FIFTY YEARS AGO on Sept. 26th, 1969 The Beatles release their 13th album in the UK, “Abbey Road”, which debuts at #1 and will stay there for eleven straight weeks. The actual numbers of L,P, releases in other countries vary as several of their “British Versions” were broken down into singles and compilation L.P.s
The recording sessions were the last in which all four Beatles participated. “Let It Be” was the final album that the Beatles completed and released before the band’s dissolution in April 1970, but most of the album had been recorded before the “Abbey Road sessions began.
Produced by Sir George Martin:
Geoff Emerick engineer:
“Abbey Road” incorporates genres such as blues, pop and progressive rock,and makes prominent use of the Moog synthesizer and the Leslie speaker. Side two contains a medley of song fragments edited together to form a single piece. The album was recorded amid a more enjoyable atmosphere than the “Get Back/Let It Be” sessions earlier in the year, but there were still frequent disagreements within the band.
John Lennon had privately left the group by the time that the album was released, and Paul McCartney publicly quit the following year.
George Harrison’s contributions in “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” are considered to be among the best songs that he wrote for the group.
Even drummer, Sir Ringo Starr was getting into competition for space on the L.P. as a songwriter.
The Songs, Side 1:
(John Lennon, actual writer. Credited to Lennon & McCartney)
“Come Together” was an expansion of “Let’s Get It Together”, a song Lennon originally wrote for Timothy Leary’s California gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan. A rough version of the lyrics for “Come Together” was written at Lennon’s and Ono’s second bed-in event in Montrea.
Harrison was inspired to write “Something” during sessions for the White Album by listening to label-mate James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves”. “Something” was Lennon’s favorite song on the album, and McCartney considered it the best song Harrison had written. Lennon contributed piano to the recording and while most of the part was removed, traces of it remain in the final cut, notably on the middle eight, prior to Harrison’s guitar solo.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
(Paul McCartney, actual writer. Credited to Lennon & McCartney)
McCartney’s first song on the album, was first performed by the Beatles during the Let It Be sessions (as can be seen in the film). He wrote the song after the group’s trip to India in 1968.
(Paul McCartney, credited to Lennon & McCartney)
“Oh! Darling” was written by McCartney in the doo-wop style. He said: “I came into the studios early every day for a week to sing it by myself because at first my voice was too clear. I wanted it to sound as though I’d been performing it on stage all week”. Lennon thought he should have sung it, remarking that it was more his style.
(Richard Starkey aka Ringo Starr)
As was the case with most of the Beatles’ albums, Starr sang lead vocal on one track. “Octopus’s Garden” is his second and last solo composition released on any album by the band. It was inspired by a trip to Sardinia aboard Peter Sellers’ yacht after Starr left the band for two weeks with his family during the sessions for the White Album. Starr received a full songwriting credit. When asked, George Harrison said “Well, I helped him a little. But it’s really his song”.
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
(John Lennon, credited to Lennon & McCartney)
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was written by Lennon about his relationship with Ono, and he made a deliberate choice to keep the lyrics simple and concise. Lennon told Emerick (The engineer) to “cut it right there” at 7 minutes and 44 seconds, creating a sudden, jarring silence that concludes the first side of Abbey Road (the recording tape would have run out within 20 seconds as it was).The final mixing and editing for the track occurred on 20 August 1969, the last day all four Beatles were together in the studio.
The Songs, Side 2:
“Here Comes The Sun”
“Here Comes the Sun” was written by Harrison in Eric Clapton’s garden in Surrey while Harrison took a break from stressful band business meetings. The basic track was recorded on 7 July 1969. Harrison sang lead and played acoustic guitar, McCartney provided backing vocals and played bass and Starr played the drums. Lennon was still recuperating from his car accident and did not perform on the track. Martin provided an orchestral arrangement in collaboration with Harrison, who overdubbed a Moog synthesizer part on 19 August, immediately before the final mix.
(John Lennon credited to Lennon & McCartney)
“Because” was inspired by Lennon listening to Ono playing Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano. He recalled he was “lying on the sofa in our house, listening to Yoko play … Suddenly, I said, ‘Can you play those chords backward?’ She did, and I wrote ‘Because’ around them.”
The track features three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, which were then triple-tracked to give nine voices in the final mix. The group considered the vocals to be some of the hardest and most complex they attempted. Harrison played the Moog synthesizer, and Martin played the harpsichord that opens the track.
Side two contains a 16-minute medley of eight short songs, recorded over July and August and blended into a suite by McCartney and Martin.
The first track recorded for the medley was the opening number called “You Never Give Me Your Money”. McCartney has claimed that the band’s dispute over Allen Klein and what McCartney viewed as Klein’s empty promises were the inspiration for the song’s lyrics.
This song transitions into Lennon’s “Sun King” which, like “Because”, showcases Lennon, McCartney and Harrison’s triple-tracked harmonies.
Following it are Lennon’s “Mean Mr. Mustard” (written during the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India).
and “Polythene Pam”.
These in turn are followed by four McCartney songs, “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” (written after a fan entered McCartney’s residence via his bathroom window).
“Golden Slumbers” (based on Thomas Dekker) 17th-century poem set to new music).
“Carry That Weight” (reprising elements from “You Never Give Me Your Money”, and featuring chorus vocals from all four Beatles),
“The End” features Starr’s only drum solo in the Beatles’ catalogue (the drums are mixed across two tracks in “true stereo”, unlike most releases at that time where they were hard panned left or right). Fifty-four seconds into the song are 18 bars of lead guitar: the first two bars are played by McCartney, the second two by Harrison, and the third two by Lennon, with the sequence being played three times. Harrison suggested the idea of a guitar solo in the track, Lennon decided they should trade solos and McCartney elected to go first. The solos were cut live against the existing backing track in one take. Immediately after Lennon’s third and final solo, the piano chords of the final part of the song begin. The song ends with the memorable final line, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.
“Her Majesty” was recorded by McCartney on 2 July when he arrived before the rest of the group at Abbey Road. It was originally included in a rough mix of the side two (eight-song) medley, appearing between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”. McCartney disliked the way the medley sounded when it included “Her Majesty”, so he asked for it to be cut. The second engineer, John Kurlander, had been instructed not to throw out anything, so after McCartney left, he attached the track to the end of the master tape after 20 seconds of silence. The tape box bore an instruction to leave “Her Majesty” off the final product, but the next day when mastering engineer Malcolm Davies received the tape, he (also trained not to throw anything away) cut a playback lacquer of the whole sequence, including “Her Majesty”. The Beatles liked this effect and included it on the album.
Years after, George Harrison would say in an interview, “You know looking back, we really did have a lot of fun together”.
One last little note concerns the rumors at the time that Paul McCartney is dead. It was a tail of clues left by the Beatles on various L.P. covers and in songs since the “Revolver” L.P. Note the License plate “LMW281F” on the Volkswagen Beetle’s (I’m sure the pun was intended) purportedly meaning that Linda McCartney Weeps and that McCartney would have been 28 if he had lived.
Years later “Paul Is Live” is a live album by Paul McCartney, released in 1993 during his New World Tour in support of the album Off the Ground was released.
Now note the license is edited to read “51IS”, indicating that he is alive and his age at the time was 51. The dog appearing on the cover is Arrow, one of the offspring of Martha, the sheepdog that was the inspiration for the title of the song “Martha My Dear”. There’ll be a quiz on Friday Chillin’.
Other “Lounge” pages with a “50th Anniversary – 1969” theme you might find interesting are: