Let It Be Finally Sees the Full Light of Day

Long considered a documentary of The Beatles at their miserable lowest, we can see more clearly now

Out of circulation for decades, Let It Be finally gets a restored and repositioned place in history. Setting the stage is a nice prelude chat between Peter Jackson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg. The former famously took his wizardly skills to the 57 hours of footage shot by the latter. The resulting Get Back from 2021 was a gobsmakcing eye-opener.

In the prelude, Jackson observes the era was one of the band’s most prolific, yet the film from the time left everyone with a darker view of The Beatles in that moment.

Lindsay-Hogg reminisces that Let It Be was almost shot in an amphitheater in the desert rather than the rooftop, had George not temporarily left the band in that moment.

The first portion of the film shows the lads assembling in early 1969 at Twickenham Studios with the colorful backdrop of the soundstage, working up some songs that would find their way into other releases, including “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Two of Us” and “Oh! Darling.” Much of the tension seems to be initially from technical difficulties; George getting an electrical shock was not too conducive to good vibrations.

Build me a time machine and reincarnate me as a fly on these walls.

With most of these latter-day Beatles songs embedded in the DNA of several generations of fans, it remains interesting to see the early iterations evolve. As with Get Back we revel in the bum notes and the gibberish lyrics, but still the underlying melody is taking shape.

Collectors will again salivate seeing the pages of handwritten lyrics strewn about. Any one page would bring a tidy sum today.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the band trot out a song Lennon and McCartney wrote and performed early in their career (a mere six years previously), resulting in “One After 909” finally being put to tape and released.

Other moments from Let It Be invariably jump out:

  • Ringo moves momentarily from behind the kit for a three handed romp at the piano with Paul.
  • The infamous argument between George and Paul, with George taking umbrage at Paul’s input. Frustrated, George laments, “I don’t mind. I’ll play it whatever you want me to play or I won’t play it all. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
  • Soon George is offering up the close-to-the-bone “I Me Mine” with the caveat “Look, if none of you want it, I don’t give a fuck.”
  • But soon he, Ringo and Paul work it up and “I Me Mine” becomes the most telling song from the album eventually released.
  • John can’t seem to be bothered, he is meanwhile snogging and then waltzing with the ubiquitous Yoko.
  • Paul looks rather dragged along for the ride in “I Dig a Pony,” John’s ode to Yoko. The song would eventually improve over various takes.

 Climbing out of their decidedly posh cars the band shifts to their basement studio at 3 Savile Row, still unaware they’d play their last live gig upstairs on the roof.

George Martin stops by to grin while George shows Ringo the chords of “Octopus’s Garden,” giving John the chance to slip behind the drum kit. Billy Preston soon seems to raise the band’s spirits; the quintet ramble through delightfully ragged takes of “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” “Shake Rattle and Roll” and “Kansas City.” Preston would become the only artist to be credited with The Beatles on the label of a single.

On the severely abbreviated version of “Dig It” form the album we don’t get a sense of how the churning song evolved. That said, once is probably enough for this extended jam.

Eventually the band ends up on the roof, to the consternation of the Bowler-hatted stiffs marching back to their offices after being down the pub for lunch. A crowd gathers, mostly unseen to the Liverpudlians, but the quartet’s delight at being back to their roots as a live outfit is palpable.

By that point, The Beatles had logged well beyond the 10,000 hours apparently needed for mastery.

Let It Be successfully closes the book on the origin story of the band’s eventual split. Abbey Road was miraculously still to come, truly their final work and yet another masterpiece. But seeing such talent this up close and personal was yet another barrier broken first by The Beatles.

Available tomorrow on Disney+

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.