- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Abbey Road LP.
- Olympic Sound Studios, London
- EMI Studios, Abbey Road
More from year 1969
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The first sessions for “Abbey Road” began on February 22, 1969, only three weeks after the end of the “Get Back” sessions. At this stage, the intent was not to work on another album: they felt that they needed more material recorded to release an LP from those “Get Back” sessions.
After sporadic sessions from February to early May, business matters entered the studio on May 9, 1969. John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr wanted Paul McCartney to sign a contract to officially appoint Allen Klein as Apple’s financial manager, and give him a 20% cut of their earnings. But Paul refused to do so, and the three other Beatles, and Allen Klein who was there as well, stormed out of the studio.
The idea to record a new album emerged in June 1969. In the second half of June, once back from holidays in Corfu, Paul called George Martin to tell him The Beatles were ready to record again. George Martin then booked EMI Studios for July and August.
“Let It Be” was a miserable experience and I never thought that we would get back together again. So I was very surprised when Paul rang me up and said ‘We want to make another record. Will you produce it for us, really produce it?’ I said ‘Yes, if I am really allowed to produce it. If I have to go back and accept a lot of instructions which I don’t like I won’t do it.’ It was really good, even though the boys tended to do their own items, sometimes in different studios at the same time and I had to be dashing from one place to another.George Martin – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Paul persuaded me to come back and do another album really like I’d always wanted to make. Without being pretentious, I thought we were making a king of art form and I wanted them to think symphonically. I wanted them, when writing their songs to think in terms of first and second subjects, and symphony form and sonata form. In fact, it was a very happy time.George Martin – From “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019)
The first sessions for Abbey Road began on 22 February 1969, only three weeks after the Get Back sessions, in Trident Studios. There, the group recorded a backing track for “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” with Billy Preston accompanying them on Hammond organ. No further group recording occurred until April because of Ringo Starr’s commitments on the film The Magic Christian. After a small amount of work that month and a session for “You Never Give Me Your Money” on 6 May, the group took an eight-week break before recommencing on 2 July. Recording continued through July and August, and the last backing track, for “Because“, was taped on 1 August. Overdubs continued through the month, with the final sequencing of the album coming together on 20 August – the last time all four Beatles were present in a studio together.
McCartney, Starr and Martin have reported positive recollections of the sessions, while Harrison said, “we did actually perform like musicians again”. Lennon and McCartney had enjoyed working together on the non-album single “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in April, sharing friendly banter between takes, and some of this camaraderie carried over to the Abbey Road sessions. Nevertheless, there was a significant amount of tension in the group. According to Ian MacDonald, McCartney had an acrimonious argument with Lennon during the sessions. Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, had become a permanent presence at Beatles’ recordings and clashed with other members. Halfway through recording in June, Lennon and Ono were involved in a car accident. A doctor told Ono to rest in bed, so Lennon had one installed in the studio so she could observe the recording process from there.
During the sessions, Lennon expressed a desire to have all of his songs on one side of the album, and McCartney’s on the other. The album’s two halves represented a compromise: Lennon wanted a traditional release with distinct and unrelated songs while McCartney and Martin wanted to continue their thematic approach from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by incorporating a medley. Lennon ultimately said that he disliked Abbey Road as a whole and felt that it lacked authenticity, calling McCartney’s contributions “[music] for the grannies to dig” and not “real songs”, and describing the medley as “junk … just bits of songs thrown together”.
“Abbey Road” would be known for its medley of unfinished songs on the B-side.
We did it this way because John and I had a number of songs, which were great as they were, but we’d finished them. It often happens that you write the first verse of a song and then you’ve said it all, and can’t be bothered to write a second verse, repeating or giving a variation. So, I said to John, ‘Have you got any bits and pieces, which we can make into one long track?’ And he had, and we made a piece that makes sense all the way through.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman
I think it was my idea to put all the spare bits together, but I’m a bit wary of claiming these things. I’m happy for it to be everyone’s idea. Anyway, in the end, we hit upon the idea of medleying them all and giving the second side a sort of operatic structure – which was great because it used ten or twelve unfinished songs in a good way.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
I tried with Paul to get back into the old “Pepper” way of creating something really worthwhile, and we put together the long side. John objected very much to what we did on the second side of “Abbey Road”, which was almost entirely Paul and I working together, with contribution from the others. John always was a Teddy boy. He was a rock ‘n’ roller, and wanted a number of individual tracks. So we compromised. But even on the second side, John helped. He would come and put his little bit in, and have an idea for sewing a bit of music into the tapestry. Everybody worked frightfully well, and that’s why I’m very fond of it.George Martin – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
Recording the name of the album, there are two conflicting origin stories – either Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr came with the idea.
While we were in the studio, our engineer Geoff Emerick always used to smoke cigarettes called Everest, so the album was going to be called Everest. We never really liked that, but we couldn’t think of anything else to call it. Then one day I said, ‘I’ve got it!’ – I don’t know how I thought of it – ‘Abbey Road’! It’s the studio we’re in, which is fabulous, and it sounds a bit like a monastery.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
We went through weeks of all saying, ‘Why don’t we call it Billy’s Left Boot?’ and things like that. And then Paul just said, ‘Why don’t we call it Abbey Road?’Ringo Starr – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
“Well, if we’re not going to name it Everest and pose for the cover in Tibet, where are we going to go?” a frustrated Paul asked one afternoon.
John and George Harrison looked flummoxed. Finally, Ringo chirped in. “Fuck it; let’s just step outside and name it Abbey Road,” he joked.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
BEATLES – PLANS FOR YET ANOTHER ALBUM
BEATLES were converging on the recording studio this week to complete a new album which may be released before their “Get Back” album – already in the can. The “Get Back” LP will be released to tie in with a TV show filmed during the making of the album. But no dates have yet been set. Paul McCartney is back from a holiday in the South of France and Greece. George has returned from Sardinia, Ringo was due back from the South of France on Tuesday, while John returns from a car tour of Scotland with Yoko in a new Maxi. Today (Thursday) the Plastic Ono Band, which has recorded “Give Peace A Chance” – a plea for peace by John and Yoko – will meet the press in a special reception staged by Apple to tie in with the release of the record.From Melody Maker – July 5, 1969
BEATLE People could not be blamed for being more than a bit confused about the current year’s recording policy of Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. Over Easter the four made a sudden holiday-weekend decision to rush out Get Back as a single. Very soon afterwards, while that worldwide chart-topper was still being collected by fans everywhere, out came The Ballad Of John And Yoko to be followed not too much later by the Plastic Ono Band’s Give Peace A Chance which was issued just a couple of months ago.
But still no 1969 LP release, still no fresh album programme to follow up on last autumn’s pair of LP discs which carried tracks that are now between 10 and 18 months old. True there have been Beatle-associated LP records — Paul’s production of Postcard for Mary Hopkin, George’s much anticipated Billy Preston LP bundle and the rather less commercial work of John, Yoko and George on their pair of Zapple LP discs. We thought there’d be a full-scale Get Back LP by the Beatles — but it’s been postponed. We thought there’d be a special rock ‘n’ roll LP — but there’s no scheduled issue date for the wealth of rock material like Shake, Rattle And Roll, Blue Suede Shoes and the re-vamped Love Me Do which the lads started putting on tape as long ago as January 26 1969
Now, at last, Apple HQ have told us that the boys’ first 1969 album Abbey Road will be released in September. John, Paul, George and Ringo have been recording material for the new LP since the beginning of July when Get Back release plans were shelved.
So here’s what’s been happening during all these recent recording sessions. Quite a few entirely new compositions have been written and recorded. In other cases it has been a matter of digging out tapes of un-issued titles made earlier in the year, changing some of the arrangements, starting from scratch again or just adding extra sounds to existing stuff “in the can”.
By the end of July six new numbers had been completed. Paul contributed You Never Give Me Your Money, Golden Slumbers and a quickie item called Her Majesty. George contributed Here Comes The Sun (The Sun King) which has finished up as a group effort from the vocal viewpoint and John weighed in with Come Together and Mean Mister Mustard.
In addition six other numbers which had been worked on earlier were brought back into play during the July sessions. These were Paul’s Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (written last year and the very first title the lads worked on in 1969 during a January 13 session at the Apple studio), Paul’s Bathroom Window (which also dates back to January 13 and the same Apple studio session), Paul’s Oh Darling, John’s Polythene Pam (which goes back to autumn of ‘68 and was a track which almost went on to the double LP at that time), George’s Something (first worked on in the Apple studio during January and February), and Ringo’s Octopus Garden (which was started on April 26 and which I believe we’ve mentioned once or twice in earlier issues of Beatles Monthly under the title ‘Octopussy’s Garden’).
As I write this piece, the idea is to fill most of, or even the whole of, one LP side with one marathon series of songs all woven together into a fairly spectacular performance. The marathon set — Paul’s idea — looks as though it will include about half-a-dozen different numbers.
Let’s look at the marathon material in recording date order. The first song involved is You Never Give Me Your Money upon which the group started work on Tuesday, July 15. This one is about a boy talking to a girl — “you never give me your money, only your funny papers”. Like most of the marathon-set numbers it’s a bit like Hey Jude in general mood and it has Paul singing slowly and in sweet voice. In addition, Paul is featured on piano here and on the other marathon-track items.
John’s Mean Mister Mustard was started nine days later. This is John in his best jiving suit telling the tale of a mean old man.
Also on Thursday, July 24, they went to work on Here Comes The Sun (The Sun King), although this track had been started initially nearly three weeks earlier with George singing lead vocal and playing acoustic guitar, Paul on bass and Ringo on drums — in John’s absence. Later John and the three others added some intricate vocal harmony to the original recording.
Here Comes The Sun (The Sun King) is a very slow, very beautiful number about how happy everyone is when the sun shines. John plays maracas, Paul is on harmonium, Ringo plays bongos and George Martin is featured all the way through on organ. At one point the fellows let the whole thing drift into an old Spanish traditional song.
Paul’s Bathroom Window was started on Friday, July 25. The lyrics of this one tell a strange little story about a rich girl (‘she came in through the bathroom window protected by a silver spoon, but now she sucks her thumb and wonders by the banks of her own lagoon’) who claimed to have been a club dancer and who has a boyfriend who quit the police department to get himself a steady job!
John’s Polythene Pam went into production on Monday, July 28, with John playing maracas as well as handling the lead vocal, Paul and George providing background singing, Paul playing a cowbell and George banging upon a tambourine. This is a medium-tempo number all about the curious Pam who is “so good looking she looks like a man”!
Perhaps Paul’s best ballad contribution to the set of six marathon numbers is Golden Slumbers, obviously about someone sleeping, and given a suitably dreamy McCartney treatment. This one was started on the last day of July.
In John’s absence at the beginning of July, Paul started work on his own Her Majesty number. This is a very brief item so far, the type of mini-track of just about eight lines which could be used as a link between two full-length numbers somewhere on the other side of the new LP. On July 2 Paul recorded his vocal and accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. In gist the words tell of a boy who would like to let his girl know he loves her, but her moods change all the time and he never gets around to it unless he’s got a few drinks inside him! To the first solo tape Paul made, he, George and Ringo added vocal accompaniment the next day with George playing his red Gibson and Paul on Epiphone.
Paul started a new version of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer on July 9, accompanying his vocal on guitar and joined by George’s 4-string guitar and Ringo playing anvil. Actually, when the Beatles made their first earlier version of this title many months back Mal was on anvil, but by months back Mal was on anvil, but by this time he and Neil were away on holiday so Ringo deputised!!!
Two days later vocal backing by Paul, George and Ringo was added, George used his acoustic guitar and George Martin played organ. The story of Maxwell Edison, a student majoring in medicine, is a rather bizarre one to say the least of it. His girlfriend, Joan (who studied science—’late nights all alone with a test tube’) finishes up being killed by a blow to her head from Maxwell’s silver hammer. Despite the theme of murder this is a jolly up-tempo presentation.
George’s Something is a track which has been tried, changed and tried again a few times during the year. As early as May 2 it was revamped and recorded, although it was not until July 12 that George dubbed on his final vocal. Several days later Paul and Ringo added handclapping and background singing. This has turned out to be a very fine track, a great, slow, easy George number which just flows along. It has George describing the nice things about a girl.
On Thursday, July 17, the group returned to Ringo’s speciality piece, the novelty number he’d brought into the studio back towards the end of April. The story of his self-penned solo vocal item, Octopus’ Garden, is not unlike that of Yellow Submarine, the number John and Paul gave Ringo to sing several years ago. It’s all about a garden at the bottom of the sea where people can play happily and know they’re safe. In addition to singing, Ringo plays drums on this track with Paul on piano, John and George on guitars and Paul adding his usual bass guitar contribution. Halfway through Paul and George do some high-pitched vocal acrobatics, letting their voices gurgle through special amplifiers until they come out sounding tike mermen if not mermaids! Meanwhile, Ringo blew bubbles into a glass for additional atmosphere effect!
Paul’s Oh Darling, completed on Friday, July 18, is an exceptionally strong McCartney presentation, a real tear-jerker of a ballad to bring back memories.
And finally we come to John’s Come Together which was started on Monday, July 21. Very, very freaky lyrics to this one and I won’t even attempt to explain the theme of them — but it’s a song that has to be heard in its finished form to be fully appreciated. Bluesy but up-tempo, it’s typically John all the way through.
BACK TO No. 2
And that’s as much as I can tell you about all the new recordings. Most of them — plus, perhaps, some last-minute material put on tape within the last fortnight of the current session series — will appear on the Beatles’ much-delayed but eagerly awaited First LP Album Of 1969. Curiously, since a lot of earlier recording work this year was done at Apple’s own studio beneath the Savile Row Apple HQ offices in London’s West End, all the July and August stuff has gone on tape at EMI Studios up in Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood. That’s because the fellows have been waiting for new Apple Studio equipment to be put in working order and it was unthinkable that their summer LP sessions should be delayed still further just because a mixer and a few other pieces of electronic mechanism were still in the installation stage.
On the other hand the Beatles’ return to Abbey Road was greatly welcomed by more than a few Beatle People vacationing in London during July and August. It was quite like old times outside the EMI studios with day-long bunches of fans waiting outside the doors (or out on the pavement beyond the sets of iron gates if they didn’t manage to sneak in behind an arriving or departing car!) to get a glimpse of a favourite Beatle. Most days at least half the assembled fan crowd was made up of touring Americans who will have taken home to the U.S.A. treasured memories of brief chats with Paul or much-fingered Polaroid snaps of themselves with Ringo, George or John!From The Beatles Book N°74, September 1969
Last updated on March 7, 2022
Aug 19, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 18, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 15, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 12, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 11, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 08, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 06, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 05, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Aug 04, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 31, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 30, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 29, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 28, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 25, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 24, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 23, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 18, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 15, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 11, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 02, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Apr 20, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Apr 18, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe (UK - 1969)
Apr 16, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Feb 24, 1969 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Abbey Road
Jul 23, 1969 • Recording "Oh! Darling", "Come Together", "The End"
Editing, crossfading and tape compilation
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
Master tape banding and tape copying
Aug 20, 1969 • Mixing "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
Tape copying of Abbey Road LP masters
Aug 25, 1969 • Editing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "The End"
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
Acclaimed Beatles historian Kenneth Womack offers the most definitive account yet of the writing, recording, mixing, and reception of Abbey Road. In February 1969, the Beatles began working on what became their final album together. Abbey Road introduced a number of new techniques and technologies to the Beatles' sound, and included "Come Together," "Something," and "Here Comes the Sun," which all emerged as classics.