The Beatles – Get Back
This is an inevitable update of the legendary unreleased Beatles album Get Back, what eventually was cleaned up by Phil Spector as Let It Be. Originally intend as a throwback to the band’s early days of live, in-studio recording in order to boost their diminishing morale and comradery, The Beatles set out to rehearse and record an album’s worth of material without overdubs, concluding with an actual live performance and a television special documenting the process. Unfortunately the end result, compiled twice by Glyn Johns, was simply too rough and sloppy to be release-worthy and was shelved. Phil Spector was later appointed to make an album out of the tapes in 1970 and, even though better performances were selected, Spector infamously added his own orchestration, going against the live “warts and all” concept of the Get Back album. This reconstruction attempts to offer what a fully-realized Get Back album would have sounded like if it had been properly completed in April 1969. This reconstruct features a number of custom, unique edits, most notably a full-band Beatles studio take of "All Things Must Pass". As a bonus disc, I am including my own personal lossless rip of the streaming only Apple Rooftop Performance.
Recognizing a possible end to the band, The Beatles came up with a novel idea: write, rehearse and record an album as they first started in 1962, live in the studio without overdubs. Going “back to basics” and abandoning their now-commonplace methodology of extraneous overdubbing would theoretically allow The Beatles to once again operate as a cohesive unit. An album would be compiled from these sessions displaying, as John Lennon once quipped, “The Beatles with their pants down” and the January 1969 rehearsals and recording sessions would be filmed for a television special by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. As the first week progressed, it was pitched to conclude the sessions with an actual live performance, although the band could not agree on where or even if it should be done at all (with George the most adamant against it). While a good idea in theory, the reality was that this project—eventually titled Get Back—was doomed from the start, as none of the band’s issues from the White Album sessions where solved and seemed to be exacerbated by the band’s new setting: the cold, uncomfortable Tickenham film studio, working regular 9-to-5 hours, Paul’s aptitude for bossiness, ambivalence towards George’s songwriting and John’s girlfriend Yoko Ono ever-present.
The rehearsals at Twickenham studios did not go according to plan. Paul offered an endless amount of new original compositions and thoroughly dictated his songs' arrangements to the rest of the band; Lennon seemed distant, completely uninterested and often communicating only through Yoko Ono, himself head-deep into a writer’s block and a heroin addiction; George was resentful over John and Paul’s disinterest in his own compositions, of which there were now plenty of high quality to choose from; Ringo simply went along for the ride, played solemnly and remained stoic and reserved. George eventually quit the band after an argument and refused to rejoin The Beatles until they had vacated Twickenham and nixed the notion for a televised concert.
With George temporarily subdued, The Beatles returned to the basement of their new Apple Studios with engineer Glyn Johns at the helm, intending to properly record the material rehearsed at Twickenham, live without overdubs. With Glyn needed in Los Angeles to track with The Steve Miller Band and Ringo needed to film The Magic Christian, the band had until the end of the month to record fourteen new songs. The serious contenders for the Get Back album included “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Get Back” “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “Two of Us”, “Dig A Pony”, “Teddy Boy”, “One After 909”, “All Things Must Pass”, several iterations of a jam loosely titled “Dig It”, “Let It Be”, The Long and Winding Road”, “For You Blue”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, “I Me Mine” and “Across The Universe”. Further newly-written songs were introduced as the sessions progressed: “Oh Darling”, “Old Brown Shoe”, “Something”, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Octopus's Garden”, among others scantily observed. Although sessions were initially unproductive, the addition of keyboardist Billy Preston livened up the mood and forced The Beatles to not only settle their differences, but to perform better!
As the weeks soldiered on, it was unclear what the goal of the proceeding was: were The Beatles rehearsing for a live performance at the end of the month? Or were they recording an album live in the studio with the cameras rolling? The answer was a combination of both, as it was decided to rehearse and keep the great takes as possible masters, while prepping for the concert itself. In the process, The Beatles successfully tracked master takes of “For You Blue” on January 25th, “Get Back” on January 27th and “Don’t Let Me Down” on January 28th. Additionally, a passable master of “The Long and Winding Road” was tracked on January 26th by Glyn Johns’ account, although The Beatles themselves thought they could do better. The quintet concluded their sessions with a now-legendary concert on the rooftop of Apple Studios on January 30th, capturing lively masters of “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Dig a Pony” and “One After 909”, as well as admirable takes of “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down”. The following day, The Beatles with Preston recorded three additional tracks back in the basement studio, songs that didn’t suit a live electric set: “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” and a penultimate “The Long and Winding Road.”
As February arrived, The Beatles went their separate ways, the album a wrap. Or was it? Out of the goal of recording fourteen new songs, they had only tracked masters for nine. With five songs short, The Beatles reconvened in February 22 with Ringo and Glyn called back from their obligations to record John’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, a song the quartet had rehearsed a handful of times the previous month. Although the song wasn’t completely finished, it is generally believed that this session was meant as a Get Back “clean up” session. On February 25th, George recorded solo demos of his three key offerings for Get Back: “Something”, “All Things Must Pass” and “Old Brown Shoe.” Furthermore, it was decided that “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were to be rush-released as a single and The Beatles decided to break their Get Back rule—overdubbing of a second vocal track onto “Don’t Let Me Down”, and an edit piece from an alternate take of “Get Back” from January 28th was edited onto the master take from the 27th as a coda.
Around this time, Glyn presented to the band a rough mix of some of the tracks recorded in January, presented in a “fly-on-the-wall” fashion, purely from his perspective as an outsider to The Beatles’ inner circle. Tasked to make a full album in this fashion, Glyn spent March compiling his vision of a Get back album. Although admirable, there were a number of shortcomings that ultimately led to the compilation’s rejection: sloppy takes of “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” were chosen from January 22nd, rather than the master takes from the 28th and 30th; a rough “Two of Us” from January 24th was chosen instead of the superior master from January 31st; Glyn’s favorite rehearsal of “The Long and Winding Road” from the 26th was chosen over the final performance master from the 31st; and five minutes of the meandering “Dig It” and almost four minutes of a painful rehearsal of “Teddy Boy” both made the cut.
Just as the “Get Back” b/w “Don’t Let Me Down” single was released in April, there was an explosion of recording activity, mostly of songs already woodshedded in January: both “Old Brown Shoe” and the backing track for “Something” was recorded on April 16th; additional overdubbing on “I Want You” was done on April 18th and 20th; “Oh Darling” was recorded on April 20th; and “Octopus’s Garden” was recorded on April 26th. Finally, The Beatles again broke their own rule, as George overdubbed a new guitar solo onto “Let It Be” on April 30th. Simultaneously, Glyn Johns was tasked to mix and assemble an album in the documentary-style of his March acetates. Could these April sessions have also been meant to complete the Get Back album for release the following month?
Regardless, these recordings were never destined to make it onto Get Back, as The Beatles must have decided at some point in the summer of the album’s lost cause, instead earmarking the new recordings for an even newer album, tentatively titled Everest. Returning to the studio in July and August, the band finished the new batch of recordings, now titled Abbey Road, released to critical and commercial acclaim in late September. As for the actual January sessions, The Beatles were still hopeful for it’s eventual release as editing for the film dragged on and various versions of the soundtrack were mixed by Glyn and subsequently rejected by Apple.
By January 1970, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg had decided to include rehearsal footage of “Across The Universe” and “I Me Mine” into his cut of the documentary film—two songs never properly tracked by The Beatles in January. While Glyn simply made a new “stripped down” mix of the original 1968 take of “Across The Universe”, The Beatles—minus John—reassembled at EMI to properly record “I Me Mine.” Additionally, more work was done to “Let It Be”, including horns, bongos and backing vocal overdubs, along with a spicier guitar solo. The changes greatly improved Glyn’s cut of Get Back, but Apple regardless rejected his compilation yet again. By March, the legendary producer Phil Spector—himself building a working relationship with both John & George—was tasked to remix and compile a completed album, now titled Let It Be. Although Spector ultimately used better takes of the material, he heavy-handedly added orchestration to “I Me Mine”, “Across The Universe” and “The Long and Winding Road”, as well as a number of smaller changes to “Dig a Pony”, “For You Blue” and “Get Back” (not to mention dropping “Don’t Let Me Down” entirely!). Released as Let It Be in May 1970, a month after Paul’s first solo album and effectively after The Beatles ceased to exist, the album was a hodge-podge and a far cry from the band’s original concept. Can we reconstruct what both Glyn Johns and Phil Spector failed to accomplish?
The key tenet of my Get Back reconstruction is to use the nine master takes from January as the core of the album—specifically the studio versions of “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” released as a single, the master of “For You Blue” that excluded all later overdubs, “Dig a Pony”, “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “One After 909” from the rooftop performance on the 30th and “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” from the basement performance on the 31st. To round out the album, we will assume the early mix of “I Want You” from February was meant for Get Back and finds it’s place here (the early April takes of “Old Brown Shoe” and “Oh Darling”, as head on the Abbey Road SDE, are also fair game, but not necessary). We will also use a little less than a minute of “Can You Dig It” as miraculously, The Beatles had intended the jam to appear on Get Back in some form or another, and creating a concise edit of “Teddy Boy”. Finally, we will be construct a complete Beatles version of “All Things Must Pass”, which was originally meant as George’s second Harrisong for the album.
Side A begins with the Giles Martin single remix of “Get Back” from 1+, with the actual studio dialog intro restored using an edit of Giles’ LP remix and the WBCN acetate. “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” follow, taken from my own 24/48 rip of the lossless Tidal stream of the Get Back Rooftop Performance. My own reconstruction of a Beatles “All Things Must Pass” follows, which utilities George’s demo from Anthology 3, the drums, bass and backing vocals from A/B Road and Billy Preston’s electric keyboards from The Beatles Rockband Stems. This crossfades into Giles’ 2021 single mix of “Don’t Let Me Down” that includes it’s natural studio chatter intro. The side closes with Giles’ 2021 remix of “Two Of Us.”
Side B starts with the energetic “One After 909” from my rooftop stream rip, followed by Glyn John’s original 1969 mix of “For You Blue”, which was mistakenly included on the Get Back disc of the Japanese Let It Be SDE; this is the only professional mix that excludes the later vocal overdubs. Next is my own edit of “Teddy Boy” that follows the song’s structure as heard on McCartney, limiting the song to just over two minutes and making the song reasonable. “I Want You”, clearly intentionally recorded for Get Back, follows from the Abbey Road SDE with a tad of reverb via Wave’s Abbey Road Chamber plug-in to make it fit with the rest of the reconstruction. Next is the superior take of “The Long and Winding Road” from 1+ and a bit of “Can You Dig It” from the Let It Be SDE, as a link track to Glyn’s 1969 mix of “Let It Be”, also from the Let It Be SDE, the only professional mix to exclude the song’s later overdubs.
Since it does not seem to have a physical or even downloadable release, I have included my rip of the Apple Rooftop Performance as a bonus, sourced from the Tidal lossless stream into a Scarlett 2i2 into SONAR Pro at 24/48. Some slight EQ changes were made to make the master sound more like the original 1970 Spector mixes and it was downsampled to 16/44.
- A/B Road (bootleg, Purplechick 2004)
- Abbey Road (Super Deluxe Edition, 2019)
- Anthology 3
- Get Back Rooftop Performance (24/48 rip of lossless Tidal stream, 2022)
- Let It Be (Super Deluxe Edition, US and Japanese, 2021)
- Rockband Extraction Stems
- The WBCN Acetate
(bootleg, Masterjedi 2019)
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included