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In The Beatles: Get Back we see the band having fun, and it’s all true, I remember it well

The further we get from The Beatles, the bigger they become. I thought that when they broke up in 1970, that would be it. I still loved them dearly (sob, sob), but they were bound to be superseded – equally creative composers of popular music would come along and some performer would sell more records.

But blow me down, The Beatles today are here, there and everywhere, their influence as great as ever. I estimate 50,000 people worldwide are making a living out of the band – by playing in lookalike groups, lecturing, giving guided tours, holding Beatles conferences, selling Beatles tat.

Well, not all of it is tat – $1m has just been offered for a copy of the lyrics of “Yesterday” in Paul’s handwriting. (It belongs to me, but is in the British Library and going to them in my will).

Now we have near-hysteria about The Beatles: Get Back, a three-part series from Disney – even though it is only a rehashing of the acres of video footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg back in 1969 for his film Let it Be. A good deal of it has already been seen or known about by Beatles fans for decades.

The Beatles: Get Back has its climax as the band perform on the roof of Apple Records (Photo: Apple Records/Disney)

Its director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), has ploughed through 60 hours of video film and 150 hours of audio that have been lying in Apple’s vaults for 50 years. But he has the advantage of modern magic to enhance dull period sounds and ancient hazy shots and, to judge by the credits, an army of people to help. Jokes and catty remarks by John, which I could never work out the first time, are now loud and clear, even though I am deafer than I was 50 years ago.

When Lindsay-Hogg made Let It Be, he tended to accentuate the rows. Everyone knew at the time the band was about to split, so he was recording that story. Fifty years later, Jackson has accentuated the positive – which is perfectly permissible. It has happened for centuries with Shakespeare: theatre directors are always coming up with new ways to make the old stuff different, supposedly fresh and relevant for today.

And so we see the band having fun in the studio, larking around, John making faces behind Paul’s back, breaking into silly voices, clearly enjoying each other’s company. All true: I remember it well, sitting for months in Abbey Road during 1967 and 1968 as they recorded Sgt Pepper, and I gathered material for my biography of the band.

What is missing from the new series is a lot of the tedium – naturally enough, who wants to watch all that? I used to sit there thinking, “Bloody hell, this is the 100th go at that take,” which to me seemed perfect the first time.

The best stuff by far is the footage of the performance on top of the Apple building in Savile Row in 1969. Like all fans, I have seen the highlights many times, but Jackson has polished it up, given it a narrative and tension, using shots I have never seen before – I don’t remember seeing the sergeant arriving, nor so many vox pops. Lindsay-Hogg did a stupendous logistics job, not just cinematic: he had nine crews on the job – on rooftops, in the street, in the entrance hall. The cost must have been enormous.

We see the crowds gather in the street, looking up, amazed. We hear interviews in which the clothes and accents seem to be from 1939, not 1969. Best of all, we see the two policemen arrive, so young, so useless, trying to look authoritative and stop this dreadful rooftop noise. Then the self-important sergeant strides down the road.

We know what’s coming – but it still comes as a shock when eventually the sound is turned off. And that was it. The Beatles were turned off, never performing together in public again.

The Beatles: Get Back is on Disney+. Hunter Davies is the author of The Beatles, the only authorised biography of The Beatles (Ebury, £16.99)

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