The Beatles In Retrograde: An Astrological Analysis of the Fab Four, After Watching Get Back

Janice Headley
The Beatles in Get Back // photo by Linda McCartney (© 2020 Apple Corps Ltd. / All Rights Reserved)

Somewhere around hour three of the Disney+ documentary The Beatles: Get Back, after watching Paul McCartney treat his bandmates more like hired hands than creative partners, I had the random thought, "I wonder what his astrological sign is, he's gotta be a fire sign...", setting off a birth chart excavation that explained (at least to me!) why these guys act the way they do throughout this eight-hour film.

A little about Western astrology: it uses your birthday to determine your "sun sign," but if you know your time of birth, you can figure out your "rising sign" and your "moon sign." I talk about all three below, to help illuminate each Beatles' unique personality. (And trusted the internet to know their birth times, 'cause I don't know their "mums.") Also, I refer to the elements of each sign throughout the article, which are: fire (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius), earth (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn), air (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius), and water (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces). 

Finally, I want to clarify that I am not a certified astrologer, and yes, I know, it's classified as a "pseudoscience." I'm merely a hobbyist who finds astrology fun, fascinating, and eerily accurate. Although after exploring the signs of The Beatles, I might start an astrological service for bands, just to make sure they know if they'll be compatible or not! (Uncle Tupelo, y'all were doomed from the get-go.) 

Paul McCartney: Gemini

Okay, let's start with Sir Paul himself, since he's the one who got me curious about the whole thing. One of my party tricks (yes, I have more than one) is guessing someone's astrological sign after spending some time with them. I have a pretty spooky talent for sussing it out. But the one that always trips me up is the Gemini. (I had Paul pegged as an Aries, oops.)

"Gemini" is the Latin word for "twins," and it's said that those born under this sign have a dual personality, making them hard to pin down. This might explain why Paul can be goofing around just as much as John, singing in funny voices and literally climbing rafters, and then the next minute, he's all serious, micro-managing each musician's contributions, and making sure everyone knows what time to come into the studio the next day. 

I wasn't completely off the path about Paul being a fire sign though: his Moon is in Leo, because of course it is. Leos are known to love the spotlight and are natural born leaders — so it makes perfect sense that Paul would essentially assume this role after the band's beloved manager Brian Epstein passed away in 1967. Throughout the film, he dominates and controls the band. "But I'm scared of that," he says at one point, the air sign in him conflicting with the fire. "Me being the boss. And I have been for like a couple of years." (It was edited out of The Beatles: Get Back, but archival audio reveals he quickly adds, "And we all have," but does he mean they've all been scared of him being the boss, or they've all been the boss themselves? And if it's the latter, may I please see the footage of Ringo telling Paul what to play and how to play it? Because I really, really want to see that.)

George Harrison: Pisces

George, on the other hand, is clearly a Pisces. In fact, on his 2002 solo album Brainwashed, he even wrote a song called "Pisces Fish" where he sings, "I'm a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul." (Unsurprisingly, George was into astrology.)

Labeled "the quiet Beatle," he epitomizes the "still waters run deep" proverb as he quietly plays along with the dominant duo of John and Paul. The few times he does speak up, his soft-spoken voice is usually drowned out the dominating tones of those two. In the scene where George shyly introduces his latest composition, "I Me Mine," the crew members nearby are quick to compliment the song, while Paul gets caught up in correcting the grammar and John dismisses the waltz-like cadence, quipping, “Run along, son. We’ll see you later. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, you know?” In another painful scene, the band try a take of "All Things Must Pass," a song he eventually released as a solo artist in 1970. George talks about how the songs should feel more collaborative, noting to Paul, "It should be where, if you write a song, I feel as though I wrote it, and vice versa," adding that 1968's The White Album was, "the only album, so far, I tried to get involved in." Paul, chomping on a cigar, dismissively replies, "Yeah," and the conversation stalls. 

George is all water — Pisces sun, moon in Cancer, and Scorpio rising — and water signs are said to be particularly sensitive and emotional, so it's not surprising that Paul and John end up making waves with him. But Scorpios are represented by the scorpion, whose stinging presence eventually makes itself known, and The Beatles: Get Back features the infamous footage of George quitting the band. 

The actual fight is a little diferent than how it's portrayed in the film. In the film, the lads are rehearsing "Get Back," but as you can hear in the archival audio linked above, they were actually working on "Two of Us." I'm not sure why director Peter Jackson made that editing choice, but I'm sure there were no shortage of moments where Paul is annoying George from which to choose. (In fact, if you carefully watch the following montage of George glaring at Paul, you'll notice his shirt changes throughout, revealing this to be a collection of clips accumulated over days.) You can see the Scorpio rising as he snaps at Paul: "I'll play, you know, whatever you want me to play. Or I won't play at all, if you don't want me to play," he says, exasperated. "Whatever it is that will please you, I'll do it." A few hours later, he quits the band. True to his Piscean work ethic, he politely waits until the lunch break.

Ringo Starr: Cancer

One look at those large, sleepy blue eyes of Ringo's and you just know the man has got to be a water sign. Plus, those born under a water sign are said to be "go with the flow" types, and boy, is that ever evident during the Get Back sessions. (George's argument with Paul notwithstanding.) While Paul is taking control, John is waltzing with Yoko, and George is trying to be heard, Ringo just chills patiently, waiting to play. (He's so relaxed, at one point in the documentary he lets out a fart.)

He's double water, with Pisces rising in his chart, but I was surprised to find that like Paul, his moon is in Leo. Honestly, I'm not sure where that manifests itself. Sure, he's a showman (just listen to his crooning on the questionable 1973 single "You're Sixteen" or his 1989 take on Buck Owens' "Act Naturally"), but he's also very private, very sensitive, and very sentimental. Cancerians are considered homebodies — their sign is represented by the crab, who literally carry their homes on their backs — and are family-centric, which adorably comes out when Ringo is playing with Paul's soon-to-be stepdaughter, Heather. (And did anyone else notice they're both wearing purple printed tops and tan vests?) "I feel the most relaxed around Ring," says Linda McCartney (then Eastman), with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg quickly agreeing, describing the laid-back drummer as "good in the heart." Everybody loves Ringo. 

One of the sweetest moments of the series is when Ringo is playing the beginnings of "Octopus's Garden" in the studio, and George thoughtfully walks over with his guitar to help him "work it out." (Google it, youngsters.) Two water signs, crafting a song... about a water creature. (And Ringo's previous lead song was "Yellow Submarine.") Could that be any more astrologically perfect?

John Lennon: Libra

While George and Ringo bond as water signs, it's no surprise that Paul's songwriting soulmate is also an air sign. Air signs are regarded as the communicators, evident in Paul and John's uncanny and incomparable ability to compose songs together. Apparently the pair were so entwined they even finished each other's sentences.

It's also no surprise that Mr. Give-Peace-a-Chance is a Libra, as those born under that sign are characterized as "the peacemakers." In the footage of George quitting, you can see John by his side as he talks to their tour manager, Mal Evans, about finding a replacement and what to do about residuals. And during the "flowerpot conversation" (a moment where the original filmmakers had bugged a flowerpot, secretly recording a conversation between John and Paul), you get the impression that John has been made the mediator between George and Paul. “George said he didn’t get enough satisfaction anymore because of the compromise he had to make to be together," he tells Paul. "It’s a festering wound that we’ve allowed... it’s a wound that festered even deeper, and we didn’t give him any bandages.”

And like Paul, John has fire in his astrological make-up — his rising sign is Aries (the sign I wrongly attributed to Paul) which characterizes him as independent and unpredictable. Will John make it to rehearsal on time? Will he show up at all? Will he finally change out of that purple shirt and black vest that he wears three days in a row? And he's clearly begun to break away from The Beatles with Yoko Ono constantly by his side throughout the series. Even Paul recognizes it, admitting, "If it came to a push between Yoko and The Beatles, it’s Yoko." (It doesn't come to push. The band clearly breaks up because they can't seem to get it together after the passing of Brian Epstein... and Paul can't be in a band with two water signs.)

Want to see the series but not willing to shell out the money for a Disney+ account? The Beatles: Get Back will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S. on February 8th. 

And if you have seen the documentary and just can't get enough, on Sunday, January 30th, the 53rd anniversary of The Beatles' final performance, a 60-minute edit of the rooftop concert will be screened in select IMAX theaters in the United States and the United Kingdom (yes, Seattle is on the list). The screening will feature a Q&A with Jackson, which will be broadcast via satellite simultaneously to all participating IMAX locations. Already got plans that night? The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert will receive a global theatrical run from February 11th-13th. (A Valentine's Day treat!)

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