Recording and mixing "Let It Be"

Sunday, January 4, 1970 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Let It Be / You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) 7" Single.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Master release


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About

This day was the last recording session for the Beatles as a band (even if there would be two further recording sessions for the “Let It Be” album, involving just one member of The Beatles). Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were present. John Lennon was on holiday in Denmark at the time.


The day before, the three Beatles had recorded George’s “I Me Mine” for inclusion on the new version of the “Get Back” LP by producer/engineer Glyn Johns. On this day, they focused their attention on Paul’s “Let It Be“, which had received its first overdubs on April 30, 1969.

From beatlesebooks.com:

George Martin was commissioned to write a score for brass and cello overdubs for the song, hiring approximately eight studio musicians for the next day, January 4th, 1970, for a recording session at EMI Studio Two. Before the studio musicians arrived, George, Paul and Linda McCartney added some nice harmonized backing vocals to the song, thus wiping out John and George’s original backing vocals. Paul also replaced John’s bass performance from the original recording at this time, the result being that John Lennon does not appear in either the single or album version of the song “Let It Be” at all. It could be that, since John stated that he didn’t want to be in the band anymore, Paul thought to record a more suitable bass track on this song himself. In order to perform a reduction mix onto another tape, the newly-arrived brass musicians played George Martin’s score simultaneously with the recording, along with Paul playing electric piano whenever “the F bit” occurred. As it turned out, however, it took three attempts to get the best possible tape reduction (labelled takes 28 through 30), so the brass players performed the score on each of the three reductions, ‘take 30’ being deemed the best. At this point, according to Paul’s notes as contained in the “Let It Be” album Anniversary book, the eight-track tape consisted of Paul’s original vocal on track one, George, Paul and Linda’s backing vocal on track two, Billy Preston’s organ on track three, Paul’s bass overdub on track four, brass and Paul’s electric piano on track five (which had previously been used for the sync ulse for the film), Ringo’s original drums on track six, George’s overdubbed guitar solo on track seven, and Paul’s original piano on track eight.

More elements were deemed necessary so a further reduction mix was made to combine tracks and open up more tracks for overdubs. This having been accomplished, George added yet another lead guitar overdub, a more stinging distorted one as opposed to the more subdued April 30th, 1969 overdub played through a rotating Leslie speaker. Photographic evidence from this day suggests he used John’s Epiphone Casino guitar for this overdub, as he had done the previous day for his guitar work on “I Me Mine.” Since this new guitar solo was added to its own track on the new tape, both overdubbed solos were isolated onto different tracks. Other overdubs recorded on this day were a combined effort of Ringo on drums and Paul on maracas during the final verses of the song, additional backing vocals from George, Paul and Linda to the point that they are triple-tracked on the recording, and a concluding score for cellos to finish off the arrangement. The configuration of the eight-track tape was now as follows: Paul’s original vocal and electric piano overdub on track one, Cellos for the final 50 seconds of the song on track two, Billy Preston’s organ on track three, George’s new guitar solo and Ringo’s additional drums and Paul’s maracas on track four, brass on track five, Ringo’s original drums and Paul’s overdubbed bass on track six, George’s first overdubbed guitar solo and all of the backing vocals on seven, and Paul’s original piano on track eight.

Two stereo mixes of the song were then made. For quite some time, remix 2 from take 30 was thought to be the mix released on the “Let It Be” single in March 1970. But in the accompanying book of the “Let It Be (50th anniversary boxset)” released in 2021, we can see a page of Paul’s diary, dated January 8, where it is noted Paul attended a mixing session at Olympic Studios for “Let It Be“, with a mention “great mix“.


The day after, January 5, Glyn Johns would continue the work on his new attempt at creating the “Get Back” LP, but he would not use the work done on “Let It Be” on this day, likely because he considered the overdubs didn’t match the intended raw nature of the “Get Back” project.


The next time Paul, George and Ringo would be together in the Abbey Road Studios would take place 25 years later, on March 31, 1995, during the making of the “Beatles Anthology” project.

From Facebook – Historic photography. January 4, 1970. The last recording session of The Beatles, no longer John. George Harrison, George Martin from the back, plus Paul and Linda McCartney to record the background vocals for “Let It Be.”
Harrison’s “I me mine” was recorded the previous day, the last song from the Beatle catalog to be recorded.

Last updated on December 7, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 27


2.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction edit of take 27 into take 28 with simultaneous SI


3.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction edit of take 27 into take 29 with simultaneous SI


4.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction edit of take 27 into take 30 with simultaneous SI


5.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 30


6.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 30


7.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 2 from take 30

Staff

Musicians on "Let It Be"

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocal, Maracas, Bass, Electric piano
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocal
Ringo Starr:
Drums
George Harrison:
Electric guitar, Backing vocal
?:
Two tenor saxophones, One baritone saxophone, Two trumpets, Trombone, Cellos

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Phil McDonald:
Engineer
Richard Langham:
Second engineer

Going further


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!

Shop on Amazon


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.

Read more on The Beatles Bible

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