The Beatles – The “Get Back” Box Set

‘I thought it would be great to go out, because it would break The Beatles. It would break the myth. That’s us, with no trousers on and no glossy paint over the cover’. John Lennon. 

Over the previous four years, we have had a steady stream of deluxe box set versions of the albums the Beatles released between 1967 and 1970, finishing off with the recent ‘Let It Be’ effort. Even though the contents of the previous box sets was always a bit on the short side (with the ‘White Album’ being the exception), I feel that ‘Let It Be’ was a major slap in the face to the fans, especially if you bought the CD/DVD like I did*. The two CD’s worth of rehearsals, jams and sessions could easily have fitted onto one disc. The EP was particularly poor as this contains only four songs. What about the rooftop concert? I suspect that this will come out as part of a box set that will tie in with the physical release of Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ TV series. Why not put it with the ‘Let It Be’ box set though? It isn’t as though there wasn’t enough room for it seeing as it was 42 minutes long? There was plenty of room on the EP CD. 

Anyway, what is most probably most irritating to me is the lack of care that went into the much heralded release of the 1969 Glyn John’s mix from when the project was called ‘Get Back’. It turns out that this is the not the 1969 mix at all, but a hybrid of the 1969 and 1970’s version of the LP. A good example of this is the song ‘For You Blue’, which uses the re-recorded vocals from 1970. The Japanese box set does include the true 1969 ‘Get Back’ mix. Why is it the Japanese box set is correct whereas the rest of the world has to suffer with a botched job. Replacements would be nice, but I doubt that this will happen. 

With this in mind, I thought about putting together my own ‘Let It Be’ box set, but listening through all of the Nagra rolls and session tapes would take a considerable amount of time, and there are only so many times you listen to the false starts, breakdowns of takes and jams of old songs before turning off the stereo and playing something else instead. 

The idea behind the sessions that led to the ‘Let It Be’ album was to get the band back to playing like a unit again and, potentially, playing a live gig, something they had not done for three years. This was in response to the experimentation and hours spent recording in the studio which had led to tension during the sessions recording the ‘White Album’. The initial plan was to actually play material from the ‘White Album’, with the rehearsals being recorded and the gig being the finale. The plan changed slightly when it was decided to play new material instead. Lennon had developed an heroin addiction and had not produced much new material, whereas Harrison was the opposite. He had recently returned from a stay in the USA where he had jammed with Bob Dylan and The Band and was armed with a number of songs, most of which would end up on his first solo album. McCartney was a busy as ever and had plenty of songs to bring to the table, even if some were not fully formed at the start of proceedings. 

With rehearsals kicking off at Twickenham studios on 2nd January, the band were expected to turn up at the beginning of the day (instead of their usual practise of turning up in the late afternoon and/or evening) to practise. The film studio space was massive (and cold), the camera crew were intrusive and tensions ran high, especially between Harrison and both Lennon (for his lack of involvement) and McCartney (for numerous reasons that I won’t go into here). This lead to Harrison walking out of the band, saying ‘see you round the clubs’ as he left. 

Lennon quipped that they could get Eric Clapton in as a replacement, but instead, the rest of the band persuaded Harrison to return, although he insisted on certain conditions being met before he did so. These were that the band move from Twickenham Studios to their purpose built recording facility at their offices in Saville Row as well as abandoning the live concert idea. Harrison also brought in keyboard player, Billy Preston. Preston had known The Beatles since their Hamburg days and when he entered the sessions, the working environment became a bit more conducive to recording music. The band would actually play a concert, but it was on the roof of their office building (something that has been imitated many times down the years) and recording would finish on 31st January. 

Engineer Glyn Johns was given the task of producing the album and, in May 1969, a version was ready. It favoured the rougher mixes over the more polished efforts from later in the sessions. There were false starts, breakdowns and jams. Even though this did fit the objective of the sessions, the band rejected it and so at the end of 1969, Johns compiled another mix. That would complement the soon to be released film as only songs that were in the movie would now be included. That meant that a version of ‘Across The Universe’ was prepared as well as a brand new recording of ‘I Me Mine’, as no multi track of the song was recorded at the time. Lennon did not appear on this session having left the band the previous September. This version was also rejected and the tapes finally handed over to producer Phil Spector to produce and his version with strings, choirs, edits and all sorts of studio shenanigans (which was what this project was meant to avoid) included. The LP topped both the UK and US album charts, but the band had disintegrated by the time of its release and this would be their last album of original material. 

What I was looking here was to put together these two Glyn John mixes as part of the ‘Let it Be’ box set, but whilst researching this piece, I found that there were two other mixes of the ‘Get Back’ material as well as a proposal to release another LP made up of covers of the rock n roll oldies the band played during rehearsals. I must thank the people over at https://www.beatlesource.com for listing the differences between the four versions presented here. 

I have decided to follow the current trend with this one and present this as though it was released on vinyl.

Disc 1 – ‘Get Back’ Version 1

It has always been assumed that the tape Glyn Johns delivered in May 1969 was the first attempt at mixing material from the sessions, but this is not actually the case. A tape was constructed and cut to acetate in January of 1969 and it can be said that this was never intended for a commercial release, but just as a reference for the band so they knew what the recording sounded like. At some point though, a tape was made of the acetate and fell into the hands of a number of US radio stations which broadcast this. These broadcasts were taped off of the radio by an unknown listener and these recordings would end up as the first known Beatle’s bootleg. Called ‘Kum Back’, it has been bootlegged many times over the years, but the whereabouts of the original Johns tape is unknown. What is also unknown is how the radio stations received a taped copy of the acetate, even though Lennon himself took responsibility for that slipping out. 

Side A

  1. Get Back (unique mix).
  2. Teddy Boy (This mix adds an additional 1:16 of performance between the breakdown at the beginning and the start of the song, which is not heard on versions 2 and 3).
  3. Two Of Us (This mix includes a snippet of another performance, probably a remnant of an earlier, discarded mix and a false start not heard on versions 2, 3 or 4).
  4. Dig A Pony (Strangely, although this is a different mix, it features the tape-start sound heard at the beginning which is heard on versions 2 and 3 but not on version 4). 
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling (This mix includes an additional 10 seconds of extended ending after John’s comment “Not bad though” not heard on versions 2, 3 or 4).

Side B

  1. The Long & Winding Road (This mix features a second or two additional intro of Ringo getting set on the drums and a longer, piano tinkling outro not heard on not heard on versions 2, 3 or 4 or the Let It Be album). 
  2. Let It Be (This begins with what is probably a remnant of an earlier, discarded mix. None of this performance or mix appear anywhere else.)
  3. Don’t Let Me Down (With the exception of John’s comment about “give me the courage to come screaming in” being a bit more clear, this mix features nothing not heard on versions 2, 3 or 4).
  4. For You Blue (This mix features a five second longer outro which includes guitar chop not heard on versions 2, 3 or 4).
  5. Get Back (This performance would form the basis of both the single and Let It Be album versions. The performance, itself, appears on all versions. The spoken intro is heard on compilation 2 and the Let It Be album. The post-song dialog is extended on compilation 2. The single version, which also appears on compilations 3 and 4, omits the spoken intro and adds a coda (taken from another performance) to the end, eliminating the post-song bits).
  6. The Walk (a short jam of a Jimmy McCracklin song from 1958. This is the only version of ‘Get Back’ where this song appears).

Disc 2 – ‘Get Back’ Version 2

This could be considered the lost version of the ‘Get Back’ album. Compiled in May 1969, this version was broadcast on WKBW radio station in Buffalo, USA in September the same year. It was always thought that this was the same as version 3, but it does have some marked differences. This are most notably on the song ‘Get Back’ which is the same performance as the single version, but lacks the coda nor the cold ending of version 1. This version comes to a natural end with some studio chat at the end. The other is the ‘Dig It’ jam, which is almost a minute longer than any other version. 

Side A

  1. One After 909 (This is the same as versions 3 and 4).
  2. Rocker/Save The Last Dance For Me/Don’t Let Me Down (Intro) (This is the same as version 3). 
  3. Don’t Let Me Down (This is the same as version 3).
  4. Dig A Pony (This is the same as version 3).
  5. I’ve Got a Feeling (on the bootleg recording taken from the original broadcast, this has been recorded over by a version of ‘Across the Universe’ form the ‘No One’s Gonna Change Our World’ charity album. I have assumed that this would be same as the version used on version 3 but without Ringo’s comment. See below). 
  6. Get Back (see above)

Side B

  1. For You Blue (This is the same as version 3).
  2. Teddy Boy (This is the same as version 3).
  3. Two of Us/Maggie Mae (This is the same as version 3 and 4).
  4. Dig It (This is a longer 5-minute edit but otherwise, it sounds the same as the 4-minute edit on version 3. The additional minute is at the beginning of the song. Both edits end the same). 
  5. Let It Be (This is the same as version 3 and 4).
  6. The Long & Winding Road (This is the same as version 3 but is missing Lennon’s comments “are we supposed to giggle in the solo” and McCartney’s response, “yeah”).
  7. Get Back (Reprise) (This is the same as version 3 and 4).

This version is so similar to Version 3 that I almost did not include it, but for completeness’ sake, it stays. 

Disc 3 – ‘Get Back’ Version 3

Glyn Johns went back to the studio to complete further work on the ‘Get Back’ album and this is the version, if it had been accepted, that would have seen the light of day in August 1969, or September, or December when the ‘Let it Be’ single was scheduled to be released. the single would be delayed until March the following year. The version of the song ‘Get Back’ was the April 1969 single mix, and ‘Dig It’ was trimmed by a minute. Some dialogue was also changed. Though this version was not broadcast on US Radio like versions 1 & 2, tapes began circulating of this mix in the 1970s. It shares a lot of similarities with versions 2 & 4, as you will se below. 

Side A

  1. One After 909 (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  2. Rocker/Save The Last Dance For Me/Don’t Let me Down (Intro) (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  3. Don’t Let me Down (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  4. Dig A Pony (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling (This is the same as compilations 2 and 4. At the end, Glyn has added Ringo’s comment, “Glyn, what does that sound like?”).
  6. Get Back (This is the same as compilation 4. It’s the stereo single mix (RS5) with the coda. Gone are John’s intro comments, “picks with the fingers” and the chat at the end).

Side B

  1. For You Blue (This the same as versions 2 and 4 except version 4 edits out a bit of the intro).
  2. Teddy Boy (This is the same as version 2. It was not included on version 4).
  3. Two Of Us/Maggie Mae (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  4. Dig It (This is the same as version 4).
  5. Let It Be (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).
  6. Long & Winding Road (This mix is the same as versions 2 and 4 however, this version add John’s comment “Are we supposed to giggle in the solo?” and Paul’s reply, “yeah”. These comments are absent from version 2 but are present on version 4).
  7. Get Back (Reprise) (This is the same as versions 2 and 4).

Disc 4 – ‘Get Back’ Version 4

Almost a year after the sessions had wrapped up, the ‘Get Back’ album had still not seen the light of day. Was it because The Beatles had washed their hands of the material, or the book that was meant to accompany the album was taking longer than expected. Whatever the reason, it was decided that the album now need to reflect the music seen in the nearly completed film. That meant that ‘Teddy Boy’ was out, but ‘Across The Universe’ and ‘I Me Mine’ were in. 

This proved to be a bit of a problem as neither song had been recorded on multi track once the sessions moved away from Twickenham Studios to Saville Row. ’Across The Universe’ had seen a release on the ‘No One’s Gonna Change Our World’ charity album which came out in December of 1969. A different version was needed so Glyn Johns set about creating a mix hat removed the sound effects and female backing vocals that had accompanied the charity album performance. ‘I Me Mine’ needed to be recorded from scratch, so in what would prove to be the last Beatles session until the mid-90s, Starr, Harrison and McCartney met at Abbey Road studios to produce the track.  

Side A

  1. One After 909 (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  2. Rocker/Save The Last Dance For Me/Don’t Let Me Down (intro) (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  3. Don’t Let Me Down (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  4. Dig A Pony (The opening note, which previously had a glitch sound, has been smoothed out a here. Perhaps it was remixed but, otherwise, it sounds the same as versions 2 and 3).
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  6. Get Back (This is the same as version 3. This is the stereo single mix (RS5) with the coda).
  7. Let It Be (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).

Side B

For You Blue (This track is missing a bit of the dialog and the longer false start that is heard on versions 2 and 3. This is the new mix mentioned above. Verses 1 and 2, along with the last line of verse 3, feature the new vocal. Most of verse 3 is the old vocal. In portions of verse 2, both vocals can be heard).

  1. Two Of Us/Maggie Mae (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  2. Dig It (This is the same as version 3).
  3. Long & Winding Road (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).
  4. I Me Mine (This is the original minute and a half edit and features a spoken intro found nowhere else).
  5. Across The Universe (This is an unique mix of this song and features a spoken intro found nowhere else).
  6. Get Back (Reprise) (This is the same as versions 2 and 3).

Disc 5 – “Get Back’ Oldies Compilation

One thing that is apparent when looking at what was played during these sessions, there was an awful lot of old songs from The Beatles early days getting an airing. These would include songs that Lennon & McCartney had written before fame (including ‘One After 909’, which did it make it on to the final album), but mostly it was rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Whilst the ‘Get Back’ tapes were being prepared, it was rumoured that a bonus disc made up of these rock ‘n’ roll oldies was also going to see the light of day. 

A tape has surfaced which some have called the ‘Oldies Companion’, but when listening to it, it does not completely fit the bill. That is because the first two songs are a rather good version of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and an eight minute edit of ‘Dig It’. These do not go with the theme of the album, so I did not use these but instead focused on just the old tunes. The problem with these oldies is they were never recorded up to release standard. The band used them as a way of warming up or alleviating boredom. 

Others sounded quite good but they were recorded to the Nagra machines the camera crew were using, so on occasions there is a good deal of talking and the occasional beeping noise. The recordings included here do not have any of the camera crew talking over them but there is the occasional beep. Some of the songs were also recorded quite early on in the process when the band were at Twickenham Film Studios, so these were only available in mono. Stereo equipment was only brought into proceedings when the band moved to Saville Row. 

I have included the date when these versions were recorded in case you fancy making your own version. 

Side A

  1. Blue Suede Shoes – Recorded 26th January 1969
  2. Shake, Rattle & Roll – Recorded 26th January 1969
  3. Kansas City/Miss Ann/Lawdy Miss Clawdy – Recorded 26th January 1969
  4. Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues – Recorded 29th January
  5. Bad Boy – Recorded 24th January 1969
  6. Besame Mucho – Recorded 29th January 1969
  7. Cannonball/Not Fade Away/Hey Little Girl/Bo Diddly – Recorded 29th January 1969
  8. Maggie Mae/Fancy My Chances With You – Recorded 24th January 1969

Side B

  1. Maybe Baby – Recorded 29th January 1969
  2. Suzy Parker – Recorded 9th January 1969
  3. School Days – Recorded 24th January 1969
  4. Crying, Waiting, Hoping – Recorded 29th January 1969
  5. Gone, Gone, Gone – Recorded 7th January 1969
  6. Because I Know You Loved Me So – Recorded 3rd January 1969
  7. Peggy Sue Got Married – Recorded 29th January 1969
  8. You Really Got A Hold On Me – Recorded 26th January 1969
  9. Rip It Up – Recorded 26th January 1969

So there it is. The Beatles and their ‘Get Back’ album given the deluxe box set treatment. Will we ever see anything like this come out officially? I doubt it even though by the 60th anniversary comes along in 2030, it would no doubt be a digital only release. 

The cover art is taken from https://bbchron.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-beatles-get-back-glyn-johns-mixes.html

*Now, I know I know I didn’t need to buy it, but I am a completist and I had all of the others, so I bought this one as well. 

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