Album facts: Abbey Road
On September 26th 1969, The Beatles released Abbey Road in the UK, the band's 11th studio album; it was subsequently issued in the US on October 1st. On November 1st Abbey Road peaked at number one on the US Billboard and remained there for 7 straight weeks. It also spent 11 weeks on top of the UK Albums Chart, beginning on September 28th.
The Beatles began work on Abbey Road in February of 1969 after the Let It Be sessions came to a grinding halt; a lot of the songs on Abbey Road are pieces of music from the Let It Be recording sessions that never got used; like Mean Mister Mustard, Polyethylene Pam, Oh! Darling, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer etc.
"Abbey Road was really unfinished songs all stuck together. Everybody praises the album so much, but none of the songs had anything to do with each other, no thread at all, only the fact that we stuck them together." - John Lennon
"My contribution [to the medley] is Polythene Pam, Sun King and Mean Mr Mustard. We juggled them about until it made vague sense. In Mean Mr Mustard, I said 'his sister Pam' - originally it was 'his sister Shirley' in the lyric. I changed it to 'Pam' to make it sound like it had something to do with it. They are only finished bits of crap that I wrote in India." - John Lennon
Producer George Martin suspected The Beatles were going to break up after the abysmal recording sessions for Let It Be in January 1969, and was very surprised to get a call from Paul McCartney telling him the band wanted to get together for another album.
"Let It Be was such an unhappy record, even though there are some great songs on it, that I really believed that was the end of The Beatles, and I assumed that I would never work with them again. I thought, 'What a shame to end like this.' So I was quite surprised when Paul rang me up and said, 'We're going to make another record - would you like to produce it?'
My immediate answer was: 'Only if you let me produce it the way we used to.' He said, 'We will, we want to.' - 'John included?' - 'Yes, honestly.' So I said, 'Well, if you really want to, let's do it. Let's get together again.' It was a very happy record. I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last." - George Martin
"Nobody knew for sure that it was going to be the last album - but everybody felt it was. The Beatles had gone through so much and for such a long time. They'd been incarcerated with each other for nearly a decade, and I was surprised that they had lasted as long as they did. I wasn't at all surprised that they'd split up because they all wanted to lead their own lives - and I did, too. It was a release for me as well." - George Martin
According to George Martin, everyone worked extremely well during the recording of Abbey Road. It wasn't truly conclusive this was to be the band's final album together, but each member certainly felt that things were coming to a close and they should really get together and make one great album before the end.
"During the album things got a bit more positive and, although it had some overdubs, we got to play the whole medley. We put them in order, played the backing track and recorded it all in one take, going from one arrangement to the next. We did actually perform more like musicians again.
Likewise with the vocal tracks: we had to rehearse a lot of harmonies and learn all the back-up parts. Some songs are good with just one voice and then harmonies coming in at different places and sometimes three-part work. It's just embellishment, really, and I suppose we made up parts where we thought it fitted because we were all trying to be singers then." - George Harrison
"We didn't know, or I didn't know at the time cos it was the last Beatle record that we would make but... it kind of felt a bit like we were reaching the end of the line." - George Harrison
For a band that had been together in one form or another for over a decade, with a myriad of falling outs and disputes, both legally and emotionally; Abbey Road stands the test of time as a triumphant achievement and an incredible swan song for arguably the greatest band of all time.
"I think before the Abbey Road sessions it was like we should put down the boxing gloves and try and just get it together and really make a very special album." - Paul McCartney
- "Come Together"
- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
- "Oh! Darling"
- "Octopus's Garden"
- "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
- John Lennon – lead, harmony and background vocals; lead and rhythm guitars; acoustic and electric pianos, Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer; white noise generator and sound effects; percussion
- Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and background vocals; lead, rhythm and bass guitars; acoustic and electric pianos, Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer; sound effects; wind chimes, handclaps and percussion
- George Harrison – harmony and background vocals; lead, rhythm and bass guitars; Hammond organ, harmonium and Moog synthesizer; handclaps and percussion; lead vocals (on "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun")
- Ringo Starr – drums and percussion; background vocals; lead vocals (on "Octopus's Garden")
On August 8th 1969, The Beatles crossed Abbey Road. This seemingly simple act done my thousands of commuters a day would culminate into one of the most iconic photos in music history.
Photographs were taken by Iain Macmillan, based on a pencil sketch of Paul's. Macmillan was given only ten minutes to get the shot standing on a stepladder, while police held up traffic behind him. Six photographs were taken in total; Paul later chose the fifth shot to be used for the cover, as this was the only photo in which all four Beatles were walking in time.
On March 11th 1970, Abbey Road received a Grammy Award.
- Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical
- Geoff E. Emerick & Phil McDonald (engineers) for Abbey Road performed by The Beatles
"In spite of all the things... The Beatles really could play music together when they weren't uptight. And if I get a thing going, Ringo knows where to go. Like that. We've played together so long that it fits. That's the only thing I sometimes miss is, is being able to just sort of blink or make a certain noise and I know they'll all know where we're going on an ad lib thing." - John Lennon