Monday, December 12, 2011

The Long And Winding Road - The Beatles

The Beatles
(J. Lennon, P. McCartney) Apple A 9163


Chart Entry: 4th July, 1970
Highest Position: #6
Points: 102,718
From the album "Let It Be".


All good things come to an end, and with the release of "The Long And Winding Road" came the end of The Beatles, the most successful recording act in history. It was not a happy ending, tensions in the band causing much of their later work to be handled by various producers rather than The Beatles themselves. Phil Spector took control of the Let It Be album, including this track where most of The Beatles' instrumentation made way for his "wall of sound" of orchestral instruments. Because of this, only John Lennon and Paul McCartney remain in the final recording of the song, John featuring on bass guitar in his only Beatles recording in that role.

While not present in the final mix, George Harrison sided with John in favour of Phil Spector's treatment of "The Long And Winding Road", however, it was totally different to Paul McCartney's initial vision, later stating that he hated what Phil had done to the song. The band was sent into further turmoil as a result, unable to save themselves as impending solo careers took over the bands' unity. Paul took his grudge to the courts, citing Phil's treatment of the song as one of the six reasons that broke up The Beatles. But Spector was put in a very awkward position, John Lennon later stating, "Phil was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it, and he made something of it." George and John further championed the producer by employing Phil to oversee their next solo efforts.

Paul McCartney wrote "The Long And Winding Road" in Scotland, the relaxing landscape and beauty a great inspiration for him. He had Ray Charles in mind for the song, but it was finally offered to Tom Jones upon completion with the proviso that it would be released as his next single. Tom already had "Delilah" slated for release, so politely declined, a decision he regretted for years after. If "The Long And Winding Road" was going to be put on vinyl, then it looked like The Beatles would have to do it themselves, but there has been no shortage of covers since its release, many artists taking up the chance to record the now classic, including Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, George Michael and Olivia Newton-John.

It's comes as no surprise that Paul McCartney halted the release of "The Long And Winding Road" in the UK, but even he couldn't stop a single making its way onto the American market where it spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. It Australia, the single failed to reached the Top 5, something of a rare Beatles occurrence, previously seeing the Eight Days A Week EP reach #84 in 1965. It also halted an eight straight #1 run for the group, but there was still a "long and winding" 12 week stay in the Go-Set Top 10 that ensured "The Long And Winding Road" would still be included as one of the most successful singles of all time.

Paul McCartney's original imagining of "The Long And Winding Road" finally saw the light of day in 2003 via the Let It Be...Naked project. It was Let It Be without Spector and his "wall of sound" which has caused division among critics since its 1970 release. Void of the lush instrumentation and choral overdubs, the track is as close to the original Beatles recording as it has ever been, also closely resembling the version appearing in the 1970 Oscar winning film, Let It Be.


Chart Run:
(23 weeks in Top 100) (Go-Set Charts)

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