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Canberra Today 17°/20° | Thursday, January 20, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The Beatles, up close, personal and on the roof

Paul, Ringo, John and George… meticulously remastered making music in “Get Back”.

The Fab Four ad nauseum catches the eyes and ears of streaming columnist NICK OVERALL.  

IN Peter Jackson’s monumental new Beatles documentary “Get Back” viewers aren’t given a narrated breakdown of the band’s creative process – they sit through it.

Nick Overall.

This whopping rock-doc on Disney+ clocks in at nearly eight hours of run time and is split over three episodes – not a great deal off the length of the director’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

It makes its viewers a fly on the wall, or perhaps more aptly a fly in the room, one buzzing round the cigarette-smoke filled studio as the most famous band of all time strains to pull together its final and most controversial album “Let It Be”.

Viewers have to know what they’re signing up for here. 

There’s no explanatory narration, interviews with Beatles scholars or anything of standard documentary practice to be found. After a brief 10-minute history of the band, the audience is left to sit and soak in raw footage of John, Paul, George and Ringo writing and recording the album in what was a creatively gruelling process.

By then the Fab Four were on rocky ground.

The ‘60s had seen their sound shift into the psychedelic with records such as “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, then into folkish, postmodern territory with the “White Album”.

But by the end of the decade it had lost a firm creative direction.

Lennon’s solution? Back to basics – a return to simpler rock and roll configurations that even included tapping into some of their unused teenage material for potential.

The result? The band creatively headbutting out one of the most contentiously received swan-songs of all time.

All the while, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg was there with a camera recording hundreds of hours of footage for his documentary of the album –  a film many consider to have captured the early dynamics that would lead to the band’s break-up.

Indeed, by the time the doco hit theatres in 1970 the Beatles had already called it quits, dooming it to a dour legacy.

But all that footage has not gone to waste.

Peter Jackson and his team have sifted through more than 60 hours of video footage and more than 150 hours of audio recordings to tie together a beautifully remastered look and listen to the band’s final studio sessions. 

Even with Jackson whittling over 200 hours of content down to eight, it still feels like he wanted more.

The product is an excruciatingly raw experience – a blow-by-blow look at four masters at work who were on the road to breaking apart. 

For casual viewers this run-time will likely prove too much, for die-hard Beatles fans it’ll be a treat.

Where the story of the band has been as exhaustively explored as it has, this slow, meticulous approach gives those with Beatlemania new insight into their creative inner workings.

Viewers watch as iconic songs slowly take form – from the first glimmer of an idea through to the final products the world still taps its feet to today. 

When the iconic choruses of songs such as “Let It Be” or “Get Back” first start to take shape through the seemingly disorganised humming and strumming it’s a burst of dopamine.

And for those who hang on, Jackson doesn’t fail to deliver a climax that’s worthy of the wait.

The Beatles’ full 40-minute rooftop concert of the album at London’s Savile Row is all put to film in stunning new detail.

It’s a triumphant moment – one that caps off the story on an upbeat note in contrast to the more sour mythology that surrounds its production.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shying away from some of the band’s more heated moments and it would be a lie to say they don’t make for some of the most engaging parts.

Harrison quitting the band on the departing note of: “See you round the clubs” and a private conversation in the break room between McCartney and Lennon that was captured through a planted audio bug by Lindsay-Hogg are among the doco’s more interesting beats.

For newcomers wanting to get more in tune with the story of the band, “Get Back” is not it.

They’ll get much more mileage out of Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” on Stan or “Imagine: John Lennon” on Amazon Prime Video.

But for tried and true Beatles fans, “Get Back” is an essential viewing experience and one with a pay-off that’s worth the long and winding road it puts them on to get there.


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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Nick Overall

Nick Overall

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