By: Natalie Eaton
One of the greatest rock bands of all time, and considerably, one of the biggest impacts in pop culture, are back. The new Disney + three-part documentary, The Beatles: Get Back directed by Peter Jackson highlights the making of the iconic 1970 album Let it Be. Like never before, Beatles fans will be able to see the process of making the songs, and the interactions between Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
As a huge Beatles fan, I was ecstatic to learn this documentary was being released. I was born way after the Beatles became famous, but I always listened to their albums, especially my favorite Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Like so many other die-hard Beatles admirers, I spent hours on Youtube watching the bandmates hang out, talk to each other, and just have a good time in the studio. (Yes, I am a stalker.) The relationships, how they made the music, and the clashes the members had with each other fascinated me.
So, if you did not figure it out already, I will be reviewing Get Back as a truthful and loyal fan. I will be deep-diving into the most important parts and sharing my thoughts and feelings about certain scenes. I am going to give my honest opinion and will try to highlight the key moments that stood out to me. Let’s go!
Part 1 Days 1-7:
The episode opens up with a summary of all of the Beatles successes up to this point. (Like how they first met, the move from Britain to America, and the progression to fame with their most famous singles.) As the summarization continues, it gets deeper into their history by going through their biggest scandals. Particularly, John Lennon’s religion comment, canceling live shows due to the KKK, and their loyal agent dying at 32. As a viewer, I was extremely grateful they included this in the first episode. Although it was quite long, it fit because it was in the first part of the documentary, and it gives a refresher so viewers are not confused about what period the Beatles are in now.
The first real part of the episode was being inside Twickenham Studios with the band. The day begins on January 2nd, 1969, which dates the beginning of the Get Back sessions. A calendar opens up, circling the day and each time a day passes. Also, every time the calendar popped up, it would show how close a major event was from the day they were at. It was very helpful for me while watching the remainder of the documentary because it let me know exactly what they were doing, planning, and the things they were moving. It also created this sort of tension, because you could feel the deadline approaching, and could not help but feel stressed with the band members.
As I continued to watch, I marveled over getting to watch The Beatles interact with each other. It felt too good to be true at first. Just them, in a studio, in their element. It got to the point where it felt like I was in their conversations, and they were talking to me. The amount of Paul and John talking scenes exposed was a dream come true. These types of scenes would go on, and on, and on. Every once in a while, Paul and John would bust out little snippets of the song “Get Back” and improvise. But other than that, there was just talking and working things out. A huge part of the first episode was Paul’s issues with the studio, and how he does not like the “acoustics,” and wants to record live. Conversations with him and his advisors would go on for a large portion of the episode. About 40 minutes in, I realized this was all I was watching. Yes, I know that this documentary is meant to go into detail about the making of the album’s songs, but I did find myself dozing off a bit and skipping.
Overall, episode one was probably the weakest episode of the documentary. It was not bad by any means, but it does take time to adjust to watching long conversations and keeping up with all the information. All in all, it was a great introduction to the “Get Back” sessions.
Part 2: Days 8-16
Oh, man. There is so much to unpack in this episode, and my emotions were all over the place. Immediately, we learn from the introduction that George had left the studio because he was upset. On January 13th, day 8, Ringo is the only Beatle to show up in the studio. It was super emotional to watch because you could see how defeated Ringo looked. Knowing that Ringo is the closest to George, it hits close to home seeing Ringo sit alone smoking a cigar. John still had not shown up to the studio yet. While we watch the crew members in the studio wait, Paul eventually shows up with his wife Linda. Both Beatles, Linda, and their advisors make a circle and talk for a long segment about John and Yoko. This confused me at first because I thought they were going to talk about George. But, it all came together. On the edge of my seat, I watched as Paul talked about his annoyance with Yoko always being attached to John with everything he does. Paul thinks if John had to choose between Yoko and the Beatles, he’d pick Yoko. This crushed me to watch, because so many people have accused Paul of not accepting Yoko, and John leaving/not talking to Paul because of this. But based on what I watched, Paul seemed to be very understanding, but also super sad. He mentions that he “does not want to get in their business.” The documentary explores further into Paul’s frustrations by zooming the camera in on his face. The studio is silent, they’re all just sitting there, and Paul has tears in his eyes. Paul then says “and then there were two,” and silently looks devastated. Not going to lie, this made me tear up a bit.
Things start to get real juicy when John comes into the studio. The crew filming was not allowed to film John and Paul talking about their issues privately, so they literally hid a mic in a flower pot in the cafeteria where they were talking. I could not grasp just how much content I was getting to hear, and also, I very much admire these workers for doing it. Back to the conversation, we hear John speak to Paul about his frustrations over not getting enough say in songs. George left because he was also upset about it. They feel like they cannot say anything about Paul’s arrangements. As a huge Beatles fan, I already knew everyone said Paul was the powerhouse and kind of the boss of the group. But this conversation validates it even more.
John and Paul come to agree and decide to find George. But later in the episode, they find out that he had left for Liverpool and won’t be back till Wednesday. Till then, the documentary shows incredible footage of Paul teaching a piano lesson to a young boy in the meantime, and messing around with Ringo on the piano. Also, we get to see the mind of Paul, playing a song he had just come up with the other night in bed. He was definitely showing off. It was very refreshing to see a long segment of John, Ringo, and Paul kind of playing their worries away.
The calendar pops up, and here I am sitting watching the documentary thinking I’m watching another day in the studio. No, the documentary immediately switches, saying that The Beatles decided to completely abandon the live studio and go record at Apple Studios. I thought it was very funny how fast The Beatles decided to make that decision since they literally brought in huge props during that week.
I love how the director made sure to include funny snippets, like the two girls who just stood in front of Apple Studios watching the Beatles get out of their cars. They willingly admit in the interview that they were just there to see Paul. It was also cool to see their perspective on the Yoko/John relationship at the time. Goes to show that even when the Beatles take the break, they still hadn’t lost their fangirls.
At Apple Studios, we see the Beatles with George start cracking down on the last bit of their music. It was hilarious to see how trashed their studio was nearing the end of the week. We got introduced to Billy Preston, which I was super ecstatic to see. He was in town and decided to drop by, not knowing the band needed a keyboard player for the rest of the album. From here on out, the documentary is pretty much the same. The Beatles and Billy collaborating and goofing around, (which apparently really works in making songs,) and the group figuring out a new single. The group hasn’t released one in five years since Hey Jude. Finally, to end Part 2, Paul sings “Let it Be” for the first time. What was shown in the documentary was on the album. It’s so cool to see “Let it Be” with a different rhythm, and the Beatles trying to figure out who should sing it. The rendition I grew up listening to on Youtube, I finally got a performance/video to watch for it. It made my day.
Part two was a jam-packed episode, and for many Beatles fans like myself, it was very overwhelming. But definitely better than part 1 in terms of entertainment and content.
Part 3: Days 17-22
Part three pretty much felt like a huge finale. If you thought Part two had a lot to unpack, wait till you watch this one. Patiently, I waited to hear one of my favorite Beatles songs, Octopus’s Garden, be played at least once in the documentary. I knew at some point in all of these three-hour episodes that they had to play it. Finally, they did. Ringo, in his goofy persona, introduces Paul to the song at the last minute, and Paul agrees that it should go on the album. That behind the scenes was pretty neat.
With the whole Yoko controversy heading into the making of this documentary, Peter Jackson wasted no time. But, he did manage to find a super funny scene of Yoko in the studio. I started ballistically laughing when the Beatles were just jamming a rhythm and Yoko started screeching in the mic thinking she was contributing. Paul and Linda’s daughter, Heather, gets captured on camera staring at Yoko like she is insane.
The best part about part three is a long segment dedicated to The Beatles, family members, and crew just having a blast and enjoying each other’s company. The true gem in this documentary is the highlights of the relationship between everyone, and how through all the ups and downs, they are all supporting each other and working together to create the best content possible. We are shown little Heather running around between recording sessions playing with Ringo and George, and Linda and Yoko smiling at the Beatles playing Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley. Even the producers seemed like family.
Personally, besides seeing Paul so upset in Part two, I got extremely emotional when the band started to make “The Long and Winding Road,” which is another one of my favorite Beatles songs. Getting behind the scenes of the different renditions, and the almost acoustic sound of Paul singing while the others figure out their instruments in the background was beautiful. A memorable quote was John saying, “Would not be much drums would there?” Then the camera pans to Ringo sleeping.
I was fascinated to see Glyn Johns, The Beatles recording engineer, and producer, interrupt Paul at times and just ask him to sing a live take in the studio. The others would go along with it, and as expected by Glyn, it sounds amazing. Those takes were featured on The Let it Be track. I just didn’t know he did it like that so suddenly. Part three does a great job showing a lot of the songs caught live in the studio, from the tweaks and changes to Billy adding in the keyboard to songs.
It was interesting to see George talking to John, considering that George is always considered “the quiet Beatle,” and we never hear much from him. We get to hear George tell John about making his own album, and that he thinks it’d be cool if all four of them had separate albums. After Get Back is released, he noted he will start doing that. Very fascinating to see the conversation behind what led to the separate albums in the future.
The moment I had been waiting for forever in this documentary, the rooftop performance. I wanted to see the behind-the-scenes, the prep, the conversations, and the worry, and I was not disappointed. I got fed with information. A huge leadup segment before the performance highlighted the speculation over if the roof will be able to hold all of the equipment, and Glyn and others setting up cameras on other building roofs. Anyways, I will cut straight to the chase.
The live concert begins with the Beatles performing “Get Back.” The documentary does a brilliant job splitting the screens throughout the performance showing the Beatles performing in one and the civilians’ reactions to the music on the street in the other. It was absolutely hilarious watching the public’s confusion, and people from other buildings going to the top of their roofs to watch. People saying “no way is that the Beatles” is pure comedy gold.
The chaos gets progressively worse, as police enter Apple Studios saying that they’ve received over thirty complaints in a matter of minutes from people/businesses over the noise. (Party poopers.) The police threaten Debbie the receptionist, and a worker named Jimmy stalling the police by saying they locked the doors to the roof. Debbie deflecting all the allegations despite the bloating music was truly mesmerizing.
I enjoyed the documentaries build-up of the complete chaos. From the police eventually saying to turn the PA off but then producers don’t, to the police peeking out the window commenting on the large crowd. The song’s kept going on and on to the point where the police finally went onto the roof. After one huge performance of “Don’t Let Me Down” to shove it in the police’s faces, they finally ended the show.
Photo credits: Discogs, IMBd, DailyMailUK, Tidal, and The Beatles
I would say the most impressive thing thus far in the whole documentary is how Peter Jackson juggles the scenes of the performance. The quality interviews on the streets from random people of all ages and the chaos in Apple studios with the producers and the police.
A refreshing ending was right after the performance with the band’s family, and producers gathering around listening to the recordings. I get to relieve all the tension building up in my body by watching a good thirty mins of The Beatles recording the rest of the songs in Apple studios that they could not finish on the rooftop because of the police interruption.
Part three was everything I was hoping for in the Get Back Documentary. Being able to see the huge rooftop performance from so many different angles and perspectives is award deserving. For us Beatles fans, we were truly given an early Christmas present with this section of the documentary.
Let’s get the negative out of the way. The only thing I have to criticize is three hours’ worth of footage to watch in all three parts. Yes, it’s a blessing and a curse. Make sure if you watch Get Back, you have plenty of time on your hands. On the upside, Get Back brings everything a Beatles fan could hope for. Being able to see John, Paul, Ringo, and George all together like never before was truly something special.
Congratulations you made it to the end of this long deep-dive review. I hope you enjoyed my take on the documentary, and I hope you’ll take the time to watch Get Back exclusively on Disney +.