Thirty-odd years is a long and winding time to bear a grudge. But, with the issue of Let It Be... Naked
in late 2003, Paul McCartney finally had a version of the album
in a form which he considered truer to his original vision for operation Get Back
, back in '69 — before Phil Spector got anywhere near it.
Now, there are those who would argue that digitally diddling the tapes and remixing tracks by combining different takes, and even going so far as to retune
Lennon's voice, isn't precisely 'as nature intended'
, to quote a phrase. I shall limit myself to as much of a technical explanation as I understand it myself, and try to steer clear of audiophilic moralizing. Besides, how Sir P wants to spend his time and money is up to him.
A chance meeting on a plane with the LIB
film director, Michael Lindsay Hogg, sparked the idea of remixing the soundtrack to tie in with a (still pending) DVD release. George, with writing credits
on the LP, gave his consent to the project, though didn't live to hear the results. I kind've imagine him green-lighting it with a cooled-down reprise of the "Two Of Us"
outburst: 'Whatever makes you happy, Paul...'
Presumably Yoko's approval must have been sought and granted also. Don't s'pose Ringo needed to be asked, but his neatly non-committal evaluation of the two versions is probably the fabbest possible way to view them: 'They both have their place'.
The film-neg image of the original sleeve photos — with George's picture swapped for a live one — compounds the impression of the package being a different way of looking at (or listening to) the same material.
Paul supervised three Abbey Road studio engineers — Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse — in the laborious task of cleaning up thirty tape reels of 'the shittiest load of badly recorded shit', as John had tagged the recordings just before he authorized their passing to Spector. Whether or not Macca re-grew his beard in the name of authenticity, I have been unable to ascertain. The inter-track dialogue was also deleted (though much of it was included on a 22-minute 'fly-on-the-wall bonus disc).
In putting all the bits back together, there were changes to both the order and content of the original tracklisting. A coda-clipped "Get Back"
kicks off, for example, while "words of wisdom"
wait until the end. "Dig It"
was dug out (though it would've been a perfect opportunity to've unearthed the extended version), and neither did 'e fancy 'is chances with "Maggie Mae"
a second time round. "Don't Let Me Down"
, however, finally got to be where it always should have been, in with the remaining rooftracks
For "Across The Universe"
, attentions returned to the 1968 acetate recording, which had formed the basis of both George Martin's 'Wildlife mix' and Spector's album version. The strings and choirs are conspicuous by their absence, as are they — needless to say — on "The Road"
which had marked the end of the line for McCartney as part of the group, giving him his excuse to go public with the announcement.
Whatever has subsequently been made in Ms Ono's role in the rupture, there is no doubt that Paul, at the time, was pointing the finger fairly and squarely at Spector and — by implication — at Allen Klein and the other three Beatles for pushing and keeping him out of the picture. 'The [individual] Beatles had become bigger than The Beatles', as George later put it.
Paul certainly wasn't the only person to take exception to the Wall Of Sound job which hallmarked their final album release. But, time is a healer, they say: and the opportunity to go back in time and play with a piece of history must have helped McCartney to get it fully out of his system.
Maybe now he can finally Let It Be