Behind The Scenes Stories From The Recording Of The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'
Abbey Road is widely considered the Beatles' greatest album - and almost their last, had they not decided to finish work on Let It Be before officially calling it a day. The sessions for Abbey Road came at a turbulent time for the Beatles, whose members were not getting along as well anymore. The recording of the album was meant to be something of a back-to-basics approach for the band and producer George Martin, contrasting with their more relaxed and experimental sessions in the handful of years preceding the album's creation.
The legacy of Abbey Road may seem overshadowed by the now-iconic album cover, but it's the recording process that made it such a legendary piece of art. And it was the beginning of the end for arguably the most influential band in history.
Let's take a look at the most interesting stories from the recording of the timeless Abbey Road.
- Photo: x4rop / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Album Was Originally Titled 'Everest,' And The Band Planned To Shoot The Cover On The Mountain
The Beatles initially planned to title the album Everest, an inside joke intended to mock engineer Geoff Emerick - whose favorite cigarettes were a brand of the same name. After the group decided on the title, they wanted to travel to Mount Everest and take the cover photo there - until someone put a stop to the complicated plan.
Engineer John Kurlander recalled:
As they became more enthusiastic to finish the LP someone - I don't remember whom - suggested, 'Look, I can't be bothered to schlep all the way over to the Himalayas for a cover, why don't we just go outside, take the photo there, call the LP Abbey Road and have done with it?'
That's my memory of why it became Abbey Road: because they couldn't be bothered to go to Tibet and get cold!
- Photo: Eric Koch / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
John Lennon Brought A Bed Into The Studio For Yoko Ono
One of the most interesting facts about the recording of Abbey Road was the presence of a double bed in the recording studio that housed John Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono. It wasn't just a random, bizarre scenario, though - Ono was pregnant and recovering from a car accident she and Lennon were involved in just a short time before the first day of recording.
Lennon, who is said to have been a bad driver, was driving with his family when he swerved off the road and into a ditch. He and Ono's daughter sustained some cuts, while Ono suffered a back injury.
As a result of her injuries, Ono was given a bed at the studio - complete with a microphone so that she could voice her opinions throughout the sessions.
Nobody Liked 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer'
The legend is true - nobody in the band liked Paul McCartney's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," and particularly loathed his tendency to write somewhat corny songs. George Harrison said in 1977:
Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs. I mean, my god, Maxwell's Silver Hammer was so fruity. After a while we did a good job on it, but when Paul got an idea or an arrangement in his head...
John Lennon later said he hated it and that McCartney forced the band to record the song "a hundred million times."
- Photo: The_Fabs / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The Vocals For 'Oh! Darling' Took A Week To Record
The lead vocal on "Oh! Darling" took an entire week to get right, but it wasn't because McCartney couldn't sing it properly. What he envisioned for the track was the vocal sounding strained, as if he'd been singing the song all week. To achieve the effect, McCartney literally tracked vocals for the song every single day for an entire week.
Interestingly enough, Lennon requested that he be the one to sing the song, seeing as he was known for taking on the more hard-edged vocals. McCartney, being the writer of the song, ultimately decided he wanted to sing it himself. Lennon later admitted he felt McCartney should have let him sing "Oh! Darling."
John Lennon Stole From Chuck Berry On 'Come Together'
While writing the now-legendary "Come Together," John Lennon took cues from, and lifted certain aspects of, Chuck Berry's hit song "You Can't Catch Me." McCartney even pointed out that the two songs were similar, prompting Lennon to change certain aspects of it.
"John acknowledged it was rather close to it, so I said, ‘Well, anything you can do to get away from that,'" McCartney said.
Music publisher Morris Levy, who owned the Berry song, sued Lennon in 1973 for ripping off the song, later reaching a settlement that forced Lennon to cover three songs he owned. He ended up recording a version of "You Can't Catch Me" as part of the settlement.
Ringo Was Inspired To Write 'Octopus's Garden' While On Peter Sellers's Boat
The inspiration behind "Octopus's Garden" was quite literal - Starr wrote the song on Peter Sellers's boat after having a conversation about octopuses.
Peter Sellers had lent us his yacht and we went out for the day... I stayed out on deck with [the captain] and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang out in their caves and they go around the seabed finding shiny stones and tin cans and bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden.
I thought this was fabulous, because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. A couple of tokes later with the guitar - and we had 'Octopus's Garden!'
The rhythm of the song was reportedly tracked 32 times before the foundation of the recording was completed.