Arguably one of the most controversial albums of all time, today marks 50 years since the release of The Beatles’ twelfth and final studio album, Let It Be. Released one month after the band had officially split, Lennon had been out of the band for some time, the album divides critics when it was first released.
Let It Be will always be more famous for being the final release from the most famous band in the world rather than the songs on it. But to overlook the record as the embers of a once roaring fire is a serious mistake. Below, we rank the album’s songs from worst to best and take a closer look at the landmark release.
Part of the sadness and anger at the band’s split was that they were arguably nearing the peak of their individual powers. Lennon and McCartney had begun to further flesh out their songwriting styles and George Harrison’s rise to prominence had seen him similarly championed as a wonderful talent.
The Beatles were on top form and it shows in Let It Be.
Ranking The Beatles’ Let It Be from worst to best
‘Maggie Mae / Dig It’
We’ve decided put these two snippets together as it is too hard to call either scrap of a single a ‘proper’ Beatles song. But instead, we have some colloquial charm and Lennon’s attempt to return the band back to their roots.
Skiffle and slapstick was the name of the game then and on ‘Maggie Mae’ especially Lennon harkens back to a bygone age. On ‘Dig It’ the group are icon heavy and grabbing the attention of every listener.
‘The Long And Winding Road’
The Beatles final single and final US number one is a slightly saccharine one. Possibly sent to number one for its overarching sentiment rather than expert craft the song still lilts in all the right places.
The infamous Phil Spector is as much a part of this song as Paul McCartney and added the lush choral arrangements as overdubs after the original had been recorded back in January of 1969.
‘One After 909’
The Beatles go a little bit rockabilly on this number but despite the trepidation, the band manage to avoid the pastiche pitfalls and instead bring a bluesy charm to ‘One After 909’.
The version featured on the record comes from The Beatles now-legendary rooftop performance in London back in 1969. Written primarily by Lennon, it operated as the album’s opener upon its release in 1970. Boogie-woogie Beatles.
‘For You Blue’
A love song form George Harrison that we know is for his wife Pattie Boyd. It also acted as the B-side to the final single release ‘The Long and Winding Road’. It’s a classic ditty twinged and twanged with the delta blues.
Ironically it’s one of the better band performances on the record considering it was a George Harrison song. His inability to get tracks like ‘All Things Must Pass’ on a Beatles album while light-hearted affairs like this made it, was one of the rifts between the group that refused to heal.
‘Dig A Pony’
Another track taken from that legendary performance on the roof of Apple Records is ‘Dig A Pony’. It’s a soulful moment for the band with Lennon’s swagger and Harrison’s rhythm working to add a big punch of personality.
The live recording offers up some rough and ready touches that may have otherwise been polished out. The joy of listening to The Beatles perform live at this point in their career is so rare that the track takes on extra gravity because of it.
It adds weight to the bass, power to the guitar and passion to the vocals.
‘I’ve Got A Feeling’
Largely regarded as the final song Lennon and McCartney truly collaborated on, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ is powered by the partnership and elevates the band’s late rocker sound to new levels.
The beauty of this song is that it is two original songs, one from Paul and one from John, somehow dovetailed together.
Lennon’s ‘Everybody Had a Good Year’ is inserted into the middle of Paul’s ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and rings out across the airwaves as the final truly joyous moment the partnership ever shared.
Of course, the full-throttle foot-stomper ‘Get Back’ was always going to find a place in the top half of this list. Likely a fan-favourite among the band’s imperious support the song sees The Beatles in full flow.
There isn’t much about ‘Get Back’ that hasn’t been pawed over endlessly. From it’s offhand guitar riff creation to it’s single release with Billy Preston in ’69 to finding its way on to Let It Be and the feeling it came to represent. ‘Get Back’ is part of the group’s iconography.
The album’s closing track had its roots in protest folk but it soon turned into a triumphant rock and roll anthem. The final moment on record form The Beatles would always need to be special and ‘Get Back’ fits the bill.
‘Two Of Us’
One of the most unusual songs of The Beatles. Not because it differed dramatically from their style, but because it remains as one of the best Beatles songs you’ve never heard. Sure, there are diehard fans and avid listeners who will recognise the track but the majority of everyday listeners will likely have missed this gem.
The Macca-penned number was played as the final appearance of the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show. It’s a fitting tribute as it not only works as a fantastic farewell tune but also sheds light on the problems the band were facing.
Lyrics “you and I have memories/longer than the road that stretches out ahead” or “you and me chasing paper/getting nowhere” suggested Macca was reaching out to his friend. Either way, the song remains as a sumptuous vision of the band.
‘I Me Mine’
It would end up being the title of George Harrison’s memoir and put the final stamp of approval on Harrison’s songwriting chops. It was also the final song the band ever recorded together in Twickenham.
The track is another song deeply rooted in the turbulent relationships the previously close friends were experiencing. Egos had become unbearable and Harrison’s not-so-subtle comment was a cutting one.
It also highlighted exactly how Harrison’s debut solo album All Things Must Pass would sound like. Transcendental in moments the cut is only pulled back down by The Beatles trademark bounce.
‘Let It Be’
There isn’t much we can say about the iconic titular track. The song is as ubiquitous as Happy Birthday and ranks among one of the finest songs ever written. It’s a song made perhaps even sweeter after learning of its conception.
“I had a dream in the sixties where my mum who died came to me in a dream and was reassuring me, saying: ‘It’s gonna be OK. Just let it be…” said Macca in an interview. It’s been a widely known story for years and adds an ethereal glow to this already angelic track.
One of the most covered songs of all time, ‘Let It Be’ will be remembered as a touching ballad forevermore. It’s power when heard live is truly unbelievable and speaks of the song’s connecting power.
‘Across The Universe’
Despite ‘Let It Be’ being one of the most famous songs ever written, for our money, Lennon’s ‘Across The Universe’ ranks as the best song on the album. Lennon himself said of the song, “It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best, I don’t know. It’s good poetry or whatever you call it. Without tunes it will stand.”
It’s hard to argue. The track’s power lay in the guiding hands of Lennon’s lyrics. Perhaps beginning to find the true cause of his music, something he would take with him into his solo albums, the song is pure poetry if not a little misplaced.
“I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know,” remembered Lennon. “I was irritated, and I was thinking. She must have been going on and on about something and she’d gone to sleep and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream.”
“I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated song, rather than a “Why are you always mouthing off at me?” [The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom! I don’t own it you know; it came through like that.”
Despite their modest beginnings, the lyrics Lennon conjured were vivid and highly visual, offering up a vision of the world only The Beatles could truly pull off.