Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chicken Skin 4: The Beatles (Macca Really) : The Long and Winding Road & Golden Slumbers

"It's rather a sad song. I like writing sad songs, it's a good bag to get into because you can actually acknowledge some deeper feelings of your own and put them in it. It's a good vehicle, it saves having to go to a psychiatrist."

The Long and Winding Road was inspired by the B842, a Scottish road that led Paul McCartney to the door of his Scottish pile in Kyntyre and, of course, back into Linda's arms. It is often dismissed as one of the the Beatles songs that Phil Spector ruined post production with over elaborate arrangements. There's also the accusation leveled at John Lennon that he tried to sabotage the recording with his deliberately ham fisted bass playing. I kind of like it when he goes walkabout; it's a nice counter to the song's heavenly ham... Whatever, it's recognized that Macca hated the Spector version, demanding that the harp be removed and the excesses toned down; he was furious, insulted at the intrusion. 'Don't ever do it again' he snapped. He was becoming increasingly isolated; the other Beatles were already being represented by Allen Klein and Paul's requests became ultimatums, which were ultimately ignored...
"The album was finished a year ago, but a few months ago American record producer Phil Spector was called in by Lennon to tidy up some of the tracks. But a few weeks ago, I was sent a re-mixed version of my song 'The Long and Winding Road' with harps, horns, an orchestra, and a women's choir added. No one had asked me what I thought. I couldn't believe it." 
His mistreatment effectively led to the the break up of The Beatles. 
I'm so used to the strings and choir that the 'Naked' version came as quite a shock. There's a sadness in McCartney's voice that I find effecting, particularly as he hits the bridge.
Here's both versions; the recently remastered Spector take followed by the raw version, which is spoilt a little by what seems to be auto tuning on McCartney's voice in the intro...
Chicken Skin: 1.25

Paul also had a great rawness to his voice when he wanted to.
Here's 'Golden Slumbers'.
Hear the glorious rasp as he bawls "smiles awake you when you rise."
Chicken Skin: 44 seconds


  1. Spector's been hammered mercilessly for his arrangement... Bring on the grandiose, orchestral mush, I'm a sucker for it! It's still my favorite Beatles song. As much as I poop on Macca's solo career, for this song alone he's a genius.

    OK, you've had your glorious Beatles goosebumper. Same era... I was always more of a fan of the (wholesome?) Beach Boys, so backatcha with 'God Only Knows' glorious climax of circular harmonies that begin @ around 2:08 when the Hal Blaine's drums enter. Brian's soaring "Where would I be without you" falsetto is the part that gives me shivers.

    Interesting note: Only Carl, Brian & Bruce Johnson sing on the entire track; and on this final section/fade it's only Brian & Bruce. Brian sings two of the three parts. He sang the top and the bottom part and Bruce sang in the middle. Carl was tired and went home early!

    Stripped down rehearsal versions high-light the intricate harmonies:

  2. Great call TT. It's one of my top 5 singles of all time. I think that 'Pet Sounds' will miss my list as I'm trying to choose albums that are off the world's usual Best Of lists; the OK Computer/Abbey Rd/Astral Weeks thing. Not denying their quality just trying to make things more interesting....

    1. A desert island without the Beach Boys? I'm not going!!!
      I don't really have to worry about the "World's Best List" overlap as only Pet Sounds & perhaps What's Goin' On would fall into that category. Seems a sin to censor personal favorites just because some journos have decreed a particular album "classic."

    2. I guess that it's kind of a hair shirt TT; my original list had many of the acknowledged fav's on. I love 'Blonde on Blonde' and 'Highway 61' but I'm leaning towards the albums that I feel I discovered myself rather than been directed there by a rock and roll librarian. It's a strange restriction I recognize, and do not necessarily swear to stick by it...

  3. Thought I'd redress the balance and add a Lennon to the McCartney. It's a post Beatles track from the magnificent, harrowing, Plastic Ono Band album.
    The moment is the resolution to God, one of the few resolutions on an album where songs simply end leaving silence but no sense that anything is over. "The dream is over / What can I say? / The dream is over / Yesterday / I was the dreamweaver / but now I'm reborn / I was the walrus / but now I'm John / And so dear friends / You just have to carry on / The dream is over"
    Here's the song with lots of talking heads -
    And here it is, naked -
    Ironically enough I wanted to do a version of this that took away the resolution and simply ended with the line -"I Don't Believe in Me"

  4. Your version would only be half the story then Seamus... I love John's singing on the end section.

    1. Well Trevor, me singing it wouldn't have been the same - me signing it would probably have sounded better!

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