Past Masters album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30 January 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Glyn Johns

Released: 11 April 1969 (UK), 5 May 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
George Harrison: harmony vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Billy Preston: electric piano

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Past Masters
Let It Be... Naked

Although just one new song (Dig A Pony) by John Lennon made it onto the Let It Be album, he did compose this love song to Yoko Ono, which was recorded during the same sessions and released as the b-side to Get Back.

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As with Abbey Road's I Want You (She's So Heavy), Don't Let Me Down was a lyrically simple and direct song inspired by his infatuation with Ono.

When it gets down to it, when you're drowning, you don't say, "I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me," you just scream.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

Although Lennon was revealing his feelings and fears in song as far back as 1964's If I Fell and I'm A Loser, Don't Let Me Down was one of the first examples of the raw soul-baring that would reach a peak on Cold Turkey and the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.

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, and the same time it secretly terrified him. So Don't Let Me Down was a genuine plea... It was saying to Yoko, 'I'm really stepping out of line on this one. I'm really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.' I think it was a genuine cry for help. It was a good song.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Don't Let Me Down was released as the flip-side of Get Back in the UK in April 1969, and in the US in May. Like its a-side, the song was credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston.

By the way, Rod Stewart turned Don't Let Me Down into [sings] 'Maggie don't go-o-o.' That's one that the publishers never noticed. Why didn't he just sing Don't Let Me Down? The same reason I don't sing other people's stuff, either: because you don't get paid.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

The Beatles' first studio recording of Don't Let Me Down was taped on 21 January 1969 at Apple, although rehearsals of the song had been filmed earlier in the month at Twickenham Film Studios.

A version from the following day was selected for inclusion in the unreleased Get Back album, along with a snippet of speech in which Lennon asked Starr to hit the cymbals hard after the intro, to "give me the courage to come screaming in."

On 28 January The Beatles and Preston recorded the version which ended up on the Get Back single. They taped it twice again two days later on the roof of Apple, the first of which was included in the Let It Be film.

We recorded it in the basement of Apple for Let It Be and later did it up on the roof for the film. We went through it quite a lot for this one. I sang harmony on it, which makes me wonder if I helped with a couple of words, but I don't think so. It was John's song.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

An edit of the two rooftop performances was included on 2003's Let It Be... Naked, in place of Dig It and Maggie Mae.