Phil Spector was a very bad man.
Let’s be clear here. The smothering wall of strings on The Long and Winding Road ranks well down on the list of history’s great crimes against humanity. No one died. But a crime it is.
Daughter Nora was looking for “Please Please Me” for a Christmas present for me. When she couldn’t find it, she asked me to suggest another record I’d like. I asked for “Let It Be.”
When the “Let It Be — Naked” was released a couple of years back, Paul McCartney said, “That was the thing about the Beatles, we were always a great little band.” I agree, and I’ve always been fond of their music. I especially love the very early stuff, which is why I asked for “Please Please Me.” It’s fun. “Let It Be” is that way too, at least in part, a lot of the pretension pulled back off, a bunch of guys goofing in the basement with their guitars.
And then came Spector, creating something appropriate for background music while you’re shopping for frozen peas.
I knew what I was getting into when I asked Nora for the album. When I was a teenager, my friend Danny Hogle had this fabulous collection of Beatles bootlegs, among them a bunch of stuff from the Let It Be sessions. There was Paul pecking out the chords for “Let It Be” for the band for the first time. And his naked version of the Long and Winding Road, sans Spector, sans the Wall of Sound.
It’s a lovely little ballad, sad and sweet and pretty, just Paul and the piano.
The “Naked” re-release has it the way Paul sang it, but there are other problems with that album. The clowning on “Get Back,” up on the Apple Studios roof with Billy Preston, has always been a favorite bit of business, and they cut it out of the version they included. So the original “Let It Be” is, on balance, my favorite of the two. But such a tradeoff. I suppose I’ll have to acquire both, and make my own mix-and-match CD.
And I still need Please Please Me.