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"Get Back"
Single by The Beatles with Billy Preston
B-side "Don't Let Me Down"
Released 11 April 1969
Format 7"
Recorded 27 January 1969
Genre Rock, blues-rock
Length 3:14
Label Apple Records
Writer(s) Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Certification 2x Platinum (RIAA)[1]
The Beatles chronology
"Hey Jude" / "Revolution"
(1968)
"Get Back" /
"Don't Let Me Down"
(1969)
"Ballad of John and Yoko"/ "Old Brown Shoe"
(1969)
Music sample
"Get Back"
"Get Back"
Song by The Beatles

from the album Let It Be

Released 8 May 1970
Length 3:07
Label Apple Records
Producer Phil Spector
Let It Be track listing

"Get Back" is a song by The Beatles, written primarily by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon/McCartney. The song was originally released as a single on 11 April 1969 and credited to "The Beatles with Billy Preston."[2] An alternate mix of the song later became the closing track of Let It Be (1970), which was The Beatles' last album released before the group formally split. The single version was later issued on CD on the second disc of the Past Masters compilation. The single reached number one in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, West Germany, and Mexico. It was The Beatles' only single that credited another artist (Preston), although Tony Sheridan had shared billing with The Beatles on his own single "My Bonnie" when issued in the UK in 1962 (and again in 1964).

"Get Back" was The Beatles' first single release in true stereo in the U.S. In the UK, Beatles singles remained monaural until the following release, "The Ballad of John and Yoko."

Contents

Composition

Musical development

"Get Back" is unusual in The Beatles' canon in that almost every moment of the song's evolution has been extensively documented, from its beginning as an offhand riff to its final mixing. Much of this documentation is in the form of illegal (but widely available) bootleg recordings, and is recounted in the book Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles' Let It Be Disaster by Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt.[3]

The song's melody grew out of some unstructured jamming on 7 January 1969 during rehearsal sessions on the sound stage at Twickenham Studios.[3] Over the next few minutes McCartney introduced some of the lyrics, reworking "Get back to the place you should be" from fellow Beatle George Harrison's "Sour Milk Sea" into "Get back to where you once belonged."[4] McCartney had played bass on Jackie Lomax's recording of the song a few months earlier. For the press release to promote the "Get Back" single McCartney wrote, "We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air... we started to write words there and then...when we finished it, we recorded it at Apple Studios and made it into a song to roller-coast by."[5]

The released version of the song is composed of two verses, with an intro, outro, and several refrains. The first verse tells the story of a man named Jojo, who leaves his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some 'California grass'. (Paul's soon-to-be wife Linda had attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, where the couple later owned a spacious ranch.) The second verse is about a sexually ambiguous character "Loretta Martin" who "thought she was a woman, but she was another man." The single version includes a coda urging Loretta to "get back" where she belongs, as well.

The Beatles often played around with their lyrics during recording sessions, as evidenced by Lennon's introduction on the Let It Be album: "Sweet Loretta Fart, she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan". The album version of the song famously ends with John Lennon quipping "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition". (Originally John said that on the rooftop concert, but Phil Spector edited it into the "Get Back" song on the Let It Be album.)

Alternate versions

Around the time he was developing the lyrics to "Get Back", McCartney satirised the "Rivers of Blood speech" by former British Cabinet minister Enoch Powell in a brief jam that has become known as the "Commonwealth Song". The lyrics included a line "You'd better get back to your Commonwealth homes". The "Commonwealth Song" had no musical resemblance to "Get Back", but gives insight into the thinking behind the song's lyrics. On 9 January Paul introduced "Get Back" to the group, with the "Sweet Loretta" verse very near to its finished version. Improvising various temporary lyrics led to what has become known in Beatles folklore as the "No Pakistanis" version.[6] This version is more racially charged, satirising right wing attitudes toward immigrants in America and the UK: "...don't need no Puerto Ricans living in the USA" and "don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs".[7] In an interview in Playboy magazine in 1980, Lennon described it as "...a better version of 'Lady Madonna'. You know, a potboiler rewrite."[8]

On 23 January, the group (now in Apple Studios)[9] tried to record the song properly; bootleg recordings preserve a conversation between McCartney and Harrison between takes discussing the song, and McCartney explaining the original "protest song" concept. The recording captures the group deciding to drop the third verse largely because McCartney doesn't feel the verse is of high enough quality, although he likes the scanning of the word "Pakistani". Here the song solidifies in its two-verse, three-solo format.

Recordings

In line with the concept behind the "Get Back project", the idea was to record all songs live to get back to the rock and roll sound of their early work. To achieve this the band recorded multiple takes in the studio trying to perfect the performance of each song.

Billy Preston joined The Beatles on the Fender Rhodes electric piano from 22 January, having been recruited by Harrison partly with a view to deter bickering among The Beatles.[7] Harrison's idea worked: when Preston was present The Beatles avoided fighting as they had during some earlier sessions. Augmented by a fifth musician, the group started to produce some tighter performances.

The Beatles recorded approximately ten takes on 23 January developing the song. On 27 January, they made a concerted effort to perfect "Get Back" by recording approximately 14 takes. By this time the song had the addition of a false ending and reprise coda, as heard on the bootlegs of the session which are widely available. After numerous takes the band jammed some old numbers and then returned to "Get Back" one last time in an attempt to record the master take. This performance (Take 11) was considered to be the best yet, it was musically tight and punchy without mistakes. For some reason, though, the song finishes without the restart. On the session tape, George Harrison comments "we missed that end"; this is the version heard on the Let It Be... Naked album.

The next day, on 28 January,[3] the group attempted to recapture the previous day's performance and recorded several new takes each including the coda. Whilst these takes were good, they didn't quite achieve the quality of the best take from the previous day.

The Beatles had EMI produce a mono remix of the track on 4 April[10] (completed by Jeff Jarrett). When The Beatles heard it, they were unhappy with the mix; therefore on 7 April McCartney and Glyn Johns booked time at Olympic Studios to produce new remixes for the single release.[2] They made an edited version using the best take—take eleven—from 27 January and the 'best coda' ending from 28 January. The edit is so precise that it appears to be a continuous take, achieving the desired ending the Beatles had wanted all along. This was a divergence from the concept of straight live performance without studio trickery, but a relatively minor one, and avoids the somewhat abrupt ending of the version that is used on the Let It Be... Naked album.

The Beatles performed "Get Back" (along with other songs from the album) as part of the "Beatles Rooftop Performance" which took place on the roof of Apple Studios in Savile Row, London on 30 January 1969. "Get Back" was performed in full three times; on the third and final time, The Beatles' performance was interrupted by the police, who had received complaints from office workers nearby. After the police spoke to Mal Evans, he turned off Lennon and Harrison's amplifiers only for Harrison to switch them back on, insisting that they finish the song. It was during this period that McCartney ad-libbed, "You've been playing on the roofs again, and that's no good, and you know your Mummy doesn't like that...she gets angry...she's gonna have you arrested! Get back!" None of the rooftop versions appear on record in their entirety although in the Let It Be film an edited version of the rooftop performance was included, and is available on Anthology 3.

At the end of the last rooftop performance of "Get Back", the audience applauds and McCartney says "Thanks, Mo" in reply to Maureen Starkey's loud cheering (she can be heard screaming "yay") , and Lennon adds: "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition". Spector used some of the talk preceding the master take of 27 January and edited on these comments to make the album version sound different from the single.

The stereo single version was the first Beatles recording to feature Starr's drum kit in true stereo, mixed across the left and right channels. This utilised the then fairly new 8-track recording technology and was a result of the growing popularity of stereo over mono. The only other Beatles track to employ this recording method was "The End" on Abbey Road.

Releases

Single version

On 11 April 1969, Apple Records released "Get Back" as a single in the United Kingdom, paired with "Don't Let Me Down" on the B-Side. The single began its seventeen-week long stay in the charts on 26 April at the top spot in the charts, a position it would hold for six weeks. It was the only Beatles single to enter the UK charts at number one.

In the United States, "Get Back" came out as a single on 5 May, backed with "Don't Let Me Down." Five days later, "Get Back" began its first of twelve weeks on the chart. Two weeks after the song's chart debut, it hit number one, a position it held for five weeks. It was The Beatles' first single to be released in true stereo instead of mono as part of the "stereo only" movement gaining force in 1969.

In both the United Kingdom and the United States, the single was released by Apple, although EMI retained the rights to the song as part of their contract. The single was the only Beatles single ever to feature another artist on the credit, crediting "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down" to "The Beatles with Billy Preston".

Apple launched a print ad campaign for the song concurrent with its release showing a photo of the band with the slogan The Beatles as Nature Intended, indicating that the sound of "Get Back" harked to the group's earlier days.

The single version of the song contains a tape echo effect throughout and a coda after a false ending, with the lyrics "Get back Loretta / Your mommy's waiting for you / Wearing her high-heel shoes / And her low-neck sweater / Get back home, Loretta." This does not appear on the album version; the single version's first LP appearance would come three years later on the 1967–1970 compilation. This version also appeared in the albums 20 Greatest Hits, Past Masters and The Beatles 1. This single version was also included in the original line-up of the proposed Get Back album that was scheduled to be released during the fall of 1969.

The single was also released in the experimental PocketDisc format by Americom in conjunction with Apple and Capitol in the late 1960s.

In Britain and Europe "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down" was the Beatles' last single to be released in mono, but in the US the single was released in stereo. In both versions the lead guitar played by John Lennon is in the left channel and the rhythm guitar played by George Harrison is in the right channel. Normally George Harrison was the lead guitarist, but on "Get Back" John Lennon played the lead.

Let It Be version

When Phil Spector came to remix "Get Back" he decided to make it seem different from the version released as the single. Both of the previous unreleased Get Back albums included elements of studio chatter to add to the live feel of the recordings. In this spirit, Spector included part of the studio chatter recorded immediately before the master take (recorded on 27 January) and added the close of the rooftop performance. This made the album version appear to be a live version, creating the impression that the single and album versions are different takes. The studio echo effect was also removed.

Anthology 3 version

In 1996, a different version of "Get Back" from the Rooftop Concert was released. It was the last song from the concert. The police had arrived and warned the Beatles to end their concert. After some bargaining, the group was given the chance to play one more song. During the last verse McCartney ad-libs, "Get back Loretta / You've been singing on the roof again! / ... Your mommy doesn't like that... / Oh no... she gets angry / She's gonna have you arrested!"[11]

Let It Be... Naked version

In 2003 "Get Back" was re-released on the Let It Be... Naked album, remixed by independent producers with the sanction of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, with John Lennon's and George Harrison's widows. The "naked" version of "Get Back" is ostensibly a cleaned up version of the single version albeit much shorter as there is a fade immediately before the final "whoo" and coda. Apple also prepared a specially-created music video of the Let It Be... Naked release of the song to promote that album in 2003. This video is edited together using stock footage of the band, along with Billy Preston, George Martin and others.

Love version

In 2006 a newly mixed version of "Get Back" produced by George Martin and his son Giles was included on the album Love. This version incorporates elements of "A Hard Day's Night" (the intro chord), "A Day in the Life" (the improvised orchestral crescendo), "The End" (Ringo Starr's drum solo and John Lennon and Paul McCartney's first two guitar solos), and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" (Take 1's drum count-off intro).[12] However, there are several edits in this piece, including an extended intro, and the second verse is removed completely.

Personnel

Preceded by
"The Israelites" by Desmond Dekker & The Aces
UK number-one single
23 April 1969 (six weeks)
Succeeded by
"Dizzy" by Tommy Roe
Preceded by
"Hair" by The Cowsills
Canada number-one single
19 May 1969 (six weeks)
Succeeded by
"Good Morning Starshine" by Oliver
Preceded by
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by The 5th Dimension
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
24 May 1969 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet" by Henry Mancini

Covers

Parodies and cultural references

  • The Rutles' "Get Up and Go", written by Neil Innes, features a set of lyrics parodying "Get Back". The lyrics are about a jockey by the name of Joe who leaves his "one-horse town" set to an almost identical tune. This apparently caused a copyright dispute which resulted in the song being omitted from the Rutles soundtrack album, although it was reinstated for the later CD reissue.
  • At the end of The Simpsons episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", all the members of The Be Sharps sing their first hit on Moe's rooftop while George Harrison, driving by, says "It's been done." Also, at the end of their song, Homer says the ending comments "...I hope we pass the audition", followed by everyone laughing and Barney saying "I don't get it."[14]
  • In the 2007 film, Across the Universe, directed by Julie Taymor, most characters are named after lyrics in Beatles songs. A principal character is named Jojo, played by Martin Luther McCoy.[15]
  • In February 2010, NBC used a cover of the song in commercials to promote Jay Leno's return to the 11:35pm time slot for The Tonight Show.[16]

Notes

  1. ^ RIAA 2009.
  2. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, pp. 172.
  3. ^ a b c Sulpy & Schweighardt 2003, p. 84.
  4. ^ Sulpy & Schweighardt 2003, p. 152.
  5. ^ The Beatles 2000, pp. 319.
  6. ^ Sulpy & Schweighardt 2003, pp. 153.
  7. ^ a b The Beatles Bible 2008.
  8. ^ Sheff 2000, pp. 201.
  9. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 166.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 1996a.
  11. ^ Lewisohn 1996b, pp. 33–34.
  12. ^ Miami Herald 2006.
  13. ^ Castleman 1976, p. 90.
  14. ^ "Homer's Barbershop Quartet". 'The Simpsons'. 1993-09-30.
  15. ^ Holden 2007.
  16. ^ McKenzie 2010.

References

External links








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