The Beatles Get Back is Peter Jackson’s mammoth documentary and we can’t stop thinking about it. Honestly, it could well be the best music documentary ever made. Over its eight hours, it’s an emotional rollercoaster and character study movie – full of brilliant new Beatles material, insight and heart-breaking moments.
Taking us on a deep dive into the complex dynamics of the group in their last full year together, it’s absolutely worth watching, even if you’re a casual fan of the band. More than anything, it’s a real treat to experience their creative process, friendship and their sheer joy of playing together. Here are five of our favourite moments.
***The following contains massive spoilers about the documentary, but do read on if we’ve piqued your interest, and you don’t mind knowing a few things before you go and watch it!***
1. Getting back into the groove
About an hour into the documentary, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are sitting around at the Twickenham studio, looking tired and a bit bored, and waiting to start rehearsing because “Lennon’s late again”.
Out of nowhere, McCartney starts strumming two chords on his famous Hofner bass, and just improvising some vocals. This riff becomes the basis to ‘Get Back’ – and it’s mind-blowing to hear the beginnings of a song that would become a world-famous hit in the ensuing months and years.
We then get swept along in the magic of their creative process – how they evolve the song’s structure and lyrics, and how each member plays an integral role to each part of the iconic song.
2. “And then there are two”
One of the killer moments in The Beatles Get Back is watching the possible break-up of the band play out, almost in real-time.
Tensions between Harrison and the rest of the band – McCartney in particular – come to a head at the Twickenham studio, as Harrison feels his creative input is not being appreciated enough. Walking out at one point, he signs off with a “see you round the clubs”, with the others unsure if he’s ever going to show up again.
When on the next morning no one can get hold of Lennon either, the camera holds on McCartney, who, sitting next to Starr and welling up, simply says: “And then there are two.”
3. The flowerpots have ears
One of the original director Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s craftiest moves was to put a secret microphone in a flowerpot in the break room at the Twickenham studios.
There Lennon and McCartney are having an emotional one-to-one away from the cameras in the aftermath of Harrison ‘leaving’ the band.
Although it feels uncomfortably like we’re prying, it’s nonetheless a breath-taking experience to be privy to their candid and poignant conversation, where Lennon regrets that the band’s neglect of Harrison had caused a “festering wound”, which none of them had “given him any bandages” to help heal.
It’s a beautifully frank discussion between the two men we previously never knew existed.
4. Billy Preston lights up the sessions
After moving to the smaller, more intimate studio in the basement of the Apple Corps office building, the band immediately become more energised with creativity and purpose. But because they want to record and perform the album live, they need a keyboardist to add to their sound.
Incredibly, it just so happens that one of the best keyboard players around, Billy Preston – who the Beatles got to know in their early days playing in Hamburg – is in London. They invite him to join the sessions, and from the minute he walks in and starts improvising brilliantly on the keys, the band’s spirit is completely rejuvenated. So much so, they even consider officially making him the fifth Beatle!
5. A final free gig for the world
Part three of this inspirational documentary really ramps up into a thrilling finale. After a lot of discussions around where exactly they’re going to perform their live show of the new album – which cover outlandish ideas such as on a cruise boat at sea or in an ancient Roman amphitheatre in Libya – they simply, but ingeniously, settle on the roof. And why not?
Even better, they can hook up the amps and PA system to the studio in the basement to capture the recording live. The pure joy on McCartney’s face as they agree on the idea is a sight to behold, and the ensuing tension has us on the edge of our seats, as the band begin joyously playing with the streets of London beneath them. There are some coppers who’ve had complaints about this ‘disruptive racket’, and they’re coming up the stairs to shut it down…
The Beatles Get Back is streaming on Disney+ now and it’s almost a rite of passage that you have to watch this history in the making documentary. We hope our favourite moments from it have given you a feeling to go and check out this wonderful music documentary – Beatles fan or not – or perhaps tempt you to get back on Disney+ and revisit it. Like us, you know you can’t just…let it be!
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