switched on pop

How Many Let It Be Reissues Does It Take for the Beatles to Get the Vibe Right?

Illustration: Iris Gottlieb

It’s been a little over 50 years since the release of the Beatles’ final album, Let It Be, and the accompanying documentary. To commemorate the occasion, the remaining members of the band have remixed the album and unleashed another documentary, this one more than eight hours long and directed by Peter Jackson, that lays bare the making of the record. For superfans, this video memoir does a lot to demystify the creative process: The Beatles nearly broke up while making it! But as music critic Tim Riley, who wrote the Beatles commentary Tell Me Why, helped illuminate for us, the band approached Let It Be with an aesthetic challenge: to get back to playing as a live band.

But the original release of the album deviated from that mission and received mixed reviews. Over the decades, the Beatles have revisited this work with multiple mixes and alternative takes that try to show the original spirit of this direct-to-tape, live album. Switched on Pop hosts Charlie and Nate listen back to all four versions — 1970, 1987, 2009, 2021 — warts and all, to get to the heart of this enigmatic project.

Have the Beatles Finally Gotten the Let It Be Vibes Right?