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

John Lennon: De Rolling Stones Interviews

Vandaag 40 jaar en twee dagen geleden nam de wereld afscheid van John Lennon. De ex-Beatle werd op 8 december 1980 doodgeschoten voor zijn appartement in New York.

Lees ook: De dag dat John Lennon doodging

Om de legendarische muzikant te eren, publiceer ik vandaag een paar typische Lennon-uitspraken. Deze zijn afkomstig uit een interview dat Jann Wenner (hoofdredacteur Rolling Stone Magazine) eind 1970 met hem afnam, zo’n acht maanden nadat The Beatles definitief uit elkaar waren gegaan.

Zou je van alles af willen wezen?
“Als ik godverdomme visser zou kunnen wezen zou ik ‘t wel willen, weet je. Als ik geschikt was om iets anders te wezen wel. Er is geen lol aan om artiest te zijn. ‘T is net als met schrijven, er is geen lol aan, ‘t is een marteling. Ik heb wel es wat over Van Gogh, Beethoven, al die lui gelezen – ik las er pas nog een stuk over. Als ze toen psychiaters hadden gehad, hadden we nou Gauguin’s fantastische schilderijen niet gehad. En al die klerelijders die ons uitmelken tot we kapot zijn, ‘t enige wat we kunnen doen is ons gedragen als circusdieren. Ik heb er de pest aan om artiest te wezen, ik bedoel ik heb er de pest aan voor klotige idioten op te treden die er niks van af weten. Ze kunnen niet voelen; ik ben degene met ‘t gevoel omdat ik degene ben die ‘t uitdrukt. De plaats van hun leven wordt door mij en andere artiesten ingenomen, en wij zijn degenen…. ‘t is zelfs met boksers zo. Wanneer Oscar (Bonaventura) de ring in komt joelen ze hem de kloten van z’n lijf. Een keer raakt hij Clay en ze juichen hem toe.”

Ben je tevreden over je nieuwe album (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)?
“Ja, ik ben er erg tevreden over. Maar er zijn een hoop dingen die ik graag zou willen verbeteren.”

“Nou, met dit album heb ik in technisch opzicht veel geleerd. Vroeger hoefde ik niet zoveel te leren want gewoonlijk zaten, zeg, George, Paul en ik allemaal te luisteren en ik hoefde niet zoveel te denken over ieder afzonderlijk geluid. Er zijn nu een paar dingen die ik over de bas heb geleerd; waar ik méér had moeten gebruiken, en waar ik er een nummer mee heb verprutst; een paar technische dingen die me tenslotte zijn gaan irriteren. Maar over de opzet en het geheel ben ik tevreden.”

Denk je dat je op dit album beter zingt?
“Ik zing waarschijnlijk beter omdat ik alle tijd aan mezelf had. Deze keer was het mijn album en ik hoefde niet . . . ‘t werd gewoonlijk een beetje gênant tegenover George en Paul omdat we elkaar zo goed kenden… Oh, hij probeert Elvis na te doen, oh, nou doet hij dit. We waren een beetje al te kritisch ten opzichte van elkaar, dus we beperkten elkaar nogal. En nu heb ik Yoko erbij, en Phil erbij, afzonderlijk en gezamenlijk, die zo’n beetje van me houden, dus ik kan ‘t beter brengen; en ik ontspande me, weet je. Ik heb nu thuis een studio en ik denk dat ‘t de volgende keer nog beter wordt omdat dát me nog minder beperkt dan naar de EMI-studio gaan. Zo zit ‘t. Maar het losser worden van het zingen begon als met Cold Turkey door mijn ervaringen met het zingen met Yoko. Zij beperkt haar keel niet, begrijp je?”

Ik wil ‘t je nog eens vragen: ben je tevreden over het nieuwe album?
“Ik geloof dat ‘t het beste is wat ik ooit gemaakt heb. Ik geloof dat het realistisch is en voor mij staat ‘t vast dat ‘t zich door de jaren heen ontwikkeld heeft uit nummer als In My Life, I’m a Loser, Help, Strawberry Fields. Dat waren allemaal persoonlijke nummers. Ik schreef steeds over mezelf als ik de kans kreeg. Ik hield er niet erg van om songs in de derde persoon te schrijven over mensen met betonnen flats en dergelijke dingen. Ik hou van eerste persoonsmuziek. Maar vanwege m’n frustraties en talloze andere dingen kwam ik er maar nu en dan toe om alleen over mezelf te schrijven. Nu heb ik alles over mezelf geschreven en zo werk ik ‘t liefst. Ik ben ‘t zelf! En niemand anders. En dus hou ik ervan.”

Waarom heb je Mummy’s Dead aan het einde gehangen?
“Zo gebeurde ‘t nou eenmaal. Al die songs kwamen gewoon uit me los. Ik ging niet zitten denken ‘Ik ga schrijven over mijn moeder’ of ‘Ik ga schrijven over zus of zo’. Ze kwamen gewoon los, zoals al het beste werk dat iemand ooit doet, of het nou een artikel is of wat dan ook, ‘t zijn de beste die vanzelf loskomen. En ze kwamen allemaal los omdat ik de tijd had – en of je nou op vakantie bent, of in therapie, waar je ook bent, als je er tijd aan besteedt…. Zoals in India, daar schreef ik de laatste portie beste songs. Ik kon er een hoop schrijven als I’m So Tired en Yer Blues, want ze waren tamelijk realistisch. Ze gingen over mij en ik vond ‘t altijd – wat ik ‘t woord – grappig, ironisch of zoiets, dat ik ‘t deed in naar men mag aannemen aanwezigheid van een goeroe, en terwijl ik zoveel uur per dag zat te mediteren schreef ik I’m So Tired en songs over pijn als Yer Blues. Wat ik meende.”

Er werd altijd over de Beatles gepraat, en de Beatles praatten over zichzelf ook, als vier delen van dezelfde persoon. Wat is er met die vier delen gebeurd?
“Ze herinnerden zich dat ze vier individuen waren. Wij geloofden ook in de Beatles-mythe, begrijp je. Ik weet niet of de anderen er nog in geloven. We waren vier knapen . . . Ik ontmoette Paul en zei: ‘Wil je in m’n band komen?’, weet je. Toen kwam George erbij en daarna Ringo. We waren gewoon een band die ‘t erg, erg ver geschopt heeft, dat is alles. Ons beste werk is nooit opgenomen.”

“Omdat we podiummusici waren – wat Mick ook zegt over ons – in Liverpool, Hamburg en andere danszalen, en wat we voortbrachten was fantastisch wanneer we regelrechte rock speelden, en niemand kon ons in Engeland benaderen. Zodra we ‘t maakten maakten we ‘t, maar de boel werd bijgeschaafd. Brian deed ons pakken aan en zo en we werden zeer beroemd. Maar we verkochten onszelf, weet je. De muziek was dood voordat we zelfs maar de theater-toernee door Engeland maakten. We voelden ons al klote omdat we twee uur spelen dat we in zekere zin graag deden, terug moesten brengen tot twintig minuten en iedere avond dezelfde twintig minuten moesten herhalen. Muzikaal stierf de Beatles-muziek toen. We hebben onszelf vermoord om ‘t te maken. En daarmee was ‘t afgelopen. George en ik zijn meer geneigd om dat te zeggen. We hebben altijd ‘t optreden in clubs gemist omdat we daar muziek maakten. En later werden we technisch efficiënte studio-artiesten, hetgeen wat anders is. We waren vakbekwame mensen weet je, en welk medium je ons ook in zet, we kunnen altijd iets maken dat de moeite waard is.”

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