Contrary to popular myth, the Come back printouts show Lennon – accompanied at all times by Yoko Ono– to be open and open. “I have said yes to every idea that has come up so far,” he says, “America, Pakistan, the moon.” And in a conversation with Harrison and Ringo Starr, McCartney proves to be impressively understanding and sympathetic to Ono’s presence and role in Lennon’s life. “He’s not going to split up with her just for our sake,” he says, “it’s okay, let the young boyfriends stay together … Of course, if it came to a push between Yoko and the Beatles, it’s Yoko. They just want to be close to each other. So I just think it’s silly of me or someone to try to say to them, ‘no you can not.’ ‘time, you know,’ They broke up ‘when Yoko was sitting on an amplifier.’ “
With no one at the wheel, McCartney repeatedly tries to get the band focused. He’s confident enough to joke about it (“I really sound like I’m a showbiz correspondent trying to get us to make a Judy Garland comeback”), but his cheerful demeanor has its limits. “I want a decision,” he proclaims at one point. “Because I’m not interested enough to spend my damn days haggling around here while everyone decides whether to do it or not.”
The Twickenham exercises are buzzing out on January 16th. Five days later, when the band re-emerges in Apple, Harrison is back (the book’s editor simply notes “George’s return is not mentioned on the tapes”), keyboardist Billy Preston has been picked up, and the TV show has been scrapped. Instead, they will make an album, film the recording and possibly do some sort of local, low-key concert.
Finally given a goal, the Beatles kicked into gear – one thing that defined their greatness was their ability to confront a moment where all eyes were on them and then exceeded all expectations. “It’s hard, though, because every time we do something, it has to be really amazing,” Starr says, and yet at the last minute they presented the decision to sit on the roof and play songs they just barely knew, those with a opportunity to rise to.
That Come back the book is strangely fascinating, even (especially?) at its most mundane, as a whole page of the band discussing their lunch order. That leave it box sets, however, do not really have much chance of revelation. The original album was recorded on makeshift equipment, so the sonic improvement is welcome, and officially releasing the Glyn Johns track (despite such bizarre choices as sequencing the two great ballads back-to-back) is a great addition to it historical record. But between Naked album, the recordings included on Anthology series and the widespread bootlegging, every Beatle fan already knows how these things sound. Lunatics (like me) will exhaustively debate the benefits of “Get Back” Take 8 versus Take 19, but there are no big a-ha moments, no big surprises or undiscovered gems in the two discs with outtakes. Complete performers have also noticed the absence of anything from Twickenham (which was recorded, remember, for television, not for sound release) and the lack of the complete 42-minute rooftop concert (which some speculate may be a contractual issue with Disney holding it back to the new movies, and also involves listening through multiple recordings of some of the songs.)