If ever someone asked, I would have to say that "Get Back" is one of my absolute favorite Beatles songs. Not just because it is a good song, but because of what that song represents. It's the very last song on their last album Let It Be
and, while it was recorded well before 1970, it's the last you hear of the Beatles being together and happy as friends and as a band. This was as tensions were building between members because of a variety of reasons, and when I hear "Get Back," I hear a group of friends just playing a song together and enjoying it. In the song, Paul sings about a character named JoJo who lived in Tucson, Arizona, the place I'll be talking about later on in this article.The Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Christian Offenberg, Dreamstime
Let's begin with the song and the album. The Beatles' last album, Let It Be
, was recorded before their second-to-last album, Abbey Road
. If that timeline is confusing, let me help un-confuse (that's not a word) it. Around the time that the Beatles were away in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John, Paul, and George were all writing music furiously. From that time came almost all of the album ostensibly known as The White Album
(but in reality is entitled simply The Beatles
) and many of the songs that would be later released on Let It Be
. Initially, the plan for Let It Be
was to call it "Get Back," representing the Beatles getting back to the way they used to be. They wanted this album to be like their older albums. They had released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
and The White Album
with all of their studio tricks and sounds, but now the Beatles just wanted to record a rock album. Straight rock music, no gimmicks, nothing. As time went on, they somewhat strayed from that idea, and eventually the album stagnated. The recording was pretty much done, but they just let it lie there. During the time that Let It Be
was sitting around, the Beatles recorded Abbey Road
, released it, and then promptly broke up. Shortly after they broke up, John Lennon recorded his first solo single, "Instant Karma," with Phil Spector producing it and George Harrison playing on it. Harrison and Lennon liked Spector's producing so much they asked him to produce their last album, Get Back
, which was changed to Let It Be
. Spector added to it his trademark Wall of Sound with grand orchestration and the like, and it was released.
"Get Back" is what Let It Be
was supposed to be. It's the song that came closest to the sound the Beatles were going for. It's a fun song, somewhat nonsensical, and just enjoyable to listen to. Throughout the song you can hear the band joking around, taking the song very lightly. At the beginning of the album version, John says, "Sweet Loretta fart she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan," making fun of the first line in the song. According to McCartney, "We were sitting in the studio and we made it ["Get Back"] up out of thin air…we started to write there and then…when we finished it, we recorded it at Apple Studios and made it into a song to roller coast by." It sounds like that too, like a song they just kind of made up while they were jamming together. A song about people who think they're men or women and aren't, or are… or who knows what that song is about. Whatever it is, it's fun, and that's the message of the song. At the end, you can hear clapping and then Paul says "Thanks, Mo," which was directed at Ringo's wife, Maureen, who was clapping at the end of the song. After that, John says one of my favorite things I've ever heard him say, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition." Initially, Lennon said that at the famous rooftop concert, but Spector decided to add that in to the end of the song.
Now we get to the place: Tucson, Arizona, where the character in the song - JoJo - is from. Tucson, Arizona, is the second-largest populated city in Arizona behind Phoenix, and it looks exactly like you'd expect a city in Arizona to look: like civilization in the middle of the desert. Not that that's a bad thing. It's absolutely beautiful, with mountains surrounding the city and all the beauty that the desert brings. But being that it's the desert, it's also hotter than a fat kid's chaffed thighs after an hour on a treadmill. The coldest it ever really gets in Tucson during the day is about 65 degrees in January, and in the summertime it's usually in the 90s or 100s. Tucson is also home to the University of Arizona, home of the Arizona Wildcats and roughly 39,000 students. There was a bit of speculation that the character JoJo in "Get Back" was a reference to Joseph Melville See, Jr., Linda McCartney's first husband who was from Tucson, Arizona. McCartney later denied that in his autobiography, claiming that JoJo was just a made up character who was half-man, half-woman. Linda McCartney had actually attended University of Arizona, and Paul and Linda later owned a very large ranch there.
"Get Back" is the last song Beatles fans heard on the last album they ever released and that has some strong meaning to a lot of people. It's kind of sad in a sense, because with "Get Back," you get this feeling of the Beatles getting back together as friends, when in reality they weren't able to. However, we still get a great song out of it, and that's worth something, for sure.Ben Palmer
March 10, 2014
Thanks to Sudhir Menon for the Songplace suggestion.
(We have personal knowledge of snow falling in Tucson, proof that it does, in fact, get below 65 on occasion... ~ Editor)
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