In January 1969, The Beatles came together to write and record their twelfth and final studio album Let It Be, with one very lucky camera crew given access to film the band’s process.
The material — which amasses to 60 hours of film footage, plus over 120 hours of audiotape — was, many years later, entrusted to Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson who has expertly crafted it all into a three-part, six-hour-long documentary called Get Back.
“It’s sort of that one impossible fan dream,” Jackson told the New York Times. “I wish I could go in a time machine and sit in the corner of the stage while they were working. Just for one day, just watch them, and I’ll be really quiet and sit there.
“Well, guess what? The time machine’s here now.”
The task The Beatles had set out for themselves back in 1969 was a daunting one, to say the least. Their aim was to create an album that allowed the group to “get back” to their simpler rock roots, mark their return to live performance and also film the whole crazy process so they might turn it into a TV special.
Unfortunately, there were a few things going against them including the fact they chose an echoey film set in which to work (in the dead of winter) and there were some tensions already forming within the quartet, particularly as John Lennon and his ever-present partner Yoko Ono were using heroin. The first round of recordings was so fraught that, at one point, George Harrison temporarily left the band.
When they reconvened a little later, at their own Apple Studios, things were a little more harmonious and that is what Jackson has chosen to focus on.
Jackson, however, is not the first filmmaker to tell the story of The Beatles and their storied final album. In 1970, Let It Be, the feature film was released having been directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. His film also documented the recording of the last album but did not paint the group dynamic in a particularly flattering light. The film concludes with the famous impromptu rooftop performance during which The Beatles played some of the material they had worked on in the two sessions. The film was never released online or on DVD, making Jackson’s project all the more intriguing.
Speaking of his own version, which has been endorsed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Jackson told the New York Times, “Everyone sort of thinks it’s a whitewash. But actually it’s almost the exact opposite. It shows everything that Michael Lindsay-Hogg could not show in 1970. It’s a very unflinching look at what goes on.
“You see these four great friends, great musicians, who just lock in and develop these songs, and you see it all onscreen,” he continued.
Let It Be was finally released in 1970, almost a month after the group’s split.
Get Back will premiere on Disney+ on November 25th. Check out the trailer below.