Well after weeks of battling here are the 8 songs that have made it to the Division Championships. The winners of this battle will go on to the Final Fight to determine which Beatles song is the greatest of all time!
Let’s get to it!
DIVISION 1: THE CLEAN CUT YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Hard Days Night vs Things We Said Today
John Lennon wrote this song in 1964. The lyrics were written in ball-point pin on the back of an old birthday card.
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal (verses), electric and acoustic rhythm guitars
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal (middle-eight), harmony vocal, bass
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, bongos, cowbell
George Martin – piano
The song is composed in the key of G major and in a 4/4 time signature.
The Opening cord to this song is the “The Cord heard around the world!” Played by George Harrison there are many different opinions on the cord itself. Is it a G7add9sus4 cord? Or a G7sus4 one? Or maybe G11sus4? Regardless it is a cord that defines the early years of the Beatles and one that you can “name that tune in one note“.
Chart Position and Awards:
Spent 13 weeks on the billboard charts, 2 of them at number 1.
In 1965 it won The Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. In 2004, this song was ranked number 153 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Paul McCartney wrote the song in May 1964 while cruising the Caribbean aboard a yacht called Happy Days with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher.
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
John Lennon – acoustic rhythm guitar, piano
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
McCartney was particularly satisfied with his chord change, F major to B flat major—instead of the more obvious F minor—which first occurs beneath “…wishing you weren’t so far away” in the song.John Lennon accentuates McCartney’s strident acoustic guitar strumming by triple hitting a low A note on a piano. The tempo of the song moves from ballad to rock and back with a minor to major key change during its middle eight section.
Chart Position and Awards:
Things We Said Today was first released on 10 July 1964. On that day Parlophone issued the A Hard Day’s Night album and single in the UK. The song was on the second side of both releases, which were both chart toppers.
It was also included on the EP Extracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night, which was released on 6 November 1964.
In the US it first appeared on the album Something New, which was released on 20 July 1964.
DIVISION 2: THE SHAGGY YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
We Can Work It Out vs In My Life
Paul McCartney (with some help from John Lennon) wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus, with lyrics that “might have been personal, probably a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher.
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
John Lennon – harmony vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonium
George Harrison – tambourine
Ringo Starr – drums
Paul says, “I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.”
With its intimations of mortality, Lennon’s contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney’s cajoling optimism, a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as “Getting Better” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. As Lennon told Playboy in 1980:
“In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’—real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.'”
Based on those comments, some critics overemphasised McCartney’s optimism, neglecting the toughness in passages written by McCartney,such as “Do I have to keep on talking until I can’t go on?”. Lennon’s middle shifts focus from McCartney’s concrete reality to a philosophical perspective in B minor, illustrating this with the waltz-time section suggested by George Harrison that leads back to the verse,possibly meant to suggest tiresome struggle.
Chart Position and Awards:
Day Tripper was originally intended to be The Beatles’ final single of 1965. However, We Can Work It Out was felt by the group and Brian Epstein to be the more commercial song.
Lennon disagreed, and fought to retain Day Tripper as the lead song. The result was the single being marketed as the world’s first double a-side, which was released on 3 December in the UK – the same day as Rubber Soul; and three days later in the US.
Of the two songs, We Can Work It Out was more commonly requested by record buyers, and was likewise favoured by radio stations. In the UK it entered the chart at number one five days after its release, where it remained for five weeks and sold over a million copies.
We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper also topped the charts in the US. It was The Beatles’ fastest-selling single since Can’t Buy Me Love. It was with this release that Lennon’s dominance of The Beatles began to cede to McCartney, who was steadily becoming more influential as a musical leader of the group.
John Lennon is credited with writing this tune but Paul McCartney has said in later interviews after The Beatles broke up, that he contributed to the final version and in some cases taking full credit for the entire melody (see, whatta dick!). The extent of Paul’s contribution may never be known but this song will forever be a “Lennon” one to me and to most people.
According to Lennon, the song’s origins can be found when the English journalist Kenneth Allsop made a remark that Lennon should write songs about his childhood. Afterwards, Lennon wrote a song in the form of a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Those original lyrics are on display at The British Museum.
However, Lennon found it to be “ridiculous”, calling it “the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip’ song”; he reworked the words, replacing the specific memories with a generalised meditation on his past. “Very few lines” of the original version remained in the finished song. According to Lennon’s friend and biographer Peter Shotton, the lines “Some [friends] are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all” referred to Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962) and to Shotton.
John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass
George Harrison – harmony vocal, lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, bells
George Martin – electric piano
The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge.At that time, Lennon had not decided what instrument to use, but he subsequently asked George Martin to play a piano solo, suggesting “something Baroque-sounding”.Martin wrote a Bach-influenced piece that he found he could not play at the song’s tempo. On 22 October, the solo was recorded at half-tempo (one octave lower) and tape speed was doubled for the final recording, solving the performance challenge and giving the piano solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.
Chart Position and Awards:
Released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, it is ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” as well as fifth on their list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs. The song placed second on CBC’s 50 Tracks. Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.
DIVISION 3: THE MUSTACHE YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Strawberry Fields Forever vs A Day in the Life
The song was written by John Lennon. It was inspired by Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named “Strawberry Field” near his childhood home.
Lennon began writing the song in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester’s How I Won the War in September–October 1966. The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse: “There’s no one on my wavelength / I mean, it’s either too high or too low / That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right / I mean it’s not too bad”. He revised the words to this verse to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the refrain (which then functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He then added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields.The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song’s recording. For the refrain, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”The first verse Lennon wrote became the second in the released version, and the second verse Lennon wrote became the last in the release.
- Part one
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, lead guitar, piano, maracas
Paul McCartney – Mellotron, bass
George Harrison – electric slide guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, backward cymbals
- Part two
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal
Paul McCartney – timpani
George Harrison – swarmandal, bongos
Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, backward cymbals
George Martin – cello and trumpet arrangement
Mal Evans – tambourine
Neil Aspinall – guiro
Terry Doran – maracas
Tony Fisher – trumpet
Greg Bowen – trumpet
Derek Watkins – trumpet
Stanley Roderick – trumpet
John Hall – cello
Derek Simpson – cello
Norman Jones – cello
The song was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major. The recorded version is approximately in B-flat major; owing to manipulation of the recording speed, the finished version is not in standard pitch (some, for instance consider that the tonic is A). The introduction was played by McCartney on a Mellotron, and involves a I- ii- I- ♭VII- IV progressiontowards not the verse but the refrain: “Let me take you down” (which involves a chromatic 8- 7- ♭7 melody note descent). In fact we are not “taken down” to the tonic key, but to “non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants” combining with “chromatic melodic tension intensified through outrageous harmonisation and root movement” The phrase “to Strawberry” for example begins with a highly dissonant G melody note against a prevailing Em chord (in the key of A), then uses extremely dissonant A and A# notes (against the Em chord) till the resonant E note is reached on “Fields”. The same series of mostly dissonant melody notes cover the phrase “nothing is real” against the prevailing F#7 chord (in A key). A half-measure complicates the meter of the verses, as well as the fact that the vocals begin in the middle of the first measure. The first verse comes after the refrain, and is eight measures long. The verse (for example “Always, no sometimes…”) starts with an F major chord in key of B♭ (or E chord in key of A) (V), which progresses to G minor in B♭ key (or F#M in A key) (vi) in a deceptive cadence. According to Alan Pollack, the “approach-avoidance tactic” is encountered in the verse, as the V chord (for example E in A key) appearing on the words “Always know”, “I know when” “I think a No” and “I think I disagree”) never resolves into a I chord (A in A key)) directly as expected. Instead, at the end of the verse, the V chord turns (on the word “I think I disagree”) into a I chord (A in A key)) at verse end after passing through the E-flat major in B♭ key (or D chord in A key) (IV) chord “on “dis-agree“. In the middle of the second chorus, the “funereal brass” is introduced, stressing the ominous lyrics. After three verses and four choruses, the line “Strawberry Fields Forever” is repeated three times, and the song fades out with a guitar, cello, and swarmandal. The song fades back in after a few seconds in to the “nightmarish” ending, with Mellotron playing dissonant notes (achieved by recording the Mellotron “Swinging Flutes” setting backwards ), scattered drumming, and Lennon saying, “cranberry sauce”, after which the song fades back out.
Chart Position and Awards:
When manager Brian Epstein pressed Martin for a new Beatles’ single, Martin told Epstein that the group had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which in Martin’s opinion were their two finest songs to date. Epstein said they would issue the songs as a double A-side single, as they had done with their previous single, “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby”. The single was released in the US on 13 February 1967, and in the United Kingdom on 17 February 1967. Following The Beatles’ philosophy that songs released on a single should not appear on new albums, both songs were ultimately left off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Martin later admitted that this was a “dreadful mistake”.
For the first time since “Love Me Do” in 1962, a single by The Beatles failed to reach number one in the UK charts. It was held at number two by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me”, because the BBC counted the two songs as two individual singles; discounting the fact that The Beatles’ single outsold Humperdinck’s by almost two to one. In a radio interview at the time, McCartney said he was not upset because Humperdinck’s song was a “completely different type of thing”. Starr said later that it was “a relief” because “it took the pressure off”. “Penny Lane” reached number one in the US, while “Strawberry Fields Forever” peaked at number eight. In the US, both songs were included on the Magical Mystery Tour LP, which was released as a six-track double-EP in the UK.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” was well-received by critics, and is still considered a classic. Three weeks after its release, Time magazine hailed the song as “the latest sample of The Beatles’ astonishing inventiveness”. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic hailed the song as “one of The Beatles’ peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs”. Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head that it “shows expression of a high order… few if any [contemporary composers] are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.” In 2004, this song was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. The song was ranked as the second-best Beatles’ song by Mojo, after “A Day in the Life”.
Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was partially responsible for the shelving of his group’s legendary unfinished album, Smile. Wilson first heard the song on his car radio whilst driving, and was so affected that he had to stop and listen to it all the way through. He then remarked to his passenger that The Beatles had already reached the sound the Beach Boys had wanted to achieve. Paul Revere & The Raiders were among the most successful US groups during 1966 and 1967, having their own Dick Clark-produced television show, Where the Action Is. Mark Lindsay (singer/saxophonist) heard the song on the radio, bought it, and then listened to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher. When the song ended Lindsay said, “Now what the fuck are we gonna do?” later saying, “With that single, The Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be”.
A Day in the Life comprises distinct segments written independently by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with orchestral additions. While Lennon’s lyrics were inspired by contemporary newspaper articles, McCartney’s were reminiscent of his youth. The decisions to link sections of the song with orchestral glissandos and to end the song with a sustained piano chord were made only after the rest of the song had been recorded.
According to Lennon, the inspiration for the first two verses was the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court.Lennon’s verses were adapted from a story in the 17 January 1967 edition of The Daily Mail, which reported the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death.
“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”
The second verse contains the line “The English Army had just won the war”; Lennon was making reference to his role in the movie How I Won the War, released on 18 October 1967. In Many Years from Now, McCartney said about the line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections: “This was the time of Tim Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and we wrote, ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’.”
McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a dream. John said: “I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.”McCartney had written the piece as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the bus to school, smoking, and going to class. The orchestral crescendos that link the verses and this section were conducted by McCartney and producer George Martin.
The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall”. His friend Terry Doran suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.
John Lennon – lead vocals (verses), acoustic guitar, maracas, piano (final chord)
Paul McCartney – piano, lead vocals (middle-eight), bass guitar
George Harrison – maracas
Ringo Starr – drums, congas, piano (final chord)
George Martin – harmonium (final chord) and producer
Mal Evans – alarm clock, counting, piano (final chord)
Geoff Emerick – engineering and mixing
Orchestrated by George Martin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Conducted by George Martin and Paul McCartney
John Marston – harp
Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D. Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott – violin
John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – viola
Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Delziel, Alex Nifosi – cello
Cyril Mac Arther, Gordon Pearce – double bass
Roger Lord – oboe
Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – clarinet
N. Fawcett, Alfred Waters – bassoon
Clifford Seville, David Sandeman – flute
Alan Civil, Neil Sanders – french horn
David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – trumpet
Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T. Moore – trombone
Michael Barnes – tuba
Tristan Fry – timpani
The Beatles began recording the song, with a working title “In the Life of…”, on 19 January 1967, in the innovative and creative studio atmosphere ushered in by the recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” over the preceding weeks. The two sections of the song are separated by a 23-bar bridge. At first, the Beatles were not sure how to fill this transition. Thus, at the conclusion of the recording session for the basic tracks, this section solely consisted of a simple repeated piano chord and the voice of assistant Mal Evans counting the bars. Evans’ guide vocal was treated with gradually increasing amounts of echo. The 23-bar bridge section ended with the sound of an alarm clock triggered by Evans. The original intent was to edit out the ringing alarm clock when the missing section was filled in; however it complemented McCartney’s piece well; the first line of McCartney’s song began “Woke up, fell out of bed”, so the decision was made to keep the sound. Martin later said that editing it out would have been unfeasible in any case. The basic track for the song was refined with remixing and additional parts added at recording sessions on 20 January and 3 February. Still, there was no solution for the missing 24-bar middle section of the song, when McCartney had the idea of bringing in a full orchestra to fill the gap.To allay concerns that classically-trained musicians would not be able to improvise the section, producer George Martin wrote a loose score for the section. It was an extended, atonal crescendo that encouraged the musicians to improvise within the defined framework.
Following the final orchestral crescendo, the song ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history. Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos, with Martin on the harmonium, and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The final chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.
The piano chord was a replacement for a failed vocal experiment: on the evening following the orchestra recording session, the four Beatles had recorded an ending of their voices humming the chord, but after multiple overdubs they wanted something with more impact. This final E chord represents a VI to the song’s tonic G major, although it has been argued that the preceding chord shifts from F (“them all”) to Em (“Now they know”) Em7 (“takes to fill”) C (“love to turn you”) and B (“on”) followed by the chromatic ascent, shifts our sense of the tonic from G to E; creating a feeling of tragic inevitability instead of the usual hopeful uplift associated with a VI modulation.
Chart Position and Awards:
“A Day in the Life” became one of the Beatles’ most influential songs. Paul Grushkin in his book Rockin’ Down the Highway: The Cars and People That Made Rock Roll, called the song “one of the most ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking works in pop music history”. In “From Craft to Art: Formal Structure in the Music of The Beatles”, the song is described thus: “”A Day in the Life” is perhaps one of the most important single tracks in the history of rock music; clocking in at only four minutes and forty-five seconds, it must surely be among the shortest epic pieces in rock”.
The song appears on many top songs lists. It placed twelfth on CBC’s 50 Tracks, the second highest Beatles song on the list after “In My Life”. It placed first in Q Magazine’s list of the 50 greatest British songs of all time, and was at the top of Mojo Magazine’s 101 Greatest Beatles’ Songs, as decided by a panel of musicians and journalists. “A Day in the Life” was also nominated for a Grammy in 1967 for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist Or Instrumentalist. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “A Day in the Life” at number 26 on the magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and in 2010, the magazine deemed it to be The Beatles’ greatest song. It is listed at number 5 in Pitchfork Media’s The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s.
In April 1967, McCartney played a tape of the song to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, in Los Angeles. The song deeply affected Wilson, who was suffering growing emotional problems. Soon after, Wilson abandoned his work on the Beach Boys’ album Smile, and would not return to complete it until 2003. Van Dyke Parks later said, “Brian had a nervous collapse. What broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper.”
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel.
DIVISION 4: THE BEARD YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Come Together vs Let It Be
The song was written by John Lennon. The song’s history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California titled “Come together, join the party” against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. It has been speculated that each verse refers cryptically to each of The Beatles (e.g. “he’s one holy roller” allegedly refers to the spiritually inclined George Harrison; “he got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola” to Ringo, the funny Beatle; “he got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker” to Lennon himself; and “got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see” to Paul); however, it has also been suggested that the song has only a single “pariah-like protagonist” and Lennon was “painting another sardonic self-portrait”.
John Lennon – lead vocal, harmony vocal, rhythm guitar, handclaps, electric piano
Paul McCartney – bass guitar
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, maracas
This classic 1960s rock anthem with deep bluesy style was unlike any other song of its time in that it was constructed entirely of verse/refrains. There is no chorus and only one short guitar solo, acting as a bridge to interrupt the radical song structure. For the first eight bars, the tonic note D is repeated, eventually moving to the V chord and then to the IV chord. It then moves to the VI minor chord, which is a progression rarely used; the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” being a rare example. The refrain in actuality is three bars long, because the melody keeps going after the last A5 chord and comes to rest on the D5 chord after that. It is also important to mention the introduction of F# in the melody with a B minor triad. The tonic is held for four bars between each verse and is the same as the contents of the introduction.
Within the verse there are four one-bar structures; each one a non-sequitur. The lyrics end each time on the abrupt beat four of each measure, giving the verse an AAAA phrasing structure. The phrasing structure in the second half of the verse is two bars of BB. The C phrasing structure of the refrain has three measures becoming one long phrase and ending on the word “me” which ties everything together. There is an eleven-bar verse/refrain from a ten bar form. The one bar phrase into the two bar phrase and the three bar overlap creates plenty of deceleration and pushes the title line of the song to the spotlight. The melody of the verse stays within the range of a perfect fourth. Using mostly three notes (D, F, C) the tonic, flat three and flat seven, it moves away later only for contrast when it hits the II (E) and stays on that note for two bars. The refrain stands out as the highest notes in the piece (A). John Lennon decided to use modal interchange.
Chart Position and Awards:
“Come Together” was released as a double A-side with “Something” and as the opening track of Abbey Road. The single was released on 6 October 1969 in the US and 31 October 1969 in the UK.
Rolling Stone ranked “Come Together” at #202 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and #9 on their list of The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.
On the compilation album Love, “Come Together” is the 19th track. Instrumentals and some backing vocals from “Dear Prudence” fade in followed by the “Can you take me back” section of “Cry Baby Cry” as a transition.
The song was written by Paul McCartney. McCartney said he had the idea of “Let It Be” after a dream he had about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles (the “White Album”). McCartney explained that his mother—who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen—was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric. He later said, “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing ‘Let It Be’.” He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.”
George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals
John Lennon – Fender Bass VI, backing vocals
Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, piano, maracas
Ringo Starr – drums
Linda McCartney – backing vocals (on single release only)
Billy Preston – keyboards
Uncredited performers – two trumpets, two trombones, tenor saxophone, cello
The first rehearsal of “Let It Be” took place at Twickenham Film Studios on 3 January 1969, where the group had, the previous day, begun what would become the Let It Be film. During this stage of the film they were only recording on the mono decks used for syncing to the film cameras, and were not making multi-track recordings for release. A single take was recorded, with just McCartney on piano and vocals. The first attempt with the other Beatles was made on 8 January. Work continued on the song throughout the month. Multi-track recordings commenced on 23 January at Apple Studios.
The master take was recorded on 31 January 1969, as part of the ‘Apple studio performance’ for the project. McCartney played Blüthner piano, Lennon played six-string electric bass, Billy Preston played organ, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr assumed their conventional roles on guitar and drums. This was one of two performances of the song that day. The first version, designated take 27-A, would serve as the basis for all officially released versions of the song. The other version, take 27-B, was performed as part of the ‘live studio performance’, along with “Two of Us” and “The Long and Winding Road”. This performance, in which Lennon and Harrison harmonised with McCartney’s lead vocal and Harrison contributed a subdued guitar solo, can be seen in the film Let It Be. The film performance of “Let It Be” has never been officially released as an audio recording. The lyrics in the two versions differ a little in the last verse. The studio version has Shine until tomorrow…there will be an answer whereas the film version has shine until tomorrow…there will be no sorrow.
On 30 April 1969, Harrison overdubbed a new guitar solo on the best take from 31 January that year. He overdubbed another solo on 4 January 1970. The first overdub solo was used for the original single release, and the second overdub solo was used for the original album release. Some fans mistakenly believe that there were two versions of the basic track—based mostly on the different guitar solos, but also on some other differences in overdubs and mixes.
Chart Position and Awards:
Critical reception for “Let It Be” has been positive. In 2004, it was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, the magazine placed the song at #8 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs. Allmusic said it was one of “The Beatles’ most popular and finest ballads”. Ian MacDonald had a dissenting opinion, writing that the song “achieved a popularity well out of proportion to its artistic weight” and that it was “‘Hey Jude’, without the musical and emotional release.”
“Let It Be” won Academy Awards in 1971 in “Original Song Score” category as a part of documentary film “Let It Be”. It also won Grammy Awards for “Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special”.