As noted in the last blog, we sadly reach the end of the proverbial long and winding road for the Beatles, with “Let It Be”, their last released studio album before they permanently disbanded as a group. Cursed from the start, this album showcases what they were still capable of at their very best, while the accompanying film and overall product and production process represents a group in complete disarray. Surprisingly, this album is on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All time, at #342.
They started off to record an album of raw, rock-and-roll rooted music to be performed in a live venue. Instead, they dealt with fights, band departures, arguments and many stops and starts. One of the highlights of this process was their last live performance, a rooftop concert in London that was used for the source material for several songs on this album. There are many really good songs on this album. The opening duet “Two of Us” is a beautiful Paul-John vocal that highlights the best of their partnership and friendship. An older version of “Across the Universe” by John Lennon is a side one highlight and one of his best late-era Beatles songs, and “Let It Be”, one of the symbolic final stands of the bands, is a powerful McCartney ballad that stands up as one of his most iconic tracks ever, along with “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday”.
Side two features an early 60s Lennon-McCartney rocker, “One After 909”, and closes with the funky “Get Back”, the rooftop concert opener. In the middle, we have “The Long and Winding Road”, which takes a relatively harmless McCartney ballad and with Phil Spector’s over-orchestration, turns it into a hot mess. Even though their legendary produce George Martin produced all of these songs in their original state, the album fell into the cobwebs before being finished by Phil Spector. Most fans, and certainly Paul, felt Spector did great harm to their tracks with all of his overdubs and add-ins, and the band actually released a stripped-down version of the album, “Let It Be…Naked”, without all of the Spector add-ins, and in general, it is an improvement. One last comment on Phil Spector’s input… why he left off Lennon’s classic “Don’t Let Me Down”, the second song from the rooftop show, I will never understand. It was released as a “B” side to “Get Back”, but is a stronger song than almost every track on the album.
My last thought on this album says a lot about how I feel about the greatness of the Beatles as a band, when compared to their solo releases. As great as they each are as artists, there is something magical about their work together as a band, even in the worst of times and circumstances. To make this point, let’s compare “Maybe I’m Amazed” with “I’ve Got a Feeling”, released within weeks of each other. Both are powerful, piano/organ driven songs featuring Paul on lead vocal, singing with passion and intensity. No matter how good “Maybe I’m Amazed” is, and it is a great song, when you take those same raw ingredients and add in some of Ringo’s best drumming, some of George’s most raw guitar fills, and best of all, John coming in with his alternate lead vocal singing, “Everybody had a hard year, everybody had a good time, everybody had a wet dream, everybody saw the sunshine”, the song is just on an entirely differently level than anything they could deliver individually.
My life, and the lives of millions of others, have been forever impacted and changed by the greatness that was the Beatles. It was a relatively short but brilliant run in the spotlight following years of honing their craft in small clubs, but fifty years later, the world remains in love with the Beatles, and so do I.
“And when the broken-hearted people, living in the world agree, there will be an answer… Let It Be.”