The Beatles 40 best songs: at 17 – Get back

beatles - Get bac single

We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air … we started to write words there and then … when we finished it, we recorded it at Apple Studios and made it into a song to roller-coast by.
~Paul McCartney (press release to promote the single)

That’s a better version of ‘Lady Madonna’. You know, a potboiler rewrite… I’ve always thought there was this underlying thing in Paul’s ‘Get Back.’ When we were in the studio recording it, every time he sang the line ‘Get back to where you once belonged,’ he’d look at Yoko.
~John Lennon (Playboy interviews, Sept 1980)

McCartney’s GET BACK, which in April became The Beatles’ nineteenth British single, seems to have originated as a country blues in the style of Canned Heat’s hits ‘On The Road Again’ and ‘Going Up The Country’. (The musical links are tenuous, but McCartney liked both records and busked ‘Going Up The Country’ in the studio the night before starting work on GET BACK.)
~Ian MacDonald (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties)

Get Back” was recorded by the Beatles and written by Paul McCartney (though credited to Lennon-McCartney) , originally released as a single on 11 April 1969 and credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” A different mix of the song later became the closing track of Let It Be (1970), which was the Beatles’ last album released just after the group split. The single version was later issued on CD on the second disc of the Past Masters compilation.

Get Back (Single Version)

The single version of the song contains a tape echo effect throughout and a coda after a false ending, with the lyrics “Get back Loretta / Your mommy’s waiting for you / Wearing her high-heel shoes / And her low-neck sweater / Get back home, Loretta.” This does not appear on the album version; the single version’s first LP appearance would come three years later on the 1967–1970 compilation. This version also appeared in the albums 20 Greatest Hits, Past Masters and The Beatles 1. It was also included in the original line-up of the proposed Get Back album that was scheduled to be released during the fall of 1969.


Get Back (album version)

When Phil Spector came to remix “Get Back” he wanted to make it seem different from the version released as the single, though both versions were the same take. The previous unreleased Get Back albums included elements of studio chatter to add to the live feel of the recordings. In this spirit, Spector included part of the studio chatter recorded immediately before the master take (recorded on 27 January) and added McCartney and Lennon’s remarks after the close of the rooftop performance. This created the impression that the single and album versions are different takes. The single’s echo effect was also omitted from the remix.

beatles let it be naked

Get Back (“Let It Be… Naked” version)

In 2003, “Get Back” was re-released on the Let It Be… Naked album, remixed by independent producers with the sanction of the surviving ex-Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, with John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s widows. The “naked” version of “Get Back” is ostensibly a cleaned up version of the single version albeit much shorter as there is a fade immediately before the final “whoo” and coda. Apple also prepared a specially-created music video of the Let It Be … Naked release of the song to promote that album in 2003. This video is edited together using stock footage of the band, along with Billy Preston, George Martin and others.

beatles love

Get Back (LOVE version)

In 2006 a newly mixed version of “Get Back” produced by George Martin and his son Giles was included on the album Love. This version incorporates elements of “A Hard Day’s Night” (the intro chord), “A Day in the Life” (the improvised orchestral crescendo), “The End” (Ringo Starr’s drum solo, Paul McCartney’s second guitar solo, and John Lennon’s last guitar solo), and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (Take 1’s drum count-off intro). However, there are several edits in this piece, including an extended intro, and the second verse is removed completely.

Paul mccartney letterman rooftop

Get Back (Letterman 2009 live performance)

McCartney performed “Get Back” on the Late Show with David Letterman on 15 July 2009. Letterman’s show is taped in the Ed Sullivan Theater, the same theater that hosted the Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. McCartney’s performance was not on the stage, however. Instead, he performed atop the theater’s marquee overlooking Broadway. In the interview preceding the performance, Letterman asked McCartney if he had ever played on a marquee before. “I’ve done a roof,” McCartney replied, referring to the Beatles’ 1969 performance atop the Apple Corps building in London.


Get Back (The Famous Rooftop Performance, January 1969)

The Beatles’ rooftop concert was the final public performance of the English rock group the Beatles. On 30 January 1969, the band, with keyboardist Billy Preston, surprised a central London office district with an impromptu concert from the roof of Apple headquarters at 3 Savile Row. In a 42-minute set, the Beatles were heard playing nine takes of five songs before the Metropolitan Police Service asked them to reduce the volume. Footage from the performance was later used in the 1970 documentary film Let It Be.


Get Back (Anthology 3, the third Rooftop take)

..with Paul saying: “You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and that’s no good, and you know your Mummy doesn’t like that… she gets angry… she’s gonna have you arrested! Get back!”:

There are snippets of conversation on bootleg recordings (between McCartney and Harrison in studio) where they are discussing the song, and McCartney explaining the original “protest song” concept.

Get Back (No Pakistani version):

Get Back (John on Vocals, bootleg), with a great guitar solo also:

Get Back (“The Underwater version” bootleg):

Geh Raus (German version, bootleg):


Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it wouldn’t last.
Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona
For some California grass.

Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged.
Get back Jojo. Go home
Get back, get back.
Back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back.
Back to where you once belonged.
Get back Jo.

Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman
But she was another man
All the girls around her say she’s got it coming
But she gets it while she can

Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged.
Get back Loretta. Go home
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged.


  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal, bass
  • John Lennon – lead guitar, harmony vocal
  • George Harrison – rhythm guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums
  • Billy Preston – electric piano

Recorded on 27th January, the album version of the song lacks the polished mix and glamorous reverb of the single version, recorded on the 28th. It ends with an edit from the rooftop concert in which McCartney thanks Starr’s wife Maureen for applauding, while the single, originally several minutes longer, simply fades out. (Lennon claimed that every time McCartney sang the line ‘Get back to where you once belonged’ he looked meaningfully at Ono.) Made in the same afternoon session is its B-side Don’t Let Me Down, the single version of Get Back showcases The Beatles in smoothly grooving R&B mode, McCartney tossing off the lyric between infectious solos by Lennon and Preston. Deploying fewer chords than any Beatles single since Love Me Do, its blend of grace, punch, and daftness charmed record buyers enough to shift four million copies worldwide.
~Ian MacDonald (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties)


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-Egil & Hallgeir