John Lennon Says ‘Let It Be’ Sessions Were ‘Hell’

Craig Rosen
Stop The Presses!

In a newly discovered interview, John Lennon is heard saying recording The Beatles' "Let It Be" album was "hell."

The interview was conducted by radio personality and Village Voice critic Howard Smith in Toronto in 1969 after The Beatles had completed the album that would eventually be released as "Let It Be." Smith spent an hour with Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono.

In the tape-recorded interview that is being put up for auction later this month, Lennon is heard saying, "We were going through hell. We often do. It's torture every time we produce anything."

"The Beatles haven't got any magic you haven't got," he continues. "We suffer like hell anytime we make anything, and we got each other to contend with. Imagine working with the Beatles, it's tough. There's just tension. It's tense every time the red light [in the recording studio] goes on."

According to New Hampshire-based RR Auction, the hour-long interview is on two audio tape reels and was discovered in the back of Smith's New York loft, where it's been sitting for nearly 40 years. The recording will be part of the "Marvels of Modern Music" auction that runs from Sept. 19 through Sept. 26 online at RR Auction's website. The minimum bid for the Lennon tapes is $300, but RR Auction vice president Bobby Livingston expects it to sell for between $5,000 and $10,000.

The unearthed Lennon quotes are similar to what George Harrison told me in an interview for "The Billboard Book of Number One Albums." "It wasn't very much fun," Harrison said. "Everyone was fed up and everyone wanted to leave the band. Although we salvaged it and we did some good tracks, it generally was done in a depression. It was done in a trough."

Although "Let It Be" was released in May 1970 as The Beatles final studio album featuring new material, it was actually recorded in the first quarter of 1969, before the band began recording "Abbey Road."

Initially the album was titled "Get Back" and was engineered by Glyn Johns, who was also slated to produce the album. But the Beatles weren't happy with the "Get Back" album and yanked it from the release schedule.

"About 18 months later, after the band had split up, John decided he was going to take the tapes and give them to Phil Spector and make an album for the tapes that I had recorded, which was basically all rehearsal tapes," Johns told me. "Phil Spector turned it into this sugary, syrupy pieces of sh-t with strings and choirs all over it."

In 2003, "Let It Be...Naked," an alternate version of the album, which stripped away Phil Spector's lush production, was released.

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