Let It Be

Let It Be: The Beatles
Apple,

Released: 8 May 1970 (Recorded January 1969)

Produced by …

This is what the sleeve says:

Then there are general thanks:

Let It Be – Naked declares ‘Original recording. Produced by George Martin. Engineered by Glyn Johns’ which belies what we see in the Peter Jackson film, where George Martin is an occasional visitor, and the Glyn Johns autobiography where he says he had lunch with George Martin who gave his blessing to Glyn Johns to produce the album.

On post-production after what we see in the film, Record Collector (Beatles Specials, Vol 3), quoted John Lennon to George Martin:

John Lennon: I don’t want any of your production shit. We want this to be an honest album – I don’t want any editing or overdubbing. We just record the song and that’s it.

George Martin did take over the mixing initially:

Ringo Starr Glyn Johns was working with us on the album, and it didn’t seem to work out so we went back to George Martin.
George Harrison I don’t know why George Martin had not been involved at that time. Somebody had the idea of having Glyn Johns just for a change. Definitely it was nothing personal.
Anthology

Exasperated by their lackadaisical attitude, Martin walked out and went on holiday, leaving relative rookie Glyn Johns to try his luck. He fared no better than the old maestro. Enter Phil Spector at John and George’s behest. He only succeeded in making Paul leave once he heard the orchestrated results of Let It Be and his pet piano ballad, Long and Winding Road. George Martin was relegated to a rude “Thanks to” on the credits.
Max Bell, Record Collector Beatles Special, Vol 3

George Martin: What it should say is, Produced by George Martin. Over-produced by Phil Spector.’

Alan Parsons was an uncredited assistant engineer

TRACKS

side oneside two
Two of Us
(Lennon – McCartney)
I’ve Got A Feeling
(Lennon – McCartney)
Dig A Pony
Lennon – McCartney)
One After 909
(Lennon – McCartney)
Across The Universe
Lennon – McCartney)
The Long and Winding Road
(Lennon – McCartney)
I Me Mine
(Harrison)
For You Blue
(Harrison)
Dig It
(Lennon – McCartney – Starkey-Harrison)
Get Back
(Lennon – McCartney)
Let It Be
(Lennon – McCartney)
Maggie Mae
(Trad. Arr Lennon – McCartney – Starkey-Harrison)

MUSICIANS
John Lennon – vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar (Get Back), lap steel guitar, 6 string bass guitar
Paul McCartney – vocals, bass guitar, acoustic, guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, maracas
George Harrison – vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, acoustic guitar, tambura
Ringo Starr -drums, percussion

with

Billy Preston – electric piano, organ

Richard Hewson arranged strings and brass on I, Me, Mine and Long and Winding Road
John Barham did choral arrangements on Across The Universe, I Me Mine, Long and Winding Road
George Martin did string and brass arrangements on Let It Be , Hammond organ on Across The Universe
Brian Rogers did string and brass arrangements on Across The Universe
Linda McCartney did backing vocal on Let It Be

CHARTS
UK Album #1
US Albums #1, 4 x Platinum

2021 reissue
UK albums #2
US Albums #5

FOR THE FILM IN 2021 SEE:

SEE ALSO: GET BACK (PART ONE) linked
SEE ALSO: GET BACK (PART TWO) linked
SEE ALSO: GET BACK (PART THREE) linked

When I started the Reviled! series, the rule was one per artist, then Van Morrison got two. To be fair, Bob Dylan could have had a dozen, and will probably get more. With this one, Phil Spector as producer is now on three (see Death of A Ladies Man, Sometime in New York City).

When I did Beatles For Sale (LINKED) in this series, I said:

When I originally started the series many years ago, Let It Be held this slot as “weakest Beatles studio album” and I drafted an article, but Let It Be – Naked changed that, and the recreated film in 2021 will change it again. 

Beatles For sale on this site

Note “Studio album.” Live at The Hollywood Bowl is far worse than any studio efforts.

The desirable version for collectors is the original boxed version:

The presentation is superbly effective and beautifully executed. The accompanying book (containing over 150 pages of mostly full-colour photographs and text) is overwhelming in its flashy luxury.
Record Retailer, 9 May 1970

Actually 164 pages. It pre-dated the super de-luxe box set by nearly fifty years too. If only I’d bought one … Rare Record Guide 2022 rates a mint copy (with all the bits intact) at £800 to £1000. The last one I saw in a shop was very far from mint, and had a £350 price tag. There are no musical extras. The bonus track was in the future as a concept. As is the way of collecting, a box with a green apple logo is worth 20% more than a box with a red apple logo.

Having been entranced by the 2021 box set, and having watched all three parts of Peter Jackson’s Get Back, and reviewed them on my other blog, I felt I should do Let It Be as well. That’s because the films and the box set got me liking the entire album much more than I had.

It’s obvious that the Let It Be film in 1970 poisoned many people’s minds against the whole album / film concept. While I will discuss the versions of the album, the main track-by-track review is based on that original 1970 LP.

Who was it reviled by? Paul McCartney for starters, hence the Let It Be- Naked re-creation in 2003. Significantly, John Lennon’s jokey asides and clowning were eliminated … they do get wearing on repeated listening.

It was reviled by me too- I bought the LP, but didn’t buy a CD version until Let It Be- Naked, then I bought it again in the 2009 Remastered version.

Let It Be – Naked, 2003

At the time, I had a feeling that between them, Spector and John Lennon were making a comment by pouring schmaltzy strings all over the two most memorable songs, Let It Be and Long and Winding Road. I thought thatJohn was commenting on his perception of Paul as middle-of-the-road, and nastily.

In retrospect, both John and George were using Phil Spector on their own albums which they were fully committed to (All Things Must Pass, Sometime in New York City ) so perhaps deliberate sabotage is an unfair accusation.

Phil Spector The critics should have listened, really listened, to what was there before.Even The Beatles didn’t want them out. If they had, they wouldn’t have asked me to do it.
Merell Noden, Extra-Celestial, Mojo Special Edition: The Beatles Final Years 2003

Glyn Johns had his opinion:

Glyn Johns John gave the tapes to Phil Spector who puked all over them, turning the album into the most syrupy load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. My master tape, perhaps quite rightly, ended up on a shelf in the tape store at EMI. At least my version of the single Get Back / Don’t Let Me Down had been released in April 1969.

Glyn Johns, Sound Man, 2014

Spector eliminated Don’t Let Me Down, one of the best songs, moved Get Back to the end and farted around with the running order. Anyone with half an ear would have opened with Get Back and closed with Let It Be, as on Let It Be – Naked.

Get Back with Don’t Let Me Down and eleven other songs. : Glyn Johns 1969 mix, from the 2021 box set

The box set restores Glyn Johns’ 1969 mix, which interestingly is not identical to Let It Be – Naked. Johns said three of The Beatles approved his mix … Paul, George and Ringo. John didn’t and was strongly against Glyn Johns getting a production credit rather than an engineer one . Throughout the eight hours of Get Back, there are niggling instances of John Lennon putting Glyn Johns down, patronising him, treating him as a gopher. It’s hard to know what John Lennon’s issue was with Glyn Johns, except that Paul had chosen him for the project. His track record … The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces, Chris Farlowe, Traffic … was as good as anyone’s at the time.

Paul McCartney It was all done over my head. I had an acetate of the final mixes that Glyn Johns had done, and I remember taking it home… and listening to it with him. Today it would sound ‘Unplugged’ because it was very basic, very bare. And I thought, ‘This is good… really good. We’re reduced to just bare bones. There’s something great about it. Something very compelling.’ But Allen Klein stuck his oar in, and he said, ‘Look I don’t think it’s right,’ and he made a lot of decisions. I think it was his decision to bring Phil Spector in. We were all sort of feeling that we had come to the end… The little bunny rabbits’ batteries were running down. We were all fraught with each other and just about everything else. We were probably all on the verge of nervous breakdowns.”
Interview, Roy Carr, Beatles At The Movies, 1996

Looking at the Glyn Johns 1969 mix, it is NOT Let It Be-Naked. It was breaking ground for The Beatles in putting both sides of the recent single not only on the album, but as the title: Get Back with Don’t Let Me Down and eleven other songs.

Don’t Let Me Down: The Beatles 1969, B-side of Get Back single

Don’t Let Me Down was one of the best tracks, and the B-side of the Get Back single making it bizarre that it was omitted from the album.

Paul McCartney It was a very tense period. John was with Yoko, and had escalated to heroin and all the accompanying paranoias and he was putting himself out on a limb. I think that, as much as it excited and amused him, at the same time it secretly terrified him. So ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was a genuine plea, ‘Don’t let me down, please, whatever you do. I’m out on this limb…’ It was saying to Yoko, ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.’ I think it was a genuine cry for help. It was a good song. We recorded it in the basement of Apple for ‘Let It Be’ and later did it up on the roof for the film. We went through it quite a lot for this one. I sang harmony on it, which makes me wonder if I helped with a couple of the words, but I don’t think so. It was John’s song.
Quoted in Barry Miles, Many Years From Now, 1994

Compare the versions (bold = not in all versions):

Let It Be LP 1970
CD
Remastered CD
Get Back LP
Glyn Johns mix 1969
Box set, 2021
Let It Be- Naked
2003
Two of UsOne After 909Get Back
Dig A PonyMedley: I’m Ready /
Save The Last Dance For Me /
Don’t Let Me Down
Dig A Pony
Across The UniverseDon’t Let Me DownFor You Blue
I Me MineDig A PonyThe Long and Winding
Road
Dig ItI’ve Got A FeelingTwo of Us
Let It BeGet BackI’ve Got A Feeling
Maggie MayFor You BlueOne After 909
I’ve Got A FeelingTeddy BoyDon’t Let Me Down
One After 909Two of UsI Me Mine
The Long and Winding
Road
Maggie MayAcross The Universe
For You BlueDig ItLet It Be
Get BackLet It Be
The Long and Winding
Road
Get Back (reprise)

“New mix of original album” The Blu-Ray menu, 2021:

Blu-ray menu, Giles Martin remaster 2021, Let It Be box set
Sticker on Let It Be- Naked

So Let It Be- Naked is by no means the Glyn Johns mix or running order. It’s “The Band’s cut from the original sessions” which I suspect means “Paul McCartney’s production.”

With all these possible versions, the other one you might want to look at is Anthology Volume 3: Disc 2. That has alternatives of most of the album.

track #TITLENOTES
1 I’ve Got A Feeling23 January, breaks up at the end
3Dig A Pony22 January, restores beginning
4Two of Us24 January, Paul: ‘Take it Phil!’ in Everly Bros reference
5For You Blue25 January, original performance. George re-did the vocal in 1970
6Teddy Boy24 & 28 performances, lots of background chatter by John
Breaking up giggling by Paul
8The Long and Winding RoadThe final one, but shorn of Phil Spector. Billy Preston is on it
12Get BackThe second and final rooftop performance, complete with
guitar amps switched off and on. Here because it is the final Beatles
live performance
21Let It Be25 January, Paul introduces the song solo to the others with John’s
‘Are we supposed to giggle in the solo?’ Gradually others join in.
John finishes ‘I think that was rather grand. I’d take one home with me.’
22I Me MineJust George, Paul and Ringo. 5 January 1970
Anthology Volume 3, CD 2

One After 909 appears in two versions on Anthology Vol. 1, CD1

The original LP

What The Critics said

A disappointing self-indulgent album that only attains the heights of past Beatles albums on three or four tracks … the classics are McCartney’s majestic ballads, The Long and Winding Road and Let It Be, and Lennon’s doomey Across The Universe. If Phil Spector was needed to embellish these tracks only recently, we shudder to think what the original tapes must have sounded like.
Music Business Weekly, 16 May 1970

If the new Beatles’ soundtrack is to be their last then it will stand as a cheapskate epitaph, a cardboard tombstone, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop it shows contempt for the intelligence of today’s record-buyer
Alan Smith, New Musical Express, 9 May 1970

Musically, boys, you passed the audition. In terms of having the judgment to avoid either over-producing yourselves or casting the fate of your get-back statement to the most notorious of all over-producers, you didn’t.
John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 11 June 1970

A last will and testament, from the blackly funereal packaging to the music itself, which sums up so much of what The Beatles as artists have been – unmatchably brilliant at their best, careless and self-indulgent at their least.
Derek Jewell, Sunday Times, 10 May 1970

So … Let It Be. Which ironically is the title of the LP, in that it just wasn’t done. It was tampered with, or, in the words of the sleeve, “freshened up,”. Some people will say ‘castrated’ is a better word, because great choirs of angels have been added to some tracks along with haps, violins etc. This awful spectre, the vey idea that John or Paul’s songs need slick production techniques is an impertinence.
David Skan, Record Mirror, 9 May 1970
(spectre = Spector. Geddit?)

A good album, one I wouldn’t want to miss, but unfortunately not up to The Beatles highest standards, despite Phil Spector’s loving doctoring of these 18 month old tracks.
Record Review, July 1970

Only Across The Universe and The Long and Winding Road reveal any signs of the former tuneful magic, and it will be a loyal and steadfast Beatles fan indeed who insists that this album is anywhere near as good as its predecessors.
Gramophone, September 1970

Robert Christgau liked it … he gave it A -.
I’d say A- is about as low as The Beatles official studio albums should ever go, possibly B +, so reasonable, though he is critical. Note that his criticism focuses on the two songs where Spector over-gilded the lily.

though this is a little lightweight, it makes up in charm what it lacks in dramatic brilliance. Even when the arrangements get tricky – Let It Be is a touch too ornate in this version – their spontaneity of impulse comes through. And while fave rave One After 909 is pure teen simplicity, it sounds no fresher than Two of Us, an adult song about couple bonding that I hope apples to their songwriting duo. The one mistake is the Long and Winding Road, sunk in a slush of strings worthy of its shapeless philosophizing. But even the great are allowed to falter nw and then. A –
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide To The Albums of The 70s

Let It be, though it has the title cut, is the most distressingly mediocre Beatles album. The songs generally lack focus, intensity, enthusiasm, originality – The Beatles hallmarks. **
Peter Herbst, The Rolling Stone Record Guide 1980

Let it Be, the ill-fated documentary soundtrack wasn’t even released until 1970. The singing, playing and writing are weak, despite the White Album-style gems Dig A Pony and The Two of Us. The Long and Winding Road is actually not a terrible tune under Phil Spector’s orchestral dreck (just listen to Aretha Franklin’s version). ***
The Paul supervised Let It Be – Naked remix isn’t worth the trouble. ***
Rob Sheffield, The NewRolling Stone Album Guide, 2004

A slightly sad postscript, there are still monster tunes here by anyone else’s standards, but it lacks sonic clarity, and is peppered with under-developed, sub-standard blues.
Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph, 3 September 2009 (review of CD remaster)

In Galactic Ramble they suggest it’s better than the subsequent solo albums. Really? At the time, in the early 70s, I enjoyed All Things Must Pass, John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Ram, Band On The Run, Beaucoups of Blues and Ringo more than this album for starters.

Paul McCartney says he’s avoided writing an autobiography, but Many Years From Now by Barry Miles is full of McCartney quotes, particularly noting who wrote what. We already knew that ‘Lennon-McCartney’ was their agreed trade-mark and that some songs were virtually all Paul, others virtually all John. One of the issues with Let It Be is that Paul was on a roll, contributing the three best tracks, Get Back. Long and Winding Road, Let It Be. Then George was at last showing his abilities with I Me Mine and For You Blue. John’s most applauded contribution was Across The Universe. It was a retread of their contribution to the World Wildlife Fund charity compilation No One’s Going To Change Our World, and that version was recorded early in 1968.

Side one

Two of Us

(Lennon-McCartney)

By Paul McCartney. It was originally titled On Our Way Home. This was the third version, where they stripped it back to acoustic guitars, and recorded it on 31 January 1969. One of the earlier, rockier takes is on Anthology 2.

It’s an odd place to start. You’d think this McCartneyesque song would have attracted Lennon’s ire … there are shades of Mary Had A Little Lamb or Wonderful Christmastime in its bouncy cheerful nostalgia. But not so. In the Get Back film, John gets enthused by it, quite suddenly and they start singing head to head in obvious enjoyment. Twin acoustic guitars evoke memories of The Everly Brothers, and that John and Paul as teenagers entered talent shows as The Foreverly Brothers.

The camera cuts to a sullen, resentful George (this might be clever editing creating a tale), who has just been arguing with Paul. The song sums it up. As far as songwriting goes, it always was gong to be “Two of Them” and he wasn’t getting a look in. It triggers the George Harrison walk out in the film … as above, that might be film editing.

The lyric has multiple strands. Paul McCartney is explicit on its origins. He used to love driving in the countryside with Linda and that’s the inspiration:

Two of us driving nowhere
Spending someone’s hard-earned pay
You and me Sunday driving
On our way back home

InThe Lyrics, he prints the photo of him writing the song in his Aston-Martin (hard earned pay) which he did when they stopped for a walk. That dates it to 1968.

From The Lyrics, 2021. Photo by Linda McCartney, 1968

Paul McCartney: Lying behind the phrase ‘We’re on our way back home’ is less the literal sense, but more about trying to get in touch with the people we once were.
Paul McCartney, The Lyrics, 2021

So that’s why it got first place. It summed up the concept behind the whole Let It Be project.

The postcards verse he says refers to both Linda and to John … both great writers of postcards. The ‘two of us burning matches’ refers to his brother, Mike McGear, when their dad got them to light a whole box of matches one at a time to get rid of their fascination. ‘Lifting latches‘ is because their mum had died, their day was at work, so they had to let themselves in after school.

Then there’s the verse that just clicked into sudden meaning in the film as he sings it head-to-head with John:

You and I have memories
Longer than the road
that stretches out ahead

Prescient too. There was more time together in the past than there would be in the future. The handwritten lyrics add ‘A Quarrymen Original’ at the end which indicate strongly that was on his mind.

Ian McDonald pinpoints the lines:

You and me chasing paper
Getting nowhere on our way back home

He sees them as a reference to The Beatles then current financial and legal problems. Maybe. It’s a deceptively simple song on the surface, with a great deal going on. It’s one of the several here that I thought little of until I saw it repeatedly in the Get Back trilogy of films.

The Anthology 3 version sounds weedy in comparison.

Dig A Pony

(Lennon-McCartney)

A John Lennon song.
Billy Preston adds electric piano.

(It is) peppered with under-developed, sub-standard blues. Lennon is the guiltiest party and his turgid ‘I Dig A Pony’ is embarrassing.
Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph, 3 September 2009 (review of CD remaster)

It’s dismissed quite rapidly as a love song to Yoko Ono (All I want is you). John said ‘I just make it up as I go along,’ and later described the song first as ‘nonsense’ then as ‘garbage.’

John Lennon I was just having fun with words. It was literally a nonsense song. You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if they have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.
Interview 1972

The working title was Con A Lowrey which is said to be a reference to Brian Epstein’s collection of Lowrey paintings.

Phil Spector cut the first and last lines ‘All I want is…’ and ‘All I want is you,’ when he mixed it.

Hang on, why ‘I dig a pony?’ Later he sings, ‘I roll a stoney’ i.e. a joint. A pony? That’s £25 in Cockney slang, and also ‘crap’ (pony and trap). On the other hand, John’s heroin addiction at the time was well-known. A pony is a horse. Horse is slang for heroin. The 1963 Len Deighton novel Horse Under Water has each chapter as a crossword puzzle clue. It has been said that the song is like a crossword. The horse under water is heroin in a sunken U-Boat. i.e. the slang meaning was well-known. A film was in planning in 1968, though it was abandoned. You can penetrate any place you go? You can radiate everything you are? All I want is you?

OK, in the end it’s more listenable than Cold Turkey.

Across the Universe

(Lennon-McCartney)

George Martin plays Hammond organ. John also plays some organ. George Harrison plays electric guitar and tambura. Paul plays acoustic guitar and piano. Ringo plays drums and percussion.

No One’s Gonna Change Our Word: Various Artists, Regal-Zonophone 1969

John Lennon It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best. It’s good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin’ it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don’t have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them.
Rolling Stone, 1970

John Lennon:  One of my best songs. Not one of the best recordings but I like the lyrics.
Hit Parader interview 1972

Originally their contribution to the Save the Panda charity album where they appear alongside Rolf Harris, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Bruce Forsyth and Cliff Richard.

Paul McCartney plays piano. John plays acoustic guitar, plus electric guitar through a Leslie speaker. George Harrison played tambura. It was originally recorded in February 1968 for the World Wildlife Fund album, released in 1969. A rejected psychedelic version added sitar., and can be found on Anthology 2. The Let It Be- Naked version loses Paul’s piano.

John said that it had been written for the White Album but there was no space. He was sensitive about it, as well he might as it was one of his few contributions.

John Lennon I was lying next to my first wife in bed and I was thinking. It started off as a negative song, and she must have been going on and on about something. She’d gone to sleep, and I kept hearing, ‘words are flowing out like endless streams …’ I was a bit irritated and I went downstairs and turned it into sort of a cosmic song rather than ‘Why are you always mouthing off at me?’ But nobody was interested in doing it originally; everyone was sickened. The tune was good, but subliminally people don’t want to work with it sometimes … And then I tried to do it again when we were making the film Let It Be, but anybody who saw the film saw what reaction I got with it when I tried to do it. Finally Phil Spector took the tape, and did a damn good job with it and made a fairly reasonable sound out of it.
Anthology

They play around with the song during the film sequences.

The song was extensively rehearsed on the Twickenham Studios soundstage, but the only recordings were the mono versions for the film soundtrack. Needing a stereo version, Glyn Johns remixed the February 1968 recording for No one’s Gonna Change Our World, eradicating the teenage girls’ vocals and the bird song of the original.  The album version from 1970 was produced by  Phil Spector (Spring 1970) who remixed the February 1968 recording again overdubbing orchestra and choruses. Spector also reduced the speed.

John Lennon: It was a lousy track of a great song and I was so disappointed by it.  The guitars are out of tune and I’m singing out of tune  ’cause I’m psychologically destroyed… and nobody’s supporting me or helping me with it and the song was never done properly. Paul would sort of subconsciously try and destroy a great song … usually we’d spend hours doing little detailed cleaning-ups of Paul’s songs; when it came to mine … somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness and experimentation would creep in. Subconscious sabotage.
Playboy interview, 1980

The accusation is rich considering what John and Phil Spector did to Paul’s most cherished songs on the album. Poetry?

Ian McDonald: A plaintively babyish incantation … its vague pretensions and listless melody are rather too obviously the products of acid grandiosity rendered gentle by sheer exhaustion.

I Me Mine

(Harrison)

By George Harrison. It was written in January 1969, at the time of the sessions at Twickenham.

No wonder he was steaming with resentment. In the film he plays Something and just gets snarky John comments.

George Harrison I’d have to wait through ten of their songs before they’d even listen to one of mine

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

While the others rehearsed this song, John waltzed around the room with Yoko.

George Harrison ‘I Me Mine’ is the ego problem. I looked around and everything I could see was relative to my ego. You know, like ‘that’s my piece of paper,’ and ‘that’s my flannel,’ or ‘give it to me,’ or ‘I am.’ It drove me crackers– I hated everything about my ego– it was a flash of everything false and impermanent which I disliked. But later I learned from it– to realize that there is somebody else in here apart from old blabbermouth. ‘Who am I’ became the order of the day. Anyway, that’s what came out of it: ‘I Me Mine’ …it’s about the ego, the eternal problem
Interview, 1980

The song appears briefly in the eight hour film, but there was no sustained effort in producing a viable recording.

Anthology 3 reveals that The Beatles “polished” the songs from Let It Be through to April 1969, so the “all from the film” is untrue. The Beatles reconvened nearly a year later on 5th January 1970, while John was on holiday and re-cut I Me Mine – just George, Paul and Ringo. They did sixteen takes. Just before Take 15, George announced:

George Harrison You all will have read that Dave Dee is no longer with us. But Mickey and Tich and I would just like to carry on the good work that’s always gone down in [studio] number two.

George Harrison did lead and backing vocal, as well as acoustic and lead guitar. Paul added harmony vocals, bass guitar, Hammond organ and electric piano, Ringo played drums. That’s a major leap from the ‘back to basics live’ approach they had trumpeted.

Phil Spector then added enough in April 1970 to greatly extend its length with full orchestra, plus Ringo on drums.

Dig It

(Lennon – McCartney – Starkey- Harrison)

John Lennon played 6-string bass guitar, George lead guitar, Paul played piano, Ringo played drums and Billy Preston played Hammond organ. George Martin added a shaker. John later said he couldn’t play bass and sing, though he did here.

They all get a credit because it was made up on the spot, and cut from an original twelve minutes of free improvised lines. In that full version John sang bits of Like A Rolling Stone and Twist and Shout, and Yoko Ono and Heather McCartney (age 6) sang too. In the Get Back film, Heather also joins Ringo on drums.

The section used is a very short extract, a mere 49 seconds. Notable for its Dylan reference, which sounds more like a piss take on Mick Jagger. (John had just done Rock & Roll Circus with The Rolling Stones).

Like a rolling stone
Like the FBI, and the CIA
And the BBC, BB King
And Doris Day, Matt Busby
Dig it, dig it, dig it, dig it…

Not worth including. Paul thought so. It’s not on Let It Be- Naked.

Let It Be

(Lennon-McCartney)

Let It Be: The Beatles: original Apple 45 1970

It finished Live Aid (against Sting’s wishes). It’s an anthem.

It’s 100% Paul McCartney, based on a dream in which his mother (Mary) came to him and told him to ‘Let it be.’ There is that link which he noted to Mary, the Madonna.

He also refuted Sting’s contention that it was laissez faire so unsuited to Live Aid.

Paul McCartney Let it Be isn’t about being complacent or complicit. It’s about having a sense of the whole picture, about being resigned to the global view. The context in which the song was written was one of stress. It was a difficult time because we were heading towards the breakup of The Beatles. It was a period of change, partly because John and Yoko had got together, and that had an effect on the dynamics of the group. Yoko was literally in the middle of the recording session, and that was challenging. But it was also something we had to deal with … we just had to ‘let it be.’
Paul McCartney, The Lyrics, 2021

Paul also recalls learning speeches from Hamlet by heart. This is from the final fight scene:

O, I could tell you –
But let it be, Horatio. I am dead.

Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2

McCartney was at the top of his game and Let It Be was nailed in a couple of short sessions. Two versions surfaced, but the only difference was in the tone of George’s guitar solo. Lennon however was particularly scathing. Anthology 3 has Paul confidently announcing This is one that will knock you out,” only for John to ask whether e can giggle during the solo. And on the album Lennon prefaces this most beautiful of ballads with the facetious introduction, ‘Now we’d like to do ‘Ark the ‘Erald Angels Come.’
Patrick Humphries, The Final Cut, in Mojo Days of Revolution 1968-1970 special edition

Facetious? I prefer ‘fatuous.’

The original Rolling Stone reviewer had an unembellished bootleg copy. They were around and as he mentions the medley, it is probably the Glyn Johns mix that became Get Back. He said:

Spector compounds his mush fixation with an inability to choose the right take … Inexplicably dissatisfied with the single take of Let It Be, for instance he hunted up a take in which some jagged guitar and absurdly inappropriate percussion almost capsize the whole affair, decided that it might be real ‘Class’ to orchestrally embellish the vocal, and thus dubbed in – yes! – brass. Here the effect isn’t even humorous.
John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 11 June 1970

Listen to the Let It Be- Naked version: Paul McCartney on piano, Billy Preston on organ. Yes, The Band’s instrumentation was on every musician’s mind in 1969.

John Lennon That’s Paul… I think it was inspired by ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ That’s my feeling, although I have nothing to go on. I know he wanted to write a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’
Interview Playboy 1980

John complained elsewhere that Paul was in search of perfection, therefore following the Simon and Garfunkel route.

Paul Simon also compared it to Bridge Over Troubled Water:
Paul Simon They are very similar songs in their musical feel and lyrically. They’re both sort of hopeful songs and peaceful resting songs.

Maggie May

(Trad. Arranged Lennon – McCartney – Starkey- Harrison)

Just messing about between takes of Two of Us with the same twin acoustic guitars from John and Paul, and rightly eradicated from Let It Be- Naked. George is playing an electric guitar, but providing a bass line. It’s an old Liverpool street song about a prostitute who robbed a sailor. It gave rise to the old punchline, ‘Maggie may, but Nora will.’

John sings it in ‘stage Scouse’ which is an accent both John and Paul would put on in later years. Cilla Black was alleged to have lessons to regain her Scouse accent for Blind Date after twenty years in the South, which is why it’s over the top, with its ‘lorra, lorra luck, chuck.‘. Liverpudlian friends tell me it’s their grandparents’ Scouse accent, not that of Liverpool in recent decades.

It’s fun in the film, definitely not worthy of recording on vinyl for posterity.

side two

I’ve Got A Feeling

(Lennon – McCartney)

The classic Beatles instrumentation, live, with Billy Preston on electric piano.

This is one I disregarded for years. By the end of watching the Get Back films it was an ear worm and has remained so. It’s way better than I used to think.

It’s also a genuine Lennon-McCartney credit, unusually for this album. Paul wrote the main song I’ve Got A Feeling, and John ‘s Everybody Had A Hard Year song was separately written, but they were grafted together, just as they had grafted two sections together for A Day In The Life. I thought his performance on this section was the best on the album (allowing that the even better Don’t Let Me Down failed to make it to the finished LP):

Everybody had a hard year
Everybody had a good time
Everybody had a wet dream
Everybody saw the sunshine

That really was done with feeling. John had just had a disastrous year, and a worse couple of months. He got divorced. He was battling heroin addiction. Yoko had a miscarriage, they were busted and pleaded guilty to marijuana possession, and EMI had declined to distribute Two Virgins, meaning Apple had to use Track in the UK and Tetragrammaton in the USA to get it into the shops, where consumers soon realized it was just about unlistenable.

It was recorded from the rooftop concert.

Anthology 3 has an earlier studio version (also with Billy Preston)where Paul does his full Little Richard vocal, and John interjects call and answer. Instrumentally it’s not as lively, but vocally it adds a dimension, with Gerge playing lead lines throughout.

Let It Be – Naked edits together parts of both attempts at the song on the rooftop.

One After 909

(Lennon – McCartney)

It dates back to The Quarrymen and was written mainly by John at Paul’s house in 1957 (or variously in 1959).. They attempted to record it on the sessions for From Me To You in March 1963. Two of the takes from 1963 appear on Anthology 1.

The lyric is their effort at classic rock ‘n’ roll:

I said move over once, move over twice,
Come on, baby, don’t be cold as ice.

Paul later said they hated the lyrics, but needed another song to complete the album.

John Lennon The ‘One After 909’, on the whatsit LP, I wrote when I was 17 or 18. We always wrote separately, but we wrote together because we enjoyed it a lot sometimes, and also because they would say, well, you’re going to make an album together and knock off a few songs, just like a job.
Interview, Rolling Stone 1970

John Lennon That was something I wrote when I was about seventeen. I lived at 9 Newcastle Road. I was born on the ninth of October– the ninth month. It’s just a number that follows me around, but numerologically, apparently I’m a number six or a three or something, but it’s all part of nine.
Interview Playboy 1980

Note Revolution #9 and #9 Dream.

Paul McCartney It was a number we didn’t do much, but one we liked doing, and we rediscovered it. There were a couple of tunes that we wondered why we never put out; either George Martin didn’t like them enough, or he favoured others. It’s not a great song but it’s a great favourite of mine because it has great memories for me of John and I trying to write a bluesy freight-train song. There were a lot of those songs at the time, like Midnight Special, Freight Train, Rock Island Line, so this was ‘one after 9.09.’ She didn’t get the 909, she got the one after it.
Quoted in Barry Miles, Many Years From Now 1997

The Long and Winding Road

(Lennon – McCartney)

The Long and Winding Road: The Beatles, Apple USA single 1970, A-side
Not released in the UK

100% Paul McCartney. It is my favourite track on the album, I’ll make that clear before putting in the negatives later. It was released in the USA as a single in 1970, and was their twentieth #1, a record still unsurpassed.

Paul McCartney From the bedroom window of my farmhouse on the Mull of Kyntyre, Argyllshire, I could see a road that twisted away into the distance towards the main road.
Paul McCartney, The Lyrics, 2021

Paul McCartney I just sat down at my piano in Scotland, started playing and came up with that song, imagining it was going to be done by someone like Ray Charles I have always found inspiration in the calm beauty of Scotland and again it proved the place where I found inspiration
Interview, Sunday Herald, Scotland 27 April 2006

Ray Charles went on to record it, as did Aretha Franklin.

Paul McCartney It seems to resonate in very powerful ways. For those who were there at the time, there seems to be a double association of terrific sadness and also a sense of hope, particularly in the assertion that “the road that leads to your door / Will never disappear.’

Phil Spector went to town on the overdub … eight violins, four violas, four cellos, three trumpets, three trombones, harp, two guitars and a chorus of fourteen women. The orchestra was scored by Richard Hewson. Ringo was brought in to overdub drums … the last Beatle to play on a Beatles recording.

“The Long and Winding Road,” for instance, virtually unlistenable with hideously cloying strings and a ridiculous choir that serve only to accentuate the listlessness of Paul’s vocal and the song’s potential for further mutilation at the hands of the countless schlock-mongers who will undoubtedly trip all over one another in their haste to cover it. A slightly lesser chapter in the ongoing story of McCartney as facile romanticist, it might have eventually begun to grow on one as unassumingly charming, had not Spector felt compelled to transform an apparently early take into an extravaganza of oppressive mush. Sure, he was just trying to help it along, but Spectorized it evokes nothing so much as dewey-eyed little Mark Lester warbling his waif’s heart out amidst the assembled Oliver orchestra and choir.
John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 11 June 1970

Paul MCCartney The album was finished a year ago, but a few months ago American record producer Phil Spector was called in by John Lennon to tidy up some of the tracks. But a few weeks ago, I was sent a re-mixed version of my song ‘The Long And Winding Road’ with harps, horns, an orchestra, and a women’s choir added. No one had asked me what I thought. I couldn’t believe it. The record came with a note from Allen Klein saying he thought the changes were necessary. I don’t blame Phil Spector for doing it, but it just goes to show that it’s no good me sitting here thinking I’m in control because obviously I’m not. Anyway, I’ve sent Klein a letter asking for some things to be altered, but I haven’t received an answer yet
Interview, 1970

Here’s the letter:

Dear Sir,
In future no one will be allowed to add to or subtract from a recording of one of my songs without my permission.
I had considered orchestrating The Long And Winding Road but I had decided against it. I therefore want it altered to these specifications:
1. Strings, horns, voices and all added noises to be reduced in volume.
2. Vocal and Beatle instrumentation to be brought up in volume.
3. Harp to be removed completely at the end of the song and original piano notes to be substituted.
4. Don’t ever do it again.
Paul McCartney
c.c. Phil Spector, John Eastman

Reproduced in “Anthology”

Underneath all the Wagnerian gloop, John’s bass playing is horribly out of tune.
John Harris, Can You Dig It? Mojo Days of Revolution 1968-1970 special edition

An older pianist friend, who plays with three different jazz bands, once asked me about double bass players, bemoaning the fact that so many stand-up bass players are severely out of tune and get away with it, pointing out that a guitarist or pianist couldn’t get away with it. It should be easier on a bass guitar with the guidance of frets … if it’s in tune in the first place.

There was an issue with the bass on the track, played by John on a Fender 6-string bass guitar. John says in the Get Back film that he has issues with playing bass, and can’t play bass and sing (not that he was singing). In the film, both George and John use the 6 string bass. George seems much more adept. Here John’s replacing the best melodic bass guitarist in the world. Why didn’t Paul overdub a bass line?

Anthology 3 has the version with only ‘The Beatles and Billy Preston’ contrasting with comments below.

Spector said he was forced into orchestration because of Lennon’s poor bass playing. Ian McDonald defends Spector in Revolution In The Head:

In this case while (Spector’s) solution is undeniably tasteless, , he had no choice but to cover the original tape with something, since it was little more than a run through with a good McCartney vocal. Featuring only its author on piano and Lennon on bass, the basic take is a demo, and a provisional one at that. In particular it features some atrocious bass playing by Lennon, prodding clumsily around as if uncertain of the harmonies and making comical mistakes. Whatever else one may say about the production, Spector’s success in diverting attention from how badly played the original track is can only be counted a success. Yet his overdub session, a stormy affair on on 1st April 1970 at Abbey Road’s Studio 1 with McCartney only minutes away, available to re-do the bass part if asked. Why wasn’t he? … Lennon’s crude bass playing on Long and Winding Road, though largely accidental, amounts to sabotage when presented as a finished work.
Ian McDonald, Revolution In The Head, 1994

It is even more incredible that Paul wasn’t asked (allowed?) to overdub the bass, when Ringo Starr had attended the overdub session to add drums.

Phil Spector Paul had no problem picking up the Academy Award for the Let It Be movie soundtrack, nor did he have any problem in using my arrangement of the string and horn and choir parts when he performed it during 25 years of touring on his own. If Paul wants to get into a pissing contest about it, he’s got me mixed up with someone who gives a shit.
Merell Noden, Extra-Celestial, Mojo Special Edition: The Beatles Final Years 2003

Well, Phil Spector did not end up in clover.

For You Blue

(Harrison)

For You Blue: The Beatles, Apple USA single 1970, B-side
Not released in the UK

George Harrison For You Blue’ is a simple twelve-bar song following all the normal twelve-bar principles, except that it’s happy-go-lucky!”
Interview 1980

Anthology 3 reveals that George re-did his vocal in a January 1970 overdub.

It is dedicated to Patti Boyd. He said he was influenced by travelling to Woodstock a month or two earlier, and meeting Bob Dylan ad The Band and the relaxed woodshedding ambience compared to the tension within The Beatles. John Lennon plays lap steel on the track and Paul McCartney plays piano and bass guitar.

Harrison had played bits of Something, All Things Must Pass, Isn’t It A Pity and Let It Down in the sessions to little interest. He may have decided not to push those songs harder, because he was already thinking about a solo album … he says as much in the film, what it would be like to have an album of all his songs.

Its presence as a B-side to Long and Winding Road was possibly ‘fair shares.’ The B-side attracts the same royalty rate as the A side. In May 1969, George’s Old Brown Shoe had featured as the B-side of The Ballad of John and Yoko. Was George asserting himself? It appeared in 1976 on The Best of George Harrison.

Get Back

(Lennon – McCartney)

Get Back: The Beatles, original 45 version 1969

UK #1
US #1

A McCartney song. It’s on the same theme as Two of Us (on our way back home):

Get back to where you once belonged.

Therefore there is a logic in opening and ending with the same message … though the logic is in lyrics, not music.

The Get Back film explores their route from specific reference to generic reference, when they realized that you can’t satirize racialist politicians like Enoch Powell because their supporters will take the message at face value. See Born in the USA. (And I will note as I so often do, that in 1969, people said ‘racialist’ not ‘racist.’)

Paul McCartney When we were doing Let It Be, here were a couple of verses to ‘Get Back’ which were actually not racist at all – they were anti-racist. There were a lot of stories in the newspapers then about Pakistanis crowding out flats – you know, living 16 to a room or whatever. So in one of the verses of ‘Get Back’, which we were making up on the set of Let It Be, one of the outtakes has something about ‘too many Pakistanis living in a council flat’ – that’s the line. Which to me was actually talking out against overcrowding for Pakistanis… If there was any group that was not racist, it was the Beatles. I mean, all our favourite people were always black. We were kind of the first people to open international eyes, in a way, to Motown.
Roling Stone 1986

There was a further verse about Puerto Ricans, so as to bring in a parallel American reference.

In later years, John commented in a negative (paranoid?) way:

John Lennon I think there’s some underlying thing about Yoko in there. You know, ‘Get back to where you once belonged.’ Every time he sang the line in the studio, he’d look at Yoko. Maybe he’ll say I’m paranoid. You know, he can say, ‘I’m a normal family man, those two are freaks.’ That’ll leave him a chance to say that one.
Quoted in All We Are Saying David Shreff

The line Get back to where you should be … appears in George Harrison’s Sour Milk Sea, which he cut with Jackie Lomax in 1968.

Paul McCartney Many people have since claimed to be the Jo Jo and they’re not, let me put that straight! I had no particular person in mind, again it was a fictional character, half man, half woman, all very ambiguous. I often left things ambiguous, I like doing that in my songs.
Barry Miles, Many Years From Now

Were they following Canned Heat? Or Creedence Clearwater Revival? That was the mood and being The Beatles, they did it even better. As Ringo said in a recent interview, Lennon was an incredibly good rhythm guitarist.

Billy Preston got credit on the single: The Beatles with Billy Preston. George had brought Billy Preston to the sessions, and says they had bonded in Hamburg in 1962, both being the youngest in their bands. Billy Preston was playing organ next to Little Richard’s piano. George had gone with Eric Clapton to see Ray Charles, and there was Billy Preston on organ.

George Harrison It’s interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in, because they really don’t want people to know they’re so bitchy … Suddenly everybody’s on their best behaviour.
Anthology

The film makes it clear that Billy Preston was such a catalyst who got everyone to sit and play better. Paul agreed with George Harrison on them being on ‘best behaviour.’

George Martin Billy Preston was a great help and a very good keyboard guy, and his work on Get Back justified him being there. He was an amiable fellow, very nice and emollient. He helped to lubricate the friction that had been there.
Anthology

Having watched the eight hours of Get Back films, I can’t see that Ringo was ever a contender in the behaving badly stakes. He disagreed anyway:

Ringo Starr I don’t think Billy made us a behave a bit better. I think we were working on a good track and that always excited us. His work was also part of that, so suddenly – as always when you’re working on something good – the bullshit went out of the window and we ‘got back’ to what we did really well. Get Back was a good track. This is a kick-ass track. Don’t Let Me Down Also. They were two fine tracks. Quite simple and raw, back to basics. I’d done a hook to the track Get Back which sounded good, and it’s been copied since – by myself, in fact, on Back Off Boogaloo.
Anthology

A different, and by critical consensus, stronger take had been issued as a single, reaching #1 a year before the album. Here, framed with dialogue, the re-edited alternate version is no less direct, and while comparably less punchy, still intoxicating,
Lois Wilson, Let It Be, Record Collector Beatles Special, Vol 3.

Billy Preston When they got to the solo part, Paul just told me to take it, and I did. It was totally ad-libbed. I had no idea it was coming.
Lois Wilson The Fifth Element in Mojo Days of Revolution 1968-1970 special edition

Get Back: Danish sleeve, from The Beatles Singles Collection

The 2021 Super De Luxe box set:

Let It e: Super DeLuxe box set 2021

Overall

It’s Paul’s album. He ran the show. He wrote the best songs. Both George and John complained in Anthology that from Sgt Pepper on, Paul wanted to dictate how and what they played on his songs. Paul admits that that he was domineering, but unfortunately in joint enterprises, there is usually someone who has to say, ‘Let’s get started … Let’s try to actually do something … The clock is ticking …’ and it’s an unenviable role, and one Paul ended up with as the others seemed to lose focus.

Then George wrote two good songs, and demonstrated several better ones (with little reaction). Whatever, he was doing better than John.

John in mid-heroin days (daze) was not up to competing with either Paul or George in the songwriting stakes at this point. His Goon Show comic pieces seem like an attempt to undermine the project. His best song on there, Don’t Let Me Down never made the final cut, though it did make Let It Be – Naked, chosen by Paul. One After 909 was a dozen years old.

The album has mellowed with time. My favourite version is the 2021 Giles Martin remix, especially when heard in 5.1.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
3614 Jackson Highway – Cher (plus the bonus tracks)
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
The London Chuck Berry Sessions – Chuck Berry
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
There’s One In Every Crowd – Eric Clapton
I Want You – Marvin Gaye
Love At The Greek – Neil Diamond
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
One Trick Pony – Paul Simon
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)
Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen
Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

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2 thoughts on “Let It Be

  1. As always, a well-written and researched article. Makes me want to listen to the album again (I have some bootleg version called ‘Kum back’).

    And as always, a few corrections are needed: the first time “For you blue” is mentioned, the authors are Lennon/McCartney, not Harrison, as appears at every other mention of the song.

    AFAIK, John plays lead guitar on “Get Back”, not rhythm, although he does switch between the two. One forgets that he was quite a good guitarist.

    Like

  2. Thanks. Lazy cutting and pasting in the list rather than typing (Lennon-McCartney) every time. Corrected. Yes, John plays lead on Get Back. Ringo is quite right though in saying in a recent interview that John was one of the best rhythm guitarists of all.

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