By 1969, The Beatles were the biggest rock stars in the world. In just shy of eight years, this foursome created 13 classic albums and plenty of singles on the side. Abbey Road, their final masterpiece recorded as a group, arrived on this day (Sept. 26) in 1969.
Paste named Abbey Road the second best album of 1969 in our list of the best records from that year. Here’s why, as Bonnie Stiernberg writes:
It’s the last thing the Fab Four ever recorded (though Let It Be would be released after the fact), but listen to Abbey Road and there isn’t the slightest sonic indication that you’re hearing The Beatles falling apart at the seams. Despite whatever band turmoil was going on during the recording sessions, it’s arguably their most balanced record, with Lennon and McCartney each contributing songs in their distinct styles and George Harrison penning two of his finest tracks (“Here Comes The Sun” and the brilliant “Something”). Even Ringo has his moment in the sun with “Octopus’ Garden” and contributes his only drum solo in the group’s history on “The End.” It’s packed to the gills with classic tracks like “Come Together” and “Oh! Darling,” but there’s a wonderful cohesiveness to Abbey Road—it feels like a unit rather than merely a collection of strong tracks. Exhibit A: side two’s epic, 16-minute medley, which blends together song fragments to create an album kicker greater than the sum of its parts.
Indeed, Abbey Road contains that healthy mix of undeniable classics and lesser-known perfections, “Here Comes The Sun,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “The End,” among them. To celebrate this iconic anniversary, we’re sharing Paste vault recordings of Fab Four members singing Abbey Road classics through the ages.
Listen to John Lennon perform “Come Together” at Madison Square Garden in 1972 and Paul McCartney perform “Golden Slumbers” in 1990, both below.
Read: The 30 Best Albums of 1969