Beatles – Get Back

John Lennon was primarily a rhythm guitar player but George Harrison briefly left the Beatles during the recording of Let It Be.  John took the lead guitar part on this song and made a memorable solo. John was a very aggressive guitar player and on this one he was on the mark.

McCartney got the idea for the title “Get Back” from the line “Get back to where you should be” from a song George Harrison wrote called “Sour Milk Sea,” which was eventually recorded by Jackie Lomax. McCartney changed the line to, “Get back to where you once belonged”.

Early versions include the line “I dig no Pakistanis.” The song began as a commentary about immigration, telling people to “get back” to their own countries. It was meant to mock Britain’s anti-immigrant proponents. Paul McCartney, who wrote the song and sang lead, thought better of it and made the lyrics more palatable.

At the end of this album version, we hear cheering, followed by McCartney saying, “Thanks Mo” in response to Ringo’s wife, Maureen, who was clapping. Lennon then says, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.” This part came from the live rooftop performance.

This song went number 1  everywhere. #1 in the  Billboard 100, Canada, UK, New Zealand, The UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland…and so on. The B side was Don’t Let Me Down…which personally I like more.

From Songfacts

“Get Back” was going to be the title of the album and the documentary film about making it. The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 and were worn thin by 1968, but they rekindled their passion for performance after shooting the “Hey Jude” promotional film in September that year before a live audience. Energized by the effort, they agreed to the documentary; the concept was The Beatles “getting back” to their roots and playing new songs for a live audience without any studio tricks.

The song “Get Back” came closest to capturing that spirit. Produced by George Martin, it was released as the follow-up single to “Hey Jude” in April 1969 (a month later in America) and was another blockbuster for the group, going to #1 in most territories.

The album became something completely different from the live set they planned. Glyn Johns, who engineered the sessions, was asked to put it together from what were really rehearsal tapes. After he assembled the album, it sat around while the Let It Be documentary was being edited from the film footage of The Beatles rehearsing in the studio and playing on the rooftop. During this time, The Beatles made the Abbey Road album, released it, and broke up.

Phil Spector, who had worked on John Lennon’s solo song “Instant Karma” (which George Harrison played on), was brought in to produce the Get Back album, which was re-titled Let It Be. Spector took the tapes and added orchestrations using his “Wall Of Sound” technique, and the album that was supposed to be the raw sound of The Beatles returning to their roots was released as a highly produced swan song on May 8, 1970, after they had broken up.

The Beatles famously performed this song from the rooftop of Apple Records on January 30, 1969, footage of which serves as the climax to their Let It Be documentary film. Knowing it would get shut down pretty quickly, the group kept mum about the performance, which was designed to promote the single and provide an ending for their film. They got in three takes of “Get Back” before police pulled the plug. The plan worked: Not only did they get their film ending, but the audio (including their banter) was used on various edits of “Get Back” to give it a live feel and add some character.

In their early days, The Beatles were musical warriors, playing in clubs for hours most nights. The “Get Back” single harkened to those days and was advertised as “The Beatles as nature intended.”

The single version runs 3:11 and contains a false ending at 2:34, after which McCartney comes back with a spoken verse:

“Get back Loretta, your mummy’s waiting for you, wearing her high-heeled shoes and her low-neck sweater, get back home, Loretta.”

The album version is a little shorter (3:09) and omits this section. It begins with a behind-the-scenes bit from the band tuning up during a session for the song on January 27, 1969. We hear John Lennon poke fun at the first line (“Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it couldn’t last”) by saying:

“Sweet Loretta fat she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan.”

Preston was a salve and a spark for the group. On January 10, 1969, George Harrison quit and almost left for good. He came back to work on January 21, but the tension lingered. Preston showed up the next day and galvanized the group; he played on “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” and participated in sessions for several other tracks.

The Beatles met Preston in 1962 when they were both playing in Germany, but they hadn’t seen each other since. It was Harrison’s idea to bring him in; after George left the Let It Be sessions, he saw Preston in concert with Ray Charles and arranged for him to join The Beatles. Having him in the studio eased the tension and made it easier for the group to put personal conflicts aside and record the album.

The press release to promote the single contains this quote from McCartney: “We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air… we started to write words there and then… when we finished it, we recorded it at Apple Studios and made it into a song to roller coast by.”

Lennon claimed this was basically a rewrite of their 1968 song “Lady Madonna.”

Beatles fans found lots of hidden meaning in their lyrics, and sometimes the band did too. In his 1980 Playboy interview, John Lennon claimed that Paul looked at Yoko in the studio when he sang the line “get back to where you once belong.” John was sure he was disrespecting her.

There was speculation that the character “JoJo” was based on Joseph Melville See Jr., Linda McCartney’s first husband, who was from Tucson, Arizona. McCartney denied this, explaining in his 1988 autobiography Many Years From Now that he and Linda were on good terms with See, who used the first name Melville, and that “JoJo” was “an imaginary character, half-man and half-woman.”

Linda attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, and in 1979 she and Paul bought a ranch there. As for Joseph Melville See, he never remarried, and in 2000 he killed himself in Tucson.

Billy Preston’s piano solo was spontaneous. he told New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press in 2000: “I was playing a Fender Rhodes on ‘Get Back.’ They just told me, ‘Take a solo!’ I wasn’t expecting to do a solo. When we were rehearsing, I wasn’t playing a solo.”

The last version of the song The Beatles played on the Apple rooftop can be heard in the widely bootlegged “rooftop sessions,” which finds McCartney mocking the police as they shut them down. You can hear him ad-lib the lines “You been out too long, Loretta! You’ve been playing on the roofs again! That’s no good! You know your mommy doesn’t like that! Oh, she’s getting angry… she’ll have you arrested! Get back!”

An edited version of the rooftop performances was released on the Anthology 3 collection in 1996.

Some of the artists to cover this song include: The Bee Gees, The Crusaders, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Green, Elton John, The London Symphony Orchestra, The Main Ingredient, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Billy Preston, Kenny Rogers, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Shadows, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sarah Vaughan.

In 2003, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr gave permission to Apple Records to rework the album and remove Phil Spector’s production. The result is the stripped-down version called Let It Be… Naked, which McCartney claims is what the group intended.

McCartney played this at halftime of the 2005 Super Bowl. This was the year after Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the halftime show, so the NFL insisted on an act that wouldn’t incite controversy or push the envelope. McCartney fit the bill.

Get Back

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it wouldn’t last
Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona
For some California grass

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back Jojo, go home

Get back, get back
Back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Back to where you once belonged
Get back Jo

Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman
But she was another man
All the girls around her say she’s got it coming
But she gets it while she can

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back Loretta, go home

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back, get back

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “Beatles – Get Back”

  1. A slightly odd effort. I think that the vocals are quite weird and at times don’t sound much like The Beatles at all! The guitar and drums on this are the standout, they outshine the vocal performance. Not really their best song but good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I honestly am not all that big on the b-side but my sweetie loves it, it’s one of her favorites by them & I’ve met others who think that so I guess I’m in the minority and the Beatles should have probably kept it (Don’t Let Me Down”) for an a-side!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jennifer likes Don’t Let Me Down more also…a great A-B single regardless. I was genuinely surprised that Get Back was such a giant hit…

        Like

      3. Yep, the B-side doesn’t have to hide behind the A-side. Here with John Lennon as lead singer with a lot of feeling and Billy Preston on the keys, which harmonizes wonderfully.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Billy Preston did inject lively keyboards and peace among them…it was smart of George inviting him. Families always act better in front of guests.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea by that time Apple couldn’t promote anyone properly…as in Badfinger and a few others….Heck Lisa…they had James Taylor signed and couldn’t get him anywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They hired cronies…friends who took everything that wasn’t nailed down…then they broke up. If Epstein would have lived…it would have been a different story. Oh Klein didn’t help keep people either.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea they had to compete against themselves which wasn’t easy. It’s hard competing against Strawberry Fields…one thing I do like about it is they were playing as a band again…first time since really Rubber Soul and Revolver.

      Like

  2. It wasn’t one of my absolute faves at the time (though this is all relative with The Beatles!) but it remained really popular in the 70’s – when their entire singles catalogue was re-issued it was the 2nd-biggest-seller after Hey Jude. I was somewhat surprised to find it’s not travelled with the generations since: on a knock-out series of votes on the 1’s album singles this year it was a fairly early exiter! I’ve not been a huge fan of Don’t Let Me Down as it was recorded – I think a completely different more uptempo treatment would have worked more for me, maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Billy Preston really added a lot when he played with the Fabs. Maybe the biggest thing was peace. Whether they were on their best behavior because there was someone else in the studio or Billy’s general demeanor and positivity, you definitely feel something was differet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was a rooted person who wasn’t in the fishbowl…John was talking about adding him to the Beatles. George was smart bringing him in…just like Clapton for the White Album.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I have…I liked the book but he didn’t think much of George if I remember right. You can tell John’s style is all over this one…John played a funky rhythm guitar. Sometime slightly out of time but it worked.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like the song…it was different for them…after years of studio songs…it was nice to get back…no pun intended…to being a band again… I do like the B side better but I like the song.

      Liked by 1 person

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