(this post has been updated Nov 15, 2011)
I would never have female voices on a Beatles record
– Paul McCartney (Many Years From Now p.575)
...apart from Marianne Faithful, all our wives, 2 fans, 1 girlfriend, 2 choirs and an orchestra...
More than any other song The Long And Winding Road epitomises the whole clash of vision, and lack of reality that killed the Let It Be album. Before we take a closer look, let's dispel one of the arguments Paul had for why he hated the recording. He claimed that female vocals were somehow anathema to the Beatles sound. However there are nine other songs where he was quite happy to include the ladies...
1) 14 voice female choir - The Long And Winding Road
This is the one that provoked Paul's odd comment, glacial operatic oohs and ahhs. lady style mushiness to the power of 14.
2) Linda McCartney - Let It Be
The lovely Linda join Paul and George for overdubbed oohs on a song inspired by a dream about Paul's mother.
3) 14 voice female choir (Spector version) Lizzie Bravo & Gayleen Pease (Wildlife version) - Across The Universe
The same set up as The Long And Winding Road didn't annoy Paul as much, presumably because Across The Universe was an old Lennon 'b side' rather than a new McCartney ballad. On the original version Lizzie & Gayleen became probably the most famous Beatles fans (after Charles Manson) after they were plucked from their vigil at the Abbey Road gates to contribute some childishly squeaky vocals to the chorus (which Spector wisely deleted).
4) Yoko Ono & Maureen Starkey - The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
Not only do a wife and future wife contribute BVs, but Yoko sings one line of lead vocals “Not when he looks so fierce”. Lennon follows this with “...his Mummy butted in”. Feel free to discuss any irony in the statement “his Mummy butted in” in the comments section.
5) Pattie Harrison & Yoko Ono - Birthday
Another wife duet on McCartney's written in the studio rocker.
6) Members of Session Orchestra - Hey Jude
The 36 classical musicians booked for this session famously became the knights who sing “Na” after the Beatles doubled their rates in exchange for backing vocals on the longest fade out in history.
7) The Mike Sammes Singers – Goodnight
The middle of the road vocal group add some gooey love mush to Lennon's song for Julian. This time Phil Spector has an alibi, being 3000 miles away from Abbey Road at the time. I accuse George Martin in the studio with the lead piping.
8) The Mike Sammes Singers - I Am The Walrus
George Martin employs one of the UK top vocal groups. Lennon gets them to sing “Everybody's got one” and “Umpah Umpah, stick it up your jumper”
9) Marianne Faithful, Pattie Harrison & Jane Asher - All You Need Is Love
Joining everyone and his brother in the studio for the live TV broadcast before 400 million viewers. Keith Moon played hi hat.
10) Marianne Faithful & Pattie Harrison - Yellow Submarine
The first sighting of women in the Beatles Boys club. This means that the most recorded woman on the Beatles songs is – Pattie Harrison!
Next time I'll try to unpack why everyone hates The Long And Winding Road.