So far on my countdown of the rankings of The Beatles studio albums I have at #13 Yellow Submarine and at #12 The Beatles For Sale. Today at #11 I have Let It Be. Let It Be was released on May 8, 1970. The Beatles had broken up the month before. Let It Be was not the last album recorded by The Beatles- Abbey Road was-but Let It Be was the last album to be released.
The Get Back project as originally conceived by Paul McCartney who at this point was the one who was driving the ship- was to get The Beatles back to a less complicated approach to making their music. They gathered in January 1969 at Thickenham Film Studio- they were going to film their rehearsals for a documentary on the making of the album. The bad feeling from the previous years making of The Beatles aka The White Album carried over. At one point George Harrison quit. For him to return they had to agree to bring in Billy Preston as a guest musician. Watching the documentary Let It Be- is an interesting but for this Beatles fan- an unpleasant experience for the most part. When they were finished recording the album they had a mess on their hands- the mixes that Glyn Johns came up with were rejected. They left the material they recorded in the can for the moment and a few weeks later Paul suggested to their producer George Martin that they all get together and make an album they way they used to do- Martin agreed on the condition that he be in control of the project and the boys have some discipline. The inner fighting had to stop. So they began recording what would become Abbey Road over the next six months- and Abbey Road would be released in September of 1969. So the last recorded album was Abbey Road. Let It Be was still in the can. They would bring in the immortal producer Phil Spector in early 1970 to make some sense of the Get Back sessions which would end up becoming the Let It Be album- released in May 1970.
Let It Be is by far The Beatles most controversial album. The pros and cons of bringing Phil Spector in to produce it will be argued over forever. Spector is one of the most noted producers and one of the most notorious characters in the history of rock music. For the most part he was more famous than the majority of the artists he produced- especially up to his working with The Beatles. He was the talent. He made dozens of hits with acts of mediocre talent with his Wall of Sound production. The most talented acts he had worked with up to 1970 had been The Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner. To give Spector his due- his work up until the mid 60’s was spectacular -I’d recommend the box set Back To Mono. Spector was a great producer in his time.
John Lennon would state in the 1970’s that the criticism of Spectors production of Let It Be was unfair that he was given a bunch of poorly recorded rubbish and made it into a decent album. Paul McCartney has always had different views on that- especially on what Spector did to his “The Long And Winding Road.”
The album starts out with the best non-single on the album- Paul’s Two Of Us- Paul has claimed that the song was written about his relationship with his wife-to-be Linda but It sounds to me like it was at least partly about his relationship with John Lennon. On the album Phil Spector added a spoken introduction of humor were John said “I Dig A Pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf-Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats!” When Paul decades later released Let It Be…Naked–this and the several other bits of humor that the original version had were removed– a mistake in my opinion. This did give the album a feeling that they were still having some fun in the studio- that it wasn’t all bickering. Following Two of Us- is John’s I Dig A Pony which was a song he wrote for Yoko- a song of nonsensical phases in the Dylan style.
The next song is my favorite John Lennon written tune on the album “Across The Universe”- my favorite version of the song is the one released on a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund titled No One’s Going To Change Our World which was released in late 1969. That version had the sound effects of birds added at the beginning and end of the song. The version here is with Phil Spector’s hands on it and John would be critical of it saying “The Beatles didn’t make a good record of it.” It is a better song than the final version here on Let It Be. I can do without the Spector added strings and choir.
George Harrison contributed two songs to the album-one on each side- I Me Mine-which is George’s commentary on The Beatles situation at that moment- the selfishness of John and Paul. It had to be a difficult situation- John and Paul for most of the bands history were driving the car and George the junior partner. Then George comes into his own as a songwriter and giving him his song on each album isn’t going to fulfill him. George felt he was getting shorted and he certainly at this point was. Very good and strong song. George would later title his book “I Me Mine”
Dig It- is .50 long and one of the few songs credited to all four Beatles- the original song was nearly 4 minutes long, there was even a jam lasting 15 minutes but was cut by Spector . John started singing “Like A Rolling Stone”- then rattles off “like the FBI, and the CIA and the BBC and Doris Day and Matt Busby” before repeating many times “dig it, dig it and then the spoken That was “Can You Dig It” by Georgie Wood , and now we’d like to do “Hark the Angels Come” This short song was left off the Let It Be..Naked album- again this is short- and certainly not an important Beatles song- if you call it a song but I liked it. Also for years I had no idea who Matt Busby was- later when I got into soccer I found out he was a famous gaffer for Manchester United…. and who was Georgie Wood? A 4 foot 6 inch British actor and comedian. Both Busby and Wood were alive at the time.
The song Let It Be is a timeless masterpiece by Paul. The song went to #1. What more can I say about this song then has already been said. I prefer the single of Let It Be over the album version where Spector had his hands on it. Side 1 concludes with Maggie Mae a traditional Liverpool folk song about a prostitute- again this is just a short piece .40 seconds and adds some humor–and of course Paul cut it from Let It Be..Naked.
Side 2- I”ve Got A Feeling- is a combination of two unfinished songs- Paul’s I’ve Got A Feeling and John’s “Everybody Had A Hard Year’ and John indeed had just experienced a very hard year. One After 909- a song written a decade earlier but never used. The performance used on the album was from the famous rooftop concert. The Long and Winding Road- a Paul song comes next- it is the most controversial song on the album- as far as the production job Phil Spector did on it- adding the strings and choral overdubs which Paul didn’t like and neither do I. The Let It Be…Naked version with the overdubs taken off sound a lot better. On Let It Be- a better song than it is a recording. The single did go to #1- the groups 20th and final #1. For You Blue is George’s contribution to side 2- a love song to his then wife Pattie. It would be the b-side to single “The Long And Winding Road.” Influenced by George’s hanging out with Bob Dylan at his Woodstock home. A decent song but I’ll take I Me Mine over it. Get Back closes the album- another #1 song- it had been released back in April 1969 before Spector. The album version was produced by Spector and he added the great comments from Paul and John about passing the audition- a great way to end it all.
I know a few people who say that Let It Be is their favorite album. I certainly give it 5 stars but it has never been as far as The Beatles go- even close to being my favorite. Having seen the documentary in some ways probably has an impact on how I view the album. While it was an interesting and in its ways a great documentary of The Beatles- I find it sad. I don’t like seeing them arguing. Just an overall bad vibe. The album has clear highlights. I wonder as the 50th anniversary comes will the album and the documentary get the big 50th anniversary treatment? They certainly have all kinds of material available- maybe they can take a sad ending and make it better.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I am trying to merge the personal favorite and best- together. I like The Beatles For Sale which I had at #12 more than Let It Be- but I do think Let It Be is a stronger album so I put it ahead of The Beatles For Sale…. the next post will be #10- what will #10 be- following #13- Yellow Submarine, #12- The Beatles For Sale and #11 Let It Be?
By the way my listings- I think if you asked twenty Beatles fanatics to rank the 13 albums you would probably get twenty different lists- none being the same. As I said earlier I know some people who rank Let It Be as #1. Its all subjective.