Remixed “Get Back” and “Let It Be” albums?
Giles Martin was recently guesting the “Rockonteurs” podcast, hosted by Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet and Pink Floyd sideman Guy Pratt. During the conversation, he can be interpreted to say that both the planned “Get Back” album from 1969 and the finished “Let It Be” album from 1970 have been remixed. So maybe these are two of the discs in the 50th anniversary box we expect to come in the wake of the upcoming “Get Back” documentary? A version of the “Get Back” album was secretly uploaded to Spotify in 2019, as we have reported previously.
Giles Martin: “What happened was they finished everything, and Glyn Johns made an album which they never released, which we’re thinking we might release with ‘Let It Be’. And then, John or George, who were both working with Phil Spector at the time, or thinking about working with him, took the tapes to Phil Spector and got him to finish off, and did all the things my dad would normally do: add strings, choir and overdubs, ’cause there were no overdubs, so Phil Spector overdubbed everything. And then they released it. And they asked my dad, ‘what do you want the credits to say’ and he replied ‘Why dont you say: Produced by George Martin, overproduced by Phil Spector?'”
Q: “But what are you doing? I take it you are going back to the tapes and doing a remix like you have done with the last three abums?”
Q: “And are you doing it with Phil’s strings or without?”
GM: “Yeah, absolutely. Because that’s what it is”
The conversation then turns to Giles’ remixes of some Spector-produced “All Things Must Pass” tracks for Martin Scorcese’s “Living In The Material World” film about George Harrison.
It was Mal Evans who in an article in the Beatles Monthly Book explained all about the “Get Back” album that was planned for release in August 1969 (read his article in one of our older posts). A tape recording of that record was played on a radio station in the USA, and widely bootlegged ever since. But after studio engineer and de facto producer Glyn Johns reworked the LP several times (as detailed in this article from The Source), everyone was still dissatisfied, and the project was shelved while the Beatles concentrated on their new album, “Abbey Road”.
After “Abbey Road” was released, work continued on the documentary on the “Get Back” recordings from January 1969, and they wanted to release a soundtrack album. After “Get Back” had been released as a single in 1969, it was considered “old”, a new song was needed to entice the audience with. The song they chose from the January 1969 recordings was “Let It Be”. It now became the name of both the film and the soundtrack album, and was released as a new single in 1970. Phil Spector took the recordings and reworked them into the album we know today as “Let It Be”.
The two albums have a lot in common, in that many of the songs are the same, although not always in the same takes. But while the “Get Back” album stayed true to the project’s original idea: only “live” takes without any overdubbing, Spector acted more as a remixer and producer with the “Let It Be” album. He re-edited, removed instruments and recorded and added choir and orchestra, and got Ringo to re-record drums.
McCartney was so dissatisfied with the end result that many decades later he took the initiative to make yet another edition of the album, “Let It Be… Naked”, which was released in 2003. Here all the work of Spector was gone, and the songs were reassembled, remixed and reworked. The team of engineers behind the project had also been allowed to edit, so that they could, for example, retrieve a verse from one take and insert it into another to correct errors. This time, it was the result that mattered: the album should sound like a regular studio album from The Beatles.
Here is the podcast where Giles was interviewed.