The Beatles Get Back\Let It Be Trash
It has been over 40 years since 1968, when the Beatles, well, actually, Paul McCartney, somehow dragged the others into a cold warehouse in January to film and record a TV documentary. It was to be called "Get Back". The theme was to see the Beatles raw in a studio-like environment without the polish of the final recordings. What they got was a mess. John later called it, "the worse shit of recordings". The whole environment was not conducive to productivity with film crews, directors and sound men hovering around the world's most famous rock bank, as they tried to ignore them and go about how they create songs. It was cold with little heat, hardly the coziness of an Abbey Road studio. It was dark with spotlights. One could even see their breath in the air. All of this would set a mood. A bad mood that permeated into each of them.
Much of the material recorded is now lost or destroyed. Long after the session was over and filmed, nothing more was done with it because it was trash and none of the Beatles wanted to deal with it. The networks were not interested in the TV show. That is when John invited Phil Spector, a record producer, to revive the sessions and make some sort of a record from them. This was against the wishes of the others. Spector culled over hundreds of hours of songs the band had played, many were old rock standards from their teenage days, but some new material was there also.
The "Get Back" film of 1968, became the "Let It Be" of 1969 and it was released in movie theaters, along with the salvaged songs on the "Let It Be" LP that Spector had reconstructed to a degree. The movie was the Beatles "swan" song, a sad ending to a brilliant and legendary career. To watch it is to become depressed with the fighting and egos between George, John and Paul, some of the time. But then, there are flashes of that infamous Beatle chemistry that when in synch, are simply what all rocks bands should only hope to achieve. The Let It Be LP, was released in different styles: the Canadian version was a fold out and came with a large, beautiful book documenting the Get Back film. The U.S. version was not a fold out and came with no book.
This hub was prompted by myself finding some of the "lost " sessions on a Beatle bootleg LP (unofficial, unauthorized recordings) in my collection. I have not had a record player since 1975, and purchased another recently. Listening to the Get Back sessions now, several things stand out:
- Even when they were messing around, they were good.
- The chemistry between John and Paul shines in the songs heard. It is like each played off the other and improved the song.
- The raw Get Back sessions did show how they worked on songs. In one take, Paul introduces their huge hit, Let It Be, to the band. What follows is stumbling as the others get a feel for it with Paul instructing what chords to play and how and when. One by one, each member starts playing, improvising. Ringo tries different techniques. By the end of this early take, it sounds familiar.
- As a band, their roots were firmly cemented in American early rock and other genres. John performs an unknown song sounding like a true hillbilly from Tennessee. Also, the band seldom stops playing, one song bleeds into another one. Some are planned, some, a member will just play a riff that others join in and jam with it. The longer it is, the better it sounds.
- Two songs stand out from the GB session LP I have: One, called, Commonwealth. It begins with Paul playing a very cool riff on bass and singing, making up words as he sings but it is clear what direction the song will take- a rock number. John soon joins in. John and Paul exchange vocals. Once the song starts working, the listeners senses this, and Ringo and George play. In short order, the song seems rather done. Yet, as Paul sings the chorus line, Commonwealth, as they play, John shouts out to Paul a lyric change in the song, which now makes the song witty\satirical and more memorable. Paul replays the chorus with the change and John singing it. While this was a first take, had the band worked on it further, it would be on the released LP.
- The song released on the LP of Across the Universe is the original recorded in 1967. The version the Beatles did during the GB sessions is much different, in fact, I like it better. The one on the LP is slow and beautiful, the one I am talking about is more like their "Come Together" song on Abbey Road. Its tempo is faster and Paul harmonizes with John throughout the song adding much more depth. The chorus is slow rock with a heavy beat. It is too bad this version did not end up on the LP!
- Hearing this band perform, The House of the Rising Sun ( a smash it for the Animals back in 1964) was a total revelation. Sometimes, it was simply stellar, other times, trash.
A scene from Get Back
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