The Beatles Let It Be movie captured the band as it disintegrated into four solo careers. There is musical magic in the film, enough to spur the musicians to record the album Abbey Road, but the animosity in the studio is palpable on celluloid. This may be one of the reasons the documentary is available on old formats. That may change according to Paul McCartney, who told a Canadian radio station the Beatles film may hit on DVD and Blu-ray in 2020 in time for its 50th anniversary. But there is a twist. It won’t be the original film.
“I think there may be a new version of it,” McCartney told Yannick Tremblay during an interview for Canada’s Radio X. “That is kind of the latest gossip.”
Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary film was recorded in January 1969, while the band rehearsed songs for their twelfth and final studio album Let It Be. originally planned as a television documentary that would go along with a concert broadcast, the film was supposed to look in on the band like a fly on the wall. The movie ends with the group’s iconic, and much-copied, last live concert on the roof of Apple’s headquarters.
McCartney told Radio X “the original movie was really sort of about the break-up of The Beatles and so, for me, it was a little sad.” The movie’s release has been on hold for years, reportedly because Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon, felt the same way: It highlighted the division in the band. The tensions overshadowed the fun.
“There’s about 56 hours of footage,” McCartney told Radio X. “And someone was talking the other day to me and said ‘the overall feeling is very joyous and very uplifting. It’s like a bunch of guys making music and enjoying it, you know. So I think there is some talk about making a new movie, re-editing it from the same period, from the same footage. We can make a new film out of it. So who knows, that may be happening in a year or two.”
Let It Be has not been officially available since the 1980s. Ron Furmanek restored the film and remastered the soundtrack in 1992, but it was shelved by Apple Corps. Plans for a DVD version of Let It Be were cancelled at the request of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in June 2008.
“We keep talking about it,” McCartney said. “We have meetings at Apple, you know, the original Beatles Apple. And it’s one of the things you never quite know what’s gonna happen with it. So there’s no story at the moment. But I keep saying ‘what’s gonna happen?’, because people keep ask about it.”
The United Artists film, which hit New York theaters on May 13, 1970. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, on behalf of the group, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for the film.
The song “Let It Be” was written during the White Album sessions, while McCartney was worried about the band’s future after the death of their manager Brian Epstein. Like the song “Yesterday,” “Let It Be” had its origins in a dream. The bass playing songwriter dreamed of his mother, Mary, who died of breast cancer in 1956 when McCartney was 14. “Let It Be” was the last single to be released by The Beatles before they announced their breakup. “The Long And Winding Road” came out two months later.
The album Let It Be came out on May 8, 1970. The album featured organist Billy Preston, who Lennon suggested be made a member of the band at one point, until McCartney reminded him that four Beatles were enough. The album was supposed to catch the band in the studio live, with no overdubs. After several mixes by Glyn Johns were rejected by the band, rock and roll pioneer Phil Spector was given the tapes to produce the album. McCartney wasn’t happy with the strings the producer cushioned some of the songs in. The band released Let It Be… Naked in 2003.
Paul McCartney’s latest album Egypt Station recently debuted at the top spot on Billboard.
You can hear the interview here:
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.