Let It Be

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As at Twickenham, The Beatles performed a large variety of songs at Apple, although the original material became more focused. The sessions culminated with the famous rooftop performance on 30 January, and with a live studio set the following day for those songs which were less well suited for an outside performance.

Three of the Let It Be songs – Dig A Pony, I’ve Got A Feeling and One After 909 – were taken from the 30 January 1969 rooftop performance on the top of the Apple building. Dialogue from the event was also added to the end of a studio take of Get Back, with John Lennon closing The Beatles’ book with the line: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”

From the final studio session on 31 January, versions of Two Of Us and Let It Be were used on the album, and various other performances from the day were used in the film.

Glyn Johns’ Get Back

Eventually, once the recording and filming was complete, The Beatles realised they had little aptitude to sift through the hours of recordings for suitable songs. That task was given to Glyn Johns, who prepared two different versions of an album, titled Get Back, both of which were rejected by The Beatles.

We let Glyn John remix it and we didn’t want to know, we just left it to him and said, ‘Here, do it.’ It’s the first time since the first album we didn’t have anything to… we just said, ‘Do it.’ Glyn Johns did it, none of us could be bothered going in and Paul… nobody called each other about it. The tapes were left there, and we got an acetate each, and we’d call each other and say, ‘Well, what do you think? Oh, let it out.’ We were going to let it out with a really shitty condition, disgusted. And I wanted… I didn’t care, I thought it was good to go out to show people what had happened to us. Like this is where we’re at now, we couldn’t get – we can’t get it together and don’t play together anymore. Leave us alone. Glyn Johns did a terrible job on it, ’cause he’s got no idea, etc. Never mind. But he hasn’t, really. And so the bootleg version is what it was like. Paul was probably thinking, ‘Well, I’m not going to fucking work on it.’ It was twenty-nine hours of tape, it was like a movie. I mean just so much tape. Ten, twenty takes of everything, because we’re rehearsing and taking everything. Nobody could face looking at it.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

Johns had been approached by Paul McCartney in December 1968 to work on the Get Back sessions. He was present throughout the sessions, and afterwards began the mammoth task of compiling an album from the tapes.

I originally put together an album of rehearsals, with chat and jokes and bits of general conversation in between the tracks, which was the way I wanted Let It Be to be – breakdowns, false starts. Really the idea was that at the time, they were viewed as being the be-all-and-end-all, sort of up on a pedestal, beyond touch, just Gods, completely Gods, and what I witnessed going on at these rehearsals was that, in fact, they were hysterically funny, but very ordinary people in many ways, and they were capable of playing as a band, which everybody was beginning to wonder about at that point, because they hadn’t done so for some time – everything had been prepared in advance, everything had been overdubbed and everything, and they proved in that rehearsal that they could still sing and play at the same time, and they could make records without all those weird and wonderful sounds on them.

That became an obsession with me, and I got the bit between my teeth about it, and one night, I mixed a bunch of stuff that they didn’t even know I’d recorded half the time – I just whacked the recorder on for a lot of stuff that they did, and gave them an acetate the following morning of what I’d done, as a rough idea of what an album could be like, released as it was…

They came back and said they didn’t like it, or each individual bloke came in and said he didn’t like it, and that was the end of that. A period of time went by and I went to America to work with Steve Miller, and when I came back, I got a call from John and Paul asking me to meet them at EMI, which I duly did. They pointed to a big pile of tapes in the corner, and said, ‘Remember that idea you had about putting together an album?’ and I said, ‘Yes’. They said, ‘Well, there are the tapes – go and do it’. So I was absolutely petrified – you can imagine. I was actually being asked to put together a Beatle album on my own. So I did – I went off and locked myself away for a week or so and pieced an album together out of these rehearsed tapes, which they then all liked, really liked. This was some months after the thing had actually been recorded, and we’d actually started work on Abbey Road about the same time.

Glyn Johns
The Record Producers

Glyn Johns began sifting through the session tapes on 10 March 1969 at Olympic Sound Studios in London. The Beatles themselves had little involvement, having begun work on Abbey Road around the same time. Johns mixed the session tapes at Olympic from 10-13 March, and on 7, 9 and 28 May. At this stage, side one of the Get Back album was to have contained One After 909, Rocker, Save The Last Dance For Me, Don’t Let Me Down, Dig A Pony, I’ve Got A Feeling and Get Back; side two featured For You Blue, Teddy Boy, Two Of Us, Maggie Mae, Dig It, Let It Be, The Long And Winding Road and Get Back (Reprise).

[singlepic=664,200,,,right]For the Get Back project, it was The Beatles’ intention to recreate the cover of Please Please Me, showing how thy had changed visually since 1963. In May 1969 the group returned to EMI’s headquarters in London’s Manchester Square, and the same photographer, Angus McBean, photographed them as they resumed their poses.

The artwork was prepared for Glyn Johns’ Get Back album, which was to bear the strapline “with Let It Be and 11 other songs”. For reasons unknown, however, the session photographs remained unused until the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 (the so-called Red and Blue albums) were released in 1973.

The Beatles rejected Johns’ first Get Back album, and new recording sessions for two Let It Be songs took place on 3 and 4 January 1970 – a year after the initial recordings were made.

The first of these was for George Harrison‘s I Me Mine, which had briefly being performed before the cameras during the 1969 sessions. In the film, Harrison first plays the song to Ringo Starr, followed by a version performed by Harrison, Paul McCartney and Starr, during which John Lennon dances with Yoko Ono.

I Me Mine, it’s called. I don’t care if you don’t want it… It’s a heavy waltz.
George Harrison
Let It Be

No proper studio recording of I Me Mine existed until 3 January 1970. It featured just Harrison, McCartney and Starr, as Lennon was on holiday in Denmark. The following day, 4 January, overdubs were recorded for Let It Be, in the band’s final proper recording session together.

38 Responses to “Let It Be”

  1. antoni

    Let It Be, Naked or Not has two of Paul’s most long winded and nail scrapes aganst the blacboard. After seeing Anthology this past week, i forgot how he was the most annoying of the Beatles. Let It Be and Long and Winding Road could have ended a lot soone, but no, the camera’s were rolling. Let It Be was a recording of the breakup of a band and these two songs were the blueprint.

    Reply
    • Beatlesguru

      If you don’t like Paul McCartney then you don’t like the Beatles. Let it Be and Long and Winding Road are too of Paul’s masterpieces -as well as being two of the best songs on the Album. Really silly post..

      Reply
    • Mike

      An astonishing comment. Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road are both beautiful songs that showcase two of McCartney’s best vocal ballad performances. It’s true that the latter piece suffers somewhat from Phil Spector’s arrangement taking things a little too far. He should have left off the choir and harp; the other orchestral parts would have sufficed. But it’s still a great number nonetheless.

      As for being long winded, both songs clock in at under four minutes, which is a very typical length for a pop/rock song.

      Reply
  2. Amphion

    Being brand spanking new to this particular Beatles site, I was just fixing a whole wear the rain gets in, when I suddenly found meself wonderin’, In 2003 there was mention that the Let It Be film was about to be released. This film was last screened on British BBC2, Television in about 1982. A Saturday, If I recall… But is it any closer to being released. Any ideas???

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    • Matt

      Engineers started remastering the film a while back but decided the film was too “controversial”. Paul and Ringo do not want it released either. I doubt it will be released any time soon, especially during Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison’s lifetimes.

      Reply
  3. robert

    Here’s why LIB doesn’t work for me – and this may be picky but here goes: because it is supposed to be the soundtrack to a movie and was intended to replicate the feel of live performances, the problem I have is this – listen through head phones and notice how many times John’s voice is on one side and his guitar is on the other side.

    This completely wrecks the feel of a live performance. At least for me.

    Sorry I can’t help but notice it.

    Does anyone know if Paul fixed this on LIBN – I don’t have that CD.

    Reply
    • Joe

      It shouldn’t really make a difference. With multitrack recording, a live performance can be taped with simultaneously-played instruments routed to different tracks, which can then be mixed to different parts of the stereo spectrum. Of course, that’s not to say that all of the LIB performances were live – there were a number of overdubs added once they’d thrown the ‘live’ concept out of the window.

      Reply
      • GeorgeTSimpson

        There are the overdubs done by spector onto three songs, the overdubs done by paul, ringo and george onto the song let it be and of course I Me Mine was recorded as though it were on the white album or abbey road (which was in fact a very good idea, they should have recorded the whole album in that way and it should have been produced by George Martin). Are there any other overdubs?

        Reply
  4. McLerristarr

    “marked a move away from The Beatles’ elaborate studio experimentation of 1966 and 1967, with a return to more straightforward rock and roll, and the White Album and much of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack had followed in a similar vein.”

    I wouldn’t say much of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was back to basics. There were 13 songs: 2 were repeats from previous albums/singles, 7 were George Martin’s orchestra songs, 2 were George Harrison’s songs neither of which sound back to basics, so that leaves 2 new Lennon-McCartney songs which could be called back to basics.

    And certainly not all the White Albums was back to basics – Revolution 9, Wild Honey Pie.

    Reply
    • Joe

      I was referring to the ‘new’ songs on the YS soundtrack, though it probably needs clarifying. Certainly Hey Bulldog and All Together Now were a step away from their sound of 1967, though the George Harrison songs clearly aren’t.

      As for the White Album, you’re right that there were some complex recordings on there, but nothing like to the same degree of Sgt Pepper or Strawberry Fields Forever. Much of it is fairly straightforward, thought with liberal doses of Beatles magic.

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  5. McLerristarr

    “And, let us not forget, even if the collection wasn’t The Beatles’ best, for many lesser bands these songs would have constituted a career peak.”

    Couldn’t agree more. When fans always talk about this isn’t good or whatever, what we really mean is compared to The Beatles’ other stuff it isn’t as good, but it is still amazing.

    Reply
  6. robert

    Sorry Joe, but it does matter whether lennon’s voalcs and guitar are on the same stereo pan.

    of course multitracking makes it possible to put an instrument and/or vocal anywhere in the spectrum, but that doesn’t make it “work”.

    Even though the beatles abandoned the actual “live” recording technique, they still marketed and presented the album as a live experience – to go with the movie.

    The intended feel of the record is to experience a live beatles performance (even if it wasn’t). So it’s an anomaly to have a musician’s voice separated from his instrument.

    Of course perhaps I’m just too sensitive.

    Reply
  7. Deadman

    With electric instruments and microphones and amplifiers, modern live music often features “a musician’s voice separated from his instrument”; it is not anomalous.

    Reply
  8. Zig

    Even though this LP features my least favorite Beatles song, I still enjoy the heck out of it – Spectorized or not. In fact, I wish all of the songs on it were recorded “live” on the roof top. It would have been very refreshing to hear a live Beatles recording without the screaming.

    As an aside, I get a kick out of the Spector quote on page 5 of this article. I’m by no means a fan of his, but it’s the first time I’ve seen his defense in print. It’s actually pretty funny.

    Reply
    • Mike

      Spector’s defense of his orchestral arrangement for The Long and Winding Road is indeed funny. It would be even better if it were actually true.

      I’ve seen McCartney perform it live a couple of times within that 25-year span that Spector mentions. I’ve never heard any choir or harp, which were the major offenders for McCartney, as I recall.

      The ’76 live version has a very spare brass arrangement, minus strings, that bears no resemblance at all to Spector’s work on the Let It Be album. It actually sounds much closer to the Let It Be…Naked version than to the Let It Be album.

      The later performances in the late 80s and into the 90s have a bigger orchestral background. Those performances do borrow a few phrases here and there of the Spector arrangement, take some of the brass from the ’76 version, and add in some new wrinkles—but still no harps or choir.

      An example of that can be heard on Tripping the Live Fantastic (1990). The net effect is a somewhat scaled back version that is far from being a copy of the Spector arrangement. I would call it slightly reminiscent of the original but smaller and less epic sounding. In other words, it’s closer in style to George Martin than Phil Spector.

      So Spector’s claim and defense sounds good, but it’s way off the mark–unless McCartney has taken lately to performing it fully Spector style, which seems unlikely.

      Reply
  9. Festival Days Off

    Dear all,

    We would like to inform you about the following event :

    LET IT BE live / The Beatles
    by Yael Naim, Mathias Malzieu, Cocoon, Loney Dear, David Donatien, Camille O’Sullivan, Sense of Sound Singers,…

    Paris (France), July 4th, Salle Pleyel

    For the 40th anniversary of the release of the album Let It Be, David Coulter, who has collaborated with artists like Damon Albarn, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull, unites a young generation of European musicians to reinterpret the Beatles’ last album.

    http://www.citedelamusique.fr/minisites/1007_daysoff/concert/en_let_it_be_live.aspx

    Reply
  10. Frank

    I believe Paul made a mistake. He did allow female voices in their records. Yoko sang in The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, and Yoko again along with Patti Harrison in Birthday. His wife Linda provided background vocals for Let It Be.

    Reply
    • vonbontee

      Yeah, and there was also the female choir in “Walrus” – and howbout those two Apple scruffs that Paul himself invited to sing on “Across The Universe”! He was either being wilfully obtuse, or exaggerating, or he had a terrible memory. (And the amount of dope he smoked would suggest the latter.) :-)

      Reply
  11. Jeff

    LIB is both fantastic and disappointing. Eventhough substandard by usual Beatle standards, the songs are worthy and hold up against anything other artists put out at the same time (hell, for the next 40 years for that matter!). It was a disappointment in that it actually could have been far, far better. The Beatles are openly apathetic on LIB. Also, George’s growth as a songwriter could have (had he been allowed to contribute more songs)partly made-up for John’s growing indifference, dwindling song contributions and a seeming drop in the quality of his contributions. All Things Must Pass absolutely deserved to have been properly recorded and included on LIB (and NOT in place of, but in addition to, For You Blue and I Me Mine). It is no wonder why George walked out during these sessions and became hesitant to work as a Beatle ever again. What a pity (which reminds us that Harrison’s brilliant song Isn’t It A Pity was another in a list of George composed tunes rejected for Beatle records by John, Paul and/or George Martin). Thankfully, George recorded these on his own after the group’s dissoluion.

    Reply
    • Julio

      It is funny that people think of John towards end as not writing much but he was actually very creative and writing a ton. He just did not want to write for the beatles. Look at his first two solo albums Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, they are full fledged releases. Paul’s first solo albums while they are charming and having their bits (and the masterpiece ‘Maybe Im Amazed) are bit rough and incomplete.

      Reply
  12. Clemenza08

    This is not a Beatle album, is just a Spector work… A Spector album, soloist, taking the tapes and the band’s name…

    Reply
    • mr. Sun king coming together

      Adding orchestra to a quarter of an album, while not doing anything else of his typical way isn’t bad. It’s called doing what you’re asked.

      Reply
  13. rover

    I think Phil Spector is treated unfairly when it comes to LIB. He had the unenviable task of wading through hours of recordings and make something of it–all with virtually no input for the band. The only sin Spector committed was not being George Martin. Martin is tasteful and understated; Spector (on all his works) is melodramatic and over-the-top. Spector simply delivered a Spector production. Lennon was reportedly happy with it. I have little patience for McCartney’s complaints. A bit like crying over spilt milk.

    Reply
    • Joe

      Actually I don’t think Spector did wade through that many hours of tapes. Most of the selection and filtering was done by Glyn Johns prior to Spector arriving.

      When Spector began work he hit the ground running, completing his work in a matter of days (he needed just seven recording and mixing sessions in March and April 1970), with George Harrison and Allen Klein apparently present for most of the sessions. Ringo Starr even played on one.

      Reply
  14. GeorgeTSimpson

    I alway wondered why george was at most (or all) of the Spector sessions, but didn’t do the guitar overdubs which were probably done by some session guitarists. Maybe it was him on guitar but then we would know it (we also know that ringo did the drum overdubs). I really wonder who these guitarists were, maybe it was someone famous like eric clapton or so. But probably it will always be a secret who did the guitar overdubs on the long and winding road (and maybe on the other two songs)

    Reply
  15. brian

    I find this album to be sort of like that lost piece that you would love to retrieve, and it should be possible, yet, you can’t grasp it. What should this album really sound like? How should I hear it? Can I ever just enjoy it for what it is (the music is not terrible)? Aren;t the Beatles even apathetic, still worthy of that mystique that John says is gone? Should I listen to which version? Was perhaps the Glyns Get Back first or second version the way it should have been? Did Paul have the chance to save some of it in Naked, yet even he didn’t quite get it right?
    As to defending or attacking Spector… I like his work from the 50′s for sure. But don’t see him as a producer for the Beatles. The thing is, he did what he thought was good, and I can stomach much of it (haven;t tried the winding road lately though). But I love Across the Universe. What bothers me, is that he adds such elaborate stiff to Beatle’s songs without Paul’s approval. In fact, Paul can not even change it after complaining. As an artist, this truly bothers me. I do not like the idea of hearing Beatle’s tracks with significant changes made by outside people that some of them would not have even preferred to work with.
    Yet, if the group had been more coherent and civil by then, and perhaps less lazy, they could have seen it through. But maybe mistakes are what they are for a reason. Maybe it is better that the album is what it is and tells the story it tells. Maybe seeing a group like the Beatle’s not realize something is dramatic and powerful in a sense. Maybe if John wasn’t on ‘H’ he could have been more willing to be workable. Maybe Paul forced the idea on the others way too much. Why does money and business get such a say in determining art. So what if they needed another money. I would rather violate the contract and lose money (easy for me to say) than compromise the well being of the band and make an unenthusiastic project.
    So much to say about all this… now how to listen?

    Reply
  16. Andrew Jackson

    This album is seriously underrated. The ‘naked’ version is by far and away my favorite Beatles album

    Reply
  17. robert

    There is a great and amazing album in there, but it’s never come out – not Glyn Johns, not Spector, not Paul’s. It’s like there’s a dullness to the sound – like a mask over the sound – it’s almost muffled. The crystal quality of their earlier recordings is missing. Was it their lousy attitude, bad recording equipment and set up at Apple versus Abbey Road, George Martin’s apathy from being told by Lennon “none of your production crap” – something’s missing – Lennon was right when he called it “lifeless” and it’s a shame because there is a great magnificent album in there.

    Reply
  18. Chris Schneider

    Any chance that the movie would see the light of day again? This may sound crazy, but Let It Be is one of my favorite Beatles albums; despite some studio chicanery by Phil “Capitol Murder” Spector, the songs sound fresh, as if they listened to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and enjoyed it.

    Reply
  19. dn112

    Why did Paul McCartney leave the Get Back/Let It Be session tapes sitting around for over a year? He supervised the Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down single release, why didn’t he complete the album for release? How would Beatles history have been different if the album had come out in April 1969?

    Side 1 could have been the rooftop performance – Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down/Dig A Pony/I’ve Got A Feeling/One After 909/Get Back reprise. Side 2 studio performance – Let It Be/For You Blue/Across The Universe/Two Of Us/Dig It/Long and Winding Road.

    Reply
  20. Hammer 109

    i just downloaded LIB – Naked and I’ve been listening to it constantly. I have always contended that, when all is said and done, The Beatles were just a rock band. And LIB Naked lets them be a rock band. The guitars come through – it’s clean, it cooks, it’s great. Even though they were done with each other, you don’t get that from the album. Paul and John singing together on Two of Us is magic. One After 909 is pure joy. I Dig a Pony is Lennon at his cheeky best. My only criticism is Long and Winding Road, which I’ve never liked. I listened to this version with great anticipation, thinking now I would finally get to appreciate it. But no. It’s still a crappy song. Maybe with just vocal and an acoustic guitar it might work better. Sorry, Paul.

    Reply
  21. BILLY SHEARS

    Many people are trying to “remake” this album into something else – something they wish it to be. “Let it be naked” is that album. The original is simply… what it is. It is a documentary put to music. In early ’69 the group was falling apart. Let It Be is a sad epitaph for a dying rock band. Adding or removing songs from their “Last album” is fruitless. ( Abbey Road was the last recorded with a few minor additions to Let it Be).

    A better exercise would be to take the best songs from their individual albums and single releases from ’70 and ’71 and create a double album – ala “White Album”. Between the four, their is enough “Beatle” sound to compile a really good album. Much like the White album, it would reflect individual styles and still retain a familiar, distinct sound. I would stop after December ’71 due to placing a time limit of music release, and distinct drop in quality of solo material in general from the members after ’71. I would not include any thing from “Wings Wildlife” or Lennon’s other albums.

    Songs could be from the following Albums:
    McCartney
    Ram
    Plastic Ono Band
    Plastic Ono Band – Live In Peace Toronto
    Imagine
    All Things Must Pass

    Singles could include:
    HI, HI, HI
    Another Day
    Don’t Come Easy
    Back Off Bugaloo
    Instant Karma
    Cold Turkey (if not from Live in Peace Toronto)
    Come and Get It* – sorry Bad Finger, we’ll keep this one to ourselves

    Could still be a fun exercise to compile these songs into a double album and wonder “What if?”.
    Just a few thoughts.

    Reply
  22. Doug Pitts

    I agree. If you’re in the audience, unless you’re sitting extremely close to the group, you would not hear voice on one side, guitar on the other. It would all be in the mix. Sounding more separated than a mono recording, but definitely nowhere near hard or even medium panned.

    Reply

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