Paul McCartney's infamous angry 'Long and Winding Road' letter after tinkering is a must-read

16 August 2021, 12:24

Beatles rooftop gig and Paul McCartney's letter
Beatles rooftop gig and Paul McCartney's letter. Picture: Getty/Paul McCartney

By Mayer Nissim

"Don't ever do it again," McCartney seethed at the business manager over getting Phil Spector to (over)produce his song.

Opinions on the controversial recording of The Beatles' Let it Be will be up for debate once more this when Peter Jackson's three-part, six-hour Get Back miniseries airs on Disney+ later this year.

Fans and critics have long thought that the sessions were especially bad tempered, an idea fuelled by Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 Let It Be documentary that appeared to show the band often moody, squabbling and on the verge of breaking up.

But Jackson has suggested that Lindsay-Hogg's edit was subconsciously swayed by the band's later break-up, and that the hundreds of hours of footage he saw painted a much happier picture between John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Read more: The inside story of why The Beatles really broke up

But what isn't up for debate is that the inter-band relationships definitely deteriorated by the time the album was actually released.

John Lennon brought in Allen Klein to manage the band, and although Paul McCartney was against it, he was outvoted by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, who sided with John.

The Beatles had shelved the tapes for their planned Get Back album and went on to record and release Abbey Road before the end of 1969.

The broken-up band returned to the Get Back tapes and Klein bought Phil Spector on board, who eventually turned the sessions into the album we know today as Let It Be.

Read more: 'Eleanor Rigby' by The Beatles: The making of the dark pop classic

Speaking to Rolling Stone at the time, Lennon said: "He was given the s**ttiest load of badly recorded s**t – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it."

McCartney wasn't so pleased with Spector adding his Wall of Sound sheen to the songs, especially when it came to his own 'The Long and Winding Road'.

He made his feelings clear in a strongly-worded letter dated April 14, 1970 demanding at least a dialling back of the changes, which ended with the to-the-point "Don't ever do it again".

While Ringo was fine with the production on Let It Be ("I like what Phil did... there's no point bringing him in if you're not going to like the way he does it."), original producer George Martin wasn't best pleased, especially when he was told that he wouldn't be getting a production credit on the album.

"I produced the original, and what you should do is have a credit saying 'Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector'," he said, drily.

QUIZ: How well do you know the Beatles' song lyrics?

McCartney eventually had the last word, masterminding the release of 2003's Let It Be... Naked, which changed a few tracks around, used different takes and versions, and essentially stripped out all of Spector's add-ons.

That was especially true of 'The Long and Winding Road', and you can compare and contrast both versions above.

Originally slated for a 2020 cinema release, The Beatles: Get Back will now air exclusively on Disney+ on November 25, 26, and 27, 2021.