Let It Be has been going through changes since the album and film started as Get Back in January of 1969. This article covers those changes, including all that’s happened recently and into 2022. (There are links at the end of this article to: a review of the new box set, a review of the new film, and a review of the new companion book.)
The fresh version of the Let It Be movie is The Beatles: Get Back. It was released as a three-part documentary on Disney+, and is available for streaming. It will be released on DVD & Blu-ray on February 8th, 2022. The total run time of the three films is almost 8-hours. When Get Back was a movie to be released in theaters, it was 2:20.
A 100-minute version of the Get Back film was used for the U.S. and U.K. premieres on November 18th, 2021. Those events were attended by The Beatles family members. In London, it was Paul McCartney and his daughter Mary, George Harrison’s son Dhani, and Ringo’s sons Zack and Jason. Ringo Starr didn’t attend, because of COVID precautions. In L.A., attending were Olivia Harrison, Paul’s daughter Stella, and John’s sons Julian and Sean.
After the event, Julian Lennon released a statement. “The one true thing I can say about it all, is that it has made me so proud, inspired & feel more love for my/our family than ever before…and the film has made me love my father again in a way I can’t fully describe. Thank you to all who had a hand in bringing this project to fruition…Life Changing.”
Dhani Harrison said his father, George, would…”be very happy with what Director Peter Jackson came out with.” He said there is some squabbling, but the documentary…”creates a new dynamic, and anyone who gets to see the whole thing will see that the behavior changes, and they really come together.”
After an earlier private screening, 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 Nov. 2021 interview, McCartney added:
Earlier in 2021, 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.
A 5-CD plus Blu-ray box set of Let It Be was released on October 15th, 2021 (a 5-record vinyl set 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 producer 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 hardcover book that has extensive 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 is also available as a single CD or record.
The Let It Be remix was the #1 selling album (48,000 physical sales in the U.S.) the week of its release. Sales got another boost after the Get Back movie started streaming.
A companion book for the movie, called The Beatles Get Back, was released October 12th, 2021. The 240 page book includes transcribed conversations of The Beatles as they were recording for the film, and hundreds of previously unpublished photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney. The list price is $60, but it was online for $42 (and then $30 in 2022).
All 43-minutes of the rooftop concert are 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 worked on the project for a period of almost four 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. You’ll get to know The Beatles with an intimacy that you never thought was possible.
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 producer 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 over a week. 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 engineer Glyn Johns & tape operator Alan Parsons, and the sessions were less organized. Having a girlfriend constantly at Beatles recording sessions was initially an irritant to the other band members. The new film shows they ultimately accepted Yoko, and there were visits from all the Beatles’ girlfriends and wives.
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 writing, rehearsing, and 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 (by The Beatles), 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, started just three weeks later, in February 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.
The production of the album was turned over to wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector in early 1970. He added orchestration, a choir, and other major production elements, especially to McCartney’s “The Long And Winding Road”. The overdubbed 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 was seen in the Let It Be 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. 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. 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.
And finally, a little about the original film…
My wife and I saw Let It Be in a theater when it was 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.
Here’s the link to the review of the Let It Be Remix: https://ontherecords.net/2021/10/let-it-be-2021-box-set-review/
Here’s the link to a review of the Get Back book: https://ontherecords.net/2021/10/the-beatles-get-back-book-review/