Abbey Road will always have a sad note attached to it for fans of The Beatles. Though largely regarded as some of their best work, it is the last record the Fab Four would ever produce. For that reason, it hasn’t often been played live.
It makes the moment Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins and a host of other musicians with George Martin conducting, performing an excerpt from the ‘Abbey Road Medley’ that finished the record even more special. Taking ‘Golden Slumbers’, ‘Carry That Weight’, and ‘The End’ to a whole new unheard level.
The moment came in September 1997 as some of the giants of rock came to London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in order to raise money for Montserrat. The small Caribbean island had been dealing with an unprecedented volcanic eruption and the country was on its knees.
The Beatles former manager George Martin, often regarded as The Fifth Beatle, organised the event and invited some ludicrously big names in the music industry. As well as Sting, Elton John, Jimmy Buffet, and Carl Perkins (the singer appearing just four months before his death), the show’s finale saw an all-star cast take on some of The Beatles notable hits accompanied by Paul McCartney.
McCartney had arrived on stage with a truly awe-inspiring band already in attendance. As well as the aforementioned guests making appearances throughout the set, the group consisted of Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins adding rhythm on drums and the guitar god himself, Eric Clapton adding world-shaking licks. McCartney provided the audience with a fine performance that not only highlighted his star power but his professionalism.
At the time of the show, McCartney’s wife, Linda, was in the final stages of her heartbreaking battle with breast cancer. Paul had devoted his life to her care by this time and his focus remained trained on his wife’s wellbeing at all times. Yet, McCartney decided that cause was too large to ignore.
As such, the singer arrived at The Royal Albert Hall with a humble smile and put on a performance that would outshine most singers on their best day. With Clapton on guitar having just sung ‘Same Old Blues’, McCartney took to the stage and begun with his heart-wrenching classic, ‘Yesterday’. Following that number, he gave the fans one of the only live performances of the ‘Abbey Road Medley’ they would ever see from a Beatle.
It’s a rousing performance that not only sees the individual artists showing the musical prowess—Phil Collins, in particular, is a percussion powerhouse—but showed McCartney as the caring and nurturing artist he is. Guiding his all-star band through the songs with subtle expressions and knowing nods, McCartney finishes the show with ‘Hey Jude’ (with Elton John) and ‘Kansas City’ to rapturous applause.
Watch below as Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Phil Collins perform ‘Abbey Road’ medley in 1997.