100 Greatest Beatles Songs

From 'Helter Skelter' to 'Sgt. Pepper's,' ranking of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison's output

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'Don't Let Me Down'
Tom Hanley/Redferns46/100

46. 'Don't Let Me Down'

Main Writer: Lennon
Recorded: January 22, 28 and 30, 1969
Released: May 5, 1969
4 weeks; No. 35 (B side)

When the "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" single came out in May 1969, it was advertised as "The Beatles as nature intended . . . the first Beatles record which is as live as can be, in this electronic age. There's no electronic whatchamacallit." Both sides of the single were recorded live at Apple Studios, with the Beatles joined only by keyboardist Billy Preston, who was taking a break from Ray Charles' band.

In 1980, Lennon summed up the inspiration for the song tersely: "That's me, singing about Yoko." McCartney later went into more detail: "It was a very tense period. John was with Yoko and had escalated to heroin and all the accompanying paranoias, and he was putting himself out on a limb. I think that as much as it excited and amused him, at the same time it secretly terrified him. So 'Don't Let Me Down' was a genuine plea."

Summoning the emotional intensity to sing it was also difficult for Lennon, who asked Starr to provide a cymbal crash just before his vocals to "give me the courage to come screaming in."

Appears On: Past Masters

Ringo Starr, Confident and Sober: Rolling Stone's 1992 Feature Story
Video: John and Yoko Scene from Beatles Documentary
Paul McCartney and Billy Joel Rock Out at Yankee Stadium

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