The Beatles – Let It Be

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1. By golly, George, these guys sure had a lot of classic album covers.

2. I have met two people with “Let it be” tattooed on them (I made sure it wasn’t a Replacements reference both times) and that’s frankly two times too many. Not because the saying isn’t something to live your life by (it definitely is), not because the song is a bad one (it definitely isn’t), but because you might as well get a butterfly tattooed to symbolize how you metamorphosed from larva, a bird flying out of its cage tattooed to symbolize your escape from your parents’ putting your life into patterns and “Peace and Love” tattooed to symbolize nothing at all while you’re at it, y’know?

3. Other than Please Please Me, no other Beatles album gets as much flak as Let It Bedoes. The album’s detractors – of which, there are quite a few – will tell you that Phil Spector is an asshole. No arguments here. Let It Be is supposed to sound like a live-in-studio album, as seen by various additions throughout (ie. “Dig a Pony” has a false start, “Get Back” starts with 20 seconds of the band tuning their instruments and the “I hope we passed the audition” is taken from the roof concert), and that’s frankly the only reason why “Dig It” (easily the most offensive piece of shit in their discography; failing as a social critique when Lennon imitates a crazy person who hates the CIA and FBI for no reason, failing as humour when Lennon imitates a woman in its last few seconds and failing as an intro to “Let It Be”) and “Maggie Mae” (a throwaway like “Her Majesty” except without the quality of being a hidden track) exist.

Yup, except somehow, in the middle of a live-in-studio, return-to-roots album is “The Long and Winding Road,” that’s packed with more overdubs, horns and strings that it doesn’t even sound like humans made it. (Other songs on the album that don’t fit the live-in-studio or return-to-roots vibe – “Across the Universe” and the title track – are forgiven because those songs are great.) The melody is likeable, I’ll give it that much, but there’s only so much sugar the human body can take before cavities and death are inevitable. Famously, Paul McCartney would use what Phil Spector had done to his song as one of his reasons for dissolving the Beatles.

4. Also famously, Paul McCartney would use what Phil Spector had done to his song as one of the reasons for releasing Let It Be… Naked, with an overdub-and-orchestra-less version of song, and there are a lot of people who will tell you that that version is the superior version. Frankly, I’m not convinced. Yes, it’s less overblown, yes, the electric guitar coloring (which might or might not have been on Spector’s version; it’s hard to tell because of all the muck) is a great idea, but there’s something so obviously missing in the naked version, that when the piano does the “do-do, do-do” bit, you kind of wish there was something else helping out. Like overdubs, horns and strings. Just not as many. But then again, Naked also ditches “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae,” so there’s that.

5. George Harrison, who had unexpectedly handed in some of the best songs on preceding albums (a recap: “Taxman” off Revolver, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” off Whitey; “Here Comes the Sun” off Abbey Road) has two songs here and unlike those examples, none of them could really stand to claim as one of best songs from Let It Be (according to All Things Must Pass, he was saving the good stuff for himself). That being said, both of them are far from the album’s worst tracks, those being “Dig a Pony” and “One After 909.”

“For You Blue” is the lesser of the two, but worth hearing for the bass hook that bridges the verse to the instrumental bridge and vice versa and John Lennon’s infectious slide guitar. “I Me Mine”’s the better one, where Ringo Starr is allowed to indulge himself and shut up the naysayers (he wasn’t doing much on “For You Blue” that was worth talking about). Love how the piledriving guitar and keyboard are an unexpected and welcomed shift from the waltzing section that preceded it. Unlike “The Long and Winding Road,” Phil Spector’s orchestral touches here aren’t detracting (though I don’t think they add anything) and I’ll argue that artificially expanding the song was  necessary.

6. On those two tracks, John Lennon’s ”Dig a Pony”’s main sin is how long it is so that Lennon can indulge himself with as many rhymes with “celebrate” as possible. I still like it for how he lets his voice glide (when he sings the word “I”) and, in contrast to that and the word puzzle of the rest of the lyrics, how definitively he sings “All I want is you.” Meanwhile, all I have to say about “One After 909” is thank God Billy Preston lent a hand.

7. I really have nothing to say about either “Across the Universe” and “Let It Be” because I don’t have an emotional connection to either. That’s a problem I have with a lot of the Beatles’ later discography, actually – where the humanity displayed onPlease Please Me slowly disappeared over more technically impressive songs (make no mistake, both of those songs are undeniable from a technical perspective, and if you can’t remember the melodies presented in either song, you might as well donate your ears to people who could probably put it to better use than you). In that regard, I much prefer “Two of Us.” Because of the jaunt-like atmosphere set by the guitar riff and drumfill, I’m reminded of skipping down the street when you’re a boy, whistling all the while – something that never happens when you’re an adult because the only thing on your mind is getting to point A to point B as fast as possible. I frankly don’t care if Paul McCartney wrote it for his bride-to-be (apparently true), it’s the ambiguitythat counts, something that the band had always used as a great weapon. Leagues of people took it to be a celebration of Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s friendship that was faltering and how could they not? Listen to how close they harmonize with each other?

8. The album’s detractors that I talked about earlier will also never forget to remind you that Let It Be was recorded before Abbey Road, subsequently shelved and then released afterwards. Yeah, it is worse than Abbey Road (a lot of albums are, so this point is moot), and “The End” (and Abbey Road as a whole) would have been a more impressive swansong had they been released in the order of recording. But if that were the case, then that would also mean the last song to appear on a Beatles studio album would be “Her Majesty,” and well, fuck that noise. “Get Back” (and Let It Be as a whole) is a much more attractive option, I think, wrapping up a decade by looking back at how it started and how much had changed since over the most infectious rhythmic gallop they ever set to record brought out by the punctuating two chords.

9. Not to mention that “Get Back” (and Let It Be as a whole) ends with Lennon’s modest “I hope we passed the audition.” Yeah, you fucking did.

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