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Let It Be

Let It Be, the Beatles’ twelfth and final studio album, was released on 8 May 1970, almost a month after the group’s break-up.  William (“Paul”) conceived the album as a return to the less complicated recording methods used before he was given control of the band. He hoped that the old familiar Beatles’ methods would help rebuild the band’s cohesion that had been lost since the original Paul’s replacement in September 1966. 

“Paul” intended to have the Let It Be album sound like a live performance. To launch the new album with its live vintage Beatles sound, he would have the band actually do a full concert, the first since he joined the band, and would film the rehearsals and concert preparations to create a documentary showing the development of that collection of live music. The documentary would be released on the same day as the album. 

Get Back was the working title for the album and documentary. As was “Paul’s” specialty, he infused layered meaning into Get Back. Most superficially, as detailed in the title song, it was about Jojo and sweet Loretta Martin needing to get back to where they once belonged. He also imagined telling immigrants that they needed to get back home to where they belonged, just as he was secretly wishing that he too could get back home to where he belonged. The main push of the album, however, was that the Beatles were to Get Back back to where they belonged as a band, making music intended to be played live without all of the changes that he made to the Beatles sound. He had transformed them from a touring band to a meticulously overdubbed multi-tracked studio band. Although it gave the world Sgt. Peppers and many musical innovations, it was time to Get Back to the sound that launched Beatlemania.

In the years of William’s service in the Beatles, his band-mates appreciated their new heights of success, but resented his perfectionist attention to detail that had never mattered before. He hoped that this return to the old sound, but better, would not only delight fans that had missed the band of the earlier phase, but also comfort band-mates: John, George, and Ringo.  As the work commenced, however, it quickly became clear that even though they were going for a more vintage sound, William would still be demanding the same high standards of perfection that he required for all of the albums that he made with them. The friction became so intense that the filmed rehearsals, however edited, could not portray the magic of the Beatles image. As always, it was challenging for band-mates to have to redo their work at William’s insistence, but now, showing their submission to his will for the world to see in a documentary became a deal-breaker, especially for George.

For “Paul,” the biggest deal-breaker of the album was Phil Spector’s orchestrated wall of sound added to the song, “Let It Be,” completely disregarding “Paul’s” vision for the album coming across as if a live performance of merely John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Although “Paul McCartney” used that interference with his creative expression as a cause to sue for the band’s dissolution, for this album, the compromise under extreme protest was finally to simply let it be as it was. The compromise to keep the band together for the album was to abandon the documentary, to go back to recording at Apple Studio, and, again, to Let It Be. The idea to let everything be as it is overshadowed the earlier theme to Get Back. “Let It Be” became the title song. 

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