“Get Back!” – A Review

Disney must have done a great job advertising the new mini series “Get Back!” featuring the Beatles. I say that because I don’t watch much TV but somehow the ads found me. I’m sure it was through football games.

My daughter has a Disney Plus subscription (i.e. I’m paying for it) so I considered it a sunken cost and decided to go for it. I have been a Beatles fan since I was in high school so it wasn’t too hard of a decision.

“Get Back!” is a documentary about The Beatles in the late sixties. The producers try to set up a bit of a plot but really this mini series, at least to me, is more about how an album is made. At times I was pretty bored. The Beatles were pretty clearly perfectionists and they did the songs over, and over, and over, and over yet again. I found it fascinating at first, but got bored later on in the series. One thing that did occur to me is that people would think the same thing about how I go to my job day after day after day and do the same thing, or try to do it better and more perfect. And yes, being a musician is a full time job. It is a serious job to the Beatles and I appreciated that. But it does get boring. They said that they had over sixty hours of footage and they chose nine for the mini series. I imagine that the other fifty one is full of more and more and more takes of the songs.

Most of the songs that were in the documentary ended up on “Let it Be” and “Abbey Road” but the Beatles while goofing around play a lot of their older songs, and lots of songs by others.

The film ends with the historic concert on the roof of Apple in London. I hadn’t seen all of that footage before so it was fascinating.

In addition to the above comments, I had a few random observations.

Wow did they smoke a lot. It seemed that there wasn’t a frame where they weren’t smoking.

They didn’t go into any of the drug usage that I always read about. In certain scenes some of the Beatles looked half asleep (or fully asleep once or twice) and you could see it in their faces at times, but nobody talked about it. They looked exhausted in a lot of the series. It is hard to remember that the Beatles were all still in their twenties at the time. They look older.

Yoko was constantly by John’s side. I remember reading that she was a disruptive force in the group, but she basically sat there quietly while the guys did their thing. There was probably static behind the scenes but it didn’t seem too bad from what I saw. Linda was in a lot of the scenes as well. She was lovely.

I was surprised at the constant mess. I’m sort of a neat freak and couldn’t function in my office if everything was scattered about pell mell. Their studio settings were cluttered and strewn with cords and all sorts of things. I know they needed cords back then, but I would think that they would neatly bind them up. Not so.

The old tech was fascinating to look at. It is hard to believe that they were able to create such wonderful music with all of that equipment. I enjoyed the time that the producers took to show that side of it.

I’m sure that musicians will think that the longer boring (to me) parts are super interesting because a musician will know more about what the group is doing than I did. I tried being a musician a few times but that side of my brain isn’t wired very well. I may try it later in life again.

In general, I enjoyed the series although it got a bit long for me. I would have been just as happy with 4 or 5 hours. However, this is a must for any Beatle fan. I would also recommend it to any musician. I honestly would recommend it to anyone, but maybe a fast forward button would be helpful in parts.

9 thoughts on ““Get Back!” – A Review”

  1. I enjoy the Beatles, immensely, but hearing them play the same things over and over would get old pretty quickly.

  2. At least for West Coast American musicians I started learning about a famous group of studio musicians called the wrecking crew. And a lot of famous musicians in their own right were part of that group at one time or another like glen Campbell.

    And one of the most famous of those musicians is named Carole Kaye. There’s a documentary on Amazon or Netflix on this group and they are the most amazing group that most people have never heard of.

    The reason is they took a song a songwriter wrote and in the recording studio, as Carole called it, pit “pop into it”

    Her work involves over 10,000 songs.

    Brian Wilson was singing her praise, saying that he couldn’t have done what he did without her.

    I guess how you can tell the difference with a studio musicians input is listen to the recording versus listen to a concert.

    I wonder if the Beatles relied on studio musicians?

    A picture I always remembered of them was out of the public view- their first US appearance in New York. And they all have a glass of scotch or a cigarette. Quite a contrast to the clean-cut look their manager wanted to portray.

    As an aside in my Facebook group with Neptunus Lex devotees, is a guy who really knows his rock ‘n’ roll trivia.

    He knows who played for what band and which band they moved onto.

    He was saying for the Beatles there was a drummer with them most of the early days and he either left voluntarily or was replaced involuntarily by Ringo Starr. This is just before they really hit it big

    How would you like to be that guy?

  3. There was no sign of any musicians in the entire series other than the Beatles besides Billy Preston, who brought some keyboard magic into the mix. They were happy to have him as they appeared to be struggling a bit trying to get Paul or John to play those keyboard parts on top of the guitars and vocals.

  4. “I enjoy the Beatles, immensely, but hearing them play the same things over and over would get old pretty quickly.” It did. In the 9 hour series I think you hear Get Back, or a part of it fifty or a hundred times. That is really the only bad thing about it to be honest – but it is how a song like that has to be made, I’m assuming. It does give an interesting picture of how the sausage is made, however.

  5. Shella Bomberg who performed the harp for “She’s Leaving Home” died recently.

    In an interview, she remembered that it was her third gig that day and started late in the evening. I think she said she was paid £16. This was either a good bit for a couple of hours or a great injustice. She seemed to think it was just another gig remembered fondly.

    Not a Pop fan but I think Pop is especially prone to devalue performance over so called “creation”. The truth is that a lot of singer/song writers can’t do either without a lot of help off to the side and especially off the credits. Not The Beatles, but they got more baroque as they went along. In Pop parlance, the New York Philharmonic is a Beethoven cover band.

  6. Bill:
    Pete Best. After getting sacked he “did shift work loading bread into the back of delivery vans, earning £8 a week (equivalent to £200 in 2021). His education qualifications subsequently helped him become a civil servant working at the Garston Jobcentre in Liverpool, where he rose from employment officer to training manager for the Northwest of England.”

    “That is really the only bad thing about it to be honest – but it is how a song like that has to be made, I’m assuming.”
    By all accounts that’s all down to Paul, a perfectionist who was happy to play literally hundreds of times through until he thought it was “right”.

  7. In my opinion watching Billy Preston , creating music of a riff was amazing. He may have been the most talented guy there.

  8. @Brian – thanks! I would imagine that would really eat at you unless you decided to put it behind you. Of course one can speculate if the Beatles would have been the Beatles without Ringo Starr.

    For a bit of music trivia I got the Beatles singing “I want to hold your hand” in German. Wonder if they were still playing in Hamburg when it was written, or after success just singing auf Deutsch to widen their market.

    Listening to that 100 times repetitively seems like Chinese water torture.

  9. I enjoyed it very much. Yes, it could get repetitive, but that accurately reflects the life of musicians creating songs. I look forward to watching this with my daughters when they arrive for Christmas break. This is a good show to chat back and forth over, and discuss what we see while it is happening.

Comments are closed.