Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Single by The Beatles and Billy Preston|
|From the album Let It Be|
|Single Released||11 April 1969|
|Single Format||vinyl record (7")|
|Recorded||27 January, 1969|
|Song Length||3:07 (album version)|
2:34 (Naked version)
|Chart positions||1 (UK)|
|The Beatles single chronology|
|"The Ballad of John and Joko "|
- This article is about the song. For the album project of the same name, see Let It Be.
"Get Back" is the title of a song attributed to John Lennon and Paul McCartney (though largely the work of McCartney), originally released as a single credited to "The Beatles and Billy Preston" in 1969. It would later become the closing track of the Beatles' last album to be released, Let It Be (1970). The single reached number one-status in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and West Germany, and was the Beatles' only single that credited another artist — Billy Preston. The American single was the Beatles' first single release in true stereo.
Bootlegs later released indicated that the Beatles had recorded an alternate version telling Pakistani immigrants to the United Kingdom to "get back" to their native land. The Beatles and McCartney, the principal composer, took heavy criticism for the alternate version, despite their insistence that it was meant as political satire, and not racial intolerance.
"Get Back"'s life began on January 7, 1969, when McCartney lifted "Get back to where you should be" from fellow Beatle George Harrison's "Sour Milk Sea" (the song was later given to Jackie Lomax to record, and McCartney makes a reference to it when in the second verse of "Get Back" he shouts "Come on, Jackie!"), and turned it into "Get back to where you once belonged" as part of the Beatles' recording sessions for their proposed album, Get Back (which later became Let It Be after the Beatles abandoned Get Back and turned over their recordings to producer Phil Spector). Later, on the press release to promote the "Get Back" single, McCartney would write, "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."
Two days after he had the first inklings of "Get Back", McCartney was inspired to satirise the "Rivers of Blood Speech" by British Cabinet minister Enoch Powell, in which Powell used a reference in Virgil to the river Tiber foaming with much blood to describe what he thought would have if the tide of Commonwealth immigrants was not stemmed. McCartney wrote what he called the "Commonwealth Song" based on Powell's speech. One of the stanzas was "You'd better get back to your Commonwealth homes". However, as evident from bootlegs, the "Commonwealth Song" has no resemblance to the final version of "Get Back".
The day after recording the "Commonwealth Song", the Beatles recorded yet another version of what was to become "Get Back", this time entitled "No Pakistanis". The choruses of both were almost the same, but "No Pakistanis" was more racially charged, as the singer sang about how he "don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs".
Eventually McCartney realised he would be savaged if the song was released in this form, and rewrote the lyrics, describing a man named Jojo who leaves his home in Tucson, Arizona "for some California grass", and then recommending that he return to Tucson. Linda McCartney's former residence in Tucson was likely the inspiration for the revised lyrics. In a 1980 interview with Playboy, Lennon described it as "...a better version of 'Lady Madonna .' You know, a potboiler rewrite."
As the Get Back sessions contained a copious quantity of never-released work by the Beatles, they were bootlegged widely over the years, leading to the proliferation of technically illegal early versions of "Get Back" such as "No Pakistanis". In 1986, bootlegs featuring "No Pakistanis" were made public. As expected, McCartney was heavily criticised for his alleged racist tendencies. Although McCartney denied the accusations, the controversy failed to subside for a few months.
Recording, in the studio and on the roof
Shortly after the Beatles first recorded "No Pakistanis", George Harrison left the band, claiming he would never return. However, his absence was not made public; during that period, the Get Back project was abandoned temporarily. Two weeks later, Harrison returned, and the Beatles resumed work. On January 27, the Beatles completed the take of "Get Back" which would be released on Let It Be. The following day, they recorded "Get Back" again; the final coda would later be lifted from one of these sessions and edited into the single release.
Preston joined the Beatles on the electric piano during these last two sessions, having been recruited by Harrison as a method to prevent excessive bickering among the Beatles. Harrison's idea worked—the Beatles avoided fighting, as they had during earlier sessions, when Preston was present.
The Beatles also performed "Get Back" and a few other songs from the project intended to be released as the Get Back album on the roof of Apple Studios in Savile Row, London on January 30, 1969. This would be the Beatles' last public performance. "Get Back" was performed in full three times; on the third and final time, the Beatles' performance was interrupted by the police, who had received complaints from office workers nearby. When Mal Evans saw the police coming, he turned off the amplifiers, but was interrupted by Harrison, who insisted that they would see the song out. It was during this period that McCartney ad-libbed, "You've been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn't like that, she's gonna have you arrested!" This did not appear on the Let It Be movie (which documented the Get Back project; an edited version of the rooftop performance was included), but is available on Anthology 3.
When the Beatles concluded their final rendition of "Get Back", McCartney thanked Beatle Ringo Starr's wife, Maureen, for clapping, and Lennon ad-libbed, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition." Both were later edited into the end of "Get Back" on Let It Be, and closed the Beatles' last released album.
On April 11, 1969, Apple Records released "Get Back" as a single in the United Kingdom, paired with "Don't Let Me Down" on the B-Side. The single began its 17-week long stay in the charts on April 26 at the top spot in the charts, a position it would hold for six weeks. It was the only Beatles' single to enter the UK charts at number one.
In the United States "Get Back" came out as a single on May 5, backed with "Don't Let Me Down." Five days later "Get Back" began its first of 12 weeks on the chart. Two weeks after the song's chart debut, it hit number one, a position it held for five weeks. The single was the Beatles' first single to be released in true stereo instead of mono — they had recorded in stereo before, as in "She Loves You", but the stereo versions had never seen the light of day on the A-Side of a single due to the lack of gramophone record players that could handle stereo.
In both the United Kingdom and the United States the single was released by Apple, although Capitol Records retained the rights to the song as part of their contract. The single was the only Beatles single ever to feature another artist on the credit, crediting "Get Back" to "The Beatles and Billy Preston".
As mentioned earlier, "Get Back" was also later released in May 1970 on Let It Be. However, the album version featured a few anomalies not available on the single. McCartney's show of appreciation to Maureen Starr and Lennon's "I hope we passed the audition" were just two in a series of additions and subtractions from the album version of "Get Back". In the beginning of the album version, Lennon sings "Sweet Loretta Fart she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan", parodying the first stanza of the song. At around 2'55" of the album version, a policeman telling the Beatles "I'm afraid it's just too long" is audible. Last but not least, the single version of the song ends with "Get back Loretta / Your mother's waiting for you / Wearing her high-heel shoes / And her low-neck sweater." This does not appear on the album version, replaced by McCartney and Lennon's remarks.
In 2003 "Get Back" was rereleased on the Let It Be... Naked album, which was largely due to McCartney's effort—he was dissatisfied with the quality of the original Let It Be album, and produced his own version of it, with the sanction of the last surviving Beatle other than him, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow. One of the most notable changes on the album was the altering of "The Long and Winding Road" into a version closer to what was originally intended.
The Rutles' "Get Up and Go", written by Neil Innes, features a set of lyrics parodying "Get Back". The lyrics are about a jockey by the name of Joe who leaves his "one-horse town" set to an almost identical tune. This apparently caused a copyright dispute which resulted in the song being left off of the Rutles soundtrack album, although it was reinstated for the later CD reissue. However, since George Harrison financially backed The Rutles movie, and appeared briefly in it, this may not be true.
Lyrics and melody
The song is composed of two verses, with the intro, outro, and several refrains making up the rest of the song. The song tells the story of a man named Jojo, who leaves his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some "California grass". The song urges him to return home to Tucson. The song includes a brief sideplot on a "Loretta Martin". Some people believe that this is about a transsexual "...thought she was woman / But she was another man". Others believe that it was a comment about "women's liberation", and those men who tell women to "get back" into their proper role. ("Loretta Modern").
The single version includes an extra verse urging her to "get back" where she belongs, as well.
- The Beatles Official Website. Retrieved Oct. 9, 2004.
- The Beatles Ultimate Experience. Retrieved Sept. 11, 2004.
- Fricke, David (Feb. 20, 2003). Buried Treasure. Rolling Stone.
- Glass Onion. Retrieved Sept. 11, 2004.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Chancellor Press. ISBN 0-7607-0327-2.
- Marck, John T. Oh Look Out Part 13, Let It Be — Music History. I Am The Beatles. [year unknown(?)]. 23 Jan. 2004
- Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles: A Diary. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-71-196315-0.
- (Jan. 10, 2003). Police 'Get Back' Beatles Tapes. CBSnews.com.
- beatles-discography.com. Retrieved Sept. 11, 2004.
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