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.

4 comments:

  1. "Let it Be" was difficult to watch for a number of reasons. A big one was that both the picture and sound were very murky. The restoration is absolutely remarkable. But thee question remains -- is this another McCartney-driven effort to rewrite (or whitewash) history (see -- or rather, hear "Let it Be..Naked"), or the real deal? Anyway, for fans, it's completely engrossing.

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    1. If Jackson is to be believed, he did all the work without any band input, and once he showed them the rough cut, there were zero objections.

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