In part one of my listening report on The Beatles’ new 50th Anniversary edition of Let It Be we explored the Stereo and Surround Sound mixes in some depth (click here if you missed that). In part two we touched on engineer Glyn John’s wonderful and legendary shelved vision for the original Get Back album which is also included in the set, its first official release (click here for that portion).
Today we’ll explore some of the outtakes and alternates recorded during the Get Back / Let It Be sessions. While there was much impromptu jamming and fun as the group ran through loose versions of favorite rock ’n roll oldies, the band members were periodically presenting new songs to one another for consideration on the new albums.
Perhaps you have to be a deep fan to appreciate this fully, but if you love this music it is often spine tingling to hear these early versions of songs we came to know and love later on Abbey Road as well as individual Beatle solo albums. Its almost akin to watching a painter layering on colors on the canvas, revealing new textures, light and color combinations as the final work begins to take shape.
Thus we get to hear fascinating early run throughs of songs which ended up on solo Beatle albums such as George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” (title of his eventual first album in 1970), John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” (which appeared on Imagine in 1971) and Paul McCartney’s “Teddy Boy” (which was completed on his first solo album).
On two dedicated and great sounding stereo CDs included in the six disc boxed set 50th Anniversary edition of Let It Be we also hear early rehearsals and work outs on songs which ended up on Abbey Road. Included are McCartney’s “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “Oh Darling.” Lennon breaks out “Polythene Pam” and George offers up “Something” in an early version where he doesn’t even have the lyrics to the opening line complete (singing the placeholder lyrics “…. attracts me like a pomegranate”). We are even treated to Ringo playing his “Octopus’ Garden” on piano for the band!
The 50th Anniversary edition of Let It Be boxed set includes a bonus “EP” featuring four songs which have their own unique place in the Beatles universe. The stripped back mix of “Across The Universe” is very close to the original 1968 version of the song which appeared on a benefit LP in the UK, featuring lots of Sitar droning and high background choruses from some fan singers who were brought in on the session. There is a different mix of “I Me Mine” recorded by George, Paul and Ringo just after New Years in 1970 (John was away on holiday).
Here you’ll also find a new mix of the original single mix of “Don’t Let Me Down” which appeared as the B-side to the classic “Get Back” single in April 1969 — this has some different overdubs on it than other versions. And finally on this EP you’ll hear a sweet new mix of the original 45 RPM single version of “Let It Be” which again included very different overdubs from what you hear on the LP. For many of us, this was the first version of “Let it Be” that we heard on the radio so this is especially sweet to hear it with such clarity and focus.
This single is great way to end the collection with that radio-ready mix. It was so comforting at the time to hear that on the radio in very heavy rotation. So many of us were grappling with the madness of the moment societally, coupled with the heartbreaking news of The Beatles breaking up. It was a “lotta lotta,” as a friend of mine sometime says. “Let it Be” took that sad song and made it a bit better…
50th Anniversary edition of Let It Be is available in a multitude of formats most every place where you can find music these days. And while it is streaming, to get the most out of this package you really owe it to yourself to buy the boxed set in some form to get all these outtakes and alternates and the beautiful hardcover 100-plus page full color book. This is an elegant and fitting tribute to the Let It Be and Get Back albums and the band.
Now I’m just looking forward to the upcoming Peter Jackson-produced documentary on Let It Be and Get Back (airing on Disney + over Thanksgiving weekend!). Plus, there is the fanboy hope that maybe — just maybe, as I’m purely speculating here, folks — that we’ll get a companion soundtrack album featuring the entire rooftop concert the Beatles performed during the making of the album.
Until then the 50th Anniversary edition of Let It Be is a more than welcome addition to my collection and I know I’ll be listening to it a lot in the weeks and months to come.