Hear the Isolated Vocal Tracks for The Beatles’ Climactic 16-Minute Medley on Abbey Road

I have many memories growing up of gingerly placing my father’s Abbey Road LP on the turntable and spending the afternoon lying on the floor and peering at the photos inside the album cover’s gatefold—trying to wrap my head around what kind of hairy geniuses could make music like this. I had no inkling that this was their final recording together, that the band was about to come apart. None of that mattered to me. I didn’t quite grasp how this band evolved from the teen pop sensations in identical suits and haircuts with their legions of flailing schoolgirl fans and goofy comedy troupe banter. This seemed like an entirely different entity—and the particular sublimity of the medley on side 2 had me lifting up the needle and dropping it back at the intro to “You Never Give Me Your Money” over and over.

That medley is such an impressive demonstration of The Beatles’ range of voice and sensibility that it almost functions as a capsule for the sound of their whole later career—all the weird narratives, blues, ballads, and gorgeously lush hymns and lullabies. What remains constant throughout every Beatles’ record—even before George and Ringo’s songwriting contributions—is the vocal and lyrical interplay of Lennon/McCartney, and it’s all on fine display in the medley. George Harrison described side 2 in 1969 as “a big medley of Paul and John’s songs all shoved together.” Lennon gave George and Ringo more credit for the medley in an interview that same year:

We always have tons of bits and pieces lying around. I’ve got stuff I wrote around Pepper, because you lose interest after you’ve had it for years. It was a good way of getting rid of bits of songs. In fact, George and Ringo wrote bits of it… literally in between bits and breaks. Paul would say, ‘We’ve got twelve bars here– fill it in,’ and we’d fill it in on the spot. As far as we’re concerned, this album is more ‘Beatley’ than the double (White) album.

However it all came about, it’s the medley’s strange lyrical twists, mélange of vocal styles, and powerful harmonies that stay with me, and that I find myself singing softly, even after having gone several years without hearing the album in full. Perhaps you do this too. Now we can hear what The Beatles’ themselves sounded like in the studio sans instruments with the isolated vocal tracks for the side 2 medley at the top of the post. Hear the full album version above and see the Medley tracklist below.

You Never Give Me Your Money

Sun King

Mean Mr. Mustard

Polythene Pam

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window

Golden Slumbers

Carry That Weight

The End

via Eric Alper

Related Content:

A Short Film on the Famous Crosswalk From the Beatles’ Abbey Road Album Cover

John Lennon’s Raw, Soul-Baring Vocals From the Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (1969)

The 10-Minute, Never-Released, Experimental Demo of The Beatles’ “Revolution” (1968)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


by | Permalink | Comments (48) |

  • LubecLou

    Look on the works of the mighty and despair, mere boy bands

  • cfo

    Such a well-written article that perfectly highlights the magic that was The Beatles. Harmonies were always such a key part of their sound. From early on, when they would sing something like “This Boy” – in beautiful, perfect, 3-part harmony – all the way through a tune like “Because” from their swan song, Abbey Road, one always knew harmony was part of their dna. And they did it so well.

  • Franz Gruber

    Paul’s voice on Golden Slumbers is just astonishing.

  • Marc Lanthier

    Nice story. However, Abbey Road was never published in a gatefold packaging.

  • ummm
  • Marc Lanthier

    Recent reissue.

  • redhand126

    Why they were the best, truly amazing

  • redhand126

    Can hear some early Queen-like sounds in there.
    a little bit of track bleed as well.

  • tone

    Ah yes, the Abbey Road gatefold, I remember it as well as disc 2 of the Sgt Pepper’s double album and the bonus EP of all George songs when the Let It Be album was released. never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Still these boys could do no wrong. Superb

  • JEANETTE FALCONE COLLARETTI

    OUTSTANDING, WHAT ELSE CAN ONE SAY THEIR AMAZING!!!

  • just admit you were wrong

    Yeah, but you said “never.”

  • Murph
  • John Spidaliere

    Astonishing. This was the soundtrack of my youth. I wore out LP after LP of this album.

  • sjoe

    Is there a direct download?

  • Kevin J. O’Brien

    She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, was written about a groupie who broke into Paul’s house through the bathroom window.

  • Anne Onimos

    You can really hear the influence of Brian Wilson’s voice arrangements for The Beach Boys—particularly those from SMiLE, which the lads would have heard on acetate—in many of these parts.

  • Alice Enland

    Starr and Harrison were 2 of the luckiest people of the 20th century. They were merely journeyman quality musicians who were in the right place at the right time. Their major contribution to the Beatles was to keep out of the way.

  • http://about.me/jeffgates Jeff Gates

    Love.

  • jasonbentley

    Despair all the way to the bank.

  • Karen

    One of my favorite Beatles songs…although its really is so hard to pick one. I love them all!

  • sokolowmus

    surely you jest…George’s songs are some of the best Beatles songs (something, here comes the sun) plus post-beatles (all things must pass, isn’t it a pity)…and how many times in the studio during the 70s & 80s did I hear a producer tell a drummer “think like Ringo”..because he supported a singer and a song so well, & swung so hard w/out getting in the way

  • Jason Wright

    Oh well. It looks like the isolated tracks have been replaced with the regular medley. That’s a shame.

  • Penny Will White

    Don’t you dare diss my favorite Beatle, Ringo Starr … I loved his solo stuff …. especially the stuff he did with Harry Nilsson ..

  • le sigh
  • billiewillieme

    The voice of MY generation ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,peace

  • Robert Clark

    Brilliant recording and sound engineering with analog equipment .George Martin and the Beatles with each of their musician talents made a master piece that showed the end of their time together. They made musical instruments part of the songs first then the vocials.The best harmony of their careers. Compare the early Beatles to the last recordings it would have hard to reproduce live. It shows how great they were in the early years when they played live.

  • Judy Reach

    Wow besides the memories evoked from these blended voices it proves their musical and writing genius. I am just glad I was in the era when they emerged and blew music apart with their British tunes and tones. This Acapello rendition is sweeeeet!

  • Frank Elliott

    As a drummer, I never fully appreciated Ringo’s contributions until I was in a band that wrote its own songs — some of them pretty off-the-wall. Trying to figure out how to drum to these songs was the biggest challenge of my musical life. This is what Ringo faced as the Beatles repeatedly ventured into uncharted territory. Imagine having to come up with the drum part for “Fixing a Hole” or “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Ringo clearly was not technically a great drummer, but artistically, he’s at the top of my list.

  • jon

    tho alice is severely doing an injustice to the two , ringo and George did hit the lottery in a way(lol)…George is a great guitarist, part of the wit of the beatles, a great voice, his songwriting was late in blooming and he never really became a “great songwriter”…really more of a great musician with some great songs, but it was all a team effort, martin,emoerick too
    ringo is sorely underrated…a great great drummer, perfect for that band
    its doubtful we would have heard of George or ringo otherwise, but that’s what life is, making the most of ur chances…they did

  • stsk

    Well, John disagreed. In an interview I read years ago he opined that Ringo (and Charlie Watts) were both unfairly unappreciated for their talent. He called Ringo’s ability to keep a steady beat and solid foundation a rare trait that was much more important than he got credit for.

  • Marcus Scottus

    Wonderful. I managed to sync the two youtube streams so I could fade the finished version in and out. The second video is around nineteen seconds ahead of the first.

  • karenmendy

    Yeah, enjoy the fleeting riches today because your music will not stand the test of time and endure as Beatles music has.

  • Tone

    The Beatles had nailed three part harmonies many years before they had ever heard Brian Wilson doing Chuck Berry. If you’re looking for influences for The Beatles you’ll have to stay in the 50’s. Little Richard, Everlys, Buddy Holly, Perkins, Elvis etc, etc.

  • Tone

    You obviously know nothing of The Beatles. I suppose it’s a bit like people panning Dylan. With The Beatles and Dylan, you either get it or you don’t. No amount of explanation will do. With all due respect, you just don’t ‘get it’. The first ex- Beatle to have a number 1 single and number 1 album on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time was Harrison.

  • John Wilkins

    I think it’s when the piano is played at the same time as the vocals by Paul. Someone is using a tamborine in one of them.

  • David

    this is stupid thread and now i’m a part of it

  • Sam Wallace

    im taken with a feeling on sadness when i hear them nowadays,in many ways they represent the prime peak of western civalisation,and now we seem on this unstoppable slide,everything we held so dear is failing.nand just hearing the beatles makes me think of a time when it all seemed so posible.nnnmaybe its just nostalgia on my part,i hope so

  • beejeez

    Hell, they didn’t even take off until Ringo joined.

  • Tone

    Gatefold reissues weren’t around when “I had no inkling that this was their final recording together, that the band was about to come apart”.nUnless of course Eric Alper is twelve years old

  • PaulScott58

    Sam, I know what you mean, but I encourage you to fight back all the way to the end. The bad guys want you to give up. Don’t.nnnDo something every day to make the world a better place. Might be trite, but it works. The mark of a successful person is one who, after death, leaves a better world.

  • joemichaels

    Perhaps, Anne. But I doubt it. Seems The Beatles were doing interesting harmonies before the Beach Boys, me thinks.

  • dmpartners

    Sweet Beatles What a group

  • Stephan Gregor

    Here I am, all excited, and it’s blocked. Shoulda got here sooner, eh?

  • flash087

    Thanks Sony. Came back to listen to this and its blocked. That teaches me to download it if I like it. Doesnt pay to be honest. Everyone who likes the Beatles has the album. How much extra money does that put in their pockets?

  • Ivan Obregon

    EMI, like Capitol did to dylan a few years ago, is literally wiping away the brilliant legacy of visual video- tributes to the Beatles’ great music on youtube, as stupid and short-sighted a korporate decision as David Bowie’s refusal to let hip hop sample any of his songs to….future generations.

  • Linda

    When you hear any of the Beatles’ songs with either voice, or bass isolated for examples; you realize how much is going on in songs you really thought you knew inside out. Then you realize that once you hear a song without isolation, after hearing just the voices in that same song you’ll never not hear the magic. You can’t unknow something. There is no one who compares to The Beatles.

  • blanny

    Is that a female voice singing “love you” at the end?

  • Johannes

    I believe it’s simply Paul or John or George recorded at a slower speed, thus making it sound higher on playback.

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