Watch The Beatles Composing “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down”
Love them or loathe them, no one can deny that the Beatles were geniuses when it came to songwriting. While we often hear stories of how X famous hit was written in just 15 minutes, we don't usually get to see the process. So it's easy for everyone, including aspiring songwriters, to believe that the writing process is easy for them because they have a gift.
That's why it's such a treat to be able to see the creative process at work. In multiple videos, filmed in 1969, we see Paul McCartney sitting with the other members of The Beatles. In the first two, he is hard at work composing that music for a song that would become the hit "Get Back" from the Let It Be album.
Part 2: Get Back
Part 3: Don’t Let Me Down
Part 4: Writing The Long And Winding Road
Part 5: Every Little Thing
Part 6: Get Back Continued
As The Beatles broke up a year later, the cracks seem to be starting to show
In the full version of the video, it starts with Paul getting set up and casually announcing, "Lennon's late again." He then makes a joke, "I'm thinking of getting rid of him." Very tellingly, George and Ringo don't laugh at this comment.
The Beatles were no strangers to controversy, and "Get Back" was one of their most political songs. Britain was in the grip of anti-immigration sentiments, fuelled by rhetoric from politicians such as Enoch Powell. Paul McCartney opposed this view and wrote the song to hit back at this sort of dialogue. It has to be said the other Beatles don't look thrilled at the subject matter. Perhaps that explains why the lines: “Meanwhile back at home too many Pakistanis, Living in a council flat, Candidate Macmillan, tell us what your plan is. Won’t you tell us where you’re at?” were subsequently removed.
However, what is truly thrilling is to see the song take shape as Paul seems to pull chords from the air around him. He gradually develops chord progressions and melodies while Ringo keeps the beat and George dances his fingers between the frets.
It's almost like perching on Dickens' shoulder as he wrote Great Expectations. As one commenter said, "I love how you can hear the recognisable song drifting in and out of his jam like a radio being tuned." It's certainly a real treat to watch.
The second video takes place after John Lennon and Yoko Ono had joined the group. They began to compose "Don't Let Me Down", which became the B side of "Get Back". Although there are clear tensions between the bandmates, the collaborative nature of their songwriting is clear.
In one great moment, John and Paul swap roles and begin singing each other's songs in a way that gives a whole new element to them. John sings "I Lost My Little Girl", and Paul plays "Strawberry Fields" and "Don't Let Me Down."
As with "Get Back", it's amazing to hear the song beginning to take the form we all know so well. While we can't argue with these musical masters, every now and then, a chord, or beat, or line appears that you wish they'd left in. We can only trust that The Beatles, one of the most successful bands of all time, knew what they were doing, and "Don't Let Me Down" is certainly none the worse for these edits.
Regardless of the results, though, both these videos give us a fascinating peek into the creative process used by the Fab Four to make their iconic music. It also sheds light on the dynamics within the band that likely led to their split a year later. Definitely not to be missed.