The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ – The Final Goodbye to a Perfect Career

The cover of Abbey Road has no printed words. It is a photo of the Beatles, in side view, crossing the street in single file.
Apple Records

In February of 1969, the Beatles went into Abbey Road studio to record the last sessions the group would ever record together. Let It Be may be the last album released by the Beatles, but Abbey Road is truly their last album.

On Abbey Road, the Beatles incorporated blues rock (“Oh! Darling,” “You Never Give Me Your Money”), early progressive rock (“I Want You You (She’s So Heavy),” “Because”), and a few cliché sixties “summer of love” styled pop songs (“Here Comes the Sun,” “Something”). Many fans, especially your typical white-male fathers who adore the Beatles, call Abbey Road the peak of the Beatles’ creativity and even “the greatest album of all time.” However, Abbey Road sounds just as iconic as it sounds polarizing, where each member seems to be artistically different with one another, but it is dealt with civilly here unlike past albums. Not only is Abbey Road a sort of preview of what each member of the Beatles would accomplish during their solo careers, but it’s their true goodbye to a decade they dominated.

Abbey Road opens with the lead single “Come Together,”—the first Beatles song I came to love as a child, when listening to 1 (2000), an album my mother would constantly play. John Lennon’s whisper of “shoot” is actually Lennon saying, “shoot me,” followed by a hand-clap, in which McCartney’s elevating thick funk-esque bass line muffles out “me.” The bluesy hit was Lennon’s last politicized stance in the Beatles, as he wrote it originally for Timothy Leary’s campaign against Ronald Reagan for governor of California.

It is followed by the always beautiful “Something,” sung by George Harrison. It includes very warm vocals and smooth organ playing from Billy Preston, which clearly overshadows Lennon’s piano playing. Frank Sinatra called it “the greatest love song ever written” and he certainly wasn’t wrong. Then comes the quirky and ever-glorious Moog synthy “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” which is the darkest and most imaginative Beatles song ever recorded, written by Paul McCartney. However when recording this peculiar number, the group was becoming more tense with each other, as the sessions took weeks for McCartney to get it just right. In a 2008 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Ringo Starr said, “The worst session ever was ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.’ It was the worst track we ever had to record. It went on for fucking weeks. I thought it was mad.” “Oh! Darling” echoes a bit of some Frank Zappa doo-wop and 50-styles rock. Even Ringo gets to sing the brilliantly deep and underappreciated “Octopus’s Garden.” The monstrous and innovative “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” could serve as the Beatles’ prototype to heavy progressive rock that would spark throughout the seventies with it’s repetitiveness instrumentally and lyrically. The same phrases are repeated and played over a number of variations, especially rhythmically. It’s finale features Lennon’s and Harrison’s massed overdubbed dueling guitars, that are multi-tracked numerous times over the same unrelenting chord pattern, which was tuned to full volume, giving the impression that the song could have gone on forever. The song ends abrupt, after leaving you hypnotic. 

The group later shows up the Beach Boys and makes Beethoven rollover on the harpsichord with the harmonically complex “Because.” On side two, there is an epic medley, which starts off with the punchy honky-tonk piano driven “You Never Give Me Your Money,” which sounds like a later McCartney solo number. It is followed by the mellow psychedelic “Sun King,” a track similar to “Because,” but in an exotic harmony. Then comes the Harry Nilsson-influenced “Mean Mr Mustard.” “Polythene Pam” picks up the energy during the medley with Lennon’s singing and Harrison’s assertive guitar work. The guitar boogie “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” oddly has McCartney playing lead guitar and Harrison playing bass—it’s usually the other way around. The pleasant “Golden Slumbers,” which has McCartney’s vocals are greatly emphasized on shares a similar melody to the symphonic “Carry That Weight,” which includes layers of vigorous brass during the bridge, as it also reprises the opener of the medley. The title of the closer, “The End” isn’t the only sign of the band departing. You can tell in the recording especially in the harmony section, it’s the band saying goodbye; it sounds more like the real band saying farewell than “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” did. After the energetic but depressing closing track, “The End” the group left another hidden track, “Her Majesty,” but this time instead of it being obnoxiously freighting like it was before, it’s simply charming.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12R4FzIhdoQIt might be the most iconic Beatles album cover, but its certainty not their best album. The Beatles had a good run throughout the sixties, but since they started experimenting with their sound in the mid-sixties, each member started separating themselves and came to the realization that their material was more noteworthy than the other, which hurts the album. They were still young and optimistic, but not for Beatles material. This was the end. Truly.

9/10

Classic Tracks – “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Polythene Pam,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Come Together”

Ehh – “Sun King”

Listen to the Beatles’ Abbey Road here or below. 

 


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