It’s as if one James Paul McCartney had a crystal ball on this Monday morning, fully aware of the serious depth of frustration these Jan. 6 sessions would ultimately become in the ensuing hours with their iconic struggles with “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Two of Us.”
So in serving as rough bookends to what was, well, a rough day of rehearsals, it’s easy to read even more into “Carry That Weight” than Paul ultimately disclosed. While not a complete template to the eventual cut on Abbey Road — it’s in standalone form, not attached to “Golden Slumbers” yet — its introduction informs just why the song is as much a Ringo song than anyone’s. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t originally expecting this to be a post that much about Ringo.
On Abbey Road, the track is listed at a mere 1:37, much of that a reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money” and the only real, tangible identification of the song as its own independent work of art is repeat of the dozen words in the chorus — “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time”
As Paul tells Barry Miles in “Many Years From Now”:
We were taking so much acid and doing so much drugs and all this [Allen] Klein shit was going on and getting crazier and crazier and crazier. Carry that weight a long time: like for ever! That’s what I meant.
‘Heavy’ was a very operative word at the time — ‘Heavy, man’ — but now it actually felt heavy. That’s what ‘Carry That Weight’ was about: not the light, rather easy-going heaviness, albeit witty and sometimes cruel, but with an edge you could exist within and which always had a place for you to be. It was serious, paranoid heaviness and it was just very uncomfortable.
Talk about heavy — that’s some pretty heavy analysis for a minute-or-so chant, no?
On this day, just under 40 minutes into the Jan. 6 tapes and before they do any heavy lifting, we learn it’s no mere chant. At least for this, the song’s debut, which comes mere moments after George’s futile introduction of “Hear Me Lord.”
“I have a bit there which might interest you,” Paul said. “I was thinking for a song for Ringo.”
And off he goes, solo organ accompaniment to the familiar chorus we would all know from Abbey Road, sung alone. He implores the rest of the gang to sing along, which they do less than enthusiastically.
After the full-group singalong, the “Carry That Weight” we ultimately would know and love for so long delivers something unexpected: a verse.
When I’ve been told the first time that I’d seen that wasn’t done, but I can’t get over the way he treat me wrong.
I guess that could be about dealings at Apple. Or it could just be generic filler lyric Paul’s so good at creating.
Another verse, mainly actual gibberish, spilled into a brief description of chords. Things broke up with John and Yoko’s arrival moments later. As the couple discuss “that diary” with George, Ringo hits the ivories and introduces a bit of “Octopus’ Garden,” before Paul steers it back into “Carry That Weight.” Ringo sings enthusiastically.
Unintelligible chatter makes way to another revelation.
That bit, I was trying to do, like, a country song.
So Paul writing something — even just a “bit” for Ringo — makes perfect sense, with country songs obviously in his wheelhouse. That Paul’s looking to write something for Ringo also speaks of his confidence in the future of songs like “Taking a Trip to Carolina” and “Picasso” (“Octopus’ Garden,” too).
There’s another verse, but nothing that’s particularly understandable. Country-ish, in the way Paul writes country.
Paul suggests perhaps Ringo sings the chorus alone — or maybe it’s everyone.
With that, and an alternate take of the chorus — “Boy, you’re going to open that gate,” suggested by George, and in what sounds like something inspired by something that just happened in the studio — the group moved on to some instrumentals and improvisational songs before they later fell into “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Two of Us” and other works-in-progress.
And with Paul proposing “Carry That Weight” could have been a song to be sung by the drummer from the start, we have an answer to the question (that I always wondered) of why Ringo is just so wonderfully prominent on Abbey Road’s recorded version.
Having carried the weight of keeping a semblance of cohesion of the group, the sessions and a very long day, Paul sounds slap-happy in singing the chorus to “Carry That Weight” on his way out of the studio at the conclusion of the Jan. 6 rehearsals, completing the other half of the bookend.