TV review: Pools of sorrow, waves of joy - the Beatles return in Get Back

The longest, tensest wait of my young life wasn’t for Christmas. It was for my mother to come back from the shops having successfully purchased The Beatles Monthly.

Not just any old edition of the fanzine either, but one from 1963 containing the lyrics to “She Loves You”. I know, uncomplicated words, but John, Paul, George and Ringo were mystical, fabulous, elusive beings.

Even then, perched on the top bunk, staring out of the window, was I worried the band might not last? Did I vainly hope that their most famous song up to that point being committed to print would somehow force commitment out of them?

Thus, it is no chore at all to sit though the full seven hours and 48 minutes of Get Back (Disney+). In fact I intend to watch it again this weekend. Then I’ll make my kids watch it and test them on it.

Up on the roof ... The Beatles in their last-ever performance, revived for Peter Jackson's epic Get Back documentary

They’ll come to anticipate the funny bits like – where to start? – Paul and John in the studio panning for the gold that will become “The Long and Winding Road”, Paul still thinking their efforts sound like a slow foxtrot and so he spoofs the Come Dancing compere:

“And now our next contestants … Rita and Thomas Williams.” John: “Rita is wearing a matching dark sombrero and beard.” Paul: “And her husband’s crinoline skirt is one he made himself.”

Get Back is like having the Beatles back. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy!

You might have seen the odd clip before, such as when Paul’s daughter Heather, then six, bangs a cymbal and a sleep-feigning Ringo falls off his stool.

Paul leads the Fab Four through another studio session with Yoko Ono back to camera next to John

But director Peter Jackson gives us the lot, or at least such a humongous chunk of the 57 hours of long-abandoned footage from the first month of their final year together, that having them laugh, jam, goof around, dance, drink tea, munch toast, reminisce about Hamburg, jam some more, joke about the Rolling Stones and crack the atom yet again to roll out another of pop’s greatest-ever choons, is a Tardis trip to 1969 to revel in the Fabs in real time.

The first of the three films finds them at a giant barn of a studio in London’s Twickenham preparing a live TV special.

We see the band arriving and leaving each day. We get to know the burly road manager and other faithful retainers.

Ringo will begin a melody at the piano, then budge up to be joined by George. Sometimes the four of them will do nothing, but even now – sorry Adele, sorry Ed Sheeran – this feels like everything.

Often, there’s an edge and we’re like kids in pyjamas on the stairs as a parental row simmers. The electrical cables tangled across the floor start to resemble snakes in a pit.

We’re willing Paul to smile at John and for him to smile back. And when these two step up to share a mic, getting extra-close because of Paul playing the bass left-handed, it’s like all’s right with the world.

The children of the Beatles across the universe can go back to bed, at least for the time being.

Even though we know how the greatest story ever told will end, we are comforted by them showing up each morning, no matter how late or hungover.

And then George doesn’t. “See you ’round the clubs,” is his parting shot. The other three try to carry on, with Yoko Ono “singing”. Lucky George for avoiding this terrible squawk.

The others try to visit George somewhere in the rockbrokerbelt, but he’s gone back to Liverpool. John and Paul have a chat which they think is private, away from the cameras, but a flower pot’s been bugged.

Paul admits to dominating when, really, John has always been “boss”. Eventually George returns.

The second film sees the Fabs abandon the TV special and move to Apple HQ in Savile Row.

The parking is more hazardous – white Rolls-Royces are irresistible to wardens who presumably don’t answer to “Lovely Rita, meter maid” – but the vibe there is better.

Twickenham was too big; Apple is snug and as the Beatles cosy up we’re reminded of a black-and-white image from Jackson’s scene-setting of John and Paul as school-skiving skifflers in a bedroom. They have got back to where they once belonged, albeit briefly.

The snakes have gone, replaced by Billy Preston and his warm electric piano. Everyone laughs at a tabloid story claiming the band had come to blows.

John is more animated, more like the boss, though the discussions are collegiate. George is smiling, Ringo is Ringo.

Yoko is still Yoko. She sounds like a strangled cat, which is unfortunate because when young Heather mentions her kitten, John asks if she’s going to bake it in a pie.

But did I tell you about the gear? I covet every groovy thread these guys are wearing – well, apart from George’s Tibetan boots.

The genius of these films, though, is the genius of the songs, which, wonderfully, we glimpse in creation. A chord will be hit – not quite right. Go on, lads, try again, you’ve almost got it. They always did.

There’s talk of a big blow-out show. The ruined Roman amphitheatre in Libya, perhaps, or what about the Houses of Parliament? That would be a laugh.

As we know, they had to be content with climbing onto the roof of their building. What Paul didn’t know, though, or had forgotten, was that the last time the Beatles performed together wasn’t the gloomy affair of myth, which even he’d come to believe – “something’s been corrected”.

And in the end, as they once sang, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

The Beatles: Get Back premieres on Disney+ November 25, 26 and 27

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