If we’ve learnt anything from reality TV, it’s that if you put cameras anywhere – a restaurant, an Ibiza rep pub crawl, a village bake off, even the most arse-scratching sofa telly sesh – the egos involved will explode. So put a film crew into the most hot-house environment outside of Theresa May’s emergency supplication lessons – The Beatles on the brink of collapse in Twickenham Film Studios, January 1969 – and it’s no surprise that tensions were amplified.
That’s what makes Let It Be project the one that the Beatles machine is most reluctant to revisit. After all, when you’re flicking through old pictures of a relationship, you tend to skip over the ones of the tense final meal that ended with the bill being rammed down your throat.
So fans are getting understandably excited by the news that Peter Jackson is set to direct a new version of the film from the 55 hours of original footage and 140 hours of audio recordings, including the 42 minute film of the band playing on the roof of Apple Corps, the original guerrilla gig. Unless he somehow contrives the notion that the Beatles split was down to in-fighting over some manner of magical ring, it promises to be the most revealing new Beatles project in decades. Here’s why…
Let It Be is a semi-lost film
For such a high-profile slice of rock’n’roll history, Let It Be is surprisingly obscure. It’s been unavailable on any non-defunct technology since the last VHS copy got chewed up in the 1980s. There’s never been a DVD or Blu Ray release of the film, and you won’t find this baby on Netflix. It’s almost as though the remaining Beatles were happy to let it fade into antiquity – after all, it didn’t paint McCartney in a particularly favourable light…
It might include more hints about the split
The original film contained the barest of traces of dissent in The Beatles ranks – when McCartney criticised Harrison’s guitar part on ‘Two Of Us’ and George curtly replied “I’ll play whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.” McCartney has called the sessions “hell… the most miserable sessions on earth” and George actually walked out of the sessions – and the band – a few days into filming, but that event didn’t make it into director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original version.
Considering various members convinced Lindsay-Hogg to remove other contentious scenes, it’s not unfair to consider the original film as The Whitewash Album. So there’s great potential for a more warts-and-all version that spotlights the divisions, like footage of open-band surgery. Or will Macca want Jackson to erase all of his narkiness and concentrate on delivering a forensic study of the musical construction process? Actually, we’re not sure which we’d find more fascinating.
We haven’t seen half the rooftop concert yet
The last ever Beatles gig is amongst the most legendary live performances ever, yet of its 42 minutes the original film included just 21. OK, so most of the remaining footage consists of another three or four runs through ‘Get Back’, but at this point, we’ll take anything we can get. Jackson’s film had better include every second of footage from when they step onto the roof to when the filth drags them off, or we’re calling the police again.
We might get to hear the lost post-Beatles album (sort of)
There’s always been a haze of mystery around the solo records that the various Beatles made during the life of the group, as John, Paul and George slunk away to let off their own individual creative pressure valves. In fact, many songs that ended up on solo albums were played during the Let It be sessions, so with astute editing we might get to hear what ‘Every Night’, ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’, ‘Gimme Some Truth’, ‘Jealous Guy’ and ‘All Things Must Pass’ might’ve sounded like on a record together, played by the Fabs. Sigh.
And a ‘preview’ of ‘Abbey Road’
Besides the solo songs, several ‘Abbey Road’ tracks were worked on during the sessions, but didn’t make the cut for the movie. So here, hopefully, will be our chance to imagine what ‘Let It Be’ could’ve been like with ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’ in place of ‘Dig It’ or ‘Maggie Mae’. Plus there’s a chance we might get to hear Lennon singing ‘I Lost My Little Girl’, the first song McCartney ever wrote aged 14, another lost cut.
The original film is set for reissue too
For the purists, a reissue of the original Let It Beis due to follow Jackson’s film in 2020, to mark its 50thanniversary. Let It Be marathon it is, then.