The Beatles: Get Back and the YouTube Rabbit Hole
When the eight-hour documentary just isn’t enough.
For some reason, it’s been “cool” to rag on The Beatles over the past few years.
Overrated is a word that comes up again and again. Corny. Old school.
But I dare you to sit in a room with those four boys while they construct “Let It Be” — one of the greatest songs of all time — and not be captivated by the ingenuity at work.
That’s something you can do now thanks to The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s restoration of over 60 hours of the footage that originally became 1970’s Let It Be film. It’s now available on Disney Plus.
The restoration is so great that it genuinely feels as though you are sitting in the room with them as they work out both the logistics of the Get Back project and their interpersonal issues. Nerds will complain about the digital noise reduction done on the footage, but the experience of sitting in the same room as them in 1969 is unparalleled.
For starters, the perspective you get on their creative process is unbelievable. You might, as I did, imagine them writing these beautiful works of art, alone, with a fountain pen, a notepad, and a cup of tea as the poetry just flows from them. In reality, the total opposite seems to be true. It’s more like:
We need to write a song because we are supposed to have an LP finished in nine days and we don’t have anything! How about…when I found myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me….
We get an insider’s view on so much of their collaboration. There’s a lot of play, tinkering (perhaps even mocking) some of their older tunes while flowing in and out of others artists’ songs. George has a few songs, they get ignored. Ringo begins to plunk out “Octopus’s Garden” which will appear on their next album. Paul stresses about the impending deadline and works constantly to come up with new material. John cuddles up to Yoko and seems unbothered — if you catch my drift.
But that collaboration can obviously lead to conflict — and it does. We, as the modern viewer, know this session as the beginning of the end historically. But it’s also surprising how they seem to know it too. George briefly quits the band. They are constantly alluding to the fact that they will break up soon. Paul takes it harder than the others — at least openly. Yoko sits by John’s side, Linda and Heather visit Paul. You can’t help but notice that their lives are changing fast and The Beatles, as a group, are getting left behind.
We all know that they didn’t last much longer. A rise and fall — all before baby brother George even turned 27.
If you’re like me, the eight hours of beautifully restored footage somehow wasn’t enough. I spent a lot of my holiday weekend down a Wikipedia and YouTube rabbit hole — and I found myself gravitating towards some of my old favorite Beatles videos — specifically videos of Paul, my favorite of the four.
I have decided to pass these along to you. Here are seven of my favorite Paul videos, with three honorable mentions of other Beatles adjacent content — rounding out the list to an even ten.
Paul McCartney Breaks Down His Most Iconic Songs
I mean what is better than watching one of the greatest songwriters of all time talk about how those songs came to be?
If you’re a Beatles fan, the genesis of “Hey Jude” or the lyrical placeholders in “Yesterday” won’t be new to you, but there are bound to be a few stories you haven’t heard before.
If you are a songwriter, this is a 20 minute masterclass.
Dave Grohl and Norah Jones — Maybe I’m Amazed — 2010 Kennedy Center Honors
The 2010 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony featured tributes to Oprah Winfrey and Bill T. Jones among others, but the performances dedicated to Paul really stole the night. The celebration included fun performances from No Doubt and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, but I found the emotional duet from the unlikely pairing of Dave Grohl and Norah Jones to be the most powerful of the evening. They come together to sing “Maybe I’m Amazed” — one of the heights of McCartney canon.
Personally, I will never forget watching this performance with my grandmother. She recorded the special and showed it to me later because she knew I would like it. She was right — I’m still watching over a decade later.
Paul McCartney on the Upright Bass
Paul was gifted the bass that belonged to Bill Black, Elvis’ bass player, by his late wife Linda in the 1980s. In this clip from Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road, a 2005 concert from McCartney, he tells a fun anecdote about Elvis on tour and then precedes to bust out his rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel.”
It isn’t every day you get to see a Beatle sing Elvis, and probably even less often you see someone playing double bass left-handed.
“(I Want To) Come Home” by Paul McCartney
For a man who has written hundreds of songs, it’s easy to miss a few. Or a few hundred. But I think that this song, written for the 2009 film Everybody’s Fine (an underrated family drama starring Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, and Kate Beckinsale) fell through the cracks. That’s a shame because it’s a really beautiful song. If you don’t know already know it, take the time now to meet it.
Paul McCartney & Wings — Live And Let Die — 1976
This is the best Bond song. No, I will not be answering questions.
Paul McCartney on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
Once again, I will never say no to listening to McCartney talk about the origins of a song, and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is one of my personal favorites. It’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood whenever it’s on.
This is from a 2018 interview with Howard Stern and I recommend all of those clips for similar stories and anecdotes.
Paul McCartney — Long Tailed Winter Bird
About a year ago, Sir Paul released his 18th solo album — McCartney III (which follow up McCartney from 1970 and McCartney II from 1980). At almost 80 years young, Paul can still rock with the best of them — and I think that this song is a perfect example. It’s fun, poppy, and shows his skills as a composer for a full band perfectly. Many will cite the single “Find My Way” as the best song on the record, but I find this opening tune the most inventive.
Some honorable mentions:
I saw Ringo and his All Starr Band a few years ago and my favorite part of the concert was getting to watch Ringo play the drums on Toto’s “Africa”, one of my favorites.
Billy Preston is such a calming presence amongst the chaos of The Beatles: Get Back, so it’s easy to see why so many liked him. The ultimate Fifth Beatle, he’s the only musician who was not a Beatle to be given a credit on a Beatles recording: on “Get Back,” of all songs. You can see his performance of that tune here.
This scene from the 2019 film Yesterday — which I think got a bad rep and I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because The Beatles aren’t cool anymore. How can that be true?