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"Don't Let Me Down"

Categories: Beatles songs

The version of "Don't Let Me Down" which backed the "Get Back" single was recorded during the same session. Not a bad day's work, it must be said. That's the cut to be found on Past Masters, the Blue Album and the US Hey Jude compilation: though, of course, the most memorable rendition was live on the windswept roof of the Apple Building. An essential part of the Let It Be movie, it was inexplicably omitted from the LP.

In this particular case, the Naked venture proved itself worthwhile, restoring the song to its rightful place. "Don't Let Me Down" was always far too good to have been relegated to the relative obscurity of a B-side. That said, it's a very un-non-tampered-with composite of the two live takes from the Jan 30th 'concert'. Maybe they should've left in John's gobbledegook lyric fill to've truly maintained authenticity...

Done me good!

Lennon was, indeed, "in love for the first time". His marriage to Cynthia had never really counted: by his own confession, it had been little more than a case of 'doing the right thing' when he'd got her pregnant with Julian. Now he really was in love: but far from the bed of roses promised in all them old love songs, he was further into hell than he'd ever been.

For starters, everyone else in the world seemed to either completely misunderstand — or actively hate — the woman he loved... including his three best mates. So, naturally, he felt obliged to set the record straight. 'This ain't no one-night stand, and I ain't been bewitched':

Don't you know it's gonna last?
It's a love that lasts forever,
It's a love that has no past!

It was also a love that had happened pretty damn fast. Just eight-or-so months before, John and Yoko had still been 'two virgins', but since his return from India the whole thing had snowballed. Lennon had wasted little time in abandoning what was left of his marriage, together with his four-year-old son and his stately home, in order to be with her — only to find universal damnation.

And if the pace of it all wasn't disorientating enough, there was also the shared heroin habit that had grown alongside their mutual infatuation. In the light (or darkness) of the situation, it was small wonder that Yoko had suffered a miscarriage shortly after the release of The White Album. Both of them were, to put it bluntly, totally fucked.

"When you're drowning... you just scream", Lennon reflected the following year, having screamed out his hang-ups on the Plastic Ono Band LP. His repeated ranting of the title refrain here is equally indicative of a man clutching at the only straw left to him: 'I'm in well over me 'ead 'ere, Yoko...

Don't let me down!!!'

Whatever their feelings about the relationship in general, and towards — or against — Ms Ono in particular, the other Beatles most definitely didn't let him down on the song, from the spine-chilling intro to the decisive closing chord.

Paul was right there with him on the roof to share both the agony and the ecstasy of the vocal (the studio version was double-tracked John). In both cases, however, Macca threw in a wonderfully melodic bassline. Ringo, requested to give it plenty of balls to give John the balls to sing it, was happy to oblige: then lay things right back for the lilting affirmations of the verses. George remained respectfully restrained, his sensitive fills sharing the spotlight with Billy Preston's shimmering electric piano.

A love song as only Lennon could write one. Next stop, Southampton Dock...
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