- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Let It Be (Limited Edition) LP.
- Timeline More from year 1970
- EMI Studios, Room 4, Abbey Road
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In December 1969, engineer/producer Glyn Johns was asked to revise the “Get Back” LP he had worked on from March to May 1969. He finished his work on January 8, 1969, but The Beatles remained unsatisfied by this latest attempt.
On January 27, 1970, John Lennon and the Plastic One Band recorded a new single “Instant Karma!“. John invited George Harrison to the session, who suggested Phil Spector as producer:
John phoned me up one morning in January and said, ‘I’ve written this tune and I’m going to record it tonight and have it pressed up and out tomorrow – that’s the whole point: Instant Karma, you know.’ So I was in. I said, ‘OK, I’ll see you in town.’ I was in town with Phil Spector and I said to Phil, ‘Why don’t you come to the session?’ There were just four people: John played piano, I played acoustic guitar, there was Klaus Voormann on bass, and Alan White on drums. We recorded the song and brought it out that week, mixed – instantly – by Phil Spector.George Harrison
Anthony Fawcett, John Lennon’s personal assistant from 1968 to 1970, relates a different version of this story:
In the back of the Mercedes John relaxed and thought about how he wanted “Instant Karma” to sound, at the same time working on a new verse. He wanted a very basic rock ‘n’ roll sound that would come over well on the radio, and suddenly came up with an idea: “Spector! Let’s get Phil Spector in on the session, he’ll get the sound I want!” (Allen Klein had brought Spector to London hoping that he might be able to “produce the Beatles,” and as a trial run they had given him the chaotic tapes of “Let it Be” to see if he could make a record out of them.From “John Lennon – One Day At A Time” by Anthony Fawcett, 1976
The “Instant Karma” session gave confidence to John and George that Phil Spector could help release, at last, the songs recorded in January 1969.
Allen Klein brought in Phil Spector and said: “Well, what do you think about Phil looking at the record?” So at least John and I said: “Yeah, let’s see.” We liked Phil Spector, we loved all his records.George Harrison – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
It’s not really clear if Paul McCartney was aware that Phil Spector was asked to work on the “Get Back” tapes. What is clear is that he despised the end result, especially the orchestral overdubs added to “The Long And Winding Road” on April 1, 1970.
We were getting a ‘re-producer’ instead of just a producer, and he added all sorts of stuff… backing that I perhaps wouldn’t have put on. I mean, I don’t think it made it the worst record ever, but the fact that now people were putting stuff on our records that certainly one of us didn’t know about was wrong.Paul McCartney – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
Glyn Johns and George Martin were of a similar opinion than Paul:
I was disappointed that Lennon got away with giving it to Spector, and even more disappointed with what Spector did to it. It has nothing to do with The Beatles at all. Let It Be is a bunch of garbage… he puked all over it… It was ridiculously, disgustingly syrupy.Glyn Johns – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
To me it was tawdry. It was bringing The Beatles’ records down a peg. Making them sound like other people’s records.George Martin – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
But John and Ringo liked what Phil Spector came with:
He worked like a pig on it. He’d always wanted to work with The Beatles, and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it. It wasn’t fantastic, but I heard it, I didn’t puke. I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over, this was going to go out.John Lennon – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
I like what Phil did, actually. He put the music somewhere else and he was king of the ‘Wall Of Sound’. There’s no point bringing him in if you’re not going to like the way he does it, because that’s what he does.Ringo Starr – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020
On this day, March 23, 1970, Phil Spector started his work on the “Get Back” tapes, at Abbey Road room 4, while Paul McCartney was also in Abbey Road, finishing off the master tapes of his first solo album, “McCartney”.
Phil Spector was assisted by EMI Studios’ balance engineer Peter Bown during this session and the next ones:
We did all the Let It Be remixes in room four, working from the original Apple Studios’ eight-track tapes, the ones which had caused such consternation. I got on quite well with Spector except that he wanted tape echo on everything, seemed to take a different pill every half an hour and had his bodyguard with him. I explained to him that this was a British recording studio and that he was safe, but the bodyguard used to come along and sit outside the door… he wasn’t there by the end though, I think Spector felt safe in the end. […]
We also had the accountant guy [Allen Klein] sitting in on the remix sessions, goodness knows why, and George Harrison was here most of the time, watching. George and I got on like a house on fire. We got the remixes done to the satisfaction of those concerned and the album came out. It had my name on it, the only one that did… the only problem was that it was the worst of the lot.Peter Bown, balance engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Phil Spector began the session by working on “I’ve Got A Feeling“. He mixed two versions of it. The first version was a studio recording from January 28, 1969. The second version was from the rooftop concert on January 30 and this is the version that would be used on the “Let It Be” LP.
“I Me Mine” was recorded on January 3, 1970. Phil Spector decided to make an extended mix of the song, increasing its length from 1’34” to 2’25”.
The last song to be remixed on this day was “Across The Universe“, recorded in February 1968. Both this song and “I Me Mine” would be subject to orchestral overdubs on April 1 and remixing on April 2.
Phil Spector continued his work on the “Get Back” tapes on the following day, March 25, 1970.
Last updated on January 5, 2022
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
The Beatles Bible
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.