CLEVELAND − Released late last year to resounding success, Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries challenged myths and channeled a renewed interest in one of the Beatles’ most iconic works.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland now invites fans to delve deeper into the making of the famed “Let It Be” album, with an exhibit of sights and sounds showing what happened at The Beatles’ January 1969 rehearsals, studio sessions and legendary Apple Corps rooftop concert − the Fab Four’s final live performance.
“The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be”exhibit opened March 18, aimed as an immersive complement to Jackson’s film, which debuted on Disney+.
Upon entering the first-floor exhibit, the clock immediately turns back to 1969, as visitors first will hear three minutes of studio chatter among the four Beatles, album producer George Martin and audio engineer Glyn Johns.
“It feels like you’re in the room,” Craig Inciardi, curator and director of acquisitions for the Rock Hall, said
Display cases present instruments, clothing and handwritten lyrics used by The Beatles and seen in the film, including items loaned directly by Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, and the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon.
*Paul McCartney’s black and gray shirt that was worn in the studio, and handwritten lyrics for “I’ve Got A Feeling.”
*John Lennon’s iconic eyeglasses, Wrangler jacket, a hand-sanded Epiphone electric guitar, and handwritten lyrics for “Dig A Pony.”
*George Harrison’s pink pinstripe suit and handwritten lyrics for “I Me Mine.”
*Ringo Starr’s maple Ludwig drum kit and his borrowed red raincoat from the rooftop performance.
“That’s got to be the most famous raincoat that I can think of,” Inciardi said.
Attendees can venture into three sound-insulated screening rooms to absorb high-definition film clips and custom projections with audio focused separately on each location in the docuseries: Twickenham Film Studios on the outskirts of London, the Beatles’ own Apple Corp Studios, and the studios’ rooftop where the Beatles’ swan song performance yielded three album tracks. The exhibit’s seated theater, dedicated to the rooftop performance, has a blown-up photo depicting the street and city view the Beatles saw while playing.
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Visitors also can enjoy audio engineer, producer, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Johns’ record acetate from the sessions and iconic photography by Linda McCartney and by Ethan Russell, who documented the band’s January 1969 rehearsals, sessions, and rooftop performance, and whose photos are featured in the “Let It Be” album art. Other artifacts, like original “Let It Be” posters from multiple countries, give a further glimpse into the pop-culture relevance of the album that spawned classic songs like “The Long and Winding Road,” “Get Back,” and the “Let It Be” title track.
“There’s never been a record and a creative process that’s been documented at this level, to this extent,” Inciardi said. “And also it’s The Beatles, and you get to see them play at this impromptu concert. They did go on to make ‘Abbey Road,’ miraculously, but this is the last time you see them performing in public, so that was really an iconic moment. The significance of the Beatles breaking up is monumental, even at that time. In the moment, it was shocking.”
Last year, when McCartney gave the intro speech for the Foo Fighters’ induction into the Rock Hall, he equated the breakup of The Beatles to a tragedy.
“The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be” is in a relatively compact area, that ends with a full-scale replica 1970s exterior door from Apple Corp., adorned with graffiti and a doorknob attached squarely in the middle, British style. The door is intended as a selfie photo op.
Of course, after strolling through the entire museum and hall of fame − filled with stage costumes, guitars, handwritten lyrics, headphone listening areas and stage props (like one of Alice Cooper’s mock electrical chairs) − visitors descend an escalator directly into the Gift Shop where Beatles merchandise and items celebrating other Hall of Fame inductees await.
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Conversations for a Beatles exhibit at the Rock Hall, with cooperation from McCartney, Starr and the Lennon and Harrison estates, began almost four years ago and pondered various ideas.
“And this is the one that stuck,” Inciardi said. “The idea is it’s supposed to be an immersive experience inspired by Jackson’s project. To try
to bring fans closer to experiencing the Beatles, perhaps better than ever before.”
Running through March 2023, the timing seems ideal, given the fanfare for Jackson’s fly-on-the-wall Beatles documentary.
“Absolutely. The perceptions for Jackson’s docuseries are just overwhelming,” Inciardi said.
Many viewers thought the documentary dispelled a few Beatles myths, which the Cleveland exhibit might substantiate.
“I think what it dispelled is that it was not this overall miserable experience,” Inciardi said, “and that there was a lot of joy and incredible amount of creativity in their interactions with humor that all comes through.”
Like Jackson’s “Get Back” docuseries, the exhibit shows how The Beatles composed and recorded many of their iconic songs from scratch and under a heavy deadline.
What: “Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be”
When: Open now through March 2023 Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 10-9 on Thursdays.
Where: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Admission: $30 adults; $20 children ages 6-12.
More information: rockhall.com