Thoughts and music of double J x

Let It Be: The Beatles

LetItBe_0The Beatles released their 12th and final LP “Let It Be” in the US on May 18 (some sources say 17), 1970. It was released almost a month after the group’s break-up. Like most of the band’s previous releases, it was a number one album in many countries, including both the US and the UK, and was released in tandem with the motion picture of the same name. The album was conceived as Get Back, a return to the Beatles’ earlier, less complicated approach to music. Most of Let It Be was recorded in January 1969, before the recording and release of the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. For this reason, some critics and fans, such as Mark Lewisohn, argue that Abbey Road should be considered the group’s final album and Let It Be the penultimate.

By late 1968, more than two years after the Beatles gave up touring, Paul McCartney was eager for the group to perform live again. The sessions for that year’s The Beatles (commonly known as the “White Album“) had seen a number of serious arguments and strained relations among the group. McCartney felt that the band’s cohesiveness had been lost through years without playing live, and from using the studio not to record ensemble performances, but to make increasingly complex recordings made up of parts played individually by each Beatle as overdubs rather than as a group. He believed that the best way to improve band relations and revive enthusiasm was to get the group back into rehearsal as quickly as possible (the White Album sessions having concluded in October 1968) and begin work on a new album that made little or no use of studio artifice or multiple overdubbing. This would allow the group to return to their roots by playing as a true ensemble, recording some or all of the new album during a one-off live concert or full concert tour. This idea mirrored the “back to basics” attitude of a number of rock musicians at this time in reaction against the psychedelic and progressive music dominant in the previous two years.

lib beatlesThe concert itself would be filmed for broadcast on worldwide television, with the album released to coincide with it. McCartney also decided to invite producer/engineer Glyn Johns to contribute to the recording. His proposed role was apparently not clearly defined, as McCartney also wished to retain the services of George Martin. As a result, Johns was not entirely sure whether he was supposed to be producing (or co-producing) the album or merely engineering it, with Martin having no clear idea of where he stood either. As it turned out, Johns acted as engineer, while the band used Martin for advice and ideas as they worked.

Rehearsals began at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969 as part of a planned documentary showing the Beatles preparing to return to live performance. A project instigated by Paul McCartney, the filmed rehearsals were marked by ill-feeling, leading to George Harrison’s temporary departure from the group. As a condition of his return, the Beatles reconvened at their own Apple Studio, where they completed the recordings with the help of guest musician Billy Preston. Following several rejected mixes by Glyn Johns, a new version of the album was produced by Phil Spector in March–April 1970. While three songs from the sessions were released as singles before the album’s release, “Get Back”/”Don’t Let Me Down” and “Let It Be“, the songs were remixed by Spector for the album and “Don’t Let Me Down” was not included.

beatles12The band played hundreds of songs during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. Aside from original songs ultimately released on Let It Be, there were early versions of many tracks that appeared on Abbey Road, including “Mean Mr. Mustard”, “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, “Sun King”, “Polythene Pam”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “Something”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Oh! Darling”, “Octopus’s Garden” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)“. Other original compositions would eventually end up on Beatle solo albums, including Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” (called “Child of Nature” at the time and originally written and rehearsed for the White Album) and “Gimme Some Truth“; Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass“, “Isn’t It a Pity” (a song he initially put forward for Revolver in 1966), “Let It Down” and “Hear Me Lord“; and McCartney’s “Another Day”, “Teddy Boy”, “Junk” (another track from the White Album era) and “The Back Seat of My Car“. Throughout the rehearsals and recording sessions, much of the band’s attention was focused on a broad range of covers, extended jams on 12-bar blues, and occasional new efforts such as Lennon’s uncompleted “Madman“. These covers included classical pieces such as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, jazz standards such as “Ain’t She Sweet“, and an array of songs from the early rock and roll era such as “Stand By Me”, “Words of Love”, “Lonely Sea”, “Bésame Mucho” by Mexican composer Consuelo Velázquez (a song that was part of the Beatles’ repertoire at the start of their career) and “Blue Suede Shoes“. Several Bob Dylan songs were also played, including “Positively 4th Street”, “All Along the Watchtower” and “I Shall Be Released”. Only a handful of these cover versions were complete performances; the vast majority were fragmentary renditions with at most a verse or two of misremembered lyrics.

Two songs appearing on the album were not recorded during the January 1969 sessions. “Across the Universe” had been recorded at Abbey Road Studios in February 1968, and “I Me Mine” was not recorded until January 1970, after Lennon’s unannounced departure from the group. Lewisohn recognises “I Me Mine” as the final song to be recorded by the Beatles before their official dissolution. Overdubbing of vocals and instrumentation for other tracks continued into April 1970, just before the album’s release.

R-375500-1386801766-9912_jpegLet It Be… Naked was released in 2003, an alternative version of the album, without any of Spector’s production work and using some different takes of songs.

Does it matter to you if it was their “real” ot “actual” last album… “Let It Be”!!

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