years after the event

get back acetate

Forty years ago this month the Fabs were recording what would become their last LP, Let It Be. The album was the result of 20 days of the band rehearsing for what turned out to be a 45-minute concert performed on the roof of the Apple building.


I hope to do at least one major post on these rehearsal sessions seeing as how I spent this past summer listening to nearly one hundred hours of the rehearsal tapes on bootleg.

The story that surrounds this period of the Fabs career is that it was an unhappy time for them and these rehearsals were something of a disaster. The truth is a bit more complicated than that. I want to write a bit about what went on in the rehearsals because some of it is pretty strange and hilarious. In the mean time let’s look at what the critics said about the finished, such as it was, LP, Let It Be. When it was initially released on May 8, 1970, the reviews were mostly unkind. Under the headline “New LP Shows They Couldn’t Care Less,” NME reported, “If the new Beatles soundtrack is to be their last then it will stand as a cheapskate epitaph, a cardboard tombstone, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop”. Rolling Stone, in replying to Lennon’s “hope we passed the audition” line, said: “Musically, boys, you passed the audition. In terms of having the judgment 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…”

Time of course has been kind to the album and how little the Spector production, especially on The Long and Winding Road, added doesn’t matter much when there were moments like this when the band was absolutely on fire.

Nearly thirty years after the LP was released the only rock critic who matters was asked by a music magazine to show off his favorite albums. Apparently forgetting that he usually cites his favorite Fabs LP as Pepper, Brian Wilson presented Let It Be.

wilson shows off his records

Wilson weighs in

If you are interested in these Get Back (Let It Be) rehearsals they can be painstakingly downloaded, 83 discs in all, each disc split into two downloads to avoid compression issues, by clicking the “fab sounds” link in my blog roll. If you’d like to only dip your toe in the water, listen to this two hour crash course that aired on NPR a number of years ago. It is pretty excellent but shys away from some of the more lurid aspects of the sessions while focusing on the music.

4 responses to “years after the event

  1. Any idea as to the publication date of that NME article? I’m using the phrase cardboard tombstone to describe Let It Be in a paper on The Kinks’ 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman & The Money-Go-Round and was curious where I might be able to find a legit citation.

    Us Beatle geeks know the phrase by heart. Academic types, not so much…

    • chainedandperfumed

      Yeah, I got you on this one. According to the fantastic book The Beatles After the Breakup 1970-2000 by Keith Badman, the NME review of Let It Be appeared on May 23, 1970. Here’s one of the book’s entries for that day:

      “Reports from America indicate that the Let It Be album has advance orders of 3,700,000 (worth $25,900,00), the largest initial sale in the history of the American record industry. Although Let It Be reaches number one in the UK charts today, reviews of the album are not good. New Musical Express describes it today as “a cardboard tombstone” and a “sad and tatty end to a musical fusion”.

      Apparently this is the same day that McCartney’s first LP topped the American charts.

      Check amazon for the citation specs on the Badman book, published by Omnibus Press, or throw caution to the wind and cite this shithole site. That’ll probably go over well!

      Thanks and good luck.

  2. You got a page number for the Badman book?

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