The Story Behind the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’


The Beatles, "Abbey Road" album cover

The Beatles, “Abbey Road” album cover – Story by Anne Erickson, cover art via Apple Records

What’s the story behind the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album? Here’s how the legendary set came together (pun intended)

“Abbey Road” is a bittersweet record for many Beatles fans. At the time, nobody really knew it was going to be the Beatles’ last album they recorded together. But, about a month after sessions wrapped up in August 1969, John Lennon decided to leave the wildly popular band. So, what’s the story behind the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album?

What’s the Story Behind the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” Record?

In a day when singles are far more common than albums, and when albums do come, it’s often years and years apart, it’s difficult to comprehend that “Abbey Road” arrived just a few months after the Beatles’ previous release, “Yellow Submarine.” Specifically, “Yellow Submarine” arrived in January 1969, while “Abbey Road” dropped in September of that same year. This was a different era, though, when full-length records meant everything, and music dropped on vinyl.

Even though Lennon hadn’t announced his departure from the Beatles while the band was recording “Abbey Road,” there was a sense that something was going to change. The Beatles were going through a very rough spot and quarreling over their own side projects and business ideas. It was just getting to that point where it seemed like band members wanted to break free.

Recording sessions for “Abbey Road” started on Feb. 22, 1969. The four band members – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – met with producer George Martin. Together, they crafted legendary songs, such as “Come Together,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” In a sense, it was like the “good ol’ days” for the Beatles, as they were working together again, much like on 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and going with their collective creative vision.

Most of the recording sessions for “Abbey Road” took place at EMI Studios in London, located at 3 Abbey Road. Session lasted from February through July, with a few breaks for band members to give attention to their side projects.

While the sessions felt friendly and solid, there were a few disagreements, which was expected. Reportedly, McCartney wanted the album to sound cohesive from start to finish, while Lennon just wanted rock ‘n’ roll tracks, like the Beatles’ earlier music. After all, the Beatles had gone through a massive musical transition at this point, from rock to almost boy band pop fame. So, the album has the best of both worlds. Listening though, it’s easy to hear McCartney’s catchy hooks and choruses, as well as Lennon’s straight-ahead rock.

The music came together so swimmingly well, in fact, that it was difficult for band members and fans to imagine that “Abbey Road” would be the Beatles’ final album. “Abbey Road” almost played like a couple who was on the verge of breaking up, getting back together gain, this time for good. While it’s melancholy to think that it did mark the end for the Beatles, what a great sendoff. “Abbey Road” really meant the Beatles were leaving while on top, something not many legendary bands can claim.

The Beatles ended their recording sessions for “Abbey Road” on Aug. 20. Then, on Sept. 26, the album was out. How’s that for a quick turnaround? By the time the album was released, Lennon had told his band mates that he was leaving. But, the fans didn’t know yet. They kept it quiet. In the meantime, the group working on the “Get Back” session, so they couldn’t put together their last album in 1970. But, it wasn’t a collective effort, as is heard on “Abbey Road.”

“Abbey Road” was a smash hit. It reached No. 1 on the charts and stayed in that position for 11 weeks. The album’s artwork is also one of the most recognized pieces of musical art ever. The front cover featured a photograph of the band members crossing the street outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road. They took the photo on Aug. 9, 1969, and the cover followed some ideas that McCartney sketched.

“Abbey Road” may have marked the end for the Beatles. But, they left fans with a collection of timeless songs that continue to live on and thrive. Music fans may neve see or hear another like the Beatles, but they’ll always have “Abbey Road.” So, when someone asks, “What’s the story behind ‘Abbey Road’ album,” now you have an answer.

Read Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the best classic rock bands of all time here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Music, Rock