If you’re looking for one album which charts the moment where the ’60s party finally ended and the harsh light of a new decade shone unmercifully through the curtains, look no further. No matter that the hosts of this particular party invented pop culture as we know it, set the social agenda for the most decadent decade of the century and still managed to swap numbers with the meaning of life along the way; by the end of the ’60s, for The Beatles, the fun was over. And, inevitably, along with the bleary eyes, shattered egos and cultural comedowns, it brought the mother of all hangovers. That hangovers was called ‘Let It Be‘.
Right now, the arrival of a revamped ‘Let It Be’ is something to get genuinely excited about. In a climate where the bands as diverse as The White Stripes, Jet, King Of Leon and The Coral are all happily looting the tail-end of the ’60s, its CD-friendly makeover has been prompted by Paul McCartney‘s irritation at Phil Spector‘s overblown production finally reaching breaking point, and the timing couldn’t be better. Yet on its original release, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
By May 1970, The Beatles were all over bar the in-fighting. Hooked on heroin, and hounded by the vice squad over the exhibition of their erotic honeymoon lithographs, John and Yoko fled to Denmark to crop their hair and search for UFOs.
Ringo had seen his film debut The Magic Christian premiere in New York and was casually pondering a career as a Hollywood film star.
George and Paul, meanwhile, were both busy adding the finishing touches to their solo album. To cap it all, in April, only weeks prior to the release of ‘Let It Be’, news was clumsily leaked to the world that Paul was leaving the band, exasperated by internal politics. Out in the cloud formation.
In such a gloomy climate, any Beatles release would have been treated with suspicion, but their new album wasn’t designed to cheer anyone up. Housed in a black-edged sleeve, featuring distracted individual portraits of the band and laboring under a resigned title.
‘Let It Be‘ felt like an invitation to a wake, and the press reacted accordingly. “Can this really be the last will and testament of the once respected and most famous group in the world?”, unaware that the certain N Gallagher would have something to say on the matter 25 years on.