BOOK REVIEW: The Beatles – Get Back

BOOK REVIEW: The Beatles - Get Back 1

In January 1969, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and his crew filmed The Beatles whilst they recorded in Twickenham Film Studios, Apple Studios on Saville Row in the West End of London and their live performance on top of Apple Studios. Lindsay-Hogg edited these recordings, which became the Let It Be movie.

In 2019 Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) was given access to all of the 57 hours of footage, which he restored and edited down to just under eight hours for the three-part Disney+ documentary. This hardcover book features a foreword from Peter Jackson, an introduction from Hanif Kureishi and background context to the bands’ time in Twickenham, Apple Studios and their final live performance on top of Apple Studios from John Harris. Harris does this across three acts and an afterword.

CREDIT Ethan A. Russell / © Apple Corps Ltd
John Lennon, Mal Evans (Road Manager), Yoko Ono Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney at Twickenham Film Studios, 13 January 1969.

Peter Jackson admits that he was initially “dubious” when Apple Corps told him about making a book based on the transcribed audio conversations between the band, their partners and film crew. “Really? A book isn’t going to have moving images; it isn’t going to have songs to listen to. Is that a good idea?” Jackson then saw things Apple Corps way, insisting, “The true spirit of the Get Back sessions is captured in the pages….” In some areas, The Beatles: Get Back is superfluous to requirements. One can watch the documentary to get the gist of things. Whilst the book may add who the person speaking is addressing and making eye contact with, the visual of the documentary already does this. Furthermore, an audio description would assist with this too.

Nonetheless, the introductions of the transcripts are invaluable, providing sacrosanct background knowledge and context to the discussions taking place. Whilst many The Beatles enthusiasts won’t require that those looking to find out more about the Fab Four would struggle with it. Even more essential is the commentary in between the transcripts themselves. There are countless times where the novice and even intermediate on matters involving The Beatles will find these as a vital tool in navigating the documentary.

CREDIT Ethan A. Russell / © Apple Corps Ltd.
Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono Lennon at Apple Studios, 24 January 1969.

Almost from the outset, this commentary proves invaluable. For example, Paul McCartney brings Jimmie Nicol into the mix. Without this book, one would either be left perplexed or need to pause to google this individual. Having a couple of lines after Paul’s dialogue explaining that Nicol was The Beatles stand-in drummer who had stood in for Ringo Starr for several overseas concerts in 1964 when Starr had tonsillitis. There are dozens of other examples where simple, easy, short and concise explanations fill in the gaps to avoid the reader and documentary viewer getting lost or having to pause.

As well as outstanding context including a diagram of all the people in the documentary with an accompanying picture; the reproduced photo images from photographers, including the late Linda McCartney, are outstanding. The inclusion of the story as to how Peter Jackson became a The Beatles enthusiast or even coming into contact with anything to do with the band is an exciting read. Kureishi’s analysis concerning the social impact of The Beatles coming from a working-class background as opposed to “one of Britain’s public schools” and how the band provided an exciting outlet for people “who led conventional, well-behaved lives…” is invaluable. Kureishi describes his mother screaming at The Beatles in Bromley Odeon long with mothers of his friends who had “their hands clapped to their cheeks and their mouths open like in Munch’s Scream”.

CREDIT Ethan A. Russell / © Apple Corps Ltd.
The Beatles and film crew on the Apple Rooftop, 30 January 1969.

The chosen title for this accompanying book and documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, also deserves praise; after all, the original working title for the Let it Be LP was Get Back (which we learn through this book). The Beatles: Get Back pleasantly surprises the reader in providing a valuable tool for further understanding the latter days of The Beatles and how the band interacted with each other.

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 282 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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