By including this, Jackson not only appeases the music geek, but expands on the motivations of why George will step away from the project, and what it will take to bring him back. Jackson lets this add flavor to the underlying plot of a race against time, without calling overt attention to itself. Along the way, we see why Paul’s girlfriend and future Linda McCartney stands as a master rock photographer, and hear very good mixes of unreleased songs.
Jackson shines by interspersing the Beatles running through Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music,” overlaid on their performance at Shea Stadium. It gives the feeling of the band rallying for a concert. But we also hear snippets of the band running through Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” and Bob Dylan’s “Mighty Quinn” and “I Shall Be Released,” as they get used to the sound in the room.
The documentary, of course, includes musical teasers for bootleg lovers as well as future releases in their infancy. McCartney introduces “Another Day,” “The Long and Winding Road” is composed and structured, and we hear “Golden Slumbers” just waking up. We learn that the song “Carry that Weight” was originally written for Ringo, already has the recognizable chorus, but also includes verses about “normal kinds of troubles everyone has,” as Paul puts it, which are later cut. Ringo plays a song he wrote called “Taking a Trip to Carolina,” accompanying himself on piano, and self-deprecatingly mocking himself throughout. The clearer images bolser the intimacy, and the easy humor.
One of the most brilliant, stylistically and conceptually, sequences of the limited series is when Lennon and Apple Films executive Denis O’Dell are talking about artwork while Paul writes “Let It Be.” Jackson lets this story play out subversively. The camera is never on Paul as a subject. We see him in the background, occasionally looking around to see if anyone is responding to what’s happening musically. We can actually see him composing it, checking which chord progressions sound better than the last. It is so well done and never calls little enough attention to itself as to be considered sublime.
But Jackson never plays a full song until he gets to the title tune. “Get Back” starts out while Paul is trying to kickstart himself into a new idea. Over the course of the first episode, we will see the song transform into a protest against white nationalism. Jackson intersperses newspaper clippings for context to denote how important this was while it was happening. But he also transmits this particular song as special. He details why by showing it refined in the tiniest of ways. He has an ear for detail, and an eye for shortcuts. We hear how important something so simple as an occasionally enhanced backbeat can be in a performance.
Each song has a story, like each character, and “Get Back” is the lead. It is the first song the world hears from the session, and the first played from beginning to end in the documentary. Jackson presents great footage of revealing moments, but never unpackages the whole thing until it’s ready. Just like the Beatles. Jackson reinforces this when he shows the Beatles deciding to follow their early tradition by rushing it out as a single. It is also a declaration of the upcoming show, wherever that will be.