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The Making of The 'Let It Be' Film: Daddy Has Gone Away Now

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Yesterday, Things We Said Today.
George: In America, ya know, they don't want all new ones . . . they need something to identify with aside from us.

John: I've been doing a lot of "Help" recently.

Paul: "Every Little Thing."

George: "Good Golly Miss Molly."

Paul: "Lucille."

John: When I do it for the fans I'm slinging it like a jerky.

How a group gets into its music can often be seen in the kind of music they play to get into themselves, and in Let It Be, this is only hinted at. The Beatles use oldies to get into new songs, not only as warmups ("if it's a slow one we'll omit it . . . if it's a fast one we'll git it . . .") but as a kind of invocation, as they summon up the presences of Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, His Majesty Richard Penniman, Antoine Domino, Buddy Holly, Larry Williams, Elvis, and some contemporaries like Mick, Dylan, Pete Townshend, Hendrix, and the Band.

500 Greatest Songs of All Time: the Beatles, 'Let It Be'

The list of oldies played in these sessions is almost a catechism: "Stand By Me," "Baby I Don't Care," "Thirty Days," "Hippy Hippy Shake," "Short Fat Fanny," "Fools Like Me," "You Win Again," "Turn Around," "Blue Suede Shoes," "True Love," "Wrong Yo Yo," "Sure To Fall," "Tennesee," "Maybelline," "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Little Queenie," "Rock and Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music," "Singing the Blues," "Midnight Special," "Michael Row The Boat Ashore."

Then there are the frequent and often inane searches for lyrics. Paul working on "Get Back":

Joe-Joe left his home in Tucson,
Arizona but he knew it couldn't last

Paul: No, that won't do . . . class, bass, mass, what about looking for another blast.

Ringo: Thought it was going to be a gas.

Paul: Hoping he would find a gal.

Paul: It's just a little production (sings):

Oh Commonwealth?

John (sounding like a Boston matron): Yes?

George's beautiful transcendental song, "All Things Must Pass," influenced heavily by the Band, Tim Leary, Buddhist texts, and St. Augustine, was neither included in the film or on the album.

The Water, Torchlit, 2,000 Arabs.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the now defunct Ready, Steady, Go – one of British television's better "pop" programs – and the Stones' Circus, directed two to four cameras in shooting Let It Be. And since some of the soundtrack lacked footage, special praise should be given to editor Tony Lenny, who made many of the looser ends meet.

During the shooting of Let It Be the Beatles talked about the film they wanted to have made. This Pirandello quality doesn't really come across in Let It Be. During one of the early rehearsals, Paul suggested the kind of film he had in mind: "Get very bright lights so you see everything, instead of moody lighting, that kind of thing. With everything here, it hardly needs scenery. Really, it all should be about him and his drum kit. Look at his drum kit, it really looks great, beautiful, sitting there. Then John and his guitar and his amp, sitting there, actually showing it at that minute. The scenery would just be the other things around, like the scaffolding, the other cameras. It's like in a news event, like on 'Jude' the little screams were more interesting than the postman. If you can think slow, not bang! bang! bang! Instead of getting all the pacing, a chair lift, the flow, the pace is already there. You can glide down from the roof on a one shot on to Ringo's face, float around, being careful not to miss anything. It's like Warhol's things; he goes to the other extreme, but he reckons there's a pace in Empire. Even a Tunisian amphitheater can be boring. I don't dig underestimating what's here. If it's going to be scenery, we should go the whole way and get galloping horses. You should get really close up, like right into one of John's eyes. Can you do that? That direction, rather than John and the moon."

Let It Be is not only a film about the Beatles deciding on the kind of film they wanted to appear in. It also shows them rehearsing for the imagined, debated possibility of their return to public performances after two and a half years. The House of Parliament, a Tunisian amphitheater, a Liverpool cathedral, a hospital, and on an ocean liner, "singing the middle eight as the sun comes up."

George: You know it's going to be the same thing there as here – it's going to be a bit nicer place to be in, but it's going to be even more complicated trying to plug in on all the mikes and tapes and all that crap.

Lindsay-Hogg: First of all visually the thing that interests me . . . naturally . . . Think of the helicopter shot over the amphitheater with the water with the lights and the water, torchlit, 2,000 Arabs. You know what I mean. Visually it's fantastic.

Paul: But if it was a fan club show. You remember the Wembley, or the Wimbledon one where we were in a cage, and like people were filing past; it was just a different kind of thing from what we ever did. It was terrible. That's not it. But that kind of thing made that show different because it was like playing to a thing, like a fan club.

John: I'm warming up to the idea of an asylum.

'Let It Be' 40 Years Later: A Look Back at the Beatles' Final LP

After all the possibilities in the world, and after all the transformations and posturings, it is the desire to be seen, to communicate with an audience, to hear the screams that will bring them into the present and pump energy into the myth that drives them onwards playing again in public. It would be an affirmation of the Beatles: "We really have to want to do a show at the end of it. I was saying to Mal this morning, because he had a dream last night of us doing the show, and he just said it was incredible, and I said I'd love to do that, just to play all these numbers one afternoon at the Saville to some people, or all day, or as in Hair, just setting up, rehearsing as the people walk in, sit down, get sandwiches and drink, and when we want to do a take we'd do sort of a take. Then we could do a couple of other small shows until we hit it and get over our nervousness with an audience."

The roof concert is both the conclusion of the film and the solution to the debate about where and if to perform for an audience. The Beatles, wind-swept as if on shipdeck, the crowd of mildly surprised office workers and mid-day shoppers acknowledging the Beatle's first concert in two and a half years:

Lindsay-Hogg: Shall we go on filming until we leave here?

Paul: What we're doing is still rehearsing and we'll get it together.

George: We'll collect our thoughts and you collect yours about where we'll do the concert.

Lindsey-Hogg: What about roof tomorrow?

Paul: We'll do the numbers. We're the band.

George: I'll do it if you've got us on the roof.

John: I'd like to go on the roof. I'll record the songs when you want to do it.

George: Anytime is paradise.

John: Anytime at all. You suggest where: Pakistan, the Moon, I'll still be there till you don't let me down. You'll be surprised at the story that will come out of this.

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Song Stories

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Van Morrison | 1968

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