Skip to main content

The Beatles' Get Back TV Series

  • Author:
  • Updated date:
The Beatles in 1965

The Beatles in 1965

The Beatles during Get Back sessions 1969

The Beatles during Get Back sessions 1969

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

The Beatles' Get Back TV event was a very long time coming along a winding road. In fact, it is 50 years late. Back in January, 1969, the band was dragged into a film studio at the insistence of Paul McCartney to do a TV special showing how the band created a song. Within the first week, George Harrison, walked out unhappy with his lesser role over the years as a Beatle. As time went on, the original idea went from a TV show of one hour for NBC to a film, as all of them were quite undecided about it all.

What resulted was a Get Back (later to be called Let It Be) film that was released in 1970 or so. While it was the swan song of the band, by 1969, there was no more Beatlemania like the heady 1964-66 iconic crowds flocking the theatres and concerts. In fact, the movie when released in 1970 was pulled after a very short run of a week or two.

Get Back Today

Fast forward to 2015 or so, when Paul wants to resurrect the old film and include hours of footage that had been cut (but stored for 50 years) to correct the years of misconceptions that it was a film showing a band imploding and to make sure his role and legacy was not the cause of it (as many had thought).

Disney had a lot of hype about the three parts totaling at least 5-6 hours. The build up was very Beatle-ish like back in 1964. Of course, both John and George are long dead, so, one wonders just how much Paul steered this new revisionist history. I will say that, unless you are a devout Beatle fan, who was in the Beatlemania of 1964-66 as a teen or tween, you will find it rather a boring affair.

Beatlemania was truly a tsunami that had to be seen, experienced, first hand, because of the memories and emotion of that time ( for example, 24/7 Beatle music on the radio, Beatle lunch boxes, Beatle cartoons, etc.). If you were not there or not alive then, hearing and reading about it just does not create the emotional attachment Beatle fans have for them. It is a type of true love that one never gets over with when triggered. For these fans, 50 years later, and nothing has changed.

The TV Show

Part 1 covers the first week in January, 1969, when the band assembles after a hiatus since November 1968, when their White LP was released. It is about 1.5 hours long. It is a rather non-event time spent for a viewer. The Beatles arrive and there is a lot of chit chat about various things, some interesting, some not. The band does some pieces of songs. Their plan was to do 14 songs in a few weeks and a final live performance. They do a few old numbers they wrote as teens for a gag. They also do a few songs in their embryonic stages that will appear on solo LPs years later. They seldom ever complete a whole song and suddenly stop and go into a jam session of sorts. Some bits of "All Things Must Pass", "Commonwealth" (never released), "Gimme Some Truth" (will appear on a Lennon solo), "Child of Nature" (Lennon's great song that should have been on the White LP, but ended up as "Jealous Guy" on a solo LP). However, the very roots of the song "Get Back" are heard. Paul is just playing something like it on his bass and the other Beatles take notice. But then, George abruptly quits the band!

Part 2 is a good 2.5 hours of more of the same covering the second week. It really could have been just kept at 1.5 or 2 hrs. Much of it is just like a documentary as the Beatles hope George will be back. Paul is sure he will, Ringo and John, not so much. Again, there is a lot of chit chat and discussions that a viewer will tire of. However, the best part is when John and Paul have a private meeting that was secretly recorded. This meeting is about George. What becomes clear is that both of them blame themselves 100% for creating the situation over the years. They know, they treated George like a 3rd rate songwriter by dominating all the records with their material and that George had built up a lot of resentment over time. They both agree they need to make him feel more important and equal. Fascinating. It's like two parents talking about their failure with their kid.

Although George does return, things are still tense, and it shows on them all. It is like a family about a touchy subject. Nobody wants to trigger another walk-out. The most interesting thing is watching how they all contribute something in any song, but here, it is Get Back. Paul is stuck on the lyrics and John solves the problem. George suggests how the song should be structured and Paul agrees. Paul runs through it a few times, stopping, starting, as others suggest things. They have discussions about the structure and refrain and at one point, John states, "I'm getting confused". When Paul tries to explain, he himself gets confused and just stops, stating, "I don't know". At this early stage, Ringo still has not created that galloping horse-like drum heard throughout the song. When they do a rough take, that sounds damn good, it is quite apparent to all, it will be the next single release.

They then go into a jam session that meanders all over, just messing around, then they will suddenly revert back to an oldie or do a mockery of their "Help". One can see the band of brothers for sure, very tight musically, but diverging as they get older. Paul and John can be seen as "musical lovers". They really like being around one another. John loves being the center of attention when cameras are rolling, always joking around. Paul tries to maintain the group's discipline in getting something done, but does not like the "parental" role and eventually just gives up. George is just a tolerant soul. Biding his time, playing what the other two want him to play but kind of fed up also. By now, they have "I've Got a Feeling" and "Don't Let Me Down" pretty well developed. George plays "Isn't It a Pity" that is rejected by the others by ignoring it. He would release this later on a solo LP. Even "Let It Be" is still in a very early stage and John seems less enthusiastic about it and prefers his own "Across the Universe".

One can see how Team Beatles is falling apart with apathy and the egos of its three key members.

Part 3 covers the 3rd week culminating in the famous last live Beatle performance on the Apple rooftops that caused mayhem for the police and traffic. It shows the full bit of 30 minutes or so, not just the actual performances of "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down". Prior to that performance, it is similar to the other parts with rehearsing and chit chat, going in and out of jam sessions, playing parts of songs that will be heard on Abbey Road (their last LP in August 1969). Some of the old rock songs are done with teen vitality. You can tell what era they grew up in.

In the end, Get Back will preserve the Beatles legacy again. But even for devout Beatle fans, your patience may be tested due to the length of the parts. I found myself fast forwarding at times because it DOES get boring. I watched with a person who was born in the1980s. They told me to turn it off and questioned why the Beatles were so famous and she didn't like some of their songs. She just did not understand nor experience Beatlemania. But even John, in Part 2, at some point, turned and looked at the director (who was filming) and said: "Is anyone really going to watch us write a song"?

LOL. John was partially right!

Related Articles