Don't let it be... Don't let it beeee...
September 18, 2003 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Can we ever 'Get Back' to 'Let it Be'? A new version of the Beatles' last album will be released in November. Doubtless it'll sound great to Paul and Ringo, but will we be able to appreciate the raw, un-Spectorized sound, or is 33 years too big a wall of sound to overcome?
posted by soyjoy (42 comments total)
Boy, you kill just one person and everyone wants to distance themselves from you!
posted by me3dia at 2:13 PM on September 18, 2003

I've been wondering when someone was going to post this on the blue. :-)

I'm very torn. I'm fairly sure that the release of this has something to do with Harrison's death; my casual reading on the subject seems to tell me that this is something neither Harrison nor (obviously) Lennon wanted done, and it seems kind of ... well ... sneaky for Paul to do this.

On the other hand, the original Let it Be tapes are fairly important documents in both music history in general and the history of this one (fairly important) band in particular, and there have certainly been bootlegs of this material floating around out there for years. I'll no doubt buy it, just for the curiosity value, if nothing else.

FYI, I highly recommend a book by Mark Lewisohn called The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions if you're interested in this sort of thing.
posted by anastasiav at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2003

In the late 80s I was part of a group of multimedia artists who met regularly to collaborate on artwork of different kinds, usually with one person coming up with a raw version for others to modify, revise, take off on. Over time we identified "original syndrome," namely that sometimes, no matter how objectively better a revision was, we just liked the original version better because we had heard it first. I'm wondering if that will be a determining factor here.

And yeah, I know it's kind of silly to postulate without hearing the stuff, but it's still interesting to me even in theory. I have, I think, heard the unsweetened "Across the Universe," and enjoyed it more as a curiosity than a revelation of the true inner song. Anyone else heard any of the Spectorless stuff?

On preview: The Rolling Stone article claims that Harrison approved it. But it's easy to claim that now, isn't it?
posted by soyjoy at 2:23 PM on September 18, 2003

I have a bootleg of the Glyn Johns version. It's a little raw, but that *was* the concept. If it sticks to that, it'll be good.
posted by timeistight at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2003

I for one welcome the opportunity to hear these songs without Spector's overwrought style of production. Then, say 5 years from now, perhaps Roy Thomas Baker could do an album remix. ;-P
posted by mischief at 2:28 PM on September 18, 2003

My first thought when I read the news today (oh boy) was that Beatles fans will buy anything, so why wouldn't Paul do something like this? But bah, I'm cynical. I am, however, also one of those Beatles fans who will pretty much buy anything. All three Anthology CDs from a few years back? I was there at midnight for each release to get my hands on them first. I have The Compleat Beatles memorized. I'm a dork.

I think anastasiav is right, and that this was kind of sneaky of Paul to do, even if Ringo says that George approved it before he passed away. I'm still a bit squeamish about decisions made without all four of the guys. Those creepy re-worked "Beatles" songs like "Real Love" and "Free as a Bird" made my skin crawl... at least this rerelease is just stripped down and not made over. I'll buy it, if only to have a nice, clean no- "puked all over" version of "Across the Universe."
posted by kittyb at 2:32 PM on September 18, 2003

Wait. Lemme get this straight. They're going to sell the same music that was on the Let It Be finished album, but they're gonna sell the stuff unfinished. Same tracks just without any actual post production work, except for the NEW post-production work of course, to remove the old orchestration and replace it with.. well.. nothin' really. They're gonna do this, and people are gonna buy it? In that case, is there a copy of "The Ballad of John & Yoko" without Yoko in it? That'd be groovy.

"I for one welcome the opportunity..." to welcome our Spectorless, naked and unplugged overlords.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:33 PM on September 18, 2003

Is McCartney on a historical-revisionist mission? What with all the previous hoo-hah about re-attributing songs to'McCartney-Lennon', I just wish that Sir Thumbs-Aloft would pop off and leave historical documents alone, as all the auteurs originally intended, Spector definitely included.
posted by punilux at 2:34 PM on September 18, 2003

Though in general I do prefer originals to remixes, sometimes they do actually improve a song. I'm especially interested to hear "The Long and Winding Road" without all the "schlock". I love The Beatles, but I loathe that song. (I confess to referring to it as "The Long and Whiny Road".)
posted by Soliloquy at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2003

Over time we identified "original syndrome," namely that sometimes, no matter how objectively better a revision was, we just liked the original version better because we had heard it first.

I do think this is common. But by the same token, I don't know if a new version has to be better, I don't know if "better" necessarily has to be the goal. I like hearing different mixes of songs just because it gives me a broader and deeper understanding of the song's essence, not because every sequential mix has to be better than the one before. Sometimes different is almost as good as better. And sometimes hearing different mixes can just help to cement your opinion of which is best. If the originals are truly the ones you prefer, hearing different ones won't change that.

That said, my respect for Paul has plummeted of late (what with the "McCartney/Lennon" thing and the fact that his years of crappy music have now so vastly outweighed his years of good music, that the crap is reaching backwards through time), and I agree that this may well be sneaky (not that I object to it per se, since it's not like the originals are being destroyed).
posted by biscotti at 2:39 PM on September 18, 2003

The luckiest thing that ever happened to the Beatles was getting Phil Spector to work on an album for them. And this is with me fully aware of all the lucky things that happened to them. The most unlucky thing for the band is that Paul and Ringo have ended up being the last ones standing. They've proven to have the worst most sold-out integrity. Phil Spector is a lunatic and the public record shows him to be awful towards women and fellow business partners. But his contribution to popmusic is unmeasurable. Stripping his contribution to the band is like taking out George Martin, or an actual bandmember.
posted by Peter H at 2:41 PM on September 18, 2003

I'm interested to hear this, and I'll probably buy it, but I agree it's a little shady to release it now. I think the title's really stupid, though. They should call it Get Back as they originally planned, and use the original cover (which is similar to the photo on the "Blue" 1967-1970 best of album).
posted by kirkaracha at 2:41 PM on September 18, 2003

Every generation finds the Beatles.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:43 PM on September 18, 2003

None of them liked the songs well enough to release them at the time; rather, they recorded an entirely different set of songs and released it instead (as Abbey Road, of course). Plus, the movie sucked. Shouldn't that have been enough?

Finally, I remember John saying something like "he (Spector) took the biggest load of shit ever and made something out of it that didn't suck". How much more proof does everyone need that the original tapes stunk, and should not be listened to?!?

All that said, yeah, I'll probably buy it too.
posted by yhbc at 2:48 PM on September 18, 2003

If a trunk of Picasso's sketches for Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon turned up under a whore's bed somewhere, and Picasso's heirs wanted to publish them, I wouldn't sit around kvetching about how "shady" it all was, because it would be more Picasso.

This is the Beatles. I'm not a "Beatlemaniac" or anything -- I only have about half of their albums -- but jeez, I'd be willing to listen to this.
posted by digaman at 3:30 PM on September 18, 2003

If its says The Beatles on it then it'll sell. And apparently it is completely impossible to have enough money. Just ask Madonna (sorry about the pop ups) or Dick Grasso.
posted by fenriq at 3:35 PM on September 18, 2003

While I generally think that the huge numbers of "re-mixed" and "re-mastered" and "previously unreleased" albums flooding the market are a cynical attempt to revive flagging sales for the artist/s concerned, I would probably buy this to hear what the band sounded like in a raw state. I very much doubt, however, that this is what we will hear. I suspect that the album has simply been re-mixed to produce a more "uncivilised" sound and quite possibly has more tinkering done with it than the original.
posted by dg at 3:55 PM on September 18, 2003

Stripping his contribution to the band is like taking out George Martin, or an actual bandmember.

You've got to be kidding. George Martin effectively was one of the Beatles. He didn't just mix the sound from recordings, he made those recordings. Spector's somebody that a crumbling, last-gasp band barely willing to even play together anymore threw a bunch of tapes at and said, "see what you can do with these".
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:21 PM on September 18, 2003

One of my favorite memories is watching George Martin's 1999 live presentation of the making of Sgt. Pepper, where he demonstrates how each song was recorded, mixed and produced. During the part about the title track, he plays around with the mixing board and at one point, he drops the whole band out so that we just hear the background vocals in full and glorious three-part harmony. During all my listenings of that album, I had never heard that particular part, buried as it was under the rest of the (also very captivating) production. It was brand new. I'm interested in this project because of that: the possibility of hearing something completely new and interesting from a band that broke up when I was 4 and that I've been dissecting for the last 25 years. And as John has said: the Beatles could really make some music.
posted by drinkcoffee at 5:12 PM on September 18, 2003

Now if they'll just release the original Butch Vig mix of Nevermind, before Andy Wallace was brought in to make it all radio friendly. Would it be a cynical money grab if fans want to hear it?
posted by bobo123 at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2003

This is long overdue. When I worked at a CD store that carried "bootlegs" we would sell multiple copies of the "Complete Get Back Sessions" Parts 1 and 2, a total of 16 discs that we would charge roughly $25 a disc for every fart, burp, flubbed line, uninspired cover and string break. The Get Back CD was one of our big sellers (along with the pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham-Nicks CD, go figure), which was basically the bootleggers attempt to create this new release. I guess what I am trying to say is, What took so long?

So I guess this won't be showing up on the iTunes store.

The Beatles bootleggers are amazingly thorough. One of the more interesting things I have heard were the complete Strawberry Fields sessions. Just a hint on how complex that songs is, all the various tracks mixed down to the one song filled three CDs.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2003

Reuters fleshes the story out a bit more, with a great quote from the late Mr. Lennon: "In spite of all things, The Beatles could really play music together." and a promise to BBC viewers of some previously unseen John/Yoko/Jagger(!) footage.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:03 PM on September 18, 2003

Today (just before my students were commanded to wax autobiogragraphically about early artistic influences) I happened to recall a Saturday morning in 1963, when I was 11, trudging through the St. Louis slush to by my first record: a 45, I Saw You Standing There/I Want To Hold Your Hand. Even at that age, in that time, I had assumed that their two hits would be on two different 45's to make more money. I was pleasantly surprised.

I'll buy the new CD.
posted by kozad at 6:09 PM on September 18, 2003

me3dia, that's annoying, okay? By now even the cops know the charges against Spector are going away, which is why we hear nothing about the case any more. Speaking of which, did anyone else watch the A&E Biography episode about Spector that ran Monday night? I never realized quite so well how he fit in to the music scene in the late '50s and early '60s.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2003

If you want an example of how spector ruined Let It Be, compare the version of "Let It Be" that's on the actual album to the version that was released before spector got to play with it (the one on the blue album, 1s and Past Masters vol 2)

If that's any indication, I can't WAIT to hear the new album.
posted by cheaily at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2003

Why stop at "unfinished?" Why not go all the way with Beatles Karaoke?
posted by SPrintF at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2003

I had the bootleg Get Back to Toronto which is basically unfinished versions of the Let it Be songs plus (I think) some live Lennon stuff. It was a lot better than the 'finished product,' but I will likely buy (or burn) the new CD. (I also commented on my semi-personal experience with Phil Spector but do not want to get slammed for a self link so if anyone is interested they can search for it).

I also own the Lewisohn book, which is well worth the price if you like the Beatles even a little.
posted by Danf at 8:01 PM on September 18, 2003

During all my listenings of that album, I had never heard that particular part, buried as it was under the rest of the (also very captivating) production. It was brand new. I'm interested in this project because of that

But drinkcoffee, that's exactly the point: This was recorded as the anti-Pepper. There ain't gonna be any hidden three-part harmonies to uncover. I'm sure the raw tracks will sound interesting for a listen or two, but I wonder if it's an album I'll want to play over and over as I did Let it Be and others of theirs. Then again, maybe it's just me that's changed, and if the "original" version came out today I would only listen to it a couple times anyway.

Danf, you mean this? That's not a self-link, it's a MetaFilter link.
posted by soyjoy at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2003

I'm confused is this going to some with a new iMac? (sarcasm)
posted by MrLint at 12:15 AM on September 19, 2003

This'll be more manna for completists. For those who didn't pay attention: the "Get Back" sessions were an attempt to "get back" to the their early sound. While Spector had his talent, making a raw, unadorned record wasn't his forte.

Here is a decent page detailing the story of "Get Back." To really get an idea of the bootlegging of the Beatles try CD Bootleg. You don't have to wait for the cd to get rid of Spector's work on a couple of tunes if you use the OOPS Effect.

Dept. of Irony: I was going to post this on the blue, but thought, "Nah, it's just a link to a news story. Besides, let some newbie have a chance for a post." Imagine my chuckle when I saw who did post. Still, I'm glad to see it here.
posted by ?! at 5:11 AM on September 19, 2003

i'll be quite interested to hear this - i seem to remember parts of that album being deliberately overproduced and lennon contributing v.poor basslines to pauls songs just to piss him off.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2003

I wonder if someday a new music media format will be available that would allow the consumers to remix the tracks at home. It would obviously be for enthusiasts only... oh, and for Minus One and Karaokee. That would be great.
posted by cx at 6:48 AM on September 19, 2003

sgt., the hell was Lennon doing playing basslines in the first place? Sure you don't mean Klaus Voorman? [insert smiley]

?!, please don't let's fight over the postworthiness of a story on such a wonderful holiday as this. If you think a new Beatles album and a new Web site mocking GWBush are equally noteworthy, I will agree with you - until midnight tonight, ya scurvy dog.
posted by soyjoy at 7:35 AM on September 19, 2003

I can't be the only one who wishes that Paul McCartney would just go away, so that we could get on with the business of canonizing the music he made that was actually worth listening to...
posted by jokeefe at 8:33 AM on September 19, 2003

What I wanna know is when I'm going to be able to buy the danged movie on DVD.
posted by kgasmart at 8:52 AM on September 19, 2003

By now even the cops know the charges against Spector are going away, which is why we hear nothing about the case any more.

Point well taken, billsaysthis, until this morning.
posted by soyjoy at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2003

OK, just one more and I'll stop: Paul's "boys' night out" or the Let it Be sessions? "There was pushing and shoving but there were certainly no punches thrown."
posted by soyjoy at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2003

What I wanna know is when I'm going to be able to buy the danged movie on DVD.

Why? I'm a Beatles fan, but that movie was just painful to watch. Not as painful as Magical Mystery Tour, but not something I'd want to watch over and over again.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:28 PM on September 19, 2003

There have certainly been bootlegs of this material floating around out there for years.

In fact there were vinyl bootlegs in white (generic) wrappers "floating" around record stores -- at full price (circum $7) -- before the Spector release. Some very nice stuff on those which never saw release. Much more humorous and fun.

This epic has gotten to the point where it would just be swell to be able to say, I can listen to every song the Beatles wrote for which *some* mix was completed. Icing on the cake would be to be able to choose between mixes.

The Spectorized versions sucketh in many ways compared to what *was canned* in the studio. Lemmee hear "Teddy Boy" again, and the "hokey-gokeys" and "Dig A Pony" without the polish.
posted by Twang at 4:47 PM on September 19, 2003

sgt., the hell was Lennon doing playing basslines in the first place?

Because McCartney was playing the piano and they were trying to make a record without overdubs (i.e., "Getting Back" to the way they originally recorded). I think the stripped down approach was originally Lennon's idea which is what makes his invitation to Spector to "tart it up" for realease such a cynical move.
posted by timeistight at 1:42 PM on September 22, 2003

From here: "Those who accuse Spector of destroying the original Get Back premise - a simple, straightforward album, no overdubs, no edits, no orchestras - should also consider that it was the Beatles themselves who first betrayed the concept, recording overdubs on 30 April 1969 and 3-4 January 1970, and that the second Glyn Johns album in particular, compiled at the Beatles' request on 5 January 1970, included overdubs too."
posted by ?! at 6:08 AM on September 23, 2003

That's right of course; it was the Beatles themselves who chickened out on their original concept.

Part of the problem was that McCartney's contributions as a pianist, guitarist and even drummer had become crucial to the group's sound by that point. Without overdubs, he had to pick one instrument and hope for the best from the others. The famous McCartney/Harrison spat from the film is just about McCartney trying to get Harrison to nail a part that in other circumstances McCartney would have played himself.

They really should have brought in a bass player when they added Billy Preston to the sessions, but Lennon and Harrison probably relished the thought of McCartney being forced back to his original role as bassist.
posted by timeistight at 9:06 AM on September 23, 2003

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