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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Let It Be b/w You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

In early 1970, Michael Lindsey-Hogg's documentary of the January '69 Get Back sessions was nearing completion.  Since the song Get Back had been released as a single almost a year earlier, it was decided that another McCartney composition would replace it as the title of the film.  And, in anticipation of the film's release, that song would be issued as a single.  Though they may not have realized it at the time, it would turn out to be the final official single in the group's catalog.

Let It Be - This inspirational hymn-like composition was a very personal one for McCartney, as it was based on a dream he had of his mother, who had died of cancer when he was a teenager.  It is difficult to understand how he could let this recording lie dormant for so long, but the title came to represent something very different from what he intended - the general attitude of the group as their partnership finally came to an end.

The version presented on Anthology 3 is from January 25th, with the band feeling their way through the song.  On January 31st, the day after the famous rooftop concert, they gather for the definitive version, although it was later subjected to numerous overdubs - the first song from these supposedly live sessions to get such treatment.  The line-up for the basic track features Paul on piano, Ringo on drums, George on guitar, John on bass and Billy Preston on organ.  In April of '69, as Glyn Johns was assembling his first attempt at a Get Back album,  George decided to re-do his guitar solo, giving a mellow performance well in keeping with the overall feel of the track.

After the Get Back album was rejected by the group, the recording went untouched until the new year, when Johns was ready for a second attempt.  On January 4th, 1970, Paul, George and Ringo went into the studio and added several overdubs to the song.  This marked the last day that any of the Beatles worked together as a group during their career.  George re-did his guitar part yet again, this time delivering a stinging solo.  Ringo added more drums and producer George Martin scored a brass and cello overdub.  Finally, Paul and George (and, according to at least one source, Linda McCartney) sang backing vocals.  However, Glyn Johns ignored all of these new additions and stuck with the first guitar overdub from April, but the Beatles once again rejected his proposed Get Back album.

In preparing the song for release as a single, Martin also chose the mellow April guitar solo, but used all of the other new additions, although he kept his brass and cello overdubs mixed quite low.      

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) - This comedy number by Lennon has the longest recording history of any song by the Beatles.  The group spent three days working on the backing track, which is composed of five different sections, on May 17th, June 7th and June 8th, 1967, sandwiched around the release of Sgt. Pepper.  The track then lay dormant for two years, until John, Paul and assistant Mal Evans added vocals on April 30th, 1969 - the same day that George recorded the first guitar overdub for Let It Be.  Again, the song was forgotten until John edited it down from six minutes to a more manageable four minutes for release as the A-side of a Plastic Ono Band single on November 26th of '69.  That single (backed with the even more bizarre What's the New Mary Jane from the "White Album" sessions) never materialized.  Ultimately, the song was chosen for the B-side of this final single.

The song is a wacky delight, with Paul turning in an especially outrageous vocal part in one section as lounge lizard Dennis O'Dell.  Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was invited to the June 8th, 1967 session and unexpectedly showed up with a saxophone, which he played on two sections - the cheesy ending and a ska-like piece which was completely deleted when the song was edited for release.  It can be heard on Anthology 2, which also happens to be the only stereo version of the song.

The single was released in early March, 1970.  It hit number one in the US, but peaked at number three in the UK.    

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