‘Let ’Em In’ was the opening song on Wings At The Speed Of Sound, Wings’ fifth album.
Beginning with the sound of a doorbell, the song depicts the arrival of various figures. A number of friends and relatives are namechecked: Paul McCartney’s aunt Gin and brother Mike, and Linda McCartney’s brother John. “Sister Suzie” was a reference to Linda, who once recorded a song under the pseudonym Suzie And The Red Stripes.
‘Someone’s knocking at the door/Somebody’s ringing the bell’ – I’m imagining this is in Liverpool. A party of some sort. When we were in Jamaica, all the Jamaican guys would say to Linda, being blonde, ‘Hey Suzy, Suzy!’ To them a blonde, white woman was ‘Suzy’. So, Linda got a group and called herself Suzy and the Red Stripes, after the beer brand. So, ‘Sister Suzy’ – that’s Linda. ‘Brother John’ is either her brother, John Eastman, or John Lennon. ‘Martin Luther’ is Martin Luther King Jr, ‘Phil and Don’ are The Everly Brothers, and then you get ‘Brother Michael’, so that’s my brother, or it might have been Michael Jackson – the timing’s right for that, as we’d invited The Jackson 5 to the Venus And Mars album party on the Queen Mary the year before. And then ‘Auntie Jin’, which is spent with a J rather than a G because her name was Jane. But in Liverpool that sounded too formal, so she would say, ‘Just call me Jinny.’ Then ‘Uncle Ernie’ – my cousin’s name was actually Ian, but they called him Ern. And by this point, I’m not really fussed. I’m just playing with words. ‘Uncle Ian’? Oh, come on guys, you’re just not paying attention. Never mind. There is no Uncle Ian… and he certainly was not married to Auntie Jin.
Then the strangest of strange happenings: fast-forward a million years and I marry Nancy Shevell, whose sister is named Susie and whose brother is named Jon. So, suddenly I’m singing about Nancy’s family: ‘Sister Suzy, Brother John’ It’s quite a coincidence.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The song’s Uncle Ernie may also have referred to the character played by Ringo Starr on the London Symphony Orchestra recording of The Who’s Tommy. Starr quoted the lines “Someone’s knocking at the door/Someone’s ringing my bell” on ‘English Garden’, the final song on his 2003 album Ringo Rama.
‘Let ’Em In’ was recorded by Wings on 4 February 1976 at Abbey Road Studios in London.
The song was nominated for best arrangement at the 1976 Grammy Awards, although it lost out to Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now’.
‘Let ’Em In’ was first released as track one on Wings At The Speed Of Sound. The album was released on 22 March 1976 in the USA, and 26 March in the UK.
‘Let ’Em In’ was issued as a single in June in the US, and the following month in the UK, with ‘Beware My Love on the b-side. It appeared at a time when Wings At The Speed Of Sound was beginning to slip down the charts, but its success helped to boost sales further.
‘Let ’Em In’ reached number two in the UK, and three on the US Billboard Hot 100. It topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart.
It also topped the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary chart, and reached number three on the Top Singles chart.
In France ‘Let ’Em In’ became McCartney’s first-ever 12″ single, with both sides labelled ‘Special Disco Mix’.
‘Let ’Em In’ was included on compilation albums Wings Greatest, All The Best!, Wingspan: Hits And History, and Pure McCartney.
Wings played ‘Let ’Em In’ throughout their Wings Over The World tour. A performance from 23 June 1976 at the Los Angeles Forum was released later that year on Wings Over America.
Paul McCartney performed ‘Let ’Em In’ during his solo World Tour (1989-90). A recording from 5 March 1990 in Tokyo was released on the ‘Birthday’ single.
It was also played on the Driving World (2002) and Back In The World (2003) tours. A recording from the latter can be heard on the live album Back In The World.
McCartney continued to perform ‘Let ’Em In’ on the tours Good Evening Europe (2009), Up And Coming (2010-11), On The Run (2011-12), Out There (2013-15), One On One (2016-17), and Freshen Up (2018).
I know the obvious reference to “Brother John” is John Eastman, and Paul may have even said as much. But as someone who reads too much into Beatles references in solo songs, there is another Brother John in Paul’s life that I’m sure he would let in if he came knocking at his door.
Then I got really excited when I realized that 1976 was the year that Paul allegedly showed up at John Lennon’s door in NY for an impromptu hangout/jam session and started thinking that there really was a connection here as he was telling John he’d let him in if he came knocking at his door. But alas, Let Em In was recorded between January-March 1976 and the Paul/John meeting was April 1976. Close but no cigar.