The Beatles: Get Back — Peter Jackson’s eagerly awaited documentary about the making of what came to be the Let It Be album and movie — has been pushed back to August 2021. To help soften the blow, the Beatles have announced the publication of a new companion book to the film.
To be published on August 31, 2021 — four days after the scheduled release of the movie — the 240-page hardcover book will include “hundreds of previously unpublished images” from the 1969 recording sessions that begat Let It Be. Some of the photos were taken from the film, while others were snapped by Linda McCartney and Ethan A. Russell. An entire section of the book will be devoted to images from the band’s famed rooftop concert during that period.
Credited to the Beatles, the Get Back book will also include freshly transcribed comments from the band, taken from the hundreds of hours of tape from those sessions. The comments, according to publisher Callaway Arts & Entertainment, will “reveal the truth behind the Let It Be sessions.”
Originally called Get Back — a nod to the band’s attempt at setting aside the experimentation of their later records in favor of a live-in-the-studio approach similar to that of their first recordings — Let It Be began as a series of filmed recording sessions over three weeks at Twickenham Film Studios. Later, work switched over to their new Apple Studios. Unhappy with the results at the time, the band shelved the project and instead went to work on Abbey Road. By the time the Let It Be movie and album were finally rolled out in May 1970, the Beatles were no more, and the tense atmosphere captured in moments of the original film became their epitaph.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original movie and album, Jackson was handed 55 hours of unseen footage from the sessions, which he approached with a degree of trepidation. “As a long-time Beatles fan, I really wasn’t looking forward to it,” he told Rolling Stone in the magazine’s recent cover story. “I thought, ‘If what we’ve seen is the stuff they allowed people to see, what are the other 55 hours going to be?’ I thought, ‘I should be excited, but I just dread what I’m about to see.’ ”
To his surprise, Jackson says he uncovered more moments of band unity and creativity than he imagined, and he also wound up writing the foreword to Get Back. “Just me personally as a fan, looking at the 56 hours, I get a sense of a group that wants to do something different, but they’ve run out of places to go,” he said. “They never wanted to repeat themselves — they didn’t want to make Sgt. Pepper 2. They can’t play a stadium that’s bigger than Shea. They’ve done complex albums. They’ve done simple albums. You get the sense that they really don’t want to break up. That’s the overriding impression I get. They’re a forward-moving band, but they’ve run out of places to go.”
In his introduction to the book, British playwright and novelist Hanif Kurdish echoes Jackson’s claims that, despite the legendary friction at the time of the sessions, “this was a productive time for them, when they created some of their best work. And it is here that we have the privilege of witnessing their early drafts, the mistakes, the drift and digressions, the boredom, the excitement, joyous jamming and sudden breakthroughs that led to the work we now know and admire.”
Originally scheduled for theatrical release this month, The Beatles: Get Back was postponed to next summer as a result of Covid-19. In what will likely be the next phase of the rollout, the Let It Be movie — long reviled by the Beatles — will also be reissued, but details have not yet been announced.