Wait, what? The Fab Four’s most cursed record, the one most intimately associated with their extravagantly-bearded breakup? The one Peter fucking Hobbit Jackson has been apparently making a documentary about since Obama was in office, is getting a reissue? Like, right now?
Apparently yes. The Jackson movie, Get Back, was meant to come out in cinemas, before The Whole Pandemic Unpleasantness ruined everything. Could have been a swell opportunity to revisit the struggling local fleapit with my old man.
But anyway, nope, Disney+ were all like ‘yoink’ and now a six-hour (!) extended cut of the film will beam into everybody’s living rooms, finally, at the end of November.
So Disney now has dibs on Star Wars, and the Beatles, is nothing sacred?
In case you don’t know, the ‘Let It Be’ (slash ‘Get Back’) project was a wheeze dreamed up by Paul McCartney in 1968 – a way for the already-splintering moptops to reinvigorate their flagging mojo by ditching the Walrus costumes and string quartets to make a rootsy, back-to-basics rock and roll LP. Uniquely, every step of the process, from early rehearsals to recording sessions to a big final concert on a Savile Row rooftop was documented on film, by du jour filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
Quite conceptual, non? You can well imagine one of today’s bands – Everything Everything, say, or Idles – pitching that concept to Amazon Prime.
Anyway, the classical narrative is that instead of documenting The Beatles’ imaginative alchemy in never-before-seen fine detail, the movie actually showed what a bunch of whiny little bitches they’d all become. Sad business, everybody agrees.
Is that the truth? We’ll have to wait a whole extra month to find that out.
But this month, October, sees the release of a high-budget bells and whistles reissue of the album proper, with never-before-heard outtakes and alternate versions. The only question – is it worth it? – If you’re a boomer completist, then probably yes. There’s a few options available, but if money isn’t an issue then you should plump for the outtakes-and-annotation-laden “super-deluxe” package that includes five CDs, an audio Blu-Ray and a 105-page hardback book.
What’s new? The most exciting bits are probably the nascent jams of songs that didn’t make it onto Beatles records at all. Bless poor Georgie, presenting the very respectable ‘All Things Must Pass’, only for the bigger boys to shun him. John’s snarling ‘Gimme Some Truth’ – such a keynote tune in his solo repertoire – likewise wasn’t deemed worthy of inclusion.
A scrappy early version of George’s ‘Something’ clearly did the biz. But the band quite wisely waited until the more deluxe production atmos of the ‘Abbey Road’ album to lay it down in full audio technicolour.
Everything you hear about McCartney being a right fussy so-and-so appears to be true, with an extended and very picky run through of an early take from ‘Abbey Road’ filler tune ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.’ Speaking as a McCartney stan, his material is clearly head and shoulders above the others here, his vocal better than it ever was or ever would be, howling and honking through ‘Let It Be’ and especially the euphoric bluesy stomp of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’.
Have you ever thought ‘Get Back’, the song, is just Macca’s thinly-veiled effort to tell Yoko, in no uncertain terms, to piss right off? “Get back Jojo!”, he snarls, before dissolving into a overlong, supervillainesque laugh over the coda.
What else? Ribald drinking anthem ‘Maggie Mae’ is delivered with an even thicker scouse accent, if you can imagine such a thing. Lennon chucks in a cheeky Dylan impression on the otherwise superlative ‘Two Of Us’, the last song he and McCartney genuinely collaborated on.
At one point McCartney, holding court at the pianoforte, slips into a lush lounge version of ‘Please Please Me’, the Beatles’ first number one. The song was technically recorded six years earlier, but may as well have been laid down by another band, from a different generation, in a different genre, on another planet.
The best bit, the very best bit, that probably just about justifies shelling out?
‘Oh! Darling’, the compound time doo-wop piano joint that also only saw the light of day on Abbey Road. On this reissue, we hear Lennon taking the lead vocal to announce – in song! – that Yoko’s divorce from American film producer Anthony Cox had just come through.
I mean, we can debate all day long whether or not that’s what broke up the band. But the poignant manner in which Lennon and McCartney’s blood-oath harmonies falter and fail, just for a moment, tells you more about the vibe inside the room than any six-hour documentary.
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Words: Andy Hill
Photo Credit: Jeremy Neech
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