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Music / Abbey Road

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"And in the end..."

Abbey Road is the twelfth studio album by The Beatles, released in 1969 through Apple Records. It is their last recorded album, but was released as their penultimate offering; because the band split up shortly before the release of the earlier-recorded (but later-released) Let It Be in 1970, Abbey Road serves as the final studio album released during the Beatles' lifetime.

The album was recorded when there was still tension among the band members, but they put their differences aside for one last time. As a result, everyone got to shine. George Harrison proved he was every bit as good a songwriter as John Lennon and Paul McCartney, penning 2 #1 hits ("Something" and "Here Comes the Sun"); John had a chart-topper himself in "Come Together"; Paul arranged the perfect Grand Finale for the band on side B; and Ringo Starr created a hit of his own as well as a children's classic with "Octopus's Garden".

On a technical note, this was the band's first release to only have a stereo mix, as more popular music listeners had upgraded to stereo record players, or at least had mono record players fitted with stereo-compatible cartridges that wouldn't damage stereo records.


Side One

  1. "Come Together" (4:20)
  2. "Something" (3:03)
  3. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (3:27)
  4. "Oh! Darling" (3:26)
  5. "Octopus's Garden" (2:51)
  6. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (7:47)

Side Two

  1. "Here Comes the Sun" (3:05)
  2. "Because" (2:45)
  3. "You Never Give Me Your Money" (4:02)
  4. "Sun King" (2:26)
  5. "Mean Mr. Mustard" (1:06)
  6. "Polythene Pam" (1:12)
  7. "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" (1:57)
  8. "Golden Slumbers" (1:31)
  9. "Carry That Weight" (1:36)
  10. "The End" (2:05)
  11. "Her Majesty" (0:23)note 

Principal Members:

  • George Harrison - lead vocals, guitar, bass, organ, harmonium, synthesizer, percussion
  • John Lennon - lead vocals, guitar, piano, organ, synthesizer, percussion, sound effects
  • Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, guitar, piano, organ, synthesizer, percussion, sound effects
  • Ringo Starr - drums, backing and lead vocals, piano, percussion

Got to be a troper, he just do what he please:

  • Abbey Road Crossing: The Ur-Example/Trope Maker. It was a quick photo session, with the photographer snapping a half-dozen pictures over about 10 minutes while the band walked back and forth across the street outside their studio. It resulted in a trope and one of the most famous album covers of all time.
  • Album Closure: Not counting the Hidden Track "Her Majesty", the final track is, appropriately enough, "The End"; its final lyrics are "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
  • Alliterative Title: "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The last verse of "Sun King", which is Lennon singing vaguely Romance language-sounding gibberish. Interestingly, the lyrics are made up of actual words from Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, plus a couple stray English phrases (the Liverpool schoolyard slang term "chicka ferdy" and "cake and eat it"), but put together in a sufficiently nonsensical way to sound like gibberish.
  • Bifauxnen: "Polythene Pam"
    Well, you should see Polythene Pam
    She's so good-looking, but she looks like a man...
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Paul wrote "You Never Give Me Your Money" to voice complaints about the financial practices of Apple Records and Allen Klein.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The famous medley at the end of the album that starts from "You Never Give Me Your Money" until (appropriately) "The End" seems to have as a theme that, even if good things must come to an end, they were good while they lasted.
  • BolĂ©ro Effect: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" ends with the minutes of the same guitar chords repeated over and over, building in crescendo until the abrupt end. It also has a similar build-up comparable to a bolero.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • This album saw the return of Geoff Emerick, the band's recording engineer since Revolver, after he'd previously walked out of The White Album sessions in protest at the constant arguments and tensions. (He had previously returned to engineer the "The Ballad of John and Yoko" single.)
    • Because Let It Be was, for the most part, actually recorded in early 1969 with Glyn Johns producing, this is also the case for returning producer George Martin.
  • Call-Back: In the middle of "Carry That Weight" they break into a new verse of an earlier Abbey Road track, "You Never Give Me Your Money", then they switch back to "Carry That Weight".
  • Captain Obvious: "Come Together" informs us that "One and one and one is three" and "He got feet down below his knees".
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When the band was running through "Mean Mr. Mustard" during the Get Back sessions, Mean Mr. Mustard's sister ("she never stops, she's a go-getter") was named Shirley. When they reconvened to record Abbey Road and John Lennon revived the song, he changed Shirley's name to Pam to go along with another new song of his, "Polythene Pam".
    • "Here Comes the Sun" has a call back in the song "Sun King", right to the line "here comes the sun... king". Interestingly enough, just like in "Here Comes the Sun", where "smiles are returning to the faces", everyone in "Sun King" is also "happy and laughing".
    • Mr. Mustard in "Mean Mr. Mustard" is taken out "to look at the queen". The song "Her Majesty" is a description of the Queen.
    • "You're Gonna Carry That Weight" includes a Musical Nod to "You Never Give Me Your Money" in the instrumental interlude.
  • Cue the Sun: "Here Comes the Sun"
    Here comes the sun, it's alright
  • Cut Short: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is abruptly cut short near the end, surprising every listener who hears it the first time.
  • Dirty Old Man: "Mean Mr. Mustard", who "always shouts out something obscene".
  • Disguised Horror Story: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". It starts out with Maxwell, a med student, asking science major Joan out on a date. It sounds a lot like "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" off The White Album, another cheerful McCartney ditty about young love. Then Maxwell bashes Joan's skull in with the hammer.
  • Double Don't Know: From "Something": "You're asking me, will my love grow? I don't know! I don't know!"
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Future leader of The Alan Parsons Project and future Pink Floyd producer Alan Parsons first worked on this album as a tape operator.
  • The End: "The End", seemingly obviously — although it's really a subversion, as "Her Majesty" is the actual last song on the album (included as a Hidden Track on the original release). This occurred because it was cut out of the song medley on the second half and the Beatles' engineers didn't want to throw away any of their music.
    • "The End" is also the very last song the Beatles recorded together (and the only song where Ringo has a drum solo).note 
  • Enter Stage Window: She came in through the bathroom window.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The intro to "Sun King" makes up the majority of the song.
  • Epic Rocking: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", at 7:47, was the longest actual song they released on their original albums ("Revolution 9" is longer but it's an experimental piece).
  • Everything Is an Instrument: There's a hammer and anvil on the chorus of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (probably played by band assistant Mal Evans) and a vintage crank-operated audio wind machine as part of the noise toward the end of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (played by Ringo).
  • Face on the Cover: The band members crossing a street.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The famous medley, which starts from "You Never Give Me Your Money" and goes through "The End", with only one clean break between songs — "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" comes to a full stop before "Golden Slumbers" starts. However, some of these are also Siamese Twin Songs.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Happens in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." No one in the court noticed Maxwell getting the murder weapon and stalking the judge in the courtroom? Rose and Valerie must have been making a hell of a commotion for no one see what Max was doing with his silver hammer.
  • Grand Finale: The Long Medley on Side Two, ending with, well, "The End". Abbey Road as a whole was intended to be this for the band, though the release of Let It Be (which was begun first) ended up being pushed back long enough to cause an accidental subversion of the trope.
  • Gratuitous Panning: "Her Majesty" starts entirely on the right, and moves until it's entirely on the left by the end of the song. The trope is otherwise averted, as this is the only Beatles album where the members were actually present and supervised the production of the stereo version, which on previous albums had been left to various engineers with little oversight or input from the band or George Martin, who focused more on the mono versions.
  • Groupie Brigade: She Came In Through the Bathroom Window was allegedly inspired by a tale told to the Beatles by The Moody Blues' member Ray Thomas. Ray says he was awoken one night by groupies who had apparently climbed three floors up the outside of the hotel wall, to break in to his room through the bathroom window. Who were disappointed they'd only got the flute player, when they were aiming for Justin Hayward or John Lodge. Ray said his ego was further deflated when the Beatles turned his story into a song, and he didn't get a penny of any royalties for it.
  • Hidden Track: "Her Majesty". Originally, this was meant to be part of the 'medley' between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam". The chord at the beginning is the ending note to the former track. Paul McCartney didn't like the way it sounded, and so it was cut off from the album. The tape operator, John Kurlander, followed the record company's guidelines of never throwing anything recorded by The Beatles out, and not knowing what else to do with it he attached it to the end of the master reel, after "The End". Paul liked it, so it stayed. Originally, "Her Majesty" was a true hidden track, not listed with the other tracks on the back album cover; later pressings of Abbey Road list it, making it more like The Stinger.
  • In the Style of:
    • George Harrison admitted in a 1987 interview that "Sun King" was inspired by Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross".
      Harrison: At the time, "Albatross" was out, with all the reverb on guitar. So we said, "Let's be Fleetwood Mac doing 'Albatross', just to get going." It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac... but that was the point of origin.
    • "Oh! Darling" generally sounds like a mid-tempo early Rock & Roll torch song, and more specifically resembles the "swamp pop" genre that's long been popular in Louisiana. Reportedly, when the album came out and the song got played on the radio in Louisiana, people assumed it was a new release by a local singer.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Her Majesty" presents an inversion, being a straightforward guitar song but starting off with a loud DUNN chord carried over from "Mean Mr. Mustard", which can surprise a lot of listeners.
  • Limited Lyrics Song:
    • "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" has only a few lines, but clocks in at 7:47. In fact, here's all the lyrics:
      I want you, I want you so bad babe
      I want you, I want you so bad it's driving me mad
      It's driving me mad
      She's so heavy
    • Shorter, but "Sun King", "Carry That Weight" and "The End" also count.
  • Location Song: The album title refers to a real life London street. "Octopus' Garden" is a Ringo Starr song about an undersea wonderland.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", a cheery ditty about a violent Serial Killer who uses the titular silver hammer to bludgeon his victims to death. And it's heavily implied he was able to kill the judge and get away with the horrible things he did, especially since two women named Rose and Valerie were constantly calling for his release.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Most of Side B is this. Six of the songs therein are not even two minutes long, with "Her Majesty" running 23 seconds.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • "I Want You (She's So Heavy) after "Octopus's Garden".
    • If you're listening on CD or digitally, "Here Comes the Sun" after "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".
    • "Because" after "Here Comes the Sun".
    • The medley on Side B builds up to the climactic finale of "The End", and a moment of silence follows in which the listener likely thinks the album is over...and then it plays "Her Majesty", a sweet little love song that comes across as a lark, as if the band is saying that they're leaving, but on a happy note.
  • Monster Fangirl: Rose and Valerie in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".
    Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
    Say he must go free
    (Maxwell must go free!)
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The album cover. It's just the band walking on a zebra crossing, and it still looks awesome enough to be imitated, parodied and referenced by people all across the world.
    • Paul's passionate yelling in "Oh! Darling" and "Golden Slumbers", to some.
    • "Here Comes the Sun", where the sun rising suddenly makes everybody happy again and hopeful for the future.
  • Murder Ballad: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".
    Bang Bang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer came down upon his head
    Clang Clang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer made sure that he was dead
  • Named After Somebody Famous: One track is named "Sun King", which was Louis XIV's nickname.
  • New Sound Album: Part of the album's Lighter and Softer sound compared to The White Album was the result of Abbey Road Studios replacing its thermionic valve-based mixing desk with a solid state transistor mixing desk, the TG Mk 1. Engineer Geoff Emerick commented that the TG Mk 1 produced a "softer" sound compared to earlier valve-based desks, and recalled the group being frustrated by the thinner, less "punchy" sound that resulted. (Compare Ringo's drum sound to the one on the previous album for the best example, especially the snares.) It is also the only Beatles album to feature a synthesizer, and was recorded in 16 track stereo rather than on 4 track.
  • No Ending: Both sides of the album.
    • "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" ends abruptly in the middle of a riff, after three minutes of repeating the same sequence of chords (with some white noise gradually fading up in the background). John Lennon told engineer Geoff Emerick to "cut it right there", and Emerick did.
    • When engineer John Kurlander clipped "Her Majesty" out of its spot in the master between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam" (see Hidden Track above), he missed the last note of "Her Majesty", which was left at the beginning of "Polythene Pam". Thus, the recording of "Her Majesty" on the finished album also ends abruptly, one note too soon. The Beatles Rock Band finally restored the missing final chord, to some controversy among fans who preferred the lack of resolution. (The "Long One" edit of the medley on the Super Deluxe Edition shows what it may have sounded like had its original position been kept, although those with a good ear can hear how the edit shoehorned the song back in a bit.)
  • Obsession Song: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
  • One-Woman Song: "Polythene Pam", "Her Majesty"
  • One-Word Title: "Something", "Because"
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Carry That Weight", with the uplifting message that despite carrying your heavy past along with you, one should still carry on.
    Boy, you're going to carry that weight
    Carry that weight a long time
  • The Power of Love:
    • "Because"
      Love is all, love is you
    • "The End"
      And in the end, the love you take
      Is equal to the love you make
  • The Power of the Sun: "Here Comes the Sun", in which the returning sun cheers up everybody, including the protagonist and his girlfriend.
  • Pun: "Because"
    Because the world is round/ it turns me on
    Because the wind is high/ it blows my mind.
  • Record Producer: George Martin, who told the Beatles he would work on the project if he was "actually allowed to produce it", as he had been estranged from involvement in their affairs lately. They deferred to his judgement in the studio, leading to more productive if not necessarily more harmonious sessions than the torturous birth of Let It Be.
  • Scare Chord:
    • A negative example at the end of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", where a sudden silence in the middle of a riff has this effect.
    • One can only wonder how many people were reaching to turn their record players off in 1969 when they were startled by the loud chord that introduces "Her Majesty".
  • Siamese Twin Songs:
    • "Polythene Pam" and "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" were recorded together as a single performance. You can hear John Lennon saying "Oh, look out!" right before the change at the beginning of the later track.
    • "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" were also recorded together. "The End" was recorded separately, but you wouldn't think that listening to the album.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Her Majesty"
  • Smarter Than You Look: George felt that Ringo's second song, "Octopus's Garden", was this. He described it as accidentally deep and spiritual.
    • John and Paul finally realised George's potential as a songwriter, praising "Something" and calling it one of the best songs on the album.
  • Special Guest: After assisting the band on their previous project, Billy Preston plays organ on "Something" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".
  • Studio Chatter:
    Well, listen to that Mal... hehehe. Oh, look out! You should... SHE CAME IN THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: "Because" intentionally shares a similar chord progression to Ludwig van Beethoven 's "Moonlight Sonata". John said about this:
    "[Yoko] trained as a classical musician. I didn't know that until this morning. In college she majored in classical composition. Now we stimulate each other like crazy. This morning I wrote this song called "Because." Yoko was playing some classical bit, and I said "Play that backwards," and we had a tune."
  • Take That!: "You Never Give Me Your Money" is Paul's swipe at manager Allen Klein, specifically his frustration over Klein's empty promises and refusal to give the Beatles a straight answer about their financial situation.
  • Textless Album Cover: The front cover has neither the name of the band nor the name of the record.
    • Here's the rear cover. The "Abbey Road" sign was authentic to 1969, although it has since been removed; the "Beatles" part was added in the photographer's studio. The identity of the woman in the blue dress remains unknown to this day, and there's still disagreement as to whether she was added intentionally or whether she was just a pedestrian walking by as Iain Macmillan took his picture.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: John used this to justify the lyrics of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" in a Rolling Stone interview after criticism that they were too simplistic.
    John: When you're drowning, you don't say, "I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me." You just scream.
  • Uncommon Time: The bridge of "Here Comes the Sun" rotates between 11/8, 4/4, and 7/8.
  • Ur-Example: After The Beatles more or less accidentally invented Thrash Metal with "Helter Skelter", many observers have cited "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" as the first Doom Metal song, with Black Sabbath becoming the Trope Makers with their debut album a year later. Harrison's long hair and denim outfit on the cover also codified the classic metalhead look.
  • Villain Protagonist: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", where the titular character is a Serial Killer and the silver hammer is his murder weapon.
  • Vocal Dissonance: "Oh! Darling" was possibly better suited for John's vocal style and range. Geoff Emerick, the album's engineer, is a noted adherent of this idea. Lennon admitted in later years he would love to have sung the track — but it was McCartney's song, and he insisted on singing it. One theory is that Paul wanted to prove he didn't need Lennon to do a belt-and-shout vocal.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • "Come Together" is one of the most famous examples ("He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola").
    • "Because" could also qualify.