My late friend Alexander Nekrassov loathed the Beatles, which I used to think was a wantonly contrary position akin to hating kittens or blue skies or Christmas carols. What could there possibly be not to like, love and admire about the band that gave us ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘A Day In the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’?
Since then I’ve encountered so many Beatles sceptics that it has given me pause for thought. Some think that the Beatles were just mediocre and not nearly as talented as, say, the Kinks; some even claim that they were as manufactured as the Monkees, that like their bad-guy opposites the Stones they were a creation of the Tavistock Institute, designed to divide society and suborn the youth with drugs and the newly coined concept of ‘teenagers’.
It doesn’t really matter where you stand. The Beatles were a phenomenon and The Beatles: Get Back is more mesmerisingly watchable than six hours of musicians noodling around over two weeks’ rehearsal for a really-not-that-good album has any right to be.
Producer Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson whittled it down from 60 hours of unseen footage filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969 for a critically panned movie released the following year called Let It Be. Jackson has said of all this extraordinary material: ‘I just can’t believe it exists.’ And he’s right. I doubt there will ever be a more remarkable and illuminating pop documentary.
What’s amazing is its intimacy. Here they are, the world’s most famous ever pop group, and you’re there, in among them, half-choking on Lennon’s chain-smoked fags, turning your nose up at the plates of unappetising rolls brought in periodically by roadies, and eavesdropping on every bon mot, every reminiscence about the glory days in Hamburg, every hint that the boys have had enough and they’re all about to go their separate ways.