Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Beatles - Let It Be

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

As the 1970’s were just beginning, the Beatles were on the verge of breaking-up. Shortly after the release of their twelfth and final studio album Let It Be, the Fab Four was no more. The record went through a lot of iterations of content between when it was recorded in January of 1969 and its release in May of the following year. With the help of producer Phil Spector, the final content was nailed down.

The album reached number 1 on the charts in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and Norway. It has gone multi-platinum many times over.

Despite giving it a very harsh review at the time of its release, in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 86 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time. I guess thirty-three years was enough time to put some perspective on it.

“Two of Us” is the first track on the first side. Paul McCartney has said that he wrote it with then soon to be wife Linda Eastman in mind. Others surmise it more sounds like it was addressing his friendship with John Lennon. The acoustic guitars give it a really nice, almost country or folk feel to it.

“Dig a Pony” was written by Lennon for his soon to be wife Yoko Ono. The tempo is a bit jauntier, though the lyrics are a bit cryptic and mysterious. I guess that sort of was a nice summary of the relationship between the couple. They knew what they meant and that’s really all that matters when you love somebody; if everyone else didn’t get it well…they didn’t have to.

“Across the Universe” again brings forth the acoustic guitar along with George Harrison on the sitar and Ringo Starr on maracas, which helps create some very interesting imagery. It has a very transcendental, almost spiritual mood to it - thanks to the backing choir. It puts me into a very mellow mood when I hear it.

“I Me Mine”, a track written by Harrison, is also the name of his autobiography. The lyrics very much reflect the Hindu teachings about the mind and the ego. The song starts out slowly but then explodes at the chorus (which is very reminiscent of some early Beatles sound with the added Hammond organ for extra sound),

“Dig It” is a less than a minute track that is actually credited to all four of the band members. It is really just a bluesy mini-jam.

Next up is “Let It Be”, the first single from the album. The song spent thirteen weeks total on the US charts, including two weeks at the number 1 spot. In the UK, it went to number 2. McCartney has stated that his mother, who died of cancer when he was a teenager, was the inspiration for the opening lines. I love the simple piano opening, a classic. I also love the gospel feel to the song as a whole. This is one of those that I know by heart, having heard hundreds of time in my life and having sung along to on many occasions.

“Maggie Mae” is another very short track (just forty seconds long). It is a traditional Liverpool folk song about a prostitute who was robbed by a sailor.

The second side opens with “I’ve Got a Feeling”, another song written for Linda Eastman. The guitar work is nice on this one, supported by Billy Preston on electric piano. McCartney’s vocals are very raw and personal. It has a good groove to it.

“One After 909” has its roots in all about the numerology of nine that seemed to surface in Lennon’s life. I like the blues feel to this one, and it too reminds me a little bit of early Beatles tunes. It definitely sounds like they were having a good time when they recorded this one.

The second and final single was “The Long and Winding Road”. It would also be the band’s final number 1 single. It spent ten weeks on the US singles charts, including two at the top. This is definitely my favorite track of the album, even though it is such a sad song. The orchestration with the strings, the horns and such give it such an epic, dramatic sound. It just seems to bring up a lot of emotion when I hear it. Listening to it and gently singing along is a comfort in a lot of ways.

“For You Blue” is another blues track, with Harrison on acoustic guitar and vocals and Lennon playing a lap steel guitar. It has a different sound and that helps it stand out as a deeper track.

The last track is “Get Back”, which was released a year prior to the album’s debut. It went to number 1, of course, in many countries. It has an amazing rhythm to it and one that I am sure everyone knows. Again, this is another of those songs I’ve heard countless times and can sing along to as it is engrained into my music psyche. Billy Preston, who played on the original, does an amazing version of it on the late 1970’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack which I have previously reviewed.

I was the ripe old age of five when this album first hit the charts and thus hardly in the record buying mode at the time. Still, I knew who the Beatles were and often heard their songs (or covers of them by other artists) on the radio and TV all the time. As I got to be in my early teens, I was hearing a lot more of them off of the album-oriented rock stations, especially when they’d be doing “rock blocks” by artists.

What I really like about this record is the variety of musical styles represented. Clearly the band was into a lot of things and were willing to see where different things would take them. Perhaps it was the exploration that was a part of what moved them to break up. People grow apart sometimes, especially ones who experienced such a big rise to fame as these four did.

Let It Be is a nice closing chapter to the Beatles’ story.


Empoprises said...

"I've Got a Feeling" also highlights the way in which McCartney and Lennon collaborated with each other. In many cases, they came up with pieces separately and then inserted them into the other's work. "Everybody had a hard year" from Lennon provides an effective counterpoint to the main body of the song.

As you probably know, that lush orchestration on "The Long and Winding Road" drove the final nail into the Beatles' coffin. Granted that John had already quit the band, but when Paul found that Phil Spector had control over Paul's music, Paul went public.

I have never heard "Let It Be Naked" (the pre-Spector mixes), but I'd love to hear it for comparison.

Martin Maenza said...

Thanks for the comments. I knew about "I've Got a Feeling". I did not know about "The Long and Winding Road". Good info. Thanks.