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Half-century old footage of the Beatles at work tells different story of the band's darkest days

Beatles doc goes inside "Get Back" sessions
Beatles footage rewrites the story of band's darkest days 00:47

Rock music's greatest divorce, the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, was always associated with the film and album "Let it Be." Half a century later, dozens of hours of that film left on the cutting room floor is telling a different story. 60 Minutes will show some of that footage Sunday night for the first time, revealing an intimacy and creative bond between the four musicians that belies the long-held narrative.

Jon Wertheim speaks to director Peter Jackson, whose documentary series, "Get Back,"  resurrects the unused footage to rewrite the story of rock's biggest breakup, on the next edition of 60 Minutes Sunday, November 14, at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.

Peter Jackson, best known for his work on "The Lord of the Rings" films, has been working on his series for four years. He was surprised when he first viewed the nearly 60 hours of material that had been sitting in a vault.

"I was watching, I was waiting for it to get bad. I was waiting for the narrative that I'd believed over the years to start happening… the arguments… discontent. Waiting for the misery," Jackson tells Wertheim. "And, you know, it didn't happen…These are not guys that dislike each other…"

He says 50 years later, even the surviving members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, had tainted memories.

"I'm talking to Ringo and Paul. And their memory was very miserable and unhappy and I'd say, 'Look, whatever your memories are, whatever you think your memories are, this is the truth of it. And here, look,'" Jackson says.   

The footage shows the four bandmates in the midst of writing and rehearsing such classics as "The Two of Us," "Don't Let Me Down" and "Get Back." In all, the 57 hours of unseen film revealed a deep collaboration and enthusiasm among the Beatles.

"[Paul and Ringo] started to realize… this is an incredibly amazing historical document of the Beatles at work. And four friends at work. And clearly, they're four friends," says Jackson.    

Wertheim also speaks with Giles Martin, who, as the son of the late Beatles producer Sir George Martin, grew up in the band's orbit.  He worked with Jackson on the series and points out the bandmates put a lot of pressure on themselves during the filming and drew on their deep friendships to pull it off.

"This is the biggest band on the planet saying we're going to do our first show in three years in three weeks' time. We don't know where it's going to be. And we don't know what songs we're going to play," says Martin. "Paul and John kind of knew that they were growing apart… like a marriage that's failing and they want to go back on their date nights again."    

"After 50 years, you'd have every right to believe that everything with the Beatles had been talked about... every film had been seen, every bit of music had been heard and there was no more surprises with the Beatles," Jackson tells Wertheim. "And suddenly, bang, out of nowhere comes this incredible treasure trove of fly on the wall material 52 years later. It still blows my mind." 

"Get Back" drops Thanksgiving weekend on Disney+.

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