Abbey Road

Abbey Road album artworkRecorded: 22 February – 19 August 1969
Producers: George Martin, Chris Thomas, Glyn Johns
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Jeff Jarratt, Glyn Johns, Barry Sheffield, Tony Clark

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar, piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, Moog, white noise generator, tambourine, maracas, handclaps
Paul McCartney: vocals, guitar, bass, piano, electric piano, harmonium, Hammond organ, Moog, wind chimes, tape loops, handclaps
George Harrison: vocals, guitar, bass, harmonium, Moog, handclaps
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, bongos, congas, maracas, cowbell, timpani, tambourine, anvil, handclaps, effects
George Martin: Lowrey organ, Hammond organ, electric harpsichord
Billy Preston: Hammond organ

Abbey Road - The Beatles

Tracklisting:
Come Together
Something
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Oh! Darling
Octopus’s Garden
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Here Comes The Sun
Because
You Never Give Me Your Money
Sun King
Mean Mr Mustard
Polythene Pam
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End
Her Majesty

The Beatles’ last-recorded album was a triumph. Coming after the difficult Let It Be sessions, the group pulled together for a final collection of songs that rank among their best.

It is commonly thought that The Beatles knew that Abbey Road would be their final album, and wanted to present a fitting farewell to the world. However, the group members denied that they intended to split after its completion, despite a realisation that their time together was drawing to a close.

Nobody knew for sure that it was going to be the last album – but everybody felt it was. The Beatles had gone through so much and for such a long time. They’d been incarcerated with each other for nearly a decade, and I was surprised that they had lasted as long as they did. I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d split up because they all wanted to lead their own lives – and I did, too. It was a release for me as well.
George Martin
Anthology

Abbey Road was completed on 25 August 1969, almost a month before John Lennon told the other Beatles that he wished to leave the group. His decision was made on 12 September, just before the Plastic Ono Band performed at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, and he told the rest of the group at a meeting a week later.

The album was recorded at a time when The Beatles’ Apple empire was fast unravelling, with vast quantities of money being haemorrhaged by bad business decisions and a lack of direction. The controversial business manager Allen Klein was moving in to gain control of The Beatles’ affairs, despite Paul McCartney’s best efforts of resistance.

‘Funny paper’ – that’s what we get. We get bits of paper saying how much is earned and what this and that is, but we never actually get it in pounds, shillings and pence. We’ve all got a big house and a car and an office, but to actually get the money we’ve earned seems impossible.
George Harrison, 1969
Anthology

The problems of Apple found their way into three songs in particular: You Never Give Me Your Money, Here Comes The Sun and Carry That Weight.

Here Comes The Sun was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘sign this’ and ‘sign that’. Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever; by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go and see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote Here Comes The Sun.
George Harrison
Anthology

Although it was later interpreted as a self-referential comment on The Beatles’ legacy, Paul McCartney wrote Carry That Weight about the soured atmosphere at Apple after Allen Klein’s arrival.

It was ‘heavy’. ‘Heavy’ was a very operative word at that time – ‘Heavy, man’ – but now it actually felt heavy. That’s what Carry That Weight was about: not the light, rather easy-going heaviness, albeit witty and sometimes cruel, but with an edge you could exist within and which always had a place for you to be. In this heaviness there was no place to be. It was serious, paranoid heaviness and it was just very uncomfortable.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

43 Responses to “Abbey Road”

    • Joe

      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.

      Reply
      • 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.”

        Reply
  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)

    Regards.
    Oscar.

    Reply
    • Joe

      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!

      Reply
  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?

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  3. BeatleMark

    I just listened to the “Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab” issue of Abbey Road recently. Sounds just like the studio tapes! I haven’t listened to the new remaster yet. Probably can’t get any better.

    Reply
  4. Vonbontee

    I used to know this but now I can’t remember: Did original copies of the album leave “Her Majesty” uncredited on the back cover? Anyone? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Joseph Brush

      Yes “Her Majesty” is uncredited on the back cover of my original Abbey Road LP!
      BUT
      “Her Majesty” is credited on the B-side record label!
      Go figure.

      Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
  6. Chris

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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  7. skye

    It’s too bad that the technology took so long to catch up with them. They could have done some incredible things.

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
  9. 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”!)

    Reply
  10. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  11. 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.

    Reply
  12. 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).

    Reply
    • 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).

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  13. 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 http://beatlesinterviews.org/db1969.0503.beatles.html

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

    Reply
    • Joe

      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.

      Reply
      • Kelvin

        According to the Rolling Stone article from late 2009 on the group breakup he originally enthusiastic about the medley but he soon soured on the idea

        Reply
  14. 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.)

    Reply
    • Joe

      Good point, although the 24 January session was at Apple, not Twickenham, so it was performed at both places. I’ll update the article on Her Majesty.

      Reply
  15. 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.

    Reply
    • vonbontee

      “…Harrison’s solo on the first song on side one, You Can’t Catch Me…”

      Uh…

      Reply
    • Joe

      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.

      Reply
          • 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.

            Reply
            • Joe

              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.

              Reply
              • vonbontee

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

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