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#askNat – concerning “Let It Be” and other official Get Back Sessions releases

This time around on #askNat, Stacia Marlett from Minneapolis MN has this one for me:

Since you possess a gift for clarifying the complex…can you please go over the variations of the Get Back/Let It Be album (i.e., Glyn Johns’ version leaked on the radio, singles vs. albums, and the “Naked” album)? Mainly I’m looking for: What are the distinguishing variations between versions? Like I think the guitar solo on “Let It Be” is different between the single and official album version.

This is a pretty “heavy duty” order here Stacia but I will try to get out the main details in a single post. With all of the variations and subsequent “Let It Be” era releases over the years, it can make the specifics of each release appear complicated.

Glyn Johns (unreleased) Get Back LP (upper left), original 1970 Let It Be album (upper right), The Beatles Anthology 3 (1996) (lower left) and the Let It Be...Naked remixed version of Let It Be (2003) (lower right)

Glyn Johns (unreleased) Get Back LP (upper left), original 1970 Let It Be album (upper right), The Beatles Anthology 3 (1996) (lower left) and the Let It Be…Naked remixed version of Let It Be (2003) (lower right)

 

The Beatles spent most of the month of January 1969 in the studio having agreed to record a “back to basics” type of rock and roll album. They planned to release a video documentary of the making of the album and release it as a television special or perhaps a film, so crews were filming them throughout the entire month. The first half of the sessions were actually only rehearsals at Twickenham Film Studios in London. The last week and a half were spent at the studio in their Apple headquarters when they were joined much of the time by keyboardist Billy Preston. They discussed culminating the project with a live performance and cited a number of exotic possibilities for the venue, but in the end they simply went up on the rooftop of their Apple Headquarters in London to play a surprise lunch hour set that ended up shut down by the police due to complaints about the noise.

The acrimony within the band at this time took it’s toll on the productivity of the sessions. At one point, not happy with Paul McCartney’s perfectionism or John Lennon’s apathetic lack of communication, George Harrison quit the group for a few days and had to be persuaded by the others to return. Consequently, it wasn’t apparent at the end of the month whether they actually had enough material recorded during the sessions that was good enough for an album. The tapes sat for a month and on March 10th, 1969 engineer/producer Glyn Johns was commissioned to go through the best performances and make some mixes to present to the group so they could decide what to do with them. The first fruit to come from this was a single.

Get Back single

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “Get Back”
The recording of “Get Back” used on the single was from a take recorded on January 27th except for the coda which was edited on to the ending from another performance recorded the following day.
B 1 “Don’t Let Me Down”
The recording of “Don’t Let Me Down” was recorded on January 28th.

 

Billy Preston is credited for his keyboard work on both sides of the single which was mixed by Glyn Johns with help from Paul McCartney. In the U.S. the stereo mix of both songs was released on the single whereas the mono mix of both songs was used in the U.K.

 

Get Back, U.S. single

Get Back, U.S. single

 

In April 1969 it was decided that an album could be made from the sessions but a new guitar solo would need to be overdubbed on “Let It Be.” On April 30th, George Harrison added a new guitar solo to what was considered the best take of “Let It Be” recorded on January 31. It was this version of the song that would end up on the “Let It Be” single the following year. The album was to be called Get Back after the new single and Glyn completed the work on it by May 28th. An acetate LP was prepared and the track listing went like this:

Get Back (unreleased) LP

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “One After 909″
recorded live at the rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969/also used later on Let It Be album
A 2 “I’m Ready” (aka “Rocker”)
recorded at Apple on Jan. 22, 1969. This is really just a brief improvisation wrapped around a couple lines from Fats Domino’s song, “I’m Ready.”
A 3 “Save The Last Dance For Me”
a Drifters cover recorded immediately following the previously listed “I’m Ready” on Jan. 22, 1969.
A 4 “Don’t Let Me Down”
recorded immediately after the preceding track on Jan. 22, 1969. Different recording than Get Back single.
A 5 “Dig A Pony”
recorded on Jan. 22, 1969
A 6 “I’ve Got A Feeling”
recorded immediately after the preceding track on Jan. 22, 1969
A 7 “Get Back”
the same recording used as the single edit recorded on Jan 27 except the coda recorded on Jan. 28, 1969
B 1 “For You Blue”
recorded on Jan. 25, 1969/same take used later on the Let It Be album but there it has a new lead vocal recorded in Jan. 1970.
B 2 “Teddy Boy”
recorded on Jan. 24, 1969
B 3 “Two Of Us”
recorded on Jan. 24, 1969
B 4 “Maggie Mae”
recorded on Jan. 24, 1969/also used later on Let It Be album
B 5 “Dig It”
recorded on Jan. 26, 1969 (4:35 edit used)/0:49 short edit used later on Let It Be album
B 6 “Let It Be”
recorded on Jan. 31, 1969 except guitar solo recorded on April 30, 1969/also used later on “Let It Be” single
B 7 “The Long And Winding Road”
recorded on Jan. 26, 1969/same take used later on Let It Be album but Phil Spector added string/choir overdubs there. This version (without the overdubs) also appears on Anthology 3.
B 8 “Get Back” (reprise)
recorded on Jan. 28, 1969 and another part of the same coda that was used on the single edit of “Get Back” (see above) Also heard over the closing credits of the Let It Be film.

 

The cover art planned for the original (but never officially released) Get Back album was a parody of their Please Please Me album from 6 years earlier.

The cover art planned for the original (but never officially released) Get Back album was a parody of their Please Please Me album from 6 years earlier.

 

Although not yet approved by The Beatles, Glyn Johns’ album somehow leaked to a Boston MA and Buffalo NY radio station and the bootlegged acetate of it was aired on September 22, 1969. Bootlegs made from these broadcasts began to appear immediately as The Beatles announced officially that the album would not be released until December to avoid a clash with their Abbey Road album they had been recording in the interim. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg was also working to complete production on the Let It Be film. He completed it by December but the idea of a television special had been dropped. With the Let It Be film complete, it was observed that two songs “Across The Universe” and “I, Me, Mine” were in the film but not on Glyn’s album. This was because those two songs were done at the Twickenham rehearsals but not at Apple where the final recordings and multi-tracks were made. The Get Back album would nevertheless need to be modified to include these tracks. Since John Lennon was vacationing in Denmark and had effectively quit the group by that time anyway, it was decided to use the same recording of “Across The Universe” recorded on February 4, 1968 and since donated for use on the No Ones Gonna Change Our World U.K. charity album. This version, known as the “Wildlife version” and currently available on the Past Masters CD set, would need to be remixed to remove the bird sound effects for inclusion on the revised Get Back album. On January 3, 1970, George, Paul and Ringo recorded “I Me Mine.” The following day George recorded a new guitar solo for “Let It Be” that ended up being the one used on the Let It Be album version of the song. Glyn made room for the two added tracks for the revised Get Back album by removing “Teddy Boy,” which was not in the film anyway. In any event, by this time Paul was likely planning to use this track on his McCartney album. Glyn decided to stick with the earlier version of “Let It Be” with George’s April 30, 1969 guitar solo on the second Get Back album as well. In summation, the revised Get Back album’s track listing went like this:

Get Back LP, revised

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “One After 909″
same as original Get Back album.
A 2 “I’m Ready” (aka “Rocker”)
same as original Get Back album.
A 3 “Save The Last Dance For Me”
same as original Get Back album.
A 4 “Don’t Let Me Down”
same as original Get Back album.
A 5 “Dig A Pony”
same as original Get Back album.
A 6 “I’ve Got A Feeling”
same as original Get Back album.
A 7 “Get Back”
same as original Get Back album.
A 8 “Let It Be”
same as original Get Back album.
B 1 “For You Blue”
same as original Get Back album.
B 2 “Two Of Us”
same as original Get Back album.
B 3 “Maggie Mae”
same as original Get Back album.
B 4 “Dig It”
same as original Get Back album.
B 5 “The Long And Winding Road”
same as original Get Back album.
B 6 “I Me Mine”
recorded on Jan. 3, 1970 by Paul, George and Ringo/same take used on Let It Be album but there it was artificially lengthened by editing. This version also appears on Anthology 3.
B 7 “Across The Universe”
remix of Feb. 4, 1968 recording removing “Wildlife” sound effects heard on charity album release. Further overdubs of orchestration and choir voices would be added to this later for use on the Let It Be album
B 8 “Get Back” (reprise)
same as original Get Back album.

 

Glyn’s second Get Back album was also rejected by the group. They did agree to go ahead and release the “Let It Be” single (using the Get Back album version of “Let It Be”) and the b-side was the track “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” recorded off and on between May 1967 and April 1969. The release date was March 6, 1970 in the U.K. and March 11, 1970 in the U.S.

Let It Be single

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “Let It Be”
This is the same recording heard on the aborted Get Back LP, recorded on Jan. 31, 1969. The guitar solo by George Harrison was recorded on April 30, 1969.
B 1 “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”
Recorded off and on between May 1967 and April 1969.

 

Let It Be, U.S. single

Let it Be, U.S. single

 

As the next order of business producer Phil Spector was brought in to have his own go at making something acceptable out of the Get Back tapes. Phil worked on the project between March 23 and April 2, 1970 and his album was to be called Let It Be to coincide with the upcoming film release. The album was issued on May 8, 1970 in the U.K. and May 18, 1970 in the U.S., roughly one month after The Beatles split. The running order (including track details) went like this:

Let It Be LP

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “Two Of Us”
recorded on Jan. 31, 1969.
A 2 “Dig A Pony”
recorded at the rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969, with a couple of “all I want is you” lines edited out of the intro and outro.
A 3 “Across The Universe”
remix of Feb. 4, 1968 recording removing “Wildlife” sound effects heard on charity album release. Further overdubs of orchestration and choir voices added by Phil Spector.
A 4 “I Me Mine”
recorded on Jan. 3, 1970 by Paul, George and Ringo/same take used on revised Get Back album but here it has been artificially lengthened by editing.
A 5 “Dig It”
a 48 second excerpt of the same version used on the Get Back album and Let It Be film recorded on Jan. 26, 1970
A 6 “Let It Be”
new mix of same take used on single and Get Back album. It uses the newer guitar solo recorded on Jan. 4, 1970 and additional overdubs. It is also artificially lengthened by editing in a repeat of the final chorus.
A 7 “Maggie Mae”
recorded on Jan. 24, 1969/also used on Get Back album
B 1 “I’ve Got A Feeling”
recorded live at the rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969
B 2 “One After 909″
recorded live at the rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969/also used on Get Back album
B 3 “The Long And Winding Road”
recorded on Jan. 26, 1969/same take used on Get Back album but here string/choir overdubs are added.
B 4 “For You Blue”
recorded on Jan. 25, 1969/same take used on the Get Back album but here it has a new lead vocal recorded in Jan. 1970
B 5 “Get Back”
the coda recorded on Jan. 28, 1969 is removed and replaced with closing dialogue from the rooftop concert (“I hope we passed the audition!”). Some dialogue also left in intro (“Sweet Loretta Fart…”). Otherwise it is the same Jan. 27, 1969 recording used on the Get Back album and single.

 

Let It Be LP, May 1970

Let It Be LP, May 1970

 

In the U.S. a single was released of “The Long And Winding Road” b/w “For You Blue” on May 11, 1970 and these tracks are the same as the Let It Be album versions save for a few seconds of dialogue (“The Queen says “no” to pot-smoking FBI members” – spoken by John) heard on the album at the beginning of “For You Blue.”

 

The Long And Winding Road single

Side Track Song Title & Remarks
A 1 “The Long And Winding Road”
Same version heard on Let It Be album
B 1 “For You Blue”
Same version heard on Let It Be album except for a couple of seconds of dialogue at the intro.

 

The Long And Winding Road U.S. single picture sleeve, May 1970

The Long And Winding Road U.S. single picture sleeve, May 1970

 

Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be film premiered in cinemas in May 1970 coinciding with the album release. It included coverage of the Twickenham rehearsals and Apple Studio sessions and culminates with an edited account of the rooftop concert. Most performances in the film are different takes/versions than the performances on the Let It Be album. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.

Additional material from the Get Back sessions was released as part of The Beatles Anthology project in the mid-1990′s. Some portions of the Let It Be film are seen restored in the Beatles Anthology documentary film. On The Beatles Anthology 3 CD set the following tracks were released from the sessions:

The Beatles Anthology 3 (Get Back Sessions Tracks only)

CD Track Song Title & Remarks
2 1 “I’ve Got A Feeling”
remixed version from Get Back album recorded on Jan. 22, 1969 (liner notes incorrectly state it was recorded on Jan. 23, 1969)
2 2 “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”
recorded on Jan. 21, 1969
2 3 “Dig A Pony”
recorded on Jan. 22, 1969 but not the same one Glyn Johns used from that day for the Get Back album (liner notes incorrectly state it was recorded on Jan. 21, 1969).
2 4 “Two Of Us”
recorded on Jan. 24, 1969 but not the same one Glyn Johns used from that day for the Get Back album
2 5 “For You Blue”
recorded on Jan. 25, 1969 but not the same one Glyn Johns used from that day for the Get Back album
2 6 “Teddy Boy”
Composite of two takes: the first 1:15 was recorded on Jan. 28, 1969 and after that it is the version used on the original Glyn John’s Get Back album
2 7 “Rip It Up/Shake, Rattle & Roll/Blue Suede Shoes”
recorded on Jan. 26, 1969
2 8 “The Long And Winding Road”
recorded on Jan. 26, 1969/same take used on Get Back album and without the string/choir overdubs heard on the Let It Be album.
2 9 “Oh! Darling”
recorded on Jan. 27, 1969.
2 11 “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues
recorded on Jan. 29, 1969.
2 12 “Get Back”
third and final rooftop performance of the song recorded on Jan. 30, 1969 (note: John and George’s amps go out for part of the performance).
2 21 “Let It Be”
recorded on Jan. 25, 1969
2 22 “I Me Mine”
actually not recorded during the Get Back sessions but on January 3, 1970 by The Beatles (sans John). This is the same version that appeared on the second attempt of the Get Back album. Additional overdubs were added later and it was also artificially lengthened by editing for the Let It Be album. Here it is at it’s originally recorded length.

 

The Beatles Anthology 3, Oct. 1996

The Beatles Anthology 3, Oct. 1996

 

In November 2003, the Let It Be… Naked album was released as a remixed and remastered version of the original Let It Be album. It was overseen by Paul McCartney who felt that Phil Spector’s production did not accurately represent the group’s “stripped-down” intentions for the original album. In some cases completely alternate takes were used as noted below. The running order (and again some added track details) goes like this:

Let It Be…Naked CD/LP

CD Track Song Title & Remarks
1 1 “Get Back”
The single version recorded on Jan. 27, but without the coda that was recorded the following day.
1 2 “Dig A Pony”
remix of version heard on Let It Be album recorded live from the rooftop concert. Unlike the original “Let It Be” album, the false start is removed as well as some closing dialogue.
1 3 “For You Blue”
remix of original Let It Be album version recorded on Jan. 25, 1969. Features some additional acoustic guitar.
1 4 “The Long And Winding Road”
the final take of the song recorded on Jan. 31, 1969. This version is also used on the Let It Be film.
1 5 “Two Of Us”
remix of the Let It Be album version recorded on Jan. 31, 1969.
1 6 “I’ve Got A Feeling”
This song was performed twice on the Jan. 30, 1969 rooftop concert and this version is a composite of both performances. The Let It Be album and film use the first performance only.
1 7 “One After 909″
remix of version heard on Let It Be album recorded live from the rooftop concert. Unlike the original Let It Be album, the couple lines from “Danny Boy” John sings after the song are removed.
1 8 “Don’t Let Me Down”
This song was performed twice on the Jan. 30, 1969 rooftop concert and this version is a composite of both performances. The Let It Be film use the first performance only. Most of this is the first performance as well but the second performance is used to “repair” the first line of the final verse which John gets “tongue-tied” on while singing.
1 9 “I Me Mine”
Remixed version of the same track from original Let It Be album. It is still artificially lengthened but the orchestral and choral overdubs are removed.
1 10 “Across The Universe”
A remix of the original track recorded on February 4, 1968. Keyboards, maracas, orchestral and choral overdubs are removed.
1 11 “Let It Be”
Most of this is the same take used to create the mix heard on the “Let It Be” single and Get Back album (take 27A), however there are a few edit pieces from the following take (take 27B, which was the take also used on the Let It Be film).

 

Note: a second bonus CD titled Fly On The Wall came packaged with Let It Be…Naked that included dialogue from The Beatles and short snippets of rehearsals from the Get Back sessions.

 

Let It Be...Naked, rel. Nov. 2003

Let It Be…Naked, rel. Nov. 2003

 

Hope that helps Stacia! Thanks for a great topic. It was quite a workout to wrap up. If anyone has anything to add, I welcome your comments below.


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

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Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:

1) Let It Be 2009 remaster of original 1970 stereo album recorded during January 1969 and remixed for release by Phil Spector in 1970.

2) Let It Be… Naked – 2003 rework of original Let It Be album to create stripped-down versions of the tracks. In many cases completely different takes were used than those on the original “Let It Be” album.

3) The Beatles Anthology 3 1996 remastered 2-CD set compiling out-takes and extras by The Beatles recorded between 1968 and 1969. Includes 12 tracks from the January 1969 Get Back Session plus remake of “I Me Mine” for the Let It Be album.

4) Past Masters – 2009 remastered 2-CD set including all of The Beatles non-album tracks. Includes single version of “Let t Be,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Get Back,” “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” and the “Wildlife” mix of “Across The Universe.”

5) McCartney (Archive Collection) 2011 remastered 2-CD expanded version of original 1970 first solo album by Paul McCartney featuring “Teddy Boy” first recorded by The Beatles during the Get Back sessions.

6) Beatles Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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20 Comments

  • Dale True says:

    Great overview of the Let It Be/Get Back recordings, Nat.

    Do you know any specifics as to why the group did not like the second Get Back version Glyn Johns produced? Other than the cover songs and the fact Macca may have wanted Teddy Boy for his solo album, it seems to have most of the essentials as Naked. I haven’t heard Get Back album, other than what exists on Anthology 3, but I have to assume they didn’t like the actual mixes Johns made.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Good question Dale. From what I’ve read they felt it was too much like a rehearsal instead of a finished product. The tracks used for “Dig A Pony,” “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” did not appear “complete” enough to call it a cohesive album. “I’ve Got A Feeling” for instance was not even a complete performance. It breaks down just before the part where John and Paul duet their individual lead vocal parts. I think that’s actually the best part of the song.

  • Stacia says:

    You have truly outdone yourself, Nat. Well done! I need to spend more time pouring over this, but those tables with the track info simplify a lot. Thank you!

    • Happy Nat says:

      Sure thing Stacia! I kind of felt like I was writing a book at the time but decided it was worth it. Not only to answer your question but to get the info on the site. You never know when someone else will be searching for the same info…

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    It amazes me how well recorded these songs were for not properly being recorded in the first place. There is no way the acoustic properties above Apple records on a rooftop is better than EMI – Abbey Road Studio 2. Yet, their brilliance shines through like the sun on a cloudy winter’s day.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    Thanks for the exhaustive summary of the complicated Get Back sessions. This must have taken much time and research to compose. You should be quite proud indeed.

    My only question is: why was John even bothering with Across the Universe when the cameras were rolling? I know he considered it to be his best lyric, but it is hardly a song suited for jamming. I understand the Buddy Holly and oldies stalwarts, but it seems odd to me that Lennon felt the need to revisit Universe. Was he dissatisfied with the charity version which had already been released?

    This probably requires speculation, but what do you think?

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thanks Elliott. One thing to keep in mind is that in January 1969 “Across The Universe” had been heard by no one. The charity album that it was to appear on (No One’s Gonna Change Our World) did not get released until Dec. 12, 1969 and only in the U.K. It was one of John’s favorites and he even wanted it to be released as a single, but was a little hurt at what he later said was Paul’s lack of interest in it. “Lady Madonna” ended up being the single instead and at the time John just had “Universe” shelved. Was it the Playboy interview….not sure now…but one of those 1980 interviews he did, he states the song could have been done much better and that the 1968 recording did not even have his guitar in tune. Bottom line: John didn’t feel the song had been given it’s proper chance and in Jan. 1969 was still enthusiastic about rectifying that. Therefore it was in the film and needed a place on the album. Unfortunately it got pushed to the side again and during the early weeks of 1970 when George, Paul and Ringo were patching things up to make a cohesive Let It Be album, John had already given up on The Beatles, so Mr. Spector was left with remixing the 1968 recording.

  • Loretta says:

    Simply brilliant work, Nat!

    Your original research is amazing and you outdone yourself again this time by making such a complicated issue so clear.

    What always amazed me is the difference between Let it Be and Abbey Road. The two albums could not have been more different and where Let It Be was more like a rehearsal, Abbey Road was a wonderful piece of work. Especially considering that Let it Be (mostly recorded before Abbey Road) displayed such an animosity between the members of the band, but during the recording of Abbey Road they seemed like old friends again.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thank you Loretta! Yeah…Let It Be was intentionally less polished. In the beginning there was meant to be no overdubs at all…just live performances for the whole album, but that was hard to pull off when the project was being wrapped up after things sort of went sour. Anyway…I still enjoy the Let It Be album and it’s “Naked” version as well.

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Loretta, I’m not sure what you do or don’t know about their recordings, but Abbey Road was a conscious attempts to go back into the studio with George Martin one more time to record more music “like we used to” (one of their phrases, not mine) and they promised George to be good this time – no fighting! So the result was 9 part harmonies for Because, the drum solo by Ringo, the lead guitar switching “battle” if you will on The End and a total compromise between John and Paul who both had separate visions for what a collection of their songs should be on the album Side One – John’s pleasure of having separate tracks; Side Two – Paul’s pleasure having a suite of songs strung together ala Sgt. Pepper.

      Truly after Let It Be Martin thought it was already over. He didn’t think they’d call him up to record again as The Beatles. They even had a few sessions where Yoko was told to stay out. So it was more or less just them attending the sessions for Abbey Road this time around. Hence, arguably their best work as a group.

      I guess the great thing about trying to many ways to record, we have so many varied albums with great songs and wonderful sounds. What other bands dare record live to tape these days?

  • ian says:

    that’s fascinating – any chance you could write a book including all this – hope so.

  • Derek says:

    Nat is right, ian, only his ‘book’ is this incredible site. If he had the time, or inclination, Nat could produce a book of unique excellence from compiling the best of all the articles, stories, and personal impressions gathered here – a monumental task in itself, but all of the material has been completed & only requires Nat’s equally impressive ability to catalogue and archive such into a satisfactorily edited publication (a big, fat, juicy, epically entertaining book for the ages!)

  • Rene Ramirez says:

    The last info I read was that Lindsay-Hogg was working on the Let It Be dvd after Magical Mystery Tour was released. He hinted LIB would be out in spring of 2013. Any word from Apple on this ?

  • Robert Bone says:

    Just a couple of things to make the list even more complete…
    (a) Don’t Let Me Down (Single Version + Blue 67-70) had considerable work on improving/re-recording the vocals, sometime between the end of the Get Back sessions and it’s April release in an undocumented session…
    (b) On ‘Let It Be’s’ Dig A Pony ,Phil Spector as well as cutting the ‘all I want’ parts also replaced the last drum fill with a copy of one from early in the track…The LIBN version doesn’t have this edit..

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