It all came to an end with “The End,” the last real track on the Beatles’ final studio album Abbey Road.* Recorded in July and August of 1969, “The End” takes up the last 2 minutes and 20 seconds of the masterful 16-minute medley (listen here) that brings Abbey Road to a climax. And it features some of the last great “cosmic, philosophical lines” (as John Lennon later called them) the Beatles left us to ponder:
And in the end,
The love you take,
Is equal to the love you make.
The song also gave us something we weren’t accustomed to: all four Beatles performing a solo. Any ardent Beatles fan knows that Ringo Starr never liked drum solos. As Paul recalled years later, “[Ringo] hated drummers who did lengthy drum solos. We all did.” Despite this general view, McCartney thought a solo worked on this final track, and it took a fair amount of “gentle persuasion” before Starr relented and gave us the only drum solo performed on a Beatles album. You can hear it below.
The End has another signature moment — the moment when Paul, George and John sparred on lead guitars, playing solos in rapid succession, without missing a beat. As you’ll see in the annotated video above, Paul kicks things off with a solo that features some fancy string bends. George picks up with some melodic slides. And John takes over with his own distortion-filled solo. Around it goes three times, until we reach the end.
If you’re into Beatles guitar solos, make sure you don’t miss “Here Comes The Sun: The Lost Guitar Solo by George Harrison.” It’s delightful.
Note: When we call “The End” the last real track on Abbey Road, we’re discounting “Her Majesty,” the 23-second song that was tacked on as something of an afterthought. We call Abbey Road the last studio album because it was recorded after (though released before) Let It Be.