Abbey Road

Abbey Road was the eleventh official album released by The Beatles. Although its release preceded that of Let It Be, it was the last to be recorded, and is therefore widely considered as the band's swan song. It was released on September 26, 1969 in the UK and October 1, 1969 in the US. It was produced and orchestrated by George Martin for Apple Records. Geoff Emerick was the engineer and Tony Banks, tape operator. It is considered one of the Beatles' most tightly constructed albums, although John Lennon dismissed the album in later years [citation needed] , possibly because its focal point—"The Long Medley" (which Lennon disliked anyway [citation needed] )—was designed almost entirely by Paul McCartney. The album has a sunny, optimistic feel to many of its tracks, which is ironic since it was recorded in an atmosphere of often open hostility between all the band members. For this reason it is on Abbey Road, of all The Beatles albums, that the steadying influence of George Martin can perhaps be felt at its strongest.

After the near-disastrous sessions for the proposed Get Back album (later retitled Let It Be for release), Paul McCartney suggested to producer George Martin that The Beatles get together and make an album "just like the old days... just like we used to", free of the conflict that began with the sessions for The Beatles (aka the White Album). Martin agreed to this if the band would be "the way they used to be", and the final result was this album.

The two album sides are quite different in character, designed to accommodate the differing wishes of McCartney and John Lennon. Side one (to please Lennon) is a collection of single tracks, while side two (to please McCartney) consists of a long suite of compositions, many of them being relatively short and segued together.

John Lennon

"Come Together", the album opener, was written by Lennon originally for Timothy Leary's 1969 campaign for governor of California, with the original title "Let's Get It Together". A rough version of with can be heard in outtakes from Lennon's second bed-in event in Canada . "Come Together" was released as a double-A-side single along with "Something". Lennon was later sued by Morris Levy for stealing the guitar riff and line "Here comes old flat-top/he come groovin..." from the Chuck Berry song "You Can't Catch Me". It has since been assumed that each verse in "Come Together" is about one of the Beatles. Respectively George ("He one holy roller"), Ringo ("he wear no shoe-shine"), John ("He got Ono sideboard") and Paul ("Got to be good looking")

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)", conceived in part with Yoko Ono, is a combination of two somewhat different recording attempts; the first occuring almost immediately after the "Get Back" sessions in February 1969 and featuring Billy Preston on keyboards. This was combined with a second version made during the "Abbey Road" sessions proper and when editied together ran at over 7 minutes long, making it the second-longest released Beatles song ("Revolution 9" being the longest). It also features one of the earliest uses of a Moog synthesiser to create the white-noise or "wind" effect heard near the end of the track. During the final edit, as the repeatative guitar riff continued on and on, John told the engineer to "cut it right there", creating a sudden, jarring silence which concluded side one of " Abbey Road ". The final overdub session for "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" would be the last time all four Beatles worked in the studio together.

"Because" also features a Moog synthesizer (which was played by Harrison ). The chords in "Because" were inspired when John heard Yoko playing Ludwig van Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", on the piano after which, according to Lennon, he played the notes backwards. "Because" features gorgeous three-part harmonies by John, Paul and George which were then triple tracked to sound like nine singers. As remembered by Geoff Emerick, during the recording of the harmonies, they sat on a bench around the mic and Ringo sat there along with the others, perhaps in a subconscious display of love and brotherhood, despite their increasing differences at the time.

Paul McCartney

Paul's first song on the album, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", is about a hammer-wielding murderer and was originally from the Let It Be sessions as seen in the Let It Be documentary. When recording "Oh! Darling", McCartney attempted recording only once per day, so that his voice would be fresh on the recording. He would practice the song when in the bath.

George Harrison

George Harrison was rapidly growing as a songwriter, and with Abbey Road , he gave what's perhaps his most significant contribution to a Beatles album. He wrote and sung lead on two of the most famous songs of the album, including the first number one single by The Beatles that was not a Lennon-McCartney composition.

"Something" was George Harrison's first A-side single with The Beatles. Originally written during the White Album sessions, the first line is based on the James Taylor song "Something in the Way She Moves" ( Taylor was signed to Apple at the time). After the lyrics were refined during the "Let It Be" sessions (tapes reveal John giving George some songwriting advice during its composition), "Something" was originally given to Joe Cocker, but then recorded by The Beatles for Abbey Road . "Something" was Lennon's favourite song on the album, and McCartney considered it the best song Harrison had written. Frank Sinatra once made the comment that "Something" was his all-time favourite Lennon-McCartney song—the joke being it was not written by them at all, but by Harrison .

"Here Comes the Sun" is Harrison's second song on the album and one of his best-known songs, written in Eric Clapton's garden while George was "playing hookey" from one of Apple's tedious board meetings. It was influenced by the Cream song "Badge" (which was co-written by Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Ringo Starr).

Ringo Starr

Ringo wrote and sang one song for the album, "Octopus's Garden," only his second Beatles composition. It was inspired when Ringo left the band for a few weeks during the sessions for The White Album and went to the seashore with friend Peter Sellers. While there, he composed the song, which is arguably his most successful writing effort. While Ringo had the lyrics nearly pinned down, the song's melodic structure was almost totally written in the studio by Harrison (which can be seen in the Let It Be film). Although technically a Starr/Harrison composition, George gave full credit to Ringo. (A similar occurrance happened nearly a year later with Ringo's "It Don't Come Easy" which George arranged and added lyrics to.)

Many consider the climax of the album a sixteen-minute medley consisting of several short songs, both finished and unfinished, tagged together by McCartney. Most of these songs were written (and originally recorded in demo form) during sessions for The Beatles (also known as the White Album) and Let It Be. McCartney's "You Never Give Me Your Money" (based loosely on The Beatles' financial problems with Apple) leads off the long suite, followed by three Lennon compositions, "Sun King" (which, along with "Because" from earlier on the album, showcases Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison's overdubbed harmonies), "Mean Mr. Mustard" (written during The Beatles' trip to India), and "Polythene Pam," followed by four McCartney songs, "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" (written after a fan came into Paul's residence literally through the bathroom window), "Golden Slumbers" (based on Thomas Dekker's 17th-century poem), "Carry That Weight" (featuring harmonies from McCartney, Harrison and Starr; Lennon being hospitalized after a car accident with Yoko during the session), and the fitting climax, "The End". This features the first and only Starr drum solo to make it to tape (in its original album form), and the three extended guitar solos performed in turn by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon, in tandum for nine measures. Each had a distinctive style which McCartney felt reflected their personalities. An alternate version with Harrison 's lead guitar solo played against Starr's drum solo appears on the Anthology 3 album. The final line, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make", in the view of many fans, captures the essence of the Beatles' message.

The song "Her Majesty," tacked on the end, was originally part of the side two medley, appearing in between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam". McCartney did not like the way the medley sounded with "Her Majesty" included, so he had the medley reedited to remove it. However, second engineer John Curlander had been instructed never to throw out anything the Beatles created, so he placed it at the end of the medley after 20 seconds of silence. The Beatles liked this seemingly random effect and left it on the album. On the first printing of the LP cover, "Her Majesty" is not listed; however, it is shown on the record label. Upon listening, you can hear the last crashing chord of "Mean Mr. Mustard" at the start while the final note of "Her Majesty" remained buried in the mix of "Polythene Pam". Some consider it to be the first true hidden track on an album.

Abbey Road was the only Beatles album exclusively recorded on an 8-track Studer reel to reel, as opposed to 4 track. This is noticeable by the better sound separation and micing of the drum kit. The album was also the first to be recorded and mixed entirely on a solid state sound board, giving the album's sound a noticeably different "feel" from its predecessors— Harrison once remarked that the new sound was too "harsh" for his liking. Also, the burgeoning Moog synthesizer features on the majority of tracks, not merely as a background effect, but sometimes playing a central role, such as in Because; where it's used for the middle 8. It is also prominent on Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Here Comes the Sun. The instrument was introduced to the band by George after a stay in Los Angeles where he was introduced to the instrument. (The first song to employ the Moog was "Daily Nightly" by the Monkees.) Harrison released Electronic Sound on Apple's short-lived experimental label Zapple in 1968, an album featuring dissonant sounds entirely made from a Moog. George had anticipated, if not set trends before with the introduction of the sitar on Rubber Soul in 1965.

"At some point, the album was going to be titled Everest, after the brand of cigarettes I used to smoke," recalls Geoff Emerick. The idea included a cover photo of The Beatles in the Himalaya, but by the time the group had to take the photo, they decided to call it Abbey Road and take the photo outside the studio on August 8, 1969. The cover designer was Apple Records creative Director Kosh. The cover photograph was taken by photographer, Iain MacMillan. MacMillan was given only ten minutes around 10 that morning to take the photo. That cover photograph has since become one of the most famous and most imitated album covers in recording history.


"Paul Is Dead" clues

The cover also supposedly contains clues adding to the "Paul Is Dead" phenomenon: Paul is barefoot, with eyes closed, out of step with the others, and holds a cigarette in his right hand, though he is left handed, and the car number plate "LMW 281F" supposedly referred to the fact that McCartney would be 28 years old if he was still alive. (While the "I" in "28IF" is actually a "1," it is hard to tell on the cover. As an aside, Paul was only 27 at the time of Abbey Road 's release, though some take this to mean he would have been 28 "if" he had lived despite the fact that McCartney has supposedly been dead for years at this point.) "LMW" is said to stand for "Linda McCartney Weeps." Paul had married Linda Eastman in March of 1969, though strangely, the rumor suggests he was already dead several years before this time. Therefore, Linda would never have even met Paul. The four Beatles on the album cover, according to the "Paul is Dead" myth, represent the priest (John, dressed in white), the Undertaker (Ringo in a black suit), the Corpse (Paul, in a suit but barefoot—like a body in a casket), and the Gravedigger (George, in jeans and a denim work shirt). The man standing on the pavement in the background is Paul Cole, an American tourist who was unaware that he was being photographed until he saw the album cover months later.

In 1997, Abbey Road was named the 12th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM; it received the same ranking in a 1998 poll of Q magazine readers. In 2000, Q placed it at number 17 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In November 2003, it was named the 14th best album of the rock era by a Rolling Stone poll of critics, journalists, and others in the industry. Also in 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 8th greatest album ever.

In November 2004, it was named the 14th best album by Rolling Stone.