There have been multiple moments from The Beatles: Get Back that have been poured over by fans since its recent release. There’s the clip of Paul McCartney coming up with the basic form of ‘Get Back’ while the band is just waiting around for John Lennon to show up. There’s the wildly revealing “flowerpot conversation” between John Lennon and Paul McCartney that directly confronts years of fluctuating power dynamics within the band. There’s the scene of Michael Lindsay-Hogg once again trying to organise a live performance, only for Ringo Starr to announce that he’s farted.
It all adds to the major appeal of the documentary series: getting an intimate inside look at a band during their most trying hour. The minutia of the day-to-day operations of the band become essential as McCartney desperately tries to organise them into doing something, Lennon remains passively uninterested, George Harrison arrives at a creative crossroads, and Starr just wants everyone to get along.
Starr’s role in the documentary is certainly one of the most interesting. While the series serves to dispel a number of rumours and myths around the interactions between Lennon, McCartney, and George Harrison, it’s Starr whose reputation is solidified the most: patient, punctual, committed, and able to conjure up the perfect drum parts while the other members quibble about their own lines. Starr was the perfect fourth member for the band – someone who could contribute creatively without feeling the need to take the lead.
But Starr had his own songs as well. Even though he doesn’t take a vocal turn on the final Let It Be album, the footage captured in both Lindsay-Hogg’s original documentary and the new Peter Jackson-helmed Get Back project find Starr cooking up a composition that would eventually find its way onto Abbey Road: ‘Octopus’s Garden’.
Get Back doesn’t just show the making of Let It Be, but also the early stages of what would eventually become Abbey Road. Rough versions of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, ‘Oh! Darling’, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ and ‘Something’ are shown among others, and it’s clear that despite their desperation to find suitable material, they actually had the seedlings for what would eventually become one of their most beloved and highest-selling albums of all time. In the mix is Starr, at the piano, showing Harrison a whimsical children’s song that he’s working on, looking for direction on where to take it, to which his bandmate heartwarming encourages.
Starr has the classic I-vi-IV-V chord structure down but doesn’t know where to go after that. Harrison suggests a jump to A major to give the common chord sequence a little more colour, but the duo continues to woodshed the song to flesh it out. Eventually, the pair show what they’ve got to producer George Martin, who looks on approvingly as Starr carves out what would be his final contribution to The Beatles.
See the clip, below.