“Get Back” music supervisor Giles Martin sees a wonderful irony to The Beatles’ final live performance: one of the last songs that the band played on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters is also one of the first collaborations between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. “One After 909,” a bluesy American freight-train tribute, epitomized the spirit and energy of The Beatles, who had come full circle after 21 chaotic days of writing, rehearsing, and recording a new set of songs in front of director Lindsay Hogg’s documentary cameras. Those abandoned sessions would later be cobbled together as the band’s swan song, “Let It Be,” but not before the making of their final magnum opus, “Abbey Road.”
The desperate surge of musical unity on the Apple rooftop clinched Peter Jackson’s narrative through line for his miniseries treatment of Hogg’s footage. “Peter and I talked about not making it too glossy,” Martin told IndieWire. “We had the opportunity to be in the room with them or on the rooftop with them. Let’s make it feel like you’re there, in front of them. And when you watch the rooftop, that’s what you feel.”
While mixing the 50th anniversary box set edition of “Let It Be,” Martin — the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin — detected a different energy from the rooftop performance, of which only “One After 909,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and “Dig a Pony” made the original tracklist. “In a funny way, [Jackson’s glimpse through The Beatles looking glass] was trying to make it as real as possible without technology getting in the way,” Martin added. “As soon as you hear the technology, it ages the performances.”
Apple Corps Ltd.
Tech, though, was the key for Martin in making The Beatles’ performances sound crisp and powerful without compromising their rough spontaneity. Thanks to Jackson’s crack restoration team, they applied machine learning software to extract the music from the rest of the audio, which proved most challenging with the initial “Get Back” rehearsals. Shot on Nagra film at Twickenham Studios, that footage contained mono audio of conversations, crew sounds, and performances; when the production relocated to the band’s own Apple Studio (and, ultimately, its roof), audio was recorded separately on multitrack tape machines.
“It was a question of tone and telling the story and having the right balance,” Martin said. “There was more audio than movie footage, and there are bits that are out of sync with the footage. But we were trying to be as honest as we can. The key thing about the creative process in ‘Get Back’ was you’re trying to capture the beauty and honesty.”
Martin is still working with Jackson’s restoration team on the machine learning and finds it extraordinary. There might even be a place for it in his future remixing of The Beatles catalog (“Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” are particularly complex in terms of separating tracks). “It’s basically about extraction — to teach the machine to find a voice …read more
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