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(John Lennon – Paul McCartney)
Everyone involved in the career of The Beatles, including their manager, their producer, their record labels, their publishers and the group themselves, were interested in their continued success. According to established patterns in the record business, an artist needs to be kept in the public eye continually, exposure being a key element to longevity in show business. Therefore, when The Beatles released a single and it was successful, a follow-up single needed to be on the market before too long so that the usually fickle record buyers wouldn't be too distracted by another recording artist who gained their attention in the meantime.
This threat became of particular concern to manager Brian Epstein during the later months of 1966 and early months of 1967 as the group retired from touring and holed up in the recording studio to produce the extravegant masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” While they were out of the public eye, the American television group The Monkees gained a foothold in the US, having two #1 hit singles and spending a total of 31 weeks in the top spot on the Billboard album chart, a record that has yet to be broken. “We need a single out, George, fast,” he told producer George Martin at that time. “What have you got? I want the best thing you've got.” The result was the amazing single “Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever,” which showed American audiences, at least for the nine weeks that it was on the pop charts, that The Beatles were still a force to be reckoned with. As it turned out, of course, the June 1967 release of “Sgt. Pepper” set the record straight of who should ultimately be in the hearts of American teens. When The Monkees TV show went off the air by mid 1968, they had run their course and all eyes were once again on the Fab Four.
But could something like this happen again? The Beatles thought not or, to be more accurate, they didn't really care. They wanted to do things their way and, if they weren't ready to release their next single, they wouldn't. “Hey Jude” was released on August 26th, 1968 and spent an astonishing nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts in the US. Had manager Brian Epstein had still been alive, he probably would have insisted that a new Beatles single be released for the Christmas season to capitalize on this success. After all, the “White Album” had been released in late November of that year and contained 30 new Beatles songs, many of which would work well as a follow up to “Hey Jude.”
However, Brian Epstein was no longer there to make that request, The Beatles themselves now calling the shots. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was released as a single from the “White Album” in certain countries but, since George Harrison in particular objected to this becoming an officially released single, it never came to be so in Britian or America. It wasn't until a full eight months and nine days later that The Beatles felt inclined to release another single, the longest period of time in between any single releases in their UK and US career. “Get Back,” with “Don't Let Me Down” as the b-side, was finally officially released on May 5th, 1969 (some sources saying it may have been released slightly earlier).
Since nearly eight-and-a-half months had transpired since their last hit single, was there any threat to the career of The Beatles? Not at all! With The Monkees' career being all but non-existent by that time and no one else monopolizing the charts to that degree, the “Get Back” single was highly anticipated and very well received. With this being the first American Beatles single to be released in stereo, it was heard in all its glory and topped the US Billboard charts for an astonishing five weeks.
“We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air. We started to write words there and then. When we finished it, we recorded at Apple Studios and made it into a song to rollercoast by.”
This Paul McCartney quote from early 1969 explained how the song “Get Back” came to be, his statement being included in the official Apple press release to introduce the song as the a-side of their first single of that year. Under the headline “The Beatles as nature intended,” this press release was featured as a full page ad in the April 26th, 1969 issue of Billboard Magazine to introduce the single to American audiences, also describing “Get Back” as “a pure spring-time rock number.” Paul's quote may also have been the catalyst to John's lyric “He roller coaster...” as included in the group's third single of that year, “Come Together.”
Although history shows that Paul's brief thumbnail sketch above about the formation of “Get Back” ended up being more involved than that, it is actually quite accurate. Not too many Beatles songs can be pointed to as a complete fabrication in the studio “out of thin air,” as McCartney described, and surely no #1 hit single by the group could be described with those words. The composer or composers of most Beatles songs would always bring in at least a half-finished idea that the others would form into a complete arrangement, producer George Martin also being instrumental in piecing things together. This was not the case with “Get Back.”
The Beatles had begun a new album project on January 2nd, 1969, the intention being that they would have a new album, a film project and, most likely, a concert performance complete by the end of that month. They began filmed rehearsals for this project at Twickenham Film Studios in London on that day, all four Beatles bringing in new song ideas that they had been developing on their own for possible inclusion.
Four days into the project, on January 7th, 1969, Paul began strumming out a rhythm on bass guitar at Twickenham Studios without any real aim or goal other than to get a good feel for a possible song. This actual event, the only time one can witness a Beatles song being written from scratch, can be seen in Peter Jackson's 2021 series "Get Back." He mumbled nonsense and changed chords haphazardly until he struck upon something that sounded good to him. Lyrical phrases then started to materialize for Paul, such as the chorus's “get back to where you once belonged,” which Ringo began singing with him. Inspiration went even further on that day as the structure of a song began to develop, which included verses and choruses and even more lyrical ideas for one of the verses. John wasn't present at this time but, in the next number of days, Lennon also contributed lyrical ideas and, by January 23rd, 1969, a complete song was fully formed.
Paul's initial lyrical inspiration came from the George Harrison composition “Sour Milk Sea,” which had recently been recorded by Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax on June 24th, 1968. Paul was very familiar with the song due to his playing bass on the recording along with George, Ringo and Eric Clapton. A prominent lyric in the chorus of this song was “get back to where you should be,” this popping into Paul's mind on January 7th, 1969 when he was first developing “Get Back” at Twickenham Studios. Paul acknowledged this inspiration on that day by shouting “C'mon Jackie!” during one of the renditions he was hashing out with George and Ringo, even trying his hand at a Jackie Lomax impersonation.
Paul and John did interject other lyrics as the song was developing that stem from other sources. As they were both prone to do, news items read in the newspaper at the time began appearing in the lyrics. Author Barry Miles, as quoted in Paul's book “Many Years From Now,” states that this inspiration concerned “the plight of Kenyan Asians who were rushing to get to Britain before the passage of the Commonwealth Immigration Bill, which would have denied them entry. Intended as a parody on racist attitudes, the (proposed lyric) 'Don't dig no Pakistani taking all the people's jobs!' was dropped early on as being too easily misconstrued. The rest of the third verse went through various changes, ending up...'Meanwhile back at home too many Pakistanis / living in a council flat / Candidate MacMillan, tell me what your plan is / Won't you tell me where it's at.'” This proposed third verse was officially dropped by Paul for this “protest song,” as he referred to it, on January 23rd, 1969, the two-verse, three-solo structure being decided upon on that day. Paul wanted to retain this verse because he liked the scanning of the word “Pakistani,” but relented so as not to upset any listeners.
Barry Miles explains: “Meanwhile the fascist National Front was beating up Pakistanis on the streets and the right-wing politician Enoch Powell was predicting race war and 'rivers of blood' so, to avoid any possibility of inflaming the situation, the entire verse was ultimately dropped.” Although this subject matter was thought by Paul and John to fit the premise of the original ad lib lyric “get back to where you once belonged,” they wisely decided to drop this on January 9th in favor of verse lyrics that included fictional characters such as JoJo Lemmon (or Clark or Jackson) and Loretta Marsh, this eventually being changed to "Sweet Loretta Martin." These lyrical developments, as well as Ringo's "blast from the past" suggestion as a rhyme for "knew he couldn't last," can also be witnessed in the Peter Jackson "Get Back" series.
“The words were not racist at all,” Paul states in “Many Years From Now.” “They were antiracist. If there was any group that was not racist it was The Beatles. Many people have since claimed to be the JoJo and they're not, let me put that straight! I had no particular person in mind, again it was a fictional character, half man, half woman, all very ambiguous. I often left things ambiguous, I like doing that in my songs." Also of some concern was the lyric about JoJo leaving his home in Tucson to obtain "California grass," this being established as purchasing property in relocating from Arizona and not in reference to marijuana as many thought. After all, "grass" rhymes with "last" must better than "land" or "property" would.
John downplayed his involvement with contributing anything to the writing of “Get Back” during his 1980 interview with Playboy Magazine, also adding some interesting observations. After claiming the song was written entirely by Paul, he states: “That's a better version of 'Lady Madonna.' It's a potboiler record. I think there's some underlying thing about Yoko in there. Every time Paul sang the line 'Get back to where you once belonged,' he'd look at Yoko. Maybe he'll say I'm paranoid. You know, he can say, 'I'm a normal family man, these two are freaks.' That'll leave him a chance to say that one.”
As stated above, Paul began experimenting with the germ of an idea that resulted in the song “Get Back” on January 7th, 1969, while The Beatles were rehearsing for their latest project at Twickenham Film Studios. This session began around 11 am, Paul, George and Ringo being present with John arriving a little later. Before the others arrived, Paul sat at the piano and ran through newer compositions such as “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The Long And Winding Road” and, after George and Ringo arrived, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”
After an impromptu version of “Lady Madonna” was played, as well as the Isley's Brothers' “Shout,” Paul began improvising an exercise on bass guitar. While Paul ad libbed vocalizations and chord changes, George strummed some open chords on electric guitar in solidarity with what was occuring at the time. The song started developing in Paul's mind while the cameras were rolling, three more versions of this embryonic version of “Get Back” being worked out with George and Ringo on this day.
The second runthrough featured Paul on bass and mumbled vocals, George on electric guitar, and Ringo singing with Paul on the newly invented chorus that comprised the words, “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.” Apparently, Jackie Lomax's recently released single “Sour Milk Sea” was on Paul's mind, resulting in these lyrics popping into his mind on this day. Paul also began adding lyrics about someone being “a woman, but she was another man,” and someone having “it coming, but she gets it while she can,” all of this eventually becoming part of the finished song.
With George moving to electric guitar with wah-wah pedal and Ringo on drums, the song started to be developed a little further. Ringo played a standard rock beat while Paul acknowledged Jackie Lomax's inspiration by exclaiming “C'mon Jackie” and attempting to imitate the English vocalist during the second chorus of this rough rehearsal. The “she was another man” and “gets it while she can” lyrics are retained here, these words now being solidified in Paul's mind. Surprisingly, although inspiration was high with this new composition and rehearsal, they instead worked extensively on songs like “I've Got A Feeling” and “Maxwell's Silver Hammer” once John arrived on that day.
Two days later, on January 9th, 1969 at Twickenham Studios, The Beatles returned to hash out four renditions of the unfinished song that would eventually become “Get Back.” After all four Beatles put in a lot of work on the songs “Let It Be” and “For You Blue,” among others, they began rough jams based around the “get back” theme, this undoubtedly being the first time Lennon became aquainted with it.
The verse lyrics were still adlibbed at this point but bits of a rough storyline were beginning to emerge, references to California and Arizona being sung here and there in the first couple of renditions performed on this day. However, local news items concerning Parliament member Enoch Powell's beliefs that too many non-white citizens of the British Empire were immigrating to England and taking away limited jobs had been discussed by The Beatles on this day. Since Paul was struggling to piece together coherent lyrics to this song, John humorously proposed the infusion of this subject matter into the lyrics to create a political satire.
“Don't want no black man...!” Lennon demonstrates, which is countered by Paul with “Don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs.” Paul then directs his band-mates into another rendition of the song, screaming “Get Back!” repeatedly in a voice that mocks the hatred behind Enoch Powell's public statements. Verses of this version include Paul singing “lots of Puerto Ricans,” “All the folks around sit by, he a Mohican living in the USA” and singing his earlier idea “Don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs.” The song finishes with Paul screaming out maniacally in a way that reminds one of how John concluded the final moments of his hit “Cold Turkey” to simulate his withdrawl from heroin. Since John's song was recorded later that same year, it's easy to conclude that this early rendition of “Get Back” may have been remembered and thereby have been his inspiration, if only subliminally.
After this was out of their systems, they returned to a more serious rehearsal of “Get Back” with the principal characters Joe and Theresa being introduced for the first time. A little later that day, however, Enoch Powell's beliefs were once again the subject of an adlibbed song, this being referred to in bootleg releases as “Commonwealth.” With Harold Wilson and Edward Heath once again being refrenced in the lyrics of a Beatles song (see “Taxman”), Paul begins by mimicking the recent British hit “Isrealites” by Desmond Dekker with its reggae beat and distinctive vocalization. As the song transcends into a more typical 12-bar pattern as heard in early Elvis recordings, John adds to the fun of the occasion by suggesting to end each chorus with the line “The commonwealth is much too common for me.”
The following day at Twickenham, January 10th, 1969, saw the most substantial work on “Get Back” yet. Paul rehearsed the song himself on piano before the others arrived and were ready for work, as was his habit during these sessions, but then he showed himself eager to solidify a band arrangement for the tune. He instructed them to begin the song with a crashing chord (not unlike “A Hard Day's Night”) followed by a drum fill from Ringo before the first verse began. A practice of this intro is featured on the “Fly On The Wall” bonus disc contained with the 2003 released “Let It Be...Naked” album as well as on Peter Jackson's "Get Back" series.
“Get Back” was practiced a total of 22 times on this day, three vocal verses being sketched out in a preliminary way at this point but not solidified. George was delegated to perform one guitar solo after which another chorus was performed immediately afterward, Ringo then adding in another two measure drum solo before the third verse was performed. Lyrically, the “Sweet Lorreta...but whe was another man” verse was in place at this point, although it appeared as the first verse. The second verse wasn't complete yet, but did include the line about “California grass” as we've become familiar with in the first verse (and not "blast from the past" as Ringo suggested). The third verse about “Pakistanis living in a council flat,” as detailed above, was in place at this time.
It is clear that they were narrowing down what the final arrangement would be, this being a fast-moving rocker at this point with a standard 4/4 drum beat from Ringo and a wah-wah guitar solo from George. Paul was noting the similarities of their current arrangement of this new song to earlier Beatles tracks and wanting to avoid those comparisons, "She's A Woman" being identified as a suitable direction to go in, which John then proceeds to demonstrate on guitar. One version of "Get Back" performed on this day has John singing lead vocals in unison with Paul, suitably recapturing their early rock and roll days with apparent enthusiasm from all involved.
It appears, however, that George was not sharing the comradarie of the others on this day because, sometime during their lunch break, George announced that he was leaving The Beatles for good and walked out. The others continued with the rehearsal after his lunchtime departure, Yoko Ono sitting in George's seat screaming out vocals at one point, although no other noteworthy progress was made on this day.
January 13th, 1969 was another rehearsal day for The Beatles at Twickenham, but without George. They spent most of the time talking instead of rehearsaing, John not particularly enthused about George continuing with the group and suggesting that they should all pursue solo careers. Paul took the position of rallying everyone together, promoting the idea of concentrating less on details and more on doing the best that they can as musicians, George included. They did run through “Get Back” 15 times on this day as a trio, John taking on the role of lead guitarist in George's absence. More refinements were made lyrically, these being dictated to Mal Evans for him to put down on paper as seen in Peter Jackson's "Get Back" series. Discussions about Loretta's last name were being batted around, John suggesting “Meatball” and Paul favoring either “Marsh,” "Mary" or “Marvin.” "Tucson, Arizona" was decided upon on this day, Paul explaining it was "where they make 'High Chaperral'", a popular American TV show of that time. The timing of Ringo's drum breaks habitually disoriented his band-mates, while John added guitar fills in the open spaces where no vocals were present and provided solos that were not very coherent, borrowing from Dale Hawkins version of “Suzie Q.” Obviously, George Harrison was missed.
After negotiations with George, he decided to rejoin The Beatles and continue the rehearsals for the current project. However, one condition that George insisted on was changing the rehearsal location from the cold Twickenham Studios to their newly aquired Apple Studios at 3 Savile Row, London. Another change was the appearance of Billy Preston who was in town to film some television guest spots and decided to drop in at Apple Studios. Preston was a keyboardist that The Beatles had met back in 1962 during their shared bill with Little Richard and whom George had just recently seen performing with Ray Charles and had been bragging to his bandmates about. When Lennon asked Billy if he would be willing to join The Beatles for the remainder of this project, as seen in the Peter Jackson "Get Back" series, he readily agreed.
It was during the session on January 23rd, 1969 at Apple Studios that The Beatles with Billy Preston solidified Ringo's galloping drum pattern for the arrangement of “Get Back,” George's chopping guitar pattern and John's guitar solo work and backing vocals also taking shape considerably. "You bring the song in, you kick it around, and then someone gets an idea," Paul relates on his 2021 Hulu documentary series "McCartney 3,2,1." "'Oh, why don't we do that?,' or 'How 'bout this on the drums?' or Ringo, like on something like 'Get Back.' We were just kicking it around. There's a little jam and then he gets on the drums, 'bum, buppa, bum, buppa, bum...' He's got this little kind of almost military thing going. Well, that really was, 'Aah, great, different!' It made a world of difference."
While the third verse about “Pakistanis” was omitted on this day, Paul, George and John were all instrumental in working out the song's structure. Since both John and Billy Preston were to perform individual solos, Paul thought to vocally introduce them individually by either of the two main characters in the song's lyrics. "Which do you want to be, Jojo or Loretta?," Paul asks John, demonstrating, "'Get back to sweet Loretta! He's waiting for you,' and it's an old drag queen back on the ranch in Tucson, 'wearing his hi-heel shoes!'" George notes the song's similarity to a classic Motown hit by The Four Tops. "It's like 'Reach Out.' Remember in 'Reach Out' where everything stops and then...'I'll be back! (sic)' That's what the song needs, it needs a catchy riff." Paul then decides to include a subdued chorus after the first solo and then introduce the next solo section with a descending keyboard riff by Billy Preston during the break that George suggested. After a second guitar solo from John is decided upon, they decide to try standing up to rehearse the newly arranged song, which results in a humorous medley of "Help!" and "Please Please Me" that sends everyone into a laughing fit. Although a final "Beatles break" and coda was yet to materialize, the final arrangement as we know it was getting close.
Fourty-three rehearsals of “Get Back” were performed on this day, at least ten of these being attempted as official recordings with Glyn Johns and George Martin in the control room. “What are you calling this," George Martin called out before the first official take was recorded, Paul answered, "Sh*t,” to which John added, "Sh*t Back!" “'Sh*t' take one,” George Martin designated before the tapes started rolling. A young Alan Parsons made his debut as tape operator on this day, his long-standing career as engineer, producer and musician beginning by witnessing The Beatles formalize the song “Get Back” before his eyes. Interestingly, while listening back to recordings of the song on this day in their control room, George Harrison asked the others what their last single was and how long ago it released. When Paul answered it was "Hey Jude" and it was roughly five months ago, George suggested, "It'd be nice to do takes until we get it and just have it (out) before the show...Just put it out as a single next week." John showed that he was on board, stating, "Let's finish it off for a single tomorrow, and we'll do 'Part Two' on the back side!" With this decided, nixing John's idea to put "Get Back (Part Two)" on the b-side, they had a definate goal for their next session.
On the following day at Apple Studios, January 24th, 1969, The Beatles ran through “Get Back” a total of 21 times, some of which were performed before Billy Preston's mid-afternoon arrival. Thereafter, they ran through a rendition where John missed his cue to begin his first guitar solo, which prompted Paul to exclaim, “Yeah...or should I say 'No.'” Another version started off at a very rapid pace and developed into a medley with “Little Demon” by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and three Chuck Berry songs, namely “Maybelene,” “You Can't Catch Me” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.”
One new development in the arrangement on this day was the inclusion of a coda after the song's conclusion, this being experiemnted with reprises of different lengths. In fact, some of the renditions rehearsed on this day show them going into back-to-back versions of the song with many spirited vocal improvisations from Paul. The final version of the day has Paul exclaiming, "Go Home!...It's Past Seven!...Go Home!...I've Got An Appointment!...Get A Job!...Go Home, Yank!"
Thirty-two renditions of “Get Back” were recorded on January 27th, 1969 at Apple Studios, most of them being officially recorded by George Martin and Glyn Johns with Alan Parsons as engineer. Before the tapes began rolling, The Beatles and Billy Preston ran through the song a few times for rehearsal purposes, eventually becoming confident that they were ready to record the definitive version. Interestingly, as seen in Peter Jackson's "Get Back" series, John began slapping his guitar strings during the introduction, this part of the song strategically increasing in volume as it progressed. One fast tempo rendition was done with Paul singing the first verse in mock Japanese but including the phrase “sock it to me,” a residual from their current obsession with the American TV show “Rowan & Martin's Laugh In,” which was referenced many times in their January 1969 rehearslas and recording sessions. (Catch phrases from the show are stated regularly by The Beatles during these sessions, including "Sock It To Me" and "Is That A Chicken Joke?", Ringo eventually making a guest appearance on the progam on February 23rd, 1970 in promotion of the US premier of his film "The Magic Christian.")
After George encourages everyone by saying, "Let's record it all this afternoon, now," the tapes began rolling, many good takes being recorded. Everyone, however, was concerned about recording the song at an appropriate tempo, Glyn Johns suggesting after one performance, "Do you think a gnat's slower still?" After 'take eight,' which concluded with Paul singing, “it's five o'clock, your mother's got your tea on, take your cap off, sit down, you're bloody not coming in,” George Martin commented, "Paul, I think it's a shade too slow now. I think it's lost a bit." After a roughly estimated "take 9,” which may in actuality have been "take 18,” Paul's exclamation “nearly” is caught on tape, suggesting that they were getting close. McCartney's vocal hijinks during these recordings appear to be an indication that his sour mood from earlier that day during the unproductive rehearsals for "Let It Be" and "The Long And Winding Road" had now lifted, Paul undoubtedly realizing that The Beatles work best as a team when a "rocker" is being performed.
Before one take, John humorously remarked, “Sweet Loretta Fart (pronounced in a Liverpudlian accent) she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan...the picker...picks with his fingers.” This vocal segment, along with extraneous studio sounds, ended up being included on the released soundtrack album. John began one version by stating, "Ah, this here's the story of Sweet Loretta Martin and JoJo McCartney," while Lennon later sings lead vocals on a slower bluesy version of the song, this being called to a halt by Paul, saying, 'All right, boys, all right John, I gotta call it on you...Cool down, sod!" John replies to this by saying, "Don't let me down, babe!" On another take, the coda included Paul's ad lib “one, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock” from Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock.”
The Beatles then filed into the control room to have a listen to what they had just recorded, but not being too impressed. "YOU were very good, Bill," George Martin told Billy Preston, insinuating that he was the only one who did a good job, this resulted in laughter all around as well as Ringo agreeing, "Bill, you were just great!" After one take that was clearly too fast, a seated George Harrison asks, "Well, should we have another ciggy, another cup of tea or some wine?" After he's told "No" from the control room and the recording light immediately turns on, George says "Oh, already," stands up and then quickly counts off 'take 11,' "One, two, three, four." The take that followed ended up becoming the basis for both the single and album, although the rehearsed coda was not played due to Ringo forgetting to come back in after the break near the song's conclusion. After Paul sings his iconic “oooh,” George states, "We missed that end, didn't we?" "I thought you were going on," George Martin stated, adding, "Do you want to end it like that?" Ringo replied, "Just Plug it on - the best end we did."
Although this flubbed ending propelled them into multiple new recorded versions of the song, the above mentioned take was ultimately deemed the best. One of the later recordings included a rendition featuring pseudo-German lyrics throughout, acknowledging the Jackie Lomax influence with the phrase, “Yah, that's good, Jackie,” with a final verse in mock French. While very entertaining and eventually gracing various bootleg releases, it was obvious that they had previously recorded the definitive version of the song on this day and were celebrating that event in a rather unconventional way. Upon re-entering the control room for further listening, they discussed better parts of different takes. George Martin suggested, "We could always edit," to which John humorously replied, "Edit? You're talking to The Bootles!"
The next day, January 28th, 1969, brought further refinements to many of their new songs at Apple Studios, George Martin being present on this day as well as Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons. The Beatles also spent time on a newly written Harrison composition entitled “Something,” its composer asking for lyrical suggestions from his band-mates. However, this turned out to be a productive session, the released rendition of “Don't Let Me Down” being recorded on this day minus some simple overdubs that would be incorporated into the mix later.
One other accomplishment of this day was the coda of “Get Back” which was mistakenly omited from the best take of the previous day. The Beatles ran through this song seven more times, Lennon's guitar solos and Preston's piano solo being fully solidified at this point. One of these takes was deemed unsuitable because of Paul's flubbed line in the first verse (“Jojo was at home in Tucson, Arizona”) and Ringo's continuing slow tempo. “Slow it down, Loretta,” Paul sings during the final solo as a reaction to the drummer's playing. We hear Paul's clever rhyme “low neck sweater / get back Loretta” repeatedly during this version's coda, the singer obviously fixated on the lyrical flow of these lines.
A later rendition recorded on this day was at a good tempo and was instrumentally performed quite well, except for a sour note from an open string ringing out on John's guitar as he began his first solo. This by itself may have prompted Paul to become vocally playful for the remainder of the song, his exaggerated exclamations being evidence that he didn't think this take would be suitable for a finished version.
He was half right and half wrong. It was decided that, while the above mentioned rendition from the previous day would be used for the body of the song, the first 35 seconds of the coda from this day's version would be edited on and faded out to form the released single a couple of months or so later. In fact, a further 41 second segment of this coda would be used as the track “Get Back (reprise)” on both aborted versions of the proposed “Get Back” album (as we'll discuss below) as well as the closing segment of the “Let It Be” movie.
This entire coda was 1:22 in length, Paul excitedly ad libbing lines such as “get back / get together...we gotta get together...ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah...put on your high heel sweater!” John also jumps in on the fun by singing “get back” and other assorted vocal sounds before ending the coda with the chilling rhyme “Shoot me when I'm evil / shoot me when I'm good / shoot me when I'm hungry / shoot me when I'm...”
One final rendition on this day was partitularly unfruitful, first because of Paul coming in late vocally on the first verse. John's second guitar solo labored almost entirely on the first note being repeated endlessly, breaking away eventually but obviously not something that would grace any released version. Ringo didn't come back in for a coda to this version, understandably reasoning that this take wasn't worth the effort of doing so.
It was the following day, January 29th, 1969, that The Beatles decided that their proposed live performance would be on the roof of their Apple builing on Savile Row in London during lunchtime the next day, January 30th. That being the case, the group convened once again at Apple Studios, which was in the basement of that very building, for the primary purpose of rehearsing the songs that they would be performing live on the rooftop the following day. After this was accomplished, Billy Preston not arriving until later that day, they ran through other songs that needed to be rehearsed for inclusion in what eventually became the “Let It Be” film. Since a firm decision had not been made on which Harrison song would be included in this project, various George songs were rehearsed on this day, “For You Blue” and eventually “I Me Mine” fitting the bill.
Then one quick rehearsal of “Get Back” without Billy Preston was done, which was very loose but suitable to solidify that it was ready for the live performance. John sang Billy Preston's keyborad solo (“get-ang, get-ang, get-ang...”) and Paul encourages John's proficiency as lead guitarist by exclaiming “yeah” midway through his first solo. They apparently felt confident that they would nail it just fine the next day.
The following day, January 30th, 1969, was the eventful day of The Beatles' final live performance, Billy Preston on electric piano complimenting the musical landscape. “Get Back” was touched on and/or performed a total of five times during this 42-minute performance. The first was a rehearsal which began with John playing his solo, the others joining in for the following chorus with both Paul and John harmonizing. This version was simply a test for the recording equipment, adjustments being made thereafter to make sure everything was in order.
The second version of “Get Back,” the first complete song of this day, ended with Paul stating, “Looks like Ted Dexter has scored another!” This was in response to the polite applause that follwed the conclusion of this song, which was much more subdued than what they had become accustomed to in the stadiums and concert halls of 1965 and 1966. Instead, it reminded McCartney of the reaction to cricket matches, Ted Dexter being a celebrated English cricketer of the early 1960's. John then retorted, “Thank you very much...another request from Martin and Luther,” revisiting their BBC radio performances from 1963 where they would play requests from listeners. Producer / engineer Glyn John then asks, “Any more voice from the Fenders?” This inquiry is concerning whether they need to turn up their amplifiers or not. “Yeah, we'll cut,” he then instructs to regroup in preparation for their next song, which turns out to be a third rendition of “Get Back.” The “Let It Be” film includes a strategically edited version of the second and third versions of the song performed on this day.
This third version was complete, the intention being to create the perfect performance. Paul chuckles slightly, however, after John flubs his lead guitar flourish during the second verse. After the break, Paul ad libs, “Aaaah, get back home, never more to roam” and, after the final awkward conclusion and subsequent applause from those nearby, John states, “Oh, brother...had a request for Daisy, Morris and Tommy,” continuing the early BBC radio joke from the previous performance.
After multiple takes of four other Beatles songs were performed, John mistakenly counted off a fourth take of “Get Back,” Ringo joining in immediately. However, this was halted thereafter because a second live rendition of “Don't Let Me Down” was required instead. This brief snippet can be considered the fourth appearance of the song "Get Back" on the rooftop that day.
After "Don't Let Me Down" was complete at about the 40 minute mark of the show, and with the uniformed constables from the West End Central Police station just along Savile Row being present on the Apple rooftop for the past few minutes, The Beatles began their fifth and final attempt at the song “Get Back.” The policemen pressured Beatles assistant Mal Evans to shut off both John and George's amplifiers at the beginning of the first chorus. George turned his amp back on by the start of the first solo section of the song, Mal relenting to turn John's back on by the fourth measure of the solo due to sharp looks from Lennon. They all must have known that this rendition would not be the definitive version but they carried on regardless, knowing that they may very well be making music history, the authorities attempting to squelch their impromptu performance.
With their enthusiasm high, Paul excitedly repeats his “high heel shoes / low neck sweater / get back Loretta” line during John's second guitar solo. When the coda of this rendition kicks in, with the police still milling about and the downbeat of the song being temporarily lost, Paul exclaims, “you've been out too long, Loretta, you've been playing on the roofs again, and that's no good, 'cause you know you're mommy doesn't like that, ah, she get's angry, she's gonna have you arrested, get back.”
With it being obvious that their 42-minute concert was now over at the conclusion of this song, Paul reacts with “Thanks Mo,” in recognition of Maureen Starkey's loud “yeah-ee-yeah” cheer at its conclusion. Off microphone, John then quips, “I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition.” The above comments from both Paul and John ended up appearing on both the released “Let It Be” soundtrack album and film as well as Peter Jackson's "Get Back" series. Paul was the first of The Beatles to hurriedly exit the roof as if to avoid police confrontation. As it happened, this was the very last song of the very last concert performance by The Beatles.
Upon leaving the roof on this day, The Beatles filed into the basement control room to listen to the recordings made moments before while 'joss-sticks' were burning for atmosphere. As witnessed in Peter Jackson's "Get Back" series, they all heard "Get Back" played back to them, Linda Eastman, Yoko and Maureen Starkey enjoying the performance as well.
Six days later, on February 5th, 1969, engineers Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons (and possibly George Martin) gathered at Apple Studios to create stereo mixes of the five songs that the group performed on the rooftop. Two stereo mixes of different performances of “Get Back” were created on this day, neither of these mixes ever being released. It appears that at this point, The Beatles didn't quite know what to do with this performance, as legendary as it was.
“Remember that idea you had about putting together an album? There are the tapes, go and do it!” In early March of 1969, it is reported that John and Paul had instructed engineer Glyn Johns to forage through the plethora of tapes they had recorded in January of 1969 to constuct a new Beatles album. Glyn Johns took this request seriously and, on March 10th, 1969, transported these tapes to Olympic Sound Studios in London to begin assembling the next Beatles LP.
Thirteen stereo mixes of January 1969 Beatles songs were prepared on this day. Two of these were of the song “Get Back,” one being the full version minus the coda that they neglected to play (as detailed above) that was recorded on January 27th,1969 at Apple Studios. The second mix of “Get Back” created on this day is presumably of a section of the coda that was recorded on January 28th to be used as “Get Back (reprise)” on Glyn Johns' proposed “Get Back” album. No mono mixes were required at this point due to mono record releases having been phased out of the marketplace by 1969.
Glyn Johns continued to create stereo mixes for this proposed album for the next three days. However, since it had been a long seven-and-a-half months since “Hey Jude,” The Beatles' last single, had been released, there was a dire need for a follow-up. Therefore, engineer Jeff Jarratt was commissioned to EMI Studios to create a mix of the song that was decided to be the next Beatles single, “Get Back.” It has been suggested that producer George Martin oversaw the proceedings on this day but this has not been verified. Four mono mixes were created, the fourth undoubtedly being deemed the best, acetate discs being cut directly afterward.
One of these acetate discs got into the hands of British disc jockeys John Peel and Alan Freeman who proceeded to play the song on the air on April 6th, 1969. They had also received official information that this new Beatles single would be rush-released five days later on April 11th, this also being annouced on their program. Paul McCartney had become aware of this broadcast and expressed concern that the mix of “Get Back” on this acetate disc wasn't good enough for official release. The edit of the main body of the song from January 27th and the coda from January 28th may not have been contained on this acetate disc as we've come to know it. In order to remedy this situation, Paul quickly booked studio time with Glyn Johns at Olympic Sound Studios the day after this radio broadcast, April 7th, 1969. Engineer Jerry Boys was present at the control board on this day, producer George Martin's presence not confirmed but possible.
“Only Paul came along,” Jerry Boys recalls about which Beatles were present on that day. He continues: “They'd already done a mono mix of 'Get Back' and had acetates cut and didn't like it. We tried it again but it wasn't really happening any better and when we went to compare the two we hit a problem because Paul didn't have a tape of that first mix with him, just an acetate. He and Glyn were very concerned with what the new mix was going to sound like on a cheap record player. Purely by chance, I happened to have a cheap record player in the back of my car, which I'd brought along to Olympic to have someone repair. We had an acetate cut from the new mix and then, using my record player, we were able to decide which of the two mixes was better. So the very first playing of the 'Get Back' single, which sold millions, was on my little player!”
Also done on this day was a new mono mix of “Don't Let Me Down” which would be used as the b-side of the new single. Also created during this session were stereo mixes of both songs to be provided to Capitol in the US to be issued as the second Beatles Apple single, the first to be issued in stereo. The mono mixes of these two songs were contained on the UK single, this being the final mono single in their home country.
On May 28th, 1969, George Martin was recruited to oversee the master tape banding and compilation of the proposed “Get Back” album as an accompaniment to the recently released “Get Back” single. Glyn Johns, who was primarily responsible for creating the mixes for most of the tracks on this album, was also present and acting as engineer along with Steve Vaughan as 2nd engineer. George Harrison was also present on this day, being the only Beatle in the country at the time. This session, which began with creating a stereo mix of the song “Let It Be,” occurred in Studio One of Olympic Sound Studios.
The single version of “Get Back” that had been released about a month-and-a-half earlier was included on this album as the final song of side one. In addition to this, the above mentioned “Get Back (reprise)” mix that was prepared by Glyn Johns on March 10th, 1969 was included as the final track of side two. As history reveals, the album was never released in this configuration.
With the filmed footage being prepared for release as a feature film in January of 1970, Glyn Johns was once again commissioned to assemble a new version of the “Get Back” album on January 5th, 1970 in Studio One of Olympic Sound Studios. The intention this time was to release the LP as a sountrack album to accompany the movie, two additional songs being included therein because of their inclusion in the film, these being “Across The Universe” and the recently recorded “I Me Mine.” As before, however, the released single version of the song “Get Back” was in the running order as well as the previously mixed “Get Back (reprise),” the latter rounding out side two once again.
With the release of the movie being further delayed, an executive decision was made to recruit legendary American producer Phil Spector to assemble the soundtrack album for the “Let It Be” film (as it was now re-titled) in any way that he chose to. On his third day of mixing for the album, March 26th, 1970, he and engineers Peter Bown and Roger Ferris entered Room 4 of EMI Studios to create new mixes to four Beatles songs, “Get Back” being one of them.
Going back to the original take from the January 27th, 1969 Apple Studios session tape that produced the released single, Spector decided to include John's ad lib “Sweet Loretta Fart...” vocalizations, as well as other brief dialog and instrument sounds that preceeded the perfected take, as the introduction to his new mix of “Get Back.” In the spirit of the overall impromptu feel of the project that he was instructed to include, Spector crossfaded this spontaneous chatter and sounds that were caught on tape with the beginning measures of the actual song. Since the coda was mistakenly omited from this actual performance, Spector felt obliged to leave it as it was and not edit in a coda from the January 18th session as fans were used to hearing from the released single. Five stereo mixes of "Get Back" were made, mixes three and five then being edited together to create “remix stereo 3,” which is what appeared on the released soundtrack album.
The following day, March 27th, 1970, saw Phil Spector back in Room 4 of EMI Studios for further work on the soundtrack album, this time with engineers Mike Sheady and Roger Ferris. After creating a stereo mix for the track that had become known as “Dig It,” they took to assembling eight bits of recorded dialog for random insertion into the album. One of these miscellaneous bits was chosen to be crossfaded with the ending of the song “Get Back,” thus closing the entire album. As the song concluded, Spector decided to crossfade this with the closing moments of the rooftop performance, this including the applause from onlookers, Paul thanking Maureen Starkey for her cheering, and John's comedic “...hope we passed the audition” phrase.
George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick pulled out the master tape of the rooftop concert of January 30th, 1969 sometime in 1996 to prepare a new mix of “Get Back” to be included on the compilation album “Anthology 3.” They decided to create a mix of the final rooftop performance of the song, this being the final song The Beatles ever performed live, complete with evidence of police presence and Paul's lyrical ad lib about being “arrested” for “playing on the roofs again.”
Then, sometime in 2003, the engineering team of Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse pulled out the master tape of “Get Back” from January 27th, 1969 to create a vibrant new mix of the same take that appeared on the single and soundtrack album. This new mix appeared on the album “Let It Be...Naked” that was released that year. As Phil Spector had done for the soundtrack album, this new 2003 mix ended just as the actual performance did back then, minus the coda with Paul's ad lib "your momma's waiting for you..." vocal line. Many Beatles fans were of the opinion that this engineering team cut this performance short because this coda was missing, but in actuality they presented the ultimate “Get Back” performance precisely how the musicians played it on that day.
An additional CD was contained in the “Let It Be...Naked” package entitled “Fly On The Wall,” which contained candid dialog and musical excerpts from their January 1969 rehearsals for the project. Two bits of “Get Back” rehearsals were included therein, the first being a 15 second segment of the group rehearsing the proposed crashing introduction to the song from January 10th, this idea eventually being dropped. The second excerpt of “Get Back” was of Paul singing through a verse and chorus of the song while playing acoustic guitar in a more subdued tempo while John fiddled around on slide guitar. This 32-second segment may very well have been performed at Apple Studios on January 25th, the same day that The Beatles recorded “For You Blue” with John playing the Hofner lap-steel guitar that was present in the studio on that day.
George Martin returned to the master tape of "Get Back" once more sometime between 2004 and 2006 with his son Giles Martin to create a new mash-up of the song for inclusion on the album "Love." The intro of the song was extended to incorporate various elements of other Beatles tracks, such as the introductory chord of "A Hard Day's Night" and various sounds from "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)," "A Day In The Life" and "The End" throughout the track, while the second verse is removed entirely.
Sometime in 2021, Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell returned to the master tapes of "Get Back" to create a new mix for inclusion on an Anniversary version of the "Let It Be" album available in various editions. They also created two additional stereo mixes of the song, the first being "take 8" as recorded on January 27th, 1969 in Apple Studios, the second being "take 19" from January 28th, 1969, this being the full recording of what was edited onto the last moments of the released single. Two other versions of "Get Back" were remastered at this time as well, the first being the actual single version of the song, the second being a later portion of "take 19" that was designated "Get Back (Reprise)" on the proposed Glyn Johns "Get Back" album from 1969.
Surprisingly, George Harrison was the first Beatle to re-record the song "Get Back." In actuality, during recording sessions in London sometime between September 1969 and May 1970 for R&B singer Doris Troy, producer George Harrison vocally ran through the song "Get Back" as a demonstration for the artist to hear. This song was chosen by Doris Troy for inclusion on her self-titled Apple album, the result ending up as the b-side of her second single from the album, "Jacob's Ladder," in September of 1970.
With a star-studded backing band that possibly included Ringo, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Steven Stills, Jim Gordon and many others, George ad libbed a vocal demo that has appeared in later years on various bootleg releases. Harrison pushes his way through the chorus a few times as well as the third verse, adding in whatever popped into his head at the moment. Prompted by assistant Mal Evans being present on that day in his usual gopher role, George states, "Mal got a mop and another glass of orange juice." Since George was in the habit of adding in lyrics of other songs (see "It's All Too Much"), he ends his vocal performance here with an altered quote from the Delaney & Bonnie composition "All We Really Want To Do": "Now we're not saying that we're all the best / and we're not trying to say that we're like the rest...make the load a little lighter."
The first live Paul McCartney recording of “Get Back” was done on March 13th, 1990 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, the results being released on both the “Tripping The Live Fantastic” and “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!” albums of that year. Next came his June 27th, 2007 performance of the song at Amoeba Music in Hollywood, California, this becoming available on both his albums “Amoeba Gig” and a British and Irish release entitled “Live In Los Angeles,” the latter being produced in conjunction with “The Mail On Sunday” newspaper. Then came his performance at New York City's Citi Field in July of 2009, this recording being included on his “Good Evening New York City” album.
Song Structure and Style
There are two main versions of “Get Back” that have become popular during The Beatles' career; the single release of 1969 and the album release of 1970. Both of them are known and cherished by music fans for different reasons, but the original single version contains the coda which had been edited onto their basic recording. This being the case, the structure is longer than the album version and is more popular due to it topping the singles charts worldwide that year and also remaining a staple on classic radio stations up until today.
For this reason, our analysis will concentrate on the original single rendition, which follows the structure 'verse/ chorus/ solo verse/ chorus/ solo verse/ verse/ chorus/ solo verse/ chorus/ outro verse/ outro chorus' (or ababaababab). An instrumental intro is contained in both versions as well as two “Beatles breaks,” the first appearing after the second chorus and the second one after the fourth chorus, this second break ending the entire song on the album version. Incidental chatter and sounds begin and conclude the album version, these not appearing on the single version and therefore not stipulated in the structure of our analysis.
The four measure introduction showcases Ringo's galloping snare beat as it and all the other live instruments fade up in volume to good effect. John and George's electric rhythm guitars chunk away in a style that accents the off beats while Paul thumps out eighth beats on one solitary note and Billy Preston quietly plays chords on electric piano. As the volume swells to the fourth measure, two crashing chords are played by everyone, Ringo's cymbals ringing out to usher in the first verse that follows.
A third cymbal crash appears on the downbeat of the first measure of the eight-measure first verse, Paul's lead vocal also beginning on this beat. Ringo's galloping snare beat continues here as it does throughout the entire song. Paul sings solo in this verse but is accentuated by John playing a rising-and-falling guitar lick in the two gaps left between Paul's vocal phrases. Both George and Billy continue playing their instruments in a subdued fashion throughout the verse while Paul keeps it simple on bass as well.
The following chorus is also eight measures in length, Paul still being the only vocalist throughout. John here replaces his chunking rhythm guitar with an interesting lead guitar riff that he repeats eight times, one for each measure, altering his playing in the third and seventh measures with the changing chords of the song. Ringo keeps his galloping snare beat going in the chorus but crashes his cymbals accordingly in the fourth measure as a repeat of what we heard in the fourth measure of the song's introduction. Paul, George and Billy Preston also reprise the introduction with identical crashing chords. Then in measures five and six, everyone except John performs crashing chords on the “two-and” offbeat, Lennon continuing his guitar riff as if he doesn't even notice the jarring changes in the rhythm of the song. The final part of John's guitar riff in the eighth measure of the chorus is omitted here, only because he needs to properly position his fingers for the guitar solo he is about to perform immediately afterward. Just before he starts it, Paul encourages him by saying, “Get back, JoJo!”
Next comes a second verse that is devoted entirely to John's guitar solo, this verse also being eight measures in length. As a backdrop to his excellently performed solo is a subdued display from the other four musicians throughout except for what occurs in the fourth measure. The two jarring crashing chords heard in the fourth measure of the previously heard chorus are repeated here in this instrumental verse in both the fourth and eighth measures, Ringo's cymbals ringing out appropriately each time. Paul is quite happy with how John, not usually the lead guitarist, is performing his solo, this being exemplified with his exclamation “Go home!” in the sixth measure, this phrase being similar to the musical expression “bring it home” as heard in popular 50's and 60's recordings.
Next comes a second chorus, this one being ten measures in length because of the addition of a “Beatles break” as described below. The first eight measures, however, are quite similar to the first chorus, the crashing chord accents appearing here as well. John's focus this time is not on any guitar riffs as in the previous chorus but instead on lower harmony vocals to Paul's lead vocal, falling back to playing rhythm guitar during this chorus. I'd like to point out here that Lennon is obviously thriving as an artist during their performance of this song, changing from rhythm to lead guitarist, playing intricate guitar riffs during some choruses, and throwing in a harmony vocal as well. He had been caught on tape during these sessions saying that he thought of The Beatles as a durable rock'n'roll band that performed best during their formative years at the Cavern Club and in Hamburg. With “Get Back,” he was recapturing their celebrated past.
The added ninth and tenth measures consist of the first of two “Beatles breaks” in the song, this one keeping within the flow of the performance (unlike the second). With the crashing chord and ringing cymbal on the anticipated downbeat of the ninth measure, Billy Preston's presence is felt for the first time, slow descending chords being the primary focus of these two measures. With the volume of the song decreasing at this point, Ringo and Paul bring it back in the second half of the tenth measure. Ringo performs an innovative left-handed drum fill while Paul spurs Billy on for his upcoming solo by calling out, “Get back, Joe!”
Another instrumental verse then appears, eight measures in length and dominated by Billy Preston's excellent self-composed solo. The Beatles play energetically but as a rhythmic backdrop in order to allow their guest keyboardist to shine. They add in the jarring chords from the fourth measure of the second chorus, this time both in the fourth measure and the eighth measure. In the eighth measure, they all hit it a little harder due to it being a segue into the next verse, this one being the second and final vocal verse of the entire song.
This verse, also being eight measures in length, is nearly identical to the first vocal verse, John's guitar riffs and all. Other than different lyrics, the only other alteration from the first vocal verse is George mistakenly playing the two jarring chords in the eighth measure, this appearing as a juxtaposition with John's intricate but ad libbed lead guitar flourish. This is followed by another chorus, which is nearly identical to the first chorus instrumentally, ending with Paul's ad lib "Get back, Loretta!" as encouragement for John's upcoming solo.
Another instrumental verse comes next, this one being handled by John once again. Interestingly, Paul injects a high-pitched vocal “ooh” on the “two-and” offbeat of the first measure of this instrumental verse, his vocal hijinks being at an all-time high during the numerous takes of this song during these sessions. John's previous guitar solo is repeated here again but with various ad libs to differentiate it from the previous one, the fourth, seventh and eighth measures being substantially different. The instrumental backing from the other four musicians is primarily as heard in John's first solo verse, Ringo's crashing cymbals in measure eight being louder in order to bring in the climactic chorus that follows. Paul reigns everyone in for this chorus by exclaiming “Go home!” in measure eight.
This fourth chorus brings everyone's playing to a fever pitch, the entire group performing at their loudest and with dynamic energy. This in itself may be the reason why this take was chosen as "best" for release as the next Beatles single and thereafter for the soundtrack album. Paul's vocalization in this chorus is performed with fervor and intensity, this mimicking the power of all five musicians, Ringo's energetic drum work spurring everyone on. The accented crashing chords and cymbals of previous choruses are heard here, not only in measures five and six as before, but in measures one and two as well. Also, the two iconic power chords that were heard in the introduction of the song and in the fourth measure of the previous choruses are here replaced by a syncopated crashing chord on the “two-and” beat of measure four.
It can arguably be said that this fourth chorus is also ten measures in length as the second chorus was, complete with an abbreviated version of Billy Preston's descending electric piano riff as heard the first time around. However, due to this being the conclusion of this actual performance on January 27th, 1969, the meter of the song is here lost for this second “Beatles break,” the only elements filling this gap being some indecipherable studio sounds and Paul's “Oooooh!”
Just when one would think that the performance was now complete (as it was in reality), Ringo brings it back in with another innovative left-handed drum fill direct from a January 28th, 1969 performance of the song. What we now hear is a repeat of the final verse and chorus which is primarily an identical performance but with less intensity. What does become the primary focus is Paul's vocal work, the verse comprising his now iconic “high heel shoes...low neck sweater” improvisation and a very spirited ad lib of the final chorus as the song fades out. Of note here is Paul adding the word “home” to his otherwise usual phrase “get back Loretta” during all other documented takes of the song during these late-January sessions. As the song begins to extend to another chorus on the single version, Paul's final vocalization is “JoJo,” this exact utterance also being heard during the fade-in on “Get Back (reprise)” from both proposed “Get Back" albums.
"I played the solo on that," Lennon had stated in an interview when asked about the song "Get Back." "When Paul was feeling kindly, he would give me a solo. Maybe if he was feeling guilty that he had most of the A-sides or something, he'd give me a solo. I think George produces some beautiful guitar playing, but I think he's too hung up to really let go."
“Get Back” was first released in the US, as well as the most of the world, on May 5th, 1969, which was after an approximate ten month gap since “Hey Jude” was released in August. The long wait ensured that the “Get Back” single would be well-received, this resulting in the a-side rushing to the #1 spot on all of the US charts, topping the Billboard singles chart for five weeks straight. This release was so popular that its b-side, “Don't Let Me Down,” even appeared for four weeks on the same Billboard chart, peaking at a respectable #35. Interestingly, this was the first Beatles single to be released in stereo in America, mono records then in the process of being phased out entirely.
The record label of this single was noteworthy because of both the presence and absence of something unusual. Absent was a producer's credit, all US singles since “Paperback Writer” indicating George Martin as their producer. The first pressings of “Hey Jude” in America also neglected to mention George Martin, so the label of "Get Back" may not have raised many eyebrows. However, with the “Get Back / Don't Let Me Down” single, none of the later pressings contained a producer's credit either, while later “Hey Jude” pressings corrected the omission of George Martin's name. This leads to the speculation as to whether George Martin was involved in the production of "Get Back" at all, although documentation in Mark Lewisohn's book "The Beatles Recording Sessions" stipulates his presence on both January 27th and 28th, 1969, when this song was recorded.
One obvious inclusion on every US pressing of the single, however, was the artist listing as “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” Keeping with the band's insistence that the songs recorded during this project were to be without overdubs, a credit for the obvious presence of a keyboard on both the a- and b-sides of this single needed to be documented. Billy Preston is thereby the only musician ever to share the artist spotlight with The Beatles on any of their releases (unless you count early Tony Sheridan records such as "My Bonnie").
The "Get Back / Don't Let Me Down" single was also made available in a new format called the "Pocket Disc." These four inch flexible discs were manufactured by Americom Corporation in New York and made available to consumers either from store counter displays or vending machines for 50 cents. While it was claimed that the sound quality of these thin flexible discs was every bit as good as vinyl, the shallow grooves could not contain the same amount of audible information. This "Pocket Disc" single is highly collectible today.
As explained above, a “Get Back” album was twice proposed as a companion piece to the single, once in the spring of 1969 (about a month or so after the release of the single) and the second to come out in late January of 1970. Since neither of these came to fruition, the single's b-side “Don't Let Me Down” was included in the running order of the February 26th, 1970 released US album “Hey Jude” (originally titled “The Beatles Again”) as suggested by manager Allen Klein. He was aware at that time, however, that the January 1969 Beatles sessions were soon to be released on a soundtrack album to a film subsequently titled “Let It Be,” the song “Get Back” being featured prominently therein. This is why the song “Get Back” was not included on the above mentioned “Hey Jude” album but was held over until the “Let It Be” project would eventually be unveiled.
Finally, on May 18th, 1970, the “Let It Be” soundtrack album was released, a new Phil Spector mix of “Get Back” being included, which was much different from the hit single version. All Beatles fans easily noticed that, while the main body of the song sounded identical to what they were used to hearing, impromptu chatter and instrument sounds began and ended the track, while the iconic coda of the song was omitted. Since this album was released roughly a full year after the "Get Back" single hit the record shops, the 'cat was out of the bag' that this was not actually the most current Beatles album but was instead recorded approximately nineteen months earlier, well before the recording of their previously released album "Abbey Road."
The “Let It Be” album was initially distributed in a gatefold jacket in America, as opposed to the box set with photo book that was released in the UK. It spent four weeks in the top spot of the Billboard album chart and has sold well over four million copies in America alone. Being distributed by United Artists Records upon initial release despite having a red Apple Records label, it eventually was dropped by the UA label's roster a few years later. While Capitol Records kept all other US Beatles albums in print throughout the 70's, “Let It Be” was the only LP from the group that wasn't legitimately available for a number of years. This was rectified in 1978, however, when Capitol purchased the UA catalog and re-released the “Let It Be” album, this time in a single non-gatefold cover but with a poster. The album first appeared on compact disc on October 10th, 1987, and then as a remastered CD on September 9th, 2009. A newly mixed vinyl and CD edition of the album was then released on October 15th, 2021, as well as a special edition picture disc.
The single version of "Get Back” was next included on the April 19th, 1973 released compilation album “The Beatles/1967 – 1970” (aka “The Blue Album.”) This album peaked at #1 on the Billboard album chart and first appeared on compact disc on September 20th, 1993, a remastered version being released on August 10th, 2010.
On June 7th, 1976, Capitol put out a double-album compilation entitled “Rock 'n' Roll Music” which was meant to be a companion piece to the official “Red Album” and “Blue Album” compilation sets released back in 1973. The focus of this new release was The Beatles “rockers,” the album version of “Get Back” being included here as the final track of side two, thus concluding the set. George Martin was consulted regarding the preparation of this album and, with access to only the Capitol mixes, decided it was necessary to reverse the right and left channels of the original Phil Spector stereo mix for this release. Then, on October 27th, 1980, Capitol separated the albums in this set and re-released them individually, “Rock 'n' Roll Music: Volume 2” containing "Get Back."
On March 22nd, 1982, Capitol once again included the song on a compilation album, this one corresponding with the re-release of their first movie “A Hard Day's Night” in movie theaters. The album was entitled “Reel Music,” which featured the predominant tracks from all of The Beatles’ movie releases. In this case, the soundtrack album version of "Get Back" was included. The album was quite successful, peaking at #19 on the Billboard album chart and certified gold by selling over 500,000 units. Over 12,000 promotional copies were also printed, these being on translucent gold vinyl. In promotion of this album, they released a composite single on this date entitled “The Beatles Movie Medley,” which featured snippets of seven songs featured on the accompanying album, “Get Back” being one of the seven.
On October 11th, 1982, Capitol decided to condense the highlights of the Beatles catalog to one definitive album, thus releasing “20 Greatest Hits.” With the previous success of the “Get Back” single, this version was included on both the US and UK editions of the album. With the MTV era in full swing, however, this collection of chart-busting classics only managed a #50 peak on the Billboard album chart, America being too fixated on Duran Duran and The Stray Cats (among others) at the time.
In November of 1986, the “Let It Be” soundtrack album was also made available as an “Original Master Recording” release by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. Their practice was to prepare a new master utilizing half-speed mastering technology from the original master tapes, in this case using what was referred to therein as a “corrected copy tape.” The album was issued in both a single sleeve and gatefold cover, the single sleeve cover being the rarest.
On March 7th, 1988, the CD “Past Masters, Volume Two” was released, which contained all of the later Beatles tracks that were not contained on British albums, the single version of “Get Back” being among them. For the vinyl edition of this album, it was decided to combine both volumes of "Past Masters" to form a vinyl double-album, this coming out on October 24th, 1988. Both volumes were also combined for the remastered re-releases, the 2-CD set coming out on September 9th, 2009 and the vinyl double-album coming out on November 12th, 2012.
The next release of “Get Back” was October 18th, 1996, this being on the compilation album “Anthology 3.” The legendary final rooftop performance of “Get Back,” the last song The Beatles ever performed live, was included here, complete with the evidence of John and George's amplifiers being turned off by Mal Evans per police instructions and Paul's mutterings about getting “arrested.” This release went 3x Platiunum and was the third double-album in a row from The Beatles that made it to #1 on the Billboard album charts.
With the “20 Greatest Hits” album long out of print, Apple Records did this concept one better by releasing “Beatles 1,” containing every Beatles song that topped the charts in either Britain or America all on a single disc, the single version of “Get Back” being one of them. This was released on November 13th, 2000, this concept taking hold much better than its predecessor, topping the charts worldwide and selling over 31 million copies. A remastered version of the CD was released in September of 2011, while a newly re-mixed version was released on November 6th, 2015.
November 17th, 2003 was the release date for “Let It Be...Naked,” an album put together, at Paul McCartney's insistence, to recreate the original “as nature intended” format of the “Get Back / Let It Be” project. As detailed above, the January 27th, 1969 performance that graced both the original single and album versions of “Get Back” was included here, the omission of the coda intact. This excellent new mix was the opening track of this new album, which peaked at #5 on the Billboard album chart.
Not to be forgotten is the excellent newly mixed version of “Get Back” that appears on the November 20th, 2006 released album “Love,” the innovative soundtrack used in conjunction with the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name. As detailed above, this mix combines original sounds from various Beatles songs to form a composite track that abbreviates the original performance of "Get Back" but becomes an opening highlight to the entire project. This advenurous album peaked at #4 on the US Billboard album chart and ended up going 2x Platinum.
While the mono version of “Get Back” hadn't yet been released in the US, its official mono mix from April 7th, 1969 as contained on the British single, was included in the box set “The Beatles In Mono” on a disc entitled “Mono Masters.” This popular box set was released on September 9th, 2009.
On October 15th, 2021, various editions of the "Let It Be" album were released that feature interesting versions of "Get Back." The "Deluxe" 2CD set features the newly remixed Giles Martin version of the song as contained on the original "Let It Be" album as well as "take 8" as recorded on January 27th, 1969. Both the "Super Deluxe" 5CD + Blu-ray edition and the "Super Deluxe" 4LP + 1 12" EP edition also contain the Giles Martin remix of the single version of "Get Back" within the context of its appearance on the aborted 1969 "Get Back" album, as well as the complete "take 18" of the song recorded on January 28th, 1969 from which the latter part of the single was constructed. Not to be forgotten is the appearance of "Get Back Reprise" from the 1969 "Get Back" album, which also makes an appearance on these "Super Deluxe" editions.
As for Paul McCartney's live recordings of “Get Back,” the first was the November 5th, 1990 released double-album “Tripping The Live Fantastic,” the same version appearing on the simultaneously released condensed disc entitled “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!” A new live rendition of the song appears on the album “Good Evening New York City,” which was released on November 17th, 2009. A 2007 recorded live version of the song eventually was included on the July 12th, 2019 live album “Amoeba Gig,” this rendition being recorded in Hollywood, California.
The song “Get Back” has the privilege of being the very last song that The Beatles ever performed during a live concert, this being on the rooftop of their Apple Headquarters during the lunch hour of January 30th, 1969. It was an unannounced show during London's “long cold lonely winter” of 1969, which was immortalized by George Harrison in his song “Here Comes The Sun.” With the cold temperature causing Ringo to struggle with a runny nose and prompting John to borrow Yoko's fur coat, this performance lasted 42 minutes and “brought part of the capital to a standstill,” according to author Mark Lewisohn in his book “The Complete Beatles Chronicle.”
As detailed above, “Get Back” was touched on five times, two quick partial performances and three full versions. “Get Back” was the first song to be played in its entirety on this occasion, this being followed by another full rendition of the song with the intention of perfecting it before both the film crew and the audio production team. Their third rendition of the song on this day ended up being the final song of the entire show, the other four songs they intended to play having already been performed to their satisfaction. They were on a roll, having too much fun to pack it up, and therefore tried once again to get “Get Back” perfect.
By this time, however, the local police had already entered the Apple building and made it up to the roof with the intention of calling the show to a halt. They had received numerous complaints about The Beatles disturbing the peace, so they proceeded to instruct assistant Mal Evans to shut off the band's amplifiers. After the amps were turned back on quickly thereafter, they proceeded to complete the song with the understanding that they better end it there or else be taken into custody. Had that not occurred, who's to say if The Beatles would have continued the performance and what they might have played. Nonetheless, acknowledging that the show was over, John quipped to those nearby about being grateful that his group had “passed the audition” and they promptly exited the roof, leaving the lugging of their equipment to Mal Evans and others.
In order to promote the song “Get Back” when it was released as a single in the spring of 1969, filmed footage from this rooftop performance was synchronized with the studio version that appeared on the record. This promo film was shown in Britain on four episodes of the popular music TV show “Top Of The Pops,” while it was shown only once in the US on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on April 30th, 1969, five days before the 45 was in the record shops.
When the “Let It Be” movie was released on May 13th, 1970, it included two full versions of “Get Back” from the rooftop performance, the first being a composite edit of the first two live performances of the song, complete with John's dedicating the song to “Daisy, Morris and Tommy” after it concluded This footage shows how rickety their performance set up was on the roof, the floorboards under George's feet bending whenever he shifted his feet.
The second version featured in the film was the full final rendition complete with police presence. This footage shows that the policemen were already on the roof before the final “Get Back” performance was played, Paul smiling in wonder as to whether they should actually go ahead and play the song. Nonetheless, John counts it off and they go through with it anyway. Mal Evans is seen trying to interrupt John and George, telling them the that the police want them to stop. Mal turns both guitarists amplifiers off but George is seen here turning his back on, Mal relenting and turning John's back on as well. Mal Evans is then shown trying to pacify the policemen as the song continues on, assuring them that this was indeed the last song they would perform. The Beatles and Billy Preston played with much enthusiasm, knowing that this was the final song of the day. Mal is then shown assuring the officers that The Beatles, the most popular musical artists in the world at the time, would be finishing their performance in the next couple of minutes, this satisfying them enough to exit the roof. After the song was completed, The Beatles are then seen proceeding to set down their instruments to make their exit, Paul thanking Maureen for her cheers and John giving his final “passed the audition” announcement.
To end the film, the section of the coda from the studio recording of “Get Back” on January 28th, 1969 was heard as a backdrop to some credits and a still shot of The Beatles about to exit the Apple roof. This exact audio was intended as the final “Get Back (reprise)” track on both of the proposed “Get Back” albums, the movie's closing moments possibly being made to coincide with the soundtrack album's final track, although it ended up not being used.
Paul resurrected “Get Back” prominently during his solo career, his first inclusion of the song being during his “World Tour,” which stretched from July 26th, 1989 (London, England) to July 29th, 1990 (Chicago, Illinois). To promote his “Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)” album, Paul included “Get Back” in the “Electric Set” of his “Unplugged Tour 1991,” this tour beginning on May 8th (Barcelona, Spain) and ending on July 24th (Copenhagen, Denmark) of that year. On February 6th, 2005, Paul and his band performed “Get Back” and three other songs at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Florida. Paul's 2005 “US” tour featured “Get Back” as well, this tour stretching from September 15th (Miami, Florida) to November 30th (Los Angeles, California) of that year. On July 15th, 2009, Paul and his band appeared on the "Late Show With David Letterman" performing "Get Back" and three other songs on top of the famous Ed Sullivan Theater marquee. His “Summer Live '09” tour included the song as well, this beginning on July 17th (New York City, New York) and ending on August 19th (Arlington, Texas) of 2009.
His “Good Evening Europe Tour” also included "Get Back," this tour stretching from December 2nd (Hamburg, Germany) to December 22nd (London, England) of 2009. Next came the “Up And Coming” tour, beginning on March 28th, 2010 (Glendale, Arizona) and ending on June 10th, 2011 (Las Vegas, Nevada). His “On The Run” tour was next, stretching from July 15th, 2011 (New York City, New York) to November 29th, 2012 (Edmonton, Canada). Paul sometimes performed “Get Back” during his extensive “Out There” tour that began on May 4th, 2013 (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) and ended on October 22nd, 2015 (Buffalo, New York). The song was sometimes an encore selection during his “One On One” tour, which stretched from April 13th, 2016 (Fresno, California) to December 16th, 2017 (Auckland, New Zealand).
“This image thing that people are always on about with The Beatles, well, the image is something in Joe Public's eye,” John stated in the spring of 1969. “That's why it's a drag when people talk about fresh faced Beatles like it was five years ago. I mean, we're always changing.”
And change they did, not only in appearance but musically. Their evolution from “mop tops” singing creatively composed pop songs to mustached innovators creating psychedelic studio masterpieces in 1967 with orchestras and Indian instrumentalists, only to reinvent themselves again on the “White Album” with a more minimalistic approach, was striking. Then, with the “Get Back / Let It Be” project, they endeavored to scale it back even further by omiting overdubs and double-tracking altogether. The eventually released “Let It Be” album is testimony to them backing off on this determination to a certain degree, but when the first fruits of their labor was released to the public, this being the song “Get Back” as a single, their original intention was fulfilled.
This 2x Platinum-selling record (over four million copies sold in the US alone) consisted of five musicians playing without any overdubs or double-tracking whatsoever, the only production manipulation being the editing of two different live takes pieced together. “She Love You” appears to be the last time that a Beatles single did not contain any overdubs or double-tracking, although an edit was involved here too as on “Get Back.” For all intents and purposes, The Beatles did in fact “get back” to their origins of being a true rock'n'roll band. “Get Back” was indeed “the first Beatles record which is as live at it can be in this electronic age,” as its promotional ad insisted it was. And “John is playing the fab live guitar solo,” as Lennon insisted in the ad as well!
Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Song Written: January, 7 through 28, 1969
Song Recorded: January 27 and 28, 1969
First US Release: Date: May 5, 1969
US Single Release: Apple #2490
Highest Chart Position: #1 (5 weeks)
First US Album Release: Apple #AR-34001 “Let It Be”
British Album Release: Apple #PCS 7096 “Let It Be”
Key: A major
Producer: George Martin (?), Glyn Johns (?) Engineers: Glyn Johns, Alan Parsons
Instrumentation (most likely):
Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Bass (1963 Hofner 500/1)
John Lennon - Lead and Rhythm Guitar (1965 Epiphone ES-230TD Casino), harmony vocals
George Harrison - Rhythm Guitar (1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster)
Ringo Starr - Drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple)
Billy Preston - Electric Piano (1968 Fender Rhodes Seventy-Three Sparkle Top)
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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