Golden Slumbers

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Abbey Road LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969
Timeline This song has been written (or started being written) in 1968 (Paul McCartney was 26 years old)

Master release


Related interviews


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Song facts

I was playing the piano in Liverpool in my dad’s house, and my stepsister Ruth’s piano book was up on the stand. I was flicking through it and I came to Golden Slumbers. I can’t read music and I couldn’t remember the old tune, so I just started playing my own tune to it. I liked the words so I kept them, and it fitted with another bit of song I had.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

From Wikipedia:

“Golden Slumbers” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1969 album Abbey Road. Written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney, it is the sixth song of the album’s climactic B-side medley. The song is followed by “Carry That Weight” and begins the progression that leads to the end of the album. The two songs were recorded together as a single piece, and both contain strings and brass arranged and scored by producer George Martin.

Background

“Golden Slumbers” is based on the poem “Cradle Song” from the play Patient Grissel, a lullaby by the dramatist Thomas Dekker. McCartney saw sheet music for “Cradle Song” at his father’s home in Liverpool, left on a piano by his stepsister Ruth. Unable to read music, he created his own music. McCartney uses the first stanza of the original poem, with minor word changes, adding to it a single lyric line repeated with minor variation. In the 1885 collection “St Nicholas Songs”, p. 177, is W J Henderson’s music set to the poem, titled “Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes”. Abbey Road does not credit Dekker with the stanza or with the title. Thomas Dekker’s poem was set to music by W J Henderson in 1885, Peter Warlock in 1918, also by Charles Villiers Stanford and Alfredo Casella.

Recording

McCartney was the lead vocalist. He begins the song in a soft tone appropriate for a lullaby, with piano, bass guitar, and string section accompaniment. The drums come in on the line “Golden slumbers fill your eyes”, and McCartney switches to a stronger tone, both of which emphasise the switch to the refrain. McCartney said, “I remember trying to get a very strong vocal on it, because it was such a gentle theme, so I worked on the strength of the vocal on it, and ended up quite pleased with it.”

The main recording session for “Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight” was on 2 July 1969. John Lennon was not present, as he had been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Scotland on 1 July, and was hospitalised there until 6 July.

Drums, timpani, and additional vocals were added in an overdub session on 31 July, the same day the first trial edit of the side two medley was created, with Lennon participating in the session. On 15 August, orchestral overdubs that marked 30 musicians altogether were added to “Golden Slumbers” and five other songs on Abbey Road. […]


Should be ready for a “Swing For Swinging Lovers” album. It’s an old English love song … It should really be in a fairy tale.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

‘Golden Slumbers’, as comparatively few people know, is an old Victorian song based on a poem by the Elizabethan dramatist Thomas Dekker. I happened to find the words on a piece of piano sheet music when I was in Liverpool. My dad had married again, to a woman who had a daughter; and my stepsister Ruth, or maybe her mother, played a bit of piano. Even then, I always looked inside the piano seat because a lot of people have their sheet music in there. That’s where I first discovered ‘Golden Slumbers’.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present” book (2021)

I liked the words [Thomas Dekker’s lullaby “Golden Slumbers”] so much. I thought it was very restful, a very beautiful lullaby, but I couldn’t read the melody, not being able to read music. So I just took the words and wrote my own music. I didn’t know at the time it was four hundred years old.

Paul McCartney – From “Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

I liked the ‘Golden Slumbers’ lyrics on that sheet music a lot, and I noodled around and came up with a tune for them. It’s what we might generously call sampling, or possibly stealing. But because I don’t read music, I didn’t know what the melody was, so I put my own to it. It’s very possible that I’d been feeling down in London. I was back in the solace of family and Liverpool, and what with the Beatles troubles down south, I was likely thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to get home and have that comfortable feeling again?’ So, there may have been some of that in the background. I wouldn’t rule it out.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present” book (2021)

Paul McCartney first brought “Golden Slumbers” in the recording studio on January 9, 1969. It can therefore be assumed the song was written between December 1968 and early January 1969.

I remember trying to get a very strong vocal on it, because it was such a gentle theme, so I worked on the strength of the vocal on it, and ended up quite pleased with it.”

Paul McCartney – From “Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

That’s Paul’s, apparently from a poem that he found in a book, some eighteenth-century book where he just changed words here and there … He laid the strings on after we had finished most of the basic tracks. I personally can’t be bothered with strings and things. I like to do it with the group, or electronics, you know. I can’t be bothered with the hassles of the musicians and all that bit, you know. It’s such a drag trying to get them together, but Paul digs that. So, that’s his scene, and it was up to him where he went with the violins, really, and what he did with them. I think he just wanted a straight kind of backing, you know, nothing freaky … White Trash (the Apple recording group) has just done a cover of ‘Golden Slumbers’. They made quite a good version of that. It’s pretty similar to the track we did, except they’ve done some nice things with a big organ, a church organ playing a solo. They’ve done it quite gutsy.

John Lennon – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

The original poem by Thomas Dekker, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, was written in 1599 (and was therefore in the public domain in 1969). It first appeared in the play “The Pleasant Comedie Of Patient Grissil” written by Thomas Dekker, Henry Chettle, and William Haughton, first printed in 1603. The original form of the poem is a followed:

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty wantons; do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you;
You are care, and care must keep you;
Sleep, pretty wantons; do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby

The poem was set to music under the title “Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes” by W.J. Henderson in 1885.


From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 18 Aug 1969. crossfaded 19 Aug 1969.
UK: Apple PCS 7088 Abbey Road 1969.
US: Apple SO-383 Abbey Road 1969.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46446 2 Abbey Road 1987.

The 2d generation was an edit of two takes.

The crossfade joins this to the following song, The End; the join is in the guitar work after the last “carry that weight a long time”.

Last updated on January 1, 2022

The book "The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present", published in 2021, covers Paul McCartney's early Liverpool days, the Beatles, Wings, and solo careers, by pairing the lyrics of 154 of his songs with first-person commentaries of the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.

"Golden Slumbers" is one of the 154 songs covered.

Lyrics

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Variations


A Stereo version • From "Abbey Road"


B 2019 Stereo Mix • From "Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)"

C Takes 1-3 - Medley with "Carry That Weight" • From "Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)"

D From the original mix of "The Long One" • From "Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)"

E Take 17 - Instrumental - Strings & Brass only - Medley with "Carry That Weight" • From "Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)"

L1 Live version • Toronto • SkyDome • Canada • Dec 07, 1989 • From "Tripping The Live Fantastic"

Officially appears on


Abbey Road

LP • Released in 1969

1:32 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Unknown musician(s) :
Four cellos, Four horns, Four violas, One bass trombone, One double-bass, One trombone, Three trumpets, Twelve violins

Session Recording:
Jul 02, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
3, 4, 30, 31 Jul, 15 Aug 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Aug 18, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Tripping The Live Fantastic

Official live • Released in 1990

6:42 • LiveL1 • Medley with "Carry That Weight / The End"

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Eddie Klein :
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler :
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson :
Producer
Bob Clearmountain :
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen :
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster :
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull :
Assistant engineer
George Cowan :
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook :
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Toronto, Canada on Dec 07, 1989


Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights!

Official live • Released in 1990

6:41 • LiveL1

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Eddie Klein :
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler :
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson :
Producer
Bob Clearmountain :
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen :
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster :
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull :
Assistant engineer
George Cowan :
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook :
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Toronto, Canada on Dec 07, 1989


Abbey Road (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

1:32 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Jul 02, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
3, 4, 30, 31 Jul, 15 Aug 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Aug 18, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

1:32 • Studio versionB • Stereo • 2019 Stereo Mix

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Recording engineer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 02, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
3, 4, 30, 31 Jul, 15 Aug 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Aug 18, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

3:21 • Alternate takeC • Takes 1-3 - Medley with "Carry That Weight"

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Engineer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 02, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

3:17 • Alternate takeE • Take 17 - Instrumental - Strings & Brass only - Medley with "Carry That Weight"

Giles Martin :
Producer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer
Unknown musician(s) :
Four cellos, Four horns, Four violas, One bass trombone, One double-bass, One trombone, Three trumpets, Twelve violins

Session Recording:
Aug 15, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2019

16:10 • Alternate takeD • From the original mix of "The Long One"

Paul McCartney :
Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums
George Harrison :
Bass
George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Phil McDonald :
Engineer
Sam Okell :
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 02, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 03, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 04, 1969
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jul 30, 1969

Live performances

“Golden Slumbers” has been played in 374 concerts and 2 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where Golden Slumbers has been played


Glastonbury Festival

Jun 25, 2022 • United Kingdom • Pilton, Somerset • Worthy Farm


Live In Frome

Jun 24, 2022 • United Kingdom • Frome • Cheese & Grain





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