In January 1969, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and the British rock group, The Beatles began filming on what was originally a television special. The concept of the special, then titled Beatles At Work, would give the viewer an insight into the creative process of the group as the write and rehearsal new material for what would be their first concert in nearly three years.
Filming and rehearsing began at Twickenham Film Studios on 2nd January. However, the tense atmosphere from both unresolved issues from The White Album sessions and the cold stark environment of Twickenham, lead to in fighting within the band and their guitarist George Harrison briefly quitting the group. Harrison would return to the project on the condition that it was moved to the band's Apple Studios. The rehearsals became the recording of their proposed next album and the television special had now become a documentary feature film.
When a rough cut of the film was first viewed on 20 July 1969, the band expressed discomfort with how revealing the film managed to be. What was intended to show the Fab Four’s music making from a fly-in-the-wall perspective ended being much more, showing the estrangement and bitterness that had grown between them.
Lindsay-Hogg ended up cutting the film to 80 minute version that would be released to cinemas in May 1970. Lindsay-Hogg has stated that the rough cut was about an hour longer than the final version. The book The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn says that the rough cut screened to the Beatles was about 210 minutes long (this length has since been denied by the director). Lewisohn also remarked that a the majority of the "John and Yoko" footage was also removed from the final cut.
Deleted footage/audio known to exist
Since the film's release, footage that didn't make it into Lindsay-Hogg's final cut has appeared in other media and online. Unused footage from the project has appeared in bootlegs and official video releases by the band. In 1992, the film was remastered for a home-video release. Around this time, other perviously unseen footage from the project was remastered for the band's official band documentray series "The Beatles Anthology". In 2003, more footage would appear in promotional material for the remixed Let It Be album, Let It Be...Naked.
Through-out the 1970's until the early 2000's, audio from the film crew's [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagra Nagra] recorders has appeared on various bootleg recordings (the most well known of these being the 38 CD Day-By-Day series by Yellow Dog Records). The audio tapes were retrieved by Dutch police when the homes of Stan Snelleman and Jos Remmerswaal(founders of Yellow Dog Records) were raided in 2003.
The following is a list of known scenes that were cut from the final film:
- On January 10, tensions came to a head and George Harrison announced that he was quitting the band (only to come back after a few days). The final film shows no evidence of this ever happening, with only a scene where band members John Lennon and Paul McCartney are discussing what to do. Footage of this event have been sought after by collectors for years. Director Lindsay-Hogg has said in interviews that the cameras were not rolling when George quit. However, audio of the incident was captured by the sound man and has since leaked onto the bootleg market.
- On the same day George Harrison left the band, the remaining three Beatles jammed with Yoko Ono on a heavy rock instrumental with Yoko providing vocal accompaniment. This footage has been available on YouTube and is featured in the work print for the band’s unreleased official documentary “The Long And Windinng Road”. “The Long and Winding Road” project would eventually become the “The Beatles Anthology” TV series.
- Footage from the Beatles' unreleased "The Long and Winding Road" documentary include Yoko's jam with the band, footage from the Apple Studios control room and a studio performance of "I've Got A Feeling".
- Some cut footage would make it into “The Beatles Anthology” series. This includes a scene where Paul explains the premise and shots to Micheal Lindsay-Hogg, more footage of the band rehearsing and recording, Harrison bringing-in and introducing his friend Billy Preston to the studio, where he wound up playing on numerous songs including "Get Back" (in the final film, he just appears with no explanation of where he came from) and footage at in the Apple Corps. boardroom of the band and film crew discussing the films concert.
- Outtake footage sourced from a black and white videotape has appeared on bootlegs and YouTube. It is unclear if this footage was from any work print or potential cut of the film.
- A scene with actor Peter Sellers and the band joking and discussing drug use. This can be found on YouTube.
- The promotional video for "Get Back"(from the album Let It Be...Naked) contains mainly footage that is not in the final cut of Let It Be.
- The Let It Be...Naked CD came with a bonus disc, titled "Fly On The Wall", of studio banter and rehearsal audio not featured in the final Let It Be film.
Other speculated/reported footage yet unsurfaced
- There are many sequences showing the estrangement between the band members that were cut. How much of it and the exact content are unknown however.
- A lot of scenes showing drummer Ringo Starr horsing around and just plain having fun were also omitted from the final cut.
- Many scenes involving Lennon and his girlfriend/eventual wife Yoko Ono, which according to Lindsay-Hogg, “the other three (McCartney, Harrison, and Starr) didn’t really think that was appropriate because they wanted to make it a ‘nicer’ movie.”