The Beatles Released Classic Single ‘Get Back’ 50 Years Ago Today In The U.S., But Too Late To Save The Band

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In early 1969, several weeks after the release of their classic double album The Beatles — better known as The White Album — rock’s most important and iconic band stood on the verge of self-destruction, consumed by outside interests, legal conflicts, and simple boredom. Bass player and songwriter Paul McCartney came up with an idea that he believed, or at least hoped, would allow the band to “get back” to their earliest days in the late 1950s and early ’60s, when they were simply a hard-working rock and roll band that did its best work performing live, as Ultimate Classic Rock recounts.

The first song to be released as a single from what was originally called the “Get Back” sessions — but ultimately became the documentary film and accompanying album Let It Be — was a hard-rocking single also called “Get Back,” with a B side of “Don’t Let Me Down,” and it hit record shops in the United States on May 5, 1969, The Internet Beatles Album shows.

McCartney had hoped that the experience of recording “live” without the frills and flourishes of studio technology heard on their albums Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour, would cause the band’s other members — John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — to recall the togetherness and creative energy of their early years, which had come less than a decade earlier. But his hopes were not realized. Less than a year later, on April 10, 1970, The Beatles officially broke up, as Rolling Stone magazine chronicles.

The Beatles perform their last live concert.
The Beatles perform their last live concert, January 30, 1969, on the rooftop of their Apple Corp building, including their only live performance of 'Get Back.'Featured image credit: Evening StandardGetty Images

As it turned out — though Lennon had confidentially told the other Beatles in September of 1969 that he considered the band to be no more — it was McCartney who went public and made the breakup official, as History.com records. Coinciding with the release of his first solo album, McCartney, he issued a press release in which McCartney interviewed himself.

In answer to the question of whether he ever saw himself actively working in a songwriting partnership with Lennon again, McCartney answered his own question with one word: “no.”

But before all that, on January 30, 1969, the Beatles took to the roof of their Apple Corps building in London to perform one last — albeit impromptu — live concert, as Rolling Stone has documented. In that concert, they gave their first, last, and only live performance of “Get Back,” as seen in the video below.

The song appeared on the group’s Let It Be album, released on May 8, 1970, about one month after McCartney announced the breakup of the Beatles. “Get Back” was the 19th single released by the Beatles during their years as an active group, according to Guitar World Magazine.