Today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.K. release of The Beatles‘ final studio album, Let It Be, which hit stores in the U.S. 10 days later.
The album, which arrived less than a month after the group’s breakup, spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 in June and July of 1970. Let It Be yielded the chart-topping hit “The Long and Winding Road,” and also featured alternate versions of two other songs that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 prior to the album’s release — the title track and “Get Back.”
The concept for the project that became Let It Be and its companion film started out as an idea Paul McCartney had for a TV special that would show the band creating new music, and then playing the new songs live in front of an audience.
Initially called Get Back, most of the recording took place in January 1969, before the sessions that yielded the Fab Four’s next-to-last album, Abbey Road.
The sessions, which were filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, began at London’s Twickenham Film Studios. Internal tensions led George Harrison to temporarily quit the band. When he returned, the proceedings moved to the group’s own Apple Studios, with Billy Preston joining in on keyboards on many tracks.
At some point, the band decided to play an unannounced — and now historic — concert on the Apple building’s roof, which turned out to be the last-ever public performance by the Fab Four. Three of those songs wound up on the Let It Be album.
The studio and live recordings and film footage were put on hold when the band moved on the Abbey Road sessions.
Producer Phil Spector eventually was hired to complete what became Let It Be, although his heavy-handed production on songs like the title track and “The Long and Winding Road” bothered not only McCartney but many Beatles fans.
McCartney’s dissatisfaction with Spector’s production led to the 2003 release, Let It Be…Naked, featuring a stripped-down mix of the album and a revised track list.
Here’s the original Let It Be track list:
“Two of Us”
“Dig a Pony”
“Across the Universe”
“I Me Mine”
“Let It Be”
“I’ve Got a Feeling”
“One After 909”
“The Long and Winding Road”
“For You Blue”
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