The Beatles secured their 13th No.1 album with 'Abbey Road'
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The Beatles secured their 13th No.1 album with ‘Abbey Road’

November 1st 1969 – The Beatles scored their 13th US No.1 album with Abbey Road

Abbey Road is the eleventh studio album, by the fab four. Although it was an immediate commercial success, it received mixed reviews at the time. Some critics called it inauthentic and criticised the production’s artificial effects. 

Today, however, it is regarded as one of the Beatles’ best and ranks as one of the greatest albums of all time. Here Comes the Sun written by Harrison, is currently the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify.

abbey road
Credit: Abbey Road

The album’s cover featuring the Beatles walking across a zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios has become one of the most famous and imitated photos in music history. The cover purportedly contained clues adding to the ‘Paul Is Dead’ phenomenon: Paul is barefoot and the car number plate ‘LMW 281F’ supposedly referred to the fact that McCartney would be 28 if he was still alive. ‘LMW’ was said to stand for ‘Linda McCartney Weeps.’ And the four Beatles, represent; the Priest (John, dressed in white), the Undertaker (Ringo, black suit), the Corpse (Paul, barefoot), and the Gravedigger (George, in jeans and a denim shirt).

the beatles
The Beatles

It was reported that McCartney and Lennon argued frequently during the sessions. In particular about Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, who had become a permanent fixture at the Beatles’ recordings and had begun to clash with other members. Halfway through the recording, Lennon and Ono were involved in a car accident. A doctor confined Ono to rest up in bed, so Lennon had a bed installed in the studio so she could take part and watch the recording process.

George Harrison’s “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”, which are among the best he wrote for the group, both topped the charts in the US.

abbey road the beatles
The Beatles

Let’s delve into the tracks that make up Abbey Road.

 

Side one

Come Together

Come Together was an expansion of Let’s Get It Together, a song Lennon originally wrote for Timothy Leary’s California gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan. A rough version of the lyrics for “Come Together” was written at Lennon’s and Ono’s second bed-in event in Montreal.

The song became subject to a lawsuit brought against Lennon by Morris Levy because the opening line in Come Together – “Here come old flat-top” – was lifted from a line in Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me. George Martin has described the track as “a simple song but it stands out because of the sheer brilliance of the performers”.

Something

Harrison was inspired to write Something during sessions for the White Album by listening to label-mate James Taylor’s Something in the Way She Moves from his album James Taylor. Something was Lennon’s favourite song on the album, and McCartney considered it the best song Harrison had written. 

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, McCartney’s first song on the album, was initially rejected by the others as “too complicated”. The recording for this track was intense at times, with McCartney insisting on a perfect performance.  Harrison has recalled that it was tiring,  “we had to play it over and over again until Paul liked it. It was a real drag”. 

Oh! Darling

McCartney attempted to record the lead vocal only once a day. He said: “I came into the studios early every day for a week to sing it by myself because at first, my voice was too clear. I wanted it to sound as though I’d been performing it on stage all week.” 

Octopus’s Garden

Sung by Ringo Starr, Octopus’s Garden was his second and last solo released by the band. Inspired by a trip with his family to Sardinia aboard Peter Sellers’s yacht.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

John Lennon famously played the Moog synthesizer’s white noise generator to create the “wind” sounds at the end of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) Lennon wrote this about his relationship with Ono, with deliberate simplicity. 

abbey road the beatles
The Beatles

Side two

Here Comes the Sun

Here Comes the Sun was written by Harrison in Eric Clapton’s garden in Surrey. Although it wasn’t released as a single, the song attracted a lot of critical praise.  It is currently also the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify.

Because

Because was inspired by Lennon listening to Ono playing Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano. The track features three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, which were then triple-tracked to give nine voices in the final mix. Which they consider being some of the hardest and most complex they attempted. 

Medley

The remainder of side two consists of a 16-minute medley of eight tracks consisting of a number of short songs and song fragments (known during the recording sessions as The Long One. While the idea for the medley was McCartney’s, Martin claims credit for some structure, adding he “wanted to get John and Paul to think more seriously about their music”.

The first track You Never Give Me Your Money was inspired by the band’s dispute over what McCartney viewed were Alan Klein’s empty promises. This song transitions into Lennon’s Sun King which, like Because, highlights Lennon, McCartney and Harrison’s triple-tracked harmonies. 

Followed by Mean Mr. Mustard (written during the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India) and Polythene Pam, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (written after a fan entered McCartney’s home via his bathroom window), Golden Slumbers (based on Thomas Dekker’s 17th-century poem set to new music), Carry That Weight closing with The End.

The unlisted song “Her Majesty” is a hidden track. 

Watch the making of Abbey Road below: