The large companion book for the new Beatles documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, is a winner!
It’s a fairly large coffee table book, seen here with the very large Anthology book, and a couple of my other favorite Beatles books, for comparing the size. The hard cover of the 240-page book has the picture printed on it, and there’s a small Let It Be jacket cover toward the bottom.
Get Back director Peter Jackson provides the foreword, and the book contains transcribed conversations from the film that was used to make the documentary. It also has hundreds of photos by Ethan Russell and Linda McCartney, plus a lot of screen shots from the film.
The rehearsals and filming began on January 2nd, 1969 at Twickenham Film Studios. It was a large, unusual place for The Beatles to be working, and that uncomfortable space, along with having cameras on them all the time, added to the pressure of having to write and learn songs. Besides that, there was a plan to do a live performance as soon as January 18th. The schedule was too ambitious, and the text in the book reveals The Beatles couldn’t come up with a good location for a concert. They weren’t even sure they wanted to do it, with George the most opposed.
The book is generously filled with many previously unseen and cool photos of The Beatles as they were working on songs. It was amazing to me how many songs they had started by January 6th. Since they began on a Thursday, and took the weekend off, there were only three days of filming by Monday the 6th. The songs they played parts of included “One After 909”, “All Things Must Pass”, “The Long And Winding Road”, “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “Across The Universe”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Oh Darling”, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, and “Something”. These were mostly just the early formative stages of those songs, rather than being complete, but that was quite a start for the 1969 albums that would become Let It Be and Abbey Road.
It was also on January 6th that the infamous disagreement happened between George and Paul. As they were working on “Two Of Us”, Paul wanted to keep the arrangement simple, and then add to it later. George thought it would be better to try guitar parts right away to see what worked. At one point, George said… “I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play.” A few moments later, John said to Paul… “I think if it’s your song, you’ve got to do exactly like you want it. You say, don’t play that. Play that. It’s up to you, you know…”
It was four days later, January 10th, when George said… “I think I’ll be…I’m leaving.” John says…”What?” George… “the band now.” John…”When?” George… “Now.”
The three Beatles even mentioned (probably not seriously) getting another lead guitarist if George didn’t return. They met privately with George twice, and decided to move the whole project to the much more comfortable studio they had installed at Apple. The Beatles, including George, returned to recording.
After that change, the sessions became much happier. The Beatles helped each other with the songs as they were being created. The transcripts show there was a lot of humor and cooperation during most of their time together.
Now at Apple, it looks like there are six Beatles. Keyboardist Billy Preston was a welcome addition to the recording sessions. Yoko Ono was at John’s side almost all of the time (as he wanted it), and the quotes in the book show the other Beatles grew to accept that. Paul knew that John would choose Yoko over The Beatles if he had to. In talking with the others when John wasn’t there, Paul said… “It’s going to be such an incredible sort of comical thing like, in 50 years’ time, you know: ‘They broke up ‘cause Yoko sat on an amp.’ (laughs).” Paul also said… “It’s all right, let the young lovers stay together.”
In a total of just 21 days of recording from January 2nd through January 31st, the songs became more polished, and The Beatles pulled off their rooftop concert.
That’s when they nailed the film versions of “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and the final song recorded that January, “Let It Be”. Those performances were the highlights of the original movie. Without them, they really wouldn’t have had enough good songs to put an album together. Of course then they could have saved those songs for Abbey Road, and Paul could have given them the full production treatment any way he wished.
If you really want to know what The Beatles were thinking during the recording of Let It Be, this book will fill you in on all of it…plus you get the photos. The $60 list price book was marked down to $30 on Amazon in 2022.
Having finished the filming and the live style of recording (without overdubs), The Beatles soon decided to convince George Martin to help them record an album the way they had in the past, and the result was Abbey Road which was completed in August of 1969. At least eleven of the songs on that album were introduced by the group during the Let It Be sessions.
The Let It Be box set is out, and the nearly 8-hour Get Back documentary is now on Disney+, it’s being released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 8th, 2022.
Here’s the link to my review of the new box set: https://ontherecords.net/2021/10/let-it-be-2021-box-set-review/
Extra: Here’s the 240-page Get Back book next to the 100-page book that comes in the box set.