Get Back

In the UK, Get Back was the only Beatles single to enter the charts at number one. It remained in the charts for 17 weeks. It also topped the US charts. Billed as "The Beatles with Billy Preston", it was the only one of the group's single to credit another musician.

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Although the single and album versions both originate from the same recording, the single contains a coda which was omitted by Phil Spector on Let It Be. Instead, Spector added dialogue from the rooftop performance at Apple, to give the impression of a newer, live performance.

The single's coda began after a false ending, and contained the lyrics: "Get back Loretta, your mummy's waiting for you. Wearing her high-heel shoes and her low-neck sweater, get back home, Loretta."

The rooftop performance was finally released on Anthology 3 in 1996. The single version is available on the Past Masters collection. A shorter, remixed version was also made for Let It Be... Naked in 2003.

A new montage of Get Back was included on the 2006 remix album Love, which combined the track with the opening guitar chord from A Hard Day's Night, the drum and guitar solos from The End, percussion from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) and the orchestral climax from A Day In The Life.

In the studio

Although it was performed during the Twickenham Film Studios rehearsals in early January 1969, the first studio version of Get Back was recorded on 21 January at Apple Studios, in the basement of 3 Savile Row, London.

By the time sessions reached Apple the lyric had changed and the title... well, Paul had his own ideas in that direction. George Martin, over the talkback: 'What are you calling this, Paul?' Paul: 'Shit. Shit, take one.'
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Get Back was the first song released by The Beatles to feature Billy Preston, who was visiting Apple during the recording. He was swiftly recruited by George Harrison to augment the group's sound and to help dissipate tensions.

He came in while we were down in the basement, running through Get Back, and I went up to reception and said, 'Come in and play on this because they're all acting strange'. He was all excited. I knew the others loved Billy anyway, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

It's interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in, because they don't really want everybody to know that they're so bitchy... He got on the electric piano, and straight away there was 100% improvement in the vibe in the room. Having this fifth person was just enough to cut the ice that we'd created among ourselves.

George Harrison
Anthology

More recordings took place on 23, 24, 27 and 28 January. 27 January yielded the basic track used for the released versions; the single version included a coda taped on the 28th, while applause and comments from the rooftop performance were used for the album mix.

Although faded out early on disc, the coda from 28 January also featured forced laughter and ad-libbed lyrics. A 37-second snippet was included as the last track on the unreleased Get Back LP, and was also shown underneath the end credits of the Let It Be film.

The Beatles performed Get Back three times during the Apple rooftop performance on 30 January. The first was essentially a rehearsal, and was immediately followed by another version. The Let It Be film contained an edit of the two.

The third and final rooftop version was interrupted by police officers, who demanded that Mal Evans turn off the group's amplifiers. This he did, but Harrison immediately switched his back on; Evans immediately turned Lennon's on again.

The song almost broke down but lurched to a finish, with McCartney ad-libbing, "You've been playing on the roofs again, and that's no good, and you know your Mummy doesn't like that... she gets angry... she's gonna have you arrested! Get back!" This version can be heard on Anthology 3.

The 28 January version was first mixed for single release on 26 March. However, following radio play from BBC presenters John Peel and Alan 'Fluff' Freeman, McCartney decided the mix wasn't right. New mono and stereo versions were made on 7 April, and the single had its release just four days later. Due to its late completion, many stores didn't receive copies for several days after this.

Yes, I played the solo on [Get Back]. When Paul was feeling kindly, he would give me a solo! Maybe if he was feeling guilty that he had most of the a-side or something, he would give me a solo. And I played the solo on that.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

Phil Spector made a new mix for the Let It Be album on 26 March 1970. He edited some studio chatter from 27 January 1969 (Lennon's "Sweet Loretta Fart she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan") onto the beginning of the song.

To give the impression that Get Back was a newer, live performance, Spector also added the "Thanks Mo"/"I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we've passed the audition" quotes from the end of the rooftop performance.

23 responses on “Get Back

    1. Chris Galletti

      You dont get to be the biggest act in the world with sloppy work – each member of the band was an excellent player in their own right and they never shied away from work – just look at their output. Bands these days can take years between albums, they appear like slackers compared to the Beatles.

  1. RL Hope

    I agree w/DBueche on Lennon’s guitar work on Get Back.
    I saw a video clip in the studio(not on the roof)showing Lennon playing lead. Really good. I can’t find where I viewed the clip now. Anybody familiar with this?

  2. Martyn

    I’m confused why Get Back & Don’t Let Me Down is included on the Mono Box. In the USA at least, it was never in mono, the original 45 rpm was stereo for this. Was it released in mono for the UK?

    1. Matt

      Yes, Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down was released in mono in the UK, which is why it is included on the 2009 Mono Masters CD since the proper UK versions have become the standards in the USA too.

    1. dcshark

      Actually Lewisohn states that the 27th version is used by Spector as the LP version. Check the 30 January 1969 entry. But the 28th was used as the single version. Check the 11 April 1969 entry. According to this the single and LP versions are different recordings.

      Unless you have a different source for this information. Any thoughts Joe

      1. Joe Post author

        A take from 27 January was used for the album and single mix. The coda of the single was recorded on 28 January, and edited to the 27 Jan take, and crowd noise/comments from the rooftop show was used on Phil Spector’s album mix. I’ve amended page two of the article to make this clearer.

        Much as I respect him, Mark Lewisohn’s accounts of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions really weren’t as thorough as those of the EMI studio sessions.

  3. Tweeze

    Has anyone noticed that the lead guitar work in this song is very much like the lead in Paul’s post-Beatles ‘Junior’s Farm’? I have wondered if this was not somehow a classic subtle McCartney jab at John’s playing. Personally, I think John did a fine job – economical as it were, but Paul is communicating, “Hey Lennon! Here’s what some impromptu flair is like.”

  4. eddy

    I think that Billy Preston wrote this song (and Let it Be). No one ever got billing like that- THE BEATLES WITH BILLY PRESTON for an intrumental solo.
    (The Beatles with Tony Sheridan) but Tony was the singer

    Clapton didn’t get THE BEATLES WITH ERIC CLAPTON for his solo on ‘while my guitar gently weeps’ and he was a STAR.

  5. Matt Blick

    I agree with you about the single and album using the same take after a couple of hours listening, so well done for spotting a mistake in the usually flawless Lewisoln books. It’s obviously the same take – but how do you know whether it was recorded on the 27th or 28th?

    BTW – your website is on of the few online resources I come back to again and again when I’m researching the background for my blog

    Excellent work!

    http://beatlessongwriting.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/get-back-to-drawing-board.html

      1. Matt Blick

        Ah – thought that would be the case. I would investigate further, but I can’t wait to STOP listening to Let It Be and get onto the White Album (I’m now blogging in reverse order – don’t ask)

  6. Victor

    John’s guitar work on “get back” is just brilliant. The little riffs, and the solo.. very good. Makes it more difficult to pay attention on other great aspects of the song, such as Billy Preston’s piano.

  7. Silver Spoon

    Does anybody know about the third vocal in the middle eight, which comes immediately after the first guitar solo?
    We all know Paul sang the regular tune and John the lower. But if you listen to the “Love” version of Get Back, you can clearly hear the higher backing vocal (maybe Paul).
    I am a big fan of Get Back and have heard more than several hundred times each version of the song. On the LP and single versions, it is not clear whether there is the third vocal, but the Naked version clearly lacks it.
    In the three rooftop versions I can’t hear the third vocal, as they were all live and in the video George seemed not adding his back vocals to the song. But if you listen to the rehearsal version of Get Back on the same day, which is believed to be recorded from down the street as they set up for the roof top gig, you will hear the higher backing vocal in the middle eight.
    I understand that “Love” was produced under the supervision of George Martin and his son. But I don’t believe they borrowed any third party stuff that is not of the Beatle origin, i.e., the higher backing vocal part used in the Love version of Get Back must have been taken from some take of Get Back. Does anybody have idea on this?

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