'Abbey Road' - the Album Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Abbey Road' - the Album

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And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make

Abbey Road is the penultimate, 11th album released by the Beatles. It was released on 26 September, 1969, in the United Kingdom, and 1 October in the United States. It was the last album that they recorded together as a band, and it was meant to be their last album ever released. However, Let It Be was later put together and released in 1970.

At this time in the Beatles history, Abbey Road was the beginning of the end. Tensions were building between the Fab Four: George Harrison and Ringo Starr often wouldn't show at the recording sessions and there was uneasiness between John Lennon and Paul McCartney - in this case, partly because Abbey Road was essentially Paul's album, and John's writing contributions were relatively minimal.

Yet, despite all the bitterness, Abbey Road is considered by some to be one of the Beatles' best albums. It was also the second best-selling, just after Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was originally at Number One on the UK charts for 11 weeks, then re-entered for another six weeks.

Abbey Road is of a unique design. There are 17 songs, and the B-side of the album, excepting the first two tracks, is a collection of short songs that are strung together, sometimes neatly linked and sometimes stopping abruptly and going to the next song. This was an idea of Paul's - he and John had a deal that John would be in charge of organising the first side of the album and Paul would choose the songs for the second side.

The Album Cover

The album picture is very simple, yet it is one of the most recognisable, and parodied, images ever. It is simply a picture of the four Beatles walking single file across a zebra crossing on Abbey Road, in northwest London, where the Beatles recorded much of their work. From back to front are: George, dressed all in denim; then Paul in a grey suit; Ringo in a black suit; and John in a white suit. There is no text, band listing, or title on the front cover, all these details being provided on the back cover.

It is often noted that Paul's eyes are shut, he is not wearing shoes and is holding a cigarette in his right hand, even though he is left-handed. These are supposedly clues that Paul was dead: there are many on the Abbey Road cover, but you can read more about it at the h2g2 Entry on the subject.

In the background there is a pedestrian standing on the pavement, not knowing that he was being inadvertently photographed. Also parked on the street is a white Volkswagen Beetle which belonged to a person living in a building on that street. After the release of the album, the licence plate was frequently stolen. Later, this car sold in an auction for 23,000 dollars and is now in a museum.

Side One

  • 'Come Together' - Originally written by John during his 'bed in' for peace in Montreal, as a campaign song for a friend, Timothy Leary. Leary was running for a political office and was using the slogan 'come together'. Leary was later arrested and sent to jail, so he had no use for the song afterwards and John retained rights to it and put it on the album.

    The song was banned by the BBC due to the mention of Coca-Cola. This was considered advertising at the time.

  • 'Something' - One of two songs on the album written by George, this was inspired by the James Taylor song 'Something in the Way She Moves'. 'Something' was highly praised by the other Beatles, and is possibly their second most-covered song, just after Paul's 'Yesterday' from the 1965 album Help!

    'Something' was covered and performed by Frank Sinatra, who said it was the best love song ever, and was his favourite Lennon and McCartney [sic] song. Sinatra always unknowingly introduced 'Something' as being written by Lennon 'and' McCartney.

  • 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' - Though catchy and fun, this song was never considered one of the best Beatle songs, and most of them didn't like it much themselves, except of course for Paul, who wrote it.

    It is about a murderer named Maxwell Edison who kills his girlfriend, teacher and a judge with a silver hammer. In the line 'writing 50 times on the blackboard...' you can hear Paul chuckle.

  • 'Oh! Darling' - A song written by Paul. John forever resented that Paul would not let him sing it. It is sung instead by Paul, who spent a week practising to get his voice just right before recording.
  • 'Octopus's Garden' - This song was written and sung by Ringo and was his second solo-credited composition work (the first was 'Don't Pass Me By' from the White Album). Though 'Octopus's Garden' is credited entirely to Ringo, he did have some help from George.

    Ringo got the inspiration for 'Octopus's Garden' on a boating trip in 1968, when he learned about how octopuses crawl along the sea bed searching for shiny objects, which they collect in a 'garden'.

  • 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' - A song by John, to Yoko Ono. It is over seven minutes long, making it the second-longest Beatle recording (after 'Revolution Number 9' from the White Album).

    'I Want You' is very repetitive, using only 14 different words in all of the lyrics. The song's sudden finish brings side one to an abrupt ending, but this effect is lost when listened to on a CD.

Side Two

  • 'Here Comes the Sun' - The second song on the album by George, it is voted by the majority of his fans as being his best song, of both his Beatles career and solo. On a later solo album, he released another song called 'Here Comes the Moon'.
  • 'Because' - Written by John, he got the inspiration for this from when he listened to Yoko playing Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on the piano. He asked her to play the chords backwards, and she did, then he wrote this song around those backwards chords.
  • 'You Never Give Me Your Money' - This starts the medley of songs. This song goes through a few different styles, starting with a soft piano intro and then speeding up, and fading out to the chanting of 'one, two, three, four, five, six, seven; all good children go to Heaven'.

    The song is based on the Beatles' monetary problems with Apple Records and Allen Klein, the Beatles' new manager, taking the place of Brian Epstein who died tragically in 1967.

  • 'Sun King' - Written by John, who at first liked it but later said it was 'garbage'. Though the music is slow and serious, the lyrics are really all nonsense: just a collection of random Spanish words strung together, but not forming a proper sentence.

    The song was originally titled 'Here Comes the Sun King' which is in the lyrics, but was then shortened to just 'Sun King' to avoid confusion with George's song.

  • 'Mean Mr Mustard' - Written by John and based on a newspaper story about a miser who hides his money in places so that people can't make him spend it. He has a sister named Pam, possibly referring to the character in the next song. During early versions of the song, however, the sister's name was Shirley.
  • 'Polythene Pam' - Again written by John, 'Polythene Pam' is based on two different women he was acquainted with. One was one of their fans from when they performed at the Cavern, named Pat, who ate polythene and was nicknamed Polythene Pat. The other was a girl named Stephanie who would dress in a polythene bag.
  • 'She Came In Through the Bathroom Window' - Written by Paul, based on a time when some teenage girls broke into his house in St John's Wood, through the bathroom window.

    These girls were known as 'Apple Scruffs'. This was the self-described term for fanatic Beatles' fans who would camp outside the Beatles' homes; the Apple building; and the Abbey Road studio. George later wrote a song titled 'Apple Scruffs'.

  • 'Golden Slumbers' - Paul made up this song when he was playing piano at his father's house in Cheshire. He was sitting at the piano looking through music books belonging to Ruth, his step-sister. Paul couldn't read music, but the title and words of a Thomas Dekker song in the book gave him the inspiration, so he made up a melody to go with lyrics.

    'Golden Slumbers' was later recorded by the band Ben Folds Five for the film I am Sam.

  • 'Carry That Weight' - Written by Paul, it reflects on his career as a Beatle. In this 'You Never Give Me Your Money' is reprised.
  • 'The End' - As Abbey Road was going to be the last Beatles album, this song was meant to be the last song, and would have made an appropriate finish. In this is the only drum solo that Ringo ever recorded, and he had to be persuaded to do so.
  • 'Her Majesty' - At 23 seconds, this is the shortest Beatles song. It was originally intended to be between 'Mean Mr Mustard' and 'Polythene Pam', but Paul decided he didn't like it and asked for it to be erased from the tapes. Instead, the engineer moved it to the end of the tape for safe-keeping. Paul later decided to keep it there and include it on the album after all.

    'Her Majesty' was a 'hidden track' and originally was not listed on the track list. It doesn't start until a full 14 seconds after 'The End'.

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