Let It Be
The dissolution of The Beatles was a famously unpleasant situation: By 1968, Lennon and McCartney were sometimes working simultaneously in separate studios; only about half of the White Album’s songs featured the full band. Conceived by McCartney as an effort to reclaim the band’s marital groove, Let It Be presented The Beatles not as an elaborate studio art project but as four guys making music together in a room.
For as divisive as Phil Spector’s 11th-hour contributions were (George Martin joked that he should be given a credit for production, while Spector should get one for overproduction), they were also overstated: Only a handful of tracks here—most notably Lennon’s “Across the Universe” and McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road”—were all that heavily orchestrated. While some were chopped up and reassembled to get a better shape, the rest of the album (“Get Back,” George Harrison’s breezy “For You Blue,” the surrealistic blues of Lennon’s “Dig a Pony,” recorded live on the rooftop of the band’s Apple Corps offices) hewed more or less to what McCartney had envisioned: The Beatles rediscovering the poise and spontaneity of a great live band. (“Let It Be” was a relatively big production even before Spector came on board.)
Still, it’s a bittersweet, sometimes uncomfortable listen, and only further muddled by the eternal debate of whether or not it was actually the band’s last album, having been more or less finished before Abbey Road was started but not released until the band had broken up about a year later. (“And now we’d like to do ‘Hark, the Angels Come!’” Lennon squeaks in falsetto before “Let It Be”—a jab at what he felt was Paul’s sodden pseudo-religiosity.) Still, listen and you can still hear the heart, humor, and camaraderie that made them so unusual to begin with: McCartney’s “Two of Us,” the throwback “One After 909,” the eternal “Get Back.”
In September 1969, Lennon quit. Abbey Road came out about a week later. McCartney effectively quit the following April, and put out his first solo record, McCartney, about a week later. In a self-interview that doubled as album promotion and carefully worded statement of personal independence, McCartney said that his only immediate plans were to grow up.