The Beatles’ swan song and the end of an era
‘This is a new phase Beatles album’ is what it says on the back cover. Little did their fans know that it would also represent the final phase of the Fab Four, who at the time of recording, were no longer fab, just four miserable individuals who needed a break from each other. Such was the tension between them, it’s extraordinary that Let It Be was made at all.
Released in May 1970, sessions originally took place throughout January the previous year, under what can only be described as the most unpleasant of circumstances. Paul McCartney was desperate to keep the band from falling apart, hence his concept that The Beatles should make a film/documentary including an accompanying soundtrack. Nice idea, the only issue being that none of the other Beatles truly gave a toss. And when recording sessions finally ended after several weeks, no-one could really decide on what the finished product ought to be, hence it being relegated to the too hard basket.
However, as it would turn out, John Lennon handed over the tapes to Phil Spector, asking if there was anything he might be able to salvage amongst the many hours of recordings. Spector quickly went to task, and the result would ultimately turn out to be The Beatles’ last ever album together (even if it was recorded before Abbey Road).
Let It Be was hardly the most befitting epitaph, at least by their standards; mind you it is hardly the worst, consisting of several exquisite moments, most notably in the title track (written by McCartney in dedication to his late mother), “The Long And Winding Road,” another sweeping McCartney classic, and Lennon’s laconically transcendental “Across The Universe.” Other moments include “Get Back,” a relaxed country-rocker with Billy Preston on keyboards, the simple yet utterly beguiling “Two Of Us” (composed by Lennon and McCartney when still teenagers), and the soulful George Harrison tune “I Me Mine.”
Interestingly “One After 909” dates back to 1963, though is given a full reworking here, and is the most rocking number of the LP, while the 40 second “Maggie Mae” and “Dig It” are fun but little more than throwaways. Lennon’s “Dig A Pony” could be an outtake from The White Album, with its loose playing and rousing chorus, though not much can be said of Harrison’s “For You Blue,” an inoffensive ditty true, but not an entirely memorable one all the same. “I’ve Got A Feeling,” again with Preston, may not be one of The Beatles greatest of songs, yet it has a wonderful vibe throughout, as if the group were really enjoying themselves, performing live again on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London.
Although The Beatles had well and truly broken up before the end of 1969, Let It Be marked the group’s concluding chapter. Indeed the dream was finally over. Yet what they bestowed upon the world was something so immense and immeasurable, that it almost defies belief. The Beatles successfully reshaped popular culture in a way not seen before or since. Sinatra and Elvis certainly played their part in elevating teenage identity, but Sinatra hated rock ‘n’ roll, and Presley had already burned out by end of the ‘50s. Meaning that it was left to the next generation of youth to fan the flames and keep the spirit of rebelliousness in music going. What these four young lads from Liverpool, England achieved was nothing short of monumental; therefore it’s hardly surprising that they would eventually go their separate ways, never to reform. The assassination of Lennon in 1980 denied the world of what would have been the biggest rock reunion in history. Provided that is, Lennon and McCartney were capable of sorting out their ongoing differences.