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Get back to where—?

January 30, 2019

The news that Peter Jackson will be assembling a new version of the Beatles' Get Back-Let It Be footage is interesting and exciting. Jackson says he will undo the "myth" of the sessions, that they were snarky and unproductive and no one wanted to be there. But it was the Let It Be album and film, and the Beatles' own words ever since—along with the fact that they all appeared dirty and depressed—that made us think those things. So what Jackson means, even if he doesn't say it, is that he will labor to undo the myth they themselves made, and allowed to be fostered on their behalf by Phil Spector and Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
This sounds like Apple Corps apple-polishing and image-burnishing, applying to the undeniably rough and rashy Get Back sessions more or less the same digital emollient that Ron Howard used for Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years. And it may, nay probably will, turn out to be that.
And yet . . . I have listened to tons of Get Back bootlegs, with many hours of rehearsals and failed takes and spirited busks, along with all the Beatle chatter before, during, and after, and I can attest that there is indeed a whole 'nother comprehension to be drawn from those session tapes than the one we got from the Let It Be movie and the Let It Be record. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of time-wasting and shit-shooting, and a surprising amount of really good, so far unreleased music: "I Lost My Little Girl," the Lloyd Price/Little Richard medley, the unearthly screams-'n'-feedback jam session of Jan. 10, with Yoko sitting in right after George had quit the band; a medley of "Brazil" and "I Got Stung" and "Groovin'"; "Suzy's Parlour," love rocker to a prostitute; etc.
I just wonder how much of this other stuff will get into a Jackson cut. Because Get Back can be transformed into something awesome if someone takes the right angle on it. The spike and the snark and the rash are essential to communicating what was grownup and troublesome and meaningful about the whole project, and about the Beatles at this point in their life together. Much of Get Back smiles, but much of it doesn't. Much of it is comedy and ease, and much of it is just head-down labor and bleeding fingers among prematurely aged men in the dead of winter. I wanna see and hear all of that.
Pathetically perhaps, I have seen only one Jackson movie, Heavenly Creatures, and while I liked it more than fine, I just hope he accesses some of that darkness to make something not only affirmative but also painful out of some very complicated, and very rich, material.

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