Abbey Road

The medley

Abbey Road - The Beatles
Abbey Road was really unfinished songs all stuck together. Everybody praises the album so much, but none of the songs had anything to do with each other, no thread at all, only the fact that we stuck them together.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Abbey Road is perhaps best known for the eight-song medley that dominates side two. Known during recording as 'the Long One', it begins with You Never Give Me Your Money - the melody of which recurs during Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight - and culminates with The Beatles' parting statement The End.

After the Let It Be nightmare, Abbey Road turned out fine. The second side is brilliant. Out of the ashes of all that madness, that last section is for me one of the finest pieces we put together.

John and Paul had various bits, and so we recorded them and put them together. It actually points out that this is where it's at, that last portion. None of the songs were finished. A lot of work went into it, but they weren't writing together. John and Paul weren't even writing much on their own, really.

Ringo Starr

Several of the songs were recorded as one, whereas others were assembled and edited together at a later date. Those recorded together were Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight, Sun King/Mean Mr Mustard, and Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.

I tried with Paul to get back into the old Pepper way of creating something really worthwhile, and we put together the long side. John objected very much to what we did on the second side of Abbey Road, which was almost entirely Paul and I working together, with contribution from the others. John always was a Teddy boy. He was a rock'n'roller, and wanted a number of individual tracks. So we compromised. But even on the second side, John helped. He would come and put his little bit in, and have an idea for sewing a bit of music into the tapestry. Everybody worked frightfully well, and that's why I'm very fond of it.
George Martin

John Lennon later expressed dislike of the medley, and claimed he had wanted his songs on one side of the album and Paul McCartney's on the other.

I liked the A side. I never liked that sort of pop opera on the other side. I think it's junk. It was just bits of song thrown together. And I can't remember what some of it is. Come Together is all right. And some things on it... It was a competent album, like Rubber Soul in a way, it was together in that way, but it had no life really.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

The concept of the medley came into being at around 6 May 1969, the day The Beatles recorded Paul McCartney's You Never Give Me Your Money. Rather than give the song a rounded ending, right from the first take it ended sharply, just before where the lines "One two three four five six seven/All good children go to heaven" were later added. The lack of a proper ending suggested The Beatles were already thinking of the song as part of a bigger whole.

I think it was my idea to put all the spare bits together, but I'm a bit wary of claiming these things. I'm happy for it to be everyone's idea. Anyway, in the end, we hit upon the idea of medleying them all and giving the second side a sort of operatic structure - which was great because it used ten or twelve unfinished songs in a good way.
Paul McCartney

When the album was complete there were a handful of further sessions to complete Let It Be, but, to all intents and purposes, The Beatles' dream was over. They had given themselves to the world for the past six years, and now it was their time to find themselves as individuals.

The title

While some of The Beatles' albums - notably the film tie-ins A Hard Day's Night and Help! - were titled early on during the recording process, Abbey Road remained untitled until the recording sessions were well underway.

We went through weeks of all saying, 'Why don't we call it Billy's Left Boot?' and things like that. And then Paul just said, 'Why don't we call it Abbey Road?'
Ringo Starr, 1969

Its working title was Everest, named after the cigarettes that sound engineer Geoff Emerick smoked. The packets had a silhouette of Mount Everest on them, and The Beatles liked the imagery.

It was around July, when it was very hot outside, that someone mentioned the possibility of the four of them taking a private plane over to the foothills of Mount Everest to shoot the cover photograph. But as they became more enthusiastic to finish the LP someone - I don't remember whom - suggested 'Look, I can't be bothered to schlep all the way over to the Himalayas for a cover, why don't we just go outside, take the photo there, call the LP Abbey Road and have done with it?' That's my memory of why it became Abbey Road: because they couldn't be bothered to go to Tibet and get cold!
John Kurlander, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The eventual title was suggested by Paul McCartney.

While we were in the studio, our engineer Geoff Emerick always used to smoke cigarettes called Everest, so the album was going to be called Everest. We never really liked that, but we couldn't think of anything else to call it. Then one day I said, 'I've got it!' - I don't know how I thought of it - 'Abbey Road! It's the studio we're in, which is fabulous; and it sounds a bit like a monastery.'
Paul McCartney

70 responses on “Abbey Road

    1. Joe Post author

      Mal Evans played the anvil during rehearsals at Twickenham, as seen in the Let It Be film. In the studio some months later, when they were making Abbey Road, it was Ringo.

      1. Steve

        Actually, it seems that it was Mal. This quote from Geoff Emerick in a track-by-track walkthrough, interviewed by Joe Bosso, Thu 10 Sep 2009:
        “For the hammer bits, we actually had to rent a proper blacksmith’s anvil. The thing weighed a ton, as did the hammer used to strike it. Ringo tried but he just couldn’t hoist the hammer in a way that allowed him to hit the anvil with the correct timing, so Mal Evans [one of The Beatles’ roadies], who was a large man, he wound up doing it.”

  1. Oscar

    Just a curious fact when the picture was shot (8/8/1969), these were the Beatles’ ages (in order from left to right in the picture):
    a) George – 26 (02/25/1943)
    b) Paul – 27 (06/18/1942)
    c) Ringo – 29 (07/07/1940)
    d) John – 28 (10/09/1940)


    1. Joe Post author

      Thanks Oscar. Useful to have a reminder that Paul was 27, not 28.

      “28 IF” became part of the ‘Paul is dead‘ conspiracy, in relation to the number plate of the VW Beetle car behind the group. As in, McCartney would have been 28 IF he was still alive. Incidentally, the other part of the number plate, LMW, was taken to mean ‘Linda McCartney weeps’. Crazy stuff!

      1. Fuzzy

        Don’t forget the attire, Paul is barefoot, (people are buried barefoot), John is in all white as an angel, George is a grave digger and Ringo is a preacher.

        very intentional

      2. Waterface

        Does anyone know if that VW Beetle was a prop or did it just happen to be parked on the street that day? I know there were loads of them on the streets in ’69, but I always found it meaningful being an iconic hippie car and of course being a Beetle. Cutting their teeth as a band in Hamburg also gives this some possible meaning. After reading the excellent article here it is starting to sound like it was a happy accident as was the iconic photo. I can’t believe they got that shot from 6 trips of the shutter.

        1. Boo Long

          It just happened to be parked there asfar as I know. A chap bought it in the ’80s for a low price as any 20 year old VW, then spotted the number plate, at which point its value increased considerably and it was sold on as Beatles memorabilia.

  2. Garrett Hawk

    Back when they had LP’s, I always liked the back cover shot of the girl in the blue mini-dress walking by Abbey Road. So 1969.
    I wonder if the model was one of the Beatle women of the era?

    1. Alison

      It wasnt a model who posed for the back of the album. the photographer, Iain McMillan, wanted the back just to be the road sign, however the girl in the blue dress walked in the shot and had no idea what was going on.. in the end they liked how the shot came out because it was interesting.. so there you have it

    1. adamlucifer

      Because it was a surprise extra. That is why there is a much greater than normal gap between the start of “Her Majesty” and the end of the previous track; only those listeners who had not raised the arm of the record player to remove the disc (no CDs or mp3s then!) believing it to be over would have discovered the track. To have credited it on the album sleeve would have given the surprise away. I guess by the time of later pressings the presence of the track would have been widely known.

  3. Roger

    My favorite song on the album is “Sun King”. I like everything about it from the arrangement to the way it is performed. If you want to go to school, you get three albums: Revolver, the White Album and Abbey Road.

    1. Andy

      I feel I have learnt everything there is to know about that iconic cover shot, and have walked back and forth across the crossing by myself like some kind of lunatic, but I had never considered your observation until now! All things considered, that was probably one of the main ideas behind the shot – thanks for the insight!

  4. beatle_fan_boy

    Only problem with todays technology like cd’s in general are the last songs are supposed to be medley yet they are cut song by song for easy tracking on cd so you get some annoying sudden blank killing the medley vibe. In order to bring back the medley feel to those tunes just like in records and cassette tape is simply stick them together using a nice audio software and boom! their continuous again just the way i like it.

  5. Von Bontee

    That only happens to me if I play it in my computer rather than CD player. (And the cool thing about the computer is that I can resequence the tracks to restore “Her Majesty” to its original and rightful place in between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”!)

  6. LOMAN

    The greatest album ever recorded, composed, conceptualized, performed and produced! Every track is a jewel. Even the Ringo track is a masterpiece (probably due to Harrison’s imput) but a masterpiece none-the-less. The second side suite or medley, whatever you wanna call it, is the single most inspiring entity in rock history that there is! It’s like a Beethoven symphony with each movement by a different composer. When it slides from “Polythene Pam’ into “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” and kicks back into “You Never Give Me Your Money” during “Carry That Weight” it makes me wish I was a Beatle just so I could claim that level of genius! I’ve read that “I Want You (she’s so heavy)” was written by Lennon to align himself with the new emerging heavy/progressive bands like Led Zeppelin. If that’s true than he did it right! I dare say that it surpassed anything ever done by any “heavy” band including the great Led Zeppelin. Although I do think that it’s Paul’s bass playing that makes the song along with Billy Preston’s playing. Indeed, Paul’s bass playing overpowers almost every track…in a good way! I’ve also read tat Paul was primarily responsible for the second side of segued tracks. Well, thank you Paul! John always said that he hated that second side of half finished tracks thrown together, maybe a little jealousy on his part?

    1. Jeff

      During the Beatles’ later years, Ringo and George seemed to be developing their own musical partnership. George obviously assisted in writing Ringo’s Octupus’ Garden (even though he did not take a songwriting credit). Then, a year or so later, Harrison helped Ringo record one of his greatest songs “It Don’t Come Easy.” Then in 1973, George played a big role in Ringo’s self-titled solo album with the 2 former Beatles co-writing the #1 smash “Photograph” – a song as good as any they (or Lennon-McCartney)had released since the breakup. Perhaps had they remained Beatles, the Harrison-Starkey songwriting team would have evolved to counter the vaunted Lennon-McCartney songwriting machine.

  7. Joseph Brush

    The reason why I Want You is so great is John’s intensity. Obsession and soul.
    That is what makes the song.
    All the great bass and piano playing don’t mean a thing if a song isn’t great to begin with.
    Without John’s four tracks on the second side, especially Because, the segue wouldn’t be the same.

  8. Ed

    “Another interesting fact the beatles are walking away from abbey road studios which could mark the end of their recording career”

    Begining with I want you, all the way through to the end of the album, is unbelievably awesome. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Octopus’s Garden however both pretty much blow. And Oh Darlin should have been sung by Lennon (even though McCartney wrote it).

    1. Julio

      Octopus’s Garden has awesome Harrison guitar and cool piano and backing vocals. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer has goofy sounding but very cool lyrics and cool use of the moog. It is this kind of variation that makes the Beatles so great. Yeah, those songs pretty much “blow” (my mind).

      1. George Demake

        Harisson brought a renewed vigor and confidence to Abbey Road, not only with his compositions , but also with his guitar playing which reached a new level.Although they still composed seperately, it seems as though George and Paul had a better musical connection with one another on Abbey Road, that was lacking previously.
        Again, maybe they knew this was it, and they had that final spiritual breath to let out.

      2. Frank

        I also think Maxwells Silver Hammer is very underrated. I absolutely love the do do do do do in the middle of the chorus. And the woah woah woooaah app right before the synthesizer.

  9. robert

    It interesting that John often said how he hated the segue of songs on side two – also there is this sense that he and Paul were not working together by this point – yet look at this interview quote:

    “Paul and I are now working on a kind of song montage that we might do as one piece on one side. We’ve got two weeks to finish the whole thing so we’re really working at it.”

    You can read the whole Lennon quote at

    it’s really interesting because John’s tone is so normal.

    1. Joe Post author

      That’s a really interesting interview – I’d not seen it before. It’s great to see John being so enthusiastic about The Beatles’ projects, and so sad that it all fell apart just a few months later.

        1. Bob

          Right there you’ve got a vivid example of one of the core things about John Lennon – he was all over the map. He could burn with enthuiasm for something one day, not really like it the next, and then maybe like it again the following day. I find it hard to believe that John continued hating the medley. Because it’s incredibly great music, and he knew good music when he heard it.

  10. Chad

    It’s been great reading the discography notes here- very informative!

    Just a note about “Her Majesty” not being performed/rehearsed until the Abbey Road sessions: if you’re talking strictly the TRACKING sessions at Saville Row, that’s true… But it actually was shown to the boys by Paul during rehearsals at Twickenham in January ’69.

    (I just looked up the dates on A/B Road, and it appears it was played 1/9, and twice on 1/24.)

  11. william

    It is interesting to compare the depth of articles written here for the various albums. Abbey Road almost seems to be taken for granted.

    If Revolver was the album where the playing first really started coming together for the Beatles, then Abbey Road was the album that proved that these guys were no mere songwriters or lyricists.

    From Harrison’s incipient slide work throughout, to the amazing solos by all four at the end, the playing (and performances in general) on Abbey Road is hard to top.

    Harrison’s solo on the first song on side one, You Can’t Catch Me is both scary and astonishing. Compare this version, to Lennon’s forgive-me version for not giving Chuck Berry credit on Rock and Roll Songs. Both are great, but Harrison’s performance here is unearthly. At the end where Lennon yells “Yeah, and Harrison starts off with a high pitched discordant twang, that is now his signature, no words.

    Harrison’s guitar then takes Octopus’s Garden from being something humdrum to meriting inclusion on the Blue Album (questionable though it may be–Ringo needed a credit). McCartney and Lennon’s and Harrison’s bass and lead work on I Want You is incredibly intense. Ringo’s drumming is at the Rain level.

    The musicianship on this record is really incredible. Aside from a couple of Billy Preston and Eric Clapton appearances, these guys did everything. As great as the Beatles were from the start, they obviously improved in some areas. On Abbey Road they show that studio tricks aside, they had it, in each and every area.

    1. Joe Post author

      Is there any slide guitar on Abbey Road? I thought George didn’t play it until My Sweet Lord, with the exception of Strawberry Fields Forever (best heard on take one on Anthology 2). Happy to be corrected.

          1. Deadman

            That’s slide, surely, from 2:14 to 2:27

            The version of CT on the Love album, to me at least, seems more clearly two slide parts. Furthermore, there are slide chords (3:01 – 3:15) before the fade-out.

            As for the lead on the fade-out, it can and might (I concede) be played with finger-style sliding, but I suspect that much thereof is played with a slide (on the little finger, with some finger-style) because of the attack and the style of vibrato.

            1. Joe Post author

              The solo may well be slide, although it’s two different guitars (separated in stereo on Love). They could have been finger-style rather than slide – it’s difficult to tell. Here’s the isolated guitar track.

              I’m less sure about the chords at the three-minute mark – I think they’re done using a volume pedal or at the mixing desk, but don’t see that a slide was involved (it may have been). Probably they were just chords played and faded in, as on Yes It Is. The fourth chord, as heard on the isolated version, doesn’t seem to have been faded at all, and definitely doesn’t sound like it’s played with a slide.

              I definitely don’t think the lead in the fade is slide. I may be wrong about all this though – happy to hear more debate.

              1. vonbontee

                Doesn’t sound like slide to me either, just stringbending. Can’t hear any metal-on-metal abrasion, for one thing.

              2. Boo Long

                Listening to that it sounds like a bit of slide at 2.20-ish then fretted later on, as well as the volume pedal / knob fade bit.

                Amazing to hear how rough-edged the rhythm track is played too… That’s not at all apparent in the finished mix.. Thanks for the fascinating links.

  12. Lukey Boy

    I feel that John and George’s songs are what really make this album. Come Together, Something, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Here Comes the Sun, Because and Sun King are (for me) the standout tracks. I do like Paul’s songs and Ringo’s song, but I just don’t love ’em. Still a great album.

  13. Window Pane Lizard

    Just curious whether anyone has ever heard of an album other than side 2 of this Beatles’ masterpiece that has more than 11 tunes on one side? I can’t think of another. Can any one? Most albums have 4-6 tunes per side on average. Do tell if you know of any other pop or rock album with more than 11 tunes on one side.

    FABulous site by the way Joe! Thanks so much!

  14. L. Meyer

    Paul’s genius on Abbey Road is being the major force in the creation of the medley that makes up most of side two. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” is a beautiful and eloquent farewell to the fans.

    1. Frank

      And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

      Words I live by every day.

      Also it’s the single most beautiful thirty seconds of sound ever created in the history of time and matter.

      Paul McCartney was just so great.

      So was John Lennon, RIP

      So was George Harrison, RIP

      So was Ringo, he was awesome.

      1. Gary Fischer

        I totally agree with you about the last 30 seconds. It’s the best music I’ve ever heard, pure genius condensed into 30 seconds. Side 2 of Abbey Road is the greatest side of any album ever made. Nothing even comes close.

  15. Graham Paterson

    My Mum bought me Abbey Road back in 1978 when I was 12 years of age. Each of their albums on first listening was a wonderful experience,even though in my case I was already familiar with many of the songs.Abbey Road is a great album with the four Beatles musicianship collectively at a peak just as their time together was nearing an end. From the raunchy brilliant opening of John Lennons Come Together through to the beautiful The End, the listener is taken on a journey.George Harrison produced two classics Something and Here Comes The Sun and Paul McCartneys Golden Slumbers is simply lovely. Graham Paterson.

  16. Benny

    Has anyone ever compared the cover of the 1st McCartney album to the Abbey Road cover? The McCartney album cover is mostly black with a white line and a spilled bowl of cherries. It appears to me that the white line is a reference to the Abbey Road crosswalk. The spilled bowl of cherries has sugniffiance as if Paul was saying it was sweet but its over now.

    1. AlbertCunning

      Yes, I think I even made a comment on YouTube about this quite recently, but I don’t remember which video. Although my theory suggested it was a reference towards the ‘Paul is dead’-rumours at the time, and that the berries weren’t cherries as much as cranberries, from which you can bury Paul…make sauce!

      Them being cherries strikes me as more likely now.

  17. Mr K

    Anyone notice the similarity between You Never Give Me Your Money and Something? I wonder which was recorded first. The songs have a parallel opening note structure.

    I enjoy the comments!

  18. Mr K

    Thanks for the info.

    James Taylor – Something In The Way She Moves from his first album on Apple records. I wonder if George Harrison got help from JT, or maybe from Paul McCartney, for the rest of George’s Something.

    Or maybe Paul got help from George for YNGMYM. I know Paul said that George gave him the opening riff for And I Love Her. And Paul’s YNGMYM has a money trouble theme – like George’s Taxman.

    Those 3 songs – interesting if there’s a collaboration history between the 3 men.


    1. Bob

      It’s possible, using Google Street View, to “walk” from Macca’s house (7 Cavendish Ave.) to the studio (3 Abbey Road). I was under the impression it was a very short walk but it’s actually a bit of a hike, a nice bit of exercise to get the creative juices flowing. 🙂

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