"Carry That Weight" is no exception, even if it feels like more of a bridge-the-gap kind of song than any other in the B-side medley, taking us as naturally as it does from the teary pathos of "Golden Slumbers" to the brave face/psychological release of "The End." The within-the-song reference to "You Never Give Me Your Money" increases the effect that this is less an independent song and more, like, the crux of the medley's whole musical argument or something. And what's the lyrics' message as we approach the denouement to an entire career? "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight a long time." It's such a weird message, isn't it? There are a few interpretations of what Paul means by this, and Paul himself hasn't been much help (I've read him try to explain it, and it's just some vague reference to how Allen Klein was stressing him out at the time). I think the most popular interpretation is probably that Paul's talking to all the other Beatles and reminding them that being a Beatle is a weight not easily shed, and that the work they go on to do in the future on their own will never be as great as the work they have done together. To which I say, maybe. We might be attributing too much clairvoyance to Paul to make this assumption, though, considering that it's exactly how history has played out.
I prefer to hear it more universally. Yes, perhaps Paul wrote it for his Beatle pals, about no matter how much they were gunning to run off and do other things, they couldn't run away from their work, their past, their lives together. And when worded that way, it is a universal message. Paul is saying goodbye to all this, sure, but he also is sadly acknowledging that he really can't, just as none of us ever really say goodbye to anything that's happened to us-- we just load it up onto our backs with everything else, where we'll feel the weight for a long time even though we can't actually see it.
Anyway, the loud yet somber (and almost march-like) singalong chorus features all four Beatles singing in unison, which has got to be unprecedented in the catalog, and does indeed make the proceedings feel pretty weighty. So does Ringo, who's banging on the backbeats with a particularly weighty abandon. (Paul's bass is making a stab at jauntiness, but it's not fooling me.) It leads into a bombastic brass entrance on the "You Never Give Me Your Money" melody, which they've just ingeniously threaded into the much simpler "Carry That Weight" melody (it sounds like the most natural middle eight in the world until you realize what it really is).
When the voices come back in, the "I never give you my pillow/I only send you my invitations/And in the middle of the celebrations I break down" bit recasts the melody with lyrics that are more overtly personal and a little more hysterical than what we heard in the original song. Which just goes to show that the weight of all this might be getting to Paul just a little bit. Those percussive chords in the strings that lead back into the "Carry That Weight" chorus sound so much like wagging fingers, or even jabs with a knife, that we could forgive Paul for going kind of nuts at this point. And this seems to be the function of "Carry That Weight"--the seriousness of the choral moments (and this is serious, kids, rightly so-- the Beatles are breaking up, for God's sake) lies one layer above the underlying deep, deep sadness of this song. It all comes to a head here in the last few seconds of passionately played music, which never truly cadences, but instead leads right into "The End." It's going to take some seriously cathartic guitar work to break us out of this melancholy-- but luckily, it's on the way.
"Carry That Weight," released in the U.K. and the U.S. side B track 9 of Abbey Road, September 26, 1969; in the U.S. October 1, 1969.