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Guess what the original name of the album was supposed to be - Everest. As in Mt. Everest. They were supposed to fly to Nepal and have their photo taken there. "So Ringo said, 'Why don't we just shoot the cover outside and call it Abbey Road?' Like many a Ringo suggestion, it won out."
Rather than go to
all the trouble, they just decided to go outside, have their photo taken in the street, and call it Abbey Road.
During the recording of what was to be their swan song, The Beatles toyed with several titles, and Everest, a reference to the brand of cigarettes their chief engineer, Geoff Emerick, smoked, was the favorite.
"Oh, it was a nightmare. I was becoming physically sick just thinking of going to the studio each night. I used to love working with the band. By that point, I dreaded it. Getting out was the only thing I could do."
A year later, however, he was drawn back to work with Martin and The Beatles with the promise that the band would be on their best behavior. Emerick missed a few sessions for the album that would eventually rename EMI Studios, but in the end, he says, "I'm glad I came back for the final bow. To have missed being a part of the Abbey Road album, I'd still be kicking myself."
"After Let It Be, which I understand was not very pleasant for anybody, Paul was very keen to make a record the way the band used to. He wanted George Martin and I behind the console and everybody working together. He said things would be better than what they had been."
Did you take Paul at his word, that there would be a spirit of harmony?
"Yes, I did take him at his word. And John said the same thing to George Martin. In the back of my head I might have had some reservations, like, 'Well, we'll see…' But I was surprised and pleased at how everybody got along."
Did you have any idea while you were cutting Abbey Road that it would be The Beatles' last album? Was anything said to that effect?
"I didn't think it would be the last one. And nothing was said to indicate that, at least not to me. As far as I understood it, we'd be working on another record in the new studio I was building at Apple. The band was getting along better. The mood wasn't bubbly and fun all the time, but it was a hell of a lot better than during the previous year.
"The only hint they gave me or anybody was on the album cover, where they're walking across the street. For people who don't know the geography, they're actually walking away from the EMI Studios - or Abbey Road, as everybody knows it now. This was intentional on their part - they didn't want to be seen as walking toward the studio. When I saw that photo, I did think to myself, 'They're sending a message.'
"By that time, they'd been literally incarcerated at EMI. They grew to truly hate the place. It certainly wasn't the most luxurious studio in the world. It was cold and quite uncomfortable, and EMI was always quite slow to embrace new technologies - we were the last to get four-track and eight-track recording decks. In fact, Abbey Road was the first album where I got to use an eight-track console."
I'm curious: The Beatles were the biggest band in the world - still are, really. Couldn't they have told EMI, "We want a better consoles, better accommodations"?
"No, it was against the rules at EMI. I remember at one point they wanted some covered lights in Studio Two, a bit of mood lighting, and the word they got back was 'We can't do that sort of thing.' So the band ended up setting up their own little area in Studio Two, with little lamps of their own and things to make it more homey."
"You could really see the joy in their faces as they played; it was like they were teenagers again. One take was all we needed. The musical telepathy between them was mind-boggling."
The question, though, is who would want to buy Abbey Road? It's no secret that competition for studio bookings is now fierce - let's not forget that it's now possible to make a decent-sounding record in your bedroom with Garage Band etc - so making money from the studio could be difficult.
Let it be.