Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Beatles Get Back 17: January 26

Part 3 opens with the now-familiar disclaimer about swearing and cigarettes, and the captions remind us that the band has been rehearsing for “a live album… and possibly some kind of stage show.” With the end of January as a deadline, they aim to perform on the roof of the Apple building in three days’ time. Meanwhile, we hear George playing “Window Window”, which he’d go on to demo again for his 1970 solo album but ultimately abandon.
Ringo shows off his latest on the piano, which will become “Octopus’s Garden”. George is impressed that Ringo finally learned a fourth chord—A minor in this case—and comes over to help him finish the song, suggesting other chords to fill out the verse. Soon Mal is writing down the words, and George Martin is humming possibilities for an arrangement. John and Yoko arrive, and as soon as he can light a cigarette, John hops behind the drumkit, so now we’ve seen every Beatle on the drums. It really is a charming scene.
To add to the overall cuteness, Paul and Linda arrive with her five-year-old daughter Heather, who immediately endears herself to everyone present. Once Billy arrives, she’s already wearing Glyn’s furry coat, singing along with their rehearsal of “Let It Be”, and helping Ringo on the drums. A jam develops, and after hearing Yoko do her trademark wailing, Heather tries some of her own. This turns into an arrangement of “Twist And Shout” that evolves in meter to what we now know as “Dig It” from the Let It Be album. (Part of this was also seen in the Let It Be film, as was some of the oldies jam, which was also included on Anthology 3.)
A bossa nova “Long And Winding Road”, also seen in the original film, leads to a more serious rehearsal of same. These take a while, mostly due to John’s lack of aptitude on the six-string bass, but also because it’s one of the slowest songs they’ve ever done. Eventually they nail the performance that will be the basis, after much slathering of strings, choirs, and other elements bound to induce diabetic shock, of the song on the Let It Be album that would be their final #1 single. (Jackson’s edit includes a good deal of discussion, with input from George Martin and Glyn, about the track and possible arrangement ideas. Strings and brass are mentioned, as are the Raelettes from the Ray Charles band.)
Everyone, particularly Heather, is still in a good mood at the day’s end. It hasn’t been the most raucous Sunday, with less than 20 minutes devoted to it here, but it’s been productive. Again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Beatles Get Back 16: January 25

Michael’s original Let It Be film included a scene where Paul is talking about the home movies he, John, and Ringo took during the Beatles’ Rishikesh jaunt of a year before. One coup of Jackson’s edit is that he was able to use some of this actual footage to illustrate the dialogue, along with putting it all in better context. The music used here includes the same mid-‘90s performance of George’s “Dehra Dun” from the Anthology soundtrack, plus a “Within You Without You” rehearsal from the Sgt. Pepper sessions. We even get the infamous shot of the copulating monkeys that inspired “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”, as one of Paul’s early takes from the White Album sessions plays under. Ringo’s timely choice to wear an Indian shirt to the studio space today notwithstanding, John and Paul have a more irreverent view of the experience than George, who would go back to India in a second. Paul feels the films show they were almost playing a role, and John agrees they weren’t being themselves. George finds that ironic, because finding themselves was the point of the excursion. They may have overcome the rift of two weeks before, but the boys are clearly growing up and apart.
Billy is still busy filming elsewhere, so the day starts with some busked covers before working on “Two Of Us”, specifically the harmonies, albeit via comedic Dylanesque, Scottish, and Jamaican accents and slight grammatical variations. George and Ringo aren’t as amused by the voices, but they gamely keep up. As a respite, George gets to revive his recent original “For You Blue”, which he plays on his acoustic, with John on the Hawaiian and Paul on the piano, the strings of which George Martin and Glyn have layered with newspaper to make it sound more honky-tonky. (One of these takes will the basis for the version eventually released on Let It Be.)
They’re still trying to figure out how to approach the songs, both as an album and as a potential live performance, with the switches between acoustic numbers and electric numbers. They could potentially have all the new songs ready in a few days. Glyn has changed his plans from leaving on Tuesday (three days off) to Thursday, though he says he’d like to have time to mix the tracks as well if it’s going to be an album as well as a show.
Meanwhile, they won’t be able to use the Primrose Hill site as mooted a few days before. John is still keen to a live show, with an audience, but without the BS needed to prepare it. George is happy with the organic development of the project, particularly with the atmosphere in the basement studio. It takes a while for Paul to say so, but whatever vision he had for a TV show has disappeared. He was hoping for something bigger, and a documentary of making an album isn’t it, because while they’ve had their fun, it’s not a catalyst to truly rejuvenate the band back to high-energy activity. His underlying hope, which is not voiced, is to get back to playing gigs, which isn’t going to happen for them. (Throughout these discussions, Ringo reads the newspaper and smokes.)
However, the captions inform us that Michael and Glyn have an idea for a suitable performance venue, so they bring Paul, Ringo, Mal, Kevin, Ethan, and at least one cameraman upstairs to the roof of the very same Apple building where they’ve been working in the basement. Presumably, provided they get the proper permission, as well as suficient structural support, the Beatles could play their show there.
Back downstairs, it’s tea time again, and the cocktails have come out while John plays “Mean Mr. Mustard”. Then Paul moves to the piano so they can work on “Let It Be”, George on his psychedelic painted Stratocaster. Robert Fraser is visiting again, and gets namechecked in the song. Also glimpsed today are Apple assistant Chris O’Dell and Alan Parsons, employed here as an engineer a few years away from launching his eponymous Project. Except for a moment showing painting Japanese characters on parchment, Yoko is merely there to smile at John and vice versa, or to stroke his hair when he lies in her lap.
As Part 2 ends, the captions inform us that the performance is penciled in for Wednesday, which gives them three full days to prepare. The credits roll and we hear a snatch of a rock jam featuring Billy on organ, and the old standard “Without A Song”, which he would re-record for an album in two years’ time. Sitting through the credits pays off, as we also get to hear a January 1969 performance of “Love Me Do”.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Beatles Get Back 15: January 24

The project, whatever it is, is progressing rapidly. With everyone already in place to rehearse, John tells Paul about the “book idea”, which would collect all the photos taken by Ethan Russell during the sessions and be released in conjunction with the film. George is still enthusiastic about getting “Get Back” out as a single, but Paul is oddly hesitant. “I’m just sort of still rehearsing,” he says. This is a turnabout, again, from what we’ve been told. Now it’s John and George who are riding the momentum, and pushing Paul, rather than the other way around. (Keep in mind this also reflects what Paul said about John on the 13th—once he’s keen on something, he’s all in.)
The captions tell us that Billy is off doing Lulu’s TV show; he is, after all, in town to get his own career off the ground. John remarks that Apple managed to sign Billy, and that George will be producing him. George, ever fiscally responsible, comments that they’d have to figure out how to pay him; were they to use Nicky Hopkins or somebody like that, union session rates would dictate. John and George figure Billy might as well become a full-fledged fifth Beatle, while Paul counters, humorously yet accurately, that it’s “bad enough with four.”
Michael asks if they have any new numbers; George Martin remarks, “You’re writing all the time, aren’t you, John?” This prompts John to pull out “Child Of Nature”, still referred to as “On The Road To Marrakesh”, which is somewhat limp. Glyn, still hammering out the sound, asks Paul to try a different bass, and we see him switch to the Rickenbacker, resplendent in its psychedelic paint job. After a few snatches of oldies, John remarks, “We seem to be at a loss without Billy”; based on their performances so far today, he’s not wrong.
In order to boost their energy, they decide to work on ones that haven’t been worked on as much, starting with “Two Of Us”. For a chance of pace, they try it acoustic, as opposed to the rocked-up versions at Twickenham. There is discussion about the pros and cons of using bass on the song, but they soon find their way to the tempo and style of the finished track. John and Paul find their Everly Brothers harmonies right away, to John’s visible delight. Yoko is at his side, but not in anybody’s way. Ethan can be spotted crouching throughout the studio space, but they don’t seem to notice or mind him either. Mal, who was seen earlier playing a tambourine with absolutely no sense of rhythm, takes the lunch orders while George thanks him for the bow ties he found. He also continues to dutifully write down any lyrics that emerge just in case.
In between takes of “Two Of Us”, John submits “Polythene Pam” and George tries out the “Hawaiian” lap steel while Paul plays “Her Majesty”, then tries to teach them “Teddy Boy”. It’s a complicated song, so John starts doing square dance calls to mask his disinterest. Billy arrives in time for tea and a few busks of “Maggie Mae”, one of which will make the eventual album, while another morphs into “Fancy My Chances With You”, another early Lennon-McCartney original.
Up until now, Ringo has been thumping along, merely keeping time, but the scene switches to a loose jam around a “can you dig it” theme, with John on the Hawaiian and Paul back on bass. The jam ends just as Pattie Harrison is seen for the first time all month, making her way through the cables to greet George with a kiss. John explains, “That was ‘Can You Dig It’ by Georgie Wood, and now we’d like to do ‘‘Ark the Angels Come’,” a quip that will be included on the eventual album.
John is still playing his electric guitar as the day wraps up, Ringo shows off his new Sony camcorder, and George asks George Martin how his own studio is coming together. For his part, Big George comments, “You’re working so well together. You’re looking at each other, you’re seeing each other. It’s happening, isn’t it?”
It’s not the most musically exciting day, but they’re simply doing what they do. The discomfort and ennui from earlier in the month seem ages ago. As we near the end of part 2 of Jackson’s edit, they’re on their way to something.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Beatles Get Back 14: January 23

Paul is back behind the drums while Yoko wails into a microphone and John coaxes feedback from his guitar. George and Ringo arrive while John talks excitedly about the jam, and how he’d like it to go on her next album, or even theirs. (Luckily, this does not happen.)
Michael is still hoping some kind of public performance will happen in a week’s time, and the band agrees to rehearse through the weekend to keep the momentum going. (Today is Thursday.)
Billy has arrived, and they’re already in good spirits, joking about what to play next. George is equally chuffed about getting some bow ties he’s asked Mal to procure. “Across The Universe” is scratched because it’s due to go out on an EP (which will be cancelled) and they joke about “Mal’s anvil” in case they want to try “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. They choose “Oh! Darling”, then George leads them into “Get Back”; even though they still haven’t figured out what to do with the verses, now Billy can take one of the solos. (We’ve never understood why it’s John soloing on this song and not George.) The three guitarists all contribute to the arrangement, and then Billy finds his descending part that ends each chorus. George notices the similarity to the Temptations’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, and we learn that Paul isn’t playing his Rickenbacker bass, despite its better sound, because the Hofner weighs less. They even try playing the song standing, instead of all sitting, leading to a wonderful sequence of F-words never before broadcast on a Disney platform.
The development of the “Get Back” arrangement dominates the day’s work, with only occasional detours into other songs, including “I’ll Get You”, “Help!”, and “Please Please Me”. During one break they’re talking about the tour where Jimmy Nicol sat in for Ringo, who was out with a tonsillectomy, and John keeps trying to get something out of his coat, but stops every time he sees the camera on him. We see Denis O’Dell enjoying the music; art dealer Robert Fraser is hovering on the sidelines as well. George suggests that “Get Back” be their next single ASAP, since it’s been months since their last one, and that way The Big Show could promote it.
Much of the drama that defined the first week is long past, so there’s not much extra to say about this segment. The focus is on their music, which was the original point of the project. Most of all, they’re all having fun, which was the original point of Jackson’s edit.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Beatles Get Back 13: January 22

The day begins with another read-aloud newspaper report of alleged public misbehavior by a Beatle as the band members and crew arrive. Paul is seated at the drums discussing the cover art for Mary Hopkin’s upcoming debut album with Derek while Ethan Russell snaps photos.
Tea arrives, and apparently so does Ringo, who cellotapes what looks like one of his sons’ drawings on the wall next to his kit while Michael tries to talk Paul into holding The Big Show on Primrose Hill, a park in the north of London. John talks about seeing Fleetwood Mac on the television the night before, which reminds Paul of Canned Heat, and he starts singing what he can remember of their “Going Up The Country”. Itching to get going, John tells “Glynis” (as in the actress Glynis Johns) to start rolling tape. Decent versions of “Dig A Pony” and “I’ve Got A Feeling” follow, the latter peppered with quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
Even before they listen to some playbacks, they’re all in a good mood, and it only improves with the arrival of Billy Preston, a young American piano and organ player whom they’d met in their Hamburg club days. The caption says he only dropped by to say hello, but John is already explaining what they’re trying to accomplish, and that maybe if Billy listens to some of the rehearsal tapes he might come up with some keyboard parts to add. George says it would be faster for him to learn the songs on the spot, and they install him behind the electric piano. We cut to the middle of a take of “I’ve Got A Feeling”, and Billy plays the lick that will feature on the verses. Paul’s expression of delight when he hears this for the first time is one of the highlights of Jackson’s edit. (At the risk of reading too much into things, it would appear that John and George are more demonstrably enthused about Billy’s presence than Paul is, but that’s more a reflection on Paul’s general personality. He never was one to gush.)
After making terrific strides on that song, they move on to multiple rehearsals of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Dig A Pony”, which are just as strong. They were already gelling as a foursome, and Billy’s given them a boost. Plus, he’s so damn cheerful, and matches them ciggie for ciggie, so he fits right in. As the day ends, John points out to Michael that the project has taken on a trajectory that’s perfect for “the third Beatles movie,” starting with the uncertainty of Twickenham and now on the upswing with them playing so well and the addition of Billy in the mix.
“Is he gonna stay with you?” asks Michael, presumably meaning with the band, and not in John and Yoko’s residence.
“Yeah, well, sure!” replies John.
It’s been a full, productive, musical day. Glyn will give some of today’s performances rough mixes, including a stab at the Drifters’ “Save The Last Dance For Me” and Fats Domino’s “I’m Ready”, and eventually include them on his first working sequences for the proposed Get Back album. These can now be heard in 2021’s Let It Be Super Deluxe Edition.
As they make their way out of the studio space, Peter Brown—Brian Epstein’s longtime assistant since before the Beatles, and now on the Apple board—tells John and Yoko that American impresario Allen Klein, who’s recently been managing the Rolling Stones, is in town and wants to meet, presumably to discuss a similar arrangement for the Beatles. As the captions give this scene some context, the intro from album version of “You Never Give Me Your Money” is used as accompaniment and subtle commentary. (Also glimpsed very briefly today is Allan Williams, their onetime manager in Liverpool, who sent the band to Hamburg in the first place.)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Beatles Get Back 12: January 21

As a man in a suit tunes the same Bl├╝thner piano we saw in the Twickenham scenes, Ringo and Michael enter the space in the basement of the Apple building that will be used for the Beatles to continue rehearsing their new songs for a yet-to-be-determined purpose. They agree that this new setup is much nicer than where they spent the first part of the month. Based on conversations between the two plus Mal, George Martin, and George Harrison as they all arrive, it’s apparent the band spent the day before in the basement happily playing music; perhaps because there were no cameras or Michael around? (The camera switches perspective occasionally to the two young women in the short skirts of the time bringing the tea.)
John, Yoko, and Glyn arrive, and the captions tell us that the band “still intend to record their new songs live, without edits or overdubs.” Outside of the baffles around Ringo’s drum kit, which inhibit the vibrations from the amplifiers, they won’t be using headphones or other isolation techniques to which they’d become accustomed over the years at the EMI studio on Abbey Road. They are determined to hone each song until they can play it flawlessly. They have time, since the sound in the room hasn’t been perfected yet, either from the band’s perspective or Glyn’s.
The captions go on to say that while the TV special has been abandoned, they’ve decided to keep the film crew on so that the footage of them making the album will become their next feature film. (After the productions of A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, the band and their management struggled to find a suitable “third” film. They had minimal involvement in the animated Yellow Submarine, so United Artists would gladly distribute a movie showing “the Beatles at work.”)
Even though the scope of the project has changed, there is still the common knowledge that some kind of “climax” for the film will be required, so we can expect African amphitheaters and whatnot to be suggested ad nauseam. Time is still a factor, as Glyn has a previous recording engagement that will affect the schedule. (Keep in mind, the date for the show they’d originally planned was over the previous weekend.)
There’s a sweet moment when Yoko approaches George Martin to ask where she might be able to buy classical music scores, and he recommends some local sheet music dealers. Beyond that, she will be seen and not heard today.
The boys read aloud from an item in a news tabloid hinting at dissension in the Beatle ranks. Along with comments on their personal lives and pro-drug stance, the writer drops hints about the tension that caused George’s exit the week before. Both John and George take umbrage at the suggestion that fisticuffs occurred, so we can discount that myth. Derek Taylor, their press officer, arrives on cue, and they ask him whether they have any legal recourse. He doesn’t seem concerned; it should also be said that by his own account, he spent much of his tenure in his position drunk on Scotch and high on other substances.
One running joke begins on this day. Michael had directed the Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus TV special—another project that would be delayed, this one for almost 30 years—which featured John jamming with Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell, and Keith Richards. Michael wants John to film an intro for the Stones’ set, something along the lines of “And now, your host for this evening.” John will provide occasional variations on this line for the duration of Jackson’s edit.
At one point Mal brings around a strange object which is said to be Magic Alex’s latest technological innovation: a prototype guitar with a swiveling neck that would allow the player to switch between bass strings on one side and guitar strings on the other. As daft as this appears, Mal then holds up what looks like a two-by-hour and says it’s the next model. Everyone laughs, even more so when George says, “Let’s give him half a million quid!”
While various technicians move equipment and wires around, the band happily jams on a variety of old numbers, including some early Lennon-McCartney originals, and made-up ones. All are clearly cheerier and more enthusiastic than when they were at Twickenham. Paul has applied the “BASSMAN” sticker from his amp to the body of his Hofner bass, and George switches between the Les Paul we’ve seen and a unique rosewood Fender Telecaster. They’re itching to get going, and soon begin working on “Dig A Pony”, despite continued feedback issues. Glyn suggests they take lunch so he can sort things out, and Ringo announces that he has a doctor appointment at 3:30. Suddenly we see Paul at the drums, and Ringo is strumming Paul’s bass upside down while John belts out oldies. Then Ringo’s back at his kit, and now it’s Paul’s turn to read the tabloid article out loud in a funny voice.
Despite not being fully up to studio quality, Glyn has been recording the band, and they are able to listen to playbacks with him in the control room. These scenes give lie to the myths that have built up over the years based on all those photos of the band sitting around with somber faces. In truth, they’re listening, not brooding, and they like what they hear. (We also get to see John intone his “I dig a pygmy by Charles Hawtrey” quip that would go on to precede “Two Of Us” on the Let It Be album.)
We hear a brief rendition of John’s still-incomplete “Madman”, then “I’ve Got A Feeling” and several jabs “Don’t Let Me Down” done in a variety of speeds and styles. John moves to the just-delivered Fender Rhodes electric piano so they can work on “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, and the boys remark that it would be nice to have a full-time pianist. Paul gets a little bossy with hammering out the parts, but the other three are fully engaged, seemingly unhampered by simmering resentment or narcotics. (It’s not clear if they’ve been drinking anything stronger than all that tea.) They finish for the evening, looking forward to resuming tomorrow.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Beatles Get Back 11: January 15 through 20

Over the familiar bucolic shot of Ringo’s lawn, the captions inform us that this meeting with George was very productive, in contrast to Sunday. They have decided to scrap the planned TV special, and relocate to the recording studio being built in the basement of the Apple office building so they can record the new songs there.
The calendar switches to the next day, and Michael directs the cameras to film Mal, Kevin, and Glyn dismantling the equipment on the Twickenham soundstage. Before everything is taken apart, however, Paul uses the room to record a demo of “Oh! Darling” at the piano, with extra echo.
We see George for the first time in five days, shown walking into Twickenham so he and Glyn can check out the new studio together. There, we are told, “they are not happy with what they find.” The equipment Magic Alex has installed falls far short of his promise of a state-of-the-art 72-track recording desk, producing “an unacceptable level of distortion and hiss.” Glyn reaches out to George Martin, who assembles a team from the EMI studio on Abbey Road to bring in some working equipment that will be combined with, once again, George Harrison’s eight-track machine. They work through the weekend, but the setup is still not ready on Monday January 20, when the band comes in to record, so they choose to rehearse instead.
No footage is captured of the band at work inside the building on this date, but we do see each of the boys arriving outside; Ringo is chauffeured, as are John & Yoko, George drives himself, and Paul walks up the street, possibly having taken the tube. Tony interviews two of the “Apple scruffs,” young women who kept vigil outside the building, as well as at the Abbey Road studio and Paul’s house nearby plus, lately, Twickenham, in hopes of getting a glimpse of their idols. (George coined the phrase, and would write an affectionate song about them the following year.)
Tony asks about their motivation for standing in wait, as well as their opinions of John and Yoko and the rumors of the band splitting. They’re not concerned about either, since they’re mostly there to see Paul, but they would love to see the band play a live show.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Beatles Get Back 10: January 14

Today’s footage starts with Paul expounding on his version of music theory to one of the crew, including a demonstration of “Martha My Dear” om the piano. Ringo arrives, and the two break into a four-hand party piece, as if it’s one of their regular routines. Paul moves on to “Woman”, which he wrote under a pseudonym for Peter & Gordon in 1966 to see if he could get a hit single without his name to drive it. (He could, and did.) The crew member asks how he writes, and Paul displays what he has so far of the newly started “The Back Seat Of My Car”, which would be a highlight of Ram two years later; for now, he does Beach Boys impressions over it for Glyn’s benefit. Meanwhile, Ringo occupies himself with the cameras trained around the set.
Both Paul and Ringo seem to be in jocular moods, even though there’s not much to do. As they watch sets being brought in for use on The Magic Christian, they joke with Michael, Tony, Glyn, and Mal about the characters they’d play in the impromptu film they could make with all the free time. As John plus Yoko are busy elsewhere on the site granting an interview for Canadian television, Paul offers to be rigged up into chains to rise above the soundstage.
After the footage cuts to the next scene, John is sitting near Ringo and Paul in the directors’ chairs, and the three engage in a series of in-jokes and asides obviously familiar to themselves. Peter Sellers, in the company of Denis O’Dell and likely there in preparation for The Magic Christian, visits their corner of the set and is immediately at a loss to keep up with John’s non-sequiturs. He voices his confusion as to what the Beatles are trying to accomplish at this moment, and their own voiced befuddlement doesn’t ease his discomfort, and he soon crawls away.
With nothing else to do, seemingly, they discuss the absurd possibilities of the camera documenting their own maladies. John openly informs those present that he had to leave the interview he was giving earlier in order to be physically sick off-camera. Paul is alternately amused and uncomfortable with this candor, even while drinking from a glass of wine; Ringo mostly tries to stay awake. (George Martin can be seen briefly, joining the boys for a tea break.) But whatever had inhibited John earlier in the week is encouraging him now, and his side of the conversation consists of recited Beatles lyrics, along with his trademark absurd asides, familiar from his published works, delivered directly to the camera trained on his face.
Soon the boys are shown at their instruments. First we hear John playing “Mean Mr. Mustard” at the electric piano, and this leads into his otherwise unfinished “Madman”, which is in the same key and tempo. This is apparently all they had the energy for today, and Michael asks whether they want to stay at the film studio or move somewhere else. Since they’re due to meet with George tomorrow to get him back into the fold, they decide to stop filming, and the day is wrapped.
***
As the Twickenham stage of the Get Back project comes to an end, some notes:
• All of the Beatles had been fans of Peter Sellers since his days on BBC Radio’s The Goon Show. While they had already been acquainted for a few years, and Ringo was about to co-star with him in The Magic Christian, they might not have known that the man’s personality often left him aloof in crowds. Sellers was the type of actor who was only comfortable when he was “on”, performing as a character with outlandish quirks—see Inspector Clouseau or Dr. Strangelove—so ordinary conversation was stilted, and improvisation was impossible if he wasn’t leading it. Therefore, his discomfort in the setting above was not necessarily exacerbated by the Beatles’ own japes.
• While Jackson’s edit provides some evidence, it is not made explicitly clear that during the first part of January, John was actively using heroin, which not only affected his leadership potential, but made him lethargic, unresponsive, and certainly less than productive. Reports differ as to when exactly he started using it, but certainly the media backlash from his drug bust the previous October (a setup by corrupt policemen that would lead to years of struggle with American immigration authorities under the direction of the Nixon administration) as well as the critical reception of their Two Virgins album—both the audio content and the nude posed photos on the cover—and Yoko’s miscarriage in November all weighed heavily on their daily lives. Feeling persecuted, misunderstood, and utterly alone, they drifted into the junkie lifestyle. (John would also say they used it as solace from the rude treatment the other Beatles paid them, and insist he never injected it, only snorting it.)
• The heroin angle is a lot clearer when we see the footage of the interview John and Yoko were giving in the early part of this day’s installment. As can be observed, both are sluggish and distracted, and after trying to stifle oral emissions for a few minutes, John excuses himself so he can go somewhere to throw up. After he returns to the interview, he’s in better shape, and eventually his mood and his humor return to the level we see following the Peter Sellers encounter.
• Clearly, John’s dependence on heroin, as well as his deferring to Yoko in group discussions, as mentioned before, did not encourage George into putting any further effort into the Beatle thing, and conditions would need to be met before they could continue, whether as they were or in any manner.
• Unfortunately, John and Yoko would continue to struggle for several years to overcome their addiction to heroin. John would write and record “Cold Turkey”, written in the wake of a horrific weekend attempting withdrawal from the drug, as a solo single by the end of 1969, and it’s been suggested that they were still using at the time of his Rolling Stone interview in December 1970, and even into the summer of 1972. Yoko allegedly had a relapse of her own in the summer of 1980, while John and pre-school Sean were vacationing in Bermuda, right before they completed the music that would go on to be released on Double Fantasy. John’s candor and Yoko’s guardedness have clouded the whole truth, but the drug was undoubtedly a factor in their lives, and affected those around them.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Beatles Get Back 9: January 13

Part 2 starts with the same basic info that opened Part 1, including the warning about “explicit language, mature themes, and smoking.” The next slides remind us that George apparently quit the project and the band on Friday, and that a meeting on Sunday didn’t solve these issues. Ringo is the first Beatle to arrive, and as he, Michael, and Tony cross to the director’s chairs to chat, Michael greets the overhead boom mic.
Mal asks Ringo about the meeting. Ringo says it was “fine… a lot of good things, but it sort of fell apart at the end.” While he and Michael discuss what kind of film they have so far, a bouquet of flowers from the Hare Krishnas arrives for George, to much levity. As Paul and Linda arrive, we hear Glyn telling Tony that his wife is pregnant. (Ethan Johns would grow up to be a musician and producer himself, and even work with Paul McCartney in 2013.) Neil arrives and reports that he couldn’t reach John on the telephone.
We learn more about the meeting the day before, for which Linda was apparently in attendance, and it is revealed that Yoko did most of the talking on behalf of John, who was silent. “In the middle of all that,” says Paul, “George went.” He goes on to say that he understands why John and Yoko would want to be together around the clock, and that the songwriting dynamic had already changed before Yoko showed up, as he and John weren’t “living together” on the road anymore. He has no doubts about their musical ability as a band, but he finds himself writing about “white walls” to appear to John and Yoko’s artsy airs. While the “young lovers” may be “going overboard”, Paul knows that’s just how John is—he’s always been impulsive and all-in on whatever captures his fancy. He thinks it would be silly “in fifty years’ time to think ‘the Beatles split up because Yoko sat on an amp.’”
Michael asks again about the The Big Show—which is understandable, because cameras are rolling and money is being spent on the ongoing production—and Paul believes that each day they lose, like today, should push the dress rehearsal day back as well. He goes on to explain an idea about the TV show intercutting their songs with news reports from around the globe, earthquakes and whatnot, ending with the bulletin that “the Beatles have broken up.”
Paul’s body language gives away a lot here. He’s fidgeting, whistling, chewing his nails, picking at his beard. Michael asks if Paul thought he had any influence on John to bend his way. Paul replies, “I don’t know, you know.” A pause. “And then there were two.” His eyes are wet and he’s trembling.
Blessedly, Mal has apparently reached John on the phone, and comes to get Paul, who follows him off the stage. Linda and Michael expound on their love for the Beatles as fans; we also see photographer Ethan Russell sitting quietly to the side. Paul returns to the gathering, almost beaming, as John is on his way in.
An hour later, John and Paul are in the studio canteen. Michael has hidden a microphone in a flowerpot to capture their conversation, which we hear, captioned onscreen. They discuss George’s attitude; John says he understands George not wanting to “compromise” himself to be creative. “It’s a festering wound that we’ve allowed… and yesterday we allowed it to go deeper, and we didn’t give him any bandages.” Paul feels that despite their changing musical inclinations, they can still combine and be great, but John cautions that their egos will still cause them to bend things to their will rather than letting each other contribute naturally. The natural hierarchy of the band is brought up; Paul feels John has always been “boss”, while John counters with all the times he felt “frightened” of challenging Paul’s arranging instincts.
It’s fascinating to hear what seems like a natural conversation between these partners. While it’s frustrating to hear them interrupt each other, it’s still clear that they do communicate in their own way, despite all the conjecture that has built up over a half-century.
They return to the soundstage with the intention of going to George’s house together in a gesture of goodwill and friendship, but he’s apparently visiting his parents in Liverpool, and won’t be back for two days. Ringo suggests the three of them rehearse, and they go to their instruments.
We don’t hear much playing right away, as Paul is stuck trying to come up with Loretta’s last name in “Get Back”. John looks bored, but he’s still actively contributing to the process. Ringo even chimes in, suggesting “looking for a blast from the past” to rhyme with “but he knew it couldn’t last.”
While packing up, Michael asks again about the plan for the show. Paul figures they should delay it another week to be on the safe side, but they still plan on doing something. John even says, “I’ll leave my favorite guitar here as a sign.”
Other sources than Jackson’s edit show that a lot more happened on this day—and also that a lot more didn’t happen—but many theories have been expunged, such as John’s total apathy, Paul’s megalomania, and Yoko’s interference. The whole story is certainly more complicated than what we can see and hear today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Beatles Get Back 8: January 12

Over an image of a lovely green lawn outside a mildly Tudor manor, the captions inform us that “On Sunday the four Beatles, along with Yoko and Linda, meet at Ringo’s house. The meeting does not go well.” End of Part 1.
Even before George walked out of the rehearsals, there was a meeting planned to discuss some potential business that the Beatles did not want to elaborate on in front of cameras. We can assume that the meeting addresses George’s grievances as well. But what were they?
Being taken seriously, not just as a songwriter but as an equal in the band, had been an issue with George since he joined John and Paul in 1958. As their songwriting partnership strengthened in the early days, the two would work together, “eyeball to eyeball” as they’d say, and then teach the songs to George and Ringo. Usually, since John and Paul had their Everly-style harmonies down, George would have to find a complicated third part to sing. While this certainly was a musical education, once he started writing songs worthy of Beatle albums, he would have to wait until John and Paul had gone through their existing supplies. It was an uphill battle; George Martin repeatedly lamented after the fact that he was just as guilty of not encouraging George in the studio.
George did see Apple in the same way Paul did: with the intention to encourage struggling artists, and certainly friends, whom he felt deserved exposure. He spent several months producing a solo album for Apple songwriter Jackie Lomax, who’d already recorded George’s “Sour Milk Sea” as his first single, which featured Paul and Ringo in the rhythm section plus Eric Clapton on guitar and Nicky Hopkins on piano.
Following the completion of mixing the album in Los Angeles, George and his wife Pattie visited Bob Dylan’s family in upstate New York around Thanksgiving, and while there he met the members of The Band, whose debut Music From Big Pink album had been released in July. After writing some songs with Dylan, and seeing the communal atmosphere among The Band (at that time anyway) that had also resulted in 1967’s fabled Basement Tapes with Dylan, George was itching to have that kind of camaraderie and give and take with the guys he’d known and played with for ten years. (Jackson’s edit depicts George talking about The Band in passing, to little response from John or Paul.)
Something that is not discussed at all is George’s personal life. According to Pattie, Eric Clapton’s ex-girlfriend Charlotte Martin had been staying with them at their house, and after a New Year’s Day party seemed to be getting very chummy with George. Pattie confronted him, he called her paranoid, and she moved out to stay with friends. In her memoir, she says, “Six days later George phoned me to say that the girl had gone and I went home.” (This adds another angle to Clapton’s own infatuation with Pattie, which would become legendary on its own.)
Another issue that could have exacerbated the atmosphere may have been lingering since the previous month. George had apparently met some members of the Hells Angels in California, and innocently invited them to “drop by” the Apple offices should they ever be in London. Sure enough, during the first week of December 1968, two of them arrived at Apple, along with a coterie of unwashed companions, including writer Ken Kesey, and hefty import fees for their motorcycles, which Apple duly paid. The crew took up space in the building all month, through the company’s lavish Christmas party, where the two Angels came close to decking John in his Father Christmas outfit, but mostly laid waste to the banquet as soon as it was revealed. While the exact date of their eventual departure has not been recorded, most sources say the new year had already started by the time George managed to convince the bikers et al that it was time to move on.
So while there were plenty of factors affecting his mood in this period, we still don’t know what exactly happened on January 10 in the moments before George told the band he was leaving. Did something specific erupt over lunch? Or was it simply a slow-boiling kettle? His diary for the next day reported that “John and Yoko came and diverted me at breakfast”; he would later say he wrote “Wah-Wah” during this period. But future testimony from George doesn’t elaborate any further than that he was simply fed up with the group dynamic, and that he realized he had other options for playing music, certainly with people who gave him more respect, musically as well as personally.
One final note for this segment: the credits for Part 1 begin to roll as George’s “Isn’t It A Pity” demo plays. When this song ends, the music switches to the instrumental “The Castle Of The King Of Birds”; Jackson’s edit includes Paul playing this briefly on the piano on January 9. This group version, recorded on January 6, is led by Paul on organ, with Ringo keeping time and John and George adding simple electric guitar elements. After two minutes there’s a solo piano interlude, then the band comes in again with organ. For the final 30 seconds, it’s just Paul on piano.
These are certainly taken from several longer renditions and jams and re-edited, and while it’s merely noodling over the same two chords, we find it fascinating. It’s exactly the type of thing that could have been included in the hardly-to-capacity bonus discs in 2021’s Let It Be Super Deluxe Edition, but wasn’t. (Paul would later use this melody for a proposed Rupert The Bear feature film soundtrack that was never completed.)

Monday, January 10, 2022

Beatles Get Back 7: January 10

Paul and Ringo, with Michael and Glyn, are sitting in directors’ chairs to the side of the soundstage with Dick James, their music publisher, going over a list of song titles he’s acquired for Northern Songs, their publishing company. Paul is noticeably testy around Dick, but he lights up when he recognizes some of the “golden oldies” the company now owns. George arrives, thanks Dick for the Christmas present (glasses—“something to drink out of or the wife can throw,” says Dick) and sits by Ringo, who shows him the list of “what you have half a percent of.” John and Yoko arrive, and there is some discussion about a meeting the band is to have with Neil Aspinall—roadie since the Cavern days, and now director of Apple—that’s supposed to be very good news. This is more interesting to them than Dick’s crowing about Vera Lynn recording two Beatles songs, and the boys walk over to their instruments to start playing.
Despite not having finished the words yet, Paul leads them into several rehearsals of “Get Back”, trying to hammer out chords and dynamics. George makes some suggestions, which Paul dismisses. George supposes that Eric Clapton would be better at figuring out what Paul wants, and noodles while John and Paul huddle over the lyrics.
There’s an edit halfway into “Two Of Us”, which still has the more rocking arrangement, juxtaposed with shots of John and Paul connecting, and George brooding. They call for lunch, and then George says, “Uh, I think I’ll be… uh, I’m leaving the band now.”
“When?” John asks.
“Now,” replies George. “Get a replacement. Write in to the NME [a music trade publication] and get a few people.”
Soundman Tony Sutton asks if the camera is still rolling. Tony Richmond calls “cut” and the screen goes black. A caption informs us that George walked out of the studio, and we see a page from his diary that day, confirming that he “left the Beatles.”
The captions go on to report that after lunch, John, Yoko, Paul, and Ringo returned to the rehearsal space. We hear them literally wonder what to do as a camera focuses on the vacant cushions by the side of Ringo’s drums. They commence playing loud, aggressive versions of “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down”; based on their manner, plus the beer bottles and wine glasses in view, they have likely been imbibing. We move to a montage of furious jamming with appropriate crazy camera work, with Yoko wailing at what had been George’s microphone, Paul coaxing feedback out of his amp, and Ringo playing his drums harder than he’s been seen all month. Suddenly Paul is on drums and Ringo is providing commentary into an offstage mic. Then cut to John leading a falsetto chorus of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” while Paul is shown climbing about the scaffolding at the side of the soundstage.
After the music stops, Michael wonders how George’s exit should be treated in the film they’re making. John is dismissive: “If he leaves, he leaves… if he doesn’t come back by Tuesday we get Clapton.” Michael asks if anyone else had ever left the band so abruptly. John hesitates, and replies, “Yeah, Ringo.” Meanwhile, Yoko calls John’s name loudly over a microphone to Paul’s piano accompaniment.
Neil and George Martin have arrived, and explain to Michael “the box” George has been in for years, having to play second fiddle to the Lennon/McCartney dominance. Even though John and Paul don’t write much together anymore, “they’re still a team.” Ringo’s wife Maureen is there too, and Paul tells her if she learns the chords A7, G7, and D7 over the weekend, “you’re in,” to much laughter.
Michael again asks the gathering what the plan is; John says, “Split George’s instruments.” Michael goes on to relate an anecdote about Orson Welles from his acting days as John and Yoko walk away. He then tells the remaining people that they should think about a location. George Martin remarks, “Location isn’t really a main problem at the moment.”
Slow-motion images are accompanied by George’s solo demo of “Isn’t It A Pity”, which was actually recorded a few weeks later. The camera focuses on a shot of John, Paul, and Ringo huddled together with their coats on, as their arms extend around each other in a group hug.
***
This installment is the one Beatlemaniacs had possibly anticipated and certainly dreaded the most. Certain dates loom large in the band’s legend, and the fact that cameras were around for this one adds to its significance.
Some notes for context:
• Dick James was the publisher who took a chance on the sheet music rights to the Beatles’ first two singles for EMI, and partnered with their manager Brian Epstein to form Northern Songs, which would be the exclusive publisher of Lennon/McCartney compositions going forward. Due to standard practices of the time, John’s and Paul’s shares in the company were less than those of Dick James and his team. Even after the company went public, John and Paul each owned less of a percentage of the company than James and Co. did, with George’s and Ringo’s shares in the low single digits (hence Ringo’s remark about “half a percent”). Since forming Apple, and speaking with other songwriters among their peers, John and Paul were feeling increasingly resentful about having naively agreed to a deal wherein Dick made millions off their work through sheer circumstance. This relationship would soon deteriorate to the point where Dick sold all of his majority shares, leading to a buy-out by Lew Grade’s ATV Corporation, which not only didn’t benefit John and Paul financially, but would one day lead to Michael Jackson buying the catalog, depriving the Beatles from owning their own music yet again. Paul would go on to become very involved as well as very rich in the music publishing industry, to the point where his MPL Communications company is now one of the largest in the world, owning the rights to several lucrative entities—but not anything originally administered by Northern Songs, save those first two singles.
• Most sources have reported that the band had just returned from lunch when George left, although this edit suggests he left before lunch. (The official tie-in book is vague on this point.) It’s also been suggested that George’s beef that day was with John, and not Paul—the latter belief usually supported by such evidence as the tension depicted in the Let It Be film.
• Ringo did indeed quit the Beatles during the recording sessions for the White Album, feeling unappreciated and not as close as “the other three” were to each other. After two weeks away with his family, and receiving telegrams and flowers begging him to do so, he returned—just in time to film the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” promo films, which were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
• It’s curious that as of this installment, we’ve seen Yoko, Linda, and now Maureen, but not George’s wife Pattie. She was definitely around during the White Album, and even sings on “Birthday” with Yoko.
• As Michael makes his comment about Orson Welles, the band reacts with laughter. It could be that they’ve already heard his suspicion that the famous auteur was his biological father, a claim that has been disputed as physically impossible by biographers. There is a mild resemblance between the two; what we find more interesting is that Michael apparently had the story confirmed by his mother’s best friend, socialist and designer jeans pioneer Gloria Vanderbilt, with whom he went on to have a “relationship”. Whatever the truth, we can’t imagine anyone with Michael’s grating vocal timbre being cast in any stage play, so it’s best he pursued directing.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Beatles Get Back 6: January 9

The future Linda McCartney makes her first appearance today, as Paul introduces her to Michael and director of photography Tony Richmond. He moves to the piano and begins playing “Another Day”, two years away from its release as his first solo single. Mal asks if he has anything else, and he starts working on “The Long And Winding Road” while Michael still tries to interest Ringo in the amphitheater in Africa. (Besides being tasked with writing down lyrics, it’s clear Mal is a sounding board for them as well.)
Michael and Linda share their affection for Ringo as he goes to join Paul, who plays “Golden Slumbers” while Linda takes pictures. George arrives, and Paul auditions the unfinished “Carry That Weight” as a possible song for Ringo to sing. At this point there’s a space for a verse that will ultimately go unused. He then moves on to an instrumental the screen identifies as “The Castle Of The King Of Birds” while George takes a turn at Ringo’s drum kit. He’s not bad, either.
There’s an abrupt edit to George busking “For You Blue”, written the night before, while Paul plays piano parts very similar to those on the eventual album version. John appears wearing what he calls “continuity clothes”—basically, the same outfit he had on the day before. George agrees it will look good for the film, but we suspect he’d simply slept in them.
Having been inspired by George’s output, Paul leads rehearsals of “Get Back” in order to develop lyrics for the verses. The screen captions helpfully inform us that England had been experiencing a wave of “anti-immigrant protests” lately as Paul improvises lines about Pakistanis and Puerto Ricans. This leads to a very silly improvisation along the same lines called “Commonwealth”, with goofy voices sung by Paul and interjected by John. George and Ringo offer their usual solid musical support, and Mal can be seen in the background taking notes, just in case; you never know with this crew.
John moves to the piano so they can rehearse “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, which the film doesn’t tell us had been rehearsed during the previous two days. It’s a bit slow, but Paul enjoys John’s reactive interjections to various lines (“And so I quit the police department…” “Get a job, cop!”) He’s back on guitar for a montage of upbeat jamming, including the impromptu “Suzy Parker”, which was featured in the Let It Be film. A verse of George playing Bob Dylan’s then-unreleased “Mama You Been On Mind” is intercut with shots of John watching and Paul and Linda cuddling. A jokey trad jazz take on “Across The Universe” cuts to another improvised song, “Shakin’ In The Sixties” (“with a book bought by Dick James,” in foreshadowing; further foreshadowing occurs when Paul says it’s getting loud and John says he can “leave the group then if you don’t like it”).
Paul’s back at the piano so they can learn “Let It Be”; John and George are standing for a change, mostly so they can see Paul, and John covers up his struggles at playing the six-string bass by harmonizing badly. Glyn offers astute suggestions for the arrangement, and Linda and Yoko are shown in rapt conversation; perhaps comparing notes on the time each spent living in Scarsdale and attending Sarah Lawrence College?
It actually has been something of a productive day musically. Other sources aver that some of these songs are shown out of order, having been subject to Jackson’s editing, but the band got a lot of playing in for a change. Best of all, they’re not seen being pestered about how to plan The Big Show, which still has a dress rehearsal scheduled in nine days’ time.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Beatles Get Back 5: January 8

George and Ringo are first to arrive today, and are discussing the previous night’s television entertainment with Michael Lindsay-Hogg. This may seem innocuous, until Jackson edits in a portion of the exact show that inspired George to write the waltz-time “I Me Mine”, which he then demonstrates on John’s electric (unplugged) for those present, including the newly arrived Paul. When John arrives, he ridicules the tune, reminding George that they’re a rock band. George replies that he doesn’t care if anyone likes it, as it can go into the musical he and Apple press officer Derek Taylor are supposedly writing.
Seemingly to George’s defense, Paul asks John point blank if he’s written anything they can use. John hasn’t, and says so. This leads to a testy-sounding exchange about work ethics, but the footage reveals that they are clearly playing up to the boom mic overhead that’s been (not very discreetly) capturing all of their conversations. Meanwhile, Ringo’s having fun with the reverb and feedback on another microphone.
Once again Michael goads a discussion of just how the proposed TV show will be. George Martin says he hopes they don’t do what they did with the “Hey Jude” promo clip, which ended up with the audience practically crawling all over them, and suggests a barbed wire fence be erected around them. The band still doesn’t know where they want to perform, and wonder how to improve the soundstage they’re in for such a purpose. Here Jackson includes a musical suggestion from John about how they should “concentrate on the sound”; most sources, including the recent official hardcover tie-in book of dialogue transcribed from the Nagra tapes, have this happening during the rehearsal on January 6, making its inclusion at this point baffling.
A montage of performances follows, including an Elvis-style take on “Two Of Us” (a highlight of the Let It Be film), “Don’t Let Me Down”, and “I’ve Got A Feeling”. There’s a jokey take on “Stand By Me” sung by Paul while George gets another cushion for his posterior, and a glimpse of John intoning “the queen says no to pot-smoking FBI members,” which was included on the Let It Be album. Halfway through “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” we have a lovely shot of George’s unattended Les Paul sliding off the cushions and hitting the floor. The song stops, but only Mal Evans gets up (from his position at the anvil) to retrieve it. John leads a well-remembered version of Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” on piano, then waltzes with Yoko around the soundstage while the other three rehearse “I Me Mine”. George encourages this for the show, and plays the temporary flamenco break for the song while John pirouettes like a Spanish dancer. (Throughout today’s segment, he’s much more animated and involved than he was the day before.)
This gives Michael yet another opportunity to grill them about The Big Show’s concept, and Denis O’Dell arrives with sketches of proposed sets, which would feature the Beatles “in the round”. Paul says that would be a great idea if they hadn’t already done that in 1964 for the Around The Beatles, and slyly fobs Michael and Denis off onto John and Yoko to discuss it with them, as “they’re artists.” John’s immediate reaction? “It’s Around The Beatles ‘69.”
He gets Denis going on what they could do in the way of plastic sets that could be seen through. Michael, meanwhile, is still trying to sell Ringo on the cinematic potential of helicopter shots over the amphitheater in Africa they’ve consistently vetoed. In the background, Paul is playing “Let It Be”, and eventually a piano piece that has been (improperly) identified as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings”. These three scenes overlap for what seems like several minutes, until Michael feels he’s got some leverage with Ringo. Denis astutely asks what George’s reaction is to all this, and it’s pointed out that he hasn’t been consulted.
Everyone, including George and Glyn Johns, gathers around the piano to rehash the pros and cons of performing in front of an audience, any audience, large or small. Denis is back on the amphitheater again, encouraged by John who wonders aloud why they never recorded anywhere but the same studio in London. Paul suggests they bring an audience with them on the boat to the amphitheater, doing a show on the boat and again at the destination, but George immediately balks at the “impracticality” of such a venture, plus the prospect of being “stuck with a bloody big boatload of people for two weeks.”
As they wrap up for the day, the band lets Michael and Denis believe that there’s still potential in the amphitheater idea, but it’s clear they do this just to end the discussion and get out of there. Unspoken but still hanging over their heads is the fact that whatever the show is, they still haven’t written enough songs for it, much less learned them.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Beatles Get Back 4: January 7

Everyone except John (and Yoko) is present at the start of this segment, and John’s tardiness is noted verbally. Paul starts strumming his Hofner bass—the one with the setlist from the 1966 tour still taped to it—and begins to formulate a melody over it. Ringo watches and George yawns, but then he starts playing chords and lead lines over the simple riff. Ringo claps out a rhythm, and then we hear it: “Get back to where you once belonged.” As Paul continues, the second verse (about Loretta) falls into place and Ringo sings along with the brand-new chorus, before moving to his kit to pound out a steady beat. They’re still playing when John finally arrives, and he picks up both of the chords with little difficulty. Just like that, their next hit single has appeared out of thin air.
Unfortunately, the conversation turns yet again as to what The Big Show is supposed to be. Michael Lindsay-Hogg is doing his best to cheerlead them into something phenomenal, but they’re even more resistant to his cajoling than they have been to Paul’s. (For his part, Paul doesn’t like taking orders from anybody, as five decades of solo work have since shown.) The director keeps harping on an exotic overseas location, despite having been told daily and repeatedly that they will not go abroad. They’re not just being stubborn; Ringo is committed to filming his role in The Magic Christian at this same film studio in a few weeks’ time. Paul raises the idea of setting up to play someplace forbidden, resulting in them getting thrown out.
Michael moves on to suggest performing in children’s hospitals or orphanages, while the camera holds on John’s face. He appears to be in something of a trance for several seconds, with a faraway smile on his face, then mutters his objection to playing an orphanage. As the conversation continues over the purpose of whatever they’re going to do, he offers the idea that, like the “All You Need Is Love” performance on live television via global satellite, is communication, to bring a smile to the world.
Paul bemoans the perceived lack of enthusiasm from the other three; he wants to play music as a band again, but nobody else seems as keen. George offers that he constantly makes suggestions that are ignored. This, too, is ignored. Paul then states that if they can’t be bothered to keep going, they should pack it in and stop wasting each other’s time. George astutely comments that “ever since Mr. Epstein passed away, it’s never been the same.” Paul agrees that they don’t have anyone to instill the discipline that they always resisted but still used in order to create.
Throughout this discussion, Paul continually attempts to engage John in some kind of response. Only after George says, “Maybe we should have a divorce,” to which Paul responds that he brought that up at a recent meeting, John asks, “Who’d have the children?” Paul replies, “Dick James,” referring to their music publisher. Michael expresses the sadness he’d feel—as a fan—were the Beatles to break up, and suggests the crew give the four space to play music before lunch.
In the next segment, Paul is at the piano. George is playing the six-string bass the Fender company gave them the year before, and the band rehearses “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. While Jackson’s edit didn’t show it, they had worked on the song the previous Friday (as seen in Let It Be), so we are now hearing a song that’s mostly together. George even comes up with several hooks that Paul gleefully adds to the arrangement.
As they break for lunch, Paul asks Mal Evans to find them a hammer and anvil. Despite having received these kinds of requests for six years, he still looks befuddled as he’s left alone on the soundstage. Sure enough, having presumably returned from lunch, they’re working on the song again, and there’s Mal sitting next to them, giddily clanging an anvil on cue.
From here they move on to “Across The Universe”, which they had originally recorded a year earlier, but hadn’t released because John didn’t like the mix. An acetate is provided, as well as the lyrics, to spur John’s memory as to how the song goes. They perform a few decent electric versions, with Paul encouragingly harmonizing, but John is fed up and switches to a sloppy bash at Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music”. The band joins in, with feeling; however, Jackson chose to weave in footage of the band playing it live in Tokyo in 1966, complete with screams. This juxtaposition is distracting, but we notice John keeps repeating the wrong words anyway.
While slightly more productive than Monday, they still have a ways to go, and it’s getting harder to imagine that they’ll have a show ready in ten days’ time. Still, Jackson’s choice footage again gives more insight than can be gleaned from just the audio.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Beatles Get Back 3: January 6

Paul is the first one we see today, and he appears to have developed a taste for cigars after spending two days with Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He says he hasn’t thought about the project turning into a record album yet, which is odd, because wouldn’t he want to get these songs—whatever they will be—preserved? Glyn Johns puts forth the notion that the “record” should be the live performance. Ringo arrives (possibly hung over), followed by John and Yoko, then George, who is immediately shown expressing his vote against any kind of live show.
One of the misconceptions about these sessions for many years was that the performances at Twickenham were professionally recorded, suggested by the scene in Let It Be that shows an eight-track recording console being wheeled into the rehearsal space. As it turns out, that was George’s personal machine, brought in from his house for the express purpose of taping the rehearsals simply for evaluation, and not for eventual mixing and release.
This leads to discussion and brief background on Alexis “Magic Alex” Mardas, somebody John found who impressed him with primitive electronic gadgetry, accompanied the Beatles to India, and was put in charge of the fledgling Apple Electronics department. One of his propositions was that he would build them a state-of-the-art recording studio, in the basement of the Apple office building, that would far surpass anything EMI could provide them. George Martin, needless to say, was dubious.
The boys start jamming, and play a couple of uptempo improvisations, before moving on to honing “Don’t Let Me Down”. Paul is still pushing his answer-harmony idea, and goes on to recommend parts for George and Ringo to contribute instrumentally. Note that while it’s John’s song, he’s let Paul take over the arrangement. Meanwhile, Glyn Johns makes a suggestion for the bridge that actually is effective. Throughout, George is resistant, finding much of the suggestion “corny”, but still does what he’s asked. (He’s also seen adjusting various cushions to sit on; perhaps hemorrhoids were affecting his mood?)
They move on to “Two Of Us”, which is still beyond their grasp as they’re trying to rock it up. This extended scene is very informative for anyone who’s seen the “I’ll play whatever you want me to play” discussion between Paul and George in Let It Be, and again used in Anthology. Here the disagreement is given much wider context: Paul and George simply have different approaches to learning and honing a song. Paul even backs off during the conversation, because he doesn’t want to have it out in front of rolling cameras. He finds himself stuck; he makes suggestions because nobody else does, yet he feels nervous making any suggestions because he knows how pushy he comes off. He’s also feeling pressure because they’ve committed to a show, of some kind, in 12 days’ time. At the same time, it’s clear that George is tired of making suggestions only to have them dismissed outright. While this is happening, Ringo watches silently up on the drum riser from behind his kit, and John offers little guidance of his own. (Continuity blips occasionally show Yoko at this side and also not; except for one glimpse of her sharing a joke with John, she mostly sits quietly looking at her mail.)
In Jackson’s film, this day’s segment ends with another stab at “Two Of Us”, but thanks to the other documentarians we’ve mentioned, we know that they did work on other songs for a few more hours. We also know George put forth some of his own song ideas earlier in the day, which were not enthusiastically received, and likely soured his mood further. What’s more, lengthy discussion about what type of show to have was dominated by Michael, with input from Dennis O’Dell and George Martin, and quite of bit of conceptualizing by Yoko, seemingly speaking for John.
Again, none of this was included in Jackson’s edit, but still, this particular day was not the best start to a week that required progress, enthusiasm, or results.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Beatles Get Back 2: January 3

The second day of filming starts with Paul playing the piano, with Ringo listening and occasionally tap dancing. Like the other Beatles, these guys have been in a fishbowl for almost six years, and while they may try to ignore a camera, they can’t help playing to it.
George arrives, and as soon as he mentions the songs he’s piled up, Ringo demonstrates his own unfinished “Taking A Trip To Carolina”, again in the key of C, just like “Don’t Pass Me By”. John and Yoko arrive, and soon the band is going through pre-fame selections from the Lennon-McCartney songbook. This could also have been an easy angle for the show—rather than try to work up new songs, polish some they used to play in their club days. John is particularly adept at remembering the instrumental “Third Man Theme”, despite being rusty on his own compositions. George suggests they do old album tracks, such as “Every Little Thing” from 1964, to appeal to the audience, but this isn’t pursued past a few bars. (The segment does include jokey renditions of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “I’m So Tired”, which again would support the idea that the show should promote their still-new album. In the end, only one such oldie would make the film, performance, and album: “One After 909”, which gets possibly the most enthusiasm out of the four on this day.)
They do a little more work polishing “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down”, then John offers the not-yet-complete “Gimme Some Truth”. While still two years away from an album release, Paul is already familiar with much of the song as it stands, suggesting that have may have helped write it. George finally gets to play them one of his new songs, and chooses “All Things Must Pass”, which he plays on his acoustic while John moves to the Lowrey organ. While the song is by nature low-key and down-beat, the other three are willing to learn it, and the tune shows promise as a possible Beatle track. John even suggests a key lyric change that will last to George’s final version on his solo album of the same name, nearly two years later.
The big difference in the atmosphere is the addition of colored lights, which do provide more of a pleasing ambience, but they still complain about the lackluster sound of the room. George is also miffed that EMI won’t do more for them, considering all the money the band has made for them. His mood isn’t improved when he keeps getting electric shocks from his microphone.
Much of George’s conversation on this day is telling, from saying that the White Album was the first one he felt really involved in, and then comparing his lead guitar style to that of Eric Clapton. Paul makes a flip comment about jazz, which reminds George of the Ray Charles band, which recently performed with their Hamburg acquaintance Billy Preston, of whom George highly enthuses. Paul’s facial expressions give away his lack of interest, and at the end of the day’s segment, John can be seen resting his head on his arms at the organ, looking up when Paul calls out his name as if he’d been asleep. John has seemed a little more ragged than the day before, and not just because he hasn’t shaved.
It’s easy to read tension into the scenes, particularly if we’ve been studying these sessions for decades, but day two simply displays less promise than the first. Halfway through the bottomless cups of tea are replaced by drink orders. Plus, it was a Friday, and they would not return to the film studio until Monday. Could be they just wanted to get started on the weekend.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Beatles Get Back 1: Prologue and January 2

The film opens with captions in white over a black screen, explaining the source of the material. The last unintentionally hilarious slide informs us that the “footage contains explicit language, mature themes, and smoking.” It is, after all, a Disney production.
An opening montage sets the scene, explaining that in 1956, “16 year old [sic] John Lennon” asked “14 year old [sic] Paul McCartney” to join his band the Quarrymen. While the absence of hyphens is annoying enough, it has been well documented that John met Paul in July of 1957, after Paul had already turned 15. While George Harrison was indeed 13 (albeit absent sufficient hyphens) in 1956, he didn’t join the band until 1958, which only barely qualifies as “soon after”. The captions also suggest that Ringo joined the band before Brian Epstein became their manager, which is, again, not true, and casts worry over the eight hours of footage we’re about to observe.
A clip from Yellow Submarine is likely designed to refer to their film work, but it appears in the context of 1965, before the song had been recorded, and certainly before the film was conceived. Much more effective are the clips chosen to illustrate their decision to stop touring and limit their performance to the studio, and the sudden death of Brian Epstein casting their business in disarray. Scenes from the meditation camp in 1968 and the arrival of Yoko Ono set up the explanation of what their Apple organization was designed to be.
The promotional film for “Hey Jude”, which involved a small invited audience, whet their appetites to consider performing onstage in public again. Plans to rehearse for a TV special are undertaken, with the proceedings to be filmed for perpetuity. The director is one Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who is shown lighting the first of several cigars to be consumed throughout the month. The dress rehearsal is set for January 18, a little over two weeks away. In that time they intend to write, rehearse, and perfect 14 brand-new songs for an album.
What’s immediately curious is that the White Album has been in the shops for just a little over a month. One idea would have been to perform some of those songs before an audience as a promotional tool; surely that would have been an easier goal to attain. Yet somehow their hubris, and certainly a desire to move forward from material they’d lived with for most of the previous year, led to a leap of faith. By now they’d had plenty of success chasing the impossible, and achieving it, with only the mildest backlash or criticism. They were the Beatles. Surely they could do anything to which their minds were set, couldn’t they?
As the first day of rehearsal starts, we see roadie Mal Evans and his assistant Kevin Harrington moving equipment around. Shortly John can be heard playing “Child Of Nature”, which was written during the previous year’s meditation retreat, and would evolve in two years into the superior “Jealous Guy”. George plays along and harmonizes; Yoko is seen but not heard. Ringo arrives, and John plays the germs of what would turn into “Don’t Let Me Down” for them. Ringo moves to his drumkit to play along, and then Paul arrives. John asks, “Who’s that little old man?”, referring to the Hare Krishna devotee in the corner, foretold by the clip from A Hard Day’s Night in the prologue.
Producer George Martin is seen observing, and will be a constant presence throughout the film. While they were basically producing themselves, and had brought engineer Glyn Johns in to man the sound for the live performance, Big George was still their A&R rep at EMI, and very much invested in their music and their success, professionally as well as personally.
As they work their way through “I’ve Got A Feeling”, which was rare at this point for having actual contributions from both John and Paul, it’s clear that the scope of the TV special and performance is still beyond them. They only know what they don’t want, starting with the atmosphere on a drafty sound stage. (We get the first mention of the amphitheater in Libya that Lindsay-Hogg and producer Denis O’Dell would love to use for the live performance, and because Jackson includes an image of said theater, we can understand their zeal for it.)
However, their intuitive ability to craft and arrange music is undeniable. “Don’t Let Me Down” is still being molded, and Paul comes up with good ideas (moving “I’m in love for the first time” to a bridge) and not so good (repeating each line a la “Help!”) for it. He demonstrates “Two Of Us”, and while they try to rock it up, in its acoustic demonstration, it’s pretty much like how it will turn out on the eventual album.
It’s a tentative start for the project, whatever it’s supposed to be, but we can see enthusiasm. It’s also important to realize that at this moment, Paul was not yet 27 years old, George was a few weeks away from 26, and John and Ringo were both 28. They were still the boys. Kids, albeit rich ones.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Beatles Get Back: Intro

Peter Jackson’s epic three-part series documenting the sessions that spawned the Beatles’ original Let It Be film and album was one of the biggest news events of 2021, and an absolute game-changer in the band’s story. The Beatles: Get Back was lovingly compiled by a fan who is no stranger to long tales, yet still only scratches the surface of the material in the vaults.
He’s not the first outsider to attempt to chronicle the events of January 1969. In the printed realm, Doug Sulpy has published several books that draw on the widely bootlegged Nagra audio reels from the filming, and generally support the accepted view that the sessions were miserable, uninspired, and the nadir of their creative output. Online, the exhaustive They May Be Parted blog has examined not only the same existing audio but also video clips that have emerged, as well as including research about what was going on in the band’s circle away from cameras and tape recorders. And the excellent Winter Of Discontent podcast has been painstakingly dissecting the existing audio, adding supplemental reporting and even additional context via music and profiles of all the participants.
The original film didn’t help, as it seems to document the group’s inevitable disintegration. The Beatles themselves sustained this myth for decades, starting with John Lennon’s angry dismissals in his December 1970 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. The surviving members’ own testimony in the early ‘90s, as shown in their Anthology video series, strongly suggests that the project was a failure; indeed, the film hasn’t been available for viewing, much less purchase, since the ‘80s, when it briefly appeared on laserdisc and videocassette. Digital copies appear on various online video streaming sites as fast as they are quashed and removed by the authorities.
While Peter Jackson’s project was announced in 2019, it was expected to be released in time for the 50th anniversary of the film. The following year’s Covid pandemic delayed the project and altered the scope, but it also bought the director even more time to approach its potential. The initial sneak preview, unleashed in time for Christmas in an extremely grueling 2020, displayed five minutes of absolute joy, focusing on the music, the fun, the humor, and the love between those four guys. If this was just a sample of what we could expect, fans couldn’t wait for more.
Much like the TV debut of the Anthology series, The Beatles: Get Back was presented in three parts over Thanksgiving weekend, exclusively on the Disney+ streaming service, which hadn’t even existed when the film was first announced. The rumors of three two-hour installments also proved to be false; each episode exceeded that, resulting in nearly eight hours of footage, in glorious color and pristine sound, much of which had never been seen before. Even for those of us who knew the story and had heard the bootlegs could be amazed, for now we had visual context for much of what we’d discerned from bare audio. Sure, there were edits and juxtapositions, and a couple of glaring factual errors in the intro montage, but by using the format of a calendar with crossed-off dates and minimal but revelatory subtitles, we can finally follow the progress—and they did make progress—and marvel at what could have been.
Having been invested in this story since a time when all four Beatles were still alive, throughout January 2022 Everybody’s Dummy will chronicle each day as depicted in The Beatles: Get Back to give our own unique insight into what’s onscreen. As Robyn Hitchcock put it so well, the film accurately portrays the joy and heartbreak that can occur at a band rehearsal. After all, the Beatles were just a band. But then again, they weren’t just a band.