Beatles fans all over the world, rejoice. All three episodes of Peter Jackson's immersive, fly-on-the-wall rock doc The Beatles: Get Back are now streaming on Disney+, and there are plenty more surprises than even the most ardent admirer of John, Paul, George and Ringo could have ever expected.
And for those of you who aren't huge Beatles nuts—there must be a few of you out there, right?—we still think there are plenty of terrific moments, not to mention some very fine documentary filmmaking from Jackson and crew, to keep you more than satisfied.
A little backstory, before we dig in: The almost-eight-hour doc spans most of January 1969, when the Beatles decided to get together to work on a hazy new project. Was it an album? Or a movie? Or were they just rehearsing for a live show? They didn't quite know.
But what they did know is that they were being filmed and recorded almost the whole time they tried to figure it out, by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, for what would become the documentary Let It Be, released in 1970.
This footage—all in all it added up to some 150 hours of audio and 60 hours of film—is what Jackson sifted through and synced and cleaned up. In the process, he also managed to tell a very different story from the one we'd always been led to believe about the last days of the band (they would break up for good in 1970).
Without further ado, here are our top five moments from the incredible docuseries:
1. Paul writes 'Get Back' out of thin air
Perhaps the most astonishing moment of pure creativity captured on camera is Paul McCartney strumming on his Hofner bass, just noodling while the band waits for John Lennon to arrive at Twickenham Studios, where they were rehearsing. George and Ringo are sitting to the side; George at one point is yawning. There's not much going on, that's for sure. But within the length of one uninterrupted camera shot that all changes: Paul conjures the melody for what would be their next single, "Get Back," out of the ether, and we watch the birth of the song in real time. Before long, George stops yawning and begins playing along on his guitar and Ringo claps out a beat.
It's rare, if not unprecedented, to see any hit song actually written before your eyes, much less a timeless and beloved No. 1 Beatles hit single. Truly a magical moment in the history of the rock-and-roll documentary genre.
2. Billy Preston shows up to save the day
Another magical moment is the arrival of Billy Preston, an unofficial fifth member of the band and keyboardist extraordinaire. Preston was a wonderful musician who first met the Beatles in Hamburg in 1962 when he was playing with Little Richard's band. Fast-forward more than half a decade and he happens to drop by Apple Studios to say hello, just as the Beatles are realizing they may in fact need a keyboard player.
The songs are not quite jelling yet and need something—the band would normally overdub any keyboard parts later, but now they want to play everything live, a reality that leaves them a bit shorthanded—and it turns out Preston is the perfect musician for the job. The moment he sits down at the electric piano and everything comes together is another unforgettable moment of musical alchemy.
You can get a sense of his wonderful playing in the promo below:
3. John and Paul's candid chat captured
Of Peter Jackson's many technical accomplishments in his stewardship of the footage, the most impressive—and historically important—might be his painstaking work cleaning up the audio. In some cases this work allowed conversations to be heard that couldn't really be deciphered before. Amazingly, Jackson employed the use of artificial intelligence to learn the differences between the Beatles' voices and the various sources of background noise, in order to strip away the extraneous sound.
One revelation that resulted from this technical magic is a conversation between John and Paul captured after George briefly left the band during the rehearsal sessions. We're able to hear Paul tell John things like, "You've always been the leader," and John talk about George's "open wound" that they allowed to fester, without offering him any "bandages." It's a touching and surprisingly introspective conversation that Jackson helped bring back to life through his remarkable technical prowess.
4. The Apple scruffs fend off the Westminster police
One of the more comical subplots in the series occurs during the Beatles' now-legendary rooftop show atop their Apple Studios building. The show was impromptu and very loud; as a crowd gathered, the attention of the local police, or bobbies as they're called over there, was also piqued. What follows is a hilarious sequence, intercut with the band's performance, of various cops coming into the building and being given the runaround by the Beatles staff—referred to lovingly as Apple "scruffs" by George Harrison, who even dedicated a song to them. At one point, an Apple secretary tells one bobby he can't go all the way up to the roof because it could collapse under his extra weight. Great piece of improv!
5. The band didn't actually hate each other!
More than anything, what Get Back really achieves is a changing of the narrative that's persisted for over 50 years about this period of the Beatles' history. It's long been thought that these 1969 sessions were essentially acrimonious, cranky affairs and that the band resented having to be there at all. But in digging deeper into the footage, cleaning up the sound and stripping away the grain and gloom, Jackson manages to, um, get back to the fundamental joy of the band—and to show us that they themselves were feeling that joy along with us.