Update Aug. 25th, 2021: A 5-CD plus Blu-ray box set of Let It Be is being released on October 15th (vinyl too).
The Super Deluxe box set includes both the new remix of the original album, and the never released Get Back album (with no overdubs) that was put together by Glyn Johns. The set also includes two discs of recordings from sessions and rehearsals, an EP that includes remixes of the “Let It Be” & “Don’t Let Me Down” singles, and a Blu-ray audio disc of the new album remix (5.1/Dolby Atmos). Since each song list is short enough to fit on a vinyl record, that box set is 5-discs too (4 LP’s & an EP), with the same tracks. The list price for the CD set is $139.98. For the vinyl, it’s $199.98.
Both sets come with a 100 page hardback book that has song notations, comments from Paul McCartney, Giles Martin, Glyn Johns, and more. Plus there are unreleased photos of The Beatles, handwritten lyrics, tape boxes, etc.
There is also a Deluxe 2-CD set (below) that has the remixed album and selected highlights from the rest of the box set. The list price is $24.98. The remixed album will also be available as a single CD or record.
The new version of the Let It Be movie is now The Beatles: Get Back, and will be released as a nearly six-hour three-part documentary on Disney+ in November. This takes the place of a theatrical release, and will be shown on three consecutive nights, November 25th, 26th & 27th, 2021. The film was delayed a year, because of the pandemic. Back in December, 2020, the director of The Lord Of The Rings, Peter Jackson, said his team was finalizing the editing of the documentary. Now we know why it was taking him so long.
In an interview with GQ published in July, 2021, Peter Jackson said… “There’s probably more conversations with The Beatles than there is actual singing. That will, I think, surprise people, because it’s very intimate. And the other thing that will surprise people is how funny the films are.”
Late last year, Jackson released a five minute sample of The Beatles mostly goofing around while recording the album. They’re so young (still in their 20’s), and so full of fun! When you want to watch it, here’s the link:
Earlier in 2020, there was a private screening of a portion of the film. In a news release, Paul McCartney said: “I am really happy that Peter (Jackson) has delivered into our archives a film that shows the truth about The Beatles recording together. The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had.”
In a March, 2021 interview, Ringo Starr said… “I didn’t feel any joy in the original documentary. I was there. We were laughing. We were having fun.” He said the new film more accurately reflects how it was when they were recording. Dhani Harrison says he was very impressed with the restoration of the film and the clarity of the images. The new movie includes rehearsals of songs that appeared on Abbey Road, which they began recording just shortly after the Let It Be sessions.
A companion book, also called The Beatles: Get Back has a release date of October 12th, 2021. The book is 240 pages. It includes transcribed conversations of the four Beatles from the film footage, and hundreds of previously unpublished photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney. The list price is $60, but it was online for $42. This book differs from the book included with the recently announced box set, because the hardback book in the CD box set is less than half as long, and includes information on the individual tracks, instead of movie quotes.
The 50th Anniversary of the Let It Be album was in May, 2020, so the release of the 5-disc box set is only about a year-and-a-half late, October 15th. It’s cool that the 1969 version of the almost-released Get Back album comes in a version of this planned cover:
The original announcement of the new film version of Let It Be was made on January 30th, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the famous rooftop concert. All 43-minutes of it will be in the new documentary. The performance was really a public recording session, as the group did multiple takes of the songs… “Get Back” (3 takes), “Don’t Let Me Down” (2 takes), “I’ve Got A Feeling” (2 takes), and one take each of “One After 909” & “Dig A Pony”.
Director Peter Jackson has been working with the 56-hours of original Let It Be film footage for nearly three years, and in June, 2021 he released this statement:
In many respects, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s remarkable footage captured multiple storylines. The story of friends and individuals. It is the story of human frailties and of a divine partnership. It is a detailed account of the creative process, with the crafting of iconic songs under pressure, set amid the social climate of early 1969. But it’s not nostalgia, it’s raw, honest and human. Over six hours, you’ll get to know The Beatles with an intimacy that you never thought was possible.
While we wait for The Beatles: Get Back, let’s explore what got us to this point.
In November of 1968, The Beatles released their double album The Beatles…known forever as The White Album. At times The Beatles worked on their songs in separate studios. The bickering of The Beatles during group recording sessions caused engineer Geoff Emerick to stop working with them, and even somewhat alienated George Martin.
Paul McCartney had an idea…maybe it was a bad one.
McCartney suggested they “Get Back” to playing in the studio as a live band, instead of overdubbing the recordings. He also suggested they could film their recording sessions for a television special that would end with a live performance of the songs they’d written. What could go wrong? Actually, we’re lucky to have film of them working in the studio.
John Lennon suggested The Beatles should just break up. Ringo Starr had already left the group for a time during the recording of The White Album. After they started rehearsals at the beginning of January 1969, George Harrison left the band for a few days. It was up to Paul McCartney to try to hold the band together, but he was resented for taking a leadership role. And that was just the beginning of the Get Back/Let It Be recording sessions.
Further complicating matters…George Martin was only there for some of the sessions, and Yoko Ono was there for all of the them.
George Martin had relinquished some of his duties to producer/engineer Glyn Johns & tape operator Alan Parsons, and the sessions were less organized. Further confusion with recording takes vs filming takes created problems for assembling the album. Having a girlfriend at Beatles recording sessions was at times an irritant to the other band members, especially when Yoko would make suggestions.
The rehearsals and recording sessions for the Get Back album only lasted a month, January 2nd to January 31st, 1969, with about 21 days of recording.
So what happened with the music? Despite the problems, The Beatles were able to knock out “Get Back” & “Don’t Let Me Down”, and in April of 1969 released them as a strong single.
“Get Back” stayed at #1 for five weeks. Other great music emerged that January…”Let It Be” (#1, 1970), “Two Of Us”, “Across The Universe”, and “The Long And Winding Road” (#1, 1970).
Add to the above six songs…”For You Blue”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”, “Dig A Pony”, “I Me Mine”, and maybe one of their jams, and you’d think Get Back was done. But, various mixes of the album were rejected, and the album was shelved. The television project fell through. The film footage was to be turned into a movie, but it was delayed while the producers waded through 56 hours of film.
After that troubled experience, The Beatles didn’t break up. Instead, they convinced George Martin and Geoff Emerick to produce an album like they used to make, and they promised to behave. The resulting excellent album proved to be the last one they recorded, Abbey Road, just a little later in 1969.
So how did Get Back become Let It Be in 1970? First of all, they couldn’t name the album after a single that had been released a year earlier. The title was chosen for the album’s best song, and maybe as an indication that the group was simply letting The Beatles be over.
Even on the 2009 digital remaster of Let It Be, they mentioned the “freshness” of the live performances. In fact, the production had been turned over to wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector. He added orchestration, a choir, and other major production elements, especially to McCartney’s “The Long And Winding Road”.
Maybe the song “Let It Be” is best with the Phil Spector mix (of the George Martin production), but “The Long And Winding Road” is over-the-top with “angel voices” McCartney never approved. It would be interesting to hear a version that kept the orchestra, but dropped the choir. McCartney might have been okay with that. The big productions were the exact opposite of the original intent, and while the result is a mix of good and not so good, it was mostly unnecessary.
As can be seen in the film, the original (just The Beatles) versions of “Get Back”, “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, and “The Long And Winding Road” were excellent long before Phil Spector was involved. George Harrison’s original non-Spector versions of “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue” sound great, with George’s voice clearer. Spector also should have chosen the simpler version of John Lennon’s “Across The Universe” that appeared on the anthology series.
Phil Spector certainly deserves credit for wading through the tapes to pull the album together, but maybe George Martin’s quip is the best description of the result. He said the album jacket should have said “Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector.”
In 2003, Paul McCartney tried to remedy the situation with Let It Be…Naked (that’s the CD booklet above). The album does a good job of providing the unadorned versions, and it puts back “Don’t Let Me Down”, which should never have been left off the original album in the first place. But at the same time, this album wasn’t going to replace the version people had enjoyed for over 30 years. The original album won an Academy Award and a Grammy in their respective soundtrack categories.
About the film…
My wife and I saw Let It Be in a theater when it was originally released in 1970, and it was a bit shocking to see The Beatles upset with one another. Since the Let It Be film came out at the time The Beatles split, it’s generally believed that the movie portrays the band’s break up. Although it shows the tension in the group, the movie also shows some excellent live studio performances, plus the fun The Beatles had jamming in the studio and playing together in the rooftop concert. The real breakup came later with Allen Klein handling the business side of the group and alienating McCartney. Eventually, all The Beatles fired Klein and battled him in a lawsuit.
So it’s come full circle. In 1969 the album/film was called Get Back. In 1970 the title was changed to Let It Be. Fifty years later we’re back to Get Back.
The Beatles: Get Back…to premiere on Disney+ over three nights, November 25th, 26th & 27th, 2021. The waiting is the hardest part.
Extra: While we wait, we can enjoy a new Paul McCartney documentary. Here’s a short review of it: https://ontherecords.net/2021/07/paul-mccartney-mccartney-3-2-1/