Because - The last stand-alone song on the album is this beautiful composition by Lennon. He continues to simplify his lyrics here, yet still manages to throw in some subtle wordplay. The backing track features Paul on bass, John on guitar and Martin on electric harpsichord. Harrison overdubbed his Moog synthesizer part days later. Of course, the highlight of the piece is the vocal harmonies of John, Paul and George, scored by Martin and recorded three times over to give the effect of nine voices. On Anthology 3, the instrumentation is deleted, leaving only the voices for your maximum enjoyment. Though this song is not part of the medley which follows, the way the final note hangs in the air somehow manages to link it up perfectly.
You Never Give Me Your Money - Partly inspired by an earlier work of his songwriting partner and by such compositions as The Who's A Quick One While He's Away, and encouraged by Martin, who urged him to "think symphonically," McCartney conceived of a medley made up of several unrelated (and sometimes, unfinished) songs, running almost the entire length of an album side. Like Lennon's Happiness is a Warm Gun, this opening number is practically a medley in and of itself. A somber piano leads into the first two verses with lyrics based on the ongoing business woes at Apple. The song then shifts gears into various sections featuring a rollicking piano, a chiming guitar, rich wordless vocal harmonies, more layers of guitar and one final rocking sequence before settling into the "all good children go to heaven" chant for the fadeout. The segue into the next number proved problematic. At one point, it was simply an organ note, until Paul came in with tape loops of several sound effects including crickets and bells.
Sun King - Lennon initially expressed disinterest in the medley until he was asked if he had any song snippets that he wished to contribute. He came up with three. The basic tracks of Sun King and Mean Mr. Mustard were recorded as one continuous piece. The night sounds of the segue blend right into Ringo's cymbal and the hushed opening segment of this unusual composition. All instruments come to a stop as vocal harmonies almost as lush as those in Because enter. After a few simple and beautiful verses, the lyrics suddenly veer into the absurd for no apparent reason.
Mean Mr. Mustard - Lennon wrote this composition in India and recorded a demo at George's house in Esher in May of 1968 before the "White Album" sessions. The demo is available on Anthology 3. Note that the title character's sister was named Shirley, not Pam, at that time. This brief number segues right into the next in the medley, but the recording actually came to a full stop. The final chord is heard much later on the album.
Polythene Pam - Another Lennon number written in India and recorded as a demo at Esher in May of '68 with slightly different lyrics, and also available on Anthology 3. For the medley, this song and She Came in Through the Bathroom Window were recorded as one. John thrashes at his guitar before each verse, and uses his best Scouse accent for the vocal. A brief guitar solo after the verses is followed by a series of descending chords leading straight into the next song.
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window - The rest of the album is all McCartney songs beginning with this rocker. On Anthology 3, you can hear the group rehearsing the song at the Get Back sessions in January with Billy Preston. Interestingly, the tempo was slow and bluesy at that time. The released version is brisk and features those great Beatlesque backing harmonies. At the conclusion of this number, the medley comes to a full stop before continuing.
Golden Slumbers - McCartney discovered a song based on a 400-year-old poem by Thomas Dekker in a book at his father's house, added a verse and wrote his own music for it to create this wistful, nostalgic number. This was recorded together with Carry That Weight as one continuous piece in Lennon's absence. For the basic track, Paul is on piano, George on bass and Ringo on drums. Martin later wrote the orchestration which figures in both sections.
Carry That Weight - This is the song that ties the medley together by using a third verse of You Never Give Me Your Money and a recapitulation of the closing theme from that earlier number. The refrain features all four Beatles singing the eerily-prescient line "you're gonna carry that weight a long time." They would all spend the next decade trying to escape the group image, but ultimately, each would learn to come to terms with their unparalleled legacy. The end of this recording was cut off abruptly to accommodate a segue to a yet-to-be-determined closing number.
The End - McCartney found a way to encapsulate the group's career in this aptly titled number. A hard-rocking intro leads straight into Ringo's brief, but characteristic drum solo, then another brief section (Love, yeah) sets up the famous guitar duel. Paul, George and John take turns playing a few bars three times each, displaying their various personal styles in the process. According to engineer Geoff Emerick in his book Here, There and Everywhere, they nailed it in one take and shared one final great moment of camaraderie. A solo piano takes over for a moment before the ultimate couplet "And, in the end..." sung in Beatlesque harmony builds up to a grand finale with full orchestra behind them.
Her Majesty - The shortest song requires a lengthy explanation. McCartney quickly recorded this little ditty with his acoustic guitar one day before the others arrived. It was originally inserted into the medley between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam, but after hearing it there, Paul asked for it to be cut out and discarded. In The Beatles: Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn relates that engineer John Kurlander was told to never throw anything away, and so, he spliced it onto the end of the medley with a long piece of leader tape. It startled the group at the next listening, but Paul loved it and decided to leave it in as a sort of bonus track, only requesting that the final chord be cut off. The crashing chord at its top is actually the last chord of Mean Mr. Mustard.
The album was released on September 26th in the UK and October 1st in the US, and was immediately hailed as their latest masterpiece. Unbeknownst to the public at large, Lennon announced to the group around this time that he was quitting. The facade would be maintained for another six months.