The next few weeks will be filled with treats for fans who can’t get enough of The Beatles. Director Peter Jackson has overseen the mastering of an IMAX version of the famed Beatles “rooftop concert” that will premiere at select IMAX theaters on January 30th, the 53rd anniversary of the event. Jackson will appear remotely at the London gala event to host a Q&A about his well-received recent Beatles film.
The film of the concert will receive a wider release to select IMAX theaters February 11-13, a release reminiscent of Jackson’s World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old released to a select group of theaters for a limited time in 2018.
The DVD set of Jackson’s entire 8-hour opus which premiered on Disney+ November 25-27 will arrive in stores on February 8th. Have Beatles fans finally gotten enough?
Judging from the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Jackson’s groundbreaking Get Back three-night extravaganza, the answer seems to be: “We want more!”
The Get Back release has caused many music fans to completely reimagine The Beatles’ legend. The production was so fresh, so immediate, with each Beatle appearing so vital, so funny, so prolific that previous legends, not just of the Let it Be recording sessions, but of the group itself during that era, have been cast aside and fans and pundits are searching for ways to put the new information in perspective.
Jackson himself has encouraged the speculation. After making a three episode appearance on Something About the Beatles (SATB), a podcast that Jackson apparently enjoys (he sought out host Robert Rodriguez on his own initiative), the program convened prominent musicians Arion Salazar, Luther Russell, Pat Sansone, and Dennis Diken for three hour-long episodes to discuss the effects of Get Back on their own lives and careers.
MORE FOR YOU
Russell summed up the viewing experience for a working musician: “It’s like a dream state. It’s this thing that we’ve been imagining all our lives: man, what would it be like to actually be in the room with these guys?”
They have been heartened by the human frustration faced by their heroes, and inspired by the talent of the group, particularly by the now-famous clip of Paul McCartney coming up with the smash hit “Get Back” during a two-minute clip that starts with him strumming on a bass and ends with the creation of one of the most famous rock songs ever.
Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer wrote: “Get Back is a rare rich and untapped treasure. Watching it is like discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls, except instead of snippets of text on brittle parchment, it’s crystal-clear audio and video that looks like it could’ve been captured last week.”
Despite the rabid acclaim from superfans, the enthusiasm for the show belies somewhat average viewership numbers. The three nights of programming clocked in at just over 500 million streaming minutes, which placed “Get Back” seventh among original streaming programs that week.
Considering that the top-ten finish was for a group that disbanded more than 50 years ago, significant demand for Beatles material clearly still exists. During the weeks after airing, the band placed three albums on Billboard’s Hot 200 album charts.
Jackson hopes there will be more projects to come, most notably a director’s recut of many more hours of footage and commentary. On Rodriguez’s show, he admitted that Disney has not yet committed to such a project, though the cost would be minimal. It’s up to fans to push the media giant to invest in the project.
“It’s strictly a business decision for Disney,” Jackson told Rodriguez. “If the fans are willing to buy it, they’ll do it. So it’s incumbent on fans like us to let Disney know we want it. If people seem to really like this, Disney will do an extended cut.” He thinks it would just make sense. “So much of the work has been done.” And an extended cut could be very long indeed, given that Jackson and his team have remastered all 60 hours of the original footage. “The good thing with extended cuts is it doesn’t matter how long it is,” Jackson pointed out.
On SATB and elsewhere, Jackson has described the advanced audio technology that has allowed his team to remove unwanted background noise and focus on the key voices of Lennon, McCartney, or others during the 60 hours of film and 150 hours of audiotape created during the Let It Be sessions. Jackson’s process has led to speculation that it could be applied to other Beatles performances, most notably the 1962 Star Club sessions in Hamburg, Germany when the few who saw them proclaimed the Beatles the best live band they had ever seen. An amateur recording appeared on the market in the late 70s but was quickly removed through legal procedures by Apple and is no longer available. The quality was less than optimum.
Jackson speculated that the performance could be cleaned up, enhanced, and re-released.
“I’m curious to find out what we could do with the Star Club tapes. Taking primitive one-mic tapes of performances in a raucous German nightclub, never intended for anything more than a souvenir of the residency and before The Beatles elicited much attention beyond ‘Love Me Do’ would be an absolutely stunning achievement.”
If that prospect doesn’t whet enough Beatles superfan appetites, Jackson also said that he would love to have a go at The Quarry Men acetate of “That’ll Be The Day” and “In Spite of All The Danger” recorded in the 1950s, before The Beatles were even The Beatles.
As desirable as these projects would be Jackson has no illusions about them happening on their own. He encouraged Beatles fans to let Disney know they want more. He told podcast listeners: “Everybody listening to this, do your bit and demand it.”
Will the gift of the collaboration between The Beatles and Peter Jackson keep on giving?