Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Beatles 

Let It Be... Naked

Wednesday, Dec 17 2003
The common wisdom regarding the Beatles' final record, Let It Be -- which was released in 1970 to a dispirited public and critical response -- is that it was tarted up and defiled by the evil pop producer Phil Spector, who was called in to remix the album after the band had disintegrated into drug-laden acrimony. In the revisionist myth, Spector is the boogeyman who took a great, raw rock album and turned it into sugary Muzak, a wrong that has been righted by the release of this new, unmixed version.

The truth, as it often does, lies somewhere outside the spin. The new Naked album does give a glimpse of a different Beatles sound than the one long since etched into our collective memory. On some tracks, particularly the more stripped-down numbers that open the newly sequenced album ("Get Back," "Dig a Pony"), the changes are negligible: You may notice a slightly different ambience, but the songs remain virtually unaltered. On others, the contrasts are impressive. The band's grungy side emerges on bluesy jams like "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling," revealing rough edges that were smoothed out in the final mix (Paul's soulful yelps are as charming as they are distracting; John's laid-back sneer becomes slightly more pronounced).

In the "new" mix, two lost heroes emerge: The first is keyboardist Billy Preston, whose lithe, funky accompaniment was largely buried under the sleek layers that Spector crafted, while the second is Spector himself, who gathered the shards of the Beatles' bitter final sessions and polished them into enduring pop gems. The swelling orchestral arrangements that many consider the hallmark of Spector's "interference" may have been imitative of the Beatles' studio mentor, George Martin, but they were also entirely appropriate and immensely helpful. Spector took Paul's grandiloquent ballads "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let It Be" -- sweet but faltering piano-based demos in the "naked" versions -- and elevated the songs toward the timeless feel that McCartney was aiming for. Likewise, his mix of "Don't Let Me Down" is striking, taking Lennon's knockoff of a Bobby Bland- style blues jam and transforming it into a gorgeous and sincere love song. The Naked album is a tantalizing glimpse into the Fab Four's creative process, yet also shows how much they had come to rely on a little help from the studio booth. Although the Beatles were zonked out on speed, smack, and cynicism, Spector approached their music with fresh ears, and the world was the winner.

About The Author

Lawrence Kay


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival
    Crowds gathered September 6-7 for the 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. Visitors enjoyed arts, crafts, cultural exhibits, food and a dog fashion show. Photographs by Dhoryan Rizo.
  • Felton: Touring the Redwoods
    Blue skies meet redwood canopies in the mountain town of Felton, located just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 9. Once a bustling logging community, the town is now a mix of mellow locals and serene wilderness. Visitors can enjoy the redwoods in nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and splash in swimming holes in the San Lorenzo River. For a bite to eat stop by Rocky’s Cafe for fruit-laden pancakes, barbeque at the Cowboy Bar & Grill and poolside burgers at the Trout Farm Inn. Other stops worth checking out include Roaring Camp Railroads, the Mount Hermon zip line tour, and the educational Bigfoot Discovery Museum. For beer or cocktails a log cabin bar has you covered.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular