Once Upon a Tine – Rhodes, Billy Preston & The Beatles

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This week on ‘Once Upon a Tine’:

In this week’s episode of ‘Once Upon A Tine’ we look at the indelible mark that keyboardist Billy Preston left on The Beatles’ last defining work, ‘Let it Be’ and listen to the isolated keys from the classic track ‘Get Back’.

After fraught initial writing and rehearsal sessions at Twickenham Studios, George Harrison invited Preston to join the re-convened band at Apple Studios in London. Inspired by his recent stay in the US, where he enjoyed the musical freedom of jamming with musicians in Los Angeles, Harrison hoped to bring some of that joy and camaraderie back into The Beatles – qualities that had been sadly lacking from recent sessions.

Armed with a Fender Rhodes MK1 Sparkle top Suitcase Electric piano and a Lowrey DSO Heritage organ, Preston’s easy-going vibe was contagious and quickly eased tensions within the band – allowing creativity to once again flow within the bolstered line-up. Preston contributed Rhodes piano to the final versions of ‘Dig a Pony’, ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, ‘One After 909’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Get Back’, Hammond organ on ‘Dig It’ and ‘Let It Be’.

The Beatles’ unique relationship with Preston meant that he became the only musician to be given a co-credit on a Beatles label – the group’s 1969 single “Get Back” was credited as ‘The Beatles with Billy Preston’. The featured audio is Preston’s live isolated keys from the track.

‘Get Back’ was a protest song against prevalent anti-immigrant white nationalism in England. Preston’s presence and revered performance added to the sentiment behind the track, helping it become a classic in The Beatles canon.

Ringo Starr later said of Preston’s prestigious talent, ‘Billy never put his hands in the wrong place. Never.’