Let It Be is also the name of a 1970 film, released by United Artists and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, documenting the band's recording of the album as well as the interpersonal conflicts which eventually split the group apart. The film has been out of circulation since shortly after its initial release but is scheduled for release on DVD in 2004.
The album, originally titled Get Back, was planned to be the Beatles coming full circle. They were going to record an album live in the studio, just as they had done for their first few albums in the early 1960s. There were discussions during the January 1969 rehearsals at Twickenham Studios about possibly recording the album during a surprise live concert performance - possibly in a dance hall or on top of a submarine. The actual live performance was on the rooftop of The Beatles' Apple Studios at 3 Savile Row; this concert was cut short by the police after local complaints about the noise. The cover artwork was going to look a lot like the first album, Please Please Me, with the band looking down the stairwell of a Modernist block of flats. Hundreds of songs were rehearsed during the "Get Back" sessions, including covers like "Stand By Me", "Words Of Love", "Blue Suede Shoes", and songs that would eventually end up on Abbey Road like "Mean Mister Mustard", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Oh! Darling", "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" and "Golden Slumbers". A number of early versions of songs that would eventually end up on Beatles solo albums were also rehearsed, like Lennon's "Jealous Guy" (which was called "Child Of Nature" at the time), Harrison's "All Things Must Pass", and McCartney's "Junk" (which was originally written for the White Album).
Apple Electronics Magic Alex had promised the band the world's first 72-track studio for the recording of this album, but unfortunately, the results of his efforts were pathetic and unusable. The band instead had to borrow two 4-track machines from EMI.
Engineer Glyn Johns put together a rough version of Get Back in March of 1969, which included many of the same songs that made the final cut, plus McCartney's "Teddy Boy". Johns played the acetate for the Beatles, who were not really interested in the project anymore. At least one copy of the acetate made its way to America and was aired on local radio stations in Buffalo, New York and Boston in September.
In May of 1969, Johns and producer George Martin, made a new rough version of the "Get Back" album. This was the first serious attempt to put the album together for release. The track list was "One After 909", "Rocker (Instrumental)", "Save The Last Dance For Me"/"Don't Let Me Down", "Don't Let Me Down", "Dig A Pony", "I've Got A Feeling", "Get Back", "For You Blue", "Teddy Boy", "Two Of Us", "Maggie Mae", "Dig It", "Let It Be", "The Long And Winding Road", and "Get Back (Reprise)".
The Get Back album was intended for release in July of 1969. In July of 1969 the album was pushed back to September, to coincide with the planned television special and theatrical film about the making of the album. In September the album's release was pushed back to December, because The Beatles had just recorded Abbey Road and wanted to release that album instead. When December rolled around, the album was shelved until a third mix was made by Glyn Johns in early 1970. The Beatles once again rejected it.
In March and April of 1970, the project was given to producer Phil Spector, who compiled the eventually released album - now entitled "Let It Be". The album and the movie with the same name were released on May 8, 1970; the Beatles had already broken up by that time. The movie captured on film some of the tensions within the band, and also included footage from the rooftop concert. The rooftop performance closed with the song Get Back, and afterwords John Lennon remarked, "I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition." These words were added to the studio version of the song that appeared on the album, and they served as an ironic reminder of the fact that the most influential and important rock band in history had long ago "passed the audition".
In 2002, the "Let It Be" film was being prepared for release on DVD sometime in 2004. It is expected that the DVD will include additional footage, not seen in the original film. In addition, McCartney announced plans to release a new version of the album that is closer to what the band had originally intended for the project. That collection, entitled Let It Be . . . Naked was released November of 2003.