Geoff Emerick, in Here, There and Everywhere, calls today “the high point of the summer of 1969.” He is referring not to the early session (2:30–6 P.M.), which was just a mixing session for “Come Together,” but the later one, which was dedicated to filling in the empty bars after Ringo’s drum solo in “The End.”

Paul had left them bare in a spirit of “we’ll think of something eventually,” just as we had done with the middle section of “A Day in the Life” – there was a long discussion about what to add on top to flesh it out.

“Well, a guitar solo is the obvious thing,” said George Harrison.

“Yes, but this time you should let me play it,” said John jokingly. He loved playing lead guitar – he’d often mess about doing lead parts during rehearsals – but he knew that he didn’t have the finesse of either George or Paul, so he rarely did so on record. Everyone laughed, including John, but we could see that he was at least half-serious.

“I know!” he said mischievously, unwilling to let it go. “Why don’t we all play the solo?”

This would have been a good time for someone to bust out the old “That’s so crazy it just might work!” But Emerick says that Paul’s response was, “Better yet, why don’t all three of us play it live?”

And so the three of them went off to listen to the backing track and plot how they would each approach the song. I’m going to again quote Emerick at length here, because this was a Moment, and he captures it well. A big tip of the hat to the late Mr. Emerick, who served ably and long. Soon the Abbey Road sessions will be over and he will exit our story stage left.

Paul announced that he wanted to take the first solo, and since it was his song, the others deferred. Ever competitive, John said that he had a great idea for an ending, so he was going to go last. As always, poor George Harrison was overshadowed by his two bandmates and got the middle spot by default.

Yoko, as usual, was sitting by John’s side in the control room while they were having this discussion, but as Lennon got up to walk out into the studio, he turned to her and said gently, “Wait here, luv; I won’t be a minute.” She looked a little shocked and hurt, but she did as John asked, sitting quietly by the control room window for the remainder of the session….

Maybe that was the reason, or perhaps it was because on some subconscious level they had decided to suspend their egos for the sake of the music, but for the hour or so that it took them to play those solos, all the bad blood, all the fighting, all the crap that had gone down between the three former friends was forgotten. John, Paul, and George looked like they had gone back in time, like they were kids again, playing together for the sheer enjoyment of it. More than anything, they reminded me of gunslingers, with their guitars strapped on, looks of steely-eyed resolve, determined to outdo one another. Yet there was no animosity, no tension at all – you could tell that they were simply having fun….

Incredibly, after just a brief period of rehearsal, they nailed it in a single take.

Despite the fact that there was only one take, an alternate version appeared on Anthology 3. According to the liner notes,

The version presented here is a new remix… embracing numerous elements omitted during the final mix sessions for Abbey Road. In particular, there is considerable [sic] more guitar, and a further appreciation of the “sparring” section can be gained – from 19 until 55 seconds in, Paul, George, and John, in that order, take turns to play two-bars (about four seconds) of the guitar solo.

You’ll notice that a bit of the Final Chord from “A Day in the Life” was dropped in at the end there, by way of marking the end of the six-disc Anthology series, of which “The End” is also… um… the end. Yeah.

There’s never a bad time for another spin through the album version (though it sounds better in context). My favorite part: the moment at the end, right before the words “you make,” where the drums kick in just a quarter-second before the vocals. That gives me chills every time for some reason.

So, in the end, is the love you take really equal to the love you make? This has never been scientifically established, and in my personal observation, there are net makers and net takers. But maybe the system as a whole ultimately balances out. In any case it’s a nice thought, and it rhymes. Lennon called it “a very cosmic, philosophical line. Which again proves that if [Paul] wants to, he can think.”

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