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Music

Why Paul McCartney hated The Beatles’ final number one hit

As you’re a person of the world, I assume you’ve heard of The Beatles and, as you’re here, I assume you’re a fan. If you haven’t watched Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back, I implore you to do so when you can. The documentary brought us closer to the Fab Four than ever before during the intimate and often intense recording sessions for the band’s final album, Let It Be (1970).

The footage was taken over the course of 21 days of studio time, where the band were creating new material for their upcoming album. The material was also to be showcased in a special public performance. During the documentary, there is an ongoing discussion as to where they should host this special live set. Eventually, they agreed to hold the landmark concert on the rooftop of Apple Corps. 

Throughout the recording sessions, The Beatles are seen to be fraying at the seams, with bickering a common feature throughout and George Harrison storming out in the middle of a session. After the famous Rooftop Concert, we left The Beatles for the last time in Peter Jackson’s documentary. Evidently, relations between the four continued to worsen over the following few months until the ultimate break-up of the band in April 1970. 

The album Sean Ono Lennon listened to on repeat following John Lennon’s death

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During this period, the final album, Let It Be, was being mixed in the studio by Phil Spector. Spector was generally left to his devices at the time because Paul McCartney was no longer on good terms with the others and so remained scarce. It is also understood that John Lennon was absent from the production process for the album and that the four only really communicated via written letters at this stage. 

This absenteeism and disengagement meant that Spector had unsupervised freedom to tinker with the recordings. As with any unbridled producer, he let loose on the music, adding a wealth of overdubs. 

At the time, McCartney was ready to release his debut solo album; however, the other three Beatles objected to him releasing it until they had released the final Beatles LP to avoid enduring any competition issues. This added fire to the feud, but what made McCartney most irate was how Spector ruined his Let It Be song, ‘The Long and Winding Road’. 

Spector felt that there were flaws in the recorded tapes for the track and so decided to mix it with string and choir overdubs. Before the record went to press, Paul received a copy and was upset with what he heard. Much of McCartney’s anger was directed toward the Beatles manager Allen Klein, who included a note explaining the changes Spector had made.

Paul told the Evening Standard, “No one asked me what I thought. I couldn’t believe it. I would never have female voices on a Beatles record.” He also sent Klein a sharply worded letter demanding several changes. The letter, which was featured in Anthology, included four points. The first two asked that the orchestration be toned down a bit, while the third demanded the removal of the harp sections. The fourth and final point simply read, “Don’t do it again.”

Despite McCartney’s notes on the track, neither Klein nor the other three band members bothered to push Spector to revise the production. ‘The Long and Winding Road’ was subsequently released without any of McCartney’s reservations being addressed. 

The single reached number one on the US Billboard top 100 even in its adultered state. After this palaver, McCartney understandably felt a general disillusionment with the song and even cited the issues surrounding it as one of six reasons for the Beatles’ split when appearing in front of the English High Court during the group’s official divorce. 

Listen to the naked version of Paul McCartney’s final number one with The Beatles below. This revised version shows the classic track as McCartney wanted it.