Musician Biographies » The Beatles » 1969-The Final Year - Inner Strife, Up On The Roof, The Last Waltz

1969-The Final Year - The Last Waltz

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Abbey Road, released on October 1, 1969, featured a sprinkling of everything in the Beatles’ arsenal: a sweet (and huge-selling) love song in George's “Something”; John's experimental “I Want You (She's So Heavy)”; the amazingly catchy “Here Comes the Sun”; and even a children's song by Ringo called “Octopus's Garden.” Most strikingly of all, the second side of the album contained a suite of songs, short pieces threaded together without gaps. It has a wonderful effect, and it culminates fittingly with “The End,” a song that features the only drum solo ever on a Beatles record, as well as some dueling guitar solos from John, George, and Paul. In all, the record was the perfect ending to their recording career. As George put it: “I didn't know at the time that it was the last Beatle record that we would make, but it felt as if we were reaching the end of the line.”

Abbey Road sold five million copies in the United States alone, two million more than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Among the many reasons for the huge success of the final Beatles album was a series of rumors about Paul McCartney being dead. Obsessive fans had claimed they'd found secrets hidden in Beatle lyrics that made reference to Paul having been dead since the time of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Some of these fans resorted to playing the records backwards, where they claimed they could hear the secret messages. One of the most famous “clues” came right off of the Abbey Road album cover: a car on the street the Beatles are crossing bears the license plate “28 IF.” Fans claimed this was deliberate and meant that Paul would have been twenty-eight years old if he had lived. Of course, none of it was true—Paul was alive and well. “Paul McCartney couldn't die without the world knowing it. It's impossible—he can't go on holiday without the world knowing it. It's just insanity—but it's a great plug for Abbey Road,” John said later.

Once the Abbey Road recordings were done, John felt he had reached the end of his creative and personal rope with the band, and made it clear to the other Beatles that he wanted a “divorce.” He was becoming much more interested in other projects and had formed a side group called the Plastic Ono Band, which featured Yoko Ono. He played a concert with them in Toronto, which was captured on the live album Live Peace in Toronto. The other Beatles encouraged John not to publicly share his feelings about breaking up the Beatles, for the time being. Even though John expressed a desire to break up the band, he did leave the door open for future collaborations with them. On August 22, 1969, the Beatles all gathered at John's house for what turned out to be the last photographs ever taken of them as a group.

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