In the summer of 1969 the Beatles were pretty much all doing their own thing and the days of the group were numbered. After the miserable recording sessions for GET BACK which later became Let It Be, they decided they wanted to record in a way like they use to. No one actually said it, but there was a feeling this could be the last project as The Beatles. With this in mind everyone made nice and put their differences aside for the time being.
ABBEY ROAD was the last recording the Beatles made together. Although LET IT BE was released afterwards, it was recorded in January of 1969, prior to ABBEY ROAD.
Paul McCartney called up their producer George Martin and told him the plan. He agreed only if he could have full control as a producer and do things his way. The band came in to the studio beginning in July 1969. Rarely were all four Beatles actually in the studio at the same time, usually recording separately or in pairs.
ABBEY ROAD was released in America on October 1st, 1969 and by its third week it reached number one. It stayed at number one for eleven straight weeks, spending a total of 129 weeks on the charts. It was the first Beatles album to sell over 10 million copies and is now 12x platinum.
The album cover has become a classic in itself. It was the first & only Beatles album that didn’t have the word Beatles or the album name over its picture. It features the four Beatles walking across the street directly outside of Abbey Road studios. It was a warm day so Paul took off his shoes and is walking barefoot. During the whole PAUL IS DEAD craze, this was supposed to be one of the clues. On the topic of PAUL IS DEAD clues, each Beatle in the photo was symbolic. John all in white was the spiritual symbol, Ringo in a black suit, the undertaker & George in denim was the grave digger. Great fun stuff, don’t forget the license plate on the Volkswagen reading 28IF, representing Paul would have been 28 if alive. More true to form I think the photo represents where each Beatle was individually at that time. John & George were sporting beards & very long hair, in the late sixties hippie style. Paul was clean shaven from the GET BACK sessions, and dressed more businesslike, but yet the barefoot hippie part of him still intact. Notice the cigarette in Paul’s right hand. Ringo looking more like the Hollywood movie star, he had become since appearing in various film projects over the past year.
Notice the guy on the right side of the street looking over at the Beatles. Years later he found out it was him on the cover. According to him, he said he was on vacation in London and was waiting for his wife to come out of a boutique. He saw the traffic get stopped and these four strange looking guys get photographed walking across the street. He will live forever on the cover. Every day people are still dodging traffic to get themselves photographed walking across that street.
The album is famous for its Abbey Road, side two 16 minute medley. The medley begins with YOU NEVER GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, which is Paul’s version of the money & legal problems at Apple. Next is John’s SUN KING, which features beautiful harmonies by John & George and some lyrics in Italian and some completely made up words in no language. That tune if followed by two of Lennon’s unfinished works, a song about an old miser stashing all his money- MEAN MR. MUSTARD & his sister POLYTHENE PAM. Pam was inspired by an old Liverpool friend who use to eat polythene. John uses a very heavy Liverpool accent singing this song. After John says “Look Out….I did” the medley rolls on with Pauls, SHE CAME IN THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW, inspired by a chick (one of the Apple Scruffs groupies) who actually came through his bathroom window. The lullaby GOLDEN SLUMBERS, is actually an 18th century song of its own, leading into CARRY THAT WEIGHT with Ringo’s voice leading the harmonies. THE END features the only Ringo Starr drum solo on a Beatles record. It leads the way for a triple dueling guitar lead from John, George & Paul. Each one of their individual styles comes out in this fantastic piece of music that shows how good of a jam band the Beatles were.
Then comes the last words of wisdom the Beatles ever recorded on record, when Paul sings “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. If you keep the album playing, you get an unfinished Paul tune called HER MAJESTY thrown in there for a surprise.
COME TOGETHER / SOMETHING was released as double A Side and both reached number one in America. COME TOGETHER opens the album with John’s beautiful melodic voice, the song has since become another spiritual Beatles anthem for humanity. But it was originally written for Timothy Leary’s campaign for Governor that never actually got off the ground. John premieres the song at one of the Bed Ins. SOMETHING is one of the greatest Love songs ever recorded, and one of George’s as well as the Beatles bests works. It was written for George’s wife Patti Boyd Harrison. The same woman who later inspired Eric Clapton to wrote LAYLA & WONDERFUL TONIGHT. Quite the inspiration she is.
MAXWELLS SILVER HAMMER is Paul’s first song on the album. It’s a fun little tune, where Ringo sings the lead “Bang Bang” parts & longtime Beatles friend & roadie Mal Evan bangs the anvil. The song made it’s debut in the LET IT BE movie during the GET BACK sessions in early 1969. John called it one of Paul’s granny songs.
OH DARLING is like a 1950’S blues love song taken to the next level. It features one of Paul’s best screaming lyrics since LONG TALL SALLY & I’VE GOT A FEELING. Great backing harmonies as well.
OCTOPUS’S GARDEN is Ringo’s second song writing credit on the album, written on a trip to Sardinia in 1968. He was served squid for lunch one day, and was told how Octopus gather shiny stones & build little gardens under the sea. As seen in the movie LET IT BE, George helps Ringo write the songs musical structure.
I WANT YOU is one of the most popular songs on the album and considered another great Beatle jam session rocker. The song is actually two Lennon songs combined to a very progressive style of rock. Sounds like Johns answer to Paul’s Oh Darling, and the screaming Lennon vocal would be what’s to come on his PLASTIC ONO BAND solo album a year later. It is the second longest Beatles song in running time, and was the last song the four Beatles ever recorded together in the studio at the same time. (a moment of silence, please)
HERE COMES THE SUN is another great Harrison song on the album and again one of his finest works. George had really come into his own as a songwriter and this beauty was written in Eric Clapton’s back yard. George’s acoustic guitar work is beautiful and the background features a Moog synthesizer which was a new instrument at the time. It’s one of the first songs to feature a synthesizer.
Last but certainly not least is Johns beautiful BECAUSE which features some of the best Beatles three part harmonizing ever. The music is inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played backwards. This beautiful song sounds even better without any music, like on the Anthology three CD.