A 23-second throwaway song, ‘Her Majesty’ was originally intended to be part of the long medley that dominated the second half of Abbey Road.
It was written by Paul McCartney in Scotland, and was originally placed between ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’ in the medley. Instead it was the album’s postscript, with a stretch of silence separating it and ‘The End’.
‘Her Majesty’ is the shortest song in The Beatles’ repertoire, and was unlisted on original pressings of Abbey Road.
It was quite funny because it’s basically monarchist, with a mildly disrespectful tone, but it’s very tongue in cheek. It’s almost like a love song to the Queen.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The song dates back to at least late 1968. On 20 November that year, McCartney gave an interview to Radio Luxembourg’s Tony Macarthur, and played the song while Macarthur was testing audio levels.
The following year, during an interview with John Lennon about Abbey Road, Macarthur mentioned that McCartney had played ‘Her Majesty’ to him the previous year.
When the double LP was released at the time I did a similar programme with Paul. He played this to me at that time. In fact it was on that tape, when we were getting levels and things.
‘Her Majesty’ was first performed at the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in January 1969. McCartney brought the song to the band in Twickenham on 9 January. It was played again on 24 January in the Apple studio, with McCartney joined by Lennon on slide guitar.
I did once perform this song for the queen. I don’t know how to break this to you, but she didn’t have a lot to say.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
In the studio
The song was recorded in three takes on 2 July, with Paul McCartney singing live to his acoustic guitar accompaniment before the rest of the group began work on ‘Golden Slumbers’/‘Carry That Weight’.
McCartney recorded three takes, all complete, which can be heard on some formats of the 50th anniversary reissue of Abbey Road. His acoustic guitar was recorded on track one of the eight-track tape, with his vocals on track eight.
On 30 July, when it was decided which songs would end up in the long medley, McCartney decided that ‘Her Majesty’ didn’t fit.
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…’ 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
The following day a lacquer version of the album was cut at Apple, and the song was again kept in. McCartney approved of the random accident, and so it remained on the final version.
That was very much how things happened. Really, you know, the whole of our career was like that so it’s a fitting end.
The crashing guitar chord that opens ‘Her Majesty’ is actually the final chord from a rough mix of ‘Mean Mr Mustard’. The song cuts off without the final note, meanwhile, because it was intended to segue into ‘Polythene Pam’. It is actually possible to edit the three songs together to hear how they were originally sequenced.
“Her Majesty” seems to owe a lot to Robert Johnson’s “Hot Tamales,” but I’ve never seen the two songs linked by anyone else. Am I the only one to hear this?