It seemed like a good name and idea when the first class was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986. But, the trend of popular music was already moving away from Rock. So the Rock & Roll Hall of fame board decided to put in artists who certainly didn’t belong in the “Rock & Roll” music category. It became obvious that a better name would have been the Rock & Pop Hall Of Fame. Country music has it’s own Hall Of Fame, so Rock & Pop would cover most of the rest.
(The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Museum in Cleveland.)
It takes 25 years after an artist’s first chart success for them to become eligible to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Once 1980’s artists became eligible, big Pop stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Rap artists took the place of the rapidly declining number of Rock performers. There’s been a lot of ongoing controversy over who gets in, and who doesn’t. A lot of that has to do with the acts not fitting in with the limiting name.
Another big problem is how women have been slighted.
Linda Ronstadt was the first woman to sell out arenas, and to consistently release Platinum albums. Some of her songs rocked as hard as many of the bands in the ‘70’s. The minute she became eligible for the Hall Of Fame, she should have been voted in. Instead, it took 20 years! Maybe it was because she no longer looked like “The Queen of Rock & Roll” as she was called by Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970’s. The Queen of Soul, the King of Pop, and the Donna of Disco were all inducted before the Queen of Rock & Roll.
Compare Ronstadt’s massive trailblazing success to male artists who got into the hall long ago. Some had only one really significant hit…Del Shannon with “Runaway” (#1) and Eddie Cochran with “Summertime Blues” (#8)…and they were quickly added to the hall. They’re great, but their impact was significantly less than artists like Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Carole King, and Pat Benatar.
Maybe since Linda Ronstadt wasn’t a songwriter, it hurt her chances, but if that was a requirement, Elvis Presley wouldn’t have made it. Major songwriter Carole King was finally voted in last year. Her extremely influential album Tapestry towers over contributions from some of the other artists who’ve been in the hall for decades.
This year, Carly Simon and Pat Benatar are nominated. It could be argued that Carly Simon isn’t “Rock & Roll”, but neither is Whitney Houston or a large potion of the other members. Pat Benatar certainly had a number of Rock hits. Her songs “Heartbreaker” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” were even considered on the hard side of Rock & Roll when they first came out. It’s a puzzle why she didn’t get in much earlier.
Another woman is also nominated this year…Dolly Parton. She’s a beloved force of nature, and will very likely be voted in, but she’s pure Country. Update: Dolly Parton “respectfully” declined to be considered for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. She says she doesn’t want to divide any votes, and she knows she isn’t a Rock & Roll artist…which you’d think the nominating committee would know too. Unfortunately, the ballots had already gone out.
Update 2: Pop singer Dionne Warwick is also inexplicably nominated this year, and doesn’t think she should be. She knows her style of music is far removed from Rock & Roll. She said she might be interested if they changed the name to something like The Music Hall Of Fame.
Since they’re including Rock, Pop, Disco, R&B, Rap, Country, and nearly all forms of music…they need a better name and a bigger museum.
The results: So who got in? Pat Benatar, Carly Simon, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Eminem, and although they didn’t get in through voting, the band Judas Priest was appointed as an inductee by the board. Not exactly a Rock & Roll class…but some Pop artists who deserved to be recognized anyway.
The entire Rooftop Concert by The Beatles was made available to music streaming services on Jan 28th, 2022. There’s a short review included below. By the way, the IMAX showing of the concert January 30th, 2022 was a hit, with near sellouts reported across the nation.
Many fans were disappointed when the full rooftop performance was not included in the Let It Be remixed box set. So, Giles Martin and Sam Okell have remixed the entire 40-minute concert and made it available to streaming services. With the exception of lower quality audio bootlegs, this is the first time we can hear the entire concert without the on-street interviews of the film interrupting the songs.
The DVD/Blu-ray of the Get Back movie was originally scheduled to be released February 8th, but was delayed. My Amazon DVD of Get Back was delivered February 28th, 2022. The Blu-ray was released July 12th, 2022.
(Glad the guy on the far left survived!)
The concert was really a recording session, and several of the songs were repeated in order to get the best takes for the album and film.
The audio has just a little chatter between songs and a bit of minor strumming on their instruments, plus a 25-second instrumental of “God Save The Queen”.
Giles Martin had previously said the full concert wasn’t included with the box set, because it was more enjoyable with the video. He says the strong reaction to the Get Back documentary convinced them that fans would enjoy having the audio, even with multiple takes and imperfections. From a practical standpoint, the entire concert would have easily fit on CD 5 of the box set, which only had four songs. However, it would have required another whole record in the vinyl box set.
It’s noteworthy that the concert is only on streaming services, and has not been made available for sale…thus avoiding more complaints about it not being included with the box set, but then charging for it separately.
These remixed rooftop recordings are a huge improvement over bootleg versions. There are only five Beatles songs played on the rooftop, and the best versions of four of them were already included with the recent Let It Be remixed box set. Three of those have always been on the main album…”I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”, and “Dig A Pony”. The first rooftop take of “Don’t Let Me Down” was also included with the box set. It’s the one where John Lennon forgets the lyrics and sings some smile-inducing gibberish instead. If you want a corrected version, the Paul McCartney produced Let It Be…Naked album combines the best parts of the two takes done on the rooftop.
A song from the rooftop recordings that was not actually on Let It Be is “Get Back”. The version used on the album was a studio recording with some added rooftop chatter to make it seem like it was part of the concert. You get three takes of “Get Back” with the new streaming concert. Take 2 is probably the best. The final take is the one where Paul McCartney ad-libs about getting arrested for playing on the roof.
It’s quite a feat of musicianship and audio engineering that recordings from a rooftop could sound this good. It’s great to finally have all of the versions of the songs that were played during the last live performance of The Beatles.
Just For Fun Extra: Inspired by Paul McCartney using the two live versions of “Don’t Let Me Down” to form one good version, I decided to edit together the best possible version of “Get Back” from the three rooftop performances (using GarageBand). I started with Lennon’s silly pre-song comment “…but she was a frying pan”, then used the first half of “Get Back” Take 1 (just through “Get back Jo”). Next came the second half of Take 2, followed by the “arrested” ending segment from Take 3, which also has the “…passed the audition” joke. It sounds good, and is probably close to what they would have done if they had wanted to only use live performances for the concert material on Let It Be. The album could have started with the hit studio version of “Get Back”, and ended with this live version:
Reimagining the Let It Be song order, beginning with the “Get Back” single, and putting the live rooftop songs together on side two:
There’s always debate about which is the best Beatles album. Well, the public has been voting since the first Beatles album was released, and for over 50 years since the last original Beatles album was released. They cast their ballots with their money. Critics and fans can have their favorites, but it’s always interesting to see what albums the most people were willing to pay for. If you’ve seen any similar lists, you might find a couple of surprises here. You’ll see the ranking of all 12 of The Beatles original studio albums, and be reminded of what songs are on them. Let’s start right at the top,
#1 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
With over 32-million copies sold, Sgt. Pepper is the most popular of The Beatles regular albums. Only their collection of #1 songs, Beatles 1, has sold approximately the same amount, and is poised to sell more. Sgt. Pepper was a risk for The Beatles. There had never been a mainstream album as innovative and imaginative as this one. Producer George Martin said he was afraid they’d gone too far with it, but it opened the door for other artists to be more daring too. Although the singles from these sessions, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were not on the album, the familiarity of many of the album tracks makes them seem like singles.
#2 Revolver (1966)
The Beatles’ first album to make full use of the recording studio comes in at #2. Revolver featured backwards guitars, altered voices, the use of tape loops, psychedelic lyrics, and much more.
It may be the peak of songwriting by Paul McCartney. His songs from the album sessions are “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and the single “Paperback Writer”. John Lennon’s songs are “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, ”She Said She Said”, the group’s very experimental “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and the single “Rain”. George Harrison had three songs, “Taxman”, “I Want To Tell You”, and “Love You To”. The album has sold over 27 million copies.
#3 Rubber Soul (1965)
This was an album of growth for The Beatles. Their songwriting was maturing, and venturing beyond love songs…including Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” and “In My Life”, but it also has one of McCartney’s great love songs, “Michelle”. The album has proven to be very popular with fans, as it sits between the early Beatlemania and the non-touring studio years. It’s sold over 16.5 million copies.
#4 The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
The Beatles were bursting with songs when they came back from their time with the Maharishi in India. The result was a double album with 30 tracks. Sales are over 16-million. There’s a huge variety of musical styles from the beautiful acoustic “Blackbird” to the hard rock of “Helter Skelter”. Other highlights include “Back In The U.S,S.R.” and one of George Harrison’s best songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
#5 Abbey Road (1969)
This album tends to be a favorite of Beatles fans who were born after all these albums came out. Abbey Road starts off with “Come Together”, and includes George Harrison’s strongest showing with “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something”. The unique feature of the album is the side two medley. Sales are over 10-million.
#6 Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
This started out as a six song EP in England, but Capitol Records in America added five singles to make it a full album. It’s sold over 6-million copies. New songs at the time included “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Fool On The Hill” and “I Am The Walrus”. The recent singles they added included “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “All You Need Is Love”. It’s a really good album that people sometimes overlook, because it wasn’t one The Beatles had originally planned. The song titles are all on the front cover.
#7 Meet The Beatles (1964)
You won’t find this album on many lists of the best selling Beatles albums, because the official version of this is now With The Beatles, which only sold about 600,000 copies in the U.K. In America, Meet The Beatles sold over 5-million copies, including 4-million in its first year. The album kicks off with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “This Boy”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”…plus it has “All My Loving”.
#8 Let It Be (1970) [Recorded in 1969 before Abbey Road]
The public loves this album more than many critics, and it certainly has some strong songs, including three #1 singles…“Get Back”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road”. It’s sold over 5-million copies, and has added sales with the October 2021 remix, which put it at #1 for physical sales (vinyl & CD’s) the week it was released.
#9 A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
The third album by The Beatles is their first to have all original songs by Lennon & McCartney. The album contained the big hits “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night”, as well as one of the most covered songs of all time, “And I Love Her”. Other standout tracks include John Lennon’s rocker “”You Can’t Do That”, his ballad “If I Fell”, and McCartney’s “Things We Said Today”. The album has sold over 4.1 million copies.
(First 7 songs were on the soundtrack in the U.S.)
#10 The Beatles For Sale / Beatles ‘65 (1964)
Here’s another album that usually misses the list of best sellers. It’s because of differences between the British and American versions. Together they’ve sold over 4-million copies. You can see there are a lot of good songs on the album, but in America, Capitol removed some of them and added the songs from the single at that time, “I Feel Fine” & “She’s A Woman”. Still, they’re similar.
#11 Help (1965)
The Beatles second movie album, Help, is solid, with hits “Ticket To Ride” (#1), “Help” (#1), and the most covered song of all time “Yesterday” (#1). Other standouts include “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”. The album sold over 3.6 million copies.
#12 Please Please Me (1963)
This first album by The Beatles sold 3.2 million copies, which includes the sales of the American versions, Introducing The Beatles & The Early Beatles. Please Please Me featured the first two singles by The Beatles, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”. The Beatles were surprised when VJ Records released “Twist And Shout” as a single, but it hit #2 and became the song The Beatles most often used to open their concerts. A self-written rocker, “I Saw Her Standing There”, was a strong opener for the album. Eight of the songs were originals, and six were cover songs that The Beatles had been playing live.
Those are the twelve original studio albums by The Beatles, but they’re just the tip of the sales iceberg. With all the compilations and special releases, The Beatles have sold over 600-million albums. That’s more than any other artist. Update: In mid-2022, EMI (The parent company for Apple Records) estimated The Beatles have sold over 1-Billion records.
Extra: Using the public’s purchasing totals to rank the albums gives us a solid top five whose totals stand out from the other albums. Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and Rubber Soul certainly make a reasonable top three. If you think #5 Abbey Road should have been ranked higher than #4 The White Album, you may be right. Abbey Road sold more units (10-million) than The White Album (8-million units)…but since it’s a double album, each unit officially counts as two, making it 16-million.
The complete 8-hour Get Back movie was supposed to be released on DVD & Blu-ray on February 8th, 2022, but was postponed, because of a flaw with the surround audio. Finally the corrected set was released on July 12th, 2022.
My Amazon DVD order of Get Back (above) was delivered February 28th, 2022. My three DVD’s played just fine.
Crazy Update: Some of the recalled Blu-ray discs made their way to eBay. Here are a couple of completed sales:
The prices varied wildly. These two sales from March are high priced ones, and the lowest I spotted was $50 from an earlier sale. It seems nuts to spend a thousand dollars for flawed discs.
Meanwhile, there’s more info on Get Back, and an audio bonus below.
Before the DVD release, the rooftop concert had a special showing at IMAX theaters on January 30th, which is the anniversary of the original event. It’s an hour long film, and the presentation included comments from Director Peter Jackson, as well as a Q&A by satellite after the showing. The event was reported as nearly sold out across the country. There was also a regular IMAX theatrical showing (no Peter Jackson Q&A) of this one-hour film for one weekend, February 11th-13th (extended a bit in the U.K.).
Update: The entire 40-minute audio of the rooftop concert was released to music streaming services on Friday, January 28th, 2022. It’s been remixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell. The sound quality is excellent, and we can hear all the songs without the breaks for street interviews used in the film.
The full nearly 8-hour 3-part documentary is included with the new DVD release, but no extras are provided. It would have been great if the DVD set had included Jackson’s original movie-length version that was to be shown in theaters in August of 2020. There’s no word on when (or if) the original Let It Be movie will be upgraded and released.
The DVD is listed on Amazon as a 3-disc set for $34.99 (lowered to $24.99). The Blu-ray is listed at $44.99 (lowered to $34.99).
The Blu-ray listing is on Apple’s official site for the full list price of $44.99. Here’s the information they included:
The only “extras” are the four collectors cards shown with the Blu-ray set.
Update: (Sept. 2022) Get Back won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary Series, and Best Director for Peter Jackson. It also won awards for sound & film editing. Paul, Ringo, Olivia & Yoko all won Emmys as executive producers.
Bonus: Just for fun, check out this custom edit of the three rooftop versions of “Get Back” made into one “best version”:
It started streaming right at midnight (PT) Thanksgiving day, 2021 on Disney+. The line on our TV below summed up what The Beatles were facing by trying to write and learn 14 songs in two weeks, and then perform them in a concert in January of 1969.
The Get Back documentary is fascinating and lightly frustrating. It’s amazing to see The Beatles’ songs being born, but you want to tell them the lyrics and arrangements they’re struggling to find. There is no whitewashing of the problems originally shown during the Let It Be movie (in fact, more problems are shown), we just get a more complete look at what happened.
The Beatles were so young. George was about to turn 26, Paul was 27, and John & Ringo were 28.
We learn during the documentary that even though The Beatles weren’t breaking up, it was often mentioned as a concern. It would be fair to say Get Back shows the pending breakup of The Beatles.
The film also shows that the presence of Yoko Ono at the sessions did not cause the breakup. Of course John Lennon wanting to spend his time with Yoko probably did contribute to his announcing to the group eight months later that he was leaving The Beatles.
At the beginning of the sessions The Beatles are having trouble coming up with songs and completing them. Then on January 9th, Paul arrives early, sits down at the piano and plays portions of “The Long And Winding Road”, “Another Day”, “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight”. George soon arrives and plays “For You Blue”. At one point, Paul is strumming his bass, and we see the birth of “Get Back”. So, we’re reminded they eventually develop more than enough material for the album.
It’s hard to believe, but not only did they write enough songs for Let It Be, they also started 11 songs that ended up on Abbey Road, and other songs that later appeared on their solo albums…all in January!
Part 1 of the documentary ends shortly after George has casually left the band on January 10th, 1969. His leaving the band wasn’t included in the original movie, because The Beatles asked to have it left out.
George had been frustrated by the conditions at the cavernous film studio where they were working, by a concert he didn’t want to do, and by the domination of Paul and John over the songs and arrangements.
George’s leaving had the other three Beatles concerned, and they shared a private group embrace that the cameras caught.
Part 2 shows that all four Beatles met twice privately in order to work things out. George was right about nearly everything. The project moves to Apple headquarters, where a comfortable new studio is being set up. Plans for the TV concert at an exotic location are scrapped. Instead, they want to plan a more reasonable concert to provide a climax to a movie that will be made from the film footage.
As The Beatles are rehearsing, they realize that without overdubbing, they can’t play the keyboard parts some of the songs require. Billy Preston, a keyboardist for Little Richard & Ray Charles and a friend since their days in Hamburg, stops in to visit. He’s asked to join the recording sessions. What a difference he makes!
As you can see from this screen shot and the caption (reaction to a joke by George), things were getting better (all the time). The keyboard parts Billy Preston adds to “Get Back”, “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” greatly improve the songs, and The Beatles’ own playing is elevated.
It’s noteworthy that at times The Beatles get upset with one another, but never really angry. There’s no shouting or name calling. Most of the time they’re working with affection for the music and each other, and with lots of humor.
Producer George Martin says… “You’re working so well together. You’re looking at each other, you’re seeing each other. It’s happening isn’t it? The other George nods in agreement. At the end of Part 2, the roof of the Apple building is considered as a concert site.
Part 3 is mostly the final recording and rehearsing before the rooftop concert. Actually, The Beatles are still debating whether they even want to do it. Ringo is the one who likes the idea the most, George the least, and John & Paul aren’t sure. No one knows if they can even pull it off.
The film gives us portions of songs in take after take, and there’s a feeling that none of the songs were completed. We only know they must have gotten some good takes, because words on the screen say… “This version was used for the Let It Be album.”
At one point, George tells John that he has enough songs for ten years worth of albums based on his quota of two songs per album. George says he wants to make a solo album to hear what all his songs sound like together (spoiler: really good). He says.. “I’m Just gonna do me for a bit.” He also says it would be nice if any of them could do separate projects as well, and still preserve The Beatles. So, even though he quit for a few days over some problems, he wanted The Beatles to keep going.
Finally (Jan. 30th), The Beatles start playing on the roof.
The filming of the concert is comprehensive, with ten cameras to capture the band and the reactions of people on the streets and rooftops. To dispel a minor myth…John and George did not borrow their wives coats. They wore those coats (their own) many times throughout the film, and their wives had different coats.
The use of split screens effectively shows it all. The complete concert is included.
After the performance, The Beatles listen to the rooftop recordings, along with their significant others (Linda, Yoko, & Maureen Starkey) and the studio staff. The Beatles are energized, and want to keep recording, but the rest of the day is needed to get the equipment down from the roof.
The next day, Jan. 31st, is the last day of filming. The Beatles do the final studio recordings of “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and “Let It Be”. We’d been listening to bits of those songs throughout the entire film. It was going to be great to hear and see them finally complete. Unfortunately, those final takes were not shown…just incomplete portions of them. With nearly eight hours of film, Director Peter Jackson couldn’t include the finished performances of three of the best songs, including two #1 hits?!
Jackson probably didn’t want to end the film with three non-rocking songs after that rooftop concert, but they deserved to be included. In fact, during the entire film, we only see five songs played through completely, all on the roof. It’s like a documentary of a house being built, but they never show the completed house!
Using complete versions of “The Long And Winding Road”, the more up-tempo “Two Of Us”, and then showing “Let It Be” (the last song they recorded that January) as the credits rolled would have been very effective. Using just bits of the songs, like we’d heard the whole film, was a horrible decision. It made it seem like The Beatles could never get through a song, but the truth is they nailed three of their best recordings the day after the rooftop concert.
Overall, it’s great to have a film record of The Beatles writing, arranging, and recording songs. Seeing the interactions of the four Beatles is enlightening, but the 3-part film is definitely too long (nearly 8-hours) to make for regular repeat viewings.
Peter Jackson said he didn’t want to leave out anything he thought was important, because whatever he didn’t use could go back in the vault for another fifty years. The film is a treasure chest of details that reveal The Beatles’ relationships at that time, so Jackson was probably right to get it all out there. It would be interesting to see what he would have included in a single movie-length version. We know the planned version of the Get Back movie for theaters was 2-hours-20-minutes. It would be great to have that available.
Update: Get Back has been released (all 8-hours) on DVD & Blu-ray, but the release was postponed from it’s original date of February 8th, because of an audio problem with the Blu-ray. My Amazon DVD of Get Back arrived February 28th, 2022. The new corrected version was released on July 12th, 2022. There’s a link to more info at the end of this article.
The original Let It Be movie, with the technical improvements to the film & sound, should also be made available, but there’s been no announcement. My memory from seeing the movie 51-years-ago, and watching the video disc nearly 40-years-ago, is that it included full versions of “For You Blue” & “I Me Mine”, plus the three songs completed on the final day of filming, and the five songs from the rooftop performance.
It was an extremely long and winding road for the nearly 60 hours of Let It Be footageto come together as Get Back. Even though there was a lack of completed songs, Peter Jackson’s hard work is very appreciated. The new version is definitely worth seeing, but don’t try to watch all those hours in one sitting.
Extra statistic: While this documentary takes nearly 8 hours to tell what happened during one month, you could listen to all 213 songs The Beatles released from 1962 to 1970…in about 10 hours.
Update: (March 2022) Get Back won the Producers Guild Award for non-fiction television. Then in July, the documentary was nominated for five Emmy awards.
Update: (Sept. 2022) Get Back won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary Series, and Best Director for Peter Jackson. It also won awards for sound & film editing. Paul, Ringo, Olivia and Yoko all won Emmys as executive producers.
It’s a gift to fans. While Tom Petty was recording the Wildflowers album, some of the process was being filmed. The raw footage was discovered by his daughter, Adria, in 2020, and now it’s a film we can watch free on YouTube.
The documentary combines the original footage with other film from that time, plus there are recent interviews with producer Rick Ruben, and Heartbreakers Mike Campbell & Benmont Tench.
Tom Petty fans will find it all fascinating. We’re given insights into what was happening in Tom’s life in 1993 & 1994 during the writing and recording of what he considered his best album.
Producer Rick Ruben was especially insightful. He said we think of the song “Wildflowers” as just Tom Petty and an acoustic guitar. He explained the reality is there are “fifty elements”, including orchestration, that are light touches adding to our pleasure as we enjoy repeated listenings.
Ruben also explained that the album sounds more intimate, because they didn’t layer the guitars as on previous Heartbreaker albums, allowing for a more singer-songwriter feel.
Tom Petty quipped…”I never really hired Rick as the producer, he just kept showing up.” Actually, Tom admitted he would write some songs, and then call Rick to come over.
(Mike Campbell & Tom Petty during the Wildflowers sessions.)
Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench added many details about the whole project. They agreed that making Wildflowers was the most fun they had making an album. They said the reason there were so many songs is that the process was so enjoyable they didn’t want to stop.
(A recent shot of Benmont Tench)
The documentary is about 90-minutes long. Besides all the revelations about the songs, I love hearing pieces of the recordings. Those included isolated voices in harmony, individual guitars and keyboards, and hearing the orchestrations all by themselves
There’s also a separate interview piece on YouTube with those responsible for the project. They include (top row) Adria Petty, director Mary Wharton, interviewer David Fricke, (bottom row) co-producer Sarah Haber, editor Mari Keiko Gonzalez, and producer Peter Afterman.
You can hear the passion they all had for the project, and they obviously did a great job.
Anyone who misses Tom Petty will be thankful to spend a little more time with him. Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free…streaming now on YouTube.
Update: (March 2022) Tom Petty’s “Somewhere” won the Producers Guild Award for Best Television or Streaming Movie.
The two volume set of Paul McCartney’s songwriting memories The Lyrics was released this week. The books are not just filled with lyrics, they’re packed with personal photos, and stories about the songs.
The set comes in a heavy cardboard sleeve, and the books have jacket covers with photos and the lyrics to “Hey Jude” & “Yesterday”. On the other side are “Back In The U.S.S.R.” & “Maybe I’m Amazed”.
There are even lyrics printed right on the book covers, including “Band On The Run” and “Penny Lane”.
Here are the pages that show the lists of songs in the two volumes. You can see the songs are in alphabetical order. (Click to enlarge)
The alphabetical order makes it easy to find songs, but since this is also meant to serve as an autobiography, it might have been more effective if the songs had been placed in chronological order. There are a total of 154 songs and 874 pages.
Here’s an example of how the book is autobiographical. When Paul tells the story of “Eleanor Rigby”, he mentions how as a boy he did odd jobs for a woman who lived alone. He felt that situation was the seed for the song. While thinking back to that time, he also relays how he met John Lennon and joined The Quarrymen. That’s how stories of the songs are expanded to reveal much more about Paul’s life.
Here are just a couple of random samples of photos.
John and Paul goofing around backstage, manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany in 1961, and John Lennon in Paris that same year.
These photos are from a trip Paul and his wife Linda took to Nashville that included meeting guitar great Chet Atkins.
The book has photos from throughout Paul’s personal & professional life. Paul took some of the early shots, his photographer wife Linda McCartney provided more, and there are some really good recent photos by their daughter, Mary.
All major Paul McCartney and Beatles fans will enjoy getting so much new information about the songs, and seeing hundreds of previously unpublished photos. The list price for the set is a hefty $100, but I ordered it from Amazon for $79, and then their price guarantee reduced it to $60.
It’s hard to believe they could get the book covers to match this well together to form that picture of Paul.
The final words on songwriting come from Paul McCartney on the back of the book holder.
The new remix of Let It Be is excellent, but let’s begin where the album did in 1969, the previously unreleased Glyn Johns mix of Get Back. Now we know why The Beatles rejected this album mix, it’s a mess. Johns has produced a lot of good music, but the versions of songs he chose for the album are not as good as those on the released Let It Be album. Only three of the versions, “One After 909”, “Get Back”, and “Let It Be” are worthy of being on a Beatles album. In the box set book, it says Glyn Johns purposely selected earlier takes to show The Beatles less polished.
Fans hoped this “raw” version of The Beatles would be good, but if the Get Back album had been released in the Glyn Johns mix, it would have been an embarrassing way to end the recording career of The Beatles. If you’re looking for the “just the band” style originally intended for the album, go with Let It Be…Naked. It’s a much better mix of mostly the same songs.
The one cool thing about having the Get Back album is they included the cover that was planned…which has the photo that ended up being used for the Blue Album collection.
Here’s what the Super Deluxe CD set looks like. The photos on the 100-page book normally show through the cutouts in the black cardboard sleeve. The CD’s store in a trifold holder. The vinyl version has the same covers for the records that you see on the CD’s.
The 2021 remix of the Let It Be album is impressive, fuller and clearer. It’s definitely the best the original album has ever sounded. It doesn’t lose the feel of the Let It Be we’ve always known, but it’s a refreshing listening experience. The guitars have a truer ring, the bass & drums sound more real, and the singers are in the room with you.
Giles Martin & Sam Okell were able to somewhat improve the most notoriously arranged Phil Spector production…”The Long And Winding Road”. The remix does a better job of blending the background chorus into the orchestra to lessen the “angel voices” (as Paul McCartney called them). Despite some errors in judgement, Spector deserves credit for putting together a much improved version of the album.
The book has excellent information on each of the songs on the original Let It Be album, giving details of how the recordings were developed, including which take was used.
(Click to enlarge. The vinyl records have the same tracks.)
As for the extra tracks of alternate takes and rehearsals…seeing what songs they worked on is more interesting than actually hearing them. The box set has five songs that ended up on Abbey Road, but none of the versions even approach the completed songs that are on that album. It’s the same for songs that ended up on their solo albums.
There are a couple of really welcome cuts. Take 28 of “Let It Be” is the one used in the original Let It Be film. It includes the alternate lyrics “There will be no sorrow” (which rhymed with “Shine until tomorrow”). It’s good to have this version in such a quality mix. The remix of the “Don’t Let Me Down” single is the best it’s ever sounded.
Through the years, Let It Be has been overly criticized. All of the breakup controversy, and even comments by The Beatles, have unfairly cast a shadow on the album.
The original concept was to just have The Beatles playing live, without any “studio tricks” or overdubs. That plan slowly eroded.
The first change in the plan was the addition of keyboardist Billy Preston. He had a positive effect on The Beatles’ recording practices, and added some excellent touches to many of the songs.
Next, when it came time to release a single in April of 1969, producer Glyn Johns and Paul McCartney (by each other in this photo) edited together two takes of “Get Back”. That made it better than any of the single-take versions of the song. The flip side, “Don’t Let Me Down”, included overdubbed vocals. So, the “live only” idea was fudged on long before the Let It Be album was put together.
The same “cheating” happened again in early 1970 for the song “I Me Mine”. On January 3rd, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr recorded a new version of “I Me Mine” that was needed for the Let It Be film. Later, Phil Spector would add orchestration and remix it.
When it was determined “Let It Be” would be released as a single in early 1970, George Martin wrote an orchestration for it that added horns and cellos. Above, you can see George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Linda McCartney were at the session, and George Martin even had them record background vocals for the track. Phil Spector used that version for the album, except he made the orchestration more prominent in the mix, and George Harrison added a new, more rocking, guitar lead.
So, with all the changes from when the album was started, what could have improved Let It Be even more?
1. If only Paul McCartney hadn’t been estranged from Apple. He normally would have been involved as Phil Spector was working on the album. Paul would have been able to nullify some of Spector’s excess arrangements and over-the-top production tendencies.
2. The original “live only” concept should have been eliminated sooner. With all the “cheating” going on anyway, each song should have been made in its best version, even if that meant using overdubs and other recording techniques. By dropping the pretense that this was somehow a “live” album, it could have had an improved running order.
3. The presentation of the album would have worked better if it had been divided into these two sides…Studio and Live. Here’s what it might have looked like. (If you’d like to try this playlist, the tracks are from the remix Disc 1, except where noted.)
Get Back (single from Beatles 1 or Past Masters)
Across The Universe (Anth. 2, Let It Be Naked, or Disc 1)
I Me Mine
Let It Be
For You Blue
The Long And Winding Road
Two Of Us
Don’t Let Me Down (from Let It Be Naked or Disc 2)
I’ve Got A Feeling
One After 909
Dig A Pony
(Back of the proposed Let It Be album)
The album makes more sense this way, with both sides flowing better. Side 1 features studio recordings of six good songs, bringing it in line with some of the best Beatles albums.
Instead of being out of place between studio cuts, the rooftop performances complement each other. By putting the mini-concert on the second side, Let It Be would have have been more like Abbey Road, with a unique Side 2.
“Two Of Us” wasn’t performed on the rooftop, but it was performed live in the studio, and the silly intro “Doris gets her oats” ties it in with the looser feel and chatter used for the rooftop performances. It makes a strong opener for that side, and then we can enjoy the concert.
Any album that has so many good songs, including three #1 singles (“Get Back”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road”) should not be looked at in any way as a bad or lesser album…as Let It Be is sometimes characterized. The Beatles probably should have continued working on Let It Be after filming ended January 31st, 1969 (instead of starting Abbey Road three weeks later), but they were anxious to leave the filming behind and get back to making albums the way they knew best.
The large companion book for the new Beatles documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, is a winner!
Above is the book I received on Tuesday, October 12th. The cover photo is by Linda McCartney. Below are photos and quotes from the book to give you an idea of what it’s like.
It’s a fairly large coffee table book, seen here with the very large Anthology book, and a couple of my other favorite Beatles books, for comparing the size. The hard cover of the 240-page book has the picture printed on it, and there’s a small Let It Be jacket cover toward the bottom.
Get Back director Peter Jackson provides the foreword, and the book contains transcribed conversations from the film that was used to make the documentary. It also has hundreds of photos by Ethan Russell and Linda McCartney, plus a lot of screen shots from the film.
The rehearsals and filming began on January 2nd, 1969 at Twickenham Film Studios. It was a large, unusual place for The Beatles to be working, and that uncomfortable space, along with having cameras on them all the time, added to the pressure of having to write and learn songs. Besides that, there was a plan to do a live performance as soon as January 18th. The schedule was too ambitious, and the text in the book reveals The Beatles couldn’t come up with a good location for a concert. They weren’t even sure they wanted to do it, with George the most opposed.
The book is generously filled with many previously unseen and cool photos of The Beatles as they were working on songs. It was amazing to me how many songs they had started by January 6th. Since they began on a Thursday, and took the weekend off, there were only three days of filming by Monday the 6th. The songs they played parts of included “One After 909”, “All Things Must Pass”, “The Long And Winding Road”, “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “Across The Universe”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Oh Darling”, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, and “Something”. These were mostly just the early formative stages of those songs, rather than being complete, but that was quite a start for the 1969 albums that would become Let It Be and Abbey Road.
It was also on January 6th that the infamous disagreement happened between George and Paul. As they were working on “Two Of Us”, Paul wanted to keep the arrangement simple, and then add to it later. George thought it would be better to try guitar parts right away to see what worked. At one point, George said… “I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play.” A few moments later, John said to Paul… “I think if it’s your song, you’ve got to do exactly like you want it. You say, don’t play that. Play that. It’s up to you, you know…”
It was four days later, January 10th, when George said… “I think I’ll be…I’m leaving.” John says…”What?” George… “the band now.” John…”When?” George… “Now.”
The three Beatles even mentioned (probably not seriously) getting another lead guitarist if George didn’t return. They met privately with George twice, and decided to move the whole project to the much more comfortable studio they had installed at Apple. The Beatles, including George, returned to recording.
After that change, the sessions became much happier. The Beatles helped each other with the songs as they were being created. The transcripts show there was a lot of humor and cooperation during most of their time together.
Now at Apple, it looks like there are six Beatles. Keyboardist Billy Preston was a welcome addition to the recording sessions. Yoko Ono was at John’s side almost all of the time (as he wanted it), and the quotes in the book show the other Beatles grew to accept that. Paul knew that John would choose Yoko over The Beatles if he had to. In talking with the others when John wasn’t there, Paul said… “It’s going to be such an incredible sort of comical thing like, in 50 years’ time, you know: ‘They broke up ‘cause Yoko sat on an amp.’ (laughs).” Paul also said… “It’s all right, let the young lovers stay together.”
In a total of just 21 days of recording from January 2nd through January 31st, the songs became more polished, and The Beatles pulled off their rooftop concert.
The rooftop performance was January 30th, and The Beatles returned to the studio on the 31st for one more day of filming.
That’s when they nailed the film versions of “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and the final song recorded that January, “Let It Be”. Those performances were the highlights of the original movie. Without them, they really wouldn’t have had enough good songs to put an album together. Of course then they could have saved those songs for Abbey Road, and Paul could have given them the full production treatment any way he wished.
If you really want to know what The Beatles were thinking during the recording of Let It Be, this book will fill you in on all of it…plus you get the photos. The $60 list price book was marked down to $30 on Amazon in 2022.
Having finished the filming and the live style of recording (without overdubs), The Beatles soon decided to convince George Martin to help them record an album the way they had in the past, and the result was Abbey Road which was completed in August of 1969. At least eleven of the songs on that album were introduced by the group during the Let It Be sessions.
The Let It Be box set is out, and the nearly 8-hour Get Back documentary is now on Disney+. It’s being released on DVD and Blu-ray, but the original release date of February 8th, 2022 was postponed to July 12th, 2022 due to a technical problem.