Did the Let It Be documentary (1970) portray The Beatles as more unhappy than they actually were? Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr think so, and that’s why the two surviving members of the Fab Four can’t wait for the upcoming The Beatles: Get Back doc by Peter Jackson.
Indeed, if we see the band joyously at work in January ’69, the doc will represent a revelation. After all, George Harrison recalled the Get Back/Let It Be sessions as a “terrible,” “stressful, difficult time.” And he described the film shoot as “very unhealthy and unhappy” for him.
Instead of comparing documentaries to see who’s right (or who has the more sympathetic film editor) you might just look at the music The Beatles recorded in January ’69. In George’s corner, you won’t find much.
If you add up the songs that made it onto Let It Be, you’d only get a total of 4 minutes 6 seconds of music prior to Phil Spector’s enhancements. And you’ll hear John Lennon taking two guitar solos on the record as well.
George Harrison couldn’t interest The Beatles in his promising new songs
When you run down the list of songs The Beatles tried out early in the January ’69 sessions, you find a number of tracks George later included on his debut solo album. On the very first day, George played “All Things Must Pass” and “Let It Down” for his bandmates’ consideration.
Obviously, neither turned up on Let It Be when it hit record stores the following year. The same can be said for “Isn’t It a Pity,” one of the standout tracks from All Things Must Pass (1970).
Likewise, “Hear Me Lord” got a hearing by The Beatles on the third day of the sessions but wouldn’t make the cut. “All Things Must Pass” got an extensive second look on this third day as well. That didn’t rewrite the narrative.
At that point, you can see why George felt the darkness returning. “I think the first couple of days were OK,” George said of these sessions in Anthology. “But it was soon quite apparent that it was just the same as it had been when we were last in the studio — and it was going to be painful again.”
On the 10th day of the rehearsals/film shoot, George actually quit The Beatles briefly. And after he returned to the band his contribution to the sessions remained minimal.
Phil Spector added to George’s ‘I Me Mine’ to get the track over 2 minutes
As for the Harrison-penned songs on Let It Be, The Beatles eventually went with two of his lesser compositions. “For You Blue,” which came in at 2:32, got buried at the end of side 2. That leaves only “I Me Mine,” which originally featured a running time of 1:34.
If you’ve seen Let It Be, you might recall George introducing “I Me Mine” to little enthusiasm from his bandmates. (A completely uninterested John Lennon takes Yoko Ono for a waltz at that moment.) And when the group recorded “I Me Mine” in January 1970 John again declined to contribute to the track.
It wasn’t until Phil Spector took the Let It Be tapes and beefed them up that “I Me Mine” got its 2:26 runtime. (Spector added orchestration.) But by then The Beatles had dissolved. Looking at “For You Blue,” it’s worth noting John plays the guitar solo and Paul does some work on prepared piano.
You might also note that John took the guitar solo on “Get Back,” the record’s hit single. In sum, rack up two short tracks for George while subtracting two guitar solos. Though he started out hoping for the best, he had to accept the old discouraging treatment from his bandmates.