Let It Be… Naked

Wall of Sound

Let It Be… Naked is a remixed and edited version of the 1970 ‘Let It Be album’ by The Beatles released in 2003. The album is presented in a form which Paul McCartney considers closer to its original artistic vision: to ‘get back’ to the rock and roll sound of their early years rather than the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector in the production of the final ‘Let It Be’ album.

McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the ‘Wall of Sound’ production style of the Phil Spector remixes, especially for his song ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ which he believed was ruined by the process. George Harrison gave his approval for the Naked project before he died. McCartney’s attitude contrasted with Lennon’s from over two decades earlier. In his 1971 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon had defended Spector’s work, saying, ‘He was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.’

In 1969, The Beatles had decided to go back into the studio to rehearse and record new songs and have the project filmed for a documentary. The project’s original working title was ‘Get Back,’ and an album and film were to be the end products of these sessions. Being older and more independent, the individual Beatles’ tolerances for each other’s quirks had decreased: for instance, George Harrison walked out of the sessions after the latest in a series of arguments with John Lennon over his music and after being harassed by Paul McCartney about his playing style on a take of ‘Two of Us.’ By the time the Beatles had decided the project was completed, all parties involved were so aggrieved that all of the resultant recordings and film were left on the shelf for close to a year, with no one wanting to face the gruelling editing process. (In the meantime, later that year, they recorded and released ‘Abbey Road’ – with sessions running smoothly and tensions largely abated. Also issued was the single ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’/’Old Brown Shoe’).

After nearly a year, with some parties at EMI wanting more of a return on the early 1969 sessions besides just the ‘Get Back’/’Don’t Let Me Down’ single (released in 1969), Phil Spector was brought in by John Lennon and George Harrison and given the task of going through the hundreds of hours of audio tape and film and coming up with a marketable product to tie in with the impending film release. The end result was the album ‘Let It Be,’ released in 1970.

One of the biggest complaints about the ‘Let It Be’ album has centered on Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ technique, with some critics claiming the quality of the music was diminished by his orchestration and use of choirs. Critics of the album (including McCartney) have said the original intent in the early 1969 sessions had been to keep the music simple, both to remain true to their rock and roll roots and to enable them to easily replicate the songs in possible future live performances.

The origin of the ‘Let It Be… Naked’ project arose during a chance reunion of Paul McCartney and ‘Let It Be’ film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg on a plane in the early 2000s. McCartney and Lindsay-Hogg discussed the unavailability of the film on both VHS and DVD, which led to discussion of a possible remixed ‘soundtrack’ to accompany a proposed future DVD release. In early 2002, McCartney recruited ‘Abbey Road’ in-house engineers Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse to go back into the vaults and assemble a brand new studio album from the 30 reels of tape recorded during the 1969 sessions. Since much of the ‘Let It Be’ material had been recorded live, many sound anomalies existed on the tapes. Hicks, Massey and Rouse did extensive work, digitally cleaning up each individual track of every song before remixing them. Some takes were edited together to come up with the best possible final version. For ‘Dig a Pony,’ an errant note sung by John Lennon was even digitally pitch-corrected.

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