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New Beatles docu mentions Manila fiasco

It’s embarrassing to see at least two scenes that mention Manila, where the Beatles performed in 1966 (in which the band was manhandled at the then Manila International Airport due to miscommunication)

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“I think your beard suits you, man,” George Harrison tells Paul McCartney a few minutes into The Beatles: Get Back — the “documentary about a documentary” that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson made from the outtakes of the band’s infamous January 1969 recording sessions for the Let It Be album and film.

‘The Beatles: Get Back’ docu features the entirety of the band’s 1970 live performance on the rooftop of their Apple office building. / Photographs courtesy of Disney+

Later on, Paul and George get into an argument while rehearsing — a portent of the band’s breakup a month prior to Let It Be’s release in February 1970.

However, the band isn’t really fighting all the time in The Beatles: Get Back. In fact, there are several scenes showing the group having a good time and feeding off each other’s creative mind while under pressure to write and record new songs in two weeks.

Jackson was given access by the two surviving Beatles, McCartney and Ringo Starr, and Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono and Harrison’s wife Olivia, to 60 hours of film footage and over 150 hours of audio that director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and his team shot and recorded for a planned record, live performance and TV special.

After four years of editing, Jackson produced an eight-hour-long cut that was supposed to screen in cinemas. The pandemic forced its postponement until it finally streamed online as a three-part series last 26, 27 and 28 November on Disney+.

It’s embarrassing to see at least two scenes that mention Manila, where the Beatles performed in 1966 (in which the band was manhandled at the then Manila International Airport due to miscommunication).

The first scene is from an old footage of an interview with international media.

Reporter: “John, what exactly happened in Manila?”

Lennon (in a sarcastic tone): “We were treated like ordinary passengers… But ordinary passengers don’t get kicked.”

Harrison: “I didn’t even want to go that time.”

The second scene, from the Get Back docu, has McCartney toying with the idea of performing in the most unexpected place, unannounced until the police come and arrest them… “with truncheons…”

McCartney: “You have to take a bit of violence.”

Lindsay-Hoggs says dryly: “That’s dangerous. That is an interesting thought of you all getting beaten up. You could go back to Manila again.”

I think the Manila fiasco was one of the factors that led the Beatles to decide not to tour or perform live anymore. The thought of it is truly shameful: The world’s biggest band physically roughed up under the Marcos administration.

Other than that, there’s a whole caboodle of talk, banter, jokes and revelatory glimpses on how the Fab Four go through the process of creating songs — a few of them out of thin air.

For instance, in one session, Starr and Harrison are sitting around with McCartney who starts strumming a driving rhythm on his Hofner bass, making up the words.

Harrison starts strumming along on his guitar and says, “Yeah… musically it’s great…”

Starr starts clapping to the beat.

The song is “Get Back.”

In another session, McCartney arrives with wife Linda and soon plays again “Get Back,” but still with incomplete lyrics as he improvises, some lines ending with “Pakistani, Puerto Rico…”

The band likewise tries out rough versions of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “Two of Us,” “One After 909,” “Don’t Let Me Down.”

In one of the sessions, Harrison lets the band hear one of his new songs, “All Things Must Pass.”

They try playing it, with Lennon on keyboards.

Some songs, like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumber” and “Carry That Weight,” will end up in another album, Abbey Road — actually the last one the band recorded but which was released before Let It Be.

Speaking of which, “Let It Be” the song is first heard when McCartney plays its melody to Harrison while Lennon is busy discussing proposed set designs for their live performance.

McCartney is also heard testing another track, “The Long and Winding Road.”

When Lennon arrives in one session, he has one song already recorded, with lyrics neatly typed: “Across the Universe.”

In another instance, Harrison tells McCartney: “Do you want to hear a song I wrote last night? It’s a short song. It’s called ‘I Me Mine.’”

They play it, as Lennon and Ono dance to it.

Ono, incidentally, is always by Lennon’s side, but never intruding. She reads the papers, knits and generally behaves — at most grooving along to the music.

The Beatles ‘Get Back’ poster.

Which is why Jackson says in an interview that Ono did not cause the Beatles’ breakup.

Linda McCartney is seen taking photos while her husband plays “Another Day” on piano.

Just like ordinary mortals, the Beatles get sleepy. They rub their eyes and yawn, which goads McCartney to sing a Lennon track from 1967’s White Album, “I’m So Tired.”

Lennon is actually seen dozing off as McCartney wakes him up.

And that’s just part one.

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