My thoughts on Peter Jackson’s “Get Back,” a.k.a. The Beatles “Let It Be” sessions — which have been delayed again and will be revamped to 6-hours.
I have mixed emotions about director Peter Jackson’s stunning decision accompanied by Disney’s announcement to rework the “Get Back”/”Let It Be” documentary yet again — this time as a 3-part, 6-hour series to be shown in late 2021. The news was reported everywhere around the world today and seems to be met with some enthusiasm that we’ll get to see and hear far more of The Beatles than we expected.
But more, even when it’s great, is not always a good thing, and certainly changes the scope of the project and how we’ll react to it.
Initially, we’d been promised “Get Back” (a redux of the early 1969 recording sessions) would be re-done as a 2-hour theatrical release. For two years, many of us anticipated this — not just as another movie, but a musical and historical EVENT not to be missed. Jackson, so masterful over the course of his career seemed the perfect steward to be put in charge of 60 hours of unreleased archival footage and outtakes. The idea that the famous Apple rooftop concert would be shown in its entirety for the first time (the Beatles final live performance before splitting) was tantalizing.
“Get Back” shown on the big screen, with its 14 songs from “Let It Be” and many raw recordings that would appear 9 months later on “Abbey Road,” the group’s swansong, seemed like a rock n’ roll dream. So, what made Jackson change his mind? Did Disney (streaming TV) throw a lot of money to detour the project? If so, why go from 2-3 hours to 6?
Having seen the original “Let It Be,” which was only made into a documentary film because The Beatles had one final film commitment and had to come up with something, and having heard much of the backlog of outtakes and bootlegs from this extraordinary period, I’m eager to explore the creative process. Any musician, writer, or artist (or anyone who aspires to be) should marvel at how magic is made from scratch. So, seeing more behind-the-scenes footage will delight many of us who love the music and like the nitty-gritty of writing, re-working, and recording music.
However, I fear some redundancy here. After all, this isn’t a documentary on The Beatles. It’s a closed film and studio set, most of the rehearsals, recorded at Twickenham, Abbey Road, and finally Apple that shows a group about to file for divorce. I’d prefer to see a theatrical release, THEN a director’s cut, which could have been a 6-hour series on Disney. How fitting that Jackson, best known for his lengthy “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is now making what’s essentially the same scope of a project with The Beatles.
“Let’ It Be” was a mess 52 years ago. It wasn’t released until after the group split apart, and was a sort of posthumous gift for fans. Phil Spector took over the tapes, and Paul McCartney reportedly hated what had been done to his songs. The movie bombed. And now, here we are a half-century later, and the project seems just as uncertain.
What a long and winding road it’s been.
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