As Let It Be celebrates its 50th today, we have been looking back at what the different members of The Beatles perceptions of their last studio album—a record that John Lennon hated so much that he needed to walk away from the band to fulfil his creative needs.
Let It Be was, of course, a huge commercial success. It was a Beatles record, after all. However, the project wasn’t an immediate hit with the critics who, at the time of release, viewed the record as being ‘too clean’ and it’s over-produced nature shaved away some of The Fab Four’s charm. Rolling Stone‘s John Mendelsohn damning words at the time read: “Musically, boys, you passed the audition. In terms of having the judgment to avoid either over-producing yourselves or casting the fate of your get-back statement to the most notorious of all over-producers, you didn’t.”
It would seem that Lennon would agree with Mendelsohn’s appraisal of the record, especially the title track which he did not consider to be a ‘Beatles track’ at all. Despite, it has to be said, in the decades that would follow ‘Let It Be’ has gone on to establish itself as one of their most well-known numbers. The song famously came to Paul McCartney after a dream in which he’d seen his deceased mother, but Lennon was completely scathing of it, later explaining to writer David Sheff: “That’s Paul. What can you say? Nothing to do with the Beatles. It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be.’”
Lennon then went on to discuss how he thought Macca was attempting to replicate the commerical successes that Simon & Garfunkel had enjoyed with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ rather than fulfil some creative urge. He added: “I think it was inspired by [Simon & Garfunkel’s] ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters (sic).’ That’s my feeling, although I have nothing to go on. I know he wanted to write a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’.”
In a long-lost interview which was recorded shortly after The Beatles had finished recording the album with Village Voice writer Howard Smith—which didn’t surface until 2013—Lennon didn’t hold back, revealing: “We were going through hell. We often do. It’s torture every time we produce anything. The Beatles haven’t got any magic you haven’t got. We suffer like hell anytime we make anything, and we got each other to contend with. Imagine working with The Beatles, it’s tough.”
The bespectacled Beatle went on to discuss how the tensions had grown within the band to a point in which the fun had now been lost and positive memories of the recording process remained few and far between. He added: “There’s just tension. It’s tense every time the red light goes on.” The singer, who also described the LP as a “strange album. We never really finished it. We didn’t really want to do it. Paul was hustling for us to do it. It’s The Beatles with their suits off.”
Fans may have thought that The Beatles decide it call it a day too early but with hindsight, they had drifted apart from each other on both a personal level and musically, if they all wanted feel fulfilled then they had no choice but to go their own separate ways.