Day 88: “Her Majesty”

When was it recorded?   Jul. 2, 1969

When was it first released, and on which album?   Sept. 26, 1969 on “Abbey Road”

Who wrote it?   McCartney

Have I heard this song before?   Yes

What my research dug up:

Brace yourselves – “Her Majesty” is a whopping 23 seconds long. As such, it’s the shortest Beatles song.

Quoth Paul, “It was quite funny because it’s basically monarchist, with a mildly disrespectful tone, but it’s very tongue in cheek. It’s almost like a love song to the Queen” (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now). According to Alan Pollack, “[Mark] Lewisohn’s characterization of Paul arriving early at the studio on July 2, 1969 to quickly get this song down on tape before the others arrived implies that the song was hot off the composer’s pen that very morning. However, an outtake of ‘Her Majesty’ from the 1/24/69 ‘Get Back’ sessions at Apple shows the song was already quite worked out well in advance.” The “Get Back” version of “Her Majesty” clocks in around two minutes long and can be heard here.

“Her Majesty” features only lead vocals from Paul and his acoustic guitar. It does have the interesting effect of panning from hard right to hard left over the course of the song.

Paul recorded three takes of the song on Jul. 2 before the band began work on “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight.” Paul originally intended for the number to appear between John’s “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam.” On Jul. 30, however, while listening to a rough edit of the album’s songs, Paul decided his tune didn’t fit and asked sound engineer/tape operator John Kurlander to cut “Her Majesty” and destroy the tape.

“We did all the remixes and crossfades to overlap the songs, Paul was there, and we heard it together for the first time. He said, ‘I don’t like “Her Majesty,” throw it away,’ so I cut it out – but I accidentally left in the last note. He said, ‘It’s only a rough mix, it doesn’t matter…’ I said to Paul, ‘What shall I do with it?’ ‘Throw it away,’ he replied. I’d been told [by EMI] never to throw anything away, so after he left I picked it up off the floor, put about 20 seconds of red leader tape before it and stuck it onto the end of the edit tape.” — John Kurlander (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)

Kurlander’s edit of “Her Majesty” begins with the clipped final guitar chord from “Mean Mr. Mustard” and in turn is missing its own final chord, which can be heard at the start of “Polythene Pam.” Quoth Wikipedia, “Consequently, both of the original sides of vinyl close with a song that ends abruptly (the other being ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’).”

The next day, another test version of the album was made with Kurlander’s edit left on the end. Hearing the “surprise effect,” Paul approved of the song’s new inclusion.

The sleeves for “Abbey Road” were printed before “Her Majesty” was re-included, so the track is unlisted. Quoth Wikipedia, “As such, it is considered one of the first examples of a hidden track in rock music.”

The placement of the track has garnered “Her Majesty” more acclaim than the actual song has received. Reviewer Richie Unterberger wrote, “On its own, it would have been judged as one of the group’s least substantial tracks, though it had a throwaway charm. In its context, however, it was very effective and memorable.” Pollack agreed, adding, “In contrast to ‘The End,’ ‘Her Majesty’ it provides sufficient comic relief to those for whom the previous track is too [somber] or stuffy, without ruining or even diluting that same track’s lush sentiment for those who like it just the way it is.”

Chopped and changed as it was, the Beatles Bible points out how easily “Her Majesty” can be reinserted between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” to hear the original effect. I know I haven’t discussed either of those songs yet, but I think discussing the context of this song is more important, so ta-dah.



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