Get Back advent calendar: Countdown to the sessions

The Beatles, as depicted by John Lennon in November 1968, as published in the  Dec. 7, 1968, issue of New Music Express.

In my faith, we count down the 25 days to the start of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. This is completely normal.

To operate this particular digital advent calendar, simply click the current day below and read up on what our boys and their extended circle were doing in these days leading up to their Most Holy Assemblage at Twickenham Film Studios on January 2, 1969. New content will be unveiled daily.

(You can also click on any previously published days)

24 days until the start of the Get Back sessions: Setting the scene

This was a really good time to be a Beatles fan.

Pick up any of the big music papers, and you could read about the tantalizing prospect of the band’s imminent stage return. It may not be at London’s Roadhouse as first rumored, but it’ll be somewhere.

And they’ll play all-new music! No, they didn’t need to start writing stuff from scratch. They just put out brand-new double album, after all. Their eponymous LP landed at the top of the charts just a few days earlier in its first full week on the shelves. The White Album was still new enough that reviews continued to dot newspapers around the world.

Of course, they featured on the singles charts, too – “Hey Jude” was still Top 10 in the US, and hanging around the Top 30 in the UK even after 14 weeks. The Paul McCartney-produced “I’m the Urban Spaceman” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band sat at its peak of No. 13 on the UK charts, while Mary Hopkin’s Apple Records smash “Those Were the Days” – also produced by Paul – stuck in the US and UK charts, even after its peak (Paul had within days just wrapped sessions producing Hopkin’s debut LP).

On the UK charts, the only thing hotter than McCartney was … McCartney.  Paul’s brother Mike, performing as Mike McGear with the Scaffold, had the No. 2 song in the country with “Lily the Pink.” It would be on its way to the top of the pops.

It wasn’t just on vinyl  — the Beatles dominated as true kings of all media. Yellow Submarine, out since the summer in the UK but in US theaters for only a few weeks, had established its reputation as a clear-cut critical and commercial smash. Even in the world of print, the Beatles were easily accessible with Hunter Davies’ authorized biography flying off shelves since its release in October.

A sampling of headlines from American papers on Dec. 8-9, 1968

The book was outdated when it came to the Beatles’ personal lives. A 26-year-old bachelor, Paul had already seen his engagement to Jane Asher fizzle, and gossip about his girlfriend Linda Eastman was mainstream at this point. Syndicated articles sourced from a recent story in the Daily Mirror teased the “romance” but Paul remained evasive.   

“I can’t say what will happen,” said Paul. “It may happen, it may not. Let’s say Linda is with me now and I’m very happy about it.”

John Lennon, who was officially divorced for about a month, wasn’t so coy. Naked on record racks since November 1968 — more in theory than in practice, since the record wasn’t easy to purchase —  John and girlfriend Yoko Ono were as public a thing as possible. For all the commentary and protest of the Two Virgins cover, one that was published in American papers this week was perhaps a low blow, when a former disciple of the Maharishi objected to John’s depiction because “he’s got a horrible-looking body.” His body of work was set to expand — he’d rehearse for an imminent performance on the Rock and Roll Circus the following day.

George Harrison was finally back in England after a dynamic few months in the US. He produced Jackie Lomax’s debut LP for Apple and hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra in LA and enjoyed Thanksgiving with Bob Dylan and the Band in New York before winging it home (media reports said he returned by sea, but in the January 1969 Beatles Book Magazine, Mal Evans clarified they flew back to England).

Budding actor Ringo Starr had Candy in the can, ready for imminent release, and was studying the script for his next role – The Magic Christian, due to begin shooting at Twickenham Film Studios in February 1969.

Meanwhile in New York – where both George and Paul separately spent leisure time in previous weeks – Billy Preston was hard at work, in the midst of performing with Ray Charles during his two-week residency at the Copacabana.

The British music scene was facing serious fractures in early December 1968, with the likes of Cream, Traffic, the Hollies, the Animals, Jethro Tull and the Monkees all breaking up or facing prominent departures in just the last few days and weeks.

It only went to further contrast the rest of the world from the mighty Beatles, who were due to reassemble and continued to push to greater heights even while standing at what could be seen as their peak.