Day In History ► May 7 ► The Beatles’ Last U.S. Single

Dateline 1970 – The Beatles released “The Long and Winding Road” on
this day. It would turn out to be the last single The Beatles ever released in ‘Merka.
A month earlier, on April 10th, Paul McCartney, citing “personal,
business and musical differences” announced he was leaving The Beatles. Ten
days later he released his first solo LP “McCartney” (recently re-released with
bonus tracks) and four days after that Ringo Starr released his first solo LP, “Sentimental
Journey.” Therefore, “The Long and Winding
Road” had to compete with other Beatles on the ‘Merkin

The backstory to “The Long and Winding Road” is worth repeating. When
The Beatles set out to record “Let It Be,” Paul’s big idea was to do a Back to
Basics album and “Making of…” documentary, without all the lush orchestrations
and overdubs used on their previous LPs. It was also a way, McCartney hoped, to
bring the band back together. It was clear during the recording of “The Beatles”
(aka The White Album) that tempers were flaring. Maybe a return to the basics,
the way they did it in the old day, would prevent the band from fragmenting.
It didn’t work. The fights that occurred during the making
of “Let It Be” are legendary. George Harrison even quit the band at one point.
Later, when he agreed to come back he brought in friend Billy Preston,
hoping that might calm the waters. By the time the project was finished, no one
had the patience to deal with the hundreds of hours of tapes resultant. A
couple of test pressings and mixes were prepared by Glyn Johns, but no one was
ever happy with them. Eventually, after sitting around for a year, all the
tapes were turned over to Phil “Wall of Sound” Spector to do something with them
for release.
Meanwhile, The Beatles went into the studio one last time
and recorded “Abbey Road,”
a fitting swansong to the extraordinary—but short—recording career of The
Beatles. “Abbey Road”
was released before “Let It Be,” which became the final Beatles LP. It was
released in conjunction with the making of documentary of the same name.
When “Let It Be” was finally released it was as far from
Paul’s original concept as possible. Instead of a stripped-down, back to basics
record, Spector had smothered the tracks under strings and other overdubs. Paul
was especially derisive of his composition “The Long and Winding Road.” He was, rightfully, proud
of the song and felt Spector’s treatment ruined it.  Paul eventually had the last laugh, 33 years
later, when Let It Be…Naked, a stripped-down version like Paul had always
intended, was released. According to the WickiWackyWoo:
For “The Long
and Winding Road”, the Naked producers used the final take, recorded five
days after the rough run-through Phil Spector had selected for the original
album.[1] As per all songs on Let It Be… Naked, this version is devoid of any
orchestral or choral overdubs. (The unadorned take from Let It Be is featured
on Anthology 3.) Finally, there is a slight lyrical difference: whereas the
original album version’s lyric reads, “anyway, you’ll never know the many
ways I’ve tried,” on this version it reads, “anyway, you’ve always
known the many ways I’ve tried.” Electric guitar and electric piano are
also present in this version, played respectively by Harrison and Billy
Here’s the original version as released by Phil Spector,
followed by the way it was always meant to be.

Sadly Let It Be has not been available for home video since
forever. Are you listening, Paul? Imagine the bonus features with all that film
and audio. I already own all of it on bootleg audio, but I’d pay for an
official release.
Bonus Beatles – “The Long And Winding Road” from the movie “Let
It Be.”

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.