Beatles Let It Be Movie…54 Years Later (Review)

Many of us saw Let It Be in theaters as soon as it became available in 1970.  Now 54-years later, a restored version of Let It Be is streaming on Disney+.

So how does the new version compare with the original theater experience?   The film has been completely restored, and it actually looks a lot better than it did in 1970.  Let It Be was not movie-screen quality, because it was originally shot for television (and is still in the old TV ratio instead of wide screen).  The new look of the film brightens the whole perception of it.

By 1970, most Beatles fans had seen A Hard Day’s Night, Help, & Yellow Submarine in theaters.  We also knew The Beatles from their often humorous press conferences.  What we had never seen was The Beatles working and creating in a recording studio.  It was raw seeing them in real life instead of acting, and the playing was not smooth, but kind of herky-jerky rehearsals as they explored their new songs, and jammed on old cover songs.

There are a couple of highlights among the rehearsals and jamming.  We get two of George Harrison’s songs back-to-back, “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue” in nearly complete form.  “I Me Mine” includes John & Yoko waltzing.  “For You Blue “ has cool instrumental solos from John Lennon on lap slide guitar, and Paul McCartney on a prepared piano (to make the sound more percussive).

We had never imagined John, Paul, George & Ringo in disagreements.  That new reality became what the movie was known for.  Prior to the movie’s release, The Beatles had just broken up, and people thought this was the documentation of it.  The film and the Get Back documentary did show there were fractures in the group, but the band members were able to come together for Abbey Road later that same year.

Here are two photos next to each other that kind of sum-up Let It Be.

Look at the range of emotions between the two photos.  They appear to be taken in the same room, and on the same day.

All rock bands have their ups and downs. We didn’t know back then, but The Beatles having disagreements while they were recording was nothing new.  Paul left briefly during Revolver, Ringo left during The White Album, George left during Let It Be, and John quit the group after they recorded Abbey Road.  The public wasn’t aware of the breakup until just before the release of Let It Be.  Seeing the movie again shows it is not as negative as its reputation.  The Beatles were usually working well together, and mostly in a very friendly way.

If we step back just a little to think about what The Beatles accomplished during the filming, it’s amazing.  They came into the project needing to write a whole album’s worth of songs.  In less than one month, January of 1969, they wrote the songs for Let It Be (with three #1 singles), plus there were portions of 11 songs (shown in Get Back) that appeared on Abbey Road, and a few songs that ended up on their solo albums.  They completed recording the tracks for the Let It Be album, except “I Me Mine” and some overdubbing later.

Let It Be has something the Get Back documentary sorely lacked…complete performances of the key songs “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and “For You Blue”.  It was a real treat to see The Beatles perform them in the studio, and with video and audio quality better than originally shown.

Another difference between the 8-hour Get Back and the 82-minute Let It Be is that there’s limited dialogue in the original film.  It’s mostly The Beatles rehearsing and jamming.  The infamous disagreement between Paul & George about a guitar part, and Paul talking to John about George not wanting to perform live are the negative parts of the movie.  There are more scenes of problems in the Get Back documentary, even though the tone is positive overall.

Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Get Back director and film restorer Peter Jackson do an interesting 4-minute discussion before the film starts.  You can see how happy Lindsay-Hogg is to finally have his movie streaming after having it disappear for 40 years.  We get to see Lindsay-Hogg in the film, and he was about the same age as The Beatles.  He certainly did superior work in capturing the rooftop performance.

There are lots of good camera angles, and his crew did a great job of getting the reactions of the Londoners who heard the music.

Early in the film, we see Lindsay-Hogg concentrating the majority of the time on Paul McCartney.  Some may interpret this as ego or bossiness on McCartney’s part, but it’s just the reality of what was happening.  The majority of the songs are written by McCartney, so he’s leading the recordings.  John Lennon had withdrawn from his once leadership role, probably because he was more heavily into drugs at that time.  Neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr demonstrate the dominant personality traits of Lennon & McCartney.

The last 30-minutes is the movie’s payoff.  That half-Hour includes the final studio performances of “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be”, and “The Long And Winding Road”.

Then comes the rooftop concert and The Beatles are really connecting with each other, particularly John and Paul.  The songs are “Get Back”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”, “Dig A Pony”, and another version of “Get Back” as the police arrive to shut down all the loud music.

After The Beatles “passed the audition” and the credits roll, we also get an early version of “Oh Darling”.  It’s quite different from the Abbey Road recording, and Paul & John have fun with it.  There are also some cool keyboard flourishes by Billy Preston.  Since the Let It Be version of “Oh Darling” isn’t readily available, it’s included here:

Let It Be probably isn’t a movie we’ll watch often, but along with the Get Back documentary, it’s an important historical record.  If only someone had filmed at least portions of The Beatles in the studio during the making of Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper.

Extra:  The film’s songs in order…the first 20 are mostly incomplete.

  1. Paul’s Piano Intro
  2. Don’t Let Me own
  3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
  4. Two Of Us
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling
  6. Oh Darling
  7. One After 909
  8. I Bought A Piano The Other Day (piano boogie)
  9. Two Of Us
  10. Across The Universe
  11. Dig A Pony
  12. Suzie Parker
  13. I Me Mine
  14. For You Blue
  15. Besame Mucho
  16. Octopus’ Garden
  17. You Really Got A Hold On Me
  18. The Long And Winding Road
  19. Medley: Shake Rattle & Roll/Kansas City/Miss Ann/Lawdy Miss Clawdy
  20. Dig It
  21. Two Of Us (complete songs from this point)
  22. Let It Be
  23. The Long And Winding Road
  24. Get Back
  25. Don’t Let Me Down
  26. I’ve Got A Feeling
  27. One After 909
  28. Dig A Pony
  29. Get Back
  30. Oh Darling (playing over credits)

In reality, the rooftop concert was on January 30th, and the final studio recordings of “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road” were recorded on January 31st, the last day of filming.

And some extra photos:


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