HOW DID THEY KEEP DOING THIS?
The artistic fountain continued to gush all the way into The Beatles’ last album.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #14/100
This is my last album to review from peak Beatles. Those six albums (starting with Rubber Soul and ending with Let It Be), are so full of material, range, and imagination. Abbey Road is just another pit stop — they don’t miss a beat.
My favorite thing about the best band of all time is how accessible their music is while pushing the boundary. It’s not untethered hippie rock with disjointed lyrics (which sometimes befalls Jimi Hendrix’s later albums). Instead, it has one foot on both sides of the fence; there’s always something avant-garde, but it’s crouched in enough familiarity and pop for it to be enjoyable.
Abbey Road’s schtick is that it ends on an 8 song medley of bits and pieces. It introduces songs at rapid pace with some only lasting little more than 60 seconds. It completely lives up to their reputation: it’s different and highly artistic but so tastefully done.
The Beatles were starting to crack and the personalities clashed during the recording of their previous album. Could they hold it together for one more foray?
Things started out a bit better when George Martin, their main producer/arranger, required a more regular recording experience. The “Let It Be” Album (also called the Get Back Sessions), were rife with promotional and marketing interruptions involving camera crews in studio. Depending on who you ask (and when), this was very distracting and rubbed people the wrong way.
Abby Road was a return to how they used to make music: collaboratively and for each other. Things started out well with McCartney and Lennon momentarily reunited after working together on the single ‘The Ballad of Yoko Ono.’ Most reported positive memories with George Harrison saying “we did actually perform like musicians again.”
Then, the wheels started to fall off. Lennon and Yono forever attached at the hip, she was always present in studio during recording which rubbed everyone else the wrong way. McCartney and Martin wanted to continue with thematic arcs taking the music in a more artistic direction. Lennon wanted one side to be all McCartney and the other side to be all his.
The end results was a compromise: the beginning half of the album would be traditional, distinct songs with each Beatle doing their own thing with the back end being a medley.
- Come Together 4:16
- Something 2:59
- Maxwell’s Silver Hammer 3:24
- Oh! Darling 3:28
- Octopus’s Garden 2:49
- I Want You (She’s So Heavy) 7:49
- Here Comes The Sun 3:04
- Because 2:45
- You Never Give Me Your Money 3:57
- Sun King 2:31
- Mean Mr. Mustard 1:06
- Polythene Pam 1:13
- She Came In Through The Bathroom Window 1:58
- Golden Slumbers 1:31
- Carry That Weight 1:37
- The End 2:04
- Her Majesty 0:23
[BEST TRACK: Come Together]
This might be one of the strangest music videos I’ve seen.
Anyways, supposedly Lennon wrote the song, but it was fast tempo. McCartney came in and suggested that they slow it way down. No one agrees on what happened. Who cares: it’s an example of what The Beatles could do when they were all locked in.
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair
You can feel his disease
Come together, right now
[BEST TRACK RUNNER UP: Here Comes the Sun]
Peak George Harrison, the song was written because he decided to skip a business meeting. He went to Eric Clapton’s house, picked up the guitar, and this song just poured out:
It was just sunny and it was all just the release of that tension that had been building up on me. And it was just really nice sunny day. I picked up the guitar, which was the first time I’d played the guitar for a couple of weeks because I’d been so busy. And the first thing that came out was that song. It just came.
Here comes the sun, doo-dun doo-doo
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right.
[BEST HIDDEN GEM: You Never Give Me Your Money]
The final full song on the album, You Never Give Me Your Money kicks off the beginning of the medley with its motifs repeated later. It’s excellent because of the diversity; it starts off with a ballad, then goes uptempo, some sweet guitar solos, and then returns to uptempo but in a different style.
I never give you my number
I only give you my situation
And in the middle of investigation
I break down
[BEST SONG TO END ON FOR THE BEST BAND OF ALL TIME: The End]
Knowing that this was probably the last time recording together, the last song of the medley, and The Beatles recording together, was appropriately called The End. A song where they showcased everyone’s talents with ranging guitar solos, the lyrics are sparse with only throw away lines until the apex:
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make
While there are more nuggets to discover, I’m filled with that familiar feeling you get at the end of a good book: happy to have met you all but immensely sad that I have to say goodbye.
Other People’s Takes:
- Brutally Honest Rock Reviews: “The strongest songs on Abbey Road are among the Beatles’ absolute best, which is no small praise for a band as phenomenally talented as The Beatles. And yet, I can’t bring myself to call the album an unqualified success.
- Cirdec Songs: “It seems unfathomable that less than three quarters of a decade passed between the opening strains of Meet the Beatles and the closing grandeur of Abbey Road, which has just been re-released in deluxe form to commemorate its 50th anniversary.”
- 365 Music Musings: “Not my subjective favorite Beatles album, but an unequivocal masterpiece. The argument could even be made that it is objectively their best.”