DVD Review: Get Back
There is more to Liverpool’s musical history than The Beatles. A bold statement perhaps, but that is the key message that new documentary Get Back is attempting to convey. Anyone who has ever been to Liverpool knows that it is a unique place, an island amongst the modern culture in the UK, imbued with a sense of its own individuality and history, iconic in both appearance and feel, and that goes for the music scene as well. Of course, The Beatles are a huge part of that culture, and any attempt to deny that would be foolhardy, but Get Back credits them with their contributions and yet manages to go beyond the limitations of the Beatles-centric idea, and delve into the roots of the various different genres and scenes that make the Liverpool music scene so unique.
Helpfully the documentary is divided into segments, each focusing on different time periods and the impact of the music of that era. From the growth of the jazz and skiffle scenes in the area, including at the world-famous Cavern Club, to the early days of rock ’n’ roll, and on to the impact of The Beatles. There are numerous talking head interviews from members of bands who were contemporaries to the biggest acts of the day, although The Beatles, or at least the remaining living Beatles, do not appear. There are lots of photos and videos, and overall the documentary does give a solid background on the growth of the music scene during that period.
However, for me what was more interesting was the post-Beatles section of the documentary looking at the near-rejection of anything to do with the band as the scene in Liverpool attempted to move on and form a new identity, and the various phases of that from the punk movement and then the art school-esque, again with lots of interviews form bands and music industry insiders who were present at the time. The likes of Ian McCulloch from Echo and The Bunnymen, and John Power from The La’s feature heavily.
It was also very interesting to see the growth of the ‘terrace culture’ mentioned here with bands like The Farm, which would inspire a whole movement amongst indie bands in the early to mid-90s. Finally we get a look at the growth of house music, and then the modern Liverpool scene with the likes of The Coral, The Zutons, and The Wombats. In many respects what was intended to be a very upbeat ending actually made for quite depressing viewing, especially if that is what is being touted as the best the city now has to offer.
All in all, Get Back is an intriguing, interesting, and very entertaining documentary. It sadly omits some of the heavier scenes that sprung up in and around Liverpool (NWOBHM bands like Marseille and Spider come to mind), but it is still a must see for music enthusiasts, historians, and anyone with a passing appreciation for the importance of Liverpool in building the modern music scene.