there's still so much joy when they're really into it and it's just fantastic to watch.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:06 PM on November 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


The other thing that gets me almost to the point of distraction is how Jackson always put the song title with its composer credits in the corner each time they play a song, and how many times we watch Paul literally write an entire song in front of us, with George and Ringo in the room, often pitching in during the process, and then the title comes into the corner with "Lennon/McCarthy" on it, and John literally hasn't even entered the studio yet. I don't pretend to understand how the music credits game works, but I can't imagine that never rankled.
posted by Mchelly at 1:03 PM on November 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


I don't pretend to understand how the music credits game works, but I can't imagine that never rankled.

They had an agreement dating from their early days together that all their songs, no matter who wrote them, would be credited to both of them; it lasted until the band broke up.

To the best of my recollection, there was rarely a significant dispute, afterwards, of who contributed what to which songs. It seemed largely amicable. (Although Paul occasionally reversed the credit to McCartney/Lennon after the breakup, which seems unnecessarily petty.)
posted by uncleozzy at 1:09 PM on November 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


I'm loving it (in the middle of the second episode, watched the third one first accidentally and then the first this morning). As my brother said, it's like sitting quietly in the room with them. Just these guys fucking around whilst also writing this amazing music that stands up all these decades later. Billy Preston added such life.
posted by h00py at 2:53 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


I understand the Lennon/McCartney publishing credit, but one thing I still haven't found an explanation for is how sometimes Ringo is credited as Starr and sometimes credited as Starkey.

I started episode two last night. Peter Sellers! All of them cracking up at John!
posted by emelenjr at 7:09 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I finished episode 2 yesterday and decided I need a break for a few days. I laid awake last night in a booster-induced fog with Two of Us, Don't Let Me Down, Get Back, and I've Got a Feeling spinning through my head over and over. It was not pleasant.

On the other hand, I've also decided that I need similar documentaries for better Beatle albums like Revolver and Abbey Road (yes, I know the footage doesn't exist - just let me dream).
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:16 AM on November 30, 2021 [4 favorites]


I know U2 decided from early on to credit all songs to the group, even though Bono wrote nearly all the lyrics and Edge wrote the majority of the music, to prevent just that kind of intragroup tension and jockeying for which songs should be included.
posted by tavella at 10:44 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


The same with R.E.M.
posted by Quonab at 9:10 PM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Though I guess the drummer wrote 'Everybody Hurts', so the money they made off that made up for him sitting in the background for the most part.
posted by Quonab at 9:12 PM on November 30, 2021


I just finished the second episode and was wondering about the credits for “machine learning.” This article explains about the audio cleanup that they were able to do to make conversations audible and separate mono recordings.
posted by larrybob at 9:42 PM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


First episode in: fascinating to watch Paul McCartney on the piano here. As mentioned above - there is the part where we can hear him piece together the chords for "Let it be" in the background of an interminable conversation about plastic staging that is occupying everyone else; "times of trouble" indeed. Equally we can see him start to assemble what will become the medley on Abbey Road - joking references to "She came in through the bathroom window" - and the first ensuing assembly of "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" (the saddest moment in any Beatles composition - a competitive field - IMHO).

Its interesting how creating something can be so like time travel: back to the past to capture roots and memories, snatches of elements grasped from the present - and then future premonitions of the newly assembled article - especially when it something iconic.
posted by rongorongo at 12:48 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


Rik Beato's reaction video to Get Back is an interesting from somebody who knows his way around the era and recording studios. He mentions the beneficial effect of goofing around for the creation process.
posted by rongorongo at 2:50 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


(Beato also mentions The Beatles Let It Be Naked Re-master favourably - it has a much more of a live feel than the original relase)
posted by rongorongo at 3:01 AM on December 1, 2021


I was blown away by the restored footage of Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old, so I was always going to give this a try. Both projects are made with carefully chosen archival materials and, after a year of very slapdash pundit-forward documentaries, it's wonderful to watch something like this. (On twitter, @jessehawken's thread offered the hell-world version of this doc.) I watched the first two episodes during Thanksgiving break with family. I enjoyed both, but was cut down when I suggested we finish the final two hours! So, uh, people's mileage may vary. I haven't seen the third one, but if you're not sure about spending 7 hours on this, I might suggest skipping the first episode.

I was a (late) 90s kid, so on some level I always expect old film footage to look fuzzy. It's surreal to watch something filmed 50 years ago, and have it look as crisp as something filmed this year. Even without the very interesting Beatles stuff -- the songwriting, the covers, the carefully-not-fighting fighting on camera, the palpable stress of a bunch of twentysomethings who are the most famous people in the world and already feeling depleted -- I would watch a dozen hours of this just to watch the different assistants running in tea and beer every hour.
posted by grandiloquiet at 1:36 PM on December 1, 2021 [6 favorites]


Interesting interview in Variety magazine where Peter Jackson talks about how he convinced Paul and Ringo to make the film. The band seem to have recollections of the Twickenham sessions as being an awful time; the film revealed a much sunnier picture to them.

- Interesting to note that the Beatles started recording Abbey Road just 3 weeks after the film was shot. They were not messing around that year.
posted by rongorongo at 9:57 PM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


The Beatles output was amazing; they put out 13 studio albums in 7 years, almost no one does that these days. Most major artists make an album once every two or three years.
posted by octothorpe at 4:53 AM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


They recorded most of the "Please Please Me" album on one day, 11th February 1963. (With some overdubs on the 20th.)

Someone on another site was complaining that they were idiots for not going into the studio with more song ideas ready. But they generally seem to have worked fast. I think that's another reason that the Beatles reported finding these sessions so frustrating: even though it seems astonishingly productive to us, it was slow and short on ideas by their standards.

By modern standards it seems amazing to me that none of the Beatles could read music, but all of them could sit down at a piano or guitar and make a solid go of playing a tune they'd just heard.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:53 AM on December 2, 2021 [4 favorites]


Someone on another site was complaining that they were idiots for not going into the studio with more song ideas ready.

That seems awfully unfair. This is January 1969. The lads recorded the White Album from May 30 through October 14, 1968, and the double album of 30 original songs (not including Hey Jude, which was released as a non-album single in August 1968) was released on November 22, 1968.

Seems a little much to expect that they would have another full album of masterpieces ready to go five weeks later.

On a separate note -- I saw a news article years ago that I wish I could find, but I've never been able to relocate. It was about a Beatles tribute band that had put together a recording of what they thought they Beatles' next album would have been like if they hadn't broken up in mid-1970. That is, they took the best Beatles solo stuff that was written and released in 1970 and 1971 (All Things Must Pass, Maybe I'm Amazed, Jealous Guy, etc.) and arranged and recorded it as if the Beatles had recorded them together. Does that ring any bells with anyone?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:01 AM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]


Oh, actually -- looks like this is what I was thinking of.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


Whenever I get in a discussion about what The Beatles would sound like if they stayed together, I think about the John Wesley Harding song "When the Beatles Hit America" from 1990, I think:

And finally the record hits the shelves
And it's called "The Beatles - From Ourselves"
And for anyone who didn't know
Well, it sounded quite a lot like ELO
Or ELP or FYC or REM or XTC
It sounded a lot like XTC
posted by eckeric at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


By modern standards it seems amazing to me that none of the Beatles could read music, but all of them could sit down at a piano or guitar and make a solid go of playing a tune they'd just heard.

There's a moment about halfway through the second episode, during their first or second day at Apple, where they're about to start working on a Paul song (I forget which one) and he says to John, "It's 'Diana' chords, in A." And away they go.

So much of music is knowing the patterns and relationships and how to turn the sound in your head into the sound from an instrument, rather than the written notes, that it really shouldn't be surprising that they allegedly can't read music. Unless you're a songwriter writing for others so that you need to produce lead sheets or notate arrangements, there's really no need, even (and maybe especially) today.

(That said, I do suspect that Paul does read and write standard notation, just based on early music education, but probably not with any fluency, as it's not something he's ever needed to practice.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]


(That said, I do suspect that Paul does read and write standard notation, just based on early music education, but probably not with any fluency, as it's not something he's ever needed to practice.)

The official story is that the only one who ever possessed any capacity to read music was George, and he apparently learned later. I remember stories around the time Paul wrote his "Liverpool Oratorio" about him having to play/dictate the individual parts to someone else who could notate them.

That's one interesting thing about the shift in energy when Billy Preston comes on the scene, as he is not merely a better musician than the four Beatles, but a legitimate child prodigy, having released his first solo album at age 16. (He is 22 during the Get Back sessions.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:36 AM on December 2, 2021 [5 favorites]


Halfway through E2.

Yes, at times it seems interminable and dull, especially when they're talking about the business side of the music business.

Yet a working band cannot ignore that side of what they do. If they do, they do so at their own peril.

Paul in particular, as the de facto new leader of the band, doesn't necessarily embrace this aspect of what he does / they do, but he does acknowledge it, and then pivots to playing and writing incredible music, inevitably dragging everyone else along into his glorious playground

I don't blame George for bailing and taking some time, but I was so incredibly happy to see him walking back through the studio door. Apologies for spoilers, but if you know the Beatles, you know that he did that.

Ringo is solid and steadfast. The very definition of.

As E2 starts to wind down, it's nice to see John just let go and be John. By this point, Yoko's presence is accepted and even welcomed to a certain extent, and they can all move forward.

I can't think of a better way to spend my winter late nights in the Pacific NW than with these blokes on my screen. It's comedic and tragic and dramatic and 100% human creative experience all at the same time.
posted by vverse23 at 3:10 PM on December 2, 2021 [4 favorites]


By modern standards it seems amazing to me that none of the Beatles could read music, but all of them could sit down at a piano or guitar and make a solid go of playing a tune they'd just heard.

To me, it wasn't just that that weren't reading or writing musical scores - it was also that (as we can see in the film) they seemed to be notating their writing at the level of chord sheets alone. This video from music Paul Davids on the chord structure of Penny Lane highlights the degree to which the Beatles were excelling in compositional techniques they perhaps could not name. If you have studied at a conservatoire - or been in a jazz band - then you can look at Penny Lane and see borrowed chords, secondary dominants, pivot chords and use of Dorian mode. The Beatles appear to have mastered these techniques by relentlessly experimenting with a song - and throwing out the obvious sounding - until they got to their final result.
posted by rongorongo at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]


Worth it just to see those police chewing their helmet straps whilst getting tooled for a half hour.
posted by snofoam at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]


If you have studied at a conservatoire - or been in a jazz band - then you can look at Penny Lane and see borrowed chords, secondary dominants, pivot chords and use of Dorian mode. The Beatles appear to have mastered these techniques by relentlessly experimenting with a song - and throwing out the obvious sounding - until they got to their final result.

Sure. The other part is that these guys were absolute sponges. In the documentary, you can see them messing around with several dozen cover songs that they just pluck out of the air. They listened to everything and absorbed it. (As an example, Paul famously went to a performance of Stockhausen and came back to the studio with the tape-loop idea that would make its way into Tomorrow Never Knows.) Paul in particular was a fan of 30s dance music and almost certainly picked up jazzy chord progressions from that.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


I was struck by how Paul was completely into John and Yoko's vocal experiments the couple of times they bashed it out. He's having as much fun as they are.
posted by zzazazz at 3:23 PM on December 6, 2021


Billy Preston comes on the scene, as he is not merely a better musician than the four Beatles, but a legitimate child prodigy, having released his first solo album at age 16. (He is 22 during the Get Back sessions.)

Billy Preston is fucking incredible.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:10 PM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]




Watched part 2 this weekend - I expected to like it better than 1, since so many people did, but it wasn't as compelling for me, maybe because what I loved was the magic of songs being written, where this felt like more noodling to get the mixes and components in place. But OMG Billy Preston! He just walked in and changed everything. I had no idea that so much of the album wasn't the Beatles playing - but you could hear the difference he made immediately. And I loved all the goofing around with the old songs. Their Scottish version of Two of Us, and especially when Lennon did the dour, slow version of Help and right on cue Paul filled in his own "Can... Down... Round... Ground" equally morose. I couldn't believe they were spending studio time (and presumably money, even if they owned the studio) recording so much insanity. But for me the high point may have been George's boots, which I couldn't look away from every time they were on the screen.
posted by Mchelly at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]


A random observation is that there are usually enough chairs around, but never enough tables.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:25 AM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


But for me the high point may have been George's boots, which I couldn't look away from every time they were on the screen.

Boots? I took them for comfy slippers, the kind I buy my ex for xmas every year.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:28 AM on December 7, 2021


Could be! they came up past his ankles so I assumed that = boots. All I know is that they managed to overpower the music for me on a regular basis.
posted by Mchelly at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


The conversation in the cantina by John and Paul after George quits was something else. First, that the director was such as sneaky bastard that he thought of putting a mic in the flower pot, but also the AI cleanup work that Jackson and team did. How did he know which table they were going to sit at? How did he hide the mic cable? Through the bottom of the flower pot, then down through the floor? That's not something you can accomplish without some work. I'm surprised he didn't try to get tape of the negotiations at Harrison's place. I can just see them all sitting in Harrison's drawing room when this boom mic subtly appears in the fireplace.
posted by jabah at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


A few scattered thoughts:

- The fly-on-the-wall quality to this was extraordinary.

- All the smoking! I'm just imagining the smell in that recording studio and it's not great.

- So much musical noodling about, which is really cool to see, especially when songs emerge as though they've always been there and were waiting for someone to pluck them from the air.

- It's interesting to see the disagreements and tension mostly take the form of earnest, if strained and uncomfortable, discussions rather than rock-star blowups.

- Eye roll at the interviewer during the concert trying to get a particular passer-by to say he's annoyed by the group or their concert and the guy is basically like, "Nope, I think they're pretty great and I'd love it if my daughter dated one of them -- they're loaded!"

- Without knowing an absolute ton about the group, I think the film gave me a renewed appreciation for how there doesn't have to be A Villain or A Reason for a group to break up after 10 years together. Like, four artists essentially married to one another? Yeah, that can't last forever. It's amazing that it lasted as long as it did.
posted by veggieboy at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2021


There was a line somewhere in a review about the series showing that "Yoko didn't break up the Beatles, the Beatles broke up the Beatles". George had his new spiritual interests and was tired of them not paying attention when he brought them high quality songs, John had checked out and was more interested in his new creative partnership with Ono, Paul didn't necessarily want to be the boss but if he was going to have to be the boss it might as well be of his own band that actually paid attention to what he asked. Only Ringo seemed to be still fine with the band as the band, and he wasn't the sort of person that could keep three strong personalities glued together if they didn't want to be.

It's possible that if Epstein had lived and Klein hadn't come into the picture the band might have slouched along as an sometimes thing in the mode of the later Rolling Stones or the Who, doing their own independent albums and coming together for very remunerative tours, but I don't know that that would have been a good thing. Maybe sometimes things *should* end.
posted by tavella at 10:30 AM on December 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


My new favourite moment is Heather McCartney reacting to Yoko Ono's singing - and then, like any self respecting precocious 6 year old, going on to imitate it.

It's interesting to see how crappy the fabric of the Apple studio was. Worn out looking acoustic panels that look like they were made from asbestos, microphone covers that seem to have been hand made many years ago and in a hurry. And, most of all the kind of cheap music stand that remains the curse of all musicians: the sort that (as demonstrated by Ringo) seems to be impossible to put up - and then breaks. The recording tape ("two shillings a foot") seems to be the only conspicuous luxury.

The NME provides a list of all 123 songs which feature in Get Back - culled apparently from 400 in the original footage.
posted by rongorongo at 1:04 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]


I found the Beatles section of Allen Klien's wikipedia page useful in explaining the saga that his involvement was just starting to trigger at the time of the film. If viewers are thinking to themselves that the band all seemed to be getting on pretty well and that Yoko was not some force of destruction in the group - then this helps explain, I think, what was. As a coda to Lennon's enthusiasm for Klein's approach seen in the film - here is his take on the man from 1973. I also had to google Biafra - a part of Nigeria which was in the process of ceasing to exist as a state in January 1969, as part of a conflict which had killed many children - Biafran children were apparently being touted as possible charity beneficiaries in Kliens' conversations with Lennon (Klien later replaced Biafra with Bangladesh as his supposed charity concern).
posted by rongorongo at 10:45 PM on December 14, 2021


The recording tape ("two shillings a foot") seems to be the only conspicuous luxury.

Same with the food -- you'd expect a full catering spread or at least a few luxuries, but breakfast is just tea, toast, butter and marmalade, and lunch (at least at Twickenham) usually seems to just be sandwiches.
posted by tavella at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


The food surprised me too. They were the biggest stars in the world at the time and they were eating cold toast and tea from a cart.
posted by octothorpe at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2021 [3 favorites]


And all the same tea, too! Just trays of mugs of milky tea, no one getting their own special brand or customized mix of milk/sugar/lemon.
posted by tavella at 2:36 PM on December 15, 2021


And all the same tea, too! Just trays of mugs of milky tea, no one getting their own special brand or customized mix of milk/sugar/lemon.

In the late 60s UK - particularly if you came from a down to earth working class city like Liverpool - your hot beverage choices were pretty much: white, sweet tea or white sweet (instant) coffee; various other fancy-arsed choices like black coffee or unsweetened tea if you were a bit special. And a biscuit if you were lucky. Your sandwich choices would look a bit like this.
posted by rongorongo at 3:42 AM on December 16, 2021 [3 favorites]


That sandwich picture is horrifying.
posted by octothorpe at 4:57 AM on December 16, 2021


Oh, yeah, it's a very working-class diet for the time, and no doubt what most of the Beatles were raised on, but it's a little surprising that after travelling the world for a decade and being quite rich for years, they still weren't any pickier, so to speak. Not even to the point of asking for variety in jam!
posted by tavella at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2021


“The Guitars of "Get Back": A Short History: featuring Tim Pierce”five watt world, 20 December 2021
posted by ob1quixote at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2021


That sandwich picture is horrifying.

What's wrong? The bread is hardly curling up at the corners at all. That's fresh.
posted by Grangousier at 10:16 AM on December 20, 2021


I am a giant Beatles fan but just couldn't give more than 15 minutes or so at a time to this. But I finally finished it and am glad that it exists for sure.

But it's also clear that it's not exactly Paul's fault. He got the role of bandleader in part because somewhere in 1968 John decided to be an agent of chaos and not much else. Most of the ideas are coming from Paul in this period and he's also the only one who seems to care about those ideas.

This was what struck me, especially as they are really putting together the formal structure of "Get Back." The whole band is contributing ideas but Paul is the one that takes them all in and does the "yes, and" work, and keeps bringing it back around to decisionmaking and musical sculpting and forward movement. And without that none of this stuff would have come into such beautiful shape.

It's like the guy in charge of ordering for a table of 10 at a family-style restaurant: somebody has to do the crap work of polling everyone for what they like, tallying votes and engaging in some light diplomacy to satisfy the outliers, and then making some decisions and calling over the server. It's a thankless job but nobody eats otherwise.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:23 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


This was what struck me, especially as they are really putting together the formal structure of "Get Back." The whole band is contributing ideas but Paul is the one that takes them all in and does the "yes, and" work, and keeps bringing it back around to decision making and musical sculpting and forward movement.

Something understandably, not raised in the film - but which must surely have been significant during the sessions - was that John and Yoko had suffered the still birth of their son, at 6 months, in November 1968. If Paul is seen as the one taking the strongest lead in "Get Back" - then this could have been a contributing factor.
posted by rongorongo at 4:24 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


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