Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Glyn Johns on the Let It Be Sessions

"The Let It Be project was originally to be a television show. The idea was that the Beatles would meet at Twickenham Film Studios and rehearse the material for the show. They would actually shoot them rehearsing the songs and I was there to record them. The songs were all new, and there was to be a live album of the show released. A documentary film was to be made of the making of the show, and that ended up being the movie called Let It Be that was shown in the cinema. It was an abortion of a film if I ever saw one. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. There was a very lengthy rehearsal period during which George Martin had very little reason to be there. He'd phone in and say hello every now and then. I was left entirely to my own devices and, in fact, was used by the band as the producer in George's absence. I found it quite embarrassing, because as far as I was concerned, George Martin was their producer. He was extremely charming about the whole thing and seemed to understand, so there was no friction between us whatsoever.

"We eventually realized the TV show wasn't going to happen. Basically the Beatles changed their minds about the TV show. So we got two-thirds of a documentary film made with no finish to it. Meanwhile the Beatles were in the process of building a recording studio at their new offices on Savile Row, and it was decided we would move over there. It had never been used and was literally just a room in which the carpet was laid the day before we went in.

"We borrowed some equipment from EMI - their spare remote equipment - stuck it in the control room, and moved there from the Twickenham sound stage. The idea was that the Beatles would continue to rehearse, which was exactly what they did. The rehearsals in Savile Row were the first time I actually had any equipment. All the vocals were live, and I recorded most of what went on. I was incredibly impressed with what happened during those rehearsals. Apart from anything else, there was a lot of rather negative publicity about the band at that time. However, they were in extremely good spirits and extremely amusing. I don't think they were aware of it themselves.

"Anyway, I sat in my control room and was blown away by what was going on, particularly after their paranoia about their ability to actually play live was displayed to me on several occasions. One night I took a couple of reels of the eight-tracks away with me to Olympic Studios and mixed two days of rehearsals with a lot of chat and humor and so on. I thought it would make the most incredible Beatles album ever, because it was so real. If you cast your mind back to 1969, they were totally untouchable. They were on pedestals 90 feet high and they were superhuman. So here they were being perfectly ordinary, very amusing, and quite capable of just sitting down and playing normally. So I put it together and gave a copy to each Beatle the following day and said, 'This is just an idea, so take this away and listen to it and see what you think.' And it was very rough indeed. I had just put bits and pieces together. The next morning they all came back and said, 'No, it's a terrible idea. Forget about it.' Each of them individually. So I thought no more about it. We finished the sessions and I went off to America to work with Steve Miller or somebody.

"Then I returned to England. Several weeks went by and I got a call from Paul, asking me to meet him and John at EMI, which I duly did. I walked into the room and they said, 'Remember that idea that you had?' I said yes. There was a big pile of tapes in the corner of the room, so they said, 'Well, there are the tapes. Put them in your car. Take them away and do the album as you want to do it.' So I said, 'What are you saying? That you want me to make the album entirely on my own, without you lot even being there?' They said yes. That's quite extraordinary when you think about it.

"Now, I have to tell you, I don't know that they did that because of their confidence in me. I think possibly it was because they were pretty disinterested in the project. Anyway, I took the tapes away, very excited, as you can imagine. I was thrilled about it. I made the album and I'm extremely proud of it. Always have been. Everybody thought the album was wonderful. I presented it to them in the same manner that I'd done the first idea, and it went down very well. I asked each member of the band if I could have a production credit on the record, since clearly I had produced it, and they all agreed to that. As far as we were concerned, it was going to be released immediately. It wasn't, because Allen Klein wanted to hold the album until the film had been finished, and the film took something like a year to straighten out.

"By this time we had actually started work on Abbey Road. Then the Beatles broke up, Allen Klein got involved, and it was all extremely unsavory. McCartney and Lennon fell out. Everybody went their separate ways, including me, of course."

No comments: