- Published on 1969
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 15 on “Abbey Road“
JOHN 1980: “That’s Paul. Apparently he was under strain at that period.”
PAUL circa-1994: “I’m generally quite upbeat, but at certain times things get to me so much that I just can’t be upbeat anymore and that was one of those times. ‘Carry that weight a long time’– like forever! That’s what I meant… in this heaviness there was no place to be. It was serious, paranoid heaviness and it was just very uncomfortable.”
About “Carry That Weight”
“Carry That Weight” is a significant track from the Beatles’ renowned 1969 album, Abbey Road. Penned by Paul McCartney and attributed to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, it stands as the penultimate song in the album’s climactic side-two medley. Notably, it features rare unison vocals from all four Beatles during the chorus. The song seamlessly follows “Golden Slumbers” and smoothly transitions into “The End.”
Within the composition, a middle bridge showcases a dynamic interplay of brass instruments, electric guitar, and vocals, echoing the outset of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” albeit with altered lyrics. The conclusion also revisits the distinctive arpeggiated guitar motif from the finale of that earlier track.
In terms of interpretation, music critic Ian MacDonald saw the lyrics as a poignant acknowledgment by the group that their individual pursuits could never equal the collective heights they achieved together. They would forever carry the weight of their shared Beatles legacy. McCartney himself revealed that the song encapsulated the Beatles’ struggles in the business realm and encapsulated the atmosphere at Apple during that period. In the documentary “Imagine: John Lennon,” Lennon affirmed that McCartney was “singing about all of us.”
The genesis of “Carry That Weight” can be traced back to McCartney’s introduction of the song during the Twickenham Studios sessions. On January 6, 1969, McCartney initially envisioned it as a light-hearted piece for Ringo to sing, drawing inspiration from “Act Naturally,” a track Ringo had previously performed on the Help! album in the UK and Yesterday and Today in the USA.
Recording commenced with the integrated piece “Golden Slumbers“/”Carry That Weight” on July 2, 1969. During this session, McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr laid down 15 takes of the two songs while John Lennon was recuperating in a Scottish hospital following a car accident.
The rhythm section featured McCartney on piano, Harrison on bass guitar, and Starr on drums. Takes 13 and 15 were deemed the strongest and were seamlessly combined on July 3. Over the following days, McCartney added his lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Harrison contributed lead guitar, and all three delivered the chorus vocals.
Additional vocal layers, including Lennon’s, were incorporated on July 30, after Lennon rejoined the sessions on July 9. On July 31, more vocals, timpani, and drums were overdubbed. The orchestral section, which involved a total of 30 musicians, was recorded on August 15, adding a lush and grandiose dimension to the track.
Meaning of “Carry That Weight”
“Carry That Weight” carries multiple layers of meaning. The lyrics, written by Paul McCartney are open to interpretation, but a few key themes emerge:
The repeated line “Carry that weight a long time” suggests a sense of shared responsibility or burdens that individuals must carry together. This can be seen as a metaphor for the challenges and responsibilities that people face collectively in life. The phrase “Carry That Weight” implies that the weight being carried is not a fleeting or temporary burden, but something that requires long-term endurance and perseverance. This may resonate with individuals facing long-lasting challenges or responsibilities.
The song may also convey a message of interconnectedness and the importance of supporting one another. In a group or community, individuals often rely on each other to navigate difficulties, reinforcing the idea that burdens are not meant to be shouldered alone.
Beyond the literal interpretation, listeners may find personal meaning in the lyrics. The idea of carrying a weight can be metaphorically applied to challenges, responsibilities, or emotional burdens that individuals face in their own lives.
Ultimately, the meaning of “Carry That Weight” is subject to individual interpretation, and listeners may find resonance with different aspects of the song based on their own experiences and perspectives. The song’s enduring popularity and universal themes have contributed to its status as a beloved and thought-provoking piece of music.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, piano, rhythm guitar, chorus vocal
- John Lennon – chorus vocal
- George Harrison – 6-string bass guitar, lead guitar, chorus vocal
- Ringo Starr – drums, chorus vocal, timpani
- Uncredited – twelve violins, four violas, four cellos, double bass, four horns, three trumpets, trombone, bass trombone
- George Martin – orchestral arrangement
How to play “Carry That Weight” on piano
In “Carry That Weight”, Paul McCartney plays a lively piano part that provides a melodic and rhythmic foundation for the song and serves as a key element in the arrangement, along with other instruments like drums, bass, and vocal harmonies. The piano part contributes to the song’s overall energetic and uplifting feel, and it plays a significant role in the arrangement of the track.
The following video features a tutorial on how to play the piano part of “Carry That Weight”:
How to play “Carry That Weight” on bass
In “Carry That Weight” the bass guitar (6-string) is played by George Harrison and provides a solid foundation for the rest of the instruments. The bassline follows the chord progressions and complements the piano, drums, and vocals, contributing to the overall rhythm and groove of the track. The bass in “Carry That Weight” adds depth and richness to the song’s arrangement, playing a crucial role in creating the distinctive sound of the track.
In the following video you can learn how to play Harrison’s bassline of “Carry That Weight”: