The Beatles: Get Back Documentary Series Poised to Challenge History

Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back turned out a little longer than expected with the documentary now set to air over three nights on Disney+

The Beatles during Let It Be recordings
Photo: The Beatles

Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back is now a docuseries. Three two-hour episodes will premiere November 25, 26, and 27 on Disney+. Coming out as another Thanksgiving offering, the documentary series carries a special historical weight. When The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, they broke TV viewing records, with 73 million having watched it live. To be fair, television was the main source of entertainment at the time and there were only three networks.

But “even the criminals stayed home to watch,” George Harrison remembers in the three-part Beatles Anthology series, which premiered to 27.3 million viewers when the first episode aired on ABC on November 19, 1995.  The Beatles: Get Back’s opening is also being rolled out over three days. That’s because Jackson found over six hours of never-before-seen restored footage.

Jackson spent the past three years restoring and editing over 60 hours of unseen footage shot in January 1969, as well as over 150 hours of unheard audio. The stock comes from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s encapsulation of the band’s breakup, the 1970 film Let It Be. But Jackson sees a different story, focusing on the closeness of the friendship and creative encouragement of the band.

“In many respects, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s remarkable footage captured multiple storylines,” Jackson said in a statement. “The story of friends and of individuals. It is the story of human frailties and of a divine partnership. It is a detailed account of the creative process, with the crafting of iconic songs under pressure, set amid the social climate of early 1969. But it’s not nostalgia – it’s raw, honest, and human. Over six hours, you’ll get to know The Beatles with an intimacy that you never thought possible.”

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Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, and Olivia Harrison agree with the three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker, endorsing the film enthusiastically. As does Bob Iger, the Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company, who says the film “offers an unprecedented look at the close camaraderie, genius songwriting, and indelible impact of one of the most iconic and culturally influential bands of all time.”

Lindsay-Hogg shot Let It Be on 16 mm film, which was enlarged to 35mm film for theatrical release. Jackson is probably best known for  The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which the Beatles turned down, but for The Beatles: Get Back he used the same digital restoration techniques he employed for They Shall Not Grow Old, a World War I documentary told with remarkably restored footage.

The Beatles: Get Back is “the story of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr as they plan their first live show in over two years, capturing the writing and rehearsing of 14 new songs, originally intended for release on an accompanying live album,” according to the advance press.

Jackson is the only person in 50 years to have been given access to these private film archives and has chosen to include the entire, uncut rooftop concert. The band only chose to perform their final lunchtime show atop London’s Savile Row at the last minute. The actual performance included a few different takes, as well as song snippets and impromptu comedy bits which were cut from the film. This will be the first time it is publicly available.

Besides the songs which made Let It Be, the new documentary captures early takes of songs which wound up on Abbey Road. If bootlegs of the sessions are any indication, it should also include versions of songs which wound up on solo albums after the group’s breakup.

The music is mixed by Giles Martin, the son of the Beatles’ producer George Martin, and Sam Okell. The collaboration includes an association with Apple Corps Ltd. and WingNut Films Productions Ltd. The Beatles: Get Back is produced or executive produced by Clare Olssen, Jonathan Clyde, Ken Kamins, and Apple Corps’ Jeff Jones.

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But, like “Her Majesty” appears as a coda to the Beatles’ Abbey Road, there’s always more. In the lead-up to the debut, Apple Corps Ltd./Callaway Arts & Entertainment will release The Beatles: Get Back book. The 240-page hardcover comes out on 12 October 12. It includes transcriptions of The Beatles’ recorded conversations, as well as never before published photos from the recording sessions.

The Beatles: Get Back will air in three parts over November 25, 26, and 27, 2021, on Disney+.