Thursday, May 9, 2024



The 1970 documentary LET IT BE is now available, in a restored edition, on the Disney+ streaming channel. The film covers the Beatles' attempts to record a brand new album and plan a concert around it in early 1969--but as fans of The Fab Four know all too well, things got complicated, and the group wound up performing the famed mini-show on the top of the Apple office building in London. 

I had never actually seen LET IT BE. Ironically many Beatles fans never have, simply because it has been unavailable in any official format for decades. Because of this all sorts of urban legends have grown up around the project, such as it made the band look bad, it was depressing, and it was nothing more than a road map to the breakup of the group. LET IT BE had such a notorious reputation that a few years ago Peter Jackson was allowed to go through all the footage that director Michael Lindsey-Hogg shot and create a mammoth eight hour mini-series called GET BACK, supposedly to present the Beatles and the original project in a much better light. 

Having now finally seen LET IT BE, I can say that this movie is much better--and much more positive--than I had been led to believe. I don't think this makes the Beatles look bad at all--if anything, Lindsey-Hogg went out of his way to steer clear from any controversies the group was having (and they were having plenty at the time). Lindsey-Hogg actually doesn't use very much of the Twickenham Studios footage (it was this locale that caused most of the problems on the project). 

There's no narration in LET IT BE, nor are there any onscreen titles, or any attempt to give context or info on what is happening. I assume that Michael Lindsey-Hogg was trying to keep things as "real" as possible, but the off-the-cuff atmosphere of the film matches how the Beatles themselves approached this project--they literally didn't seem to know what exactly they were going to do on any given day, nor did they know how the film was going to wind up. Billy Preston shows up about halfway through the film, almost out of the blue, and there's no set-up to the rooftop concert whatsoever--the Beatles are shown appearing on the roof and immediately playing. 

The movie has been fully restored, and the picture and sound quality is excellent. The best part of the film for me is when the group plays "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" back-to-back. It's chilling how moving these performances are, and it's magical to see these four extraordinary young men, at the height of their powers, performing together as a true band. The Phil Spector versions of these songs sound tepid in comparison. 

What amazes me about LET IT BE and GET BACK is how disorganized this project was. We live in a world now where mega-corporations and entertainment conglomerates carefully control and shape every bit of info that comes out anywhere, and here are the Beatles, the biggest act in the world at the time, engaging in a major multimedia production almost on the fly. For years anything connected to LET IT BE was looked down upon, even by most Beatles fans. Now due to GET BACK and this restored LET IT BE, it will be realized that the group--and their music--were still at the top of their game. (Remember that after the LET IT BE sessions, the Beatles would later that year record ABBEY ROAD, one of the greatest music albums of all time.) The Beatles have nothing to be ashamed about the LET IT BE documentary, and neither do their fans. 

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