From the new benevolent image of John Lennon to his bluffing complicity with Paul McCartney, through the demystification of the Savile Row concert …
Once upon a time, four boys in the wind … but breathless. Flushed by success, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr meet in January 1969 in a studio in Twickenham, to record 14 new songs, for a TV show, but also for their return to scene, and their next album … which will be the last in the history of Beatles ! From the sixty hours of exceptional archives – and 150 hours of sound recording – recorded at the time, Peter Jackson signed Get back, a three-part series available on Disney + for a few days. A document for History, which will for a long time redraw the world’s perception of Beatles. A work that says a lot about the Fab Four, their collaboration, their intimacy, their separation. This is what we will remember.
The complicity of John Lennon and Paul McCartney
When they meet in this studio in Twickenham, it has been several weeks, maybe even months, that the Beatles did not see each other. Completely erased during the first days (he hardly said a word during the first episode), John Lennon gradually found his marks and his complicity with Paul McCartney, over the recordings. There was a natural connection between the two childhood friends and it is shockingly obvious in this documentary. A form of nostalgia for their past relationship also shows. That of their beginnings. They have changed. They got old. Paul and John are no longer those two carefree musicians from Liverpool. “We no longer live together. We no longer meet when we wake up in the morning to make music together “, thus launches a melancholy Paul McCartney, visibly happy to find his playmate, even if he appears surprisingly lucid on the evolution of their friendship. During these few weeks, they meet, play, improvise, have fun. In the group, there is their partner and the others around. It is obvious. “There is not a single moment in all these hours of rushes when one has an inappropriate word towards the other. (…) The tone never rises between them”, underlines director Peter Jackson in the last issue of Paris Match.
Paul McCartney, Band Leader
However, one would have expected to see indeed two egos clash in musical creation. But it is not. At no time does John seem to dispute the leadership of the group with Paul. The latter thus emerges as the true composer, the one who created the songs, the music, the lyrics. It’s hard to know how this collaboration with Lennon went in previous years, but for the album Let it be, it is he who inspires the Beatles. Which sets the tempo of the rehearsals. Directed. Crop if necessary. The others follow. John too.
A misleading “label”?
So much so that in episode 2 we hear a disillusioned McCartney evoking the musical creation of Beatles which now rests entirely on his shoulders, or almost. Even though the songs are, as he says, still “labeled“Lennon and McCartney, we understand between the lines that the real songwriter, for some time (and at least in this year 1969), has been Paul, although he has to publicly co-sign his pieces with John. being said, Lennon’s impact in creating the latest titles from Beatles is probably under-presented in Get back. For example, we know that he wrote alone Don’t let me down, which is not reflected at all in the series.
John Lennon, a friend who wishes you well
Maybe also because the iconic singer of the group was obviously not the type to put himself forward. At least at this time, John Lennon appears in Get back like a calm, gentle man with astonishing calm. A thousand leagues from his image of a silent self-centered grump, “he is charming, relaxed happy, patient, funny”, rsums up the director in Paris Match. He teases his friends. Listen to them carefully. Follow their advice. With a permanent smile on his face, a look full of mischief that exudes the joy of living. The legend said it on the departure at this moment. But apart from the first episode (ie the first week of recording), at no time does John seem to want to distance himself from the band. He even talks about the future …
The disconcerting omnipresence of Yoko Ono
Was it his wife who gave him such serenity? Such wisdom? In any case, she’s there all the time. Glued to Lennon like a shadow, the Japanese artist never leaves John. Almost not saying a word in 8 hours, launching in sequence into psychedelic “musical” trips, she is elusive, like a spectral entity accompanying the last days of the Beatles. If Paul obviously has no feeling with her – we never see them exchange, look at each other, or discuss – he accepts her without flinching, understanding the place she now occupies in the intimate life of his friend. We don’t know what Yoko thinks about the music played by her husband’s band. We don’t know what she is thinking at all. But in a moment of bluffing clairvoyance, McCartney explains to his friends that he must adapt to this fusional relationship and his constant presence. Because John needs her. And Paul to conclude with this little sentence that changes everything: “It would still be laughable if in 50 years, we would say that Beatles broke up because Yoko sat on an amp … “
George Harrison’s departure
This discussion, by itself, shows that there was indeed an “obstacle” to overcome with Yoko Ono, even if Paul did not want her to become one. However, it was clearly not her who caused the group to break up. At least, things don’t seem as simple as what history chose to remember. There were already real dissensions within the group, in 1969. And the one who shows them most clearly in Get back, this is George Harrison. The guitarist of Beatles appears frustrated with his position. He would like more room. To be able to compare yourself to Eric Clapton. Being able to impose your own songs. He speaks openly about his desire to make a solo album. And when McCartney is too interventionist, he slams the door! While we could expect to see Lennon steer, it is in fact Harrison who leaves the group and who is brought back in-extremis by his comrades (and Yoko).
Wear, the real reason for separation?
So there was already a malaise, during this period, even if it is together, welded, that the Beatles will finish recording the album Let it be. Together they will meet on the roof of the Apple Records building in Savile Row. At this point, they seem almost ready to go on for a long time yet. But this concert will actually be their last. This album will actually be their farewell record. Get back ends without giving any real explanation for the separation from the group. We just understand that the four boys left each on their own, as they had come. That only Paul seemed ready to continue the adventure as before. The others just wanted something else and just didn’t have the passion to get together again after that …
The reluctance of a Ringo Starr almost put away
Of course, there was John and his life with Yoko, or George and his solo projects. But also Ringo, who seems to want to say stop over the episodes. On the verge of becoming a dad for the third time, he leads an almost orderly life. Above all, he no longer wants to do a big tour and even less to play abroad! As the group contemplates a huge “comeback” concert in an amphitheater in Libya, they are clearly vetoing, not at all motivated by the idea of resuming a rock star life.
The Beatles’ astonishing self-awareness
Unlike his comrades who totally embraced the hippie way of life, Ringo is described in the press of the time as the only one of the four who managed to stay “normal“. The other three have obviously changed, since their Yéyé years. They no longer want to be the pop-stars of Help! A new version of Beatles that the world has already discovered in their records, with more or less agreement. John and the others know, at this point, that they are no longer unanimous. Reading a newspaper article about their recent quarrels – following the departure of George Harrison – they laugh at the way they are portrayed in public opinion. They are clearly fully aware of their respective evolutions and assume them with disconcerting simplicity in Get back.
Really awesome musicians
“I am really happy that Peter [Jackson] ventured into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about Beatles recording together. The friendship and love between us is palpable and reminds me of the beautifully crazy times we had“, comments Paul McCartney, in a Disney press release. Get back is indeed an ode to the friendship of Beatles, to their genius too. Because this document shows how much Paul was a master of melody, how George was this gifted guitarist who only wanted to have fun on his neck, or how John was an absolute virtuoso, capable of anything. play, all the time. Inspired, they created in a few days half a dozen songs remained in the annals, complex titles, deep, timeless. If there was still any doubt about the artistic genius of Beatles, it is lifted in this doc.
Bonus: the truth about the Savile Row concert
A genius magnified in apotheosis on the roof of Apple Records, in central London. It’s been over 2 years since the Beatles gave a live concert. They are looking for something unique, first to record their latest songs. So they’re going to get on that roof. They don’t know it yet, but this will be their very last public performance. Get back unveils, for the first time in full, the 40 minutes of this strange performance. The Beatles play three songs there. Endlessly. For recording purposes. The public, 20 meters below, does not see them. He just hears the amps which explode in the streets of the city at lunchtime, and which bring in “Bobbies” not really inclined to be conciliatory. The hoped-for fireworks did not really take place. The police, held back as much as possible by the switchboard operator in a surrealist sequence, ended up having the amplifiers cut. Paul and the others come back down without making a fuss. They admit at the same time that it was not a great idea and certainly not the concert of the century. But it was their last together. A completely improbable live that the doc totally demystifies.