Let It Be is the thirteenth and final studio album by The Beatles, released in 1970, almost a month after the group's break up. However, it was mostly recorded before Abbey Road, which got a release in 1969 and was the actual final album released during the band's lifetime. It is also the only Beatles album not produced by George Martin, instead being produced by Phil Spector, who incorporated his trademark "Wall of Sound" production techniques by adding prominent orchestral embellishments throughout the album.
Paul McCartney hated what Spector did to their final album, having intended for it to be a "back to basics" Blues Rock approach for the Beatles rather than the Chamber Pop record Spector turned it into. John Lennon for his part felt completely different, crediting Spector for crafting something listenable out of what Lennon called "badly recorded" tracks. To this day it ranks as the most divisive Beatles album among fans, who argue as to whether it's an underrated masterpiece or an overblown mess emblematic of just how far the band had fallen on a personal level.
However, that difference in opinion did not stop the album from winning numerous awards such as the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song Score and the Grammy for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special.
In 2003, a total new version of the album was released, named Let It Be... Naked, where Paul's original vision could finally be heard. All the material on this album was devoid of Spector's production and showcased a simple rock sound in-line with the pre-Rubber Soul era, with its originally intended tracklisting in place. As a bonus CD, a Leave the Microphone Running recording from the Beatles in their studio was released too, which is more chatting and clowning about than actual recording.
The making of the album was documented in a film, also titled Let It Be, also released in 1970.
- "Two of Us" (3:37)
- "Dig a Pony" (3:55)
- "Across the Universe" (3:48)
- "I Me Mine" (2:26)
- "Dig It" (0:50)
- "Let It Be" (4:03)
- "Maggie Mae" (0:40)
- "I've Got a Feeling" (3:38)
- "One After 909" (2:54)
- "The Long and Winding Road" (3:38)
- "For You Blue" (2:32)
- "Get Back" (3:09)
- George Harrison - guitar, backing and lead vocals, tambura
- John Lennon - lead vocals, guitar, bass
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, guitar, piano, organ, keyboard, maracas
- Ringo Starr - drums, percussion, maracas
"Tropes are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup":
- Aborted Arc: In 1969, the band decided to record some songs together in a studio, and later in an impromptu concert on the Apple rooftop, in what would become the album Get Back, all while filming a documentary about the experience. The Glory Days revival would even be illustrated with an album cover replicating the Please Please Me one. The whole ordeal wound up just raising tensions and ultimately leading to the Beatles' breakup, but not before they decided to make Abbey Road before calling it quits. Then the Get Back sessions were submitted to Phil Spector for an orchestral makeover, and the result was Let It Be. The Please Please Me parody was later famously repurposed for the compilation 1966-1970, a.k.a. The Blue Album.
- Absentee Actor:
- John doesn't appear on "I Me Mine". They hadn't recorded a completed version in January 1969, but a scene showing the band rehearsing the song was included in the film, so they decided to do a polished version from scratch for the album, scheduling the session for the 3rd of January in 1970. John was visiting Denmark with Yoko at the time, and thus was not available, leaving George, Paul and Ringo to complete the song, the final one the group would record before the breakup.note
- Ringo was the only Beatle to play on any of Phil Spector's overdubbed material.
- Added Alliterative Appeal:
- "Maggie Mae".
- "I Me Mine"
- "Mother Mary" and "Whisper words of wisdom, let it be...".
- Album Filler:
- The inclusion of "Across the Universe". "Across the Universe" had originally been recorded in 1968, poorly, and given away to a World Wildlife Fund charity album. John Lennon, who was struggling to come up with material during these sessions, went back to "Across the Universe" and the band rehearsed the song extensively. Unfortunately they failed to record a decent track, and in the end Phil Spector simply took the original 1968 version, slowed it down, and put it on the album.
- "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" were both jams that Glyn Johns had placed in his early mixes of the album, to give a sense of the spontaneous feel of the sessions, and Spector re-used them (cutting "Dig It" down to less than a minute), but they still weren't really part of the project. When the album was remixed as Let It Be... Naked in 2002, both were dropped from the track list, replaced by Lennon's "Don't Let Me Down".
- And Starring: Billy Preston on piano. The "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" single was attributed to "The Beatles with Billy Preston". This was the only time the band shared billing with another artist. Preston played keyboards and piano for all ten days of recording after the band reconvened at Abbey Road studios, and can be seen in Let It Be film.
- Anti-Climax: Many critics and listeners considered the album as a whole to be this for The Beatles' career. The NME famously dismissed it as "a shabby epitaph, a cardboard tombstone". Although a lot of people still consider the album to be quite good, and with some genuinely great songs, there is a fair bit of debate over whether it or Abbey Road should be considered their true "final album", as Abbey Road was the last to be recorded and is viewed by many as a more fitting finale.
- Bookends: The original Get Back album was supposed to have a 1969 photo of the Beatles in the exact same pose that they used for their breakout 1963 Please Please Me album. This idea was abandoned when the Get Back album was reworked into Let It Be, but the photo was eventually used for the cover of the 19671970 compilation album.
- Broken Record: The word "everybody" in "I've Got A Feeling".
- Cover Version: "Maggie Mae". This was an old Public Domain traditional song that Julia Lennon taught her teenaged son John as she was teaching him how to play banjo.
- Cult Soundtrack: Subverted. The film was actually intended to be a companion piece to the album. However, seeing that the movie has rarely been seen on TV ever since and has been unavailable on home media since the 1980's, this may be one example where the album is better known than the movie.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The band once got bored with the void life of a superstar, so they went to India (or somewhere) looking for a spiritual guide to give them the purpose of life. It failed. The result was the song "Across the Universe":Jai Guru Deava Ommm (Which means "Thanks spiritual master" in Sanskrit)
Nothing's gonna change my world.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: "Let It Be" was inspired by a dream Paul had about his mother, who died when he was young.
- Face on the Cover: Four individual photos of the band members.
- George Lucas Altered Version: In 2003, Paul McCartney would release Let It Be... Naked, a remixed version of the album that stripped out Phil Spector's choral and orchestral overdubs (which were probably necessary at the time to salvage parts of the material), and digitally cleaning tracks using technology not available at the time. Unlike most iterations of this trope, both versions remained readily available.
- Grief Song: It's difficult to listen to "The Long And Winding Road", without interpreting it as a goodbye song to the individual Beatles and each one of them parting to go their own way.
- Harmony: Averted in Lennon's bass playing on "The Long and Winding Road", where he clearly hasn't learned the chords and is completely winging it, not always successfully. To be fair, the version on the album was only intended to be a demo, but that makes it all the more unforgivable that it ended up on the final album, tarted up by Phil Spector with strings and a heavenly choir.
- In Harmony with Nature: "Across the Universe" where the protagonist is in harmony with the universe, despite it never changing, but accepts it for what it is.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Let It Be...Naked. Often called "Naked" for short and to differentiate it from the original. This trope makes it easier, alas, for "Naked" not to exist.
- Irony: A meta-example. The sessions for what would become Let It Be were intended by the band as a back-to-basics reset which would enable them to recharge their creativity and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the resulting sessions ended up becoming so tense and bitter that Harrison quit at one point, and the album / film is ultimately remembered as one of the final nails in the coffin before they eventually split up for good (although they managed to rally themselves sufficiently to record Abbey Road).
- It's All About Me: "I Me Mine".All I can hear
I Me Mine
- Last Note Hilarity: The Studio Chatter has some moments, such as John's childish voice after "Dig It", and "Get Back" featuring "I'd like to thank you all on behalf of ourselves and the group, and I hope we passed the audition."
- Live Album: The original idea, with the band rehearsing and recording their new songs live. The sniping and tension within the band (as well as the creative funk John Lennon was mired in at this time) led to several songs being dubbed or altered in the studio, most infamously Paul's "The Long And Winding Road". However, seven tracks were still laid down live: "I've Got A Feeling", "One After 909" and "I Dig A Pony" from the Apple rooftop performance, and "Get Back", "Two Of Us", "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" from studio performances. ("Don't Let Me Down", left off the album after being released as the B-side of the "Get Back" single, was also recorded live).
- Lyrical Cold Open: "The Long and Winding Road".
- Miniscule Rocking:
- "Maggie May", at forty-one seconds.
- "Dig It" is a short excerpt of an improvised jam that runs around 15 minutes in its unedited state.
- As recorded, "I Me Mine" only clocked in at 1:34. Spector decided to repeat a chorus and verse, extending the run time by 51 seconds.
- Musical Squares: One of the Trope Codifiers for the four squares version.
- New Sound Album: In a way. It's certainly not like any other Beatles album.
- Numerological Motif: "One After 909", a reference to the fact that Lennon considered nine his lucky number.
- One-Woman Song: "Maggie Mae".
- Pep-Talk Song: "Let It Be"And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though, they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
- Protest Song:
- "Get Back" was written in reaction to the anti-immigration laws in the UK.
- An unreleased improvised song from the sessions, "Commonwealth", is a very blatant attack on the anti-immigration movement, specifically subjecting the leader of the movement, Enoch Powell, to a Take That!.
- Re-Cut: Paul McCartney (who was the main advocate of the "back to the roots" approach in the first place) wasn't happy with Phil Spector's production. Decades later, when opportunity arose to re-edit the album, Paul jumped at it. This new version (titled Let It Be... Naked) stripped away Phil Spector's overdubs, featured a different song selection and track order, and used different takes of some of the songs. Naked also used digital editing (which obviously hadn't been available when the album was originally released) to remove tape noises and to pitch-correct a few of the vocals.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Get Back" was written as a Take That! against the then recent anti-immigration laws in the UK.
- Rearrange the Song:
- As heard in the outtake version recorded in 1963 (and released on Anthology 1), "One After 909" was originally midtempo, but they sped it up for the rooftop performance.
- "Across the Universe" was originally released on the 1969 charity compilation No One's Gonna Change Our World, as a sparse, acoustic-driven song. When included on Let it Be, Phil Spector lowered the playback speed and added the same orchestral embellishments that the rest of the album received. When the song was included again on Let it Be... Naked, the song was restored to the original 1969 version, but received extra digital modifications to correct tuning errors.
- Record Producer: The liner notes say the album was "reproduced for disc by Phil Spector", making it the only Beatles album without George Martin credited as producer. Martin got a "special thanks" credit, but he took over as the de facto producer after the studio facilities at Apple proved unusable. Another person in the "special thanks" list, Glyn Johns, was technically the album's engineer, but was given enough input into the album that he could arguably be considered a producer as well.
- Refrain from Assuming: The Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed was released in 1969, so their title was not a Pun-Based Title on Let It Be. Theirs appeared first.
- Revisiting the Roots: The album was originally going to be called Get Back because this was precisely the idea (and that of course is also the reason the song was called "Get Back"). This was an attempt to return to the sort of spontaneous, energetic rock and roll they'd played at the beginning of their career, as opposed to the sophisticated and intricately produced music they'd moved on to. This is also why they recorded "One After 909", a song that sounds like the early Beatles sound because it was the early Beatles sound, having been written in the Quarrymen days, then first recorded in 1963 but then shelved. The recording sessions were a disaster, and they largely abandoned the "back to basics" approach for their last recorded album, Abbey Road.
- Rooftop Concert: "Dig a Pony", "One After 909", and "I've Got a Feeling" were recorded on the roof top of the Abbey Road Studios, January 30, 1969. This also makes them the Trope Namer.
- Elmore James ain't got nothing on this, baby!
- Lennon name-drops Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", the FBI, the CIA, The BBC, B.B. King, Doris Day and Scottish soccer player Matt Busby during "Dig It".
- "Across The Universe" uses the Sanskrit phrase "Jai Guru Deva". The Sanskrit phrase is a sentence fragment whose words could have many meanings. Literally it approximates as "glory to the shining remover of darkness," and can be paraphrased as "Victory to God divine", "Hail to the divine guru", or the phrase commonly invoked by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in referring to his spiritual teacher "All Glory to Guru Dev".
- "I Dig a Pygmy" by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats!
- Sixth Ranger: Or Fifth Beatle, in the case of Billy Preston after he joined the band for this album. The keyboard solo in "Get Back" was composed by Preston.
- Something Blues: "For You Blue" was originally titled "George's Blues (Because You're Sweet And Lovely)".
- Step Up to the Microphone: George Harrison sings lead on "I Me Mine" and "For Your Blue". It is one of the few Beatles albums not to have Ringo Starr on any vocals.
- Studio Chatter: Bits of nonsensical babbling from Lennon between several tracks, as well as the outro which features cheering and clapping, Paul's "Thanks Mo" (directed at Ringo's wife Maureen), and Lennon's famous "I hope we passed the audition" bit of snark. That Studio Chatter was actually recorded at the end of the Rooftop Concert (the actual track on the album was recorded in the studio three days earlier, on 27 January).
- Three Chords and the Truth: The album was intended as a back to basics to their original, simpler sound.
- Title Track: "Let It Be"Let it be... let it be... let it be... whisper words of wisdom, let it be
- Train Song: "One After 909".I got my bag, run to the station
Railman says you've got the the wrong location
I got my bag, run right home
Then I find I've got the number wrong
- Uncommon Time: "Dig a Pony" has verses of thirteen measures and a refrain that could be counted as any number of beats due to lengthy pauses.
- Vocal Tag Team: A relatively rare example of John and Paul doing this in the same song, as a Lennon composition tentatively titled "Everybody Had a Hard Year" was mashed together with Paul's "I've Got a Feeling".
- I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.