Carry That Weight

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 2-4, 30, 31 July; 15 August 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

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

Available on:
Abbey Road

Recorded as one with Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight was written by Paul McCartney as part of Abbey Road's long medley.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

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.
Paul McCartney
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.

19 responses on “Carry That Weight

  1. JP

    One of my favorite aspects of this song is that all four Beatles sing in the chorus. Ringo, in particular, is quite noticable during the “carry that weight” refrain. I know John was absent from some of the Abbey Road sessions because of an auto accident. Is this the reason Ringo took on the unusual role of singing backing vocals? Was it decided to add John’s vocals to the mix later on (as it appears Lennon’s only role was backing vocals) or was it always Paul’s intension that all four Beatles would sing on this song. One of my favorite Beatle songs.

    1. Craig

      Agree with everything you said JP. Ringo can CLEARLY be heard above the others on this song. It’s quite amusing really. Was it mixed improperly, was this how they wanted it to sound, was Ringo’s baritone just so distinct and strong that he overpowered the others? I always smile and chuckle when that part plays. Fantastic song. Paul killed with this at the 2012 Grammys.

    2. kirbygene

      Like the rest of you I wanted to comment on Ringo’s vocal prominence in the refrain. I love the effect! Poor Ringo hardly ever got any vocal moments and here he is singing his heart out.

  2. Rigby's quartet

    I get chills every time hearing this song on the heels of ‘Slumbers.’ There’s something about the transition from the most exquisite tune in the catalogue to all Four belting it out in unison…words cannot express.

    1. Ted

      An absolute tour de force. I thought the enormous response the juggler Chriss Bliss got was not for his juggling but the fact he was doing it to this medley.

  3. Kristen Maxwell

    The way that they brought back the elements from “You Never Give Me Your Money” makes this medley feel like a more cohesive version of the “concept” approach on Sgt. Pepper’s… basically a sequel with more attention paid to continuity and a feeling of progression.

    Also, unrelated: as a kid i always heard the lyric as “carry that WAVE,” which seemed like a lot more work– having basically the entire ocean on your back! 🙂 I wish i could claim that it had audio/radio undertones (i.e. carrier wave), but i’d never heard those terms back then, so it was just dumb kid ears.

    1. Joe Post author

      My three-year-old son sings “Boy, you’re gonna carried away, carried away a long time.” Dumb kid ears are no bad thing!

      On the subject of You Never Give Me Your Money, it’s the one bit that binds the two medleys together. It’s often thought of as one long song cycle, but there’s a natural break before Golden Slumbers. When they return to YNGMYM it brings cohesion to the whole thing.

      1. Dan L

        Years back, my 3-year-old son, then enamored with Twist and Shout, would belt out, “We’re shaking the baby now!” I agree, what little kids hear can be priceless!

  4. K

    I can hear the Lead Guitar solo but I cant hear any rhythm guitar. Was it left out of the final mix? Also, I think that the lead guitar part was played by Paul but I may be wrong.

  5. Sheldon Sturges

    Nicked from Thomas Dekker –

    Cradle Song

    Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
    Smiles awake you when you rise ;
    Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
    And I will sing a lullaby,
    Rock them, rock them, lullaby.
    Care is heavy, therefore sleep you,
    You are care, and care must keep you ;
    Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
    And I will sing a lullaby,
    Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

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