PersonnelPaul McCartney: vocals, piano, rhythm guitar
George Harrison: lead guitar, bass guitar
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, timpani
Unknown: 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, double bass, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, trombone, bass trombone
‘Carry That Weight’ 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.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
‘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.
McCartney sang ‘Carry That Weight’ on 6, 7, and 9 January 1969, during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. Discussing the song on the latter date, he raised the possibility of it being sung by Ringo Starr.
In the studio
On Wednesday 2 July 1969 the three Beatles recorded 15 takes of the songs, most of which were incomplete. Harrison played bass and Starr was on drums, while McCartney played piano and sang a guide vocal.
The eight-track tape had Starr’s drums on track one; Harrison’s bass guitar on two; McCartney’s piano on three; and a guide vocal on eight. Takes 1-3 from this first session were released in 2019 on some formats of the 50th anniversary reissue of Abbey Road.
The best of the takes were 13 and 15, which were edited together on 3 July. On that day McCartney and Starr double-tracked their vocals in the chorus, and Starr recorded additional drums.
The next day Harrison added electric guitar arpeggios and Starr recorded extra drums, both on track seven, and McCartney recorded lead vocals on track six.