George Harrison Breaks Down Abbey Road Track-By-Track on the Day of Its Release (September 26, 1969)

By the time the Bea­t­les fin­ished The White Album, it seemed they might not ever make anoth­er record togeth­er. “The group was dis­in­te­grat­ing before my eyes,” record­ing engi­neer Geoff Emer­ick remem­bers. “It was ugly, like watch­ing a divorce between four peo­ple. After a while, I had to get out.” Emer­ick left, but thank­ful­ly the band hung in a while longer and man­aged to patch things up in the stu­dio to make their final record.

When they called Emer­ick to work on Abbey Road, they promised to get along for what would turn out to be their last album. (Emer­ick points out that on the cov­er they’re walk­ing away from Abbey Road stu­dios.) Not only did they man­age to avoid per­son­al con­flict, but more impor­tant­ly “the musi­cal telepa­thy between them was mind-bog­gling.” As if to seal the moment of accord for­ev­er, they end­ed the album, and the Bea­t­les, with a med­ley.

Abbey Road shows every mem­ber of the band ris­ing to their full song­writ­ing poten­tial, espe­cial­ly George Har­ri­son, who ful­ly came into his own with “Some­thing,” a song every­one knew would be “an instant clas­sic.” Har­ri­son became more con­fi­dent and talk­a­tive in inter­views, sit­ting down on the day of Abbey Road’s release with Aus­tralian music writer and John Lennon friend Ritchie York to offer his impres­sions of each track.

In the enhanced audio inter­view above, Har­ri­son briefly com­ments, track-by-track, on what he thinks of each song and the album as a whole. What is per­haps most inter­est­ing, giv­en Emer­ick­’s com­ment about “musi­cal telepa­thy,” is how the music seems to come from some­where else, a kind of intu­ition or chan­nel­ing that tran­scends the indi­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties of each Bea­t­le.

Take Ringo’s “Octopus’s Gar­den,” a song Har­ri­son loves. “On the sur­face,” he says, “it’s just — it’s like a daft kids’ song. But the lyrics are great, real­ly. For me, y’know, I find very deep mean­ing in the lyrics, which Ringo prob­a­bly does­n’t see, but all the things like… ‘We’ll be warm beneath the storm.’… Which is real­ly great, y’know, because it’s like this lev­el is a storm, and it’s always — y’know, if you get sort of deep in your con­scious­ness, it’s very peace­ful. So Ringo’s writ­ing his cos­mic songs with­out notic­ing!”

The genius of Lennon, says Har­ri­son, comes through par­tic­u­lar­ly in his tim­ing, “but when you ques­tion him as to what it is, he doesn’t know. He just does it nat­u­ral­ly.” As for the album as a whole, Har­ri­son says, “it all gels, it fits togeth­er and that, but… it’s a bit like it’s some­body else, y’know?.… It does­n’t feel as though it’s us.… It’s more like just some­body else.”

Har­ri­son does­n’t say much about the record­ing process, but he does talk about the song­writ­ing and influ­ences on the album. When he wrote “Some­thing,” he says, he imag­ined “some­body like Ray Charles doing it.” He calls Paul’s “Maxwell’s Sil­ver Ham­mer,” which Lennon hat­ed, an “instant sort of whis­tle-along tune” that peo­ple will either love or hate.

The con­ver­sa­tion even­tu­al­ly moves to Har­rison’s feel­ings about The White Album and oth­er top­ics. Where he real­ly opens up is near the end when the sub­ject of India comes up. We see him walk­ing away from Abbey Road on his own path. When York asks him about “the Indi­an scene,” Har­ri­son replies, “I dun­no, it’s like it’s kar­ma, my kar­ma.… I’m just pre­tend­ing to be, y’know, a Bea­t­le. Where­as there’s a greater job to be done.”

Hear the inter­view in full above and read a tran­script here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Har­ri­son “My Sweet Lord” Gets an Offi­cial Music Video, Fea­tur­ing Ringo Starr, Al Yankovic, Pat­ton Oswalt & Many Oth­ers

Watch George Harrison’s Final Inter­view and Per­for­mance (1997)

Watch Pre­cious­ly Rare Footage of Paul McCart­ney Record­ing “Black­bird” at Abbey Road Stu­dios (1968)

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

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Comments (5)
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  • Jimmy Kita says:

    Abby Road to me is such a time­less cre­ative dec­la­ra­tion of love and joy.

  • Scott Stewart says:

    Side 2 of Abby Road is magic.I still get chills, my heart races, and there’s no way for me to sit still. The best rock and roll ever record­ed

  • James Bernard Horan says:

    Frank Sina­tra said “Some­thing” was the best love song that was ever writ­ten.

  • Chrissy Comey says:

    I still think its fun­ny they filmed that part here in our Cincin­nati and cleared a Clifton street. I was a well behaved 5 year old one year old🙃. Ben and I for­ev­er now, yay! We have to stop these mob lies over this doc­u­men­tary over John and Yoko and May! I can­not believe they are hurt­ing us with more mali­cious lies!When will the mob stop their lies! John was a peace­ful and sweet and lov­ing man and nev­er hurt any­one! Chris­sy Comey

  • Chrissy Comey says:

    I just can­not believe all the ter­ri­ble lies and slan­der Amer­i­cans, etc were say­ing about our fam­i­ly! THE SLANDER WAS MURDEREROUS AMERICA, ETC!!!!!! John was a won­der­ful father and broth­er and always indus­tri­ous and lov­ing as i said. The doc­u­men­tary arti­cle respons­es were pro­found­ly mean and total­ly ridicu­lous slan­der! First I have to cor­rect a local high-school one our chil­dren attend­ed. The text­book actu­al­ly said John was a drug user and he was only assault­ed is a fact! After all the pain our fam­i­ly endured over mob abus­es, this doc­u­men­tary is EVIL! NO FOLKS, THE DOCUMENTARY IS FILLED WITH OUTRAGEOUS LIES!!!!!!! May is an adopt­ed mem­ber of the fam­i­ly and mar­ried to Yoko s nephew! John Lennon was kind and ten­der and God­ly! He tried to tell peo­ple about God and He would­n’t give him music if he was a bad per­son. GOD ALWAYS GAVE HIM MUSIC!!!! If he was alive today all the slan­der would make him cry! Chris­sy Comey

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