Giles Martin, the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, has returned to the original recording sessions for the “White Album” for a box set that includes demos, 50 studio outtakes and remixes. The new set coincides with the album’s 50th birthday. (Nov. 7)
The Beatles and director Peter Jackson are collaborating on a new film about the sessions that produced the group’s final album, they said Wednesday.
The as-yet-untitled documentary is to be based on 55 hours of unreleased footage of the Beatles in the studio, shot 50 years ago this month, as they recorded the album “Let It Be.” A release date is not set.
The announcement came on the 50th anniversary Wednesday of the rooftop concert, when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr performed together public for the last time.
50 years ago, Beatles played last public show
At midday on a gray Jan. 30, 1969, as Londoners were heading out to lunch, the Beatles were heading to the roof of their Apple Records headquarters on Savile Row.
For 42 minutes, the quartet, aided by keyboardist Billy Preston, ripped through nine takes of five songs: “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “One After 909” and “Dig a Pony.”
But the writing was on the crumbling wall. The band would soon fracture, and members launched their solo careers. In late 1970, Paul McCartney sued his former bandmates, bringing the Beatles to an end.
Beatles film will be ‘like a time machine’
Jackson said the new film would capture “the ultimate ‘fly-on-the-wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about.
“It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together,” the Lord of the Rings director said in a statement.
It will be The Beatles’ second movie on the subject. The first was conceived as a television special about the group at work recording a new album and preparing for a performance somewhere: a Roman amphitheater, a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, a London concert venue.
1970’s film only had limited release
But when director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s crew began filming, they captured an as-yet-unseen side of the world’s biggest pop group: Members irritating each other, arguing over songs and plans and ultimately scaling back their ambitions to the rooftop set.
The Beatles sent the film crew away, shelved the project and recorded and released “Abbey Road” instead. By the time the earlier film and album were released as “Let It Be” in 1970, the group had broken up for good.
The album, with the title track, “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road” and other classics, is a staple of The Beatles’ canon. The film won the group their only Academy Award, for Best Music (Original Song Score).
But unlike the Beatles’ other movies, it has had only limited home release in the 1980s; there has never been an official release on DVD or Blu-Ray. Over the years, it has emerged as one of the unreleased items most requested by fans.
Unreleased footage is ‘historical treasure trove’
Jackson suggested the acrimony captured in the 1970 film was just one version of the story.
“I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth,” the “Lord of the Rings” director said. “After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure trove.
“Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate.”
The new film is currently in production. It’s being made with the full co-operation of McCartney, Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.
After the new movie is released, a restored version of the 1970 film will also be made available.
For the Beatles, the project follows “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years,” the 2016 documentary directed by Ron Howard.
Contributing: Marco della Cava.
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