Peter Jackson today unveils his three-part documentary series “The Beatles: Get Back”, edited from dozens of hours of unseen footage of the four trendy boys!
Why were you the ideal director to broach such a subject?
Peter Jackson (Director of The Beatles: Get Back Documentary Series): Well first of all, I’m a Beatles fan. I was born in 1961, and I grew up in the same decade that the band recorded their albums. Unfortunately, I have no anecdote to share with you about this time, because my parents never bought any Beatles album. But I remember having bought with my pocket money around 1972 the Blue Album which is a best-of of their songs. It was actually the very first album I bought with my money, and that’s how I became a Beatles fan.
I think it was really necessary to be a fan of the group to make this film, because it took about 150 hours of rushes! The cameras didn’t catch everything, but the microphones were able to record a lot of conversations, giving the impression of being in 1969 and listening to discussions of the time. Being a Beatles fan allowed me to grasp the nuances and details of these conversations.
This is why it was necessary to like the group, in order to put the extracts of these discussions in context.
What did you learn from this documentary?
If I had one criticism of the Beatles, it’s that these images made me realize how unprepared the band was when it came time to record their songs. The common thread of the documentary is the preparation of a concert recorded in a variety show, we are not talking about the concert finally organized on the roof of Apple Corps, but of a broadcast on set. Their previous concerts were organized by their manager Brian Epstein who took care of everything: booking dates, logistics etc.
But the latter died in 1967, and they now had to make do without him. The other shadow man in the band is George Martin, who attended all of their studio recordings at Abbey Road. The documentary was recorded during rehearsals so it was not in the recording studio but in Twickenham because producer Denis O’Dell had booked the studio for the shooting of his movie The Magic Christian (in which appears Ringo Starr, editor’s note) and therefore made it available to the group to film their rehearsals.
So they approached these working sessions without their usual support team and looking at the footage today, I still don’t understand who is supposed to be preparing for the show they’re supposed to appear on. The Four Beatles act as if someone was behind the scenes to take care of all the logistics of the concert, which Denis O’Dell more or less had to do, at least unofficially, since he was already very busy. by the preparation of his film The Magic Christian.
How did the editing of the film go? Were you able to distribute it to Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the heirs of the other Beatles? What were their feedbacks?
I enjoyed the same freedom as Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the director of the documentary Let it Be. They hadn’t appreciated his work, so they put his rushes aside for fifty years! Generally speaking, artists don’t like people looking over their shoulders.
When filming began, The Beatles were supposed to record a variety show and unveil fourteen new songs. The idea was therefore to show the backstage of the rehearsals for 30 minutes, before broadcasting the entire concert for an hour. So Michael approached the shoot as if he was going to shoot atmospheric images intended to appear as a prologue to his documentary.
In the end, he shot a lot more footage than he expected and at some point someone, I don’t know who, decided to use those rushes to edit a film that was totally independent from the concert. After A Hard Day’s Night and Help !, the Beatles still had to shoot a film to honor their contract for three feature films, so from a practical point of view this documentary would free them from their obligations.
The Beatles did not like Let it be, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, especially since I’ve had the opportunity to review it many times over the past few years. He … not…