“The Beatles as nature intended”, according to the single’s ad copy. It’s familiar enough now, this back-to-the-roots move: something of a cliche even, in the way bands like Oasis invariably trail their latest album by promising a reconnection with former (morning) glories.
For the Beatles it was possibly a survival move too – or a ‘fitting end’ move (one of several from this era – you have to look forward to Take That for the next time a British band managed and marketed their own public demise this blatantly). Listening to the Beatles in my early teens it seemed a depressing record – I’d been sold, by books like Paul Gambaccini’s Top 100 Albums Of All Time, the idea that the Beatles were continually progressing, always experimenting and pushing pop forward, so why this apparent* retreat?
Did any fans feel that at the time? Maybe not, since in truth “Get Back” doesn’t sound much like the early Beatles singles at all. It’s less aggressive, more laid back, less excited with itself, less compact and more loose – though like most Beatles songs it took a fearsome number of takes to nail, “Get Back” is trying hard to feel like a jam. It reminds me a little, in fact, of Status Quo and their no-nonsense heads-down boogie. It doesn’t sound depressing any more, but it doesn’t leave much trace as it rolls past, either.
*(the song itself acknowledges that really going back is close to impossible – get back to where you once belonged; though you don’t anymore. That wording might have come in handy if the band had stuck with McCartney’s original “Commonwealth Song” plan – a track satirising attitudes to immigration. They didn’t, and judging by the various writers’ later political tracks – woeful clunkers almost all – that wasn’t a bad decision.)