Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)
Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, rhythm guitar
John Lennon: vocals
George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar, bass
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, timpani
Unknown: 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, double bass, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, trombone, bass trombone
Recorded as one with Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight was written by Paul McCartney as part of Abbey Road’s long medley.
The song referred to the troubles The Beatles were having, both within the group and in their business dealings at Apple.
I’m generally quite upbeat but at certain times things get to me so much that I just can’t be upbeat any more and that was one of the times. We were taking so much acid and doing so much drugs and all this Klein shit was going on and getting crazier and crazier and crazier. Carry that weight a long time: like for ever! That’s what I meant.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Unusually, the song featured vocals from all four Beatles – fittingly, as the chorus anticipated the shadow that the group would cast upon their subsequent solo years. It was as if McCartney, if not the others, knew that whatever came next could never match the groundbreaking inventiveness and significance of their work together.
Carry That Weight also features the melody from You Never Give Me Your Money, firstly performed on brass instruments and then sung with different lyrics by McCartney alone, the song’s only vocal passage without the other Beatles, although it was double-tracked to give harmonies.
I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down.
The arpeggiated guitar motif from the end of You Never Give Me Your Money also reappears towards the end of Carry That Weight, acting as a bridge into The End. McCartney’s weaving of elements from other songs in the Abbey Road medley gave a sense of continuity and completeness which would otherwise have been absent.
In the studio
McCartney, Harrison and Starr began recording Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight while John Lennon was in hospital after a car accident in Golspie, Scotland.
On Wednesday 2 July 1969 the three Beatles recorded 15 takes of the songs. George Harrison played bass and Ringo Starr was on drums, while McCartney played piano and sang a guide vocal.
The best of the takes were 13 and 15, which were edited together on 3 July. On that day and the next, McCartney added lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Harrison overdubbed a lead guitar part, and both were joined by Starr for the chanted chorus.
On 30 July more vocals were added to the chorus, this time with John Lennon, and again the next day. They also overdubbed timpani and more drums on 31 July. The orchestral arrangement, meanwhile, was recorded on 15 August.