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Exclusive Book Excerpt: Michael Lindsay-Hogg on the Making of 'Let It Be'

In his memoir 'Luck and Circumstance,' pioneering director recalls tension among the Beatles while making their last film

September 27, 2011 12:30 PM ET
michael lindsay-hogg luck and circumstance
'Luck and Circumstance' by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
Courtesy Michael Lindsay-Hogg/Random House

'Luck and Circumstance,' the memoir by acclaimed director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, is being published by Alfred A. Knopf on September 27th. In it are behind-the-scenes glimpses of Old Hollywood and Swinging Sixties London, stories from the golden age of BBC British drama and an intimate look at the pre-dawn of rock video, a genre that Lindsay-Hogg pioneered if not outright created.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed videos with The Rolling Stones for fifteen years, starting with Jumpin' Jack Flash, and also their fabled Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. He also directed videos for The Beatles, including Revolution and Hey Jude, as well as their last film, the documentary 'Let It Be.'

Here is an exclusive excerpt from Luck and Circumstance about the making of that film.

On January 2nd, 1969, The Beatles arrived more or less as scheduled at the large chilly sound stage at Twickenham Film Studios and began, in a listless manner, to see if they could create joy again.

As the days progressed, The Beatles were acting as anything but a single entity. Paul would usually be on time and the others usually within an hour or two of the call time, John always with Yoko, so for the first time there were five people sitting within the creative circle. But "call time" is a movie term, and though they'd all acted in movies, they weren't actors. They were musicians and the idea of being filmed as they were doing something intimate, and subject to change, was unfamiliar to them and, maybe, unpleasant. On some days, one of them wouldn't show up and the ones who were present would just rehearse bits and pieces and then go home.

But there were good days when they got stuck into making a song work. But things had changed so much since their early collaborative days. They weren't writing songs together anymore, as Lennon and McCartney had done as teenagers sitting in the parlor of Paul's house in Liverpool or in a hotel room on the road. Now one of them would write a song and then come in and demo it for the others, go through the chords, and the songwriter would really regard the others as sidemen, instructed to play their parts.

And there was no idea that any of us could agree on, to do with the TV special. Ringo wanted to do it at the Cavern, the little club in Liverpool where Brian Epstein had first seen them. John and Yoko didn't really care where we did it but did seem up for some sort of adventure, or maybe they just wanted to get out of the cold barn at Twickenham. George didn't seem to want to do it at all. Paul was the one who kept pushing for us to make a plan. His character is resolute, and I think in his heart Paul felt if he couldn't get them to agree as a group to do something as a group that they might fall apart, and, because of his nature, that was the last thing he wanted.

From the book, 'Luck and Circumstance' by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Copyright (c) 2011 Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Published by Alfred A. Knopf.

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