Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abbey Road (album)
Abbey Road is the last-recorded, next-to-last released, and, some music critics say, greatest album written by The Beatles; it was released on September 26, 1969 in the UK and October 1, 1969 in the US. It was produced and orchestrated by George Martin, for Apple Records.
Genesis of the album
After the near-disastrous sessions for the Get Back album (later retitled Let It Be for release), Paul McCartney suggested to producer George Martin that The Beatles get together and make an album "just like the old days...just like we used to", free of the conflict that began with sessions for The Beatles (aka the White Album). Martin agreed if the band would be "the way they used to be". The final result was this album. The two album sides were quite different in character, perhaps to please McCartney and John Lennon individually; side one (to please Lennon) was a collection of single tracks, while side two (to please McCartney) contained one long medley of short compositions that segued together.
The album's highlights
The album is especially notable for George Harrison's songs "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", which firmly established him as capable of writing songs comparable to those of McCartney and Lennon. "Sun", in fact, was based on an earlier composition Harrison and Eric Clapton wrote for Clapton's group Cream, Badge ("Sun"'s bridge was based on the bridge for "Badge"). Other highlights of Abbey Road are Lennon's rock anthem "Come Together", McCartney's "Oh, Darling" (whose screaming almost cost McCartney his voice) and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (about a hammer-wielding murderer), "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (conceived by Lennon and Yoko Ono), and Ringo Starr's ditty "Octopus' Garden".
The final medley
The climax of the album is a sixteen minute medley consisting of several short songs, both finished and unfinished, tagged together by McCartney. Most of these songs were written (and originally recorded in demo form) during sessions for The Beatles (aka the White Album) and Let It Be. McCartney's "You Never Give Me Your Money" (based loosely on The Beatles' financial problems with Apple) leads off the long suite, followed by three Lennon compositions, "Sun King" (which, along with "Because" from earlier on the album, showcases Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison's overdubbed harmonies), "Mean Mr. Mustard" (written during The Beatles' ill-fated trip to India), and "Polythene Pam", followed by four McCartney songs, "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" (written after a fan came into Paul's residence literally through the bathroom window), "Golden Slumbers" (based on Thomas Dekker's 17th century poem), "Carry That Weight" (one of the few songs to feature harmony vocals from all four Beatles), and the ironic and fitting climax, "The End", featuring the first and only Starr drum solo to make it to tape (in its original album form), as well as alternating blistering lead guitar solos from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (an alternate version with Harrison's lead guitar solo played against Starr's drum solo appears on Volume 3 of The Beatles Anthology CD).
The song "Her Majesty", tacked on the end, was originally part of the side two medley. McCartney did not like the way the medley sounded with "Her Majesty" included, so he had the medley re-edited to remove it. However, engineer Geoff Emerick had been instructed never to throw out anything the Beatles created, so he placed it at the end of the medley after 20 seconds of silence. The Beatles liked this seemingly random effect and left it on the album. On later copies of the LP jacket, "Her Majesty" is not listed. It is, however, on the record label. If you listen closely, you can hear the last note of "Mean Mr. Mustard" at the start, because "Her Majesty" was supposed to follow it in the medley.
The famous photograph
"At some point the album was going to be titled Everest, after the brand of cigarettes I used to smoke," recalls Geoff Emerick. The idea included a cover photo of The Beatles in the Himalaya, but by the time the group had to take the photo, they decided to call it Abbey Road and take the photo outside the studio during a coffee break from recording. That cover photograph has since become one of the most famous and most imitated album covers in recording history. The cover also supposedly contains clues adding to the "Paul Is Dead" phenomenon: Paul is barefoot, out of step with the others, and holds a cigarette, and the car license plate "281F" supposedly referred to the fact that McCartney would be 28 years old if he was still alive. (While the "I" in "28IF" is actually a "1," it is hard to tell on the cover. As an aside, Paul was only 27 at the time of Abbey Road's release.) The man standing on the sidewalk in the background is Paul Cole, an American tourist who was unaware that he was being photographed until he saw the album cover months later.
One imitation cover came with a unique tribute. Booker T. & the M.G.'s, famed soul combo, covered most of the songs on the Abbey Road in their 1969 album McLemore Avenue, named after the street address of the Stax records studio. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have also imitated the album cover, on their Abbey Road EP, with the band appearing nude, apart from strategically-placed socks. And McCartney revisited the famous album cover for his live album Paul Is Live .
The photo has also made the particular zebra crossing at Abbey Road a popular tourist site, and each day visitors can be seen posing in the popular position, in spite of the fact that the road is still in normal use.
- One month after Abbey Road's release, George Benson recorded a cover version of the album called The Other Side of Abbey Road .
- In 1998, Phil Collins covered the medley "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" for the George Martin/Beatles tribute album In My Life .
- Aerosmith has a particularly famous cover of "Come Together", recorded for the film version of The Beatles' earlier album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- The Legendary Pink Dots covered a tiny snippet of "Here Comes the Sun" in the song "I Love You In Your Tragic Beauty".
- In addition, there is a cover of "Golden Slumbers" by Ben Folds for the "I Am Sam" soundtrack of Beatles covers.
- Elliott Smith covered the song "Because" on the "American Beauty" soundtrack.
- Tenacious D have also been known to include the "You Never Give Me Your Money" part of the medley in their live performances.
- Dream Theater covered the "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" medley as part of their 1988 "Xmas Demos".
- TransAtlantic also covered a large portion of the Abbey Road medley, as well as some other Beatles songs, on their Live in Europe DVD, which was released in 2003.
In 1997 Abbey Road was named the 12th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM; it received the same ranking in a 1998 poll of Q magazine readers. In November 2003, it was named the 13th best album of the rock era by a Rolling Stone poll of critics, journalists, and others in the industry. Also in 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 8th greatest album ever.
- All tracks written by Lennon-McCartney, except where noted.
- "Come Together" Beatles cometogether.ogg
- "Something" (Harrison) Beatles something.ogg
- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
- "Oh! Darling "
- "Octopus's Garden " (Starkey)
- "I Want You (She's So Heavy) "
- "Here Comes the Sun" (Harrison) Beatles herecomesthesun.ogg
- "You Never Give Me Your Money "
- "Sun King "
- "Mean Mr. Mustard"
- "Polythene Pam"
- "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" Beatles bathroomwindow.ogg
- "Golden Slumbers "
- "Carry That Weight "
- "The End" Beatles enddrumsolo.ogg
- "Her Majesty"
- One cassette tape version in the US had "Come Together" and "Here Comes The Sun" swapped so that Harrison's composition actually opens the album. All subsequent versions (including the CD) have restored the track listing to its original order.
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