The End

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 23 July; 5, 7, 8, 15, 18 August 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

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

Paul McCartney: vocals, backing vocals, lead guitar, bass, piano
John Lennon: backing vocals, lead guitar
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Unknown: 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, double bass, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, trombone, bass trombone

Available on:
Abbey Road
Anthology 3

The final song on The Beatles' last-recorded album - aside from the 23-second Her Majesty - was a fitting eulogy for the greatest group the world had ever known, and an apt farewell from the band to their legion of fans.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

It was unlikely that any other Beatle than Paul McCartney would end up writing The Beatles' epitaph. John Lennon generally disliked the Abbey Road medley - although he contributed a handful of songs - and at one point wanted his and McCartney's songs to be on separate sides of the album.

That's Paul again, the unfinished song, right? We're on Abbey Road. Just a piece at the end. He had a line in it [sings] 'And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give [sic],' which is a very cosmic, philosophical line. Which again proves that if he wants to, he can think.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

George Harrison, meanwhile, had grown tired of McCartney's dominance within of the group, and was beginning to devote his energies to other projects. Apart from the generally amenable Ringo Starr, McCartney was the only one fully dedicated to The Beatles until the end, and he recognised that they deserved a proper send-off.

Beginning with a guitar solo and the lines "Oh yeah, all right, are you gonna be in my dreams tonight?", the song features, uniquely on a Beatles track, a drum solo from Starr. It took some persuading before the group's stalwart drummer agreed to the solo.

Ringo would never do drum solos. He hated drummers who did lengthy drum solos. We all did. And when he joined The Beatles we said, "Ah, what about drum solos then?", thinking he might say, "Yeah, I'll have a five-hour one in the middle of your set," and he said, "I hate 'em!" We said, "Great! We love you!" And so he would never do them. But because of this medley I said, "Well, a token solo?" and he really dug his heels in and didn't want to do it. But after a little bit of gentle persuasion I said, "Yeah, just do that, it wouldn't be Buddy Rich gone mad," because I think that's what he didn't want to do.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

During recording, the drum solo was originally accompanied by guitar and tambourine, although these were excluded in the final version. They can, however, be heard in a new mix of The End, released in 1996 on Anthology 3.

The thing that always amused me was how much persuasion it took to get Ringo to play that solo. Usually, you have to try to talk drummers out of doing solos! [laughs] He didn't want to do it, but everybody said, 'No, no, it'll be fantastic!' So he gave in - and turned in a bloody marvelous performance!

It took a while to get right, and I think Paul helped with some ideas, but it's fantastic. I always want to hear more - that's how good it is. It's so musical, it's not just a drummer going off.

The End also features the sound of McCartney, Harrison and Lennon sparring on lead guitars, taking it in turns to perform two-bar sequences over the "Love you, love you" backing vocals.

The idea for guitar solos was very spontaneous and everybody said, 'Yes! Definitely' - well, except for George, who was a little apprehensive at first. But he saw how excited John and Paul were so he went along with it. Truthfully, I think they rather liked the idea of playing together, not really trying to outdo one another per se, but engaging in some real musical bonding.

Yoko was about to go into the studio with John - this was commonplace by now - and he actually told her, 'No, not now. Let me just do this. It'll just take a minute.' That surprised me a bit. Maybe he felt like he was returning to his roots with the boys - who knows?

The order was Paul first, then George, then John, and they went back and forth. They ran down their ideas a few times and before you knew it, they were ready to go. Their amps were lined up together and we recorded their parts on one track.

You could really see the joy in their faces as they played; it was like they were teenagers again. One take was all we needed. The musical telepathy between them was mind-boggling.

Geoff Emerick
MusicRadar.com

The song closed with some of The Beatles' most celebrated and memorable words.

And in the end the love you take
Is equal to the love you make

The final words of the song were written by McCartney with Shakespeare in mind.

I wanted it to end with a little meaningful couplet, so I followed the Bard and wrote a couplet.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

Originally known simply as Ending, The Beatles began recording The End on 23 July 1969. According to Mark Lewisohn, the basic structure of the song was in place from take one, suggesting the group had spent time rehearsing before recording began.

They taped seven takes of The End. Lewisohn reports that the drum solo developed each time, and the final take was the one considered the best.

On this first day the song was only 1'20" long - it was later increased to 2'20" with extra overdubs including the sparring guitars, piano, more drums and the orchestral finale.

The Beatles returned to Ending on 5 August, taping the first vocals for the track. More vocals, along with electric guitar, were added on 7 August, and the following day more drums and bass were recorded.

The orchestra was recorded on 15 August, at great expense, though the musicians also contributed parts for Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight, Something and Here Comes The Sun on the same day.

The orchestral overdub for The End was the most elaborate I have ever heard: a 30-piece playing for not too many seconds - and mixed about 40 dBs down. It cost a lot of money: all the musicians have to be paid, fed and watered; I screw every pound note out of it whenever I play the record!
Alan Brown, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Recording was completed on 18 August, with the addition of the curiously slightly sharp piano notes, played by Paul McCartney, which herald the celebrated final words.

65 responses on “The End

  1. Jeff

    The piano at the end where Paul sings ‘and in the end…’ goes SHARP not flat. Just a tiny bit. I always thought this was done intentionally (maybe by George Martin) to give it a rising effect….

  2. James

    I always thought they were saying “The End” but this web site and Beatles Rock Band claims they are saying “Love You”. I still hear “The End” even on the remastered version.

    1. Joe Post author

      Hi Marie. According to Geoff Emerick: “The order was Paul first, then George, then John, and they went back and forth. They ran down their ideas a few times and before you knew it, they were ready to go. Their amps were lined up together and we recorded their parts on one track.”

  3. Wing Dairu

    Musicians take note: THIS is how you end your career as a band flawlessly.
    Solos from each member of the band, followed by a soft, graceful exit, imparting some final words of wisdom to your fans.

    A perfect ending to the Beatles’ recording career.

  4. SgtPepper1909

    That was a touching bit about “‘John getting back to his roots with the boys.’” Turning down Yoko is definitely meaningful, seeing how she and him were inseperable in the posthumous days of cooperation.

  5. Chris

    IIRC, Paul’s final line was different and John misquoted it – something about the love you get being equal to the love you give or something like that.

  6. TheOneBeatle (From Youtube)

    This is the end of the beatles. They say goodbye excellently.
    I’d always loved Ringo’s only drum solo, even if the instruments that they we’re originally we’re muted.
    The chorus ”Love You” sang 24 times.
    I have a question here, why Ringo isn’t in the credits as back vocal?
    I know that he is not in the part ”And in the end..” but on the love you chorus i think i can hear ringo’s voice if not, well.
    And the triple solo of course of McCartney, Harrison And Lennon in that order. McCartney and Harrison two bars and Lennon 3 bars three times.
    This is the excellent ending for Abbey Road and The Beatles.
    I know, Her Majesty cames later, but i always put it in my cellphone between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam where it was originally, and it fits well.
    Well. Thanks Beatles.
    For All.
    Best Band FOREVER.

    1. paulsbass

      “McCartney and Harrison two bars and Lennon 3 bars three times.”
      Nope! Imagine John doing one more bar than the others! Impossible!
      Count them, they all got two bars each time.

      1. TheOneBeatleManiac

        I meaned for the last 3 bars, that are of John Lennon.
        In all the other bars, were two bars for each of the three.
        But in the last 3 bars are Lennon.
        I have heard the song many times, and Lennon ends it. I tried to count every two bars and counting ”McCartney” ”Harrison” ”Lennon”.
        I’ll do it again, and maybe you’re right.

        1. Joe Post author

          You’re wrong – Lennon gets two bars at the end. I don’t know how you counted three – he’s playing triplets, but his bit is definitely two bars long.

          1. Von Bontee

            It’s not a full three bars, but I know what he means. Think of a bar as eight beats long. All the individual guitar mini-solos, nine of them, begin on the eigth beat of a bar; and all of them last until the seventh beat of the next bar EXCEPT John’s final bit, which continues right through the seventh beat, past the eighth, and finally spills over to the first beat of the bar after that one, just as everything cuts out except for the piano. So, you could say that John’s final solo bit (10 beats long) indeed spans three bars, whereas the previous eight bits all spanned two bars, and were all eight beats long. It’s only because nobody followed John’s final solo that he was able to fit the entire thing in without stepping on a successor’s toes.

    2. Joe Lynn

      Interesting to read that Ringo’s drum solo was developed during the recording sessions. I always felt that the solo was 95% like Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” released in 1968.
      Maybe RIngo heard that drum solo somewhere and it crept into his subconscious…

  7. iLoveTheBeatles

    I had no idea that John turned down Yoko when recording this song. That means a lot i think for the band and for fans. When i read that part, it really touched my heart. I NEVER get tired of this song. It’s always been one of my favorites. This is how you break up a band, with a beautiful song and some words of wisdom. Thank you. Long live The Beatles.

  8. GnikNus

    I always love the “love you” right after Ringo’s solo, it’s like they’re saying to him, ‘we can’t agree on much, but we all love you Ringo!’

  9. paulsbass

    There’s this nice site called “The Beatles bible”.
    A cool guy named Joe listed any possible bits of information about all the songs.
    Check out “The end” in the “Songs” list and you will find knowledge!

    1. Joe Post author

      No, it’s a fair question he asked. I don’t know the performers’ names, hence they’re listed as ‘unknown’. If anyone has the names, let me know and I’ll add them to the page.

    1. EltonJohnLennon

      They did it together. George Martin arranged it because Paul didn’t know how to do it. But the orchestra basically plays the notes which Paul plays on the piano. So the idea was McCartney’s and Martin took care of the realization.

  10. Arild k

    I have just listened again to Abbey Rd. – the remaster 2009.
    (iPhone with Sennheiser hd600)

    I should like to know any differences between the remastered 2009 and the first released cd, especially at the end …

    1. Matt

      Why would anyone want to listen to a remastered CD that is copied onto a iPod is beyond me. iPod format causes the CD data to be compressed (appr. 40MB original to 4MB compressed) and thus degrading the quality of the CD info. If you really want to enjoy your remastered collection, play them on a decent to good CD player.

    2. Matthew V

      Why anyone would listen to a remastered CD that is stored on a device that compresses audio is beyond me, HD600 or any other. The quality is never higher than the quality of the weakest link, this being the iPod.

      PS I am curious to see if this comment makes it to the website. The last (also polite) comment was rejected for unknown reasons.

      1. Joe Post author

        Matthew – your previous message didn’t come through. If you want to resubmit it I’ll consider it for publication.

        However, this is a page about The Beatles’ song The End, and isn’t intended for a debate regarding the merits (or otherwise) of audio compression. If you want to chat about that, please can I direct you towards the forum? I won’t publish any more comments on this page regarding sound quality, unless they’re directly related to the song in question.

  11. brian

    It is awesome to hear them all sparring on lead. And I love their different personalities. And I think Harrison does shine particularly, which is nice because as much as I love his playing, there were times when the Paul solos were in some way a little gutsier or more edgy. But in this track, George shows he can do it all. Actually his playing on the whole album is really top notch.
    Now, what I like about this being sort of a goodbye song for the Beatles: It is called the end. It is a good ending line that is deep and appropriate. They all jam and solo like the rock band they began as. So I accept it.
    That said, I don’t really love the track, nor see the quality of it as a great stamp to put on the end of a collection of a career of masterful music ranging so many styles of writing, playing and recording. But then again, maybe that would have been an impossible task, so maybe this whole fun jam thing with the little summary at the end is appropriate after all. Still, not a piece of music that I would love to consider the ending of the Beatles saga. Just my opinion of course.
    I notice another almost John compliment. Paul could be a thinker when he wants to. Meaning, much of the time he doesn’t reach that height. I don’t disagree with John entirely, but I think that sometimes his comments can be a little harsh even when they are nice.

      1. Lottery

        Off the top of my head: Taxman (and also technically Tomorrow Never Knows), Good Morning Good Morning, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Back in the USSR. And a bunch of others.

    1. Mick Bradley

      Can’t imagine how else they could have ended it really. A little bit of wild Cavern/Hamburg thru to strings, harmony, comedy, pathos plus a touch of profundity – it’s all in there – classic Beatles to The End.

      Paul was a great guitar player, but an inspired Bass player – one of the top 5 on the planet. George was an inspired guitarist – one of the top 10 and John was possibly the most astonishing rhythm player in RnR. Ringo’s input should never be underestimated – as Mile Davis said “A band is only as good as it’s drummer”

  12. exarctly

    …. that bit about John leaving Yoko behind to jam at the end, Thanks for sharing that. It is really cool. Like he had one more chance to be just one of the boys. Almost like what happens when Tufnel and Hubbins decide to jam at least one more time, despite the tension due to girlfriends.

  13. Mick Bradley

    One of the great moments in Rock n Roll history. For some reason I always thought it was a Harrison/Clapton jam. Now it’s even more poignant for me, knowing it was the four of them soloing at ‘The End’. I’m going to have to dig my vinyl copy out and listen to it yet another 100 times. So many astonishing gifts from the Beatles – beautiful, spiritual gifts.

  14. Billy Shears

    Musical perfection. The entire side 2 of Abbey Road consisting of “bits and pieces” of unfinished songs fit together into a seamless patchwork quilt of harmonies, emotions, and raw rock. “The End” never ceases to bring me chills. Side 2 of Abbey Road still sounds as current today as when it was released. A Masterpiece.

  15. Stephen

    I always believed that Linda and Yoko joined in with the ‘Love You’ chorus vocals but I can find no evidence of this in print or documentation. Do you think the vocals were sped-up in places or were they screeching their hearts out for one final rock-out?

    1. Julian

      I heard the isolated vocals from the Rock Band mixes. I hear normal Beatle voices AND some sped-up ones squished together. As to who’s exactly singing, I have no idea.

  16. walrusgumboot

    No, its not. The middle soloist has McCartney stamped all over it-tone, feel, attitude…compare it to any other Paul solos. Its so obvious to me. The first one is so George-economical, precise. Then Paul-wilder, heavy vibrato, showy. Lastly, John-grungy, distorted. Trust your ears.

  17. Ahhh Girl

    When I heard this in It’s All Too Much “Everywhere it’s what you make for us to take”, my mind jumped to The End: “And in the end the love you take / Is equal to the love you make.” I guess “The Beatles” were just too much for John, Paul, George, and Ringo (collectively) to take.

  18. Michelle

    Technically speaking, THE END is not Ringo’s only drum solo. The intro to SGT. PEPPER REPRISE features him banging away on drums by himself for about 7 seconds, and the middle of BIRTHDAY also has him banging away for about 12 seconds…solo….there may be others, but I just woke up

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