You might have noticed that media buzz is again brewing these days about the second-to-last record by The Beatles, long a popular topic for passionate discussion between fans. Let It Be was a massive hit in 1970 despite the challenges making the album as part of a film project.
Save for hard core fans (like me), most people I know haven’t seen — or even know that there was a movie about — Let It Be back in the day. Many fans found the film a bit of a bummer the way it was put together, seemingly documenting the breakup of the band. After some initial theatrical release, it disappeared until home video LaserDisc and VHS versions surfaced (briefly) in the early 80s (now collector’s items which have been widely pirated).
All that is about to change as an entirely new documentary directed by Peter Jackson is slated to air over Thanksgiving weekend, crafted from footage shot back in the day. This new and expanded film hopes to offer fresh perspective on this challenging but also quite fertile time in The Beatles’ journey. The upcoming six hour special called The Beatles: Get Back is expected to air on Disney Plus on November 25, 26 and 27.
The film is expected to include the now-legendary complete 42-minute concert performance from the roof of The Beatles’ offices / studio at Apple Records. It was the band’s first live performance since 1966. It was also their last. Hold on to that thought for a moment…
In October, a five CD and Blu-ray super deluxe edition boxed set is expected to be released focused on Let It Be. These releases will feature brand new Stereo and Surround Sound mixes as well as a wealth of outtakes from the sessions including an early 1969 mix by acclaimed engineer Glyn Johns. There will also be a new 180-gram vinyl pressing of the 1970 version of the album with the new Stereo mix. I look forward to reviewing these fresh releases here on Audiophile Review soon.
So, this is all fine and wonderful for us millions of serious Beatle fans. But for those of you who are casually-curious about Let It Be — or even fairly new in your interest in all things Beatle in general — and who may not know much of the back story, the hoopla may be a bit perplexing. I’m sure some of you are probably wondering what the big deal about this album is? It’s ‘just another Beatle record,’ after all and they did go on to create their masterpiece Abbey Road. (note for those not in the know, the Let It Be album was not officially released until 1970, after Abbey Road, even though it was recorded beforehand… got that?).
To help get more insight into the back story, some reading may be in order…
A new book is coming out ahead of The Beatles: Get Back TV special which I am looking forward to reading. According to the official press release: “Beautifully designed and produced, the 240-page hardcover complements the “Get Back” documentary series and Let It Be Special Edition with transcriptions of many of The Beatles’ recorded conversations from the three weeks of rehearsals and sessions and hundreds of exclusive, never-before-published images, including photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney.”
You can preorder The Beatles: Get Back book by clicking here. Until that arrives, you might want to pick up another interesting and somewhat recent book which I read just recently, written by an Apple Records’ executive, Ken Mansfield. He was one of the relative handful of people who were actually on the roof for that final concert I mentioned earlier.
Mansfield’s book — called The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert — is both a personal remembrance and a bonafide historical document. As a pretty serious Beatle fan since literally the beginning, I found this book helped connect many dots of fab four history.
I won’t spoil the joys of reading The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert but I will try to expand on a broader theme that the author explores. It may be hard for some to understand, but The Beatles were almost single handedly responsible for a major sea change in popular music styles and production techniques, the impact of which we can still feel today. Symbolically to some, their final rooftop concert marked not only the end of the Beatles as performers but the end of an era in many ways. However, I think it also heralded a new beginning…
Let It Be and that final concert may have marked the end of The Beatles as a performing entity but in some ways the group’s break up gave the world so much more than most of us realize. In a way — again, symbolically — that moment opened the door for generations of other Beatle-influenced songwriters to come.
In an earlier tribute to one of my favorite Beatle-influenced artists, Emitt Rhodes (RIP), I shared a story from my childhood about how the Let It Be album and a record club opened my ears to Emitt’s music. He challenged my 10 year old mind to consider and accept the next generation of artists borne from what I’ll lovingly call Beatle DNA (if you will). Please click here to read that story as I still find it quite remarkable after all these years that it even happened for me.
Discovering Emitt’s album at that moment in time was akin to that scene in Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show, ripping a hole in the wall of my childhood Beatle-bubble perceptions to reveal a bustling brave new world bursting with fab-flavored musics. Before long I was hearing — and in some cases buying — records by Badfinger, The Electric Light Orchestra, Todd Rundgren and The Raspberries. And of course there were waves of recordings by the individual solo Beatles themselves which was like getting four times as much Beatle music than before! You can hear The Beatle’s influence in the next generation artists like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, XTC and on to one of my current faves, Thomas Walsh’s band Pugwash.
In that way, Beatle-inspired music can be considered an ever-expanding universe and a continuum of a sort. The Beatles were simply the musical “big bang” that got it all going.
I’m excited about the new Let It Be reissues, expanded editions and the new documentary.
It some ways, I feel like I’m nine years old again.
Borrowing a phrase from the song “Two Of Us” …
“We’re on our way home… We’re going home!“
Note: several tracks from the boxed set are being previewed in 96 kHz, 24-bit fidelity in MQA format on Tidal (click here to jump to that) as well as on Qobuz (click here for those). There are also some nifty trailers and previews which have been put out in recent months. Scroll down below to see some of those videos and even a song from the album live on the rooftop from earlier releases.