It was 51 years ago today (January 2nd, 1969), that the Beatles' began their second-to-last project together, the movie and album, which was eventually released as Let It Be. The film and resulting music, which was shot and recorded throughout January 1969, was originally intended to be a TV special featuring the group rehearsing for their first live show in over two years. The early rehearsals captured the group, along with John Lennon's soon-to-be wife Yoko Ono, clearly bored, with only Paul McCartney showing any real enthusiasm for the new material. The first part of the film shows the strain of the early morning sessions held in a cavernous soundstage at London's Twickenham film studios.

Among the songs featured in the film are "Let It Be," "Get Back," "Don't Let Me Down," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "For You Blue," "Octopus' Garden," "I Me Mine," "Across The Universe," and "The Long And Winding Road," and covers of "Besame Mucho," "Shake, Rattle And Roll," and "Kansas City," among many others.

The Beatles' late-producer George Martin recalled that the Let It Be project held great promise in the beginning: "They were going through a very, very revolutionary period at that time. And they were trying to think of something new. They did actually come up with a very good idea, which I thought was well worth working on; The wanted to write an album completely and rehearse it and then perform it in front of a large audience -- and for that to be a live album of new material. And we started rehearsing down at Twickenham film studios, and I went along with them."

George Harrison, who was the least invested member of the band in regards to returning to the stage, recalled the band's initial plan: "I think the original idea was to rehearse some new songs, and then we were going to pick a location and record the album of the songs in a concert. I suppose kinda like they do these days on Unplugged, except, y'know, it wasn't to be unplugged. It was to do a live album."

The tracklisting to the Let It Be album is: "Two Of Us," "Dig A Pony," "Across The Universe," "I Me Mine," "Dig It," "Let It Be," "Maggie Mae," "I've Got A Feeling," "One After 909," "The Long And Winding Road," "For You Blue," and "Get Back."

The tension between the group is palpable, especially during the sequence where George Harrison and McCartney argue over Harrison's playing on the song "Two Of Us."

The movie lightens up considerably during the second half, when the filming moved to the group's new Apple Studios, with the addition of keyboardist Billy Preston. A major highlight of the film is the final sequence, when the Beatles play in impromptu set on the Apple headquarters rooftop, featuring "Get Back," "Dig A Pony," "I've Got A Feeling," "Don't Let Me Down," and "One After 909." Filmed on January 30th, 1969, it would be the band's final public performance.

Reviews for the film, which was released in May 1970 -- a month after the group's breakup -- were mixed, citing the sluggish and depressing nature of the film, as well as director Michael Lindsay-Hogg's sloppy editorial choices. But across the board, both critics and fans agreed on the power of the group's triumphant rooftop set.

In 1970 John Lennon recalled the nearly month-long film shoot saying: "It was just a dreadful, dreadful feeling being filmed all the time. I just wanted them to go away. And we'd be there at eight in the morning and you couldn't make music at eight in the morning, or 10, or whatever it was . . . in a strange place with people filming you and colored lights."

Paul McCartney explained that unconsciously, the Beatles were actually telling the world that they were breaking up: "In fact what happened was when we got in there we showed how the breakup of a group works because we didn't realize that we were actually breaking up, y'know as it was happening."

Author Ritchie Unterberger chronicled the prolonged Get Back/Let It Be sessions in his book, titled The Unreleased Beatles: "They had bitten off more than they could chew. Y'know, even before they assembled in January, the idea was, 'Let's get back to playing as a live band' -- pretty good idea. But then it was, 'Let's make it an album and a film, and we're going to make the album a film of us doing a concert of songs we've never recorded before.' It's kind of like trying to do too much at once. And then you're recording it -- the comparison I made in the book is kind of Nixon's 'The Watergate Tapes,' you have no idea that this stuff is going to comeback to haunt you forever."

Beatlefan magazine's executive editor Al Sussman saw the film within days of its premiere and was left speechless by the group's live swan song: "It was really depressing. But, what made it worthwhile was the rooftop, y'know? Because when I left that theater, I was this far off the ground. Despite the fact that we knew everything that happened afterward. Yeah, that saves the film."

George Martin said that he felt betrayed by Lennon and Harrison when they enlisted Phil Spector to rework the Let It Be tapes prior to their eventual release: "When the record came to be issued, EMI rang me up and said, 'They don't want your name on the record. It'll be 'Produced by Phil Spector.' I said, 'But I produced all the original stuff that they worked on.' I said, 'I'm not having that. Why don't you put on it, 'Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector?' But they didn't seem to go for that."

The Let It Be album marks the only Beatles album to house three Number One songs -- albeit in different mixes to their single counterparts: "Get Back," "Let It Be," and the group's last chart-topper, "The Long And Winding Road."

Let It Be earned the Beatles their only Academy Award, when they won the 1970 Oscar for Best Original Song Score. The film was briefly available on VHS in 1981, but is not yet available on DVD.

FAST FOWARD

In January 2019, the Beatles announced that Academy Award-winning director, Peter Jackson -- best known for The Lord Of The Rings series, among others -- will head up a new film culled from the massive amount of film outtakes from the band's 1970 Let It Be movie. The still-untitled film is based around 55 hours of never-released footage of the Beatles rehearsing and recording at Twickenham Film Studios and Apple Studios, shot between January 2nd and January 31st, 1969.

This film, which has no release date yet, is being made with the full co-operation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon and George Harrison's respective widows -- Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. The project's executive producers are Ken Kamins for WingNut Films and Jeff Jones and Jonathan Clyde for the Beatles' Apple Corps. Following the release of this new film, a restored version of the original Let It Be movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg will also be released.

Peter Jackson spoke about the new movie in the official announcement, saying, "The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us, ensures this movie will be the ultimate 'fly on the wall' experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about -- it's like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together."

He went on to say, "I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth. After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it's simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there's moments of drama -- but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating -- it's funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. I'm thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage -- making the movie will be a sheer joy."

During a 2018 chat with Canadian radio, Paul McCartney revealed that an entirely revamped version of the Beatles' final movie, Let It Be, is likely in the works. DenOfGeek.com reported McCartney was asked about that status of Let It Be finally seeing a DVD/Blu-ray release and said: "I think there may be a new version of it. That is kind of the latest gossip. The original movie was really sort of about the break-up of the Beatles and so, for me, it was a little sad. . . There's about 56 hours of footage and someone was talking the other day to me and said 'the overall feeling is very joyous and very uplifting. It's like a bunch of guys making music and enjoying it,' y'know? So I think there is some talk about making a new movie, re-editing it from the same period, from the same footage. We can make a new film out of it. So who knows, that may be happening in a year or two."

The Daily Beatle reported in a February 2017 interview with the film's cinematographer Tony Richmond in, he explained: "We remastered (Let It Be) for DVD and there were so many outtakes that weren't used in the film that really show the acrimony between all of the Beatles. But that's still being held up by George Harrison's estate and his wife (Olivia Harrison) and Yoko Ono because they don't want the acrimony shown."

AUDIO: AL SUSSMAN ON THE BEATLES' ROOFTOP PERFORMANCE
AUDIO: RICHIE UNTERBERGER ON THE FAILURE OF THE BEATLES' 'GET BACK' SESSIONS
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON MAKING OF LET IT BE THE MOVIE
AUDIO: THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY JOHN LENNON ON 'LET IT BE' SESSIONS
AUDIO: GEORGE HARRISON ON ORIGINAL IDEA FOR 'LET IT BE'
AUDIO: THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY GEORGE MARTIN ON 'LET IT BE' SESSIONS
AUDIO: GEORGE MARTIN ON HIS CREDIT FOR 'LET IT BE'