For the true believers, Peter Jackson saves The Beatles
Thank you, Peter Jackson, for finally finding the quintessential filter to separate fake Fab fans from the true believers across the universe of Beatles fandom.
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Those who are viewing Get Back, which debuted over the Thanksgiving long weekend on Disney+, through some kinda jaded contrarian macro lens are missing the point entirely. Yes, six hours is a good haul of time. But if you truly hold the music and the mythos of The Beatles in your heart the whole docu-series goes by in what seems like “FourFiveSeconds.”
When it comes to watching Get Back, the magic exists within the little moments that the Lord of the Rings filmmaker captured across over 150 hours of film and sound footage, and then miraculously restored.
Anyone who’s old enough to remember when the local television affiliates used to air all the Beatles movies on their station has surely seen Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original feature film ‘Let It Be’ on a random Saturday afternoon in 1978. But after its final run on channels like WPIX and WNYW here in the New York Tri-State Area, it entered the vault for what we had all thought was to be forevermore. The only way to be able to see it, until Get Back aired a couple of weeks ago, was to watch a super grainy bootleg version of the film multiple generations away from the original source. Hopefully one day Apple Corps might restore the original MLH film (arguably the most questionable G rating in movie history). Given the popularity of Get Back, we just may get it.
Yet you might end up walking away from these three two-hour episodes–which tells the complete tale of the most storied 18 days in the life of the Fab Four–thinking there’ll never be a need to see the original 1970 cut ever again. Chances are you’ll feel that way, because Jackson’s restoration of these recording/rehearsal sessions for an aborted live television special bring those four familiar faces we’ve been seeing on our Let It Be album covers for 51 years come to life with so much vibrancy and clarity.
That’s what really kept me fully engrossed across these six hours. When I was real little, my mom had put up a Let It Be poster in my bedroom, so these versions of John, Paul, George and Ringo are the images hardwired into my memory for pretty much all of my life. And to see them come to life the way they do on this series really feels like pure magic.
And that’s why I believe it’s these little moments you discover while watching Get Back that will ultimately measure one’s ability to appreciate the project in its totality.
For me, it was things like Paul, John, Ringo and Yoko engaging in these proto-Sonic Youth noise jams, especially that crazy version of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ they explode through after George Harrison walks out on them.
It’s seeing the zen-like calm of Yoko’s presence throughout the whole film, observing all the action with the steadiness of a cat.
It’s seeing Peter Sellers randomly walk in and hang out for a hot minute. It’s seeing George Martin being the dad we all knew he was to these mad lads.
It’s seeing Linda Eastman’s adorable daughter Heather running around the studio, trying on Glyn Johns’ ostrich jacket and taking the piss out of Yoko by singing like her during one of the jams.
It’s seeing Glyn himself warning the boys about getting involved with Allen Klein.
It’s seeing Billy Preston jamming on a stylophone.
It’s George’s beloved guitar “Rocky,” colored with nail polish to look like an early prototype for the Trapper Keeper.
It’s the presence of Mal Evans, the Fabs’ gentle giant of a roadie, whose sweet nature begats the violent and unnecessary way by which he died in 1976.
It was seeing my favorite Beatles song, ‘Get Back’, evolve from a literal seed of a concept, starting out as a protest tune against the anti-immigration sentiments of former racist English Prime Minister Enoch Powell (I wonder if they knew their pal Eric Clapton was a fan), into what it became when Preston and The Beatles performed it on the rooftop of Apple Records on January 30, 1969.
That’s what Get Back means to me, Charlie Brown. And if you’re one of those cats in the press squirting out bitchy hottakes thinking you’re some kinda hero, your lack of ability to see the beauty of The Beatles in all of their hilarity and heartbreak says more about you than the series, unfortunately.
But if you’re like me and the Fab Four are pretty much baked into your being, Get Back is an absolute gift.