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The beauty of the Abbey Road Medley

When I start dating my first girlfriend in 1984 (we were just seventeen, if you know what I mean) I assumed I knew The Beatles very well. Because I had the red and blue compilation albums and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I had no clue what treasures were waiting for me. But this girlfriend, she had Abbey Road. And for the first time, I realized that there was much more to explore.


Of course I already knew a couple of the album's songs. The two opening tracks ‘Come Together’ and ‘Something’, or ‘Here Comes The Sun’, and Ringo’s ‘Octupus's Garden’. The others were all new to me and I felt like a kid in a candy store: ‘OH! Darling’, ‘I Want You (She's So Heavy)’, ‘Because’, all of them are gems. The part that came with me immediately is the LP’s side B, the medley of eight songs, sixteen minutes long, starting with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ all along until ‘The End’.
Abbey Road was really unfinished songs all stuck together. Everybody praises the album so much, but none of the songs had anything to do with each other, no thread at all, only the fact that we stuck them together.”
John Lennon

John Lennon has never been very positive about the medley. And talking lyrics, his criticism is rightly so; but musically the medley is unmatched. The melodies, the dynamics, the harmonies by John, Paul and George; ‘The Long One’, as The Beatles called it during recording, is an imposing finish of an impressive career. The idea for it came from McCartney, challenged by producer George Martin, who thought that “John and Paul got to think more seriously about their music”.






The medley starter ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ is a typical McCartney composition full of surprising twists and hooks. According to McCartney, the song is about his doubts and struggle with the intended new Beatles manager, Allen Klein. Together with ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Carry That Weight’ it’s one of the songs on Abbey Road inspired by Apple's business issues.

‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ seamlessly floats into Lennon's dreamy ‘Sun King’, which guitar parts was inspired by Fleetwood Mac's hit ‘Albatros’. The following two tracks are from Lennon as well: ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’, both written in India in 1968. In order to create some kind of cohesion in the medley, Lennon changes the lyrics of Mean Mr. Mustard: ‘His sister Pam" was in an earlier version of the song "His sister Shirley", by changing the lyrics, it now refers to ‘Polythene Pam’.

In a previous raw mix, the song ‘Her Majesty’ is put in between ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’. But when the band listened to it, they conclude it does not work and the song is cut back. McCartney tells the technicians to throw away the piece of tape, but EMI's personal is ordered to keep everything made by The Beatles. Therefor tape operator John Kurlander decides to put the short song at the end of the medley. When the band hears it back later on, they appreciate the surprise at the end. And so, ‘Her Majesty’ unexpectedly appears on the album; initially without mentioning it on the back cover, because these were already printed.
The original spot of 'Her Majesty' on Abbey Road is still audible: the song starts with the last tunes of 'Mean Mr. Mustard'.


Video: Paul McCartney - Her Majesty (live)





The medley’s four closing songs are from McCartney, starting with 'She Came In Through The Bathroom Window', about a fan who broke into McCartney's home. The last three songs are a unity within the whole medley: 'Golden Slumbers', with lyrics taken from a 17th century poem, 'Carry That Weight', including a reprise of 'You Never Give Me Your Money', and 'The End' are together a reflection on the difficult period of the band.

It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the last song of the last recorded album by The Beatles is called 'The End'. The band members though were not aware that it would be over hereafter. But others close to the band saw it coming:
Nobody knew for sure that it was going to be the last album - but everybody felt it was. The Beatles had gone through so much and for such a long time. They'd been incarcerated with each other for nearly a decade, and I was surprised that they had lasted as long as they did. I wasn't at all surprised that they'd split up because they all wanted to lead their own lives.
George Martin

Video: Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End  (Concert for Montserrat) 



I learned about Abbey Road in the mid-1980s, fifteen years after the official release. It has proved to be my start to go deeper into the band, a beginning of a long exploration through the huge Beatles catalog. The love for the girl who got me introduced to Abbey Road was over after a few months, but my adoration for The Beatles is still here.

Related Posts:

Abbey Road Quiz
Sgt. Pepper's 50th Anniversary Quiz




André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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