#Film, #Cinema, #movie review
Dec 13, 2021
Review: The Beatles: Get Back
The Beatles: Get Back is a documentary series directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and stars John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest Beatles fan. My parents never played them in the house, preferring the artists of the 1950s. Although, my dad is very quick to point out that they were superior musicians. I also didn’t have older siblings to introduce me to their albums.
When I listened to the Beatles it was mostly their solo efforts. Starting with Paul McCartney and Wings, I remember loving “Band on the Run” on top 40 radio in the ‘70s. I misheard that lyric as Man on the Run. Then I had a fascination with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy album which I bought on CD probably six years after it was released.
Then there was my favorite beatle, George Harrison. I always loved “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Check out the fantastic bluesy cover by Jeff Healy. Harrison had a big comeback album, Cloud Nine, in 1987 with two singles: a cover of Rudy Clark’s “Got My Mind Set on You” and “When We Was Fab” written with Jeff Lynne. I was also a big fan of The Traveling Wilburys.
Anyway, all this to say, I kind of wrote off the Beatles as a band that inspired my favorite acts but of which I would never spin an album or stream, except on the rare occasion.
Al Warren asked me on air to review Peter Jackson’s 8-hour documentary, The Beatles: Get Back. I groaned. Eight hours of the Beatles?! That sounded as close to torture as anyone could get. Boy, was I was wrong.
Beginning with retrospective clips with subtitles, instead of a voice over, I wasn’t sure where Jackson was going with this documentary. Could I stay with this until the end? The prognosis looked grim. Then I got to the meat of the film and noticed the beautiful transfer. It looked as if it could have been shot today. There is some softness here and there but that’s to be expected.
As I made my way through the documentary, it was like being in the studio with the Beatles. I’ve played in a band, hung out with musicians, even written songs of my own. This felt like coming home. It was like being there, sitting off to the side while the Beatles wrote, played, joked and laughed, and even argued a bit. There’s also audio gleaned surreptitiously by a microphone hidden in the cafeteria.
What a treasure trove for Beatles fans! What an amazing film for music fans!
There is no doubt that Paul is the band leader, the conductor. He knows exactly what he wants and chides members to keep up with his vision. This creates tension, especially with Harrison. George already had his mind set on his own solo career (see what I did there?), and Paul just about sets him over the edge.
Yoko Ono is always a presence, and while Paul feels she’s an intrusion to their creative process, he seems unfazed by her for the most part. She sits quietly except when they’re fooling around in-between takes. Harrison’s resentment isn’t apparent, but you can tell he feels like a hired musician instead of a member of the band.
It’s amazing to watch the four launch into covers, often in parody, and they know all these songs by heart. When creating original music Paul and John switch between keyboard and drums or bass and guitar. Whatever’s needed, they can do seamlessly. All the Beatles are amazingly talented. Billy Preston shows up to say hello and is recruited to play electric piano. He beams the whole time as he pounds the keys, a cigarette dangling from his lips.
This all culminates in a rooftop concert with the cops climbing the stairs theatening to arrest everyone.
If you’re even a casual Beatles fan, you owe it to yourself to watch this documentary. The camera captured history in the making, and you’ll feel part of it.
The Beatles: Get Back is streaming on Disney Plus.
Yes, this documentary is on the long side but well worth it. If you can’t spare the time, maybe watch Let It Be (1970) instead. There's a rumor that it will be available again soon. I’ve never seen it but at a runtime less than 90 minutes it won’t be as overwhelming as sitting down for a marathon of a documentary.
Rating: Five out of five stars.