Friday, 29 November 2013

The Beatles' Let It Be by Steve Matteo Review


Let It Be was initially conceived as a warm-up for the Beatles to return to live stage gigs with the first to be a lavish show in a ruined Roman Amphitheatre in Tunisia and in actuality became just one show - the legendary rooftop concert, the Beatles’ last live gig together. Originally titled Get Back to highlight the band returning to its roots, the rehearsals were filmed for an accompanying documentary and showed a band on the verge of breakup, and it was retitled Let It Be, as a fitting epitaph to the fractured group. Though the album would be the last released under the Beatles name, it was recorded before their actual last album, Abbey Road.
Steve Matteo writes wonderfully about the creation of the troubled recordings, interviewing the many engineers, documentary crew, and Apple staff who witnessed the work, and using quotes from the Beatles themselves, giving us an insight into the process and the band’s personalities rather than in-depth interpretations on the songs themselves, like other books in the 33 1/3 series sometimes do.
Despite John’s increasingly troubling drug problems (he and Yoko were snorting a lot of heroin at the time) and George’s discomfort at Paul’s overbearing attitude, the recordings over several weeks were very fruitful with the band enjoying playing music together and in addition to the songs that appeared on Let It Be, half of the songs to appear on Abbey Road would be written during this period and others would appear on John, Paul and George’s solo records.
Matteo provides detail of the equipment used and recording process without being too didactic, gives us a compelling image of the chaotic atmosphere of the Apple offices, and even manages to write about the complex bootleg cottage industry spawned in the years following the scores of tapes of these sessions disappearing. He follows the record into the 21st century when a Phil Spector-less production of the record appeared called Let It Be…Naked, up to Phil Spector’s murder trial (which he would later be found guilty of).
Let It Be certainly isn’t The Beatles’ best record but it contains some legendary classics and captures an interesting time in the group’s existence, namely what it was like near the end. As someone who hasn’t read a lot of Beatles books and wasn’t looking for an overlong account of this time, this 130+ page small book was exactly what I was looking for and perfectly sufficient for general readers interested in the subject. It’s a fascinating story, well-researched and written by Steve Matteo and a highly enjoyable read.

The Beatles' Let It Be

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