The Beatles ‘Let It Be’: Their Last & Messiest Album Was Still Amazing
On May 8th, 1970, 50 years ago, the world last heard any music from The Beatles as a band. Their album “Let It Be” is their final studio album, released one month after the band’s breakup. However, it is marred with criticism, with critics saying that it is their messiest album yet. Now, there’s no denying that it isn’t their finest work. But, despite it being their messiest, many artists would kill to have an album like this. So, let’s see why the album is messy and amazing at the same time.
Why was “Let It Be” so messy?
For that, we have to understand what was going around the Beatles at the time. The Beatles just finished a creative era of their careers with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), and The White Album (1968). After experimenting so much, the band decided to get back to their roots, which is why “Let It Be” was initially known as “Get Back“.
They started with Jamming sessions early in 1969. In addition to that, The Beatles also decided to make a documentary out of the process, named “Get Back”. That is how their famous rooftop concert came into being, on the rooftop of Apple Corp in London. However, these good times weren’t going to last for The Beatles.
Problems had surfaced among the Beatles since the White Album. Their musical disunity bled into their business decisions, which culminated into greater problems. George Harrison believed that his talents were undermined by Paul and John, while John Lennon believed Paul McCartney sabotaged his songs. Moreover, Ringo Starr felt like his talents were mostly ignored by the others, which led him to quit the band in 1968. With these problems still not fully resolved by early 1969, the band decided to abandon the work on the “Get Back” sessions. By the end of February, they instead started working on Abbey Road, but took a break of a couple of months and resumed work on it by April. It was finally released on September 26, 1969.
By December, the Beatles decided to go back to the “Get Back” recording sessions, but things were complicated.
The Beatles’ infighting and “Let It Be” turning out to be a mess
After Brian Epstein passed away in 1967, The Beatles formally hired Allen Klein as their manager in 1969. However, his appointment later split the band into two camps: Paul McCartney versus Allen Klein and the rest of the band members. Klein got the Beatles the much-needed money and funding for Abbey Road and “Let It Be“. However, it wasn’t as straightforward as it looked.
Firstly, he fired a lot of the crew and staff associated with The Beatles. Secondly, Paul McCartney was livid at the compilation and retouching he did through Phil Spector of the Get Back sessions, and its rebranding to “Let It Be“. That is where Paul drew the line, and Klein pretty much earned his hatred. The songs like The Long and Winding Road were riddled with too many orchestral effects than Paul’s liking. Moreover, George Harrison only got 2 songs in the album, much to his dismay.
McCartney spent most of his time in Scotland, while Phil Spector was working on “Let It Be” with George Harrison and Ringo Starr. But, by the time “Let It Be” was ready to be released, Paul McCartney’s solo album was ready too. This caused a huge feud between Paul and the rest of the band, which resulted in Let It Be‘s release being pushed till May, one month after The Beatles broke up.
Klein’s shady way of doing business
Moreover, Paul McCartney was very suspicious of Allen Klein’s way of doing business. But, at the time no one knew that Klein was double-crossing the Beatles. All the money he got from United Artists was to be handled by him and was not in control of The Beatles. However, it took them a long time to realize this. Moreover, the rest of the band did not trust Paul’s apprehensions because of the rift between them. This just explains why “Let It Be” was such a mess.
Despite the mess, The Beatles still made magic out of “Let It Be“
The album topped the charts in the UK and the US, but critics weren’t big fans of it. Alan Smith wrote:
If the new Beatles’ soundtrack is to be their last then it will stand as a cheapskate epitaph, a cardboard tombstone, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop.
However, from my perspective as a fan, “Let It Be” still ranks as a great work of art. Yes, from the perspective of a complete album, it doesn’t rank close to the other studio albums of The Beatles. But, despite Paul McCartney’s reservations, songs like “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” are fondly remembered by fans. Moreover, the song Two of Us, which may have represented his relationship with John Lennon, is loved by fans to this day. Across the Universe is still revered as having one of the finest lyrics of any Beatles song, with a unique connection to mysticism. The Beatles then released the “Let It Be” naked version, which included all the songs of the album in their original version.
There is no doubt that artists today would kill to have an album like this. Even a single song, like the above mentioned, can define an artist’s career. But, The Beatles managed to have at least 4 of them in their worst album to date. That is a testament to the talent that The Beatles possessed.
If you want to learn more about the workings of this album, you’ll have to wait till September for Peter Jackson’s documentary on the archives of The Beatles “Get Back” and “Let It Be” sessions.