Ah, Let It Be. The album that started out as Get Back, recorded during the absolute lowest of the low point of the Beatles as a band. A set of sessions and rehearsals, filmed for a movie, meant to be presented without studio flim-flammery and trickery (RAW Beatles!), went through a lot before emerging in 1970 as a sour-tasting coda to the Beatles legacy.
Many have said that they shouldn’t have allowed Phil Spector to monkey with the tapes. Many have said that they should have released the original Glyn Johns version, or the second Glyn Johns version. Or some combination thereof.
It’s complicated, and I’ll boil it down.
The Beatles threw the tapes at Glyn Johns and said ‘make an album out of this crap’. He did. They rejected it. They made Abbey Road instead. Good call.
Mind you, the whole concept of the Beatles raw and without overdubs went out the window, just as soon as “Get Back” was released as a single since there were reverb effects added. Shame shame.
Depsite the rancor around the sessions and the film, it was going to come out in 1970. The Beatles asked Johns to try again, but only put tracks that were going to be in the film. So, the excerable “Teddy Boy” was jettisoned (THANK GOD!), and George’s “I Me Mine” (which was shown in a segment showing George running through the song on an acoustic guitar) was hastily recorded by George, Ringo, and Paul. “Across the Universe”, shown in a rehearsal, was also added to the album as a remix of the 1968 track that was given to a charity album. (Yeah, that’s right, “Across the Universe” was left off of multiple Beatles projects for 18 months…)
The Beatles rejected that version as well. The film was coming out soon, so what to do?
Hand the tapes over to Phil Spector, and see what he can do.
Now, you’re not going to give Phil Spector tapes to produce without expecting…something akin to a Spector production. And that’s what you got.
But…Paul was furious. Well, furious about “The Long and Winding Road”, since he Spectored that up. “Let It Me” had some sweetening too, but there were already strings on the recording. Spector just made them louder. Spector also moved around some studio chatter, which was in keeping with the original concept. He smartly got rid of the jam and the “Save the Last Dance” snippet, but he also got rid of “Don’t Let Me Down” for some damn reason.
McCartney carried a grudge forever, and in the 00’s he got Ringo and the widows of George and John to allow him to release a version called Let It Be…Naked. It was the takes Spector had used without the Spector touch, or the studio chatter or false starts, and it made minor track adjustments (losing “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” and adding “Don’t Let Me Down”).
That version didn’t please people either.
And it’s 2020, and there’s no sign of a remix or remaster album coming (and the updated and re-mixed film either). The hold up, some speculate, is what the hell to do?
Well, here’s my idea.
First, Glyns Johns made some daft take choices. (Yes, I’ve heard his original version thanks to a bootleg procured before eBay noticed such things.) But in keeping with the vision of the RAW UNCOOKED BEATLES he made them sound sloppy as hell. Spector used the best takes, and more rooftop concert takes. (There was only one on Johns version).
Second, while “Maggie Mae” was a fun little ditty, “Dig It” was a snoozy jam fest notable for John’s name check of BB King , Doris Day, and Matt Busby (a star footballer). “Teddy Boy” should have been thrown away, and probably every take in existence melted down for scrap (Paul’s got a lot of tracks like that hanging around somewhere, and some leak out onto his albums).
Third, Paul was right about the over-use of strings and what not Spector did, especially on “Across the Universe” and “The Long and Winding Road”. But Spector did clean up the sound, picked the best takes, made the album cohere. He also did a neat trick by doubling up “I Me Mine” (though the strings were intrusive again).
My solution to this whole thing?
Well, you got a chance to make everyone happy.
Make it a big-ass mongo package.
First, the four extant versions (two unreleased, two released) can be part of it. Second, scouring the best outtakes and rehearsal stuff can be a fifth disk and the single version of “Get Back” and “Let It Be” can be there. (And, for the out and out junkies, release everything there. I mean, Rhino Handmade did that for the Fun House sessions by the Stooges, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard multiple takes of “Loose”.
But the main event is a remixed and remastered album. Use the Let It Be…Naked track sequence and add back in “Maggie Mae” after “One After 909”. Use the Spector track choices, double up “I Me Mine” still, but don’t use the strings and choir. Use the original “Across the Universe” at the regular speed. And sprinkle in the chatter that makes sense, where they’re supposed to go.
A tidy 12-track record.
They didn’t ask me, but I delivered anyway.