Written by Lennon as an anguished love song to Yoko Ono, it was interpreted by Paul McCartney as a “genuine plea”, with Lennon saying to Ono, “I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really just letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.”
The song is in the key of E major and is in 4/4 time during the verse, chorus and bridge, but changes to 5/4 in the pick-up to the verse. It grew (like “Sun King”) from the F♯m7- E changes from Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” (“like she does” [F♯m7] “yes she does” [A, Am] “yes she does” [E]) with McCartney arranging instrumental and vocal parts and Harrison adding a descending two-part lead guitar accompaniment to the verse and a countermelody in the bridge. Alan W. Pollack states that “the counterpoint melody played in octaves during the Alternate Verse by the bass and lead guitars is one of the more novel, unusual instrumental touches you’ll find anywhere in the Beatles catalogue.
DON’T LET ME DOWN (Side B)
Released April 11 , 1969
Lennon – McCartney
The BEATLES with BILLY PRESTON
RECORDING and RELEASE of “DON’T LET ME DOWN”
Multiple versions of “Don’t Let Me Down” were recorded by the Beatles during the tumultuous Get Back (Let It Be) recording sessions. The version recorded on 28 January 1969 was released as a B-side to the single “Get Back”, recorded the same day. “Get Back” reached number one and “Don’t Let Me Down” reached number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
They performed “Don’t Let Me Down” twice during their Rooftop Concert of 30 January 1969, one of which was included in the Let It Be (1970) film, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. When the “Get Back” project was revisited, Phil Spector dropped “Don’t Let Me Down” from the LET IT BE (1970) album.
The B-side version of the song was included on the Beatles’ compilations Hey Jude, 1967-1970 and Past Masters Volume 2 and Mono Masters. The same recording also appears on the soundtrack to the 1988 documentary, Imagine: John Lennon. In November 2003, an edit of the two rooftop versions was included on Let It Be… Naked.
Richie Unterberger of AllMusic called it “one of the BEATLES ‘ most powerful love songs”, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described the song as “heart-wrenching soul” and Roy Carr and Tony Tyler called it “a superb sobber from misery-expert J. W. O. Lennon, MBE. And still one of the most highly underrated Beatle underbellies.” Author Ian MacDonald praised “Don’t Let Me Down” and declared that “this track vies with Come Together for consideration as the best of Lennon’s late-style Beatles records”.