Alan Parsons‘ contributions to the Beatles‘ Let It Be album and film were heard but not seen back in 1970. But he expects that will change this month thanks to Peter Jackson‘s The Beatles: Get Back docuseries.
“There was none of me at all in the original Let It Be movie,” Parsons, who was an assistant engineer on the project, tells UCR. “But I’ve been promised by Peter Jackson that I will be seen in the movie.”
The six-hour Get Back will stream over three nights, Nov. 25-27, with the group’s 42-minute rooftop concert reportedly included in its entirety. The Alan Parsons Project, meanwhile, recently released a new live album, The Never Ending Show: Live in the Netherlands, and Parsons has another live set from Israel on tap for next year, along with a new studio album.
A performing artist who put those ambitions aside to engineer at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Parsons was drafted to help the Beatles during the January 1969 sessions that produced Let It Be once the group moved from Twickenham Film Studios to the basement of Apple Corps headquarters on Saville Road.
“I was in seventh heaven,” he recalls now. “They hadn’t staffed their [in-house] studio adequately yet. That’s why Glyn Johns was brought in as an independent engineer and I was brought in as an independent second engineer. And there I was, with the best job in the world, working with the greatest rock band in the world. It was an extraordinary few days.”
The rooftop session was a highlight, he adds, despite the chaotic logistics surrounding it. “It was a last-minute decision,” Parsons says. “I think it was only decided maybe the day before that we would run cables up to the rooftop and plug in all the mics. There was an array of cable running down the stairwell from the roof down to the basement where the main studio was.”
He was positioned on the roof, tucked away near the gear but still caught by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s film crew and photographers on the spot. “I was enjoying myself enormously,” Parsons says. “I already knew all the songs ’cause we’d been doing versions of them in the studio in the days leading up to the rooftop. They performed so much better when there was an audience there to appreciate them than they did in the basement. They were really having a good time on the rooftop.”
Parsons expects that Get Back “is going to be a much happier experience than [Let It Be],” more accurately reflecting the sessions and the friendlier atmosphere in Apple’s studio, with Billy Preston guesting on piano and organ.
“I don’t think there was a genuinely bad vibe,” Parsons says. “They were always good friends. They always had a joke with each other. I think they were essentially enjoying the experience … maybe frustrated somewhat by the imperfection of actually playing all the songs live, with no overdubs, just them as a band. I’m sure the Peter Jackson version will be much more fun to watch.”
And, in case you couldn’t have guessed, Parsons considers himself “a firm supporter of the Naked version” of Let It Be as well as the original Glyn Johns mix included in the new Super Deluxe box set. “That’s the definitive version as far as I’m concerned,” he says of the latter.
Parsons, now based in Santa Barbara, Calif., has an anniversary of his own coming up: Next year marks 45 years since Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the first release by the Alan Parsons Project, following his time at Abbey Road working on albums by Pink Floyd, Wings, the Hollies, Al Stewart, Ambrosia and others. “It’s still my favorite of the Alan Parsons Projects albums,” he acknowledges. “It just felt like a new thing, a new style, a new concept that the producer could be the artist, and I was very proud of that and got a lot of ideas off my chest in the making of that album. It paved the way for the sound that the Alan Parsons project would have in later years.
“I never real felt that I was an artist, per se,” he adds. “It was just a continuation of my role as a producer, really, and I performed very little. I might’ve done a simple acoustic guitar part or a couple backing vocals or harmonies or stuff like that. But I left the virtuoso stuff to the people who did it best. It felt like I was producing an album with songs that I helped to write — that was the main difference. Otherwise it was just the same job, producing a hopefully perfect record each time.”
The Alan Parsons Project were a studio concern for their first 25 years. But since 1999 Parson has led the Alan Parsons Live Project, whose latest incarnation is captured on The Never Ending Show and next year’s album from Tel Aviv, on which the group is joined by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. (No release date has been set.) The new year may also see a new 45th-anniversary edition of the platinum I Robot album, possibly remixed in Dolby Atmos. But Parsons is most excited about the new studio album, though he’s not revealing a name or release date — or saying much at all about it yet.
“It’s very early stages,” Parsons notes. “I don’t think it’s going to be particularly conceptual, but I think we’re going to revamp a famous classical piece. I won’t say what that is yet because it gives it away, but it’s something very ambitious and exciting.”
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