Monday, May 24, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road is a ballad written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon/McCartney) that originally appeared on The Beatles’ final album Let it Be. It became The Beatles’ last number-one song in the United States on 23 May 1970, and was the last single released by the quartet. The Long and Winding Road was listed with For You Blue as a double-sided hit when the single hit number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
While the released version of the song was very successful, the post-production modifications to the song by producer Phil Spector angered McCartney to the point that when he made his case in court for breaking up the Beatles as a legal entity McCartney cited the treatment of The Long and Winding Road as one of six reasons for doing so.

In 2003, the remaining Beatles and Yoko Ono released Let it Be… Naked, touted as the band's version of Let It Be remixed by independent producers. McCartney claimed that his long-standing dissatisfaction with the released version of The Long and Winding Road (and the entire Let It Be album) was in part the impetus for the new version. The album included a different take, Take 19, of The Long and Winding Road recorded on 31 January. Although a different take, this version is nonetheless closer to McCartney's original intention than the album version, with no strings or other added instrumentation beyond that which was played in the studio at the time. This take is the one seen in the film Let it Be.

Ringo Starr was impressed with the Naked version of the song: “There's nothing wrong with Phil's strings, this is just a different attitude to listening. But it's been 30-odd years since I've heard it without all that and it just blew me away."[3] Spector himself argued that McCartney was being hypocritical in his criticism: “Paul had no problem picking up the Academy Award for the Let it Be movie soundtrack, nor did he have any problem in using my arrangement of the string and horn and choir parts when he performed it during 25 years of touring on his own. If Paul wants to get into a pissing contest about it, he's got me mixed up with someone who gives a shit.”
All of which goes to show what a delightful character is Phil Spector, currently serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life for murder in the second degree.

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door.

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day.
Why leave me standing here?
Let me know the way.

Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried,
Anyway you’ve always known
The many ways I’ve tried.

And still they lead me back
To the long, winding road
You left me waiting here
A long, long time ago
Don't keep me standing here
Lead me to your door.

But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me waiting here
A long, long time ago
Don't leave me standing here
Lead me to your door.

Lennon/McCartney 1970

To my generation The Long and Winding Road marked the end of an era during which we grew up. I was only 15 years old in May 1970, and to be quite honest, didn’t like the Beatles all that much. They were mainly singing about things I was too young to understand. However, at that time I had developed an all-embracing crush on a young lady called Victoria. Unfortunately she was not much interested in me, the gawky, spotty impecunious, callow youth that I was. Victoria lived about three miles away from our house, out of town almost. I would walk those three miles late every Saturday afternoon, knock on her door and ask her out for the evening. And she always turned me down, albeit with a sweet smile, for some reason or other and always with a “Maybe next week…” And I would walk the three miles back to our house every week, feeling that Mr McCartney was singing his song about the Long and Winding Road just for me. This went on for six months, by which time I had turned sixteen, covered about 150 miles and worn out a pair of suede desert boots. Looking at the distressed footwear I eventually came to the conclusion that I was on a hiding to nothing, and gave up. I realize now that this was a kind of ningen kousaten, as the Japanese call it, or human crossroads. If Victoria had consented but once, my whole life might have been very different.

Food for thought, indeed.

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