Let It Be at 40

Can you believe it?

Let It Be turned 40 last weekend.

Here’s the Wikipedia extract with a brief detail of the album:

Let It Be  was the twelfth and final studio album released by The Beatles. It was released on 8 May, 1970 by the band’s Apple Records label shortly after the group’s announced breakup.

Most of Let It Be was recorded in January 1969, before the recording and release of the 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. Let It Be was originally intended to be released before Abbey Road during mid-1969 as Get Back, but the Beatles were unhappy with this version, which was mixed and compiled by Glyn Johns, and it was temporarily shelved. A new version of the album was created by Phil Spector in 1970 and finally released as Let It Be, serving as the soundtrack album for the 1970 motion picture of the same name.

Let It Be - film lobby card

Let It Be - lobby card - Paul

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.

The rehearsals and recording sessions for the album did not run smoothly. The acrimony that began during the recording of the previous year’s White Album resumed soon after the rehearsals began. At one point, George Harrison walked out and quit the group after severely arguing with both Paul McCartney and John Lennon, only to be coaxed back some days later. The film version is famous for showcasing a number of conflicts between the group members and has frequently been referred to as a documentary intended to show the making of an album but instead showing “the break-up of a band”.

Despite a largely negative review from Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, the album was ranked number 86 in the magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003.

Let It Be… Naked was released in 2003, an alternative version of the album stripping much of Phil Spector’s production work and using some different versions of songs.

Let It Be - Naked (2003)

Here’s an article from Rolling Stone magazine this week:

Forty years ago this weekend, the greatest band of all time gave the world their final album together: On May 8th, 1970, the Beatles released Let It Be, the Phil Spector-produced LP that featured hits like the title track, “The Long and Winding Road” and one of John Lennon’s most famous compositions, “Across the Universe.” While the album was recorded during the band’s caustic final days, Let It Be would go on to become one of their most celebrated records: it ranked Number 86 in Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The story behind Let It Be is almost as mythic as the Beatles themselves. The band originally intended to record it as a live-in-the-studio album and movie in 1969. But the ambitious undertaking left the Beatles so weary, they abandoned the project to make Abbey Road instead. Later, Phil Spector added oversweetened orchestral overdubs to many of the album’s tracks — even though the record features some of the band’s strongest rock songs ever (including “Get Back”). In 1970, the Beatles released the documentary film of the same name, which captured the group’s iconic performance atop the Apple Studios building in January 1969. Perhaps due its controversial and detailed look at the Beatles’ interpersonal problems, the film itself remains unavailable on DVD.

Despite the album’s status in rock history, Paul McCartney was never a fan of Phil Spector’s production flourishes on Let It Be. In Rolling Stone‘s original review of the album, writer John Mendelsohn also criticized Spector’s superfluous additions, saying the famed Wall of Sound producer rendered “The Long and Winding Road” “virtually unlistenable with hideously cloying strings and a ridiculous choir” when compared to the version that appeared on the Get Back bootlegs in May, 1969. After years of dissatisfaction with the released version, McCartney announced plans to put out Let It Be… Naked in November 2003, which stripped the Let It Be songs of Spector’s ornate production.   (Daniel Kreps – Rolling Stone)

Finally, here’s the sound of  “Get Back” in an early incarnation, in rehearsal with John singing lead instead of Paul, and clearly the words to the song are still coming together….

See also: Label Variations – Part Two – Let It Be