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Why The Beatles’ ‘The Long and Winding Road’ Fails




The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” has a bad instrumental. Paul McCartney seems to think it’s one of The Beatles’ best songs.

The Beatles were, overall, better at writing ballads than any of their contemporaries. Despite this, The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” is not one of their prouder moments. Here’s an exploration of why the track just isn’t as good as some of their other slow songs.

The Beatles’ ‘The Long and Winding Road’ feels disingenuous

The Beatles gave us some of the best ballads of all time, such as “Yesterday,” “Something,” “And I Love Her,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Hey Jude,” and “Let It Be.” Despite its popularity, many critics just don’t enjoy “The Long and Winding Road” as much as the other songs.

That might be because the track is so sentimental. Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be cool, and “The Long and Winding Road” is as emotive as a Carpenters hit. Of course, the same could be said of most Beatles ballads.


The problem with the song is really its framing. Paul McCartney is singing about how someone is the point of his entire existence. He’s not talking about Jane Asher or Linda McCartney. He addresses the song to you. Unless you know the “Silly Love Songs” singer personally and he’s in love with you, “The Long and Winding Road” will come across as disingenuous.

The instrumental of ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is too much

Of course, plenty of songs with clunky lyrics have been redeemed by a good instrumental. “The Long and Winding Road” is not one of those songs. It sounds less like a pop hit and more like the score of a forgotten 1970s romance drama that hasn’t aged well. The strings are overwhelming. Phil Spector was one of the best pop producers ever, but he didn’t do the Fab Four any favors here.

The backing vocals aren’t helping. Adding what sounds like a gospel choir to the tune just makes it more painfully over-the-top. At least the version of the song from the album Let It Be… Naked dials things back.

Paul McCartney said the ballad is 1 of The Beatles’ magical songs

Regardless of the critical reception of The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road,” Paul is proud of it. During a 2010 interview with The Repository, the singer said the tune was magical. “The most important ingredient to making a song work is the magic,” he said. “You’ve got a melody, you’ve got words, but on the more successful songs, there’s a sort of magic glow that just happens and you can feel it happening. It just makes the songs sort of roll out.

“So something like ‘Yesterday,’ which I dreamed, that was the magic — the mere fact that I had the whole thing in a dream,” he added. “And in other songs like ‘Let it Be,’ that actually came from a dream where I saw my mother in the dream. ‘Hey Jude’ just rolls out — ‘The Long and Winding Road.’ But the ones that have become the most successful — ‘Eleanor Rigby’ — something about them just felt kind of magical. So I suppose I’d say the one ingredient that was special to all of them was the magic in them. Does that make sense?”


“The Long and Winding Road” might not be perfect but Paul looks back on it fondly.

Source: Cheat Sheet

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