ARTS & CULTURE

'The Long And Winding Road' Led To The Beatles' Final No. 1 Single

06/13/2014 08:08 am ET | Updated Jun 13, 2014
John Pratt via Getty Images

On June 13, 1970, The Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road" hit No. 1 in the United States. The song, released off of "Let It Be," would be their last No. 1 single, and went on to eerily symbolize the band's own journey. All these years later, we take a look back at some things you might not know about that final hit:

  • The Beatles recorded "The Long And Winding Road" in 1969; by the time it was released a year later, they were in their midst of their breakup.
  • McCartney wrote the song as a frustrated response to the tension that eventual tore the band apart ...
  • ... Although, in a literal sense, the title is said to based on the B842, a road that runs down Kintrye, Scotland, near the area where McCartney had a farm with his family.
  • McCartney later said he hated the addition of female vocals and what he believed to be excessive orchestration by Phil Spector, writing a strongly worded letter (which can be found in "Anthology"):
  • Dear Sir,

    In future no one will be allowed to add to or subtract from a recording of one of my songs without my permission.
    I had considered orchestrating The Long And Winding Road but I had decided against it. I therefore want it altered to these specifications:
    1. Strings, horns, voices and all added noises to be reduced in volume.
    2. Vocal and Beatle instrumentation to be brought up in volume.
    3. Harp to be removed completely at the end of the song and original piano notes to be substituted.
    4. Don’t ever do it again.

    Paul McCartney
    c.c. Phil Spector, 
John Eastman

  • The song was originally intended for Ray Charles, and McCartney later noted that the finished product reflects that fact. "That was in my mind, and would have probably had some bearing on the chord structure of it, which is slightly jazzy," he said, as documented in "Many Years From Now" by Barry Miles. "I think I could attribute that to having Ray in my mind when I wrote that one."
  • Once it was written, McCartney also pitched "The Long And Winding Road" to Tom Jones for his next single in 1968, but Jones turned him down (and later regretted his decision).
  • Ultimately, he wrote it when he was, as he put it, “a bit flipped out and tripped out" over everything that was going on with The Beatles. "It’s a sad song," he later said, "Because it’s all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road that you never get to the end of.”

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