The companion book to both the new multi-part documentary series directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and the deluxe editions of Let It Be (including a newly mixed version of the album), Get Back serves mostly as a transcript of select moments excerpted from the reels of film that captured the original Let It Be writing, rehearsal, and recording sessions. If that sounds rather academic, it’s because, at times, it is: there are passages of dialogue that are not much more than good-morning greetings of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Yet, there is an underlying purpose to all of it- the book, the box set, the Jackson doc- that, once understood, provides plenty of relevant context and shape.
Let It Be and the recording process that surrounded it, including the famed rooftop concert at Apple (not for nothing, the band’s last live performance), often have been characterized as the breaking up of The Beatles. It didn’t help matters that Let It Be was released after Abbey Road, though Abbey Road was recorded after Let It Be. Had it been the reverse, Abbey Road would’ve have been viewed as a triumphant send-off, and Let It Be merely the precursor to a glorious fade-out into the sunset.
Instead, for 50 years since, Let It Be, to many, equaled the Fab Four’s acrimonious downfall. Someone who’s never been happy with that depiction is the Beatle who championed making the original film and album in the first place: McCartney. Macca has long professed that both the (now out-of-print) Let It Be film and album failed to capture the still-amicable, brotherly creative spirit that was as present, if not more so, as the instances of tension; not to mention some terrific, historic performances (later dredged in sickly sweet orchestral arrangements by Phil Spector).
This is the current campaign to reassess that pivotal moment in Beatles history: Jackson’s Get Back and this eponymous 240-page coffee-table beauty, stocked with an abundance of never-before seen photos and the story expressed contemporaneously, in-the-moment by The Beatles, themselves. Yes, there are blocks of dialogue that could be criticized as inessential, but they are there as responses to a different question: It’s not- How did The Beatles break-up? It’s- How did The Beatles work together?
The honor of answering can be, figuratively, left to McCartney, in the book’s final conversation- between Paul and George Harrison; Paul asking for one more pass at recording “Let It Be.” In a way it doubles as McCartney’s present-day motivation for this book/album/documentary reassessment; to accurately, fairly, and finally let it be.
Paul: One more time.
George: Fair. Very fair.
Paul: Very fair. One more…