May 1970 "Let It Be"
This month will mark the 43rd anniversary of the release of the final studio Beatles album. The release of "Let It Be" occurred in May of 1970. Yet it would take well over a year to release it. The sessions for "Let It Be" then known as "Get Back" were completed in January of 1969.
"Get Back" was born of a desire to do "live" sessions and rely less on dubbing and other facets and return back to their roots.
During the sessions for "Get Back" there were a lot of tensions and problems going on within the Beatles that had been brewing since the sessions for the "White Album". John and Paul were now working separately. John's mind was more on being with Yoko, and by this point, the two were inseparable. Yoko's presence in the studio made the others uncomfortable, adding more tension to an already simmering situation.
George Harrison and Paul McCartney, had some pretty tense arguments. Which resulted finally in George Harrison walking out and temporarily quitting the band on January 10, 1969 because he had had enough.
The sessions were often very long as Paul wanted the band to rehearse the music first and then record it. Plus the sessions were being filmed as well. John Lennon in an interview with Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone in 1971 said this of the sessions.
"Paul had this idea that he was going to rehearse us. He’s looking for perfection all the time, and had these ideas that we would rehearse and then make the album. We, being lazy fuckers –and we’d been playing for 20 years! We’re grown men, for fuck’s sake, and we’re not going to sit around and rehearse, I’m not, anyway –we couldn’t get into it. "
When George returned after a few days, he brought with him keyboardist Billy Preston, who would work on the final days of the "Get Back" sessions. Billy Preston would also take part in the "Rooftop Concert" on January 30, 1969 becoming for the most part, the "fifth Beatle" during this period.
During 1969, there were also business tensions going on within the band and arguments over who they wanted to run things business wise. The end result of these conflicts further separated and divided the Beatles.
In March of 1969, engineer Glyn Johns was brought in to compile an album from the "Get Back" recordings. Once Glyn Johns started work on "Get Back" he worked steadily from March to May of 1969 to compile several versions of the album. Which in the end, the Beatles rejected. Eventually, "Get Back" would be shelved and work would start instead on the album "Abbey Road" in April of 1969.
Glyn Johns would again be approached in December of 1969. By this point, John Lennon had already quit the Beatles, having walked out of a meeting in September of 1969. This time Glyn Johns was given instructions that the songs must match those used in the then unreleased film for the sessions. The resulting product was again rejected for a variety of reasons. One song, "Teddy Boy" was not included as it was not used in the film and also because Paul had re-recorded it for his solo album "McCartney". Another track ended up being added as it would be included in the upcoming film. "I, Me Mine", a George Harrison song. "I, Me, Mine" was completed on January 3, 1970. Like before, The Beatles didn't like the end result and once more rejected what Johns had put together for them. So again the sessions were shelved.
Phil Spector would be the next person the Beatles would contact to finish the album. The tapes were delivered to him 3 months later in March of 1970. By then the album was no longer being called "Get Back" and instead was now to be called "Let It Be". The film accompanying the album would also be called "Let It Be" and both were released in May of 1970. Paul McCartney was not as satisfied with some of the work that Spector had done, particularly "The Long And Winding Road" which he had envisioned as a piano ballad and less the orchestral sound that Spector had put together. Paul McCartney attempted to halt the release of Spector's version of the song and have "The Long And Winding Road" re-done. But in the end, the song stayed on, orchestral version and all.
Despite criticisms by some critics aimed at Phil Spector's finished product, John Lennon defended him in an interview in 1971 with Jann Wenner. Reading his thoughts you can tell how the making of "Get Back/Let It Be" had worn on him as well as the others.
"The tape ended up like the bootleg version. We didn’t want to know about it anymore, so we just left it to Glyn Johns and said, “Here, mix it.” That was the first time since the first album that we didn’t want to have anything to do with it. None of us could be bothered going in. Nobody called anybody about it, and the tapes were left there. Glyn Johns did it. We got an acetate in the mail and we called each other and said, “What do you think?”
We were going to let it out in really shitty condition. I didn’t care. I thought it was good to let it out and show people what had happened to us, we can’t get it together; we don’t play together any more; you know, leave us alone. The bootleg version is what it was like, and everyone was probably thinking they’re not going to fucking work on it. There were 29 hours of tape, so much that it was like a movie. Twenty takes of everything, because we were rehearsing and taking everything. Nobody could face looking at it.
When Spector came around, we said, “Well, if you want to work with us, go and do your audition.” He worked like a pig on it. He always wanted to work with the Beatles, and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit, with a lousy feeling toward it, ever. And he made something out of it. He did a great job.
When I heard it, I didn’t puke; I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over me that this was going to go out. "
So finally in May of 1970, well over a year later, what was not meant to be their final album became their final album and was released. "Let It Be" was forged through a period that would become the ultimate climactic point for the Beatles. As a big fan of the Beatles, I find it apt that the title summed it all up and put it all in perspective. "Let It Be" despite the drama, ended up being in my opinion an awesome album!
Let It Be (full album) listen to it on youtube
Let It Be (Naked) full album listen to it on youtube
Please check out some of my other recent posts:
Book Review -- "Shoulda Been There" by Jude Kessler
Junior Press Conference At The Warwick Hotel 8/22/1966
TOP 10 BIGGEST SELLING BEATLES HITS
The Beatles Bible
Jann S Wenner Archives (John Lennon Interview)
The Free Dictionary - The Beatles