The Long And Winding Road Ends

 

Fifty years ago, on May 11, 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long And Winding Road (for you kids, singles once had a physical manifestation). Like most of its predecessors, it became #1 in the United States. It’s one of my least favorite Beatles songs, suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation and much preferring the more stripped-down original version recorded (below) in early 1969 during the abortive Get Back recording sessions. The prior release, the classic Let It Be, should have been their farewell.

The hold and influence the Beatles had on pop music over a more than six-year period was phenomenal. The first six months of 1964 saw Beatlemania explode across the U.S. – on April, 13 of the top 100 singles were by the band and 65% of all records sold were by The Beatles. They had four #1’s in that time frame (She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do) along with two at #2 (Twist & Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret) and Please, Please, Me reached Number 3. After that initial flurry of releases, things calmed down to a more steady pace for the singles.

Though I’d seen their Ed Sullivan appearances in February and March of 1964 and occasionally heard them on our car radio, it was only in February 1965 when sick at home, that my parents gave me a radio to have next to my bed, I became an avid listener, so the first single I distinctly remember debuting was Eight Days A Week, released on the 15th of that month. From then through the release of Get Back in April 1969 I still have memories attached to most of the singles, though by the time Abbey Road was released that fall I was in college and my taste had turned to the rougher sound of the Stones who were reaching their peak (on December 5, Let It Bleed was released).

Of fifteen Beatles albums released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1970, thirteen topped the charts, the others being Something New (1964) which got to #2 but was blocked from the top spot by the soundtrack album for A Hard Day’s Night, and the soundtrack for the movie Yellow Submarine, which also reached #2 in early 1969, blocked by the White Album, released only seven weeks earlier and which topped the charts for 9 weeks (going on to spend 186 weeks on the Billboard 200). The Beatles still hold the record for most cumulative weeks at #1 on the album chart with 132 weeks (second is Garth Brooks with 52). Since the beginning of the Billboard charts in the early 1950s, the Beatles have more #1 albums than any other artist.

From July 13, 1964, with the release of A Hard Day’s Night, through May 11, 1970, The Beatles released twenty U.S. singles of which 16 (including the final three) hit #1. The only exceptions were Nowhere Man (#3), Yellow Submarine (#2, though its B-side, Eleanor Rigby reached #11, so probably a #1 if you counted both sides), Lady Madonna (#4), and The Ballad of John & Yoko (#8) – released while Get Back was still #1, with only John and Paul appearing on the song.

The B-sides of four #1 singles were also hits – She’s A Woman, the flip side of I Feel Fine, which was #4; Day Tripper, flip of We Can Work It Out, reaching #5; Strawberry Fields Forever, the #8 flip of Penny Lane; and Revolution, hitting #12 as the flip of Hey Jude, The Beatles’ best-ever selling single which topped the charts for eight weeks in the fall of 1968.

The longest intervals between single releases were the 7 1/2 months between Hey Jude (8/26/68) and Get Back (4/11/69) and six months from Yellow Submarine (8/5/66) to Penny Lane (2/13/67). As teenagers we were well aware of both gaps, wondering what was up with the boys, and if Paul was dead.

During the 32 months between Yellow Submarine’s release and that of Get Back, The Beatles released only five singles but finished with a flourish, releasing five more singles from April 1969 through May 1970.

As for staying power, 1, the Beatles album released in 2000 and containing all of the group’s #1 singles in either the U.S. or U.K. was the best selling album of the first decade of the 21st century worldwide and the 4th best selling album in the U.S. over the past thirty years, with 31 million copies purchased to date.

And now our daughter plays lullaby versions of Beatles songs to help our 5-month-old grandson fall asleep.

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There are 18 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Here with that title, I thought you were going to say that Paul and Ringo had both died.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Very nice version of “Long and Winding Road”.

    • #2
  3. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Here with that title, I thought you were going to say that Paul and Ringo had both died.

    A dark joke I remember from junior high, What would it take to get the Beatles back together? Three more bullets. 

    A light hearted joke to cleanse the palette. Which Wings album had Silly Love Songs? All of them. 

    • #3
  4. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    I really like Mcartneys piano playing on the naked track. To bad George Martin didn’t produce this. He would have added a much lighter orchestration that accentuated the beauty of the song. The structure of the song is at a genius level. Too bad Phil Spector murdered it with his schlocky over the top arrangement. 

    • #4
  5. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Histories greatest monster.

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…: suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation

    I’ll defend the Spectorized version (although I only own the naked version).

    Lennon and McCartney resented anyone touching their work. I submit that if another group had released the Spectorized Let it Be in 1968, the Beatles would have stayed together to outdo it.

    One intriguing piece of substantiating evidence is John Lennon’s favorable reaction to ELO which had a Wall of Sound quality:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOBm8hcvWDw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t08RN2yPJik

    • #6
  7. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…: suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation

    I’ll defend the Spectorized version (although I only own the naked version).

    Lennon and McCartney resented anyone touching their work. I submit that if another group had released the Spectorized Let it Be in 1968, the Beatles would have stayed together to outdo it.

    One intriguing piece of substantiating evidence is John Lennon’s favorable reaction to ELO which had a Wall of Sound quality:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOBm8hcvWDw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t08RN2yPJik

    Never could stand ELO.  And most of Lennon’s recordings after he left the Beatles were pretty bad.  I did like the very early Spector wall of sound stuff like You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and with the Ronettes.

    • #7
  8. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Here with that title, I thought you were going to say that Paul and Ringo had both died.

    A dark joke I remember from junior high, What would it take to get the Beatles back together? Three more bullets.

    A light hearted joke to cleanse the palette. Which Wings album had Silly Love Songs? All of them.

    What did they call George Martin in Heaven?

    The third Beatle.

    • #8
  9. Bob Armstrong Thatcher
    Bob Armstrong
    @BobArmstrong

    That minor chord on Paul’s final vocal really changes the interpretation of the piece – leaving the tale unresolved and open to the possibility of disappointment, whereas the Spector-ized one resolves in the major and gives the sense of completion and arrival. This version is pretty cool!

    • #9
  10. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Like. Mucho.

    • #10
  11. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    Great song. I play it in the car on long journeys- the kids love it. 

    • #11
  12. Danny Alexander Member
    Danny Alexander
    @DannyAlexander

    Rutles Forever!!!

    • #12
  13. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):

    Rutles Forever!!!

    Their legend will last a lunchtime!

    • #13
  14. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    I’m assuming that is Billy Preston on the electronic keys. Really nice to hear it in the open, not buried under an avalanche of strings.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):
    Their legend will last a lunchtime!

    That is a great phrase.

    • #15
  16. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):
    Their legend will last a lunchtime!

    That is a great phrase.

    In some ways, that Rutles movie is the best Beatles documentary out there.

    • #16
  17. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    Never could stand ELO.

    Blasphemy!

    • #17
  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    The Beatles are the biggest piece of evidence for American gullibility–they made it seem like the entire nation was one earnest teenager. I’m not sure they have any rivals in influence…

    • #18
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