May 082020

Here are the guts of my Facebook reasons for selecting Let It Be as my only entry. This also explains the photos accompanying this piece. Much of this will be old hat for you, my longtime music-nerd intimates.

10 of 10: I’m going to allow myself to break the one (long) sentence disposition I was given for this task, because this is my 10th and final entry and because this one sums up a lot about how music influenced me and how my own life influenced the music I gravitated toward.

Let It Be is not my favorite Beatles album (that would be Revolver), nor is it anywhere near their best album (that would also be Revolver – UK edition, in both cases, which includes the stellar “And Your Bird Can Sing,” as well as a couple other cool oddities not on the original US release). When I was a boy and the Beatles were still an operating group, my uncle gave me most of their records. I don’t recall if I get them all in one batch or if I got them in a couple of batches, but it struck me that there were albums on which the Beatles had longer hair, sideburns, and even mustaches or beards, and there were albums on which they were more clean cut, more “old fashioned” looking, from my perspective. This was all around the time when my parents, for some reason, took me to see a drive-in double feature of Easy Rider and some other biker flick – I always have to look up the title, but some biker guy in a WWI German and wearing rectangular glasses got it right between the eyes from a cop. When I was a boy, I wanted to be a hippie, man, and Let It Be was one of the most hippified representations of the group that was and still is my favorite set of musicians on earth.

On the Let It Be cover, John, Paul, George, and Ringo have long hair, including carryovers of the beautiful facial hair that first caught my eye on the Sgt Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour sleeves. To make the hair heroics even more spectacular, on the back cover there is a picture of John in a wool hat with a big beard as he’s ripping off a bend.

John with beard! John sans beard! When I was a boy, I’d flop back and forth between those images and marvel at his flexible, manly abilities to shift shape. When I was a boy, I felt so strongly about their hair that I updated my cover of Beatles VI, in which they looked particularly square – all buttoned up and wearing ties – to meet Sgt Pepper’s specs. I’ve included images from my 6-year-old penciled retouching work. I am available for hire.

The theme of the “clubhouse,” as I’ve mentioned throughout these postings, also resonated for me. Around the time it happened, I was conscious of when the Beatles broke up and I knew this was their last release, but with images of them at the mixing board, snippets of studio banter mixed between songs, a live recording concept (if not quite execution)…and then the monumental rooftop performance mythology…WOW, this album took me inside it all. Oh, the intimacy! More than ever, this was a world I wanted to inhabit.

Finally, I love most of the songs on this record. If it didn’t have the swing, all the clubhouse trimmings wouldn’t mean a thing. This is as underrated a Beatles album as it gets. I won’t launch into one of my patented riffs against another “Mother’s Basement” engineer remixing this album and actually robbing it of some of its glory in the quest to be more “honest.” Let it be, let it be.


  9 Responses to “Let It Be 50!”

  1. BigSteve

    I’m not the biggest Beatles fan, and this album has way too much ponderous stuff for me to really get into, though I’ve got to say that the stripped down, ‘naked’ version of Across the Universe is so much better than the original. Also I really like I’ve Got a Feeling, where John managed to insert himself at his most Lennonesque into a Paul song, and then they do that neat trick of singing both parts simultaneously at the end. It’s too bad they never got to explore that approach more fully, though it may not have worked past this one time. But by far my favorite song on the album is The One After 909, where they seem to be actually having fun. I also like that sensation that the song is not fully rehearsed, and they’re kind of hanging on for dear life.

  2. I too think Let it Be is great, and I actually believe Phil Spector should get a giant thumbs up for making it great. From what I’ve read, he took something nobody wanted to work on and made it into a cohesive slab of wax. Like the moderator, I got my copy when I was in second or third grade and loved hearing all the studio banter between the songs. YOU ARE THERE! You’re with the Beatles in the studio, in their inner circle, listening to them working on the songs and making wise cracks. It worked then, and it still works now, even though there’s loads of bozos who say it doesn’t work. I don’t want a new version of the album via Paul McCartney. The Paul McCartney of today may as well be Nipsey Russell. The Paul McCartney of today could never envision or produce anything like his Beatle work.

    And that goes for all of those post greats that should stay away from their back catalogs. Find another interest!

    The oddball Beatles LP for me that I’m not supposed to like but love is Beatles ’65. It’s a two sided powerhouse cut and paste job, much like the Stones’ Now and Flowers, which also includes the single “I Feel Fine” and “She’s a Woman” as well as selected tracks from the UK Beatles for Sale and a Hard Day’s Night. And like Andrew Loog Oldhanm and Lou Adler, US Capitol marketing executive Dave Dexter definitely knew what he was doing when he sequenced the album, compressed the living beejaysus out of it, and added reverb. Trust me, you’ve never really heard “I Feel Fine” before until you’ve heard the mono Capitol release. The same can be said for any track on that album. (Here’s hoping that the Moderator and Andy will finally grow a set of ears and hear the OOOMMPHH in the ’65 mono mix of “She’s a Woman. Yeah, I know the whole “peasant” thing is silly, but the sound of the words wipes out the silliness, especially when it’s delivered by, dare I say it again, by animals with brains, chops, and production,)

  3. cherguevara

    I really love Ringo’s drumming on Dig A Pony. There’s so much attitude in his just playing the backbeat on snare and hat, sometimes playing 8ths on hat, like he’s trying to see how little he can play or daring the others to keep the pulse while he does the minimum – then going into that loose swinging “all I want is you” section, bashing cymbals like Keith Moon might’ve. I think it’s a really uneven album – Long and Winding Road is a needle-lifter for me. My son is a Beatlemaniac too, I showed him the film, Let It Be, last Summer and he said, “I’m having a bored feeling – are you having a bored feeling?” But there are still moments of joy in those songs, especially in the jamming and vocal harmonizing. I look forward to the re-vamped version, not as a re-writing of history, but as a supplement to the original versions.

  4. Big Steve, agree with your take on “One After 909”. Couldn’t have said it any better.

    I’m currently preparing a lasagna, courtesy of a recipe my grandmom got from some woman from South Philadelphia 70 years or so ago. Anybody got a good podcast suggestion? Something along the lines of the Many Moods of Ben Vaughn?

  5. I like Let it Be quite a bit although I think I prefer the Naked version.

    “And You Bird Can Sing” is hands down the best Beatles song. Just perfect.

  6. alexmagic

    If I had to rank all of their official albums, Let It Be would probably come in pretty low because how the hell else would it fit in? And yet, that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s still THEM and and it still has IT. Even at their lowest, when they could least stand to be around each other, much less work with/for each other, they still had it and it still shows.

    One of the last great tricks of Beatles Magic is that they get to have two final albums. Abbey Road is the miracle: they know who they are and how much it matters, so they come back from the Get Back sessions and do it right this time, a big, (nearly) perfect final statement on being The Beatles, complete with a song called The End (the arrogance!) and a leftover track after it to puncture it and wink and let you know they know that you know. From them to us.

    And then Let It Be is the zombie after, and in a way, it’s the greatest “b-sides and unreleased tracks” collection that could ever be: studio chatter, live songs, a song they wrote 10 years before it finally shows up on a record, John & Paul stitching two halves of a song together like they did years before and they’d do 25 years later come hell or high water, half-assed throwaways that prove their least essential efforts still sound like something bigger, a perfect closing gag that ties back to the beginning of the band, oh and throw on a short-list contender for most famous rock songs of all time. Sure, why not, right?

    The Spector version of “Long & Winding Road” is an absolute hatchet job on, admittedly, one of McCartney’s worst Beatles efforts (it’s his Beatles “My Love” – one of those songs that everyone who doesn’t like Paul can point to for his worst tendencies, though I think he could have easily given L&WR to a non-rocker and it still would have been a standard for them). Ironically, yeah, the version on here of “Across the Universe” almost does the same thing to one of John’s songs.

    But man, when it works. The studio chatter really does bring them back full circle to the band they were when they started. Right in the middle of never wanting to see each other again, there they are, goofing off like they used to do. George rallying John in the middle of “For You Blue”. Paul being Paul and making sure to thank Ringo’s wife for cheering them on right before John gets off the last and best Beatles joke. Paul breaking out his Little Richard (RIP) tribute in his still-developing Solo Paul voice.

    The way it opens: John’s nonsense that nevertheless I can do perfectly in time and tone with him (“Phase one: in which Doris…GETS her OATS!”) right into the warm opening of “Two Of Us”. And what an opener. We all know that it wasn’t actually written about Paul and John, but history gets to tell it’s own story, and the second the two of them come in singing together, OF COURSE it’s about Lennon & McCartney. What else could it possibly be about, how else could it be possible that the greatest songwriting duo of all time open the last album they’ll put out with a song that works perfectly as a goodbye to the friendship, to the team, to the band, to the era?

    “I’ve Got a Feeling” is another miracle tribute to what they do and how they used to do it. Two parts that could have worked on their own, but immediately feel right together. Paul thunderballing out of the gate, taking ’70s arena rock Paul out of the garage for a spin, John opting to come in from the other direction instead of trying to top him, then the two of them just spinning around each other, like this was how they’d planned it from the start.

    “Dig a Pony” is my favorite and maybe the most representative song for the album: it doesn’t make any sense, who is this for? A disaster on paper. And yet, once again, there it is and there they are. Turns out it doesn’t matter if the verses mean anything when you can sing like John Lennon, and especially if you can sing a chorus like John Lennon and Paul McCartney together. The instrumental break that sounds like it’s a reference to the Abbey Road “sound”, even though it comes first, and my favorite, the transcendent but cool “Yeeeaaahhh!” that John lets out before the last “syndicate any boat you row” at the end. My favorite “Yeah!” in the history of the band that put the “YEAH!” in rock. He knows it’s great. He KNOWS it.

    Of course it’s great, they’re The Beatles. They’ll have already broken up, made another album, and broken up again before anyone hears this, but it doesn’t matter: they’re still The Beatles and they’re always going to be The Beatles.

    So, yeah, Let It Be is a mess, and I love it, too.

  7. Alexmagic, WORD TO THE MAX! You’ve got me tearing up with joy. Thanks.

  8. Happiness Stan

    Alex, see you got there first with the news about Little Richard, that’ll teach me to pay attention.

    You’ve also almost persuaded me to have another listen to one of only two Beatles albums I’ve never owned a copy of, unless you count the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, (which I don’t), apart from Rubber Soul, which I never got round to buying. I’m not sure I’ve even listened to RS in the sense of hearing it from the start of side one to the end of side two. Looking at the track list, there are some songs on there I don’t remember, so that’s a bit of an admission.

    There’s also the issue of the pre Pepper albums I grew up with not being the same as those you all grew up with.

    The lad next door’s sister had Let it Be, we listened to it together when she was out at work during the school holidays and wouldn’t notice he’d sneaked her precious records next door. We grew very good at handling vinyl carefully extremely quickly. So I probably haven’t listened to it for over forty five years, and last heard it when I was about twelve or thirteen at most, a year or two before punk happened and I took the Clash at their word.

    I can’t say it ever really grabbed me, but perhaps I’ll download it and listen to it in the car when I’m out and about doing the work my employer considers essential next week.

  9. That’s a walk-off home run review right there. Captured the good and the bad.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube