The Beatles – Get Back: Days 17-22 Dir: Peter Jackson

The end is in sight! Peter Jackson’s nearly-8-hour epic comes to a close and The Beatles head for the rooftop in this third instalment of the Get Back mini-series.

I’ve gotta say, even the staunchest Beatles fan must be looking forward to the end of this long and rambling film. But, to be fair, no matter what Peter Jackson decided to do, he would get flack…chop it down and hard-core fans will raise a ruckus, but put everything in (as he seems to have done) and you’ll see comments on social media asking why all their precious time has been wasted.

Well, it’s still a free country, and no one is forcing anyone to watch any of this, so…stop yer whinging!

The BeatlesAs January draws to a close and the band’s self-imposed deadline looms, the mood is surprisingly relaxed on Day 17 (Sunday, January 26, 1969). George is helping Ringo flesh out Octopus’s Garden while little 6-year-old Heather (daughter of Linda Eastman) takes over, charming everyone and going a bit Yoko when given the mic. Some work does get done….Paul teaches John the bass line for The Long And Winding Road, but otherwise they run through a few oldies with Billy Preston while family and friends hang out.

The BeatlesBy Monday, things get a bit more serious and George seems to have spent some money on Carnaby Street updating his wardrobe…love that striped suit! It’s announced that Yoko’s divorce has gone through…happy news on the day, but it will lead to her losing her own 8-year-old daughter to ex Tony Cox…it would be 23 years before they were reunited.

But back to Get Back, George works on Old Brown Shoe and engineer Chris Thomas makes an appearance…the mood is still chilled considering the rooftop performance is scheduled to happen in two days, but then…a short reprieve, due to bad weather being forecast, the show is put off one more day.

On Day 19 (Tuesday) another dark cloud gathers in the form of Allen Klein. The manager of The Stones is making a play for The Beatles and John is taken in hook, line and sinker…”he knows everything about everything”, he beams. Needless to say, Paul is not impressed and a chat between John and Glyn Jones finds the engineer wary of Klein, but reluctant to bad mouth him in front of Lennon.

With the rooftop a day away, the wine is flowing and John, George, Paul and Billy sit in a circle jamming while Ringo is perched on his drum riser. A group meeting with Allen Klein takes place in the evening, away from the cameras.

The BeatlesOn Day 20, John is still smitten with Klein, Ringo farts and Paul’s brother Mike attends.  One day out from the rooftop and there are still extended discussions about whether they should do it, but a setlist is written.  I can see lesser patient viewers losing interest at this point (if they haven’t already). Billy sings an altered version of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) as “I Had A Dream”, and John and Paul sing Two Of Us through (comically) clenched teeth.

Finally the day dawns and it’s time to go up on the roof. Incredibly, there is still some discussion on whether it will happen, but by now the machine is turning, camera crews are setting up and gear is heading up stairs.

Eventually the band is seen on the roof, after a few minor adjustments, they unceremoniously start playing Get Back and off we go!

In addition to those on the roof, there are cameras on the street, across the street and even hidden in the lobby of the Apple office.

With the “sound check” out of the way, we hear Get Back again as necks are craning and traffic is blocked.

Don’t Let Me Down is next and by this time the police are on the scene. Mal Evans is sent down to stall them and he does an admirable job.

The edit of the rooftop “concert” is done well. Jackson manages to keep the integrity of the performance while capturing the hub-bub on the street below and the “negotiations” with the cops. Purists may wish it wouldn’t cut away from the music…and I hope there will be an alternate cut available at a later date…but for this purpose it is an excellent documentation of the event.

It also goes to show how much better the original Let It Be film could have been. After all, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg had access to all of this footage, but his edit is much more pedestrian.  And while we’re on the subject of Lindsay-Hogg, I must say out of all the “characters” in this new film, he comes off as the least likable and least talented. The Beatles needed direction, needed someone with ideas on how to present these songs visually and Hogg’s best shot was to try and convince them to go to Libya. A massive fail on his part.

About 40 minutes later it’s all over as the police enter the roof and the band unplugs after one more version of Get Back.

But it’s not over yet…at least this film isn’t…the following day (January 31st, Day 22), all regroup for audio playback and the sound is very good. Several of the performances will eventually end up on the Let It Be album and The Beatles themselves will go on to make Abbey Road.

It’s been a long, strange trip, but it’s finally over! So thank you Peter Jackson and crew for giving us such an intimate and (seemingly) honest portrayal of what actually happened during the month of January, 1969 when The Beatles made Let It Be.

Marty Duda