Day 71: “Get Back”

When was it recorded? Jan. 22-Jan. 30, 1969

When was it first released, and on which album?   Apr. 11, 1969 as a single

Who wrote it?   McCartney (with noteworthy contribution from Harrison, Lennon & Starkey)

Have I heard this song before?   Yes

What my research dug up:

Quoth Wikipedia, “ ‘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 in several versions.” It’s Saturday, so I’m not going to be detailing this journey that intensively.

Reportedly, “Get Back” began during a Jan. 7, 1969 jam session. Using a line from George Harrison’s song “Sour Milk Sea,” Paul warped “Get back to the place you should be” into “Get back to where you once belonged” and hit upon the song’s refrain. Paul spent the next two days banging out the words and on Jan. 9 brought to the Beatles a version of “Get Back” somewhat similar to the finished product.

I say ‘somewhat’ because as the Beatles Bible points out, “The song began as a satirical and critical look at attitudes towards immigrants in Britain. McCartney intended to parody the negative attitudes that were prevalent among politicians and the press.”  However well-intentioned, the satire resulted in the racist-sounding “No Pakistanis,” which included gems about “Don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs” and “a mumbled rhyming couplet which paired the words ‘Puerto Rican’ with ‘mohican’” (Beatles Bible). Whoops. Eventually someone “realized that their intentions could be misconstrued” (Beatles Bible), and the song became the story of Jojo and Loretta Martin. As the Beatles Bible also points out, “Whatever the true meaning, ‘Get back’ served as a neat summary of The Beatles’ back-to-basics musical intentions, and the song became the title track of what they intended to be their next album.”

“Get Back” features my good man Billy Preston on electric keyboard; in fact, this single was credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston.”

Like most sessions during this era, the recording of “Get Back” was lengthy and tumultuous. In fact, I’m going to skip right to Jan. 30, 1969, when the Beatles performed the song during their rooftop concert. “Get Back” was performed three times at the end of the set; the third run-through appears on “Anthology 3” and is “the last song of the Beatles’ final live performance” (Wikipedia).

Like “From Me to You,” “Get Back” was first released as single with “Don’t Let Me Down” as its B-side in April 1969. It entered the British music charts at #1 (the first Beatles single to do so) and stayed there for six weeks. It was also the Beatles’ 17th #1 hit in the US, breaking Elvis Presley’s record of 16.

So then Phil Spector comes in to remix “Get Back” for the album “Let It Be.” He wanted to make this version different from the single version, so gone is the code after the false ending. Spector also opens and closes the number with studio chatter taken from the recording session and the rooftop concert.

The “Let It Be… Naked” version of “Get Back” splits the difference. Wikipedia describes it as “ostensibly a cleaned up version of the single version” that cuts off at the false ending. Apple Corps. also created a promotional music video for the album using this song, which I am 100% here for.




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