- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Abbey Road LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1969
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From 2:30 pm to 2:30 am, The Beatles continued working on “Sun King / Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Come Together” and began the recording of two new songs, “Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window“.
They started recording overdubs for “Sun King / Mean Mr. Mustard“, which the backing track had been taped on the previous day. It’s likely they focused on recording harmony vocals:
As Lewisohn noted that vocal, piano, organ and percussion overdubs were added to Here Comes The Sun King on July 29th, it cannot be determined which vocals were performed on this date (though it is highly likely that this session focused on the complicated Sun King section).From “The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 5” by Jerry Hammack
“Come Together” was last touched on, two days earlier, on July 23. On this day, backing vocals were added, but it’s unclear who contributed to those.
John not only sang the lead, but also did all the backing vocals on “Come Together” by himself. He didn’t ask either Paul or George to joinin, and neither of them volunteered. Harrison didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but I could see that it was getting to Paul. Finally, in some frustration, he blurted out, “What do you want me to do on this track, John?”
John’s reply was a diffident “Don’t worry, I’ll do the overdubs on this.”
Paul looked a bit hurt, then angry. For a moment I thought there was going to be an explosion. Instead, he contained himself, shrugged his shoulders, and simply walked out of the studio—one of the few times he ever left a session early. Paul had to have felt humiliated, but rather than having a fight or an argument about it, he chose to just get up and leave, without any dramatics. The next day, he returned, and nothing further was ever said about it.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
Geoff Emerick’s recollection may be inaccurate – if backing vocals for “Come Together” had indeed been recorded on this day, Paul obviously didn’t leave early as the session continued with the recording of “Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window“. However, Paul seems to corroborate what Geoff Emerick explained in a 1970 interview (or did he suggest he sang them alone?):
I would love The Beatles to be on top of their form and to be as productive as they were. But things have changed. They’re all individuals. Even on ‘Abbey Road’ we don’t do harmonies like we used to. I think it’s sad. On ‘Come Together’ I would have liked to sing harmony with John and I think he would have liked me to but I was too embarrassed to ask him and I don’t work to the best of my abilities in that situation.Paul McCartney – Interview for the Evening Standard, 1970
The “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019) mentioned contributions from Paul and John on backing vocals.
John’s “Polythene Pam” was recorded as a demo in May 1968, but was not considered for the White Album. John brought it once during the “Get Back” sessions in January 1969.
When the idea of a long medley for the “Abbey Road” album came, “Polythene Pam” was brought back and the decision was made to link it with Paul’s “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window“. On this day, The Beatles recorded the two songs as one track (like they did for “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight” on July 2, and “Sun King / Mean Mr. Mustard” on July 24).
They recorded 39 takes of the basic track with Paul on bass (on track one) and guide vocals (on track six), Ringo Starr’s drums (on track two), John’s 12-string acoustic guitar (on track three) and guide vocals (on track six) and George Harrison’s electric guitar (on track four).
Take 27 was released on the “Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)” in 2019. Take 39 was deemed the best.
The first overdubs were then added between 10:30 pm and 2:30 pm. Those included Ringo redoing his drum part, as explained by Geoff Emerick:
John was unhappy with Ringo’s drumming, commenting acidly at one point that it “sounded like Dave Clark,” which was clearly not meant as a compliment. He was so impatient at Ringo’s inability to come up with a suitable part that he finally said, “Sod it, let’s just put one down anyway.”
But Ringo was upset that John was unhappy with his drumming, and he spent a good deal of time working on it with Paul even after the backing track was done. Finally, he said to John, “Why don’t we just record the backing track again? I think I’ve got a part you’ll like now,” but Lennon waved him off.
“I’m not playing the bloody song again, Ring. If you want to redo the drums, go ahead and overdub them.”
That night, Ringo did just that. Fortunately we were working in eight-track, so I was able to record the new drum track without erasing the old one. It took many hours to do, but Ringo eventually pulled it off, managing to play the new drum part from start to finish without losing the beat… and those were the days before we had click tracks, so his only reference was the original drum track, which we fed to him through headphones.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
There wasn’t the kind of out-and-out fighting and bickering that you witnessed in ’68, but there was tension. Didn’t Ringo walk out again, as he did during ‘The White Album’?
“Yeah. that was because John wasn’t happy with the drumming on Polythene Pam. He had some problems with Ringo’s performance and Ringo got pissed off and split for a couple of days. But he came back and redid the track and John was pleased.Geoff Emerick – From MusicRadar, 2014 interview
Jerry Hammack, in “The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 5“, indicates that John and Paul also superimposed some lead vocals and Paul a bass part.
Work on “Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” would continue the next day.
Last updated on December 30, 2021
Musicians on "Come Together"
Musicians on "Sun King"
Musicians on "Mean Mr. Mustard"
Musicians on "Polythene Pam"
Musicians on "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window"
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.
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.