When The Beatles first arrived at Twickenham Studios in January of 1969, the plan was to record a large collection of songs without major overdubs or studio effects. The desire to get in touch with the unadorned origins of their sound had its merits, but the band’s lack of familiarity playing in the traditional rock band setting became immediately apparent. Even worse, John Lennon didn’t appear particularly interested in the proceedings to begin with, arriving with only one real song to contribute.
‘Don’t Let Me Down’ went through a difficult birth throughout the Get Back sessions. Lennon had only half-finished the song, and although it was one of the first tracks to get attention from the full band during rehearsals, Lennon dragged his feet on completing the lyrics, deciding on an arrangement, and finalising the structure of the song. When The Beatles performed their rooftop concert on January 30th, Lennon flubbed some of the song’s lyrics, nearly a full month after he had first shown the song to his bandmates.
While Lennon continued to struggle, Paul McCartney was attempting to flesh out the song with harmonies and a strident bassline. Making use of octave leaps, chord outlines, and leading tones, McCartney’s melodic bassline helped guide ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ into its final form. Using the old-school tones of his Hofner violin bass, McCartney channelled the simple drive of the band’s earliest days in the song’s verses.
At least until the “I’m in love for the first time” verse, when McCartney stretches out into the wandering basslines that had become his signature during The Beatles’ psychedelic period. During this section, traces of McCartney’s basslines for ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Penny Lane’ can be heard as he wanders up and down the neck of his instrument. With glissandos and slides that give the song its slinky groove, McCartney’s bassline became an essential element to ‘Don’t Let Me Down’.
Despite the hard work put into the track, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ wound up being cut from the final version of Let It Be thanks to producer Phil Spector. Instead, the song was the B-side to the ‘Get Back’ single. The track that was Lennon’s crux for his entire involvement in the Get Back project wound up not playing a major role on the album, although McCartney would later include the track in his remix version of the sessions for Let It Be… Naked.
Check out Paul McCartney’s isolated bass for ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ down below.