10 New Beatles Insights Through Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’

‘It would be fair to say that today ‘Let It Be’ symbolizes the breaking-up of the Beatles. That’s the mythology, the truth is somewhat different. The real story of ‘Let It Be’ has been locked in the vaults of Apple Corps for the last 50 years.’

So says director Peter Jackson in the ‘Get Back’ book that accompanied his eight hour lasting documentary on Disney Plus.

Jackson’s film fills in a lot of missing puzzle pieces in the story of the world’s most discussed band. Not for nothing are basically all Beatles Wikipedia-pages re-edited with new information from the previously unseen footage. For me personally, the documentary was a real eye opener. It gave me the following new insights into the legendary group and my favorite musicians of all time. The order of the insights is completely arbitrary.

1. George spontaneously quit the band
After George leaves, which for me seemed to happen completely out of the blue, John considers replacing him with Eric Clapton who had just left Cream. Was he serious? Maybe. Of course they really wanted George back…

2. There was little conflict
Despite George leaving, there was little conflict. At least nothing dramatic. Of course they had frequent discussions and they were obviously uncertain about how they should proceed and evolve from that stage on, but major fights and arguments? There weren’t any.

3. Yoko is just a wallflower
A persistent rumor about this period of The Beatles was that John constantly bringing Yoko to the studio was a major source of tension within the group. This doesn’t appear to be the case. She is always there, but she hardly speaks. Just once in a while she plays some experimental music. Besides, the other guys bring their girlfriends along as well constantly, especially Paul, but it doesn’t distract from the creative process at all.

4. Many of the later songs were already being written here
During the ‘Get Back’ sessions, they played many early versions of songs that would later appear on ‘Abbey Road’ (their final album) and solo albums. These songs include: I want you (she’s so heavy), Polythene Pam, Teddy Boy, Her Majesty, Hot As Son, Isn’t It a Pity, Something, Octopus’ Garden, Jealous Guy, Sitting in the Backseat of my Car, Gimme Some Truth, She Came in Through My Bedroom Window, Another Day, All Things Must Pass, Oh Darling, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Every Day, Carry That Weight and Sun King.

5. Much of the creative process is just goofing around
By this time, their full time job was just coming to the studio and composing amazing music. They did so by fooling around much of the time. They know literally hundreds of songs and played them constantly. The documentary also shows the almost telepathic connection between Lennon and McCartney. And an observation by Jackson is that Lennon found a new partner in Yoko Ono and this is visibly painful for McCartney. But he accepts it and deals with it.

6. Jealous Guy had a different title and different lyrics first
Jealous Guy – one of Lennon’s great solo songs (B-side of Imagine) – was first called On the Road to Marrakesh. Apparently, John wrote this in India, then it was rejected for ‘The White Album’ and here he plays it during the sessions at Twickenham Studios.

7. Paul is a great manager as John takes a back seat
In the early days of The Beatles, John was sort of the bandleader. During the ‘Get Back’ sessions, it is Paul. He does so in an inspiring way. He wants to go for the best possible results and doesn’t get pushy or annoying. He is just trying to keep the band going and eventually, they get really going.

8. The album ‘Let It Be Naked’ is much better than the original
‘Let It Be’ was up until now my least favorite album by The Beatles. This changed when I heard the Naked-version which was released in 2003. This made me realize what a messed up job Phil Spector did with the material on the 1970 original version. And why did he exclude Don’t Let Me Down? A fucked up decision. The Naked-version is true to the original vision of the group to strip their music down. All of the twelve songs sound amazing. This is an album truly worthy of this brilliant band.

9. One After 909 is one of their early songs
I never appreciated this song much, but thanks to the documentary I started loving it and I now play it constantly. It is an early song which John wrote while he was just 15. Paul is very pleased with it as well. The lyrics are about nothing, but what does it matter? It just sounds really really good.

10. There were ideas for a different ‘The End’
During the film and in the many transcribed conversations in the books, the boys and original documentary maker, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, were constantly trying to come up with an idea for a live performance to conclude the ‘Get Back’ project. Of course this ends up being the famous rooftop concert – The Beatles last live gig ever – but there were many ideas before that. The best one was Paul’s. He proposed a live show with news men in between songs bringing the latest news. And at the end of the show, the final bulletin is… ‘The Beatles have broken up!’

5 Best Paul McCartney Solo Albums

Of the four Beatles, Paul McCartney has been arguably the most versatile and successful solo-artist. Yes, John Lennon had a lot less time since he died in 1980. Who knows what he would have produced hadn’t he been murdered? Of his output as a solo artist, especially his first two albums were great (‘Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Imagine’), but after that the quality somewhat declined. George Harrison, same story. ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘Living in the Material World’ were brilliant, but the rest of his albums are far less memorable.

McCartney also peaked after the Beatles, but he continued to make great albums right up until his latest gem ‘McCartney III’. Below are the five albums he made post-Beatles that I love the most.

5. Venus and Mars

Recorded in New Orleans and released in 1975, this was the fourth studio-album McCartney released with his band Wings, and his sixth album after the Beatles-break-up. It is a sort of concept-album and features a number of beautiful compositions: the title-track that returns later (much like St. Peppers), ‘Rock Show’, ‘You Gave Me the Answer’, ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’, and ‘Listen to What the Man Said’. The album was a huge success. It reached number 1 in the US, the UK and other countries around the world (as did the single ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ in the US) and sold four million copies worldwide.

4. McCartney

His first album after the break-up in 1970 – which had a lot to do with the tension within the disintegrating band – was not received very well. John Lennon was one of the main critics. I think it contains a number of terrific songs, some of Beatles-level greatness. This makes sense since they were written during the band’s golden years: ‘Junk’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Every Night’, ‘That Would Be Something’ are the best. Yes, the album is underproduced, but this gives it some of its charm. McCartney basically performed the whole album by himself and recorded it in secrecy. It is the perfect showcase for his amazing talent.

3. Band on the Run

Generally considered as the highlight of Wings’ output. It opens with the classic title track about McCartney’s search for freedom. ‘Band on the Run’ consists of three parts that form a perfect integrated composition. This is pure McCartney. There are only eight more songs on the album, but they are all beautiful. The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, by a trio consisting of Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. The rest of the band had left. No matter, the final result was generally praised and it became a huge commercial success. Look out for actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee on the album’s cover.

2. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

This 2005 masterpiece re-establishes McCartney as one of the greatest living musicians/songwriters. It took 18 months to make and Paul once again plays most of the instruments, like he did on his first album McCartney. The 13 songs are unusually reflective and intimate-sounding for the ex-Beatle, which is a good thing. They are all great, but my favorites are: ‘Fine Line’, ‘Jenny Wren’, ‘Friends to Go’ (dedicated to George Harrison), ‘A Certain Softness’ and ‘Follow Me’. The cover is from a photograph of McCartney strumming a guitar in his family’s backyard in Liverpool, taken by Paul’s brother Mike.

1. Ram

‘Ram’ is the only album credited to the husband-and-wife music duo Paul and Linda McCartney. It is a terrific collection of extremely enjoyable songs, like: ‘Too Many People’, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ (Paul’s first number 1 hit in America without the Beatles), ‘Ram On’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’. The recording sessions also yielded the terrific non-album single ‘Another Day’. ‘Ram’, very much like Paul’s debut album ‘McCartney’, initially received unfavourable reaction from music journalists, but has since been recognized as one of Paul’s best efforts as a solo musician.

Paul, thanks for all your terrific output. It is impossible for me to describe how much your music means to me personally.

Read also:
The Beatles: Reunion Project
The White Album Compressed
Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke
My 10 Favourite Beatles Songs

The White Album Compressed

In the documentary The Beatles Anthology (1995), the three then still living band members discuss their recording history at Abbey Road. The non-Beatle with the greatest influence over these legendary recordings is without a doubt George Martin, sometimes referred to as ‘the fifth Beatle’. The extremely talented producer and musician offers some interesting comments on the production. Especially about the The White Album – the only double album made by the band (not counting Past Masters) – he has an interesting thing to say. He thinks they shouldn’t have made it a double album, but pick the best songs and turn it into a very good, single album.

The band disagreed. McCartney said that the record was fine as it was, remarking: “It was great. It sold. It’s the bloody Beatles’ White Album. Shut up!” Harrison thought a double album was a good idea to clear the backlog of songs the group had at that time, though he also admitted not all songs were that strong.

Reducing the backlog to a single album would have been quite a challenge though. The group had spent a couple of months in Rishikesh, India, for a course in Transcendental Meditation and written no less than 40 songs. George really developed himself as a songwriter during this period. But Lennon also said he wrote some of his greatest songs in India. The White Album contains many fantastic songs, and the fragmented whole is a terrific mix of genres, like folk, country, blues, ska, music hall and avant-garde. Why would one mess with that?

However, as a thought experiment, let’s consider what a single White Album would be like. Some tough decisions would have to be made. It contains 30 songs, and would have to be cut down to 17 (taking Abbey Road as a measure). Which 13 songs would perish?

At the risk of pissing off some fellow Beatles fanatics, I would get rid of these 13 tracks.

Wild Honey Pie (McCartney)
This is just a curious short McCartney thing. No problem dumping this one.
Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (McCartney)
It’s alright, but it’s not great is it?
Yer Blues (Lennon)
A dark and moody song by Lennon, but he did better later in his solo career.
Mother Nature’s Son (McCartney)
Off course it’s an okay song, but if you have to choose between this and the remainders, it is really no choice at all.
Glass Onion (Lennon)
This one I like. I like the guitar play and the references in the lyrics. Still, it’s not brilliant.
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (Lennon)
The longest title of a Beatle track. Do I love this song? No. So it can go.
Helter Skelter (McCartney)
Now this one is a classic and the toughest decision yet. Sorry Paul. We can release it as B-side to a Happiness Is a Warm Gun single maybe.
Long, Long, Long (Harrison)
Never had much use for this track.
Revolution 1 (Lennon)
What?!? How can you get rid of Revolution! One of Lennon’s best songs. Pay attention please. This is Revolution 1, not Revolution that was released as B-side of Hey Jude. And that is a way better version with one of my favorite beginnings of a Beatles-song.
Savoy Truffle (Harrison)
Sorry Harrison, but I don’t care much for a candy addicted Eric Clapton.
Revolution 9 (Lennon)
Nobody is gonna give me a hard time over this one. It was a weird decision to put it on the album in the first place. Nobody listens to it more than once.
Rocky Racoon (McCartney)
George Martin thought this was filler. I disagree. I think it is a great track. But in exercises like this you have to kill your darlings.
Good Night (Lennon, sung by Ringo)
This one I love as well. Painful to let it go, but I must.

And now, we’re left with the Compressed White Album. I’m satisfied. You can find it on Spotify under jkleyngeld. Check it out.

Side one
01. Happiness Is a Warm Gun
02. Piggies
03. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
04. I’m So Tired
05. I Will
06. Cry Baby Cry
07. Julia
08. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
09. Honey Pie

Side two
10. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
11. Birthday
12. Sexy Sadie
13. Back in the U.S.S.R.
14. Don’t Pass Me By
15. Dear Prudence
16. Martha My Dear
17. Blackbird

The Beatles: Reunion Project

It was fifty years ago today…

Vandaag is het 50 jaar geleden dat Paul McCartney aankondigde uit The Beatles te stappen. Een scheiding is nooit in één moment te vatten, maar dit is wel een vrij definitief moment geweest.

Mijn adoratie voor The Beatles kan ik niet sterk genoeg uitdrukken. Ik zie hun verschijning in de geschiedenis als de levens van Plato en Aristoteles in het oude Griekenland. Zij gaven ons filosofie en wetenschap. The Beatles gaven ons via hun muziek de boodschap dat het universum uiteindelijk iets goeds is en dat liefde de drijvende kracht is.

Dat vier zulke getalenteerde muzikanten elkaar hebben gevonden en de levens van miljoenen en miljoenen mensen positief hebben beïnvloed is een wonder. Kun je nagaan in wat voor bizar universum we leven? Een universum dat heeft gezorgd voor het ongemanifesteerde potentieel voor deze band om in bestaan te komen. Hoe goed waren ze? Een groep die een nummer als Revolution als B-kant van een single heeft uitgebracht. I rest my case.

De muzikale erfenis van de groep is groot en machtig. Stuk voor stuk heb ik ze kapot gedraaid: de vijftien albums uit de kerncatalogus. Van Please Please Me tot Past Masters en alles ertussen. Ze hebben een enorme output geleverd, zeker gezien de korte tijd dat ze bij elkaar waren. Alles even briljant en de muziek gaat nooit vervelen. Dan is er nog het solo-werk van de individuele Beatles-leden om uit te putten. Maar hoe goed sommige platen ook zijn; het zijn geen Beatles-albums. Gelukkig is hiervoor een oplossing gevonden door acteur Ethan Hawke.

Compilatie van solo-werk
Beatles-fanaat Ethan Hawke stelde The Black Album samen voor de film Boyhood van Richard Linklater, een film waarin scheidingen een belangrijk thema is. Hawke schreef hier een geweldige essay over dat slechts deels in de film zit (lees het volledige essay hier).

The Black Album is een krachtige mix waarin Hawke erin slaagt een balans te vinden tussen het solowerk van John, Paul, George en Ringo, zodat het inderdaad bijna lijkt alsof de band weer bij elkaar is. Echter, smaak is persoonlijk en ik zou andere keuzes maken. Vandaar dat ik – geïnspireerd door Hawke – mijn eigen compilatie heb gemaakt om The Beatles weer bij elkaar te brengen, getiteld Reunion Project. Het zijn in totaal vier albums geworden, één voor iedere Beatle. De albums zijn op Spotify te luisteren onder deze titels:
– The Beatles: Reunion Project Vol. 1
– The Beatles: Reunion Project Vol. 2
– The Beatles: Reunion Project Vol. 3
– The Beatles: Reunion Project Vol. 4

Toegegeven: het artwork kan nog wat werk gebruiken. Maar het gaat om het idee. The Black Album was een rouw-album en was dus zwart. De Reunion Project-albums hebben juist felle kleuren om te vieren dat de boys weer bij elkaar zijn.

De tracks

Volume 1
01. Let ‘Em In (Paul McCartney & Wings, Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976)
02. Crippled Inside (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
03. Jenny Wren (Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
04. Gimme Some Truth (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
05. What is Life (George Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)
06. When the Night (Paul McCartney & Wings, Red Rose Speedway, 1973)
07. Mrs. Vandebilt (Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run, 1973)
08. Mother (John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
09. Free as a Bird (The Beatles, Anthology 1, 1995)
10. Junk (Paul McCartney, McCartney, 1970)
11. Bogey Music (Paul McCartney, McCartney II, 1980)
12. You (George Harrison, Extra Texture (Read All About It), 1975)
13. One Day (At a Time) (John Lennon, Mind Games, 1973)
14. Woman (John Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)
15. Living in the Material World (George Harrison, Living in the Material World, 1973)
16. Photograph (Ringo Starr, Ringo, 1973)
17. Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney, McCartney, 1970)

Volume 2
01. Working Class Hero (John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
02. I Don’t Know (Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, 2018)
03. Beautiful Boy (John Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)
04. The Lovely Linda (Paul McCartney, McCartney, 1970)
05. Too Many People (Paul McCartney, Ram, 1971)
06. It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr, non-album single, 1971)
07. Whatever Gets You Thru the Night (John Lennon, Walls and Bridges, 1974)
08. John Sinclair (John Lennon, Some Time in New York City, 1972)
09. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On earth) (Harrison, Living in the Material World, 1973)
10. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Paul McCartney, Ram, 1971)
11. Oh My Love (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
12. Here Today (Paul McCartney, Tug of War, 1982)
13. I Live For You (George Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)
14. Oh Yoko! (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
15. Fine Line (Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
16. Getting Closer (Paul McCartney & Wings, Back to the Egg, 1979)
17. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out) (Lennon, Walls and Bridges, 1974)

Volume 3
01. (Just Like) Starting Over (John Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)
02. All Things Must Pass (George Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)
03. Ram On (Paul McCartney, Ram, 1971)
04. Jealous Guy (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
05. You Gave Me the Answer (Paul McCartney & Wings, Venus and Mars, 1975)
06. Back Off Boogaloo (Ringo Starr, non-album single, 1972)
07. Love (John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
08. Who Can See It (George Harrison, Living in the Material World, 1973)
09. Bluebird (Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run, 1973)
10. Every Night (Paul McCartney, McCartney, 1970)
11. Friends To Go (Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
12. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) (John Lennon, non-album single, 1970)
13. One More Kiss (Paul McCartney & Wings, Red Rose Speedway, 1973)
14. A Certain Softness (Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
15. Hold On (John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
16. That Would Be Something (Paul McCartney, McCartney, 1970)
17. Cheer Down (George Harrison, non-album single, 1989)

Volume 4
01. My Sweet Lord (George Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)
02. Real Love (The Beatles, Anthology 2, 1996)
03. Come On To Me (Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, 2018)
04. Oh My My (Ringo Starr, Ringo, 1973)
05. Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long (George Harrison, Living in the Material World, 1973)
06. Out the Blue (John Lennon, Mind Games, 1973)
07. Another Day (Paul McCartney, Ram, 1971)
08. Look At Me (John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
09. San Ferry Anne (Paul McCartney & Wings, Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976)
10. Imagine (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971)
11. Band on the Run (Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run, 1973)
12. Grow Old With Me (John Lennon, Milk and Honey, 1984)
13. Watching the Wheels (John Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)
14. English Tea (Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
15. The Back Seat of My Car (Paul McCartney, Ram, 1971)
16. Mind Games (John Lennon, Mind Games, 1973)
17. Warm and Beautiful (Paul McCartney & Wings, Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976)

Toelichting selectie
● Ik heb de verhouding toegepast van de laatste albums. John & Paul zijn 50/50 verantwoordelijk voor het leeuwendeel. George heeft zo’n één op zeven nummers bijgedragen en Ringo één bijdrage per album. Paul heeft iets meer songs omdat hij langer door heeft kunnen componeren dan John, maar ik ben extra kritisch op hem geweest om de verhoudingen te bewaken.
● Het nummer God, hoewel een van de betere nummers van John Lennon, heb ik niet opgenomen omdat hij zingt ‘I don’t believe in Beatles’. Dat past niet op een reünie-album.
● Het Dylanesque Working Class Hero, ook van Lennon, heb ik wel opgenomen ook al zingt hij meerdere malen ‘fuck’, iets wat op een typisch Beatles-album niet zou voorkomen. Maar ik heb het benaderd alsof de boys in 1970 niet uit elkaar zouden zijn gegaan. Dan waren ze andere dingen gaan proberen, waaronder wellicht Lennon een keer ‘fucking’ laten zingen op een album.
● Zoals op alle albums vanaf Rubber Soul zijn er geen covers opgenomen. Alle nummers zijn dus door de solo-artiesten zelf geschreven, soms wel met een medeschrijver.
● De twee tracks die Paul, George en Ringo opnamen voor Anthology in 1995, 15 jaar na de dood van John Lennon, heb ik ook opgenomen omdat het gewoon super goede tracks zijn. In de Anthology-documentaire vertellen de toen nog drie levende Beatles dat ze graag wat muziek wilde maken toen ze toch weer bij elkaar waren. Maar John was er niet om inspraak te geven en ze besloten altijd alles met zijn vieren. Toen hebben ze gezocht naar werk wat hij niet heeft kunnen afmaken en vonden ze Real Love en Free as a Bird. En zo zijn er uiteindelijk toch nog twee echte Beatles-tracks toegevoegd aan de gigantische waslijst songs die ze hebben geproduceerd.

Na 50 jaar is de pijn van de scheiding eindelijk een keer voorbij en kunnen we gewoon puur genieten van hun nalatenschap. Hoe langer iets al bestaat, hoe langer het nog zal bestaan. 50 jaar is dus niks. The Beatles zijn een blijvend geschenk van het universum.

© Jeppe Kleyngeld, april 2020