If you are going to watch the Beatles Get Back Documentary, based on 57 hours of previously unseen footage about the end of the Beatles career as a group, I would suggest first of all that you watch the interview with Peter Jackson, of course of Lord of the Rings fame, by Stephen Colbert, readily available at CBS All Access under the Late Show icon. It turns out, much of what we thought about the break up of the world’s all time most famous rock group, was wrong. And tragically, it could have gone one beyond what it did. A few corrections should be given first: 1) Yoko Ono did not break up the Beatles, nor for that matter did Paul McCartney; 2) Get Back was not the last album the Beatles recorded together, though it was the last album released by Apple Corp. Abbey Road, which in my view was the best of their late albums was recorded last. So all the mythology about the roof top concert and the whole Get Back situation being the end of the road is simply not true. The roof top concert was however their last live concert of any sort (and it involved 9 numbers played, not 3. 3) There was a rather amazing reveal of a conversation between George and John, George at 25 beings the very youngest Beatle in which he said I’ve got some 20 songs so maybe I’ll do a solo album (thing the great classic All Things Must Pass box set) and John encouraged that and George intended to continue to play and record with the other Beatles as well. But Paul was not there to hear that conversation, and now, 50 years on when he has heard it, he says he wishes he had been there for that, as the Beatles might well not have broken up (even though George briefly left the group during the recording sessions of Get Back for a while but then was persuaded to return). 4) One thing the documentary shows again and again is these four men really loved each other and loved playing together right to the end, and one of the most fascinating things is to see their creative process– as a group effort, helping each other with parts and lyrics etc.
So suppose the Beatles had not broken up after recording Abbey Road, which clearly was one of their very best albums— indeed a classic like Sgt. Peppers. What would that next album have looked like? I think we get some clues from this documentary because we see the boys helping George with a tune or two that ended up on All Things Must Pass. So, here is my suggestion of what their next album would have looked like.
- Maybe I’m Amazed– a Paul tune, and clearly the best one on his first solo album which came out not long after the break up, only this version would have some nice harmonies .
- Imagine— A John tune, but now with a a more distinct bass line, and maybe a cleaner sound.
- All Things Must Pass— A George song, which they did actually work on together.
- Real Love— a John song, which in fact the others did go on to do a version of later, after John’s untimely death
- It Don’t Come Easy— This 1971 Ringo tune became his all time biggest hit. It would have been great to have backing vocals from the other three on this, as well as genuine George guitar.
- What is Life– Another George Tune perhaps with less horns and more straight rock n roll.
- Every Night— A Paul tune, that could have been much better with Beatles harmonies. This song is reminiscent of the earlier Rubber Soul kind of stripped down sound of a ballad.
- Gimme Some Truth— In the documentary footage there is actually a scene where John and Paul are working on this tune, though it only later appears on John’s Imagine album.
- Photograph– a song written by George and Ringo who both played on the song on Ringo’s solo album. Clearly one of Ringo’s best and best loved original songs.
- Cold Turkey— This is a 1969 John song done with the Plastic Ono Band, but here it would be done as a Beatles song. It would have been the perfect rock out conclusion for this ‘imagined’ album I dreamed up, much like Day in the Life was the perfect conclusion to Sgt. Peppers.
Had this album actually been put together as a Beatles album, it would have launched them into another decade of dominance of the charts, and changed the course the most important rock era after the 60s, namely the 70s.