Two years ago, I was still in employment and had started to liaise with my A level students via email and Teams. It was going to be difficult for a few months and maybe the spread of COVID-19 might spoil parts of the Summer. I had come back from Brighton Station and phoned my friend Peter to pour scorn on a couple of people I had seen walking around with masks on their faces. As if they were worried about a bit of flu. I may have underestimated the scope of the problem. In conversation with Paddy, I wondered what I was going to do with all the spare time I had and he suggested that I write about music. I started with “Abbey Road” by The Beatles on 22nd March 2020. Here I am, exactly two years later, still writing about music and it’s been such a fantastic boost to my state of mind, that I will be forever grateful to Paddy for his suggestion.
I wrote a few weeks ago (in my ramblings about How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars by The Weather Station) I wrote about how I need to adjust my expectations so that I am not waiting to get back to “normality”. My health, the pandemic, Putin’s war, climate change – these are aspects of life now that have forever changed how I live. The endless time that we thought would last forever is coming to an end and a new future is ahead. How long that future lasts is open for debate. We took that endless time for granted and we never thought we would have to pay.
It seemed ironically obtuse to celebrate the two year anniversary of this blog by writing about “Get Back”, when I have determined that getting back is not something that I should aspire to do.
“Get Back” has now been released in eleven different versions, although some of the versions are similar.
“Get Back” single. “Get Back” was released as a single on 11th April, 1969, with “Don’t Let Me Down” on the B side. It stayed at Number One on the U.K. Charts for six weeks. John Lennon plays lead guitar on the song because George Harrison had temporarily left the band during rehearsals in early January. The final version consists of two parts. Most of the song is Take 11 from 27th January and a coda from 28th January is added to the ending. This version of the song has appeared on four compilation albums: “1967-1970”, “20 Greatest Hits”, “Past Masters” and “1”.
“Get Back” album version. Phil Spector remixed the track for release on “Let It Be” on 8th April, 1970. It is essentially the same as the single version with three slight differences. He included some studio chatter at the start which took place before Take 11 on 27th January recording, he omitted the coda from Take 19 on 28th January and he added John Lennon’s remarks at the end of the rooftop concert on 30th January about passing the audition.
“Get Back” on “Let It Be…Naked“ Paul McCartney was keen for the original intention of the “Let It Be” project to be shared with the wider world and so on 17th November, 2003, a version of the album was released without the orchestral overdubs and other embellishments. This version does not have the studio chatter at the start, the coda or the remarks at the end.
“Get Back” on “Love” On 20th November, 2006 a “mashup” album of 130 Beatles songs was released. It was used as a soundtrack to the “Cirque de Soleil” show in Las Vegas. The way that “Get Back” was presented was, in my opinion, sensational. It starts with the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night”, followed by Ringo Starr’s drum solo from “The End” before we hear the crescendo from “A Day In Life” playing underneath the guitar solos by Paul McCartney and John Lennon from “The End”. The intro is extended and the second verse is removed entirely. There is no studio chatter, coda or rooftop comments and it segues perfectly into “Glass Onion”. For many people, this is sacrilege; for me, it’s highly enjoyable.
“Get Back” Remix on “Let It Be” boxset (Disc 1). On 15th October, 2021, a deluxe six CD version of “Let It Be” was released. Take 11 from 27th January was included on Disc 1, which includes a remix of the whole album, carried out by Giles Martin. It’s a brighter, more colourful mix than the original.
“Get Back” Apple Session on “Let It Be” boxset (Disc 2). Disc 2 of the boxset is a set of rehearsals from the Apple Studios and includes Take 19, which includes Paul McCartney laughing in time at the end of the song.
“Get Back” Rehearsal on “Let It Be” boxset (Disc 3). Take 8 from 27th January 1969 was included on Disc 3 which includes early versions of many songs that would not be on “Let It Be” (e.g. “All Things Must Pass”, “Gimme Some Truth”, “Octopus’s Garden” and “Oh! Darling”). This is a slower version and afterwards we can hear George Martin suggesting that they speed it up. Paul McCartney’s ad lib towards the end includes him saying “It’s five o’clock. Your mother’s got your tea on. Take your cap off” in an exaggerated Lancashire accent. There is an extended guitar solo at the end of the song.
“Get Back” Glyn Johns mix on “Let It Be” boxset (Disc 4). The original producer of “Let It Be” was Glyn Johns and he compiled two versions of the album which The Beatles rejected before they got Phil Spector in to produce the final, released, version of the album. Disc 4 of the boxset is one of the Glyn Johns’ versions which is rough, full of errors but seems very genuine and close to the original intention of the album. The version is Take 11 from January 27th.
“Get Back” Version 1 on “Get Back – The Rooftop Concert.” On 28th January, 2022, the full rooftop concert from the Peter Jackson film “Get Back” was released and this included three different versions of “Get Back”. They are all dynamic, loose and uplifting. Billy Preston’s electric piano playing adds colour and drive, Paul McCartney’s ad libs towards the end are playful and the overall effect of listening to these three versions is to enhance a good rocking song from the magical world of The Beatles’ canon. At the end of the first version, the smattering of applause reminds Paul McCartney of a cricket match and so he remarks “It looks like Ted Dexter has scored another“.
“Get Back” Version 2 on “Get Back – The Rooftop Concert.” This is an incredibly exciting version of the song; it’s slightly faster, Billy Preston’s keyboard playing is astonishing and one of John Lennon’s guitar fills causes Paul McCartney to laugh as he sings “all the girls around her said she’s got it coming.” As ever, Ringo Starr’s drumming drives the song to exhilarating heights.
“Get Back” Version 3 on “Get Back – The Rooftop Concert.” In the third version, George Harrison’s amp is temporarily switched off by Mal Evans, in order to appease the police officers who are trying to spoil everybody’s fun. Paul McCartney’s ad libs on third version include him poking fun at the police, telling Loretta that she is going to be arrested for playing on the roof. The song ends with Maureen Starkey clapping, Paul McCartney saying “Thanks Mo” and John Lennon saying “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.” This version first appeared on “Anthology 3”, released on 29th October, 1996
Other versions of “Get Back” have been circulated on bootleg tapes, including one version sung entirely in German, as if Paul McCartney were Bruno Koschmider, shouting at the band to “Mach Show”.
At one point during the writing and rehearsals for “Get Back”, the lyrics included “Meanwhile, back at home, there’s 20 Pakistanis living in a Council flat. Candidate for Labour tells them what the plan is then he tells them where it’s at. Get back. Get back. Get back to where you once belonged.” Realising that the satire or irony of these lyrics may get lost, they group decided to change the focus of the song to two enigmatic characters living in America. However, the rehearsal tapes were stolen and bootlegged and some of the U.K. daily papers reprinted these lyrics to prove that The Beatles were racist.
Billy Preston had arrived in the U.K. to work with Lulu. He knew The Beatles from Hamburg, when he was playing with Little Richard. Popping into the Apple Studios to meet up with his friends, he found himself to be the missing ingredient that the band had been looking for and he appeared on most songs on the album. When the original single “Get Back” was released, it was credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston.”
The single, “Get Back” sold over 4 500 000 copies worldwide.