Her Majesty

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 2 July 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar

Available on:
Abbey Road

This 23-second throwaway song was originally intended to be part of the long medley that dominated the second half of Abbey Road.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

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.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

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 John Lennon on slide guitar.

In the studio

The song was recorded in three takes on 2 July, with McCartney singing live to his acoustic guitar accompaniment before the rest of the group began work on Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight. He recorded three takes, the first two of which were incomplete.

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.

John Kurlander, engineer
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.
Paul McCartney

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.

19 responses on “Her Majesty

  1. Deadman

    “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?

    1. Joe Post author

      It was once pointed out in the song’s Wikipedia entry (see the revision here), but I think it was deleted because there was no citation and it was just someone’s opinion. The Robert Johnson song is They’re Red Hot – there’s certainly a similarity, but I don’t know if McCartney consciously based Her Majesty on it, or whether it was subconscious or coincidence. I’ve not heard him mention it in interviews.

        1. Francisco

          Song writing is a complex process and I speak from experience. You compose on an instrument and bring to it all you have written before and all that you have ever heard. This is how songs sound similar. To point out their similarity is one thing. To suppose how that similarity came about is just like someone commenting on your mimicking how someone else talks and then telling you why you do it.

  2. zag

    I dunno. I´ve always thought that cutting was kinda joke, it ended like a tape ends. Plus, if you recorded your vinyl into a 90 min cassette it fits on one side just as the “The End” was cutted for purpose (=the lack of your cassette tape). Coincidence ?

    1. Joe Post author

      I had a schoolfriend in the 1990s who bought Abbey Road on tape. The next day he complained that the tape was broken, and was going to take it back to the record store. I asked what was wrong, and he said both sides cut out unexpectedly at the end. I had to explain that it was supposed to sound like that!

      Did people think the same when it was first released on vinyl, that there might have been a mis-pressing? For those of us who weren’t around then it can be hard to know how the albums were received at the time.

  3. Joseph Brush

    At the time Abbey Road came out I just thought that John (at the end of side one) and Paul (at the end of side two) were just having some fun with the abrupt endings.

  4. Scott

    My first copy of Abbey Road was on cassette tape. I would always stop the tape after “The End”, thinking it was the last song. Then one day I was slow to turn off the tape…and this song just comes on out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe it. Over the years, of course, hidden bonus tracks have become commonplace, but it seemed original and clever at the time.

  5. Byrath

    It amazes me how much goodness the Beatles were able to fit into a short song. This little number and Mean Mr. Mustard stand out to me as extreme examples. Very little filler on Beatles records.

  6. Nathan

    One night, I got so bored, I re-edited this song back in between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam. Loved it so much, I burned a new copy of Abbey Road. Also makes me feel better about “The End” ACTUALLY being the end!!

  7. Mathew

    If you go onto YouTube, someone (no, not me) recently uploaded an alternate version of the entire Abbey Road medley. I believe the tracks are still in the same order, but many instruments are mixed in different places in the stereo picture (e.g. he drums and bass are now in the middle).

    Anyways, this version contains Her Majesty at the end, but it includes the final chord (D major).

    1. Jimmy_Jam

      When I was younger it would bother me that they chose to have “Her Majesty” as the last song on what would be their last (recorded) album. “The End” is simply a beautifully perfect way to go out! Today, I appreciate the humor of this song and see it as fitting. The Beatles were never ones to take themselves too seriously after all, just one of the many things that is so endearing about them.

  8. Holsety

    Are you sure Paul sang live with the guitar? There’s a clip on YouTube of Paul playing through the song on guitar, slower the first time then fast the second time. The same guitar from the fast clip then plays again with Paul’s vocals on it, which is the version we all know.

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