The Beatles’ last-recorded album was a triumph. Coming after the difficult Let It Be sessions, the group pulled together for Abbey Road, 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.
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.
‘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’.
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 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.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles