10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Abbey Road’
by Dave Lifton
From its oft-imitated cover to the medley that covers up most of the second side, ‘Abbey Road’ remains one of the Beatles‘ best-loved and enduring albums. But how much do you really know about it? Sure, lots of people know that it was recorded after, but released before, ‘Let It Be,’ and that are plenty of “Paul Is Dead” clues on the cover, but that’s about it. So we’ve compiled this list of 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Abbey Road.’
George Martin Had to Be Convinced to Produce It
Following the turbulent sessions for 'The Beatles' and 'Let It Be,' longtime producer George Martin was through with the Beatles. He eventually agreed to work with them again after Paul McCartney pleaded with him, but only on the condition that Martin would be in complete control in the studio, just like in the old days. Martin would later describe 'Abbey Road' as a "happy record ... because everybody thought it was going to be the last."
The Title and Cover Happened Because They Were Lazy
The album's working title was 'Everest,' an inside joke about the brand of cigarettes smoked by engineer Geoff Emerick. They had intended to shoot the cover photo at Mount Everest, but none of them wanted to make the long journey. Instead, McCartney suggested naming it after the street on which EMI Studios was located. That meant they could photograph themselves in the nearest crosswalk, which took about 30 minutes total.
John Lennon Ripped Off Chuck Berry on 'Come Together'
In 1973, John Lennon was sued because the opening line of 'Come Together' was very similar to a line from Chuck Berry's 'You Can't Catch Me.' The out-of-court settlement forced Lennon to record three songs owned by publisher Morris Levy. Those tracks became the impetus for Lennon's 1975 covers album 'Rock 'n' Roll.'
Everybody Agreed that 'Something' Was the Best Song on the Album
For all the internal squabbling within the group at the time, over the years they all -- including George Martin -- said that George Harrison's ballad was 'Abbey Road''s high point. They weren't the only ones who felt that way. Frank Sinatra recorded it twice, calling it "the greatest love song of the past 50 years." However, for a long time he mistakenly said that it was a Lennon-McCartney composition. 'Something' was the only Harrison song to be the A-side of a Beatles single.
Everybody But Paul Hated 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer'
Originally attempted during 'Let It Be,' McCartney brought it back to the group on the next album. Harrison called it "fruity," but Ringo Starr took it one step further, calling it "the worst track we ever had to record," adding that the few days it took to record "went on for f---ing weeks." But McCartney defended it by saying it was "just a silly story" that "epitomizes the downfalls of life. Just when everything is going smoothly — bang! bang! — down comes Maxwell’s silver hammer and ruins everything.”
It Took McCartney a Week to Record the Vocals on 'Oh! Darling'
From July 17-23, 1969, Paul would come into the studio about 30 minutes before the session was scheduled to begin and take a shot at the vocals on 'Oh! Darling' before the others got there. The reason was simple: Recording it early in the day gave his voice the raspy quality he was looking for. "I wanted it to sound as though I'd been performing it onstage all week," he said.
John Didn't Like the Idea of the Medley
Wanting to make another conceptual statement along the lines of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' McCartney and Martin fashioned the idea of a medley out of some unfinished ideas. Lennon, on the other hand, simply wanted a traditional, unconnected album. At one point, the idea was to have John's songs on one side and Paul's on the other, but Lennon eventually gave in and contributed 'Sun King,' 'Mean Mr. Mustard' and 'Polythene Pam' to the medley.
Paul Did Some Lyric Appropriation of His Own on 'Golden Slumbers'
While visiting his father, McCartney saw a piano book that contained a poem by 16th century English playwright Thomas Dekker. McCartney changed a few words, put his own melody to it and worked it into an existing song he had. The original begins, "Golden slumbers kiss your eyes / Smiles awake you when you rise / Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry / And I will sing a lullaby."
Ringo Had to Be Convinced to Play a Drum Solo on 'The End'
For years, Ringo Starr had resisted all attempts by the others to get him to record a drum solo. But, perhaps because it was likely their last record, he consented to play the 15-second drum break on 'The End' after much prodding. Speaking of solos, the three-guitar attack that follows, with Paul, George and John (in that order) each taking two bars, was recorded live in one take.
'Her Majesty' Became A Hidden Track by Accident
When assembling a rough mix of the medley, 'Her Majesty' was originally tucked in between 'Mean Mr. Mustard' and 'Polythen Pam.' But McCartney decided he didn't like the song and had it removed. But engineer John Kurlander, having been told never to throw anything away, stuck it 20 seconds after 'The End' and an acetate was made from that tape. McCartney heard it and realized he liked the way it worked in that context, and it remained.