The Beatles Let It Be 1969

Beatles Creativity (6) And In The End

In 1968 The Beatles peaked again recording their longest, most diverse and biggest selling White Album, and their longest and most successful single Hey Jude. The Beatles created great work when they had time to prepare, had a break and worked closely with collaborative Fifth Beatles. Starting the Get Back Sessions 6 busy weeks later as ‘lets make an album without prep because we are such geniuses’, was as pre-destined to fail as the Magical Mystery Tour. Both were saved as albums because The Beatles knew how to write and record songs and meet a deadline. Thanks to Rishikesh and Kinfauns the White Album had been their best prepared album, so missing recording to deal with Apple Business didn’t affect that plan. However as Ringo said in 1969 ‘now it is all he, where it used to be all we.” McCartney had visited the Harlem Apollo whilst living in Greenwich Village with Linda & Heather, George had recorded Indian music & jammed with The Band, Ringo was an actor and Lennon wanted to be with Yoko. Arriving at a film studio cold and early on January 2nd 1969 to create spontaneously doesn’t work for musical historians and cultural editors.

Of all the writing on Let It Be only Kenneth Womack picks up on the inordinate amount of fifties songs The Beatles played whilst ‘creating’ on the Twickenham Studios Sound Stage, and identifies it with some of the regression they displayed on the White Album, such as McCartney turning into his Dad on Honey Pie. The Beatles had completed their cycle of learning about musical creativity, applied what they knew to Apple but failed to re-imagine themselves as a musical collective. To move on they wanted to get back to where they once belonged. Some of the tension, creativity and jamming is captured in this 14 5 minute outtake from the film Let It Be;  

Womack suggests that the Beatles were re-creating their ‘insouciant and fun-loving’ early days (which also resulted in Billy Preston, whom they had met in Hamburg, playing on the Get Back sessions) in light of the ‘modernism’ they had developed as recording artists. As well as letting them run away from their over-whelming and vicious business dealings, they were playing their old repertoire to see what they could fillet and re-present. What we see on Let It Be are the rough sketches they would make before starting an album presented as a fully finished artefact. Geoff Emerick points out that classical expert Alan Stagge was put in charge of EMI studios in 1968, causing many problems during the White Album and The Beatles wanted away to their own studio to control their own output after EMI had failed them badly. This sessions outtake captures this old subject / new expression tension they played with really well, Teddy Boy;  

Twickenham seemed an acceptable compromise at first because trusted film maker Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who filmed the live version of Hey Jude and the Stones Rock n Roll Circus) could work there, EMI had let them down and their own studio at Apple wasn’t ready; big mistake! With the benefit of hindsight we know The Beatles crafted and recorded best in a supportive environment surrounded by several Fifth Beatles, including George Martin (absent from Get Back), enabling their work. Banishing them to Twickenham was like filming the Kinfauns session without the material they had prepared in Rishikesh. What The Beatles were working on was a Big Pink back-to-basics combination of editing their history (what Womack calls ‘redacting’) and re-living it to refresh their creativity. The combination of the Day in The Life-like I’ve Got A Feeling and One After 909, one of their oldest songs, played live on the Apple Rooftop nicely captures the mix of approaches The Beatles took during the Get Back Sessions; One after 909 –I’ve Got A Feeling  Live; 

Ironically the chaotically ragged rooftop concert was full of the fun of rock’n roll and shows that The Beatles might have pulled off the conceit they started with; starting with nothing, recording an album’s worth of songs and premiering it in a live concert. However they stopped initial filming on January 10 as Harrison left the group, then resumed again on 21st at Apple this time with Billy Preston. They recorded the core songs of the album in four days and re-assembled for the rooftop concert on January 30th. The next day they went back to the studio and recorded Two of Us, Let It Be and Long and Winding Road, arguably their most productive studio session. So in two days a collection of songs that would become the Let It Be album had been completed to meet a deadline, but perhaps Billy Preston enjoyed the Get Back sessions most. He integrated John, Paul, George and Ringo into a live group and drove the band sound; Get Back

As I mentioned in Beatles Creativity (5) Lennon started 1968 with the optimism of Across The Universe and ended it with the bleak Everybody had a Hard Year. McCartney was to reach a similar low when the business dealings related to Allen Klein resulted in him bashing out crude drums on ‘My Dark Hour’ with the Steve Miller Band, pre-figuring his Fly Like An Eagle AOR success. But at the time his frustrations with the labyrinthine complexity of the moving target of Beatles business dealings, best detailed by Peter Doggett in You Never Give Me Your Money, emerged in this redemptive song, appealing to his own mother Mary, after which the final sketches of the Get Back project would be named, Let It Be

Ironically the Abbey Road album starts with the track that magnificently pulls together the strands of what they were looking for by revisiting their past during the Get Back Sessions in Come Together. Ringo had a brand-new naturally made (maple and calf) Ludwig Hollywood drum kit and was excited by the tom-toms, which he uses to magnificent effect. During the note-taking for the project also known as Abbey Road Lennon became inspired lyrically by Chuck Berry (old flat top) and came up with a campaign tune for Timothy Leary in California, before realising it was good enough for The Beatles, even if they didn’t actually Come Together (drum track);

The Get Back Sessions are to Abbey Road as Rishikesh was to the White Album; sketches and rehearsals. The Beatles revisited their fifties heritage with a creative knowing, looking for fresh inspirations. Allied to the studio craft and collaborations they had perfected at Abbey Road Studios they were ready to produce classic songs. By July 1969 they had taken holidays, John and Paul had jointly recorded the 50s sounding Ballad of John and Yoko and used Get Back as prep for Abbey Road. Personally I think Paul got his own Get Back project right with Run, Devil, Run, but for that he used half-remembered existing material and only allowed his pick-up band three takes at recording them. On Abbey Road McCartney found a similar 50s inspiration to Come Together with Oh! Darling then spent a week singing it to rough up his voice back to mono. Oh! Darling;

But Abbey Road, as well as featuring Ringo’s drums, finally sees him writing a great children’s song in Octopus’s Garden (one of the highlights of the Las Vegas ‘Love’ Show). However George Harrison emerges as the most complete songwriter at this time with his first Beatles A-side Something and, for me and Sandie Shaw, the incomparably happy Here Comes The Sun. I first heard it by itself in a car in 1969 and like many people at the time picked up on it as the missing single from the album. In fact it was a pre-cursor to George’s massive All Things Must Pass, and another song he wrote round at Eric Claptons’ house, Here Comes The Sun;  

Recently voted best album of 1969, Side 2 is as good as anything they had recorded, Abbey Road is a solid-state eight-track classic. It became possible because they had a template, a 50s album refracted and redacted through everything they had since learnt as recording artistes. The reason for actually recording it however may have been that they were broke. EMI froze paying any money they had earned whilst it was unclear who were the legal owners of ‘The Beatles’. So starting the legendary Abbey Road Medley with You Never Give Me Your Money was as much a statement of fact as an observation about the contractual ‘funny papers’ Allen Klein kept producing. The great cash cow of the sixties were being milked out of existence but they were still ready to experiment in Abbey Road’s Studio 2 and, pre-figuring Love, George Martin and McCartney edited many song fragments into a remarkable closing MedleyYou Never Give Me Your Video Approval  

The Medley closes with Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight and becomes more evocative over time due to its elegaic and wistful rendition of The Beatles as Myth, which Abbey Road also contributes to. The fact that the working title of the album was Everest gives the sense of it being their ultimate achievement (here you are then, you gave us the fifties, well this is the sixties; go and play with it for the next decade). Why did The Beatles cross the road? Because they couldn’t be arsed to fly to the Himalayas, and so created the iconic myth of their album cover. McCartney obviously loved this song and here is a version recorded with George Martin in 1997, needing Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton to help finish it off. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight;

Still enamoured of his wonderful new drums Ringo flew like an eagle into the The End making it sound like the beginning of 70s AOR FM rock. As many commentators have observed The End could even be seen as a template for 70s rock, three guitar solos, Ringo’s one drum solo, but as ever Beatles recordings were allied to a tune, a performance and some smart recording tricks. And In The End McCartney wanted to end The Beatles with a couplet of Shakespearean gravity (as he told Barry Miles) and we will let them take the love they made at The End;  

So in The End the social, political and cultural movements of the 60s coalesced in The Beatles, and their unique mix of Art School creativity, melody, and musicianship in service of the song, around the stereo rock album as artefact, reshaping the music industry and helping define the 70s culturally. That is until DIY Music, recording and production started taking over in 1977; brilliantly and best captured in Simon Reynolds Rip It Up and Start Again.

This is part six of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is preceded by 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple 1968 Page checked & Updated Jan 15 2014

22 Responses to “The Beatles Let It Be 1969”

  1. […] Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67. It is followed by Beatles Let It Be 1969 There is a YouTube Playlist of this post […]

  2. […] Singles 1962-64. It is followed by 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 There is a full Beatles YouTube Album review of Rubber Soul here. Possibly related posts: […]

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  5. Another good thought provoking post. Get Back was always doomed for disaster and it always struck me as ironic that the project ahd to be Pro-tools-ed and computered to hell decades later to make it sounds “how it should have done”. The result, Let It Be… Naked, is actually quite good, though the point it makes seems a bit redundant now. What the album shows is how, even at their worst, these four could still turn out something listenable and fun, even if it never rises above this generous compliment.

  6. Thanks for staying for the ride! I am planning an Argentinian musical blog post on Radio YouTube to which you are welcome to contribute, or even write jointly?

  7. […] This is the second of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is preceded by 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 It is followed by 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 3) Beatles Albums 1964-654) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 […]

  8. […] This is part one of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is followed by parts 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 […]

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  13. Sounds interesting Fred. Have you done it (or what did you have in mind…?)

  14. Couple of months before I do the Argentinian post, I have promised a couple of other posts first. Thanks for asking…

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  18. […] it after the early reviews, forcing them to record Let It Be as a contractual obligation instead; that sad ending is yet another hidden history from the […]

  19. […] This is part four of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is preceded by 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 It is followed by 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 […]

  20. […] Let It Be 1969 From Get Back to The […]

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