• Peter Sellers seems incredibly uncomfortable hanging out with the Beatles. As teenagers, the Beatles deeply admired The Goon Show, a British radio comedy show featuring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine. At Twickenham Studios in 1965, Peter Sellers had presented the Beatles with their Grammy Award for “A Hard Days’ Night” on the studio set of Help! Sellers also appeared with the Beatles on the 1965 television special The Music of Lennon & McCartney. Dressed as King Richard III, he performed a Shakespearian rendition of “A Hard Day’s Night.” And yet, when John, Paul and Ringo — seated with Peter Sellers — start improvising feeble Goon-inspired wordplays, Sellers makes a hasty retreat. “I’m notoriously bad at this type of thing,” says Peter. “You noticed we are too,” replies Paul.
• Peter Jackson does an excellent job of showing the creation of songs that the Beatles later used on Abbey Road, including “Something,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Carry That Weight,” and “Oh! Darling.”
• Seeing Linda Eastman chat with Yoko Ono while the Beatles practice the song “Let It Be” debunks several myths at once. Not only do the two women get along, but clearly Linda was present for a lot of the Get Back sessions. Linda’s face doesn’t appear at all in the original Let It Be movie. As the group’s new manager, Allen Klein demanded that the edited Let It Be movie focus on the four Beatles. Yoko sat next to John much of time (while Linda sat across the room from Paul), making it much more difficult to cut Yoko from the original film. When Linda gives her opinion on where the final concert should take place, I love how Paul jokingly chastises her (“Stay out of this Yoko!”).
• The full forty minutes of the rooftop concert is riveting and enthralling.
My only disappointment with Get Back is that Jackson failed to include a few songs the Beatles played during the Get Back sessions: “Let It Down” and “Hear Me Lord” by George Harrison, “Oh My Love” by John Lennon, and “Hot as Sun” by Paul McCartney). Of course, having to narrow down 56 hours of film and 150 hours of taped music and conversations must have been a daunting task, and there was obviously no way Jackson could include everything. For instance, on Day 1 alone, the Beatles recorded fifteen takes of “Don’t Let Me Down,” twenty takes of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and nine takes of “Two of Us.” Thankfully, Jackson spared us the tedium of sitting through them all by employing quick cuts like an outtake reel. I’m grateful for the full eight-hour movie, a real treat for Beatle fans, far more satisfying than the originally planned three-hour movie could ever be. Peter Jackson has given Beatles fans everywhere a beautiful gift: Visceral insight into the Beatles’ collaborative and creative process. (For me, the highlight of the film is witnessing Paul create the song “Get Back,” watching the other Beatles join in, and observing how the lyrics develop over time.)
In 1970, when the Beatles released the single “Let It Be,” I thought the bittersweet lyrics were telling us to accept the breakup of the Beatles on April 10, and that somehow, everything would be all right. The song always made me sad. But now, thanks to The Beatles: Get Back, the song fills me with hope and joy.
Although John remains my favorite Beatle, Paul delivers my favorite line in the entire eight-hour documentary. On January 14, 1969, while demonstrating how to play piano, Paul says, “Unless you stop yourself, there’s no stopping yourself.”