On “Let It Be” and Guitar Solos

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.

5 thoughts on “On “Let It Be” and Guitar Solos

  1. I agree, the album version is my version of choice as well… Though, from what I recall, the Naked version is still the same take, just yet another different guitar solo…

    I just did a quick search through my favorites (just to satisfy my own curiosity) and found the link that led me to believe it was the same take… http://reunionsessions.tripod.com/al/faabsessions/2002.html

    It doesn’t explicit say that it is the same take, so maybe you’re right… I never went through and compared the Naked version with the original…

    But it mentions that “most of the tracks are the same takes as what people have known before.” And also whilst going track by track saying which take they used, for the song ‘Let It Be’ itself, they simply say that they “used the original guitar solo that George did because he overdubbed the solo.It’s the same one that’s in the film and he just looks like he’s enjoying it,” without specifying which take they used.

  2. I agree entirely. When I was a kid I would play the album version of Let it Be over and over just to listen to the guitar solo in the middle and the last bit at the end. I remember the first time I heard the single version on the radio I thought “what have they done to Let it Be, are they playing it overspeed?”. Never liked the single version nearly as well as the album. The album version is more biting, and at the same time more fluid. I agree it is probably George Harrison’s finest guitar solo with The Beatles.

    Of course, when we finally get to hear the version of Let it Be that wasn’t puked on by Phil Spector it’s either the single take or a take that sounds very close to the single version. I’d love to hear the album version sans Spector.

    Interesting bit of trivia – Originally the idea was that the guitar solo from the single and the solo from the album would be together on the album track. They are both from the same master take and could in theory be laid on top of each other. That idea was dropped, for what reason I am not sure, but it would be interesting to take the two solos and attempt to recreate the original concept.

  3. I also agree the album solo is the better of the two. Why then was the Leslie solo was included on “#1’s” is beyond me. I figured the album solo wasn’t actually George, but a Phil Spector hired session man, and Paul’s bitter dislike of Spector’s work on the album made including that version out of the question. Now that others here have confirmed it is George playing both solos, the better of the two should prevail. It adds a bite to the song the overplayed version lacks.

  4. Well I disagree. The Leslie Cabinet solo on the single suits the mood and period of the recording far better. Tonally it is much more enjoyable than the later Album version’s “more stinging” guitar as requested by George Martin.

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