Peter Jackson (New Zealand, 1961) was a child when the Beatles were separate. But that did not prevent him from becoming an obsessive collector in later years, acquiring abundant pirate material from the English group. One of his most precious possessions was a VHS tape with Descartes of the film Let it be. For Jackson, those images faded were a revelation: beyond the miseries immortalized in the documentary, there appeared a band creating music gladly, even wrapping the vocal improvisations of Yoko Ono.
Now, thanks to the aura that provides the success of its adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, the New Zealander has got the commission of his life: using digital technology, will restore all the material filmed for Let it be (there are 55 hours unpublished) To redo a story that will now have a happy ending. Or at least a positive message: Such is the hope of Apple Corps, the company of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, and those two widows fiercely committed to the legacy of John Lennon and George Harrison.
That was an unfortunate idea. The fruit of the best intentions, of course: aware that the quartet was in a centrifugal dynamic, Paul McCartney proposed to revive the illusion by organizing a unique concert, perhaps in a Roman amphitheatre in Tunisia. The motto was to return (Get back was the initial name of the project) to its origins: four types playing in Hamburg and Liverpool clubs, recovering their roots of rock and roll and Rhythm & Blues. In a way, it coincided with the trip to the past of Bob Dylan and his musicians, the Band, undertaken in the mountains of Woodstock.
Since his manager, Brian Epstein, had died in 1967, there was no authoritative voice to raise the inconvenience. That they needed to rest, after the elaboration of the monumental White Album, published a month earlier. That they had not been able to replenish the pantry of the new songs. That it was not prudent to reconstitute a group in the eyes of the chambers.
In principle, no one put any glue to the filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg's team filming the rehearsals and the resulting triumphant concert. There was an element of narcissism, obvious, but it also responded to the highly meditated media exploitation of all its occurrences. Lindsay-Hogg would perform a television program, Beatles at Work, which would work as a promotion of the resulting disc. Then that would be transformed into a feature film.
They screwed up. They began to rehearse in Twickenham's film studios, cold in every way. As of January 2, 1969, they were folded to the timetable of the cinema, which starts to work of Good morning (the musicians prefer the afternoon and the night). They also accepted the filming cassettes, instead of the sophisticated gadgets they recorded at Abbey Road. For more inri, girls of George Martin, putting in charge of Glyn Johns, then a simple engineer of sound.
They tried, hey. They diplomatically received Yoko, who used to answer questions thrown at John (and gave musical advice, despite his well-known ignorance of everything related to rock). But the rope was broken by the most susceptible: Harrison, injured by McCartney's comments, left on January 10 and did not return until the 15th, when it was decided to lift the camp and move on to the recording of the hypothetical disc.
They were to release their own studio, in the basement of the Apple building, built by Alexis Mardas, the supposed electronic genius of the company. They did not know that the so-called Magic Alex was a Fantasmón, unable to materialize his visions (he would also swindle the future king Juan Carlos, if that is of consolation). Mardas had promised to record in 72 tracks, when the large studios used 4 or 8 tracks. But its installation did not work and, in haste, had to remodel the space and install machines ceded by EMI, with the suffering George Martin helping out.
It is miraculous that, despite everything, they recompusieran and record music. With a fifth member: George invited the American keyboardist Billy Preston, both for his musical skills and to serve as a bumper among so many sensitive egos. Preston would also participate in what would be the climax of the documentary: a concert on the rooftop of Apple. He had already dismissed playing in Tunisia: Ringo had compromises as an actor and Harrison directly refused to travel; Lennon and Ono were flirting with heroin.
To get an idea of the deterioration of their relationships: when McCartney married Linda Eastman, none of his companions came, who made bad jokes with the famous rumor that Paul had died. Unaffordable to discouragement, McCartney managed to rally the band, who embarked at the end of February in another new album. Although they tested with other studies (Trident, Olympic) and a different producer (Chris Thomas), George Martin would finally take care of his singing of Ciste, the superb Abbey Road.
Let It be remained as the ugly duckling: No one was enthusiastic about the result but urged monetize it. Mixes were commissioned to Glyn Johns, rejected without comment. It was finally put to the point by a historical producer, Phil Spector, who added some choruses and orchestrations that Paul hated, reaffirming his decision to leave the Beatles. And the movie? Drastically reduced, from 210 to 88 minutes, it was released in May 1970, although none of the four protagonists were present. The reception was lukewarm. With one exception: Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, awarded him the Oscar as the best soundtrack of the year.
The frantic activity of the Beatles also had an extra spur. One of his accountants, Stephen Maltz, sent them a letter with devastating news: they had spent over their possibilities, they owed important amounts in taxes. Faced with what Maltz defined as "disastrous finances," they sought a manager to get them out of the quagmire. They discovered that establishment figures were willing to help them, from Richard Beeching, the "Savior" of the British railroad Network, to Lord Poole, economic adviser to Isabel II. But they preferred someone from the American music business. Paul had it clear: the father and brother of his brand-new wife, Lee and John Eastman, who had made a fortune in publishing (Managing the rights of songs). An unacceptable solution for his companions, as it reinforced Paul's power. They imposed on Allen Klein, a hard and dubiously reputable record label. That's when McCartney broke the deck.