I’d be hard-pressed to say what my favorite Beatles song is. And don’t ask me what their best song is; a friend put me on the spot by asking me this ten years ago and I gave him a blank look.
But in the top five, I’d definitely put “Let It Be.”
When I hear “Let It Be” come on the radio, I always listen for the guitar solo. There are two different versions of the song, both with different George Harrison guitar solos. The first, the single version, features a Leslie-toned guitar. The second, the album version, features a solo that was recorded in one of the final sessions in early 1970, and it features some stinging guitar work.
The album solo is much better, and is perhaps one of George Harrison’s best guitar solos.
Given a choice, the album “Let It Be” is the version I would rather listen to. When I put together a specialty Beatles playlist, it was naturally the album “Let It Be” that I used, not the single version.
So, naturally, it’s the single version I always hear on the radio.
The only real difference between the two versions is the solo. They were built from the same master take. Yes, Phil Spector did some other jiggery-pokery with the track to prepare it for the Let It Be album, but it’s not the sort of thing a casual listener would even notice.
I have no real opinion on the Let It Be… Naked version of “Let It Be.” It’s a different take entirely, and the guitar solo is, again, George on his Leslie-toned guitar. (It was a passing fancy. He stopped using the Leslie speaker fairly quickly.) There are some other versions of the song I’ve heard — I have, umm, an hour’s worth of just “Let It Be” versions — and some of the early ones have some lyrics that Paul McCartney made up off the top of his head.
There’s just something about that guitar solo, though. It kicks the song, already lyrically marvelous, into the stratosphere, conveying with it the emotional catharsis of McCartney’s lyrics. That’s what puts “Let It Be” into my top five. George Harrison’s guitar solo.