Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let It Be (Album)

"By the time we got to Let It Be we couldn't play the game anymore."- John Lennon, Anthology
Recorded: 4 February 1968- 1 April, 1970
Released: 8 May, 1970 (UK)
               18 May, 1970 (US)
Producers: George Martin, Phil Spector
Engineers: Martin Benge, Peter Brown, Jeff Jarratt, Glyn Johns, Phil McDonald, Ken Scott
John Lennon: Vocals, electric guitar, lap steel guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, organ
Paul McCartney: Vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, maracas
George Harrison: Vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, maracas, tambura
Ringo Starr: drums, percussion, svaramandal
Billy Preston: Hammond organ, electric piano
George Martin: Hammond Organ, shaker
Linda McCartney: backing vocals
The album also featured eighteen violins, fourteen chorus singers, four cellos, four violas, three trumpets, three trombones, two additional guitarist, a tenor saxophone, and a harp.

Twickenham Studios
Although the group started a quick recording in February 1968 it wasn't till early January 1969 that The Beatles had found themselves back in the studio to record their twelfth and (arguably) last album, Let It Be. The group however weren't recording in their usual home away from home at Abbey Road nor did they work completely with their usual producer, George Martin. Instead the group had set up at a familiar studio where they used during 1964 and 1965 while filming A Hard Days Night and Help!, Twickenham Film Studios, London with producer Phil Spector. 
"They were going through a revolutionary period at that time, and were trying to think of something new - and they wanted a new engineer. They have Geoff Emerick, so Glyn Johns came in. I guess basically they wanted a new producer, but they never actually said that to me. So i was still there."- George Martin, Anthology
Ever since 29 August, 1966 when The Beatles played their last concert, Paul had always wanted The Beatles to do something else, especially after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein in 1967. Paul had pushed the group into making their third film, Magical Mystery Tour, right after Epstein had passed away to keep the band together and occupied. During 1969, McCartney, along with the other Beatles began to film their last film, a documentary, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and his crew, who had previously helped The Beatles with their promotional films for "Paperback Writer/Rain" and once again with "Hey Jude/Revolution". By filming themselves recording the album it was the best Paul could do to get close to a concert like sound , but wasn't the best for the group itself as it was soon became a very hostile environment.
"What can we do if we can't think of any sort of gimmick? Well, the worst that we have is a documentary of us making an LP, if we don't get into a show. All the things we do, the whole point of it is communication. And putting it on TV is communication, and we've got a chance to smile at people, like "All You Need Is Love". So that's my incentive for doing it."- John Lennon, 1969
 Although John was quoted saying it was a chance for them to smile at the people he was quoted the following year saying" making Let It Be was hell followed by,
"It was the most miserable session on earth."
Ringo at Twickenham
Maybe it was the environment that made the recording and filming so red, long-time Beatles roadie and friend, Neil Aspinall recalls;
"Twickenham was very cold in January, and a strange place to be making an album. It was like half recording and half filming. It didn't really feel right. Nobody was that comfortable out there."- Anthology
or maybe it was in the filming itself;
"And so he (Paul) has these ideas that we'll rehearse and then make the album. And of course we're lazy fuckers and we've been playing for twenty years, for fuck's sake , we're grown men, we're not going to sit around rehearsing. I'm not, anyway. And we couldn't get into it. And we put down a few tracks and nobody was in it at all. It was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, and being filmed all the time. I Just wanted them to go away, and we'd be there, eight in the morning. You couldn't make music at eight in the morning or ten or whenever it was, in a strange place with people filming you and coloured lights."- John Lennon, 1970
George made a point in saying that The Beatles never had privacy anyways and now they were being followed around smushing their faces against the camera lens in the one place where they were never bothered before, a recording studio. Going into this environment was especially odd for George who had just spent the last few months in Woodstock hanging out with Bob Dylan, The Band, and Jackie Lomax.
"But I can remember feeling quite optimistic about it. I thought, 'OK, it's the new Year and we have a new approach to recording.' I think the first couple of days were OK, but it was soon quite apparent that it was just the same as it had been when we were last in the studio, and it was going to be painful again."- George Harrison, Anthology
George Harrison
It had got the feelings every since The Beatles stopped touring and the passing of Brian that Paul had been taking over the group. George had felt that Paul wouldn't listen to anyone's ideas, John thought Paul was running the show, telling when everyone should arrive, what they would record, when they would do this and that, even the idea of having them be constantly filmed, and Ringo had the feelings that instead of the early Beatles being "I've just written this song- give me what you can" it became "I wrote this song and I want it this way." George Martin see's half of Paul's side and half of the others whereas Paul had just been trying to keep the group together by doing activities but John and George especially could careless about it. George with his well known quote, "I'll play what you like or I won't play at all." and John with his constant being with Yoko Ono, showing up late together at the studio or not showing up at all.
"It's easy for someone like me, who likes to get stuff done, to come on too strong. I get excited and I get too keen about something , and talk too fast - 'Oh, we could do that and we'd be there on Monday morning - Twickenham - we'll do it - it's great...' And then it got a bit difficult. I would say, 'It would be great if we could film The Beatles working. It would be fabulous.' and they'd be like, 'Well, are you sure you want to do it that way?' It was getting very lukewarm reception- and I didn't quite realise how I was."- Paul McCartney, Anthology
 Early in the recording sessions on 10 January, George Harrison had got up and left the band after getting into an argument with Paul, leaving for what seemed for good. During his absence it was suggested by John Lennon that they should get Eric Clapton to fill in for him, after all they had worked with Clapton before during their previous album, The White Album, but their plan for Eric never fell through as they waited for the return of George. While at Twickenham recording what Ringo recalls, "Jamming violently" and Yoko Ono wailing her strain vocals throughout the tapes, George had found himself at home with his guitar and wrote "Wah Wah" which would be released on George's second solo LP, All Things Must Pass in 1970. The following video is George Harrison's "Wah Wah";

"I was called to a meeting out in Elstead in Surrey, at Ringo's house that he bought from Peter Sellers. It was decided that it would be better if we got back together and finished the record. Twickenham Studios were very cold and not a nice atmosphere, so we decided to abandon that and go to Savile Row into the recording studio."- George Harrison, Anthology
On 15 January, George's break from the band was put to a rest after that meeting where he suggested that the band record in the basement of Apple where a recording studio was being built at Savile Row. They started recording at Apple on 21 January, 1969 till the 31 January.
"The days were long, and it could get boring, and Twickenham just wasn't really conducive to any great atmosphere. It was just a big barn. Then we moved to the new studios in the basement of Apple to carry on. 
The facilities at Apple were great. It was so comfortable, and it was ours, like home. It was great to go to, and when we weren't working we could sit round the fire, which we'd had put in because we wanted it really cosy."- Ringo Starr, Anthology
Billy Preston and Paul McCartney
 During the time of Get Back, the working title of Let It Be, The Beatles had been working with Glyn Jones but his work hadn't worked well with The Beatles and the group went back to find their old friend, George Martin who had brought his EMI studio equipment to Apple Studios after studio builder and John Lennon's little follower, Magic Alex, claimed that Apple Studios were going to be better than EMI studios but had forgotten to even add holes in the wall in between the control room and the studio itself. After coming to Apple Studios with their original producer, things seemed to die down a bit. On one appearance, The Beatles last recording together for the album, George Harrison had  brought in Billy Preston, an old acquaintance from The Beatles early Hamburg days in 1962, after George and Eric Clapton saw him open for Ray Charles at the Festival Hall.
"Billy came down and I said, 'Remember Billy? Here he is - he can play the piano.' He got on the electric piano, and straight away there was 1005 improvement in the vibe in the room. Having this fifth person was just enough to cut the ice that we'd created among ourselves. Billy didn't know all the politics and the games that had been going on, so his innocence he got stuck in and gave an extra little kick to the band. Everybody was happier to have somebody else playing and it made what we were doing more enjoyable. We all played better and that was a great session. It was more or less just as it is on the record."- George Harrison, Anthology
"Billy was brilliant - a little whizz-kid. We'd always got on very well with him. He showed up in London and we all said, 'Oh Bill! Great - let's have him play on a few things.' So he started sitting in on the sessions, because he was an old mate really."- Paul McCartney, Anthology
The following video is from the Let It Be sessions "Get Back" featuring Billy Preston:

  1. Two Of Us
  2. Dig A Pony
  3. Across The Universe
  4. I Me Mine
  5. Dig It
  6. Let It Be
  7. Maggie Mae
  8. I've Got A Feeling
  9. One After 909
  10. The Long and Winding Road
  11. For You Blue
  12. Get Back
By clicking the track-name above you will be brought to a Youtube page of the album version of the tracks, by clicking on the track-name as you read below you will be brought to a Youtube page on the Let It Be film version or Let It Be sessions. 
McCartney had originally wrote the song for his wife, Linda but as The Beatles began to break-up the song had took a new meaning towards him and John who sing the song together.

Part of The Beatles rooftop concert line-up. The song was originally called "Con a Lowry" but when singing didn't flow as Lennon had wanted and the lyrics had been changed to "Dig A Pony".

"'Across The Universe' was first recorded at the end of the 'White' album. I couldn't get it on because we'd done so much material. It wasn't a very good recording. By the end of the double album we were really sick of recording. It was a shame because I liked the song.
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 it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than, 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?'
But nobody was interest in doing it originally; everyone was sickened. The tune was good, but subliminally people don't want to work with it sometimes. I was so disappointed that it never went out as The Beatles. I gave it to The Wildlife Fund of Great Britain and it went out.
And then I tried to do it again when were were making 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, and then we released it again.
The words were purely inspirational and were given to me - except for maybe one or two where I had resolved a line or something like that. I don't own it; It came through like that."- John Lennon, 1971 and 1980

 A "Heavy waltz" style as George called it with the 3/4  time signature.
George and Ringo
"I Me Mine is the 'ego' problem. There are two 'I''s: the little 'i' when people say 'I am this' and the big 'I'; i.e. OM the complete whole, universal consciousness that is void of duality and ego. There is nothing that isn't part of the complete whole. When the little 'i' merges into the big 'I' then you are really smiling!  
So there is the little ego -- The little 'i' -- which is like a drop of the ocean. Swami Vivekananda says 'Each soul is potentially divine, the goal is to manifest the divinty'. We have to realise that we are of the little 'i' by the drop becoming merged into the big 'I' (the ocean). 
I suppose having LSD was like somebody catapulting me out into space. The LSD experience was the biggest experience that I'd had up until that time. The mind goes so fast and so far, and I had flashes, realisations, where I would work out the whole Universe and then get back to the starting point and think 'Shit -- I'm back to where I started' because relativity goes round and round . It actually left me confused for a while, and after one dose of acid I felt I was stuck in this thing, which later I realised is called 'relativity'. So, the big 'I' I'm talking about is the absolute, whereas we're in the relative where everything is good-bad, yes-no, up-down, black-white. That's why they called it the heaven and hell drug! But life is heaven and hell, we see it as, or make it into hell or heaven: there's no heaven and hell beyond relativity. 
So Suddenly, 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 realise that there is somebody else in here apart from old blabbermouth (that's what I felt like - I had seen or heard or done anything to my life, and yet I hadn't stopped talking). Who am 'I' became the order of the day.
Anyway that's what came out of it: I Me Mine. The truth within us has to be realised: when you realise that everything else that you see is and can answer the question 'who am i'?. 
Allen Klein thought it was an Italian song-- you know, Cara Mia Mine but it's about the ego: the eternal problem..."- George Harrison, I Me Mine

The song was coined from a common phrase being used 'Dig It'. The original track name was "Can You Dig It" which can be heard at the end of the Let It Be film version and at the beginning of "Two of Us" studio version when John can be heard saying "That was 'Can You Dig It' by Georgie Wood, and now we'd like to do 'Hark The Angels Come'."

Mary McCartney (Mohan)
 Although many people think that the song is a religious message with Mother Mary, in fact the song is about Mother Mary, but not Jesus Christ mother but Paul's own mother, Mary McCartney (read about her here), who passed away from breast cancer when Paul was only fourteen years old. Struggling with the album and the time of The Beatles fights he was becoming a bit paranoid, going to bed with a lot on his mind he had a dream of his mother coming to him and simply speaking words of wisdom,  "Let It Be".

A traditional Liverpool folk song loved amongst sailors and seamen. In the 1950s when Skiffle boomed throughout England it became a popular song.

The track is said to be the last song that Paul and John had wrote together. It consists of Paul's "I've Got A Feeling" and John's "Everybody Had a Hard Year" in which they had decided to mix them together to create the final piece.

Although the song appears on The Beatles last album it was written by John at home in 1959. Yes, that's before the group released their first album, Please Please Me in 1963 and even three years before Ringo had joined the group. The song could be heard as far back as the early Cavern Club days. The following video is an early version of the song performed at the Cavern Club

"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."- Paul McCartney
The song being about the tension between the group and Paul following the B842, a road that runs through the east coast of Kintyre towards his High Park in Campbeltwon (read about the home here).

"For You Blue is a simple twelve- bar song following all the normal twelve-bar principles except it's happy-go-lucky!"- George Harrison, I Me Mine
George's son, Dhani, had performed the song in a Gap commercial on 16 September, 2013, check out the commercial here.

The song being about Britain's anti-immigrant laws and telling everyone to Get Back to their own countries. 
The track featured Billy Preston,
"Billy Preston was a great help and a very good keyboard guy, and his work on 'Get Back' alone justified him being there. He was an amiable fellow too, very nice and emollient. He helped to lubricate the friction that had been there."- George Martin, Anthology
Let It Be recordings ended on 31 January, 1969 at Apple Studios with a total of about twenty-nine hours of tape that was given to The Beatles new engineer, Glyn Johns, who took the lengthy tapes on 10 March, 1969 in London at Olympic Sound Studios after John and Paul had met with him at EMI Studios where The Beatles themselves have done little work on them with what was the original track-list to Get Back, as it was still called during this time being; 
  1. One After 909
  2. Rocker
  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
  8. For You Blue
  9. Teddy Boy
  10. Two Of Us
  11. Maggie Mae
  12. Dig It
  13. Let It Be
  14. The Long and Winding Road
  15. Get Back (reprise)

Glyn Johns

 Glyn Johns produced two different versions of the album. The first version was rejected by the group in late 1969 which allowed The Beatles to head back to the studios (a complete year after the initial recordings) on the 3 and 4 January, 1970 were they recorded new versions of two tracks, "I Me Mine"- which just featured Paul, George, and Ringo while John was on vacation in Denmark. The second sessions was working on overdubbing "Let It Be" on 4 January which became The Beatles last recording sessions together.
Johns' second version of the album started on 5 January, 1970 when the track-listing changed to;
  1. One After 909
  2. Rocker
  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
  8. Let It Be
  9. For You Blue
  10. Two Of Us
  11. Maggie Mae
  12. Dig It
  13. The Long and Winding Road
  14. I Me Mine
  15. Across The Universe
  16. Get Back (reprise)
Just like the first version of the LP, The Beatles rejecting Johns work again;
"I originally put together an album of rehearsals, with chat and jokes and bits of general conversation in between the tracks, which was the way I wanted Let It Be to be – breakdowns, false starts. Really the idea was that at the time, they were viewed as being the be-all-and-end-all, sort of up on a pedestal, beyond touch, just Gods, completely Gods, and what I witnessed going on at these rehearsals was that, in fact, they were hysterically funny, but very ordinary people in many ways, and they were capable of playing as a band, which everybody was beginning to wonder about at that point, because they hadn’t done so for some time – everything had been prepared in advance, everything had been overdubbed and everything, and they proved in that rehearsal that they could still sing and play at the same time, and they could make records without all those weird and wonderful sounds on them. That became an obsession with me, and I got the bit between my teeth about it, and one night, I mixed a bunch of stuff that they didn’t even know I’d recorded half the time – I just whacked the recorder on for a lot of stuff that they did, and gave them an acetate the following morning of what I’d done, as a rough idea of what an album could be like, released as it was…
They came back and said they didn’t like it, or each individual bloke came in and said he didn’t like it, and that was the end of that. A period of time went by and I went to America to work with Steve Miller, and when I came back, I got a call from John and Paul asking me to meet them at EMI, which I duly did. They pointed to a big pile of tapes in the corner, and said, ‘Remember that idea you had about putting together an album?’ and I said, ‘Yes’. They said, ‘Well, there are the tapes – go and do it’. So I was absolutely petrified – you can imagine. I was actually being asked to put together a Beatle album on my own. So I did – I went off and locked myself away for a week or so and pieced an album together out of these rehearsed tapes, which they then all liked, really liked. This was some months after the thing had actually been recorded, and we’d actually started work on Abbey Road about the same time."-Glyn Johns, The Recording Producers
Phil Spector
 Phil Spector stepped into the picture on 23 March, 1970 when the LP was now officially called, Let It Be., after becoming friendly with Beatles manager Allen Klein and his dream to work with the Fab Four. Spector was put on the album by John and George without Paul or even Beatles producer, George Martin knowing about it . 
"He really can play a control board. He just plays it. He can really make any sound you like within seconds. His knowledge is incredible. I learnt a lot from him. Phil leaves you to present him with a picture you think you want, and then he'll take the best shot of it with his camera sort of thing. You present him with the stage set and he'll make sure you get a good picture out of it, a good sound. You get what you're making. The usual trouble is t&R man. He likes the same old kind of rock crap that I like."- John Lennon, 1970
After working "like a pig", Phil's mixing was over on 2 April, 1970 and the album was finished. During this time The Beatles had stopped working with each other with a lot of tension being tossed around. After Spector had shown the group his version of the album with hard work on 1 April adding orchestra to John's "Across The Universe" and without Paul knowing, and orchestra and choir to Paul's 'The Long and Winding Road", which raged Paul;
"To me, it was really because Let It Be was the bare record that Glyn Johns had mixed - with no over dubs on it, no orchestras, no nothing. It was very, very simple. It was just a band, very live sounding - in a room or on a roof - and I really liked that. Maybe it was a bit tough to take. Maybe it wasn't that commercial, but anyway these were the kind of things that were starting to go wrong."- Paul McCartney, Anthology
In 1970 Paul spoke out again about the Orchestra and choir added to his song;
"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 women's choir added. No one had asked me what I thought. I couldn't believe it. I would never have female voices on a Beatles record. 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 of the things to be altered, but I haven't received an answer yet."- Paul McCartney, April 1970
But what did the others think of Spector's work? George Martin wasn't a fan of it, although he was a fan of Phil Spector's previous work. He thought that Spector had taken the album and had done everything he could do with it to change it around instead of the bare and Beatles original take on it, 
"It was always understood that the album would be like nothing the Beatles had done before. It would be honest, no overdubbing, no editing, truly live.... almost amateurish. When John brought in Phil Spector he contradicted everything he had said before. When I heard the final sounds I was shaken. they were so uncharacteristic of the clean sounds the Beatles had always used. At the time Spector was John's buddy, mate and pal... I was astonished because I knew Paul would never have agreed to it. In fact I contacted him and he said nobody was more surprised than he was"-George Martin, Rolling Stone
George Martin even went on to say that Phil had taken the record to make it sound like an LP sung by someone else. Ringo and John loved Phil's work on the album and everything he did with it. While Glyn Johns hated the album saying he can't even listen to it. What does Phil say about it?
"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 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."- Phil Spector
Album Cover

Original cover- Note the album title "Get Back"
The original cover was suppose to be a mock at the groups first album, Please Please Me, taken on a stair case at the EMI offices by Angus McBean. As the time for the album to be released was drawing closer the group had decided just to have the four portraits of themselves from the recording sessions become the cover, separating each of them with thick black bars. On the back cover read;
"This is a new phase BEATLES album...
Essential to the content of the film, LET IT BE was that they performed live for many of the tracks; in comes the warmth and the freshness of a live performance; as reproduced for disc by Phil Spector."
 Those words started a row between Lennon and McCartney as Paul said that the statement was "nothing further from the truth" that it wasn't a new phase, it was the last phase of The Beatles, while John saying it was adding a parody from The Beatles first album in the last album with the writing style of Tony Barrow which appeared on early Beatle works, then by pointing fun at McCartney and his new band, Wings (read about Wings history here and Wings touring here), album Wild Life.


The album isn't like any other album when it comes to the release. The album may of been the last Beatles album released but was the second to last album recorded as their Abbey Road LP was recorded during the mixing and hassle of the Let It Be project. 
"In May 1970 Let It be came out as the last album, thought Abbey Road was, of course, the last to be recorded. It goes to show how quirky the world is- that the next to last album comes out as the last album, and the last album came out before it. But we split up after Abbey Road and weren't really thinking about splitting up on the one before. It's all very strange."- Ringo Starr, Anthology
 On April 10, 1970 Paul McCartney had announced that he had left The Beatles  and newspapers printed the story that The Beatles have broken up. Despite The Beatles split about a month after the announcement The Beatles "The Long and Winding Road"/"For You Blue" were released as singles in the US as Allen Klein tried to make the most money off of The Beatles as he can having sold 1.2 million copies in the first two days of it being on sale with "The Long and Winding Road" becoming The Beatles final number one single.

On 8 May, 1970 the UK release of Let It Be which up til the following November was released as a box set containing a 168-paged book containing the script of the album film, calling the book Get Back. Ten days later on 18 May, the album was released in the US with 3,700,000 orders in advance, becoming the highest orders placed for any album in history in US history. 

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