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Let It Be

Paul was right; Get Back was a brilliant concept for a film and Let It Be…Naked is the better album. Let It Be the album however is what we were bequeathed at the time, in an expensive box set, from a failed, or perhaps unrealised,  fascinating project. Still the rooftop concert shows what “Get Back” might have become and almost pulls it off with five terrific live performances, despite the cold, inhospitable surroundings and police presence; semolina pilchards climbing up the Apple tower. This was Paul’s “good little live band”; Beatles plus Billy Preston. As they said in 1966 they would need more than the four of them to do the songs justice.

Two factors scuppered Paul’s plan; wrong context, wrong atmosphere. The studio at Twickenham was the wrong context, Abbey Road was where their studio creativity flourished best, and to where they returned at George’s insistence for their final flourish. Masters of Abbey Road they could let their tacit brilliance flow and work to their own rhythms. At Twickenham, when they were filming, they were back to being hired hands in their own movie. Secondly whilst there were four Beatles working on the White Album now there were none, well possibly one. The collaboratively ferocious work ethic of the Fab Four had been replaced by four increasingly independent young artists and businessmen working out how they could make their own way in the world.

Nonetheless even half-realised Let It Be still had some real gems. Two of Us is full of beautiful sentiments, but perhaps not truly reflective of that moment in time. The recurring word Home suggests an origin in the same thoughts that prompted the unrealised “Liverpool” concept album, captures the nostalgia for their early rock n roll camaraderie whilst looking forward to their new, post band lives. Two of Us breezes along yet drips with this hometown nostalgia. Here is a great studio version. 

And then the album goes live with Dig A Pony, with a huge false start that lets us know it is. What I love about Let It Be, especially the …Naked version, is that they are playing with the Beatles palette; you get early Beatles rock n roll  allied to late Beatles lyrics and creative smarts. Dig A Pony is exactly what Paul had envisaged in the Get Back project; a new song quickly polished up and bashed out live. This was the quality I realised Let It Be contained when I got the …Naked version on CD. And here they are bashing it out during the rooftop performance.

Across The Universe was originally on a WWF album after being rejected as a single and I am not sure what it is doing on Let It Be, great Lennon peace anthem though it is. It was the first song Lennon wrote after I Am The Walrus at Kenwood some time before Get Back, and it doesn’t fit into the sequence set up by the first two tracks. It’s in the film but the Rishikesh vibe doesn’t sit with the rock band format; right song, wrong place. Who did the sequencing?

On the other hand I Me Mine perfectly ties in with the Get Back concept as George comments on the developing Me focus of the We generation, and the music is one with the great little rock band brief. In classic Beatles album sequencing style this would have been the third track on the album. The video shows John and Yoko waltzing in the studio, after working on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer on January 8th 1969, whilst Paul, George and Ringo get into I Me Mine as a White Album trio.  

To people like me, who grew up with the Beatles, the single of Let It Be was their elegy and the album placing, almost at the end of side one, is clumsy; Let It Be…Naked put it right at the end. But, in the end, this is a great performance and captures what Paul was trying to achieve with Get Back. This video provides testament to Paul’s testimony about times of trouble; they still turned out classics. 

And I’ve Got A Feeling is a great lost Beatles classic. When Let It Be…Naked came out I added it to various mixes I made and played it at lot. Many people were surprised at such a great Beatles track that they had never heard; it was a studio version. The live version from the film Let It Be captures their playing (“it’s hard”) and the video also reflects their popularity with the great British populace from which they had emerged. I love the middle section, the performance and the comments from people in the street below; “they are out on their own” Their transcendent popularity held good with the UK populace at the time of recording.

Then the great joke of the album. A track rejected by George Martin in March 1963 but used by the boys to brighten themselves up in the studio as they had so many mid-tempo tracks. One after 909 leaps out of the speakers, fits in with the album’s mood and also gets to warm them up on the cold, cold roof. I’m all in favour of it;

I’ve never got Long & Winding Road, sounds like a track off Red Rose Speedway to me. The string-free version is better and here is a studio video, looks like Abbey Road, Billy Preston working hard. Nope still don’t get it. Big in the States apparently.

George’s For You Blue is nicely inconsequential and fits in to the album’s comfortable bash it out ethos. Sounds like it was inspired by The Band back-to-basics and accidentally low-fi Music From Big Pink. John on slide so George can concentrate on the vocals. There is a nice alternative video of some rehearsals in the studio, but here is a live studio video that is close to the album version.

As Geoff Emerick says Lennon always cracks you up in the studio and he farts off a joke on the album version before Ringo brushes it off and gallops away with the intro to Get Back, originally the centrepiece for the whole project and just right up on the roof. Always a great Beatles track but it sounded surprisingly retro in 1969. This video shows the opening live version (they repeat it at the end) and the band emerging onto the roof.

And then it’s all over. At the end John asks if they had passed the audition. They had. Adolescence was over and they could go on to be grown men, however much everyone else didn’t want them to, and still don’t. Except, of course, for the continuing story of those particularly radio-active isotopes of Beatles music they left glowing in their wake, and which we have been turning over in our minds ever since.

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my story about Let It Be on 9 after 909.

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10 Responses to “Home”

  1. […] This blog takes its title from One after 909 a pre-Parlophone Lennon and McCartney song that George Martin didn’t rate in March 1963 but on Let It Be it just sounds like joyous fun; Let It Be. There is a YouTube version of this post on A Beatles YouTube Album. […]

  2. That is a nice rendition of Two of Us, its similarity with the released version shows how tight they had become at playing the track. But a fair amount of time was dedicated to rehearsing Two of Us (many of Harrison’s songs were glossed over for most of the sessions – hence All Things Must Pass et al did not surface till post-beatles).

    It is worth noting, however, that Ringo looks bored shitless, Lennon seems largely disinterested and even the ever-keen Paul looks like he is going through the motions – though whether this is due to the fraught nature of the sessions or the inate and somewhat pretentious “seriousness” about the project I know not.

    Harrison, curiously seems to be enjoying himself as he noodles away in a funky version of the bassline – played on his Tele rather than either Macca’s Rickenbacker bass (visable in the background) or the more commonly used Fender 6 string bass that was kicking about the LIB sessions.

  3. Oh and btw ‘Across the Universe’ made it onto LIB because Lennon is seen playing it at some point in the film – intended as a soundtrack to the movie, the old unfinished recording of ATU was slipped onto the LP.

  4. Wow, you know your stuff! In “More Than A Feeling”, a sort of multimedia version of Lewisohn by John Winn who seems to have looked at all the bootlegs too, they record that Lennon couldnt master All Things Must Pass. In line with what you say they started on Two of Us on the the first day of working, Jan 2nd 1969, on Let It Be and on the last day of post-production on Jan 31st, so they worked more than average, more than they spent on While My Guitar for example. “All Things” got about a third of the time, if that. I love Ringo’s comment about Pepper “it’s a great album on which I learnt to play chess”. Probably too much tiptoeing around the sensibilities to let them bash it out and keep Ringo fully occupied. It is one of the great bored looks though, probably learnt it in the Apple Boardroom…

  5. Conversely, the rooftop ‘Get Back’ video is quite rocking and shows the four of them in a fairly eager mood, Lennon clearly digs the idea of playing on the roof to London – though it is a massive step down from most of his original grand suggestions (all pooh-poohed by George and Ringo). But nice to see em rockin and having a good ‘un one last time…

    Sorry for the multiple comments btw

  6. Oops, thanks!
    I’ve never seen the film, and couldn’t get hold of it as DVD or video, although I just notice someone has uploaded it onto YouTube in sections, so couldnt check. However if you look at suite 101 on the Get Back project they say Lennon just added it. Sources hey!
    http://rockmusic.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_story_of_the_beatles_get_back_album
    Thanks for fact-checking – you aren’t American are you?

  7. Good lord no, I’m from Liverpool originally 🙂

  8. Cool, the cropped picture of me on wordpress was taken in Matthew Street next to the John Lennon statue

  9. But I’m in London, near to where they used to go for a fry-up when they played the Lewisham Odeon in 63

  10. That place should have a blue plaque on the wall 😉

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