We never got past eight-track. All of The Beatles’ work was on two-track, four-track or eight-track. Sgt Pepper was four-track. By Abbey Road we had got to eight-track, and we thought it was too many! We thought it was too big a luxury.
George Harrison bought one of the first Moogs to be manufactured, and the large instrument was brought in to the studio at Abbey Road in early August 1969.
I first heard about the Moog synthesizer in America. I had to have mine made specially, because Mr Moog had only just invented it. It was enormous, with hundreds of jackplugs and two keyboards.
But it was one thing having one, and another trying to make it work. There wasn’t an instruction manual, and even if there had been it would probably have been a couple of thousand pages long. I don’t think even Mr Moog knew how to get music out of it; it was more of a technical thing. When you listen to the sounds on songs like ‘Here Comes The Sun’, it does do some good things, but they’re all very kind of infant sounds.
The Moog was used on ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ in conjunction with a white noise generator. They were recorded on 8 August 1969, the day the Abbey Road cover photography was taken.
We used the Moog synthesizer on ‘The End’ [sic]. That machine can do all sounds and all ranges of sounds – so if you’re a dog, you could hear a lot more. It’s like a robot. George can work it a bit, but it would take you all your life to learn the variations on it. George has got one. He used it on the Billy Preston LP, and it also plays the solo in ‘Because’, and I think in ‘Maxwell’ it comes in too. It’s here and there on the album.
‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ closed side one of Abbey Road. The steadily-building guitar arpeggios were suddenly cut with a brutal edit, giving a powerful ending which would have been lost had the track been faded out.
I thought the song was going to have a fade out, but suddenly John told me, ‘Cut the tape.’ I was apprehensive at first – we’d never done anything like that. ‘Cut the tape?’ But he was insistent, and he wound up being right. The track, and side one, ends in a very jarring way.
Side two also ended in an unorthodox fashion. The album was to close with ‘The End’, but during a trial edit of the medley made on 30 July 1969, the rejected song ‘Her Majesty’ was appended to the end of the tape.
We did all the remixes and crossfades to overlap the songs. Paul was there, and we heard it together for the first time. He said, ‘I don’t like ‘Her Majesty’, throw it away,’ so I cut it out – but I accidentally left in the last note. He said ‘It’s only a rough mix, it doesn’t matter,’ in other words, don’t bother about making a clean edit because it’s only a rough mix. I said to Paul, ‘What shall I do with it?’ ‘Throw it away,’ he replied.
I’d been told never to throw anything away, so after he left I picked it up off the floor, put about 20 seconds of red leader tape before it and stuck it onto the end of the edit tape.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
When he heard a playback lacquer cut of the edit, McCartney liked the accidental inclusion of ‘Her Majesty’, and it was included at the end of the album – a precursor to the ‘hidden’ tracks which became common on compact disc releases during the 1990s.
As it was originally intended to be part of Abbey Road’s long medley, the rough mix of ‘Her Majesty’ began with the final chord of ‘Mean Mr Mustard’, and cut off before the last note – because in the 30 July edit it segued straight into ‘Polythene Pam’.
The original intention was that ‘The End’ should, fittingly, close the album. The song is unique for having solos from each of The Beatles – including a drum solo by a reluctant Ringo Starr.
Solos have never interested me. That drum solo is still the only one I’ve done. There’s the guitar section where the three of them take in the solos, and then they thought, ‘We’ll have a drum solo as well.’ I was opposed to it: ‘I don’t want to do no bloody solo!’ George Martin convinced me. As I was playing it, he counted it because we needed a time. It was the most ridiculous thing. I was going, ‘Dum, dum – one, two, three, four…’ and I had to come off at that strange place because it was thirteen bars long. Anyway, I did it, and it’s out of the way. I’m pleased now that we’ve got one down.
A sideline on Abbey Road, just a personal thing of mine: the drum sound on the record was the result of having new calf-heads. There’s a lot of tom-tom work on that record. I got the new heads on the drum and I naturally used them a lot – they were so great. The magic of real records is that they showed tom-toms were so good. I don’t believe that magic is there now, because there’s so much more manipulation.
The striking clarity of Starr’s drum parts was also due to new recording technology, including the ability to use several microphones to record the kit. The drums on ‘The End’ were recorded on two tracks, allowing the solo to be mixed in stereo.
For the first time we were using a transistorized mixing console. Up to this point, all the albums had been recorded on a tube desk. But this luxurious transistorized desk had a limiter and compressor on every channel and selectable frequencies – it was quite a change.
Regarding Ringo’s drums, this was the first time I was able to record his kit in stereo because we were using eight-track instead of four-track. Because of this, I had more mic inputs, so I could mic from underneath the toms, place more mics around the kit – the sound of his drums were finally captured in full.
I think when he heard this, he kind of perked up and played more forcefully on the toms, and with more creativity.
Although monophonic mixes had been the primary consideration for most of the 1960s, by the time Abbey Road was issued stereo had become more dominant – so much so that the album was never mixed in mono.