Let It Be (Beatles album)

Let It Be is the twelfth and final studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 8 May 1970, almost a month after the group's break-up, in tandem with the motion picture of the same name. Like most of the band's previous releases, the album topped record charts in many countries, including both the US and the UK. However, the critical response was generally unfavourable, described by critic Richie Unterberger as one of the most controversial rock albums ever.[1]

Let It Be
A black cover with four square photos of the band members' faces
Studio album by
Released8 May 1970 (1970-05-08)
Recorded
  • January 1969 (except February 1968 for "Across the Universe")
  • January–April 1970
VenueApple Corps rooftop, London
Studio
GenreRock
Length35:10
LabelApple
ProducerPhil Spector
The Beatles chronology
Abbey Road
(1969)
Let It Be
(1970)
From Then to You
(1970)
The Beatles North American chronology
Hey Jude
(1970)
Let It Be
(1970)
The Beatles' Christmas Album
(1970)
Singles from Let It Be
  1. "Get Back"
    Released: 11 April 1969
  2. "Let It Be"
    Released: 6 March 1970
  3. "The Long and Winding Road" / "For You Blue"
    Released: 11 May 1970

Rehearsals began at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969 as part of a planned documentary showing the Beatles' return to live performance. Paul McCartney conceived the project as an attempt to reinvigorate the band by returning to simpler rock and roll configurations.[2] 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 members reconvened at their own Apple Studio with guest keyboardist Billy Preston. The project then yielded a single public concert held impromptu on the studio's rooftop on 30 January, from which three of the album's tracks were drawn.

In April 1969, the Beatles issued the single "Get Back", after which engineer Glyn Johns proposed rejected mixes of the album, then titled Get Back, that were widely bootlegged before release.[2] From then, the project lay in limbo as they moved onto the recording of Abbey Road, released that September. By then, John Lennon had departed the group. In January 1970, the remaining Beatles finished the album with the completion of "Let It Be" and "I Me Mine". The former was issued as a single in April 1970, and like all the album's recording to this point, was produced by George Martin.

Get Back was ultimately assembled under the title of Let It Be by the American producer Phil Spector in early 1970. He omitted "Don't Let Me Down" (the B-side of the "Get Back" single) and instead included a 1968 take of "Across the Universe". Spector also included excerpts of studio chatter and applied orchestral and choir overdubs to four tracks. The additions offended McCartney, particularly in the case of "The Long and Winding Road". In 2003, he spearheaded Let It Be... Naked, an alternative mix of Let It Be that removes Spector's embellishments.

BackgroundEdit

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 other three Beatles were less enthusiastic about McCartney's proposals as they had just completed five months' work on the band's self-titled double album (also known as the "White Album"), and the sessions had seen a number of serious arguments and strained relations among the group.[3] George Harrison in particular was opposed to the idea of touring, having taken the strongest dislike of any in the group to the gruelling tours of the Beatlemania era.[4]

Recording and productionEdit

Twickenham and Apple sessionsEdit

The Twickenham rehearsals quickly disintegrated into what was characterised as a "hostile lethargy".[5] According to journalist Michael Housego of the Daily Sketch, disagreements between Harrison and Lennon descended into violence with them allegedly throwing punches at each other. Harrison denied this in a 16 January interview for the Daily Express, saying: "There was no punch-up. We just fell out." After lunch, Harrison announced that he was "leaving the band now" and told the others "see you round the clubs".[6]

A week later the band agreed to Harrison's terms for returning to the group, which included abandoning the cold and cavernous soundstage at Twickenham. Sessions resumed on 21 January when the Beatles moved to Apple Studio, in the basement of their Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, central London. Multi-track recording began on that date[7] and continued until 31 January.[8]

Get Back mixesEdit

 
Cover of the aborted Get Back album, mirroring the cover of the band's first album, Please Please Me.

Days after the sessions at Apple had ended, Glyn Johns put together a rough mix acetate of several songs for the band to listen to. A tape copy of this acetate made its way to America, where it was played on radio stations in Buffalo and Boston over September 1969. In March 1969, Lennon and McCartney had called Johns to Abbey Road and offered him free rein to compile an album from the Get Back recordings.[9]

Johns booked time at Olympic Studios between 10 March and 28 May to mix the album and completed the final banded master tape on 28 May. Only one track, "One After 909", was taken from the rooftop concert, with "I've Got a Feeling" and "Dig a Pony" (then called "All I Want Is You") being studio recordings instead. Johns also favoured earlier, rougher versions of "Two of Us" and "The Long and Winding Road" over the more polished performances from the final, 31 January session (which were eventually chosen for the Let It Be album). It also included a jam called "Rocker", a brief rendition of the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me", Lennon's "Don't Let Me Down" and a five-minute edit of "Dig It".[10]

Get Back version one, May 1969:[10]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."One After 909" 
2."Rocker" (Improvisation) 
3."Save the Last Dance for Me" 
4."Don't Let Me Down" 
5."Dig a Pony" 
6."I've Got a Feeling" 
7."Get Back" 
Side two
No.TitleLength
1."For You Blue" 
2."Teddy Boy" 
3."Two of Us" 
4."Maggie Mae" 
5."Dig It" 
6."Let It Be" 
7."The Long and Winding Road" 
8."Get Back (reprise)" 

The cover of the proposed album featured a photograph of the Beatles by Angus McBean taken in the interior stairwell at EMI's Manchester Square headquarters. The photo was intended as an update of the group's Please Please Me cover image from 1963 and was particularly favoured by Lennon. The text design and placement similarly mirrored that of the 1963 LP sleeve.[11]

On 15 December, the Beatles again approached Johns to compile an album, but this time with the instruction that the songs must match those included in the as yet unreleased Get Back film. Between 15 December 1969 and 8 January 1970, new mixes were prepared. Glyn Johns' new mix omitted "Teddy Boy" as the song did not appear in the film. It added "Across the Universe" (a remix of the 1968 studio version, as the January 1969 rehearsals had not been properly recorded) and "I Me Mine", on which only Harrison, McCartney and Ringo Starr performed. "I Me Mine" was newly recorded on 3 January 1970, as it appeared in the film and no multi-track recording had yet been made. The Beatles once again rejected the album.[12]

Get Back version two, January 1970:[12]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."One After 909"3:03
2."Rocker" (Improvisation)0:34
3."Save the Last Dance for Me"0:20
4."Don't Let Me Down"4:40
5."Dig a Pony"4:04
6."I've Got a Feeling"2:45
7."Get Back"3:14
8."Let It Be"4:02
Side two
No.TitleLength
1."For You Blue"2:45
2."Two of Us"3:26
3."Maggie Mae"0:37
4."Dig It"4:06
5."The Long and Winding Road"3:39
6."I Me Mine"1:45
7."Across the Universe"3:27
8."Get Back (reprise)"0:38

Final mixingEdit

Several songs from the recording sessions have been released officially in versions different from those on the Let It Be album. "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" and "Let It Be" were released as singles in 1969 and 1970, respectively.[13] Seven tracks were live performances, in accordance with the original album concept: "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony" from the rooftop performance, and "Two of Us", "Dig It", "Get Back" and "Maggie Mae" from studio sessions. Contrary to the original concept, the album versions of "For You Blue", "I Me Mine", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" feature editing, splicing and/or overdubs. "Don't Let Me Down", also recorded live and previously released as the B-side of "Get Back", was not included on the album.[14] The third track on the album is an edited version of the original 1968 recording of "Across the Universe", slowed down from D-natural to D-flat, which had only been rehearsed at Twickenham and not professionally recorded on multi-track tape during the January 1969 sessions.[15]

McCartney was deeply dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of some songs, particularly "The Long and Winding Road". McCartney had conceived of the song as a simple piano ballad, but Spector dubbed in orchestral and choral accompaniment. McCartney unsuccessfully attempted to halt release of Spector's version or at least have it altered. Despite the criticisms levelled at Spector over the years for his handling of the material, Lennon defended him in his January 21, 1971, Rolling Stone interview, saying, "... 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."[16] When EMI informed Martin that he would not get a production credit because Spector produced the final version, he commented "I produced the original, and what you should do is have a credit saying 'Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector'".[17]

Critical receptionEdit

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [1]
The A.V. ClubB−[18]
Billboard     [19]
Chicago Sun-Times    [20]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[21]
The Daily Telegraph     [22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [23]
Pitchfork9.1/10[24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [25]
Sputnikmusic4/5[26]

Let It Be topped album charts in both America and the UK, and the "Let It Be" single and "The Long and Winding Road" also reached number one in the US. Despite its commercial success, according to Beatles Diary author Keith Badman, "reviews [were] not good".[27] NME critic Alan Smith wrote: "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."[28] Smith added that the album showed "contempt for the intelligence of today's record-buyer" and that the Beatles had "sold out all the principles for which they ever stood".[29] Reviewing for Rolling Stone, John Mendelsohn was also critical of the album, citing Spector's production embellishments as a weakness: "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."[30]

John Gabree of High Fidelity magazine found the album "not nearly as bad as the movie" and "positively wonderful" relative to the recent solo releases by McCartney and Starr. Gabree admired "Let It Be", "Get Back" and "Two of Us", but derided "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe", the last of which he described as "bloated and self-satisfied – the kind of song we've come to expect from these rich, privileged prototeenagers".[31] While questioning whether the Beatles' split would remain permanent, William Mann of The Times described Let It Be as "Not a breakthrough record, unless for the predominance of informal, unedited live takes; but definitely a record to give lasting pleasure. They aren't having to scrape the barrel yet."[32] In his review for The Sunday Times, Derek Jewell deemed the album to be "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."[32]

In a retrospective review, Richie Unterberger of AllMusic described Let It Be as the "only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews", but felt that it was "on the whole underrated". He singles out "some good moments of straight hard rock in 'I've Got a Feeling' and 'Dig a Pony'", and praises "Let It Be", "Get Back", and "the folky 'Two of Us', with John and Paul harmonising together".[33] Let It Be was ranked number 86 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003[34] and number 392 in the 2012 version.[35] It was voted number 890 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[36]

The Beatles won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song Score in 1970 for the songs in the film.[37]

Release historyEdit

 
The original box set packaging of Let It Be. It contained a 160-page booklet with photos and quotes from the film.

In early 1976, when the Beatles' EMI contract expired, the group's subsequent pressings ceased sporting Apple labels, Capitol labels replacing them; Let It Be, however, went out of print in America for three years.[38]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.
Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Two of Us" McCartney with Lennon3:36
2."Dig a Pony" Lennon3:54
3."Across the Universe" Lennon3:48
4."I Me Mine"George HarrisonHarrison2:26
5."Dig It"Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Richard StarkeyLennon0:50
6."Let It Be" McCartney4:03
7."Maggie Mae"Traditional
(Arranged by: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Starkey)
Lennon with McCartney0:40
Total length:19:17
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."I've Got a Feeling" McCartney and Lennon3:37
2."One After 909" Lennon with McCartney2:54
3."The Long and Winding Road" McCartney3:38
4."For You Blue"HarrisonHarrison2:32
5."Get Back" McCartney3:09
Total length:15:50

PersonnelEdit

The Beatles

  • John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar on "Get Back", lap steel guitar on "For You Blue", acoustic guitar on "Two of Us", "Across the Universe" and "Maggie Mae", six-string bass guitar on "Dig It", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road", whistling on "Two of Us"
  • Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar on "Two of Us" and "Maggie Mae", piano on "Dig It", "Across the Universe", "Let It Be", "The Long and Winding Road", and "For You Blue", Hammond organ on "I Me Mine", electric piano on "I Me Mine" and "Let It Be", maracas on "Let It Be"
  • George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitars, acoustic guitar on "For You Blue" and "I Me Mine", tambura on "Across the Universe", lead vocals on "I Me Mine" and "For You Blue", backing vocals
  • Ringo Starr – drums, percussion on "Across the Universe"

Additional musicians

  • Richard Anthony Hewson – string and brass arrangements on "I Me Mine" and "The Long and Winding Road"
  • John Barham – choral arrangements on "Across the Universe", "I Me Mine" and "The Long and Winding Road"
  • George Martin – Hammond organ on "Across the Universe", shaker on "Dig It", string and brass arrangements on "Let It Be", production
  • Linda McCartney – backing vocals on "Let It Be"
  • Billy Preston – electric piano on "Dig a Pony", "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909", "The Long and Winding Road" and "Get Back", Hammond organ on "Dig It" and "Let It Be"
  • Brian Rogers – string and brass arrangements on "Across the Universe"

Production

ChartsEdit

Weekly charts
Chart (1970) Position
Australian Kent Music Report Chart[39] 1
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[40] 1
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[41] 1
Japanese Oricon LP Chart[42] 2
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[43] 1
Swedish Albums Chart[44] 2
UK Albums Chart[45] 1
US Billboard Top LPs[46] 1
West German Media Control Albums Chart[47] 3
Weekly charts (1987 reissue)
Chart (1987) Position
Japanese Albums Chart[42] 8
UK Albums Chart[45] 50
Weekly charts (2009 reissue)
Chart (2009) Position
Austrian Albums Chart[48] 52
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[49] 37
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[50] 64
Danish Albums Chart[51] 40
Finnish Albums Chart[52] 34
Japanese Albums Chart[53] 18
Mexican Albums Chart[54] 30
Portuguese Albums Chart[55] 11
Spanish Albums Chart[56] 45
Swedish Albums Chart[57] 24
Swiss Albums Chart[58] 48
New Zealand Albums Chart[59] 29
UK Albums Chart[60] 49

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ a b Kot, Greg (17 November 2003). "Let It Be, Paul". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  3. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 137.
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  7. ^ Schweighardt & Sulpy 2007, p. 154.
  8. ^ Schweighardt & Sulpy 2007, p. 257.
  9. ^ Lewisohn 1996.
  10. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 176.
  11. ^ Spizer 2003, p. 162.
  12. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 196.
  13. ^ Schweighardt & Sulpy 1997, p. 314–315.
  14. ^ Schweighardt & Sulpy 1997, p. 316.
  15. ^ MacDonald 2007, p. 277.
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  17. ^ Lewis, Michael; Spignesi, Stephen J. 100 Best Beatles Songs: A Passionate Fan's Guide. Hachette Books. p. 42. ISBN 9781603762656.
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Sources

External linksEdit