In 1969, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr began writing and rehearsing new songs for their album Let it Be. It would be their last album and the band would break up the following year. Luckily, a film crew was there to catch it all.
This is not the clean cut, happy go lucky, goofy fab four A Hard Day’s Night being chased by screaming teenage girls. This is four dudes who’ve been together long enough to not waste time being polite or sugar coat any artistic (or egotistic) differences of opinion.
There’s no real attempt at a narrative in Let it Be. No preamble in opening titles to let the viewer know where we are the history of The Beatles. It’s a real fly on the wall approach. Just natural, barley composed shots of the band in studio, working on new songs together.
Amongst the friction, you can sill see the amazingly strong bonds that formed between them over all the years of living, working and touring together. A couple of inane conversations between them about absolutely nothing are some of the sweetest moments of Let it Be. Seeing what made this quartet click in the first place, what made them able to literally change the world.
You can also see the pure joy they all get from the music. None of them look happier or less concerned with petty rivalries, than when they’re playing a song together. It’s great too, to see what accomplished musicians they all were at this stage in their career. It seems so obvious to say it about the biggest band to ever strap on guitars, but the musicianship casually thrown around their studio is really amazing.
I’ve always found Octopus’s Garden to be one of the best terrible songs ever recorded. It’s so jaunty and silly and just pretty shitty. But I’ll be buggered if I don’t like it. And to watch The Beatles working on it, arranging it and learning it, makes it’s slightness stand out even more.
The other thing that stands out in Let it Be, always lurking in the shadows, looking for ways to ruin everything, is notorious succubus, Yoko Ono. Every time she’s on camera, Ono just looks like the epitome of your mate’s bitch girlfriend who insists on tagging along on a boys’ night out, then complains all night that you’re doing blokey stuff, like drinking beer and watching the footy.
Let it Be culminates with the now legendary live performance from the roof of the record label’s building. It’s a great, no frills, gritty performance of stripped back, no frills guitar rock, without all the flourishes that had been such a major part of later albums by The Beatles. And even more so than moments of them playing in the studio, watching Paul, John, George and Ringo play live makes it hard to believe they ever broke up. The just look so in sync with each other.