After having finished work on The White Album1 in October 1968, The Beatles were unsure of what to do next. In the start of 1969, Paul McCartney was enthusiastic about starting work on new songs, with the aim of performing them live. Several different venues for this were suggested, including the Albert Hall, a flourmill, in a ship, in the Sahara Desert or a Roman amphitheatre. Glyn Johns worked as balance engineer and as an unaccredited producer, and Denis O'Dell was appointed as producer of the TV Show; it was he who suggested that the rehearsals should themselves be filmed to create a documentary on Beatles At Work.
The Get Back Project
The project suffered difficulties from its start on 2 January. The 30 songs that had appeared on The White Album had exhausted The Beatles' supply of song material, and they had not yet had enough time to write enough new material. They also had not fully rested from work on The White Album, and came into the project with old arguments still brewing in the air. The Twickenham Film Studio, where they were working, had a claustrophobic atmosphere, and did nothing to help the mood.
By Friday 10 January, the TV idea collapsed. Paul McCartney had an argument with John Lennon, and, furthermore, George Harrison left the group. George Harrison later described the Get Back sessions as 'the low of all time' and John Lennon agreed by calling them 'Hell.. the most miserable sessions of all time'. On the following Wednesday, George had a meeting with the other three and said he would return to The Beatles if they made an album and not a live performance, and also move from Twickenham Film Studios into the Apple Building. This they did, and despite some technical trouble caused by Alexis 'Magic Alex' Mardas, started working on their album on the following Wednesday. The TV material would help contribute to a film that would accompany the album.
At Apple... And On The Roof
The Apple recording sessions were a lot happier than at Twickenham, mainly because Billy Preston2, a talented pianist, was brought in to play too. Everyone acted on their best behaviour, yet by the 26 January, everyone was fed up of the whole project. It was decided that it would be finished with a concert on the roof of the Apple Building on 30 January.
On that day, 11 songs were performed outside on the roof in what was The Beatles' last live performance; three versions of 'Get Back', two of 'Don't Let Me Down' and 'I've Got A Feeling', as well as 'The One After 909', 'Dig A Pony', 'God Save The Queen' plus a few seconds of 'Danny Boy'. George Harrison, though, only sang on 'I've Got A Feeling', not being entirely convinced by the idea. By the beginning of the third performance of 'Get Back', the police had arrived and the performance was over.
The next day, 31 January, 1969, the final Get Back session was completed, with indoor performances of 'The Long And Winding Road', 'Let It Be' and 'Two Of Us'. The project was abandoned, and The Beatles were fed up of the whole idea. By April they started work on the Abbey Road album, which they finished in August. Glyn Johns, though, worked to make the material recorded in January into an album. He produced two versions on different dates:
The album cover was designed to show that The Beatles had gone full circle, as it showed The Beatles in a pose identical to the one they had used on the cover of Please Please Me, their first album. Even the words used on the front cover were similar, using the same font. It said GET BACK with Let It Be and 11 other songs, echoing PLEASE PLEASE ME with Love Me Do and 12 other songs. This photo, though not used for the Get Back project was later used on the The Beatles 1967 - 1970 Blue Album.
Let It Be
In the end, though, neither version of the Get Back album was used. On the 3 January, 1970, the band returned to work on songs for the album recording 'I Me Mine'. After two days more work, the second Get Back album version was produced. The Beatles were unsure as to whether they liked the album or not, and once again abandoned it. On Monday 23 March Phil Spector started work at John and George's invitation to re-produce the Get Back tapes. It was from this moment on that the project started to be called Let It Be, along with the film that was accompanying it. By 2 April, Phil Spector finished. The 88-minute film opened on 13 May, and the album was released on 8 May. Paul McCartney was unhappy with the way his songs, especially 'The Long And Winding Road' had been treated, and he had attempted to have the album changed before release, but his requests were ignored.
The Beatles officially split up on 10 April.
Differences Between Get Back and Let It Be
Most of the songs on the Get Back albums are on the Let It Be album:
Let It Be
- Two Of Us
- Dig A Pony
- Across The Universe
- I Me Mine
- Dig It
- Let It Be
- Maggie Mae
- I've Got A Feeling
- One After 909
- The Long And Winding Road
- For You Blue
- Get Back
Those that aren't are 'Teddy Boy', 'Rocker', 'Save The Last Dance For Me', and 'Don't Let Me Down'. 'Teddy Boy' was a Paul McCartney song, and is on Paul McCartney's McCartney album, and a version is on the Beatles Anthology. 'Rocker' was a group instrumental, and is unavailable. 'Save The Last Dance For Me' was a song originally released by The Drifters in 1960, but had often been sung by John during their Liverpool and Hamburg days. 'Don't Let Me Down' was released as the B-side to the 'Get Back' single, and is available on the Past Masters: Volume 2 album.
Two songs that nearly were included on the second Get Back version, but weren't in the end were 'You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)' and 'What's The New Mary Jane'. Both of which have versions on the Beatles Anthology. 'You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)' was released as the B-side to the 'Let It Be' single, and John Lennon apparently planned to release a version of 'What's The New Mary Jane' with the Plastic Ono Band. The original version of 'Dig It' lasted just under four minutes, but the version that ended up on the Let It Be album was only 58 seconds long. The version of 'The Long And Winding Road' on the Get Back album would have been more like the version on the Beatles Anthology.
The Let It Be album said on the back, 'This is a New Phase Beatles Album' but the truth was that The Beatles were over.