Film and Documentary

Let It Be: The Beatles 1970 Documentary

Let It Be is a 1970 British documentary film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. featuring the Beatles as themselves. The film memorializes the rehearsing and recording of songs for the album Let It Be, in January 1969. Released just after the album dropped in May 1970, Let It Be is the final original Beatles release. The film also shows the unannounced rooftop concert by the group, the legendary last public performance of the four together.

The production is more of a fly-on-the-wall view, rather than your typical documentary format. No interviews, no narration, just the band rehearsing, with them discussing improvements to the songs. Billy Preston is also there, accompanying several of the songs. However, it’s crystal clear from the outset that McCartney is trying to dominate the proceedings.

On closer inspection, the cracks are visible. It’s seemingly more like Paul is desperately trying to get John’s attention, or at least evoke a response from him throughout.  At one point, Paul pontificates at John ad nauseum. John blankly stares back at him, looking rather bored, and nods occasionally. Lindsey-Hogg retained later stating it was “the back of Paul’s head as he’s yammering on and John looks like he’s about to die from boredom”. George and Ringo seem detached, and almost ill at ease throughout parts of the film, when they’re not playing music.

At one point, McCartney appears to criticize Harrison’s guitar part on Two of Us and a slightly tense conversation takes place between the two of them. McCartney clearly says, “I always hear myself annoying you” and tells Harrison that’s not his intention. Harrison responds that McCartney no longer annoys him, and that he is content to play what McCartney wishes or to not play at all. This apparently went on for a few days.

Not shown in the film is George actually saying he’s done, and leaving, staying gone for several days. He later stated: “I thought, ‘I’m quite capable of being happy on my own, and if I’m not able to be happy in this situation I’m getting out of here.’ So I got my guitar and went home and that afternoon wrote Wah-Wah”. During his absence, a fed-up Lennon apparently even floated the idea of using Eric Clapton to finish, however George eventually returned to complete the project.

An hour in, the scene changes to the now infamous rooftop concert. The band plays Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got A Feeling, One after 909, Dig A Pony, and a second, more rousing rendition of Get Back. Their magic is truly apparent, in the performance. However, the police or “bobbys” as they were known, seemingly call a halt to the proceedings during the second Get Back encore, and the concert ends abruptly after.

This documentary is the final episode of the greatest band that ever lived and plays out almost in slow motion. The participants are all physically present, however several times, they all look like they wish they were anywhere else. It also served as a stark reminder to the band of what once was, and now, was not.

The film is also truly a bittersweet ending to what had seemingly been a fairytale story up to that point. The project was later described by Lennon as “the camera work was set up to show Paul and not to show anybody else” and that “the people that cut it, cut it as ‘Paul is God’ and we’re just lyin’ around.” He also described Let It Be as a film “set up by Paul for Paul.” You can almost feel the dam breaking, along with our hearts.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].