The 100 minute cinema preview
It was a party night yesterday when Disney invited the Norwegian Wood Beatles fan club to an exclusive preview of a 100 minute excerpt from “The Beatles Get Back” in Oslo. After some complementary food and drinks, we entered the theatre, all very exited. One of the first things that came to the screen after the film companies’ logos had been and gone (was it those animations that could cause epileptic seizures?) was a picture of the front page of Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt’s book about the “Get Back” sessions. Maybe Jackson’s intention was to tell us geeks that he has used the best sources, as this to us is the “bible”, as far as the “Get Back” sessions are concerned.
Peter Jackson gave a half-hour long introduction where he demonstrated both what the film looked like before and after the restoration, and how he could distinguish single sounds, voices and instruments from mono Nagra tapes. In his lap, Jackson always had a copy guitar from Beatles history – different guitar every time we saw him. He also took us to vault number 3 under today’s Apple offices, and all the film reels that were there. We were shown many costly clips from different days of the recordings, and also a discussion among the Beatles at Apple where they are talking about blowing the film up from 16mm film stock for TV to a 35mm theatrical film, displaying a lot of technical knowledge about film. Now we were to see one of the dates from the film, which goes chronologically to work, and the date we were to see was filmed on day 18, which had taken place in Apple Studio on January 27, 1969 – that is, just a few days before the rooftop concert was to take place.
The day started with the Beatles and a few technicians sitting in the control room, listening through the previous day’s recordings. It was a mixture of the Beatles sitting and listening, intercut with film clips from the day before. We got to see them try on a bunch of takes of “Get Back”, but all were either stopped by someone doing a mistake or they were just cut short by Jackson’s editing. Paul’s “f**kface” line was included, when Glyn Johns had interrupted one of the “Get Back” takes by talking on the intercom. After all, it would have been a bit overkill to hear all the takes in full, even though that was what we the geeks would have wanted. Unfortunately we did not hear the mock German version of the song, but we did see George debut “Old Brown Shoe” for the band. He had composed that night before, and listened to Lennon’s advice to finish his songs the same day. So here he was sitting at the piano singing and playing “Old Brown Shoe” with Billy Preston on bass guitar. “It’s hard to play the piano,” George concluded after the song was finished. Another great thing we got to experience was when John and Paul performed “Two Of Us” with clenched teeth throughout the song.
Every song was noted by text on the screen, with title and composer(s), including the various old rockers that they played only a small bit of now and then. When a recording had been officially used on a record, this was also noted by text on the screen.
“Let It Be” didn’t yet have the piano introduction, and when George wondered if there should be an intro before Paul started singing – Paul thought about it for a second before putting his hands on the keyboard and inventing the now classic intro right there and then! We also heard a bit of “Oh! Darling”, and Paul singing the first verse of “Strawberry Fields Forever”. But then Jackson came on the screen again and told us what we most wanted to hear: We were now going to be among the first audiences in the world to experience the complete rooftop concert!
We were taken to January 30, 1969 and the filmmakers are in full swing with rigging on the roof, and Michael Lindsay-Hogg instructs where ten different cameras shall be positioned. We do not see the Beatles, they are in a room inside the Apple building and haven’t fully decided whether they or not they will actually go ahead and do the rooftop concert. Finally, they climb to the roof with Paul first, and then Ringo with Maureen. They take their positions and start one of several performances of “Get Back”. From here, it’s just heavenly to be a Beatles fan and follow the band throughout the concert, from many angles. There are also sequences here where the screen is split into three so that we may follow the action from several angles at the same time. There were also – like in “Let It Be” – interviews on the street with both the same people as in the original film as well as many more audience members.
Here, the same thing happens as in “Let It Be” that the audience interviews is an interruption of the Beatles concert. Maybe we’ll get the whole roof concert uninterrupted on DVD and/or blu-ray sometime in the future? We get to see people getting up on the different rooftops around to see the Beatles. The police arrive much earlier than in the “Let It Be” movie, but the bobbies are kept in a room where they stand in vain waiting for Derek Taylor to arrive.
Meanwhile, the concert on the roof continues unabated – for a total of 42 minutes. It is cut between many different angles and sometimes it gets a little blurry – we do not know if this is because a camera was not fully in focus right then or if Jackson has chosen to zoom in on the image. We do actually get a little bit of the “God Save The Queen” instrumental.
When the rooftop concert is wrapped up, the Beatles gather again in the control room to listen to the recordings of the concert – something we get to witness. They also talk about meeting again after lunch to record the songs that had not been suitable for performance on the rooftop, but the rigging of equipment from the rooftop took so long that this was postponed until the next day. During the captions, however, we were also treated to clips from that day, January 31, with performances of “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” as well as some nonsense and fun stuff.
To sum it up, we can say that this was a joyful day to be a Beatles fan, and that the atmosphere between the Beatles was largely impeccable. Looking forward to tomorrow!
Similar events with the same 100 minute preview were happening in other cities worldwide.