The Paul McCartney Project

Let It Be... Naked

By The BeatlesOfficial album• Part of the collection “The Beatles • Post break-up albums

Timeline See what happened in November 2003
UK release date:
Nov 17, 2003
Publisher:
Apple Records

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Track list

Disc 1


1.

Get Back

Written by Lennon - McCartney

2:35 • Studio version • A remix of the single version recorded on 27 January 1969; without the coda recorded on 28 January or framing dialogue from the studio and rooftop concert added to the album version.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


2.

Dig a Pony

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:38 • Studio versionA1 • A remix of the original album version from the rooftop concert on 30 January 1969; framing dialogue and false start removed; error in second verse (the "because" in Lennon's vocal track) digitally corrected.

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Glyn Johns:
Engineer
Billy Preston:
Electric piano
Paul Hicks:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Guy Massey:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Steve Rooke:
Mastering
Allan Rouse:
Mixing engineer, Producer

Concert From "The rooftop concert" in London, United Kingdom on Jan 30, 1969

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


3.

For Your Blue

Written by George Harrison

2:28 • Studio version • A remix of the original album version recorded on 25 January 1969, featuring Harrison's original acoustic guitar performance and overdubbed vocals that were muted on Phil Spector's mix; framing dialogue removed.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


4.

The Long and Winding Road

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:34 • Studio version • The final take, recorded on 31 January 1969, featuring McCartney and Preston's piano and keyboard performances that had been muted on Spector's mix in favour of orchestral and choral overdubs; McCartney's vocalising over Preston's keyboard solo mixed out.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


5.

Two of Us

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:21 • Studio versionA1 • A remix of the original album version recorded on 31 January 1969; framing dialogue removed; minor error in Lennon's acoustic guitar performance digitally corrected.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


6.

I've Got a Feeling

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:31 • Studio version • A composite edit of both versions from the rooftop concert.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


7.

One After 909

Written by Lennon - McCartney

2:44 • Studio version • A remix of the original album version from the rooftop concert; impromptu rendition of "Danny Boy" removed.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


8.

Don't Let Me Down

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:19 • Studio versionC • A composite edit of both versions from the rooftop concert.

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
Billy Preston:
Electric piano
Paul Hicks:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Guy Massey:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Steve Rooke:
Mastering
Allan Rouse:
Mixing engineer, Producer

Concert From "The rooftop concert" in London, United Kingdom on Jan 30, 1969

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


9.

I Me Mine

Written by George Harrison

2:22 • Studio version • A remixed, slightly different recreation of Spector's edit (copying the chorus in the middle of the song and adding it to the end) to lengthen the track recorded on 3 January 1970; guitar overdubs and organ parts mixed in and out to make the repeated verse sound different; orchestral and choral overdubs removed.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


10.

Across the Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:38 • Studio version • A remix of the original version recorded on 4 February 1968, played at the correct speed; sound effects, piano, maracas, svaramandal and backing vocals mixed out; orchestral and choral overdubs removed; tape echo added.

Ringo Starr:
Tom-tom drum
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Electric leslie-speaker guitar, Lead vocal
George Harrison:
Tambura

Details & description coming from Wikipedia


11.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

3:55 • Studio version • A composite edit of takes 27A (used for Spector's album version and George Martin's single version) and 27B (featuring Harrison's guitar solo as it appears in the film) recorded on 31 January 1969; orchestral overdubs from Martin's mix removed; tape echo from Spector's mix removed.

Details & description coming from Wikipedia

About

From Wikipedia:

Let It Be… Naked is a 2003 album by the English rock group the Beatles. It is the version of their 1970 album Let It Be, how they originally recorded it (without the overdubbing and mixing done before its initial release). The project was initiated by Paul McCartney, who had always felt that Phil Spector’s production did not represent the group’s stripped-down, back to their roots intentions for the album.

Let It Be… Naked presents the songs “naked” – without Spector’s overdubs and without the incidental studio chatter featured between most cuts of the original album. Let It Be… Naked also omits two minor tracks, “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae“, replacing them with “Don’t Let Me Down“, originally featured only as the B-side of the “Get Back” single.

History

The album is presented in a form which Paul McCartney considered closer to its original artistic vision: to “get back” to the rock and roll sound of their early years rather than the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector in the production of the final Let It Be album. McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the “Wall of Sound” production style of the Phil Spector remixes, especially for his song “The Long and Winding Road“, which he believed was ruined by the process. George Harrison gave his approval for the Naked project before he died. McCartney’s attitude contrasted with Lennon’s from over two decades earlier. In his 1971 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon had defended Spector’s work, saying, “He was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it… When I heard it, I didn’t puke.

In January 1969, the Beatles began rehearsals for what was planned to be their first concert in several years. The concert was to be recorded for a television special and album, and the rehearsals were filmed for accompanying documentary footage. The project’s original working title was Get Back, and an album and film were to be the end products of these sessions. Being older and more independent, the individual Beatles’ tolerances for each other’s quirks had decreased: for instance, on 10 January, George Harrison walked out of the sessions after the latest in a series of arguments with John Lennon over his music and after being criticized by Paul McCartney about his playing style on the song “Two of Us“. By the time the sessions ended, all parties involved were so aggrieved that all of the resultant recordings were left on the shelf for over a month, with no one wanting to face the grueling editing process. In the meantime, later that year, they recorded and released Abbey Road – with sessions running smoothly and tensions largely abated. Also issued was the single “The Ballad of John and Yoko“/”Old Brown Shoe“, recorded in April and released on 30 May.

After more than a year, and after two versions of the album had already been compiled by engineer Glyn Johns, Phil Spector was brought in by Allen Klein and given the task of coming up with a marketable product to tie in with the impending film release. The end result was the album Let It Be, released 8 May 1970. (The movie of the same name was released later that month.)

Genesis

One of the biggest complaints about the Let It Be album has centred on Spector’s “Wall of Sound” technique, with some critics claiming the quality of the music was diminished by his orchestration and use of choirs. Critics of the album (including McCartney) have said the original intent in the early 1969 sessions had been to keep the music simple, both to remain true to their rock and roll roots and to enable them to easily replicate the songs in possible future live performances. The three songs that Spector had embellished with orchestras and choirs were McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road,” Lennon’s “Across the Universe” and Harrison’s “I Me Mine.” McCartney and George Martin had already added a horn section, cellos and backing vocals by McCartney and Harrison to the single version of “Let It Be” before Spector remixed it for the final Let It Be album.

The origin of the Let It Be… Naked project arose during a chance reunion of McCartney and Let It Be film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg on a plane in the early 2000s. McCartney and Lindsay-Hogg discussed the unavailability of the film on both VHS and DVD, which led to discussion of a possible remixed “soundtrack” to accompany a proposed future DVD release. In early 2002, McCartney recruited Abbey Road in-house engineers Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse to go back into the vaults and assemble a brand new studio album from the 30 reels of tape recorded during the January 1969 sessions. Since much of the Let It Be material had been recorded live, many sound anomalies existed on the tapes. Hicks, Massey and Rouse did extensive work, digitally cleaning up each individual track of every song before remixing them. Some takes were edited together to create the best possible final version. For “Dig a Pony“, an errant note sung by Lennon was digitally pitch-corrected.

Differences

Most of the songs on Let It Be… Naked differ significantly from the original versions on Let It Be. Firstly, they are in a different running order than the original LP. Secondly, none of Phil Spector’s orchestral and choral overdubs were included, and his mixes were not used. Additionally, all lead vocals and drums are now placed in the middle of the stereo picture, giving the album a more modernised sound and feel. Finally, all studio and rooftop dialogue from the original album was removed, resulting in a number of sharp fade-outs where dialogue had been previously audible.

Two songs that had been included on the original album—the traditional Liverpool folk song “Maggie Mae” and the improvisational piece “Dig It“—were both excised, as they “didn’t fit comfortably with the concept of a straight album.” Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down” was added to the running order, although Naked features a composite edit of the two versions from the rooftop concert, rather than the B-side from the “Get Back” single. “I’ve Got a Feeling” was also presented in a new composite edit of its two rooftop concert takes.

Dig a Pony” features two major fixes and edits. An off-pitch note sung by Lennon in his second “because” was digitally pitch-corrected. Also, whereas the original album track featured Lennon beginning to play the song’s final guitar riff one beat too early, this version mixes the error out, leaving a clean outro. The opening guitar riff in the Naked version is the same as the final guitar riff in both versions.

The remixed “For You Blue” reinstates George Harrison’s original acoustic guitar track.

For “The Long and Winding Road“, the Naked producers used the final take, recorded five days after the rough run-through Phil Spector had selected for the original album. As with all songs on Let It Be… Naked, this version is devoid of any orchestral or choral overdubs. (The unadorned take from Let It Be is featured on Anthology 3.) Finally, there is a slight lyrical difference: whereas the original album version’s lyric reads, “anyway, you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried,” on this version it reads, “anyway, you’ve always known the many ways I’ve tried.” Electric guitar and electric piano are also present in this version, played respectively by Harrison and Billy Preston.

Across the Universe,” which dates from nearly a year before the rest of the original album was recorded, was stripped of almost all of its instrumental and vocal overdubs, leaving Lennon’s acoustic guitar and lead vocal as the song’s centrepiece, yet still retained the tamboura used on the original mix. This marks the second appearance of the track in its correct key as recorded (the first appearing on Anthology 2), as the original “wildlife” version had been sped up and the Let It Be album version had been slowed down.

For the title track, the original take 27A was used for the bulk of the song, but two edit pieces were flown in from take 27B (the version seen and heard in the Let It Be film); namely, the guitar solo and a brief section near the end (the final “Mother Mary comes to me” bar) to fix an errant piano chord that was present on the album/single versions. Also, as per all other tracks, all instrumental overdubs were removed. With the versions featured on the single, the original album, and the compilation album Anthology 3, it features the fourth version of the song’s guitar solo to be released thus far.

The cover image of the album features monochrome negatives of the original photos from the “Let It Be” cover. George Harrison’s photograph, unlike that of the other Beatles, has been replaced with another showing him in performance, his teeth less prominent, as a monochrome negative version of the original would show them ‘blackened’. On the right of Harrison’s new picture, the original Let It Be picture can partially be seen.

Release and reception

On November 13, 2003, the completed Let It Be… Naked album saw its world premiere with a two-hour radio broadcast special from Infinity Broadcasting. The special included a 50-minute documentary of the original Get Back/Let It Be sessions—including interviews with all four Beatles—an uninterrupted broadcast of the new Let It Be… Naked album in its entirety and a 20-minute roundtable discussion hosted by Pat O’Brien. The roundtable discussion featured analysis from musicians Sheryl Crow, J.C. Chasez, Billy Joel and Fred Durst, Breakfast with the Beatles host Chris Carter, record producers Alan Parsons and Jimmy Iovine, Rolling Stone Senior Editor David Fricke and journalist Geraldo Rivera.

The album received mixed reviews upon its release:

  • overall slightly stronger [than Let It Be] … a sleeker, slicker album” (Allmusic)
  • not essential […] though immaculately presented” (Pitchfork Media)
  • [while] the sonic improvements to the album as a whole are undeniable […] novices should still get the original” (Rolling Stone)
  • it “stripped the original album of both John’s sense of humor and Phil Spector’s wacky, and at least slightly tongue-in-cheek, grandiosity” (Salon) […]

Fly on the Wall bonus disc

The 22-minute bonus disc contains song excerpts and dialogue from the many hours of tape which accumulated during the Let It Be sessions. Some of the removed dialogue that had appeared on the original album appears on this disc. In total, the track is 21 minutes and 55 seconds long and brings the album’s total length to 56:59. […]

From the liner notes:

The kids of AD 2000 will understand what it was all about and draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today. For the magic of the Beatles is timeless and ageless

That prediction in the sleeve notes for Beatles For Sale was made by Derek Taylor in 1964, when pop stars had a limited shelf life of perhaps two years. But sure enough, at the beginning of our century, the sales of the Beatles’ album 1 have proved him right in spectacular fashion with 25 million sales… and counting.

Now this latest addition to their catalogue provides another chapter in the most byzantine tale behind any of their albums. By stripping away the decorative layers applied to some of the tracks this special edition reveals Let It Be as it was meant to be. The dedicated Abbey Road team has also ensured the warmth of the analogue recording still colors the sound but the crackle of tape hiss has disappeared.

As Paul commented when he heard the digitally cleaned-up mixes ‘If we’d had today’s technology then, it would sound like this because that was the noise we made in the studio. It’s all exactly as it was in the room, but you’re in a clearer room with the guys. It’s sort of scary; you’re right there now.’ So here it is, at last, Let It Be… Naked – the bare bones of the Beatles’ music made in January 1969.

Why they wanted to adopt a raw and unadorned approach to these songs in the first place revolves around the ethos of the Beatles: never do what you are expected to do. After pioneering stadium events, they played their last concert on 29th August 1966. When they regrouped three months later, they focused on the recording experimentation heard on their previous two albums and duly dazzled the world. In 1967, the extraordinary single ‘Penny Lane’/’Strawberry Fields Forever’ heralded the LP Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The following year, The Beatles – a double album in a pure white sleeve – arrived with hardly a trace of the previous record’s psychedelic atmosphere. It skipped in a heartbeat from a whimsical folk song to a heavy rock riff to a nostalgic 1930s Hollywood musical pastiche. Then – and here’s the thing to set today’s marketing men scratching their heads in bemusement – with The Beatles in its sixth week at number one, they began work on a new project.

Let It Be evolved from an original plan to make a television show featuring the group playing tracks from the recent ‘white album’. That idea changed in three ways. First, abandoning the easier path, they opted to learn a completely new batch of songs for the televised concert. A second innovative approach was added when it was decided to film the rehearsals; allowing viewers to trace the development of each song from its first rough run through to the final polished version. Thirdly, as the climax of the project was a return to live performance, no studio effects or overdubbing of voices and instruments would be allowed at any time.

With the provisional concert date set for 20th January 1969, filming began on the second day of that month. Michael Lindsay Hogg was chosen to direct both the documentary and concert. His track record included work on the British TV show Ready Steady Go!, Beatles promotional films for ‘Paperback Writer’, ‘Rain’, ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’ and only a few weeks before, The Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus. Glyn Johns, the engineer on that show, was invited to balance the Beatles’ sound for the rehearsals and concert. As usual, George Martin was the supervising producer but, as he recalled, had been instructed by John that ‘none of your production rubbish’ was needed!

Filming took place on a cavernous sound stage at Twickenham Film Studios amid conditions that were not very conducive to creating music. Encircled by cameras, the Beatles huddled together – one moment feeling too hot from the film crew’s lights and the next too cold from the building’s wintry draughts. Having recently fallen into the habit of late night recording, the group now had to adapt to office hours, starting some time between ten and eleven o’ clock in the morning.

It is the Twickenham sessions that have characterised the whole Let It Be project as an unhappy one both in the minds of the Beatles themselves and anyone who saw the documentary footage in the movie. All four have talked openly about the underlying tensions within the group – no doubt amplified by their uncomfortable surroundings and the constant intrusion of cameras and boom microphones literally bugging them. The hundreds of film sound rolls now provide an invaluable historical record of these days in the life of the Beatles and they do contain some candid discussions about the future of the group.

Throughout the tapes Paul doggedly insists that only by working hard together can the group survive. He is also determined that they should break away from their insular recording career and appear before the public again. The other Beatles’ enthusiasm for the planned concert ebbs and flows. But there are also happy moments in evidence as the group return to their roots – playing not only rock ‘n’ roll favorites but also unreleased early Lennon-McCartney compositions such as ‘One After 909’ and ‘Because I Know You Love Me So’.

As the days ticked away, the director’s primary concern was where the concert should take place. John can be heard on one of the tapes commenting, ‘I’ve said “Yes” to every idea that’s come up… America, Pakistan, the moon… I’ll still be there singing ‘Don’t let Me Down’!’. If not quite the moon, the hire of two ocean liners (at a week’s notice!) to take the group and an audience to a torch-lit concert in the Arabian desert was just one of many fanciful ideas discussed for the televised event.

But on Friday 10th January – the seventh day of rehearsal – Michael Lindsay Hogg was faced with an even more pressing problem. After an apparently harmonious morning of playing ‘Get Back’ and ‘Two Of Us’, George announced he was quitting the group. ‘See you round the clubs!’ was his typically understated farewell comment. Having hung out with Bob Dylan and the Band in their homes in Woodstock and enjoyed producing a Jackie Lomax album in California, George had found the Twickenham experience a grim contrast to his recent break in the States.

The remaining three Beatles dutifully turned up for rehearsals the following Monday and Tuesday but little was accomplished. Fortunately, George agreed to continue with the group but only if current plans were altered. So rehearsals were switched to the basement studio at their Apple headquarters in 3, Savile Row in London’s West End. The Beatles immediately felt at home and their spirits were soon elevated further by the presence of another musician on keyboards. Billy Preston first met the group when he played in Hamburg with Little Richard’s band. Now in town playing organ with Ray Charles, when he dropped by to say hello he was quickly drafted into the sessions.

The film sound rolls recorded at Apple disclose how much the atmosphere of the sessions had improved. On the first day in Savile Row, George and John are heard discussing their annoyance over a newspaper article that had alleged the two might have ‘traded a few punches’ at Twickenham. ‘It’s never got to that’, John is heard saying, ‘Except for a plate of dinner (thrown) in Hamburg!’. A few days later, munching toast together, all four chat enthusiastically about playing live in the studio. I’m just so high when I get in at night’ John tells the others. ‘Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it?’ George responds.

It is also clear that while they recognised the need for individual pursuits, at this stage they believed that these could be reconciled with continued group activity. George is heard telling John about his plan for a solo LP ‘I’ve got so many songs that I’ve got my quota of tunes for the next ten albums! So I would like to do an album of songs mainly to get them all out the way. It would be nice if any of us can do separate things as well. That way it also preserves this – the Beatle bit of it – more.’

Although still aiming at some sort of live ‘pay-off’ to the rehearsals, once settled in a recording studio – albeit one that was unfinished and stocked with equipment borrowed from EMI – their days became more focused. ‘For You Blue’, ‘Get Back’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ were all ‘properly’ recorded during the first week at Apple. Eventually, it was decided to film two live sets in order to give what was now a movie a fitting final sequence. Four of the tracks on this album were recorded during an unannounced lunchtime concert on the roof of 3, Savile Row. Playing into the freezing wind, the Beatles’ public performance on 30th January 1969 turned out to be the last one ever. The following day, they were filmed in the studio playing three quieter numbers that were unsuitable for the open air.

During the early summer of 1969 ‘Get Back’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ were released on a single that topped charts around the world. By this time, the group had reverted to their painstaking multi-track recording methods in EMI’s studios. The sessions produced their final album Abbey Road, which went to number one in October. Interestingly, twelve of its songs had been introduced at some time during the Twickenham and Apple sessions in January 1969.

With the group and George Martin concentrating fully on a new album, none of them had the time to sort through the many live takes from the previous project. Glyn Johns was asked to compile an album called Get Back that would match the documentary nature of the forthcoming film. He came up with a record featuring studio chatter and a selection of incomplete takes and some rather under rehearsed performances. Although given several release dates throughout the year and an amended running order as late as January 1970, the album was eventually rejected.

The shelved recordings were eventually released after producer Phil Spector had been brought in to complete the project. Two tracks were added to the original list to mirror the songs featured in the imminent movie. As the Beatles were seen in Let It Be playing ‘Across The Universe’, it was decided to include it on the album. Their recording made in February 1968 had recently emerged on a charity LP for the World Wildlife Fund called No One’s Gonna Change Our World. But Spector modelled a new version by significantly slowing down the tape and adding an orchestra and choir. Similarly, because an early rehearsal of 1 Me Mine’ was featured in the film, that song was recorded in January 1970 and then given the Spector touch a few months later.

Although a chart-topping album featuring three American number one singles could hardly be called a failure, for the Beatles the Let It Be project retained an air of unfinished business. The memory of its creation tainted by the unhappy business dealings of the period and the tensions threatening to pull the group apart. But, in reality, these new mixes show the group playing as a tight and co-operative unit. As Ringo observed, ‘In that time there was a lot of emotional turmoil going on amongst us but I’ve always felt that once the count-in happened we turned back into those brothers and musicians. And when you listen to the pared down version …as I said to one of my partners, “Not a bad band!”

Paul is equally enthusiastic about Let It Be… Naked. ‘It’s just the bare tapes; just the bare truth and the great thing now about the re-mixed versions is that, with today’s technology, they sound better than ever.’ That’s one of the wonders of our digital age and it ensures the magic of the Beatles will be timeless and ageless.

Kevin Hewlett
August 2003

Last updated on July 2, 2017


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