The Long and Winding Road

I’ve recently been enjoying this old Beatles tune off the Let It Be album. For those who don’t know, Let It Be was recorded before Abbey Road, but released afterwards (as their twelfth and last studio album). It was released almost a month after their break up. The recording process was marred with in-fighting and bitterness and the group were unhappy with the initial mix. As such, the tapes were put on the shelf. They were eventually handed to famed producer Phil Spector who set about the unenviable task of shaping the loose collection of takes into a cohesive album. Lennon, being his characteristically caustic self, later said “Phil was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it, and he made something of it.”

McCartney, meanwhile, wasn’t as happy with Spector’s work, particularly on this song. Spector took out most of the Beatle’s instruments and added eighteen violins, four violas, four cellos, three trumpets, three trombones, two guitars, and a choir of fourteen women. McCartney hated what Spector had done and wanted the original version, mixed by engineer Glyn Johns, on the album. But this ill-feeling only exacerbated the ongoing problems within the band, as both Harrison and Lennon were happy with Spector’s efforts. I can’t help but agree with McCartney. Some of it’s okay, but some of it’s ridiculous. It’s too cheesy and whimsical. It’s like a Disney tune in places. It’s as if there are two songs being played simultaneously. There’s McCartney’s moving, heartfelt ballad underneath while over the top is a sickly-sweet, saccharine orchestral score. I still think it’s a great tune, but I have to agree with engineer Geoff Emerick who said “It was an insult to Paul. It was his record. And someone takes it out of the can and starts to overdub things without his permission.” Even to this day McCartney maintains that Spector butchered his song, but Spector is unrepentant. He recently commented “Whatever the grievance, he has got me mixed up with somebody that gives a shit.”

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About lanceleuven


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