The first footage from Peter Jackson’s forthcoming The Beatles documentary has been shown to journalists at a Universal Music showcase in America, and it could change the way we view the Fab Four forever.
The Lord of the Rings director has been working on the film for a year now, remastering hours of unused footage from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary film Let It Be, with a process similar to his work on 2018’s WWI doc They Shall Not Grow Old.
Jackson has editing the previously unreleased footage into a new film that promises to bust the myth that the sessions were fraught with tension between band members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Variety reports that the first clip showed the band in recording sessions for their penultimate album: “joking around, making fun of each other, singing in silly accents and generally indulging in vintage Moptop hijinks.”
Apple Records boss Jeff Jones presented the footage saying: “We have created a brand-new film that will attempt to bust the myth that the Let It Be sessions were the final nail in the Beatles’ coffin.”
The preview showed the group rehearsing songs that would later appear on Abbey Road and early demos for songs that would crop up on solo records. On the basis of this clip, Variety says “Beatles fans will lose their minds over this film.”
Let It Be, the 1970 film and album of the same name were released in May 1970, a month after the band officially announced their split. However, they had released Abbey Road, recorded during the band’s final ever studio sessions together as a four-piece unit, in 1969.
The fly-on-the-wall film gave a glimpse at the band dynamics that would eventually lead to their split, with a tense exchange between George Harrison and Paul McCartney providing one particularly fractious moment. Lennon later described the recordings as "hell ... the most miserable sessions on earth."
The film showed the band recording at Twickenham Studios, and culminated in a live performance – their last ever – on top of the Apple Building on Savile Row.
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The film not been officially available on home video since the 1980s. Footage from the film appeared in the extensive 1995 documentary series The Beatles Anthology, but a planned DVD release was canned in 2007. “The film was so controversial when it first came out. When we got halfway through restoring it, we looked at the outtakes and realised: this stuff is still controversial. It raised a lot of old issues,” said Beatles exec Neil Aspinall at the time.
The new film is being prepped to coincide with its 50th anniversary, and will reportedly be followed by a remastered rerelease of the original film.