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Music

Why did John Lennon keep referencing The Rolling Stones in 'Get Back'?

In The Beatles: Get Back, John Lennon conjures up a recurring joke nearly every time the camera focuses on him as a rehearsal or session is coming together. He takes on the role of the Master of Ceremonies, stares down the camera, and declare: “And now, your host for this evening: _________!”.

That blank was filled with a couple of different jokes and references, including one to ‘The Bottles’, but eventually he landed on a single repeated reference point: fellow London rock and rollers The Rolling Stones. The first time you hear it, it’s a funny and ear-catching acknowledgement that The Beatles didn’t completely live in their own world. They had contemporaries, and at this point, the Stones were both their casual friends and their stiffest competition. But Lennon eventually finds himself repeating the same punch line over and over again without variation. Why?

Well, the answer actually has to do with what had just been filmed by the same crew: The Rolling Stones’ ”Rock and Roll Circus’. Helmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the same director who was attempting to organise The Beatles into some kind of live performance throughout the documentary, the concert was a wild mess of a show that would go unreleased for nearly 30 years.

Lennon actually took part himself: he was the frontman for a one-off supergroup called The Dirty Mac, which also featured Keith Richards on bass, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. There’s a section where Lennon and Mick Jagger converse over a bowl of soup, and another filmed afterwards that just features Lennon doing the very same introduction that he would later replicate during the Get Back sessions: “And now, your host for this evening, The Rolling Stones!”.

Why Lennon kept going back to the gag is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was just ribbing Lindsay-Hogg, as most of the members do throughout the process. Maybe he thought it just kept getting funnier each time. Maybe he was on a one-man crusade to entertain himself through the malaise he was feeling at the time.

Whatever the real reason may be, it remains one of the little Easter eggs peppered throughout The Beatles: Get Back that makes the series such a remarkable treasure trove. For diehard fans, little repeated moments like this reveal insights into the band’s working methods, or lack thereof, as they desperately try to pull themselves together. They often relied on humour to keep them from getting too fed up with each other, and Lennon’s repeated jokes are one of many that keep things loose.

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