Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Beatles' Final Number 1 Hit

Sometimes it may be difficult to imagine — particularly if you're under 50 — that there was ever a time when the Beatles were not a part of the musical landscape.

Many of their songs are so familiar to just about everyone that they've become fixtures in the rather bland soundtracks that play on elevators and in lobbies and waiting rooms.

But there was a beginning for the Beatles' global popularity.

And, while the three Beatles who survived John Lennon released two songs in the 1990s that combined tracks that Lennon recorded before his death in 1980 with tracks the others recorded later, there was a song that was the last one recorded by all four Beatles that reached the top of the charts.

That final Number 1 hit was "The Long and Winding Road," which was part of the Beatles' final studio album, "Let It Be." It reached Number 1 on this date in 1970.

It was a ballad written by Paul McCartney, but, per his long–standing agreement with Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song–writing team.

As lovely as most people feel the recording is, the post–production treatment of the song by Phil Spector upset McCartney so that he cited it as one of the reasons for the breakup of the Beatles. McCartney envisioned a simple piano ballad, not the Spector version with orchestral and choral embellishment.

The breakup of the Beatles may well have happened even if Spector hadn't done anything to the song. McCartney cited five other reasons for the group's split.

But one can only wonder what else — if anything — might have been recorded by the Beatles if Spector hadn't meddled.