New York publisher Callaway Arts and Entertainment has confirmed it is to publish The Beatles: Get Back, the first authorised Beatles book for 20 years, in the US and UK on August 31st 2021, in conjunction with a Walt Disney Studio release of Peter Jackson's documentary of the same name.
The publisher's founder and c.e.o. Nicholas Callaway acquired US, Canada and UK rights to the book in a deal negotiated with Apple Corps Ltd, the organisation that controls all aspects of the Beatles’ intellectual property and legacy, and whose principals are Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison (the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, respectively). The company's long-time international representative Andrew Wylie brokered translation rights.
The project was initially planned for release on 1st September 2020, but has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now publication for August next year has been confirmed, with Disney also set to release the film that chronicles the making of the group’s last album, Let It Be, in 1,000 theatres in North America. Streaming and a global release for the film will follow, with a timetable yet to be determined.
The seed for a Beatles project is said to have been planted in 1965 when a pre-teen Callaway found himself in the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York to witness live the Beatles' third of four appearances on the variety show with 70 million viewers – the largest in the world at the time. Callaway got the opportunity because his father was president of the textile company Burlington Industries, which happened to be the sponsor for the show. Since then, Callaway has been “a life-long crazy Beatles fan". The band “is the great touchstone for me of the role of art and communicating positive messages in this world, forming the essence of what creativity can be,” he said.
Twenty years ago The Beatles Anthology—the last authorised book by the Beatles—was published. That cross-platform project, which included a video series and six CDs, was produced under the auspices of Apple Corps. Callaway wanted the book, but was the underbidder losing out to Chronicle. The $60 book sold two million copies worldwide with approximately 800,000 of those sold by Chronicle.
Callaway said: “Ever since then I’ve been knocking on their [Apple Corps] door, and we are very honoured to be their publisher [for Let It Be]. They chose us over every other major publisher.” Callaway has not disclosed the size of the deal.
At the centre of the multi-dimensional project is Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and the First World War documentary "They Shall not Grow Old," which he created using 100-year-old footage. The upcoming film was compiled from over 55 hours of unseen footage of the making of Let it Be, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and 140 hours of mostly unheard audio recordings from the album sessions.
According to Callaway, the deep dive into the archives was an epiphany for Jackson because the story the world knows about the making of the final album and the subsequent rancorous break-up of the Beatles isn’t accurate. “It’s a joyous story,” Callaway said. “It’s a very happy story about four geniuses gathering together in complete creative collaboration and making one last hurrah after changing the world through their music.”
The book, described by Callaway as “fly on the wall view” of the making of the Beatles' last album, features an introduction by Peter Jackson and a foreword by Hanif Kureishi. Kureishi’s essay places the book, the album and the film in the cultural context of Britain in the 1960s from his perspective as an immigrant of Pakistani descent.
Photography by Ethan Russell
The 240-page book’s principal text is from transcripts edited by journalist, writer and critic John Harris, columnist for the Guardian. Included are 200 photos by Linda Eastman, who married Paul McCartney shortly thereafter, and a young photographer, Ethan Russell, who “lucked out", as Callaway says, by being in the right place at the right time. Also between these pages – printed on what Callaway calls “the most beautiful uncoated paper ever made", Mohawk Superfine, are stills of the restored film footage that, he says, exemplifies the press’ commitment to combining advanced technology and book craftsmanship.
Let It Be was recorded in 1969-1970 at three major sessions at three different studios and released in May, 1970, against a backdrop of a tumultuous world rife with political upheaval, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam war. In contrast, the album offered songs of love, peace and hope such as "Across the Universe" and the titular "Let it Be".
Fifty years later, the re-released album, the film and the book will also land against a global landscape of great uncertainty. “We think it’s uncanny that 50 years later we have this opportunity through the books, the film and the re-release of the album to re-introduce this great creative achievement at a time when the world is maybe turned even more upside down,” Callaway said.
While the complete promotional campaign is still in the works, Callaway has confirmed that in the US the book will be made available to all publishing channels via distributor Ingram, with a window display contest held for US independent bookstores over the Labor Day weekend. In addition, the book will be available in the five authorised Beatles stores worldwide that sell only Beatles’ products.
“We are going to give it our all,” Callaway said. “It’s a great project and we hope to make the world a little happier.”