Abbey Road

Band: The Beatles

Album: Abbey Road

I’ve done a couple of debut albums in the last few weeks; time to look at the final album of the greatest band of all time.

It must have been an odd session to work in during that summer of 1969. The members of the Fab Four were barely on speaking terms as they headed into the studio for their final recording – though not final release; that is, in fact, Let It Be. However, they got through it; Paul McCartney and producer George Martin reportedly wanting the boys to work one last time ‘the way they used to be’.

The result is probably one of the group’s best albums, if not the best; tightly produced, both lyrically and musically.

I’ve always thought of Abbey Road as two albums. Side one is a selection of singles that almost capture the various lietmotifs of The Beatles career: the sophisticated blues/pop of their early years (Oh! Darling); guitar-riff heavy rock that borders on psychedelia (Come Together, written for Timothy Leary’s 1969 bid to be governor of California; and I Want You (She’s so heavy), actually two unfinished Lennon pieces woven together); a love ballad (Something); and flights of fantasy (Octopus’s Garden, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer).

Side two is a medley of compositions, seamlessly segued together. After the stand-alone Here Comes the Sun and Because, the band launches into a 16-minute medley which climaxes with the fitting, The End – the final line most fans feel capture’s the band’s message: “And in the end, the love you take was equal to the love you made.”

And, after 20 seconds of silence, a final bit of goofiness, Her Majesty, which on some copies of the album it is neither listed on the cover or on the album (my copy does not have a listing in either case; some album covers and most record labels list it; some refer to it as the first real ‘hidden track’).

Abbey Road is unique; unique for a group in that as a final recording, it is of a band at the peak of creative output, continuing to break ground (the album features one of the first uses of the Moog synthesizer). With The Beatles, there was no opportunity for artistic decline as is seen with other groups that tend to hang on past their best-before date (most notably, The Beatles rivals at the time, The Rolling Stones). The album provided an opportunity for all four to stretch musically and lyrically, each contributing in their own way.

The Fab Four do sound ‘the way they used to be’, as the medley builds through the guitar solo between Carry that Weight and The End; these guys legitimately sound like they’re having a lot of fun.

Ultimately, it’s a fitting swansong for the greatest band of all time.