Saturday, September 12, 2009

LP Love: Abbey Road

As I'm out of the country until September 15, my normal song-a-day listening schedule is being put on hold. Instead, rediscover your love for the LP format by enjoying a complete Beatles album per day. Try to keep your finger away from the "shuffle" or "skip" buttons for the ultimate retro experience! See you in September to wrap up the Beatles' catalog song by song, remastered-style.

Abbey Road

Release Date: September 26, 1969

I've decided to proceed in the order of release rather than recording, the better to duplicate the experience (I guess) of actually living through the Beatle years and listening to this stuff when it was all new and fresh. And so we're on to Abbey Road. After the acrimonious White Album sessions and the downright horrific Get Back sessions (the recordings from which were turned into the Let It Be album and released several months later), the Beatles must have known deep down that they were bound to break up. And so, at Paul's behest, they got together to make an album again. Though it doesn't seem to have been spoken of, there seems to have been a sense that this was it, and they needed to do it right. Which is probably why they were on relatively good behavior compared to the last couple times they'd shared studio space. So bad were the White Album sessions for producer George Martin that he didn't really want to work with the band again, and he coerced a promise from Paul that it would be as much like old times as possible before he came on board. So what's weird about Abbey Road is that the Beatles approached it like their last album, even if that's not how the world heard it what with Let It Be following anticlimactically on its heels.

Abbey Road is a beautiful album, poignant because it's the last but also just because it sounds like they are really putting their hearts into working together one last time. They all brought terrific stuff: George might "win" the entire album with his two contributions, "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," alone, while John brings his best stripped-down rock sensibility to "Come Together" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," Ringo lightens the mood with "Octopus's Garden," and Paul conceives of the giant B-side medley to go out with an artsy flourish. The B-side was actually a compromise-- Paul wanted to do an entire album that ran together as one track, but John hated the idea, and in the end they kept it to one side only. (John's hatred of the idea didn't mean he didn't contribute his own pieces to the medley, of course.) Abbey Road is also renowned for its production-- there is a new smoothness to the sound here, almost a slick feeling, but without meaning that to be pejorative at all. All in all, Abbey Road is as solid as the Beatles ever got. It's the perfect album to go triumphantly out into the sunset with. Whatever bickering and grief and unfortunate solo albums were to come in the '70s, at least the Beatles would always have Abbey Road to be proud of.

High Points: "Come Together," "Something," "Here Comes the Sun," "Because," "You Never Give Me Your Money"

My Secret Favorite: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"

The Song I'm Not Supposed to Love So Much But Totally Do Anyway: "Golden Slumbers"

Track Listing:

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

"Carry That Weight"
"The End"


  1. I'm a Mean Mr. Mustard/Sun King guy myself.

  2. The entire Long Medley is worth the price of admission. Go Paul.

    As for "I want you," I want to like it, but it just drones on and on. And I also can't separate it from its context: John's showing all this desperate love for Yoko and yet he treated his first wife and child so horribly. Complete abandonment, emotionally and even financially. Cynthia got very little from him. So when I hear him singing this song, I just think, "It really was all about you, wasn't it John?" It's such a selfish song.

    Song it almost hurts to listen to: "Oh Darling." This has got to be about his partnership with John, although I doubt Paul ever admitted that, but it's so desperate in its emotional neediness that it's heartbreaking. It's also selfish in a way but the world of hurt in the lyrics and the vocal make you empathize. Love it.