John Lennon’s bass performance on ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is almost certainly one of the low points of his career with The Beatles. In fact, it was so bad that many have accused him of sabotage.
The track was part of the Let It Be/Get Back sessions which were doomed from the offset, a project which would end up being the final nail in the coffin for The Fab Four as the band split up by the time Let It Be was eventually released. The record was originally working under the planned title of Get Back but, after being dissatisfied with the mixes, the project was shelved and later reworked.
In truth, John Lennon wasn’t ever fully invested in the project, later revealing in the Anthology: “We’re lazy fuckers, and we’ve been playing for 20 years, for fuck’s sake. We’re grown men, we’re not going to sit around rehearsing. And we couldn’t get into it, and we put down a few tracks and nobody was in it at all. It was just a dreadful, dreadful feeling and, being filmed all the time, I just wanted them to go away.”
He then added: “We’d be there at 8 in the morning, and you couldn’t make music at 8 in the morning, or 10, or whatever it was, in a strange place with people filming you, and coloured lights.”
This lack of energy that Lennon had for the project is evident throughout the sessions but, on ‘The Long and Winding Road’, he leaves no question marks about his desire to leave the group. He simply just wasn’t that interested in being there and it wasn’t helped by the fact that he was saddled with playing bass which was never his forte.
In an attempt to cover up Lennon’s mishaps, Phil Spector decided to drown it out with orchestration and a choir which seemed like the only other option, the producer knowing that inviting anyone back into the studio to record the bass part would have been an impossible task. However, even Spector’s heavy production couldn’t hide Lennon’s disastrous performance.
It’s safe to say that Paul McCartney was displeased with both Lennon’s somewhat lazy performance as well as Phil Spector’s attempt to hide it. “The album was finished a year ago, but a few months ago American record producer Phil Spector was called in by John Lennon to tidy up some of the tracks. But a few weeks ago, I was sent a re-mixed version of my song ‘The Long And Winding Road’ with harps, horns, an orchestra, and a women’s choir added,” McCartney said in 1970.
“No one had asked me what I thought. I couldn’t believe it. The record came with a note from Allen Klein saying he thought the changes were necessary. I don’t blame Phil Spector for doing it, but it just goes to show that it’s no good me sitting here thinking I’m in control because obviously I’m not. Anyway, I’ve sent Klein a letter asking for some things to be altered, but I haven’t received an answer yet,” he added.
Lennon almost certainly didn’t deliberately ‘sabotage’ this session as I don’t think he cared enough about the project to go out of his way to put the effort into messing it up on purpose — his heart just simply wasn’t in the record.