• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Support Our Annual Fund Drive!fund-drive-progress-thermometer

We only shake our readers down two times a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Let It Be, Reconsidered

It was a dark time for the group. The Beatles lost their manager and good friend Brian Epstein to a barbiturate overdose in the fall of 1967. To forget their sorrows, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr along with their wives flew out of London to Rishikesh, India for a retreat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for three months (Harrison and Lennon stayed the longest) starting in February 1968. In this period the four Beatles wrote the bulk of their final compositions for the White Album, Let It Beand Abbey Road

By late 1968, the group recorded their double album The White Album which had seen a number of arguments and a temporary walk out from Ringo. Paul McCartney felt that the group’s cohesiveness was lost in individual recording sessions, overdubs, and complex compositions. It was as if The White Album was a compilation of songs by solo acts rather than an ensemble band. McCartney believed the best way to improve relations was to get the band back in the studio to mark the return of their rock ‘n’ roll roots. On New Years Day, 1969 The Beatles returned to the studio to record Let It Be.

The theme of the album was the “back-to-basics” idea to capture the essence of the early days of the Beatles before their turn to innovated, psychedelic soundscapes. The sessions, known then as the Get Back sessions, saw the group covering an array of early rock ‘n’ roll hits such as “Stand By Me”, “Words of Love”, “Lonely Sea”, “Rip It Up”, “Shake, Rattle & Roll”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and more. Simultaneously, the Beatles played hundreds of originals for Get Back. Aside from the material on the album, the group performed songs that would later appear on Abbey Road and others that would eventually appear on solo albums. The sessions were filmed for a documentary titled Let It Be. 

The album feels like a live Beatle concert (thankfully, without the screaming fans) that McCartney intended to achieve. “Two of Us” opens the album with a gentle acoustic duet by McCartney and Lennon. The “back-to-basics” sound is introduced with this folky number featuring four instruments: two acoustic letitbeguitars, an electric guitar, and drums. Lennon’s “Dig A Pony” is the yin to McCartney’s yang. A soft song juxtaposed by a blues rock piece. “Dig A Pony” was disliked by Lennon and dedicated to his soon-to-be-wife Yoko Ono. You can hardly tell that this is a love piece except for the line “All I want is you” because the lyrics are nonsense images and phrases strung together like a Bob Dylan parody song. 

“Across the Universe” was conceived one night in 1967. Lennon’s ex-wife Cynthia was “going on and on about something” said Lennon later. The opening phrase “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” was stuck in his head like a mantra. Lennon wrote them down. The song was unearthed during The Beatles’ Transcendental Mediation trip where he added the song’s chorus “Jai guru deva om” (Sanskrit: जय गुरुदेव ). It is Lennon’s most poetic piece as it features imagery and abstract concepts of concretism. Words like “meandering”, “slithering” and undying love “shining” are a few of these ambiguous thoughts treated as a physical entities. 

Chronologically, “I Me Mine” is the last Beatle song the band recorded before their split in 1970. The title refers to a verse about the ego in from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. For example: “They are forever free who renounced all selfish desires and break away from the ego cage of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ to be united with the Lord. This is a supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death and immortality.” Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould wrote that Harrison was upset that his “fellow Beatles could complain about the amount of time they had to spend learning the arrangement for ‘I Me Mine’ and then turn around and submit to a laborious rehearsal of a song like ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ which stuck George as a paragon of pop inanity”. 

Like the genesis of “Across the Universe”, McCartney’s piano-driven piece comes from a serendipitous event too. “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me”, it is not a biblical reference at all — McCartney’s mother Mary McCartney was the center of a dream during the rough period in the The White Album sessions. Mary died of cancer when Paul was fourteen. In an interview Paul stated that she told him everything was going to be all right and to “let it be”.

The song stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other Beatle masterpieces like “Hey Jude” and “A Day In the Life”. McCartney’s sweet voice guides us in this gospel tune. His right hand plays thorough a series of chords while his left is playing single notes. As the drums roll into a crash on the cymbals trumpets, trombones, and a tenor saxophone blast melancholy notes. This is Phil Spector’s version – a “naked”/stripped down version with just the four Beatles (as originally intended) is available on the remix album Let It Be…Naked. It’s a beautiful song that has become somewhat of a standard, as with many Beatle songs.

Rock ‘n’ roll songs echoing the Beatlemania era are “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “One After 909”, and “Get Back”. This time around, The Beatles borrow the blues rock/hard rock sounds of 1969 from it’s key players: Led Zeppelin, Creem, the Jimi Hendrix Experience to name a few. All three were played during the rooftop concert in January 1969, the final Beatles performance. 

At the time of its release, the album received mixed reviews. Rolling Stone magazine criticized Spector’s over-produced “wall of sound” as its been called. “Musically, boys, you passed the audition” wrote Rolling Stone in 1970, “In terms of having the judgement to avoid either over-producing yourselves or casting the fate of your get-back statement to the most notorious of all over-producers, you didn’t”.

The magazine was too quick to judge. Months after their break up the Let It Be tapes were given to Phil Spector who gave four tracks the make-over that Rolling Stone condemned the entire album for. These tracks were “Across the Universe”, “Let It Be”, “The Long and Winding Road” and “I Me Mine”. The rest were free of Spector’s angelic and often cheesy orchestral manipulations, and just rocked. 

Jonathan Reynoso can be reached at:  reynosojonathan@gmail.com.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Fake News in Trump’s America
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
Andrew Levine
Trump’s End Days
Jeffrey St. Clair
High Plains Grifter: the Life and Crimes of George W. Bush
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Fighters Always Feared Trump Would be a Treacherous Ally
Paul Street
On the TrumpenLeft and False Equivalence
Dave Lindorff
Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ But What’s New about That?
Rob Urie
Democrats Impeach Joe Biden, Fiddle as the Planet Burns
Sam Pizzigati
Inequality is Literally Killing Us
Jill Richardson
What Life on the Margins Feels Like
Mitchell Zimmerman
IMPOTUS: Droit de seigneur at Mar-a-Lago
Robert Hunziker
Methane SOS
Lawrence Davidson
Donald Trump, the Christian Warrior
William Hartung – Mandy Smithburger
The Pentagon is Pledging to Reform Itself, Again. It Won’t.
Richard Moser
The Empire Is Running Out of War Stories. Or is it? Will American Exceptionalism Rise Again?
Roger Harris
Why Trump is Facing Impeachment
Doug Lummis
Everything Going Wrong in Okinawa
Ramzy Baroud
Administrative Torture: Free Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian Citizen in Israeli Prison
Christopher Ketcham
Ode to the Drums of Ginger Baker
W. T. Whitney
Upcoming Elections Represent Testing Time for Bolivia’s Socialist Government
Louis Proyect
Building Soldier Resistance Under the Shadows of Fascism
Mark Ashwill
Reflections on General Giap and the End of an Era in Vietnam
Gabriel Leão
Killing the Messengers: Rising Violence Against Journalists and Indigenous Leaders Defending the Amazon
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: All Talk No Action
Arthur Hoyle
The Meaning of Donald Trump
Dean Baker
Those Quaint Corporate Scandals in Japan
Laura Santina
Take Their Feet Off Our Necks
Julian Vigo
The New Workers’ Revolution is Afoot
Robert Koehler
The Rights of Nature
Dan Bacher
New Report Reveals Oil Waste in CA Aquifers
David Swanson
Trump’s Opponents Have Him Beat . . . When It Comes to Incompetence
Ben Debney
Liberals, Class and the Joker Complex
Brian Wakamo
Paying College Athletes: California Takes on the NCAA
Theo Wuest
Don’t Leave Equality to the Supreme Court
Jesse Jackson
To His Wealthy Donors, Trump is the Grifter
Mairead Maguire
Pathways to Peace
George Wuerthner
Logging Wild and Scenic River Corridors in the Name of Reducing Wildfires is a Really Bad Idea
Tracey L. Rogers
We Can’t Hug Away Injustice
Mike Garrity
How the Alliance for the Wild Rockies Stopped Trump From Bulldozing Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Grizzly Bears into Extinction
Lawrence Wittner
Why Are Americans So Confused About the Meaning of “Democratic Socialism”?
Nicky Reid
Climate Cthulhu: A Post-Modern Horror Story
Seth Sandronsky
A Sacramento King’s Ransom: Local Tax Dollars and the Owner’s Wealth
Susan Block
Cougar 2020?
David Yearsley
Mother Mallard’s Little Boy Grows Up
Elliot Sperber
Taking Out Columbus
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail