Steve Matteo, author of The Beatles’ Let It Be, is taking over the blog today to talk about the everlasting influence and wisdom of the band, this album, and the people that he met through writing his 33 1/3...
The musical, cultural and historical phenomenon of the Beatles seems to know no bounds. When I began working on my 33 1/3 book on the Let It Be album back in 2002, I didn’t imagine the book would still be so relevant today. The Let It Be album was the last album released by the group, as a soundtrack to the Let It Be film; both were released in May of 1970. Oddly enough, the film was never released on DVD or Blu-ray, appearing only briefly on VHS in 1981, until now. In January of this year, news broke that the film would finally be released on Blu-ray. The bigger news is that there will be a new companion film, put together by non-other than Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. While there is no official release date yet, the new film and the original film will likely both be released in May of 2020 to mark the 50th anniversary of the original release.
The endless nature of the life of the Let It Be album and film is a central thesis of my history of the album and the film in my book. Since 55 hours of film and audio were recorded on film and Nagra tape, countless bootlegs of the audio recordings have come out, making it one of the most bootlegged albums in rock history. There was also Apple’s official re-release of the soundtrack album on CD and vinyl in 2003 re-titled Let It Be Naked.
Untangling that knotty jumble of audio recordings was part of the fun and detective work of writing the book. While my book in no way seeks to focus solely on the unreleased recordings, it led me to many people who were there for the filming and recording of the album. It was that aspect of writing the book that was the most rewarding.
Meeting with or in most cases conducting interviews by phone or e-mail with people who were directly or indirectly involved with the Beatles in the period before, during or just after Let It Be was unforgettable. While I was a fan of the group before taking on the project and felt I had a healthy knowledge of the album, the film and the group’s history, researching and writing the book made me realize how much I really didn’t know and made me fall in love with the group’s music all over again.
There were a number of people whom I vividly recall interviewing for the book who made a lasting impression on me. Among them is Klaus Voormann, who met the Beatles and befriended them when they first played in Hamburg, Germany in 1960 and who subsequently illustrated the Revolver album cover (for which he won a Grammy) and played with various members of the group on solo projects and whose bass work has found a place on countless sessions and concerts. Also in that category are record producer Alan Parsons; the director of the film, Michael Lindsay-Hogg; Peter Asher, head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple label, who was part of the duo Peter & Gordon; photographer Robert Freeman, who shot the photos of four Beatles album covers; and many others who worked at EMI, Abbey Road, Apple and with the Beatles. There were countless Beatles historians, particularly Mark Lewisohn, that I have become friends with, who elucidated the Beatles’ story for me as a result of a lifetime of single-minded Beatles scholarship.
Since the book came out, I have been asked at different times to provide quotes or write about the Beatles or to appear on radio to discuss the group. Also, through my tenuous connection to the group, I have met and interviewed others that were part of the group’s inner circle or story. It seems that nearly everyone I have connected with through the years that had some kind of personal or professional relationship with the group carries with them a warm fondness for and pride in their time with the group, or continued friendship. Unconnected to my work on the book, I became friends with Billy J. Kramer and his wife and have had the thrill of spending many hours with Billy talking about the group, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Liverpool and what it was like to be in the eye of the British Invasion storm.
Lately, I have once again been finding myself listening more and more to the group’s music and going back and reading some of the books I missed when they were first published. I continue to try and form a better understanding of the group’s post-breakup releases and reissues. I also continue to grapple with how their recordings have been released in the U.S. vs. the U.K., and in stereo vs. mono, not to mention the release history of all the singles and EP’s.
It will be roughly a year before I get to see the new Let It Be film, but I look forward to what new words of wisdom I might derive from the group’s story when that time comes.
Get yourself a copy of Steve Matteo’s The Beatles’ Let It Be, and continue exploring the legacy and magic of this album!