Beatles Arranger Wasn’t Paid Much for ‘The Long and Winding Road’
The man who arranged the orchestration for the Beatles’ final U.S. No.1 single said he wasn't paid much for his work.
Richard Hewson collaborated on two tracks from the Fab Four’s last album, Let It Be, which was released in 1970, and received a total of £80 for his work. He also revealed that the engagement led to a year-long dispute with Paul McCartney, who didn't want his input.
“I did ‘I Me Mine’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ total, £80,” Hewson told the BBC in a new interview. “They must have made £40 million out of that, at least. I really didn’t know how big these people were. I’d heard of the Beatles, obviously. … I didn’t realize when that record came out how huge it would be. I was just doing another gig.”
You can listen to the interview below.
The connection was made after Hewson started a jazz trio with Peter Asher, brother of actress Jane Asher, who was then dating McCartney. “We’d go round to Peter’s house to rehearse,” Hewson recalled. “There I met Paul McCartney. When Paul discovered Mary Hopkin as a Welsh folk singer, he wanted to make a record with her and he didn’t want to go down the usual route of hiring the normal people. Peter said, ‘Why not try Richard? He might be able to do an arranging job for you.’ I said, ‘I don’t know anything about pop music at all. I’m a jazz head. I don’t even like pop music. I thought Dusty Springfield was a cowboy!’”
But the success of that session led to what Hewson called “the bone of contention,” when Beatles manage Allen Klein decided Let It Be needed more work. Hewson said he was asked “to do an arrangement of a song that Paul McCartney didn’t want an arrangement on.” “[Klein] hired Phil Spector to come in and what he called ‘clean up’ the album, and the one tune that he wanted to put a massive orchestra on was ‘The Long and Winding Road.’ All we had was a piano [and] a bass that was taken off because Phil Spector said it was crap. He thought John Lennon had deliberately messed it up because he didn’t want to do the song.” He remembered Spector calling for 20 violins, a harp and a choir, and thinking, “On a Beatles record? Oh my God!”
McCartney “didn’t know anything about it at all” until the single was released, said Hewson, who later collaborated with Chris Rea, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock and others. “I got into a hell of a lot of trouble with [producer] George Martin and Paul.” In fact, McCartney avoided contact for a year, until he eventually asked Hewson to work with his new band, Wings. “I think he’d simmered down," he said. "Because after all, it became a huge hit. And he toured with an orchestra – so, go on then Paul, it wasn’t so bad after all, was it?”