Peter Jackson’s Get Back Beatles miniseries offers a fresh take on beloved former band


Paul McCartney, left to right, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon in a scene from the documentary Get Back produced by Peter Jackson.Linda McCartney / Courtesy Apple Corps LTD

One hour after the start of Peter Jackson’s nearly eight-hour miniseries The Beatles: Come Back, the group pauses from lackluster rehearsals to discuss the creative malaise. “The Beatles have been in the doldrums for at least a year,” said George Harrison. Paul McCartney adds that the group has been “very negative” since the death of manager Brian Epstein. “It’s the discipline that we lack,” he presumes. Harrison proposes a divorce. John Lennon jokes, “Who would have the kids? Lying in his chair, Ringo Starr said nothing.

It’s a scene like so many others in To recover (streaming on Disney +), a grueling three-part documentary by superstar filmmaker Peter Jackson that uses over 50 hours of intimate footage recorded by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for his 1970 documentary So be it. McCartney, while conference and alpha beard, is frustrated by the collective’s lack of motivation. The joker Lennon is in a good mood. Harrison is willing, but his contribution is often overlooked. What about Starr? Of the four Beatles, he’s a bit like the fifth.

The Beatles Frenzy: An Introduction to All Things Let It Be

Lindsay-Hogg’s original 90-minute film documented a feud-filled recording of an album (and a quickly scrapped TV show) that had the working title To recover. This album would become So be it. Lindsay-Hogg’s film of the same name has long been seen as documentation of a band’s breakup, even though the Beatles were going to record another album, Route de l’Abbaye.

Jackson, the New Zealander famous for his epic fantasy-adventure trilogy The Lord of the Rings, is from the plus-est-plus school. To do the To recover series, he Lindsay-Hogg’s balloons So be it doc to over five times the length of the original, but basically maintains the same flight approach to the wall. No talking heads and no interviews with the surviving Beatles, McCartney and Starr are added.

The grueling three-part documentary uses over 50 hours of intimate footage recorded by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for his 1970 documentary Let It Be.Courtesy of Apple Corps LTD

Jackson included an introductory segment that sprints through the band’s history, including the mention that The Beatles ceased touring in 1966. This is an important context for understanding the band. To recover project, in which a return to the stage was envisaged.

The Jackson series is a day-to-day documentation of The Beatles rushing to write and rehearse a dozen or more new songs such as I have a feeling and Do not let me down in a cavernous movie studio for a loosely crafted TV show. “All you really need is a good acoustic place,” says Beatles producer George Martin. “What this place is not,” complains McCartney.

Not only were the Beatles not in a good acoustic location, they weren’t in a good location at all. Lindsay-Hogg’s film is often depressing and seen as an audience exposing the group’s bitter demise. Today, 50 years later, Jackson seems to want to rehabilitate the era by showing the lightest moments of the sessions. Take a sad song, so to speak, and make it better (to refer to McCartney lyrics).

He is successful in this regard. After the failure of rehearsals in the film studio, the group retreats to the friendly enclosure of Apple Studio, where tensions are eased. We see The Beatles as we would like to remember them – fabulous, lovable and exceptional creative.

To make the Get Back series, Jackson inflates the Let It Be documentary to over five times the length of the original, but basically keeps the same flight approach on the wall.Courtesy of Apple Corps LTD

Jackson’s most delicate rehabilitation was related to the appearance of the film. Where Lindsay-Hogg’s So be it was grainy, Jackson’s To recover is vibrant. In his 2018 documentary They will not age, Jackson improved the images of soldiers from World War I to contemporary standards. Obviously, the director makes sense with the boys in the trenches.

As for the new narratives that develop over the course of Jackson’s series, there are a few that emerge. The most fascinating study is that of McCartney, as we see him gradually losing control of the group. At one point, as he contemplates the Beatles’ breakup, his eyes fill with tears.

McCartney’s feuds with Harrison are among the most memorable moments in So be it. In To recover, we see Harrison as incredibly insecure. he auditions me me mine, but shyly – after which McCartney turns to Lennon and asks if he has any new songs. But by the end of the series, Harrison seems more confident and an equal creative member.

Watch the band build songs such as To recover starting from scratch is fascinating – but also tedious after repeated listening as the song’s form and lyrics take shape. We also hear songs that will end later on Abbey route. Harrison plays All things must pass. Lennon fans will recognize a melody that will ultimately be used for his solo song Jealous guy.

A long and diminishing myth is one that describes Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, as the villain who broke the Beatles. In To recover, we see her knitting.

The final episode ends with the band performing on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters in Savile Row. It’s beautiful and well worth the several hour trip to get there. The police eventually closed it because the noise and crowds on the street violated public order. You could argue that Ono didn’t break the Beatles – the bobbies did.

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