"It was a very happy record," said producer George Martin, describing this album in The Beatles Anthology. "I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last." Indeed, Abbey Road -- recorded in two months during the summer of 1969 -- almost never got made at all. That January, the Beatles were on the verge of breakup, exhausted and angry with one another after the disastrous sessions for the aborted Get Back LP, later salvaged as Let It Be [see No. 86]. Yet determined to go out with the same glory with which they had first entranced the world at the start of the decade, the group reconvened at EMI's Abbey Road Studios to make their most polished album: a collection of superb songs cut with an attention to refined detail, then segued together (especially on Side Two) with conceptual force. There was no thematic link, other than the Beatles' unique genius. John Lennon veered from the stormy metal of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" to the exquisite vocal sunrise of "Because." Paul McCartney was saucy ("Oh! Darling"), silly ("Maxwell's Silver Hammer") and deliciously bitter ("You Never Give Me Your Money"). George Harrison proved his long-secret worth as a composer with "Something" (later covered by Frank Sinatra) and the folk-pop diamond "Here Comes the Sun," written in his friend Eric Clapton's garden after a grim round of business meetings. And Lennon, McCartney and Harrison reputedly sang more three-part harmony here than on any other Beatles album. Let It Be was the group's final release, but this album was their real goodbye: The completion of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" on August 20th marked the last time all four members were together in the studio they had made famous.
Total album sales: 12 million
Peak chart position: 1