Juxtaposing disparate song ideas had been used as a songwriting method by McCartney a number of times before, particularly in the few years leading up to Ram. 1969’s Abbey Road combined various unfinished pieces to make the celebrated long medley, and Ram’s ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ was made up of 12 separate musical sections.
‘Long Haired Lady’ is very period piece, [fey Californian accent] ‘My long-haired lady.’ Very ’70s.
Mojo, July 2001
The ‘love is long’ section which closes the song recalls The Beatles’ extended ending for ‘Hey Jude’, although without much of the emotional weight and passion of the earlier song.
In the mix I first stripped the track off of the NY Philharmonic strings arrangements, and then added instrument by instrument back to the track as it went along – just to make a bit more interesting.
Although the main bulk of the track had been done in New York, we did record a lot of background vocals at Sound Recorders.
There is also something about Long Haired Lady I’d like to mention. I remember playing the song back to Paul in the studio. He rested his arms on my shoulders after hearing it and, as I turned and looked at his face, tears were rolling down. Paul is a very, very sensitive person! Listening to his vocal work with Linda really got him into it. It was amazing.
In the studio
The first recording session for ‘Long Haired Lady’ took palce at New York’s CBS Studios on 29 October 1970. At the time it had the working title ‘Love Is Long’.
The basic track had Paul McCartney on acoustic guitar, Hugh McCracken on electric guitar, and Denny Seiwell on drums. McCartney also sang a guide vocal part off-mic.
It was then left until the week of 6-11 December 1970, when McCartney added overdubs onto a number of Ram songs. On one of the days, precise date unknown, he added a bass guitar part.
McCartney then sent a rough mix of the song to George Martin, requesting a score. It was recorded at A&R Recording in New York on 3 February 1971. Martin’s contributions to Ram were not credited on the album, and were unknown by the general public for nearly 30 years.
The score for ‘Long Haired Lady’ featured trumpets, horns, trombones, piccolos, clarinets, and bass clarinet. The sessions musicians’ names are not known.
‘Long Haired Lady’ was completed during the final week of Ram overdubs, at Hollywood’s Sound Recorders Studio on 5 and 6 April 1971.
Paul and Linda McCartney added backing vocals, and another for vocal harmonies, before finally a Wurlitzer electric piano part was recorded.
The song was then mixed by Eirik Wangberg, who found its complexity a challenge. He chose to introduce the overdubbed brass and woodwind parts gradually, so as not to overload the production.
I had to make some tough choices. It is the longest piece of music on Ram. Paul made a repetitive loop at the end of the song with just the words ‘Love is long’. Meanwhile, George Martin’s score made this section a brilliant event. Both the band and ensemble run continuously over the same chord pattern for a long time, and I felt that this ran the risk of seeming ‘thick’ and ‘blurred’, and perhaps boring.
I wanted the listener to feel and hear the same as I, a growing magic until all the instruments are back – a great climax before the song ends.
The McCartney Legacy – Volume 1: 1969-73, Allan Kozinn, Adrian Sinclair