Let ‘Em In is one of those McCartney songs where his effortless way with melody is so effortless that it borders on laziness. So lightweight that it practically defies gravity. But for all of its inconsequentiality, it’s one of those McCartney songs that once heard is never forgotten. Definitely one for the milkman to whistle.
And I don’t mean that cynically. There’s something very noble – and moving – about artists whose chief aim is to, you know, create music that people actually like.
What I like about Billy Paul’s version – apart from his great voice – is that he took the song’s earworm catchiness, added a dose of funk and turned it into a kind of civil rights anthem. And all he had to do to achieve that was change the guest list to include the likes of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King (who have their speeches sampled here) and, perhaps a little oddly, Louis Armstrong. So the simple business of opening the door and letting them in becomes an active push for racial tolerance and harmony.
I like to think though that Billy Paul didn’t just hear McCartney’s song and think: “I could turn that insanely catchy song into something really meaningful.” I like to think that he thought the song (or at least the letting them in bit) must have already had meaning simply on account of it being written by McCartney. It couldn’t really have just been a bit of pop fluff, surely?
Below is the truncated Top of the Pops version (introduced by a relatively normal looking Jimmy Savile) that features Paul’s comments about a “bloodless revolution”, along with the full album version.