The companion book to Peter Jackson’s film series represents an alternative way to digest the events of January 1969. It is particularly enlightening if you’ve already seen the film as the transcribed narrative of each day allows the reader to absorb the exchanges at a more reflective pace and add to the understanding we have gleaned from Peter Jackson’s film. The more interesting passages give the reader a chance to analyse the intent behind discussions. While it is fair to say that the written exchange between Paul and George during their infamous “argument” looks particularly innocuous as text on a page, losing some of the feeling that George was bottling up at the time, equally other passages do not present the humour nearly as clearly as we see on the screen.
The book wonderfully showcases; within its 240 pages; the photographic skills of Ethan Russell, Linda McCartney and Terence Spencer and is supplemented by stills from the movie too. It is pictorially that the book shines and the shots of Paul, Ringo, MLH, Mal and other members of the crew exploring the rooftop as a possible venue are simply fabulous.
Music writer John Harris has edited the transcripts and writes introductions to the three parts that parallel the three parts to Peter Jackson’s film who also contributes the book’s foreword. An introduction by author Hanif Kureishi completes the written content providing a similar context as the first ten minutes of the film bringing a casual Beatles Fan up to speed with the band’s story up to this point. Just how many casual fans are likely to purchase this book though?
The Beatles have so far released the Let It Be box set, The Get Back movie, The Rooftop Performance streaming content and this book to encapsulate the revisioning of The Beatles January 1969 story. This book will likely be considered the least important contributor to this series of releases. It has its merits as a coffee table photographic tomb but does not offer too much to what we know. It is the film that performs the leading role and rightly so.
Review by Gwyn Jenkins.