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‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’: The Beatles’ final moment in the studio

The year is 1969, and the biggest band in the world is on the brink of breaking up. The once lucrative songwriting partnership between Paul McCartney and John Lennon seems broken beyond repair. The latter spends more time with Yoko Ono than he does with The Beatles. The death of Brian Epstein still looms. The end is nigh.

Despite their mounting internal issues, The Beatles would venture into the studio together one last time to complete their final album, the iconic Abbey Road. The record would spawn some all-time great Beatles tracks, including the thumping ‘Come Together’, the romantic ‘Something’, and the twangy ‘Here Comes the Sun’, but the Fab Four spent their final day mixing ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’.

Closing side one of the record, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ devolves from lazy twangs into a climax of noise. Condensing all of its lyrics into the softer first half of the song, the track eventually builds to a cacophonous wall of sound, particularly utilising the now-iconic Moog synth. Just as the harsh noise becomes bearable, the track is abruptly cut off, as if preempting their impending breakup.

If you’re listening to ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ as part of Abbey Road, the sudden end to the track becomes all the more jarring when ‘Here Comes the Sun’ kicks in. The soft opening plucks to the sunlit song couldn’t be much more dissimilar to the final moments of the preceding track. But despite the instrumental density of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, the accompanying lyrics to the track are fairly simplistic, a real distillation of longing.

Lennon takes up lead vocals, making repeated declarations of desire for the first half of the song. “I want you,” he sings, “I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad.” Throughout the sprawling songs, his lyrics don’t stray much further away from those words. His only diversion is to deliver the titular parentheses, “She’s so heavy.” Their simplicity only serves the weight of the song and the weight of his words, as desire overcomes him.

Perhaps fittingly for those who credit Yoko Ono with contributing to The Beatles’ break-up, their final track was inspired by the multimedia artist. “‘She’s So Heavy’ was about Yoko,” Lennon told Rolling Stone while discussing critiques of the lyrical simplicity, “… when you’re drowning you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”

‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ certainly emulated that scream in its final moments, as well as displaying Lennon’s unwavering desire to be with Yoko. Meanwhile, his desire to be with The Beatles was wavering. He would share those feelings with the band not long after the song was mixed, and McCartney would announce his own departure in 1970.

‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ would, consequently, mark their final time all in the studio together, but what a way to go out. The song was perfectly mixed, the culmination of a decade spent honing their craft. The heavy, intense track ensured that The Beatles went out with a bang.

Listen to ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ by The Beatles below.

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