Hardcore fans of The Beatles like to think they know everything about the band. Most have bootlegs of recording sessions, live shows, and bookshelves full of books documenting—sometimes to the hour—what any of them were doing personally and creatively during the group’s 10-year run.
Yet even those fans are hailing Peter’s Jackson’s new Disney+ exclusive docuseries, The Beatles: Get Back, which curates and culls down 50+ hours of footage from the Get Back sessions that reveals, from a fly on the wall perspective, when the creative magic was coming to a close in early 1969.
Even with anecdotal stories or their voices captured in the recording sessions bootlegs, the docuseries is the most contextual and revealing artifact to exist that expresses, in their own words and deeds, what was going wrong amongst the Fab Four. And because of that, the new knowledge gleaned for fans and music historians is nothing less than legendary.
Across the eight hours of footage, we observed and discovered some real mind-blowers that continue to refine our ideas about each of the men’s personalities, creative process and songwriting. Here are 11 of note:
1. “Carry That Weight” (which would eventually land on Abbey Road) started out as a comedic song.
Paul and the guys initially noodled the song out like a comedic ditty, with none of the epic sweep and scale it would become known for as part of a beloved medley.
2. Paul McCartney was a clothes horse with effortless style.
In those early days at Twickenham Film Studios, just about everyone but McCartney stumbled in like an unmade bed. But even with the hippy beard, Paul strode in every day with an array of amazingly tailored coats, jackets, and eventually vests. 10 out of 10 for effort.
3. “Get Back” was originally conceived as an anthem against White Nationalism.
With immigration conflict a hot bed of contention at the time in the U.K., the band wrote the song as protest against the racism of the day, including lyrics about Pakistanis and Puerto Ricans being told to “get back to where they once belonged.”
4. The band was living their best Paddington life.
All four men were giving off the purest Paddington vibes living off toast and marmalade for the majority of the sessions, and especially when they moved to the Apple office. Sure there were likely drugs being taken too, but the marmalade is mighty!
5. John and Paul could have started an evil ventriloquist act.
While finalizing “Two of Us,” Paul and John demonstrated their skill set of being able to sing without ever moving their lips. For the duration of the song, the pair held their faces in Joker-like smiles and turned the lovely acoustic ditty into a horror show.
6. Rock and roll standards birthed George’s “Old Brown Shoe.”
After a day of rocking out a playlist of classics they loved and learned during their Hamburg touring days, George went home and come back the next day with “Old Brown Shoe,” crafted in the same 12-bar blues style they played the day before.
7. Paul and John had a deep, secret talk about the group dynamics caught on tape.
Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg was all about the subterfuge, hiding mics inside flower arrangements and elsewhere to capture private conversations amongst the bandmates. The most dramatic is the candid conversation between John and Paul about the imploding nature of the band, their roles, and frustrations. It’s not angry, just sadly resigned.
8. For six months, George Harrison was stuck on one line for “Something.”
During the Apple rehearsals, George brought in “Something,” which was still a sketch. But he admitted being stuck for six months on figuring out the lyrics to what comes after “attracts me…”
9. Ringo brought in the opening of Octopus’ Garden
In a rare observation of Ringo’s songwriting process, he introduces the band to the opening of the song via piano and lyrics. Usually assuming the four were group-writing Ringo’s songs, it was lovely to see what he brought to the table on his own.
10. “Get Back’s” the melody was born from Paul’s noodling alone.
With John late to arrive, and George and Ringo bored to death sitting around, Paul plunked out the melody and vibe of the song. It sparked all three to wake up to help shape it.
11. Michael Housego’s false story about The Beatles’ dynamics helped shape fan thoughts for decades. .
Watching all four guys get livid over Housego’s spurious stories about George and John coming to blows was revealing. He framed their inner turmoil as something tabloidy, which—especially at that time—was a fiction. Yet that narrative became fact for so many over the years. With Get Back, we can see things as they really were.
The Beatles: Get Back is currently streaming on Disney+.
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe and the official history of Marvel Studios coming in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.
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