The Beatles: Get Back (2021)- Docuseries Review

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)- Docuseries Review

In January of 1969, The Beatles were tasked to do a live album and a television special, in less than two weeks. A film crew followed was hired to document the experience.

The Beatles were not able to meet this deadline, they instead got to release an Long Play and a single, along with their first live performance in over three years, and their last live performance as The Beatles, live on the rooftop of Apple Records.

Two of the songs they performed live were recorded and were released on their last studio album, “Let It Be“.

The documentary remained hidden and unseen for over 50 years, recently, filmmaker Peter Jackson, decided to release this footage into a feature-length documentary which will consist from over 60 hours of footage, and over 150 hours of audio recordings, available for fans and public audiences alike to finally view. The documentary was originally meant for a theatrical release in 2020, to mark the 50th anniversary of their final album. The film was delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19, in late 2020, Disney+ acquired the rights to release the documentary.

In early 2021, Peter Jackson said that he decided to make this a docuseries instead of a feature documentary, he says that the docuseries will contain over 6 hours of footage and will be split up into 3 episodes. Jackson said it took over 4 years to edit this documentary. The docuseries is almost 8 hours in runtime and was split up into 3 episodes. The series premiered on Disney+, Episode 1 on November 25, 2021 (Thanksgiving Day), Episode 2 on November 26, 2021, and Episode 3 on November 26, 2021.

The episodes show the footage recorded of The Beatles in January 1969. The documentary only shows footage of The Beatles writing and developing songs during this time, along with their conversations, humor, change of plan, and spending time with their production company and families. It does not show modern day interviews or a voiceover by the director. There is text on screen many times throughout the episodes that describe events that happened later in time, but overall the whole series is just the footage of The Beatles trying to make the album.

The band during Days 1-7 of the Documentary, depicted in Episode 1.

Episode 1: Days 1-7

Episode 1 covers the first seven days of the scheduled fourteen, scheduled through EMI and Apple Records. Episode one mainly chronicles the original plan meant for this project, showing The Beatles trying to write 14 songs in a total of two weeks, and how they would make the songs, and rehearse. They were accompanied by Dick James, and Glyn Johns, as producers. At this point, the band consisted of; Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono. The band wants to do a live album, not having any post-editing, overdubs, or rewinds on this album, they want it all live and possible to perform. The band struggles with writing the songs, mainly due to their short time limit, the producers try to give other ideas, but the band does not want that. The episode ends with George Harrison leaving the group.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Yoko Ono rehearsing at Apple Records.

Episode 2: Days 8-16

Episode 2 picks up with the band trying to have a meeting with George to convince him to rejoin the band. George rejoins in the middle of the following week. The group realizes they cannot meet their deadline, so they have to come up with a different solution. It was eventually decided to cancel a live concert and the television special, but to do a live performance of some kind. The band brings Billy Preston on set with them for keyboard, vocals, and extra help during production. Because of the cancelation of the television special, they decided that if the film crew are going to publish the documentary, they should switch the cameras from 16mm to 35mm since they are no longer expecting this to go on television, about 80 minutes of footage from this point until the end of the month was used in the 1970 documentary film “Let It Be” which is mainly small segments of behind the scenes footage of the making of the album, which many of it’s songs were developed and a few even recorded in January 1969. This also marked their last feature film under Apple Records until this docuseries. They decide to have a live performance on the roof of Apple Records during the day at some point in the coming week and to try to perform seven songs.

The Beatles at the Rooftop Performance, one of the most popular concerts in music history, January 30, 1969.

Episode 3: Days 17-22

Episode 3 shows the last 4 days of rehearsals of the band before the performance. They have not fully written 14 songs by this point, they have only 7 songs, and they decide to practice these songs before the performance. The final hour of the episode is the full performance of the Rooftop Performance, their first live performance in over 3 years, and their last as a group. They play a total of 5 songs they have made within the month at this performance, Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got a Feeling, Dig a Pony, and One After 909, they played “Get Back” three times, and “Don’t Let Me Down” twice during the performance. The concert took place on January 30, 1969. “Get Back” was released as a single, they made an LP during production, the LP contained “Get Back” as the single, and “Don’t  Let Me Down” on the B side. All 5 songs performed were later put on their twelfth and final studio album, Let It Be. The final moments of the episode show the band recording more songs that they have written during the month, showing that some of them were reworked, rewritten, and re-recorded before getting a release. A few of the songs recorded on that day went on “Let It Be”.

Abbey Road Album, 11th Studio album from The Beatles, released in September 1969. Many songs of the album were written or started production during the month of January in 1969, documented in the series.
The twelfth and last studio album from The Beatles, Let It Be, many songs they made during the series and the 5 songs they performed at the Rooftop Concert went on this album.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the series, I am glad that they made it go into detail and showed us just enough content to show us who The Beatles really were, their humor, and how they worked together, which is probably the only footage of which to exist that depict these. The series has many songs, songs both they have done in the past, and the new songs they were producing. They used impromptu, scat singing, murmuring, and humming to figure words and rhythms to the songs  they came up with during their rehearsals, all 3 episodes have scenes of them figuring out the sound for these songs and how to do it live with no overdubs.  Most of the new songs that were featured in the series wound up to be on the “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” albums, like; Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Octopus’s Garden, Let It Be, The Long and Winding Road, Across the Universe, I Me Mine, Something, Two of Us, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, and more. I like the references the documentary shows by the band talking about their experiences with working and listening to other artists of the time, like Eric Clapton and Ray Charles.

I love how it showed they had a very distinct sense of humor while still being under all the stress, I found myself laughing at a lot of their jokes throughout. I would say my complaints lie with it being too long, I like that it was long and that it showed us a lot of detail of the real footage, but they kind of went overboard. Running at almost 8 hours, this will be a painful watch for some viewers. I would recommend to people who want to watch this to split it up over a few days, but I viewed it all in one sitting since that is how I prefer it.

The series is still very enjoyable and never boring, but the episodes are long, each being the runtime of a feature film. Each episode has a viewer discretion warning at the start for explicit language, mature themes, and smoking. I would say this is a must-watch for Beatles fans, but it for sure requires a lot of attention, and knowledge of the history of The Beatles and even music history to fully enjoy. If you are new to The Beatles, it still gives good information and enough for new viewers to learn about them, but it might not be enjoyable for people who are not current fans. If you like documentaries or are interested to watch this, then I would say you should check it out.

 

Logo for Apple Records, the record company for The Beatles that produced their songs and a few feature films they made. Apple Records served as a production company for the docuseries.