Great Beatle song had strings attached

52 years ago today, June 13, 1970,  The Long and Winding Road became the 20th—and final—No. 1 single in the US by The Beatles.

Paul McCartney wrote the heart-filled song at his farm in Scotland. The idea was inspired by the sight of a road “stretching up into the hills” in the remote Highlands surrounded by lochs and distant mountains.

Inspired by the growing tension among The Beatles, the song set the all-time record for number of chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100. And, amazingly, the Fab Four achieved this feat within the 74 months following their debut 1964 hit, I Want to Hold Your Handan average of one chart-topping single every 3.7 months, another all-time record. (1970)
—The Good News Network

After legendary record producer Phil Spector had yet another success working on John Lennon’s single “Instant Karma” Lennon and George Harrison invited him to work on “Let It Be,” the Beatles final album. On one of the tracks, Spector added a mountain of strings to the final take without informing the group or longtime producer George Martin. There are cellos, trombones, trumpets, violas, violins and a choir. In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald states there are 38 musicians on the final track, a far cry from the stripped-down intentions of the original Get Back sessions.

Here’s a short clip.

Paul McCartney was furious, writing to Beatle publicist Allen Klein, demanding that the “strings, horns, voices and all added noises to be reduced in volume, vocal and Beatle instrumentation to be brought up in volume, ” and “harp to be removed completely at the end of the song and original piano notes to be substituted.”

McCartney said, “Allen Klein decided – possibly having consulted the others, but certainly not me – that Let It Be would be re-produced for disc by Phil Spector. So now we were getting a ‘re-producer’ instead of just a producer, and he added all sorts of stuff – singing ladies on ‘The Long And Winding Road’ – backing that I perhaps wouldn’t have put on. I mean, I don’t think it made it the worst record ever, but the fact that now people were putting stuff on our records that certainly one of us didn’t know about was wrong. I’m not sure whether the others knew about it. It was just, ‘Oh, get it finished up. Go on – do whatever you want.’ We were all getting fed up.”

“Let It Be” was released on May 8, 1970. None of the changes McCartney wanted were made. 

“When Spector came around, it was like, ‘Well, alright, if you want to work with us [laugh], go and do your audition, man.’ And he worked like a pig on it. He’d always wanted to work with The Beatles and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it. It wasn’t fantastic, but I heard it, I didn’t puke. I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over,” said John Lennon.

“Paul had no problem picking up the Academy Award for the Let It Be movie soundtrack, nor did he have any problem in using my arrangement of the string and horn and choir parts when he performed it during 25 years of touring on his own,” said Spector. “If Paul wants to get into a pissing contest about it, he’s got me mixed up with someone who gives a shit.”

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