50 Years Ago: Beatles Appear at Abbey Road Together for Last Time
Most of the time when we cover a Beatles-released anniversary, it’s been in celebration — whether that be the release of an album or some other triumphant moment. But Aug. 20, 1969, marks a sad occasion: the last time that all four Beatles were at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road, London NW8.
Perhaps it’s fitting, given the animosity within the band at the time, that no actual music was recorded. According to Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes, 1962-1970, the group had put the finishing touches on their overdubs over the previous few days. So, the first part of the day, a three-and-a-half hour session, was spent mixing "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)." The track, per John Lennon’s instructions, was compiled from two different versions of the same master – one of which had the Moog synthesizer and white noise tacked onto the instrumental ending and the other contained some guitar overdubs.
The edit was relatively easy; it was made in the silence at 4:37, after they sing “She’s so …” But the Beatles had to figure out how to end the eight-minute-four-second song. Rather than fade it, Lennon wanted to cut the tape to create an abrupt ending right at the 7:44 mark, the aural equivalent of pulling the plug.
When that was completed, the four Beatles spent seven hours discussing the album’s sequence. At the time, "Octopus’s Garden" and "Oh! Darling" were in opposite places. More interestingly, the sides were reversed, with the famous medley closing out the first side and "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)" ending Abbey Road. They decided to make those last two changes by the time the final master was set five days later.
This wasn't the Beatles’ last time at Abbey Road. On Jan. 3, 1970, they recorded "I Me Mine," but Lennon was on a vacation in Denmark at the time and doesn't appear on the song. The next day, some overdubs were made to "Let It Be." Three months later, on April 1, Phil Spector’s controversial orchestral overdubs to "Across the Universe," "The Long and Winding Road" and "I Me Mine" were recorded, with Ringo Starr adding drums on the last-ever Beatles session.
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