The medley

Abbey Road was really unfinished songs all stuck together. Everybody praises the album so much, but none of the songs had anything to do with each other, no thread at all, only the fact that we stuck them together.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Abbey Road is perhaps best known for the eight-song medley that dominates side two. Known during recording as ‘the Long One’, it begins with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ – the melody of which recurs during ‘Golden Slumbers’/‘Carry That Weight’ – and culminates with The Beatles’ parting statement ‘The End’.

After the Let It Be nightmare, Abbey Road turned out fine. The second side is brilliant. Out of the ashes of all that madness, that last section is for me one of the finest pieces we put together.

John and Paul had various bits, and so we recorded them and put them together. It actually points out that this is where it’s at, that last portion. None of the songs were finished. A lot of work went into it, but they weren’t writing together. John and Paul weren’t even writing much on their own, really.

Several of the songs were recorded as one, whereas others were assembled and edited together at a later date. Those recorded together were Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight, ‘Sun King’/‘Mean Mr Mustard’, and ‘Polythene Pam’/‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’.

I tried with Paul to get back into the old Pepper way of creating something really worthwhile, and we put together the long side. John objected very much to what we did on the second side of Abbey Road, which was almost entirely Paul and I working together, with contribution from the others. John always was a Teddy boy. He was a rock’n’roller, and wanted a number of individual tracks. So we compromised. But even on the second side, John helped. He would come and put his little bit in, and have an idea for sewing a bit of music into the tapestry. Everybody worked frightfully well, and that’s why I’m very fond of it.

Paul McCartney's notes for the Abbey Road medley

John Lennon later expressed dislike of the medley, and claimed he had wanted his songs on one side of the album and Paul McCartney’s on the other.

I liked the A side. I never liked that sort of pop opera on the other side. I think it’s junk. It was just bits of song thrown together. And I can’t remember what some of it is. ‘Come Together’ is all right. And some things on it… It was a competent album, like Rubber Soul in a way, it was together in that way, but it had no life really.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

The concept of the medley came into being at around 6 May 1969, the day The Beatles recorded Paul McCartney’s You Never Give Me Your Money. Rather than give the song a rounded ending, right from the first take it ended sharply, just before where the lines “One two three four five six seven/All good children go to heaven” were later added. The lack of a proper ending suggested The Beatles were already thinking of the song as part of a bigger whole.

Paul McCartney's notes for the Abbey Road medley

I think it was my idea to put all the spare bits together, but I’m a bit wary of claiming these things. I’m happy for it to be everyone’s idea. Anyway, in the end, we hit upon the idea of medleying them all and giving the second side a sort of operatic structure – which was great because it used ten or twelve unfinished songs in a good way.
Paul McCartney

When the album was complete there were a handful of further sessions to complete Let It Be, but, to all intents and purposes, The Beatles’ dream was over. They had given themselves to the world for the past six years, and now it was their time to find themselves as individuals.

The title

While some of The Beatles’ albums – notably the film tie-ins A Hard Day’s Night and Help! – were titled early on during the recording process, Abbey Road remained untitled until the recording sessions were well underway.

We went through weeks of all saying, ‘Why don’t we call it Billy’s Left Boot?’ and things like that. And then Paul just said, ‘Why don’t we call it Abbey Road?’

Its working title was Everest, named after the cigarettes that sound engineer Geoff Emerick smoked. The packets had a silhouette of Mount Everest on them, and The Beatles liked the imagery.

It was around July, when it was very hot outside, that someone mentioned the possibility of the four of them taking a private plane over to the foothills of Mount Everest to shoot the cover photograph. But as they became more enthusiastic to finish the LP someone – I don’t remember whom – suggested ‘Look, I can’t be bothered to schlep all the way over to the Himalayas for a cover, why don’t we just go outside, take the photo there, call the LP Abbey Road and have done with it?’ That’s my memory of why it became Abbey Road: because they couldn’t be bothered to go to Tibet and get cold!
John Kurlander, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The eventual title was suggested by Paul McCartney.

While we were in the studio, our engineer Geoff Emerick always used to smoke cigarettes called Everest, so the album was going to be called Everest. We never really liked that, but we couldn’t think of anything else to call it. Then one day I said, ‘I’ve got it!’ – I don’t know how I thought of it – ‘Abbey Road! It’s the studio we’re in, which is fabulous; and it sounds a bit like a monastery.’
Paul McCartney
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