Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and Disney+ gave Beatles fans of all ages an epochal gift by releasing the three-episode, nearly 8-hour documentary Get Back featuring the four Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr crafting what was to become their final album, Let it Be. Jackson’s film was a complete reworking of the original film of the sessions, which focused more on acrimony among the group. That film was released in theaters in 1970, but was never ported to DVD or streaming and has all but disappeared from public view.
Beatles fans have long known that the sessions that created the album and first film were a treasure trove of Beatle history, the only album to have been filmed as it was being made, culminating in the “Roof Top Concert,” the Beatles last live performance. 56 hours of footage and even more hours of audio sat in vaults of Apple music, the Beatles’ record company, waiting for a director with the talent, the time, and the desire to cull through the archives and rework the story, using modern techniques to bring everything up to date.
Peter Jackson was that director. His resulting film Get Back is a rich gift to Beatles fans, and a compelling introduction to the group that many consider the best rock and roll band of all time. The project has had an impact. Three Beatles records are now moving up the Billboard Hot 200. Two albums, Let it Be and Abbey Road (featuring finished versions of many of the songs being crafted in the film) have cracked the top 40, despite competition from more 14 Christmas themed albums at this time of year, quite a feat for a group that disbanded more than 50 years ago.
The Beatles are back, and Get Back is the reason why. In some ways, with the documentary, Peter Jackson has moved to the top of the heap of Beatles historians now, along with writer Mark Lewisohn, who crafted the 944-page tome Tune In: The Beatles about the group’s origin and early years and is several years into working on the next in the series.
Social media has been ablaze with plaudits for the program and hot takes by the digerati. Myriad YouTube channels, TikTok accounts, and podcasts have all weighed in on the meaning of Jackson’s work and how they felt about coming across such a trove of fantastic Beatles lore. A clip of Paul McCartney creating the song Get Back from scratch has circulated everywhere in the creative world. It’s not often that you catch the lighting in a bottle of a creative genius in the process of creating a legendary work of art.
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In addition to a predictable schedule of interviews for print and broadcast including Colbert and Sixty Minutes Jackson made a point of reaching out to a few podcasts who have gained a loyal following by telling the rich history of the Beatles. Rather than seeking out shows with the greatest reach like Howard Stern or Joe Rogan, Jackson seems to have selected shows based on their track record of treating the group with integrity and seriousness. One such podcast is Something About the Beatles, nicknamed SATB, created and hosted by Robert Rodriguez, a Beatles author (of an award winning book about Revolver) and interviewer.
Rodriguez received a call out of the blue from Peter Jackson’s producer the week before Get Back aired, asking if he would be interested in interviewing the director. Rodriguez assumed that Jackson’s PR rep would ask for five minutes of airtime on all of the many Beatles fan podcasts, but was surprised to learn that his podcast had been selected for an in-depth interview, one of the most in-depth the director would give.
“I was shocked when he offered two to three hours,” said Rodriguez. It turned out the director was a listener to the SATB podcast, liked it and was as interested in learning from Rodriguez as vice-versa. Rodriguez thinks the director chose his show because of a series of episodes he had done earlier this year asking whether the Jackson project would tell the true story of the Get Back sessions, or if they would be a whitewash designed to burnish reputations. Jackson was insistent that he would only take on the project if he could have free reign telling the story that really happened. The New Zealand-based director seems truly motivated to make sure that the leaders in the Beatles information community, the superfans, understand how seriously he took his charge.
After recovering from the shock of Jackson reaching out to him, Rodriguez conducted the interview over Zoom (joined by Beatles blogger Dan Rivkin) which has resulted in three hour-long episodes for his podcast. The resulting shows speak volumes about the curious mind and Beatles fandom of director Jackson, not to mention that he seems to be a really good guy.
“He seemed as interested in us and we were in him,” Rodriguez told me. “He has an insatiable curiosity about all things Beatles.” At one point, when Rodriguez told Jackson some tidbits he wasn’t aware of, Jackson pulled out his iPad and went over the dates in question from January and February 1970, asking the hosts question after question about their knowledge of when the Beatles were in their Apple Savile Row studio during that time.
Jackson made clear that his loyalty was to telling the truth about the Beatles and their project, and he followed the story where it led him. He set strict guidelines for what was and wasn’t allowed in the film, and even extended the length of the project to more than eight hours after Disney Plus had promoted it as three two-hour shows. “Nobody said anything, so we decided to go for it,” Jackson told Rodriguez.
The first two Something About the Beatles Peter Jackson episodes are live now. The third will drop Friday, December 17. If Beatle fans needed more proof that Peter Jackson has delivered a small miracle and a gift that will keep on giving, his long and detailed interview with an up-and-coming Beatles podcaster should put their concerns to rest.
Rodriguez, still amazed as his good fortune for being one of the only platforms for a long-form interview with one of the world’s most successful directors, had some advice for his fellow podcasters (taken, of course, from a Beatle—Paul McCartney’s song Take it Away): “You never know who may be listening to you.”
More info: Something About the Beatles can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other major platforms. The show has a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. Rodriguez has begun producing live Beatles fan shows, the first virtually earlier this year. He can be reached via email listed on the show’s website.