Don't Let Me Down

The history of this classic Beatles song

The original US 45 of
The original US 45 of "Don't Let Me Down". source: ebay.com

Don't Let Me Down

Written by: John Lennon (100%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: January 29, 1969 (Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London, England)
Mixed: February 5, April 4, 7, 1969
Length: 3:30
Takes: 1
Musicians: John Lennon: lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: lead guitar (1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple)
Billy Preston: electric piano (1968 Fender Rhodes)
First released: April 11, 1969 (UK: Apple R5777), May 5, 1969 (US: Apple 2490); b-side of "Get Back"
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Hey Jude, (US: Apple SW 385, UK: Parlophone PCS 7184)
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 (UK: Apple PCSP 718, US: Apple SKBO 3404, Apple CDP 0777 7 97039 2 0)
  • Past Masters Volume Two, (Parlophone CDP 7 90044 2)
  • Let It Be... Naked, (US: Apple CDP 7243 5 95227 2 2, UK: Apple 595 7132)
Highest chart position: US: 35 (May 10, 1969)
History:
  • Another song written for the proposed and discarded Get Back project (which saw life after the band's breakup as Let It Be, this emotional ballad was written by John in November 1968 as a direct plea to new lover Yoko Ono, begging her not to break his heart. It was crafted from three different song fragments of John's: the opening title section, the verse ("Nobody ever loved me liked she loved me"), and the bridge ("I'm in love for the first time").
  • "Don't Let Me Down" was recorded at the same Apple Studios sessions that produced the a-side of this single, "Get Back," but was also rehearsed on January 2-3, 6-10, 22-23, and 28-29, and also performed during the "rooftop concert" on the roof of Apple Studios on January 30.
  • Each verse of "Don't Let Me Down" begins with John singing a capella, in a free form style, with the result that the entire band has to wait for his downbeat, introducing an extra beat into the first line (making it 5/4 although the rest of the song is 4/4).
Trivia:
  • Several well-known John songs in the same vein date from this period, including the eventual solo tracks "Oh My Love" and "Look At Me," and "Everybody Had A Hard/Good Year," which would become the bridge of the Let It Be track "I've Got A Feeling."
  • Although planned as part of the Get Back project, producer Phil Spector struck the song from the running order when called on to salvage the album that would eventually be known as Let It Be. The 2003 release Let It Be... Naked uses a version edited from the two takes done on the rooftop.
  • The bootlegged take of this song on January 28th is widely considered better than the officially released version, with an even more emphatic vocal from John (who was beginning to experiment with the kind of "primal scream" vocalese he would feature on his first Plastic Ono Band recordings).
  • The band Garbage performed a tongue-in-cheek version of this song to mark the opening of the newly-elected Scottish Parliament in 1999 in Edinburgh (Garbage's singer, Shirley Manson, is from the city). The governing body was in the midst of celebrating autonomy after 300 years of British rule.
Covered by: Randy Crawford, Crown of Thorns, Dylan & Clark, Garbage, Gene, Marcia Griffiths, Taylor Hicks, Julian Lennon, Annie Lennox, Maroon 5, Matchbox Twenty, The Persuasions, Phoebe Snow, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, Zwan