New Rock Hall Exhibit Traces History of Beatles ‘Get Back’ Period

The Get Back documentary offered an intimate fly-on-the-wall perspective of the sessions that led to the Beatles Let It Be album.

Now, music fans can get an even closer look thanks to Get Back to Let It Be, a new exhibit continuing through March 2023 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Original instruments, clothing and handwritten lyrics seen in the film were procured by the Hall for the exhibit. The items help to create an immersive experience that carries the listener from the early rehearsals to recording and eventually, to their swan-song concert on the roof of Apple Corps.

Curator Craig Inciardi walked us through the exhibit, which you can see photos of below, while also sharing thoughts on how the concept came together after first being discussed nearly 10 years ago.

I know this exhibit has been a long time coming. How did it finally become a reality?
Joel Peresman is the head of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and he is also based in New York. He and I have been wanting to do an exhibit with the Beatles as a unit for a decade. Since the museum opened, we’ve had Beatles exhibits, but this is the first time that we have done an exhibit with all four principals working together with their record company, Apple. We had discussed various ideas over the last 10 years. This idea gained traction and we got a buy-in from all of the principals and Apple. We started working on this exhibit before the docuseries was finished. The concept was that we would create an immersive experience for fans and music historians that would be sort of a complement to [Peter] Jackson’s project. Our goal was to get as many of the musical instruments that they used in the recording sessions and on the rooftop, as possible, [as well as] documents and clothing, to help tell the story.

Discuss how this is laid out since it appears to have been staged pretty specifically.
The goal is to place you there as best as possible from a museum standpoint. The original Let It Be film was shot in three separate locations. There’s Twickenham Studios, which was a big soundstage on the outskirts of London. There’s Apple Studios, which was in the basement of their headquarters at 3 Savile Row and then, of course, there’s the rooftop of that same building. We created three discreet theater spaces, so you can experience separate pieces of the footage, isolated. Each room has been outfitted with acoustic foam that you’d see in a recording studio, to prevent sound bleed from one space to the other. We were lucky enough to get John Lennon’s [1965] Epiphone Casino guitar that he’s playing [on the rooftop]. We have Ringo [Starr]‘s [1967] Hollywood Ludwig maple drum kit and George [Harrison]‘s painted Strat. We also have manuscripts to songs that were literally written in those recording sessions. We have fantastic iconic clothing from all four Beatles. You know, you see the clothing they were wearing in 1969. It was just five years earlier that they were wearing the matching suits. It might as well have been 50 years later, so much had changed in the ‘60s.

Seeing the stuff from Glyn Johns that’s part of this exhibit is great.
We have two of his diaries, which detail his work. Not only was he working at that point with the Beatles, but he was working with the [Rolling] Stones the week before and Steve Miller the week after. We also have one of his acetates that was documenting what they were doing on a daily basis, so he could distribute them to the band members and George Martin, so people could hear what they were doing and what his mix [sounded like]. He was coming up with a mix, his sort of concept was a fly-on-the-wall perspective. What does it really sound like? You know, people that have already seen the docuseries on Disney Plus can come here and get a different look. I think it will maybe give them a deeper understanding with all of these artifacts that are inches away from them that they can see.

What was the biggest revelation for you personally as you were putting this together?
I think the revelation was, so about three and a half years ago, I got to see some really early rushes of the film – early edits. It drove me to tears. [Inciardi pauses, getting visibly emotional.]

I wasn’t prepared for it.
Yeah, you can’t be.

I think you have an expectation of what you’re going to see, based on having the original film. It just goes so far beyond that.
Yeah, you know what it is? I think that for people who grew up with the Beatles, especially when they were still together as a band, it’s an ultimate time capsule. The majority of the footage, no one had ever seen. There’s very little footage from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original film that’s here. There’s a tiny, tiny bit. You know, that myth that the Let It Be sessions were depressing and there was fighting and bickering and it was fraught, clearly that wasn’t the case. I mean, it was a joyous, certainly intense period, but you know, the creative output was like a fire hose. I mean, they were coming up with lyrics so fast that they had their roadie, Mal Evans, just jotting them down by dictation. That’s captured in the footage too, which is such a revelation. But it shows the Beatles’ humor, their humanity and their sarcasm. They actually sort of had their own language, even non-verbal language. You know, they got it, because they were so close to each other. A lot of what they would say to each other, as an aside, no one else knew what it meant in the most exact way. It’s captured in that footage.

The Rock Hall has had a good relationship with the Beatles and their extended family. Is there anything that was secured for this exhibit that surprised them?
I think they were excited when Glyn Johns came on board. He provided a slightly different angle – because he’s not a band member, but he contributed so much. He hadn’t worked with the Beatles [prior to these sessions]. In late December of ‘68, one night, his phone rang and a guy with a Liverpudlian accent introduced himself as Paul McCartney. Glyn got angry and said, “Mick, cut it out” – meaning Mick Jagger. After they spoke for a few minutes, Glyn realized in fact that it was actually Paul McCartney, and Paul was asking him to work on what would become Let It Be. To get his perspective was fantastic.

The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presents a look at the Beatles’ 1969 rehearsals and studio sessions.

You Think You Know the Beatles?

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