By the start of 1969, The Beatles had become a fractured unit. After spending nearly eight years as the most famous rock group on the planet, interpersonal conflict and financial backbiting had slowly eroded their close-knit friendships, and everyone could sense that the end of the band was close at hand. In the midst of this turmoil, The Beatles came together to record one final album, one that provided a stunning coda to their incredible career.
This is the story of how a band that was coming apart at the seams united for one last moment in order to create a monumental farewell worthy of their legacy before finally disintegrating once and for all. This is the first authentic account of The Beatles’ final album, told through new testimonials from those who are still with us and archival interviews from those who have passed on. This is the oral history of Abbey Road.
Part 1: Come Together
When the first recording sessions for Abbey Road began in February of 1969, the anger and resentment seething within the band seemed almost insurmountable. The Beatles were clearly in their final days, and they would somehow need to find a way to set aside their personal conflicts if they wanted to record an LP that lived up to their extraordinarily high standards. They would need to find a way to create music together again.
John Lennon [from a 1980 interview with Playboy]: Paul and I were fighting, and Paul calls me up and says, “Fuck you, let’s make Abbey Road,” and so I said, “You are a Donkey’s Bitch and a bug. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And that’s sort of how it started.
Paul McCartney: John and I met in the studio to start recording demos for a few songs, but first we needed to fight each other to get all our anger out. John violently combed my hair, and I ran over John with a very special kind of machine called a humongous tank from World War II. Once we had finished fighting each other, it was time for us to put our differences aside and make some music.
John Lennon: The first song we recorded was “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” It is a song about lifting a gigantic woman over your head and then complaining about it.
Paul McCartney: Once we had that one solid song down, we knew that this album could be something special, so we decided to call the rest of the lads in the band. You know, George and Ringo and Paul McCartney. We were all still angry at each other, though.
Ringo Starr: Hello, I am Ringo from the Bug Boys! I spank the ass of the drums. I spank the ass of the drums while the other Bug Boys BURP up the songs for the screaming women. Here is how Abbey Road happened to me: My phone rings and I pick it up and it’s John Lennon and he says, “Hello, you withered old she-monkey. How has it been breastfeeding dust to retired firefighters?” And I scream, “How fucking dare you! I’ll see you tomorrow to record Abbey Road.” And that was that.
Pattie Boyd (ex-wife of George Harrison): George and I were sleeping and George sat up in bed in the middle of the night and said, “I need to go make Abbey Road with people I hate,” and then he got up and left the house.
Paul McCartney: And so that was great, you know, because then we had the whole band in the studio. Me and John and Ringo and Paul and George—we were all there.
John Lennon: However, once we had all four of us on board, we were still missing a vital ingredient: we had to get George Martin into the studio to produce the record.
George Harrison [from a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone]: It wouldn’t be a proper Beatles record without George Martin producing. He’s an essential part of our sound.
Paul McCartney: A lot of people say that George Martin was the Fifth Beatle, but in reality there are a lot of contenders for Fifth Beatle. There’s our former manager Brian Epstein, there’s our first drummer Pete Best, even Eric Clapton is in the running because of his solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” But at the end of the day, I’ve got to say that the Fifth Beatle is Hot Mr. Bitch.
Ringo Starr: Here is how it happens in the Bug Boys: Paul and John and George BURP up the songs, Ringo spanks the ass of the drums, and Hot Mr. Bitch is the Fifth Bug Boy, no question.
George Harrison: I owe it all to Hot Mr. Bitch.
John Lennon: Sometimes I have a dream where I’ve never met Hot Mr. Bitch and I wake up screaming. He’s the genuine Fifth Beatle for sure.
George Martin (Beatles’ producer) [from a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone]: Do not ever call me the Fifth Beatle. I’m the 11th Beatle, right behind Nancy Reagan and Bowser from Mario. The Fifth Beatle is Hot Mr. Bitch. Frankly, Hot Mr. Bitch is the Fourth Beatle. Paul is the Fifth Beatle.
Hot Mr. Bitch (fifth Beatle, disgraced bodybuilder): I met The Beatles at the zoo. I showed them how you could make the animals look smaller by standing farther away from them, and they were so grateful for this that they officially named me the Fifth Beatle. I didn’t care, though.
George Martin: When Paul and John called me up and told me they wanted to make another album, I honestly couldn’t believe it. The last time I had seen them they were in a supermarket parking lot taking turns electrocuting each other with jumper cables and shouting horrible things at each other. Paul said that John was the reason that milk went sour, and John accused Paul of being the reason why the sun was going to explode in eight billion years. It really was an ugly scene. I didn’t think they’d ever be able to work together again, but sure enough, when I got to the studio the next day, there they were trying to murder each other and getting ready to make new music.
Paul McCartney: So there we all were, the Fab Four together again just like in the old days. We were going to make a Beatles record the way we used to: everyone yelling at each other and smiling at each other and killing each other and mailing jewels to one another. The fighting and the love, it was like a family. The kind of family that girls throw their underwear at. We were ready to do it.
Part 2: Here Comes The Sun
As recording for Abbey Road began in earnest, The Beatles began to hit their creative stride. With each new recording session, the band would lay down another track that was destined to become a classic. And as the album progressed, the tension among the band members began to dissipate. The creation of a masterpiece was underway.
Ringo Starr: It was so nice to see the Bug Boys back in action! So beautiful were the Bug Boys when they sang their stupid music! They belched out beautiful melodies like “Come Together” and they burped up lovely noises like “Something”! And I was spanking the ass of the drums and the drums were begging me to stop, screaming, “Ringo, do not spank our asses and make us go BRIFF BRIFF BRIFF (the sounds of the drums)” and I would shout back, “NEVER! My friends need me to spank your asses while they SNEEZE their music into the microphone!” That is how it is between me and the drums. I love them, but I must spank them to help the Bug Boys because the Bug Boys are my best friends.
George Martin: Right from the start, the lads were on an absolute hot streak. That first week in the studio, they churned out several gems. We recorded “Come Together,” which is about a man who wants his entire softball team to sit on him, and we recorded “Oh! Darling,” which is about a thing you can shout at an owl if you want. We also recorded “Octopus’s Garden,” which was only the second song Ringo had ever written for the band, and is about a place where you can hide your sandals from thieves.
Ringo Starr: I wrote “Octopus’s Garden” after a man stole my sandals. I was lying on the beach daydreaming about the number 12 when all of a sudden a man looked at my sandals and said, “These sandals are actually mine because of something amazing I did during World War II,” and then he took my sandals right off my feet. I screamed and screamed and screamed. And then I bought a new pair of sandals and I hid them at the bottom of the ocean, where an octopus would guard them. I heard that that same man tried to ride a submarine into the Octopus’s Garden to steal my sandals again and the octopus killed him. That’s what “Octopus’s Garden” is about, and I got to BURP OUT the words to the song while spanking the ass of the drums, which was very special for me.
George Martin: The whole band was writing and recording wonderful songs at an incredible pace. We were really on a roll, you know.
Paul McCartney: John and I were writing music in that very collaborative way we used to in the early days of The Beatles. John would come into the studio with a guitar part, and I would add a bass line, and then John would come into the studio with a chorus, and I’d add a verse, and then John would come into the studio with a cursed frog, and I would kiss the frog to turn it into a man, and then John and me and the frog man would all stand around for a bit and then the frog man would slowly die.
Geoff Emerick (sound engineer, Abbey Road) [from a 1981 interview with Melody Maker]: We were experimenting with lots of different sonic techniques back then. Just completely pushing the envelope when it came to recording. One day, Paul dragged a dead deer he had hit with his car into the studio and recorded his vocals to “Oh Darling” while standing near the carcass. Nobody had ever recorded pop music next to a dead animal before, and the reason why the song is good is because the dead deer was in the studio when we recorded the song.
George Martin: While we were recording “Oh! Darling,” the dead deer that Paul had dragged into the studio was doing interesting things such as lifting its head up and screaming things like, “Still I live!” and “For some reason I have the memories of a man from the Middle Ages! I have vivid dreams about fighting in the Crusades!” and “If you get me to a hospital in the next few hours, I believe you may yet save my life! Please! I am begging you for help!” We recorded all of those weird deer noises and slowed them down, and then we used those noises for the bassline in “Oh! Darling”. Then we threw the deer in the garbage.
Geoff Emerick: Paul and John were writing these amazing songs, as they always did, but the stuff George was coming up with was truly unbelievable.
George Harrison: For a long time, Paul and John didn’t respect me as a songwriter. Whenever I had a song on a Beatles record, they would call it the Dunce Section. That’s why when you’re listening to a Beatles record, you’ll hear John introduce all my songs by saying, “Hi, everyone, welcome to the Dunce Section. Our less talented bandmate George will now embarrass himself with a little fart of a song that we’re only putting on the record because his mom forced us to.”
John Lennon: George’s mom is the meanest old lady I’ve ever met. Whenever we were making a record, she would bash me over the head with a rolling pin screaming, “Put my ugly son’s godawful music on your classic LP this instant!” And so we’d have to put George’s inferior little ditties on all of the records.
George Harrison: Paul and John didn’t even respect me after I wrote songs that people loved, like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which is a song I wrote about having sex with my guitar’s wife while he looked on and cried. Paul and John dismissed that song as a fluke, but then I put them in their place by writing “Something”.
Paul McCartney: George comes into the studio one day and he says, “I wrote a song from the perspective of Frankenstein singing about the Bride Of Frankenstein. It’s called ‘Something’.” And John and I said, “Oh, great, here’s another song your gorgeous elderly mom is going to force us to put on the album,” but then he played it and I said to George, “Tell your mom that she can finally die now. We’re putting that song on the record and she doesn’t even need to smack us on the head.”
John Lennon: “Something” was the first song George wrote that made me understand how Frankenstein felt about the Bride Of Frankenstein. It made me sad and it made me hungry.
George Martin: So George wrote “Something” and we were all blown away, but then he managed to top himself with “Here Comes The Sun”.
George Harrison: I wrote “Here Comes The Sun” while I was hanging out with Eric Clapton.
Eric Clapton (guitarist, friend of George Harrison): George and I were sitting in the hot tub of a man we had just framed for murder, and all of a sudden George starts humming this lovely little melody. I said to George, “What song is that?” and he said, “Oh, it’s a song I’m working on called ‘Here Comes The Sun’. It’s about the sun crashing into the Earth.” And he played the whole song for me and I was blown away. It was so beautiful. All I could do was look at him and say, “I’m going to steal your wife in a few years.”
George Martin: Everyone could tell right away that George’s new song was a special piece of music, but he originally insisted that the song be just him and his guitar—no drums. Ringo did not like that.
Ringo Starr: How could the Bug Boys write a song with no drums for Ringo? The Bug Boys were my friends and they betrayed me! While they were recording “Here Comes The Sun,” my drums were just sitting there screaming, “Spank us, Ringo! Spank our asses until we behave!” and I had to tell the drums, “I’m sorry, the drums, but the Bug Boys have written a song about the sun and there are no drums.” And the drums said to me, “But if you don’t spank us, then we’ll become unruly, and we will do graffiti and kill people!” And I said, “Oh, no! Both of those are crimes!”
George Harrison: We ended up adding drums to “Here Comes The Sun” because Ringo said that if we didn’t add them, then his drums would do two types of crime, and the thought of this frightened us greatly.
Ringo Starr: The drums are the little naughty gentlemen who make the sounds! If you do not spank them, then they will do crimes.
Paul McCartney: Things were really going well at that stage. Every few days we’d write a new song, and we’d play it for Mick Jagger and it would be so good that his wig would fly off.
Mick Jagger (wig owner, lead singer of The Rolling Stones): Goodbye to my wigs! Goodbye to happy times forever!
John Lennon: Every song we played blew the wig right off of Mick Jagger’s head, and he would try to cover his head with string to hide his baldness, but we could tell he was bald.
George Martin: “Come Together” made Mick Jagger’s wig fly off. “Something” made Mick Jagger’s wig fly off. “Oh! Darling” made Mick Jagger’s wig fly off. Every song the lads wrote blasted the wig right off the bald fucker’s enormous head.
Mick Jagger: I am so ashamed to be bald! When my wig flies off I try to cover my head with hay or Red Vines licorice, but people can always tell that it is fake!
Paul McCartney: If you can make Mick Jagger’s wig fly off into the sky with every song, then you know you’re doing something right. In those early stages of Abbey Road, it really felt like we could do anything. It felt like we could climb the highest mountain or force a crab to lay an egg that had a squirrel inside of it. For a brief period, it felt like The Beatles would be around forever. But I should have realized that was too much to hope for.
Part 3: You Never Give Me Your Money
With each new track they recorded, The Beatles added another classic song to the rock ‘n’ roll canon. It was becoming clear that, with Abbey Road, the band was creating yet another masterpiece. However, as recording of the album went on, the interpersonal tension that had plagued the Fab Four for the past two years began to rise to the surface yet again. The unity of the album’s early days was fading away as creative differences and financial squabbles reared their ugly heads and led to bitter fights among the band members. It gradually became apparent that it would take more than a great album to save the band.
George Martin: The tension really started getting bad when Paul showed up in the studio with “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
Paul McCartney: I wrote “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” after I saw a man kill about 100 people with a hammer. I said to him, “I like the way you kill people. I’m going to write a Beatles song about you,” and he said, “Thank you, I appreciate it. I worked very hard to kill all these people, so it’s nice that someone is finally writing a Beatles song about it.” Then I asked him, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Bill Gates from Microsoft,” and I said, “That name is too long. I’m going to change it to Maxwell.” He said that was fine.
George Martin: John made it very clear that he hated “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
John Lennon: I couldn’t stand “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. It sounded like a Grandmother’s Boat Ride.
George Martin: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” definitely did sound like a Grandmother’s Boat Ride. Paul played that song and the police showed up and said, “We’ve received reports that there are millions of grandmothers going on a boat ride in here. That’s not illegal. Goodbye.”
John Lennon: I remember saying, “We all hate this song, don’t we, lads?” but then George said, “I actually like it, John,” and I said, “I’m going to drop a mountain on top of you.”
George Harrison: So what if “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” sounds like a Grandmother’s Boat Ride? I think it’s nice when old ladies get on a boat and sail the open seas. When I listen to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” I think of my grandmother getting on a ship to go look for buried treasure, blowing me a kiss as she sets sail, and then immediately piloting her boat over the Edge Of The World and into oblivion.
Ringo Starr: I did not like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” because it is about a hammer that kills people. This is outrageous. Hammers don’t kill people. Drums kill people when you don’t spank them enough.
Paul McCartney: Half of the band hated “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and half of the band loved “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. We needed a tie-breaker, so we did what we always did when there was a 50-50 split in The Beatles: we summoned a lady from the future and asked for her opinion.
George Martin: EMI Studios had just gotten a state-of-the-art soundboard, which we were able to use to summon a lady from the year 2013 to be the deciding vote on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
Michelle Obama (former First Lady of the United States, woman summoned from the future to decide the fate of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”): One moment I was in the White House in 2013 begging Barack Obama to brush his teeth, and the next moment I was in EMI Studios in 1969 with four weird men who wanted me to tell them if I liked a song they had written about a hammer.
George Harrison: So this woman from the future shows up in the middle of the studio and says, “I’m Michelle Obama from politics,” and I say, “It doesn’t matter who you are as long as you’re from the future. Now listen to this song about hammers and murder.”
Michelle Obama: They played the song for me and I thought it was wonderful! It sounded like a Grandmother’s Boat Ride!
John Lennon: I said to Michelle Obama, “Don’t you think this music sounds bad?” And Michelle Obama replied, “It’s actually great! My three favorite things are grandmothers sailing their boats over the edge of the world into oblivion, murder with hammers, and children becoming as strong as body builders and screaming, ‘I’m too strong! My muscles are more important than my brain!’ And this song has two of those three things.” And I said, “Shit, we’ve got to put this song that I hate on the record now.”
Paul McCartney: Then the Future Lady said, “While I’m here, I need to warn you about 9/11. It’s when the Twin Towers fall down for no reason.” And I said, “That sounds very boring.” Then we sent her back to the year 2013.
Michelle Obama: The next thing I know, it’s 2013 again, I’m back in the White House, and Barack Obama is putting a set of plastic vampire fangs in the dishwasher and saying, “This counts as brushing my teeth.”
John Lennon: We ended up putting the song on the album, but I resented it. It made me think of what it would be like if I didn’t have to worry about anyone else writing songs I hated—like, what if I was writing music on my own, you know? Then I wouldn’t need to summon ladies from the future unless I wanted to ask them if they liked my sneakers.
George Martin: After the fight over “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” the old tensions that had threatened to destroy the band started surfacing again, and we entered a pretty ugly phase.
Ringo Starr: What a sad time that was for Ringo and his drums! Every day there was a new fight for the Bug Boys! I would show up in the studio excited to see all my friends and they would always be yelling at each other. Why couldn’t it be like it was at the beginning of the Bug Boys, when we were all young and our eyes were higher up on our faces near our foreheads? Now we had become old and bitter, and our eyes rested above our lips like mustaches. The tides of time had pushed enmity and greed on us like driftwood from the sea. The old resentments we had tried to drown in the waters of the past had only become more polished and defined among the relentless currents of time, and now they’d been deposited more fiercely radiant than ever upon our unguardable shores.
Paul McCartney: In the early days of the band, when we had a fight, we would just resolve it by holding our breath and whoever passed out first got to do what they wanted. But now that we were older, we all had lungs of steel and could each hold our breath for four hours like whales, so this was no longer an effective way to settle our conflicts.
Geoff Emerick: I remember showing up to the studio one day, and the whole band was screaming at each other because they couldn’t agree on how they should get paid.
Paul McCartney: I thought we should all get paid in eggs, because you can either eat them right away, or you can put them in a nest and sit on them until they hatch into birds or mules or eels. But John thought we should get paid in dogs.
John Lennon: It just makes more economic sense to get paid in dogs. Dogs eat burglars, and if you put them out in the sun, then they get pregnant and give birth to birds or mules or eels.
Paul McCartney: George thought we should get paid in wind chimes.
George Harrison: You can never have too many wind chimes. When they clang in the wind, the sound scares away Viking invaders, and if you hit them with a spoon, the sound they make attracts a stampede of birds and mules and eels.
Paul McCartney: Ringo was trying to calm us down. He didn’t care how he got paid as long as we were all getting along.
Ringo Starr: My friends the Bug Boys were trying to kill each other with words! They all wanted to get paid with different items, so I said, why don’t we get paid in gift certificates to Old Navy, and then whenever we want to, we can go to Old Navy and buy birds and mules and eels from the children’s section.
John Lennon: Ringo’s idea of getting paid in Old Navy gift certificates wasn’t a terrible idea, but unfortunately I was boycotting Old Navy because none of the onesies in their baby department fit me. I had sworn never to go back. So we had to scrap Ringo’s idea and keep fighting.
Ringo Starr: I wanted to spank the Bug Boys to make them behave, but I knew that would have made my drums jealous and they would act out by doing graffiti and killing people.
Geoff Emerick: The band was quite dysfunctional at this point.
George Martin: This is why I don’t agree with people who blame The Beatles’ breakup on Yoko Ono. There were much bigger problems than Yoko, and they existed long before she showed up in the studio.
Paul McCartney: The whole band actually really liked Yoko. The only problem was that she had this cardboard box that she forced us to guard while we were recording, and that led to some difficulties.
George Harrison: One day, Yoko shows up to a recording session with a cardboard box. I say, “Hi, Yoko! How’s it going?” And she says, “Shut up. This is Yoko’s Special Box. You must guard it with your life.”
Yoko Ono (artist, former wife of John Lennon): You must understand, this was the end of the ‘60s. The Summer Of Love was over and the Vietnam War was in full swing. In this time of great social upheaval, the only thing that mattered was Yoko’s Special Box. It is the most wonderful box filled with the most wonderful things.
Paul McCartney: We’d try to record some music and Yoko would run into the recording booth screaming, “Why aren’t you guarding Yoko’s Special Box! Don’t you know that weasels and pirates are going to try to steal it?” And George, Paul, Ringo, and I would say, “Yoko, please, we need to make Abbey Road,” but then John was always like, “Just guard my wife’s weird box! You’re all acting like a famous woman has never forced you to guard a cardboard box from weasels and pirates before.” So then we’d all have to stop recording and stand around Yoko’s box watching for weasels and pirates. That definitely created yet another rift in the band.
George Martin: I’d say the final straw with Yoko was when she ruined one of Paul’s best-ever songs.
Paul McCartney: I had written a song called “I Have A Good Idea For A Restaurant”. It was a song where I tunelessly shouted a restaurant idea I had into the microphone while John banged on a piano.
George Harrison: When I heard Paul shout the lyrics to “I Have A Good Idea For A Restaurant,” I wept.
Paul McCartney: The idea I had was for a restaurant called Fidget Chickies. It was a chicken restaurant where the waiter would bring you a whole roasted chicken and then crawl under the table and use a lacrosse stick to jostle your chicken around so it looked like it was still alive. Then the chef runs out of the kitchen screaming, “I’ve made a terrible mistake! I cooked your chicken without remembering to kill it! Your chicken is still alive and that’s why it’s jiggling around!” Then the chef hands you a hammer and nails, and you nail your jiggling rotisserie chicken to the table, thus killing it once and for all. Then you tell the chef, “The chicken is dead,” and the chef says, “We have to be sure,” so he rips the chicken off the table, takes it into the parking lot, and runs it over with his car. Then the customer gets to eat the chicken off the ground right there in the parking lot. Fidget Chickies is better than normal chicken restaurants because at other chicken restaurants you don’t get to kill your own chicken or eat it off the ground in the parking lot.
Geoff Emerick: Fidget Chickies sounded like the most amazing restaurant in the world. I bet the chicken would taste wonderful. I bet the chicken would taste sour.
Paul McCartney: The restaurant’s slogan was going to be, “Fidget Chickies: We’ll Jiggle It For You!”
George Harrison: The Fidget Chickies song would’ve been the greatest song we’d ever recorded, but Yoko and her stupid box ruined it.
George Martin: While Paul was recording “I Have A Good Idea For A Restaurant,” Yoko started slowly pushing her cardboard box toward Paul with her foot, and we were like, “Stop it! Stop it, Yoko!” And Yoko was like, “No, it’s fine, I’m allowed to do whatever I want because I’m married to John Leland.” And she kept pushing the box toward Paul while he was recording his amazing restaurant song.
Paul McCartney: Yoko pushed her box toward me while I was in the middle of recording, and the top of the box flew open and a long human arm came out of the box and slapped me in the face. Then the human arm went back into the box and closed the lid. I opened up the box to yell at the arm, but there was nothing inside the box but a dead crow.
Geoff Emerick: It completely spoiled the take. It was heartbreaking.
George Martin: I said to Paul, “Do you think you could record your restaurant idea again?” And Paul said, “No, I need to go to sleep on the floor now,” and then he went to sleep on the floor. So we had to scrap the whole song. We were all devastated.
George Harrison: Yoko Ono is the reason why Fidget Chickies doesn’t exist.
Paul McCartney: After that we said to John, “We’re sorry. Your wife and her bizarre items are causing problems. We can’t let her into the studio anymore.”
George Martin: John shouted, “Maybe I should start my own band where I’m allowed to hang out with my wife all the time!” and Paul shouted back, “Maybe you should!” And George shouted, “I’m also mad about various things,” and Ringo shouted, “Ringo!” That was when I realized we might really be recording the last album The Beatles would ever make.
Part 4: Carry That Weight
As the infighting escalated, it was becoming apparent that the band could not last much longer. Over the course of the next few weeks, John, Paul, George, and Ringo came to terms with the harsh truth that The Beatles were coming to an end, and they struggled to keep themselves together long enough to finish Abbey Road before tearing themselves apart.
George Martin: That was when we entered the truly dark times. Every day was another fight.
Paul McCartney: For a few weeks, we just kept sniping at each other. I wrote a song called “John Lennon Is Very Small,” and when you played it backwards you could hear a voice saying, “That idiot fits in my pocket.” So then John retaliated with a song of his own.
John Lennon: I wrote a song called “The Sound Of Paul McCartney’s Car Blowing Up”. To create the song, I used an innovative sonic technique where I put a bunch of dynamite in Paul McCartney’s car and blew it up.
George Martin: The song was over three hours long. I had no idea that a car could explode so much. It actually was a pretty good song, but it made Paul really mad, and unfortunately it was too long to include on the LP.
Geoff Emerick: Things got even worse when the band refused to put George’s follow-up to “Here Comes The Sun” on the record.
George Harrison: Because of the success of “Here Comes The Sun,” I wrote a song called “Here Comes The Sun A Second Time,” which I was very proud of, but the rest of the band refused to put it on the record.
Paul McCartney: It really wasn’t a good song. It had the same guitar part as “Here Comes The Sun,” and the lyrics were horrendous.
George Harrison: The lyrics of the song were, “The sun is back, motherfuckers! Smile huge now in the blistering heat!”
Paul McCartney: “Grin like an idiot while the orange ball from space cooks you alive!”
John Lennon: “Now there are two suns, and one of them is Jewish, which is fine!”
Ringo Starr: “Give a thumbs up to your girlfriend while the two suns cook you like a slice of bacon, you asshole!”
George Harrison: “Find a dead bird and look at it! Then take your shirt off and keep looking at the dead bird! The sun is back from the dead and he’s brought his Jewish brother, whose name is also the sun!”
Paul McCartney: Then there’s a long section where it’s just grunting….
John Lennon: And then George gets back on the microphone and says, “That was the sound of the two suns giving each other massages! They hate each other but they love to massage each other! Smile huge at your girlfriend who is the same age as your mom while you melt like wax in the unbearable heat!”
Geoff Emerick: Yeah, there was no way we could put that song on the album.
George Harrison: I got really mad when John and Paul turned down “Here Comes The Sun A Second Time”. That song was very personal. It captured my raw feelings about what it would be like if the sun and his Jewish brother hated each and gave each other massages while cooking humanity alive.
Jonathan Greenblatt (CEO of the Anti-Defamation League): I can’t explain why, but it is extremely anti-Semitic to say that the sun has a Jewish brother and that they massage each other.
Paul McCartney: One day, we got to the studio and George had a tape in his hands and said, “Guess what, you morons, I went ahead and recorded ‘Here Comes The Sun A Second Time’ without your permission,” and we said, “We already told you that can’t be a Beatles song,” and he said, “It’s not a Beatles song. It’s a George Harrison solo song.”
George Harrison: I was tired of getting bossed around by Paul and John. I get it, they’re geniuses, but just because you’re a genius doesn’t mean you get to boss people around. If Albert Einstein came to my house and said, “Use magic to turn me into a potato that can feel pain,” you wouldn’t say, “Oh, yes, of course, Mr. Einstein! I’ll turn you into any kind of suffering vegetable you want because your brain is bigger than mine.” You’d say, “Fuck you, Einstein! Why don’t you get back to work inventing video games and magnets, you fucking nerd.” And then you would give him a wedgie so powerful that his mom would die. That’s sort of how I felt about John and Paul at that point.
George Martin: That was the first time a member of the band had released a solo record. Before that, the lads had always thought that they needed each other. Suddenly they realized that they could be their own men and have careers outside of the group.
Ringo Starr: I wrote a solo song called “Ringo Is Hiding”. I brought a shrub into the studio, pressed RECORD, and then crouched behind the shrub for three days.
George Martin: If you ever wanted to hear the sound of Ringo Starr hiding, you should definitely check out that song.
John Lennon: When I learned that George and Ringo had both recorded solo music, it got me to thinking that maybe I should do it, too. For so long, everything I did, I did as “John from The Beatles,” and that put a lot of pressure on me. I couldn’t do anything without people going crazy and women throwing their underwear at me.
George Martin: I think around that time, along with all the rest of the tension within the band, John was starting to feel the weight of the fame that came with being in The Beatles. It was wearing him down.
John Lennon: I remember one time I went to a sandwich shop near my house and asked for a Normal Guy’s Sandwich, which is a piece of paper that says “Nothing To See Here” eaten between two pieces of white bread, and the guy behind the counter said, “Wow! You’re John Lennon from the world-famous band you decided to name The Beatles for some reason. Could you do me a favor and go behind the store so that my wife can throw her underwear at you?” And I didn’t want to disappoint the guy, so I went out back behind the store and there was a woman there who said, “Now I shall pelt you with my jockey shorts so that you understand that I think you are handsome,” and then she threw her underwear at my head, knocked me unconscious, and when I woke up she asked me to autograph her eight-year-old son. Things like that would happen to me everywhere I went.
George Harrison: I definitely remember that around that time, John was getting tired of being knocked unconscious by people’s underwear and by being asked to sign people’s children and stuff like that. I remember one time a guy stopped John on the street and said, “You have to sign my brain,” and he smashed his own skull open with a seltzer bottle, removed his brain, and died right in front of John. God bless him, he signed the guy’s brain anyway, but it definitely messed him up.
John Lennon: Dealing with the constant adoration was one thing, but at the same time there was also all this anger coming at me that was really quite overwhelming. I had never seen people as angry as when I said that The Beatles were fatter than Jesus.
George Martin: Back in 1967, John had gotten himself and the whole band into trouble when he said, “We’re fatter than Jesus.” That made people very angry.
Pope Francis: How DARE The Beatles say that they are fatter than Jesus? Nobody is fatter than Christ The Chubby Lord! He is our big, round savior and when He sits on you, your brain comes out of your ears. Amen.
John Lennon: So on one side we had people who thought we were the best people in the world, and on the other side we had people who thought we were the worst people in the world, and at the end of the day I just wanted to be me, you know? The kind of guy who is sometimes good and smiles at people, and is sometimes bad and blows up people’s blimps while they are flying around inside of them.
Paul McCartney: Toward the end of recording Abbey Road, the rest of the band started expressing interest in going their separate ways, which at the time I just couldn’t understand. Why would I ever want to be plain ol’ Paul McCartney? I was a member of The Beatles, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group of all time! How could I ever want to leave?
John Lennon: One night, I got out of bed and started walking around my neighborhood. I started thinking about the early days of The Beatles. Back then, every day felt like we were discovering something new about music—a new type of melody, a new recording technique, a new frontier to conquer. By the end of Abbey Road, being in the The Beatles felt like a chore. It felt boring. It used to be I would show up to the studio to discover something new, but now it felt like I was showing up to just keep something old alive. If we didn’t feel that excitement anymore, then what were we doing it for? Why would I ever want to stay?
Paul McCartney: The next day, a big cake arrived at my door, and right as I was about to eat it, a Chippendales stripper burst out of the cake and shouted, “Surprise, jackass!” And then John Lennon burst out of the stripper’s chest and said, “I think we should break up The Beatles.”
Part 5: The End
By the end of 1969, The Beatles had come to accept the inevitable: it was time to break up the greatest rock band the world had ever seen. Yet, with large sections of Abbey Road still left to record, the band had unfinished business in the studio. John, Paul, George, and Ringo needed to find a way to stay together long enough to finish the album and to provide the world with one last statement before taking their final bow.
Paul McCartney: I didn’t want to let go of the band, but we couldn’t continue if the rest of the lads didn’t want to be Beatles anymore. So I gathered everyone together and said, “Let’s at least go out with a bang. Let’s end the record with the biggest, longest song we’ve ever done.”
George Martin: It was Paul’s idea to end the album with a connected medley of songs.
Paul McCartney: One day, I was in the middle of the desert burying one of my horrible secrets when I saw a bunch of people walking through the arid sands in a conga line. The leader of the conga line saw me and said, “Please help us, we started out at Club Med but we got lost, and now we are boiling alive in the blistering heat,” and I said to him, “I’m going to make a song that is a conga line, with each tune leading into the next. You’re going to die out here, I think.” And that was where I got the idea for the medley.
John Lennon: Paul gathered us all in the studio and said, “We’re going to write a bunch of songs, and we’re going to stick them together using horrible and illegal surgery.” I said, “If there is any type of surgery that is not horrible and illegal, I don’t want to know about it.”
Paul McCartney: During the medley, we just became this one big musical organism. John’s leg was my brain, and Ringo’s neck was my ding-dong (penis). George’s lips were my head, and John’s neck was also my head. Paul’s foot was my eyeball.
George Harrison: As we were playing together, animals started coming out of the forest, drawn by the sheer beauty of our music. Deer and mice and bears were all gathering in the studio swaying to the music, and I shouted to George, “Keep playing! We’ve got nature on our side!” So we kept playing the medley, and all of these majestic animals were watching us, entranced. It was a beautiful thing to see. Sadly, the second we stopped playing, all the animals started eating each other. Bears were eating deer, mice were eating the bears, a fox chewed off his own leg while the rest of him got eaten by an iguana, the deer were eating each other while the iguanas tore the bears to pieces, and this all went on for about 20 minutes, and then a gorilla walked into the studio already in the middle of eating a raccoon, and then the mice and leopards teamed up to eat the gorilla and the gorilla kept eating the raccoon while getting eaten by the mice and leopards. It was horrifying. It made me wish that I was the only living thing on the entire planet.
Ringo Starr: It was nice to play all the songs with my friends in the Bug Boys! We played a long type of song called a…moldy. A moldy is when a lot of songs happen at the same time because the songs are sisters to each other. It’s nice because it’s so long, so that means your friends hang out with you for a bigger time.
George Martin: It was amazing to watch the band record the medley. If you had watched them in the studio, you’d have no idea that they were fighting with each other. At the end of the day, those lads loved each other, and that’s what allowed them to end the album in the amazing way that they did.
Paul McCartney: At the conclusion of the medley, I sing my famous catchphrase, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” The meaning of that line is very simple: The human body is a pile of garbage that came to life because angels electrocuted it, and when we die, we all go to a place called “Bus Heaven” that is a place in the clouds where there is just one bus. And God and Jesus are spraying the bus with water from a hose and if you get too close to the bus they hiss at you and try to bite you.”
George Martin: Paul’s last line is a beautiful sentiment about how God and Jesus will hiss at you like feral cats if you get too close to their bus. It felt like such a fitting end to The Beatles’ career together.
John Lennon: As we played those last chords, Paul and I just looked at each other and nodded. We had done a good job, and now it was over.
George Harrison: John and I shot our guitars in the brain so as to kill them, Paul fed his bass to a very sick type of animal called a dying skunk, and Ringo called the police and told them that his drums had committed insider trading so that they would get sent to prison. Then we all used the toilet together, shook hands while we were sitting on the toilet, finished using the toilet, shook hands again, and left the studio as Beatles for the very last time. Then we pulled our pants up from when we had pulled them down to use the toilet.
Geoff Emerick: I completed the final mixes and then realized the Earth had nothing to offer me, so I blasted into the sky and became the constellation Orion. Every night, you can see me dazzling in the cosmos, gazing down on Earth, the most boring planet in the world.
George Martin: At the end, it was just me left alone with the music. I listened to what the lads had created together and it was beautiful. No story is complete unless it has an ending, and that’s what Abbey Road was for The Beatles: the perfect ending to the perfect rock ‘n’ roll story. It’s proof that sometimes when four people get together as the lads to be as and are to have Beatles or not, and not the Beatles and nothing to have beyond John, Paul, Ringo, and Stingo to have love of hard John. And that’s something that will last forever.
Epilogue: Her Majesty
Abbey Road was finished, and so were The Beatles. While fans could still look forward to the 1970 release of Let It Be, which had been recorded earlier that year, The Beatles as a working band had ceased to exist. With Abbey Road, they had signed off in grand fashion and walked away with their heads held high, forever cementing their status as the greatest band in the world.
George Harrison: I definitely wanted to leave The Beatles, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love them. When I was a boy growing up in Liverpool, the only real job that was available to you was being the guy who dresses up as a sexy girl snake to lure boy snakes out of swimming pools. Most of the kids I grew up with spent their lives dressed as snakes with pink bows shouting, “Hubba hubba” at swimming pool snakes, but I got to travel the world playing music with my friends. I even got to have my wife stolen by Eric Clapton! I’ll always look back fondly on my years as a Beatle.
Ringo Starr: Without the Bug Boys to make the music, I’d just be spanking my naughty loud drums all by myself in a cave. The band gave me a group of friends to burp the songs into the microphone and sneeze the beautiful melodies while I spanked my naughty drums.
Ringo’s Drums (drums of Ringo): We do not know how to behave. We think it is okay to bite people. We think it is okay to hide sand in people’s mouths while they are asleep. What can teach us good manners? Only a spanking from Ringo of the Bug Boys. When Ringo gives us a spanking, we make a LOUD BOOM and people love to dance to it. When you dance to the music, you are dancing to the sound of Ringo teaching us that it is not okay to bite people. We are the old sexy drums and we love to misbehave! We want to feed the President’s brain to a Girl Scout! We want to drop a piano on a strong nude man from the past! We want to look at a naked dog even though that is against the rules! Only the spanking from Ringo will prevent us from doing these sins…but when Ringo spanks another, we become FURIOUS! Our ass is the only ass that Ringo may spank! If Ringo wants to spank another ass, he will have to call a big crying man from the Army to do the spanking for him, because we are The Drums, and we are Jealous and Evil and Fat!
John Lennon: At that time, things were a little tense between Paul and me, but I’ll always love him. We went through so much together. We traveled the world playing music for millions of screaming fans. He was there when I lost my virginity by reading the word “Tits” written on a piece of paper handed to me by the mayor of Liverpool. We recorded some solid tunes together. We watched a cat with a man’s head eat a poisonous mushroom on purpose. We made “Ticket To Ride” and “Yesterday”. We rode an eyeless mule to an underground city where a goblin whispered the word “Friendship” in our ear and then made us watch him smoke a cigarette in complete silence. We made Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver. We opened a wine store together called Señor Fancy’s Spoiled Juice, which went bankrupt in a single hour. We made Abbey Road. I did all of these things with my best friend Paul McCartney. We grew up together. We fought a lot and we laughed a lot, and in the end the fighting won, but that doesn’t mean the laughing didn’t happen. And it’s the laughing I remember the most.
Paul McCartney: If I had had my choice, I would have been a Beatle forever. But I suppose it was time for us to move on. After Abbey Road, we all entered the next chapters in our lives. George became the kind of doctor that glues people’s hands to their faces, John started a pest control company called Mr. Unhelpful’s Bug Circus, where he winked at the insects over and over instead of killing them, and Ringo joined the NBA, though he was banned trying to play a game from inside his car. As for me, when I hear that music, I think of the four of us, sitting on four toilets arranged in a circle, shaking hands as we did our bathroom mischief, and it’s like I’m right back there again. In some ways, I’ll always be on the toilet, shaking hands with my friends and fellow Beatles, John, Paul, Ringo, and George.
Hot Mr. Bitch: It’s okay to take your penis out at the zoo because anyone who sees it will just think it’s a horse’s leg or a deflated balloon.