Ten things we learn from Get Back
A fist fight, a walk out, never-ending Beatle bickering and that rooftop concert. Does the documentary reveal anything we didn’t know?
- The early sessions at Twickenham are like the first days of a new term. The Beatles are clearly making an effort to be polite to each other — and to outsiders like Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He handles them very clumsily but they are surprisingly tolerant of his over familiarity.
- The group has clearly discussed how they are going to present certain issues. This is amusingly displayed when they talk about Brian Epstein, who they all solemnly refer to as Mr Epstein.
- John Lennon seems completely strung-out during the Twickenham sessions — and much less aggressive than I had anticipated. He appears happy when playing, lost and anxious when not.
- Lennon and McCartney still have great musical chemistry but relations between Paul and George are tense. Paul is at his most schoolmasterly, while the younger man is a study in passive aggression (‘you tell me what to play, Paul!”).
- George’s walk-out is strangely muted — we don’t hear his famous ‘See you around the clubs’. The trigger is a band discussion in which Paul talks over George in trying to explain his position to John. Harrison gets fed up with being ignored and casually announces that he’s leaving. The others assume he means breaking for lunch. They are nonplussed when he announces in a firmer voice “I’m leaving the band”. In the afternoon, the remaining Beatles launch into a weird metal thrash jam, featuring a banshee scream from Yoko. Not their best day at the office.
- Oh Yoko! Do you have to be in every shot? A more reasonable John Lennon would have said, “Why don’t you pop out and have a look around the shops for a few hours? I’ll be finished here around five.”
- Poor Ringo looks exhausted. Never complains (unlike his best band buddy) and remains pretty much silent throughout. But look how his feet start tapping in the magical section in which Paul ‘conjures up Get Back ‘out of thin air’. Who doesn’t love Ringo? (Mr P Best gets a pass)
- Dick James is straight out of Central Casting. His cartoonish cameo underscores that Lennon and McCartney still haven’t grasped the importance of their songbook. They are distracted by ephemera — the fact that Vera Lynne has recorded Goodnight and The Fool on the Hill, gets their attention where squillions of copyright royalties do not. Until nine months later, of course, when John told a crucial meeting that he was ‘not going to be messed around by ‘suits in the City sitting around on their fat arses’. Turned out that he was — the songbook would become the property of a media mogul, Lew Grade.
- Bossy but mesmerising — Paul McCartney is a captivating screen presence and the dynamic creative force. He is the only one who thought ‘wardrobe!’ when waking up on filming days.
- Fantastic to see them kidding around so much, especially after Billy Preston’s arrival and when close friends and family show up. To an extent they are acting but they can’t fake their love of playing together. Even on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer! Look at John whistling! Okay, the atmosphere gets frostier on Take 78 but still…