Classic Album: The Beatles - Abbey Road

A near perfect climax of the world’s most adored band
The Beatles - Abbey Road
As swan songs go, ‘Abbey Road’, although not the last Beatles album to be released, is a near perfect climax of not only the world’s most adored band, but of the decade in which they rose and fell. Once a tight, impenetrable force, by 1968 the cracks within The Beatles had started to show.

Their eponymous double album from that year, known as ‘The White Album’, demonstrated the divisions within the group, as solo compositions and individual recording sessions combined to form an album that, while bountiful and rich with creativity, lacked cohesion and consistency. Ringo Starr, finding his responsibilities diminished and inspiration limited, quit the band in frustration, but was coaxed back two weeks later.

Subsequent studio sessions, which ultimately became ‘Let It Be’, were fraught with acrimony. Intentions for the album - to take things back to basics and rejuvenate the band’s energy and bond - were observed at first, but soon were lost amid the intrusion of the film cameras documenting the detached affair. John Lennon directed his devotion towards Yoko Ono, who was unnervingly present throughout proceedings, Ringo was looking for something to do, Paul McCartney was desperately trying to inject order and motivation into the sessions, and George Harrison - irritated by McCartney’s apparent attempts of control and Lennon’s complete disinterest - walked out, announcing he was leaving the group. Work resumed a week later upon his return, and it was generally accepted that this would be the last time the group would work together.

Therefore it came as a shock to producer George Martin when McCartney, disillusioned with the results of ‘Let It Be’ (which was then delayed and eventually released after ‘Abbey Road’), proposed they convene to make one more album, to focus, work hard and create a great album they’d be proud to bow out with. They all agreed, and by the summer of 1969, were in Abbey Road Studios with the enthusiasm to do something special.

The bulk of the music from ‘Abbey Road’ dated back to the final sessions for ‘Let It Be’, where their foundations were formed, but ironically the unity desired for the previous album was far more evident here, manifesting itself in the distinct collaboration that make this album unique - the suite of songs that occupy side two.
After a strong first half, which featured impressive performances from each of the Beatles - including ‘Something’, George Harrison’s only A-side single release and a beautiful song to boot - listeners flipped over to find The Beatles pushing themselves to deliver a proper sendoff. ‘Here Comes The Sun’ introduces the optimism that’s set to continue throughout, then ‘Because’ sees the return of The Beatles’ striking three-part harmonies, largely unseen since ‘This Boy’ and the advent of Beatlemania, before the medley really begins with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’. McCartney’s track was a thinly-veiled condemnation of The Beatles’ financial and business matters and was the opening bracket of side two that would close in the reprise of ‘Carry That Weight’ - both songs reflecting the end of the idealistic Sixties dream and presaging the realism and distrust that was to burden the band for the rest of their lives.

That the final song was called ‘The End’ (excluding the ‘secret’ track, ‘Her Majesty’) may have been more than just a coincidence, but, as each Beatle exerted themselves into what became the last session with all four present, it became a poignant but suitably boisterous finale. Ringo’s drum solo kicks it off, then gives way to guitar solos from Paul, then George, and finally John, before Paul delivers the album’s - and The Beatles’ - tender pay-off line: “And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the love you make”.

Forty years later, ‘Abbey Road’ is cherished as the curtain call of the band that changed music forever. Its final line resounds, and we’re comforted by the fact that even though The Beatles are no longer, even though two are no longer with us, we’ll always have the magic that they made and its eternal charm. This is the best goodbye you’ll ever hear.

WORDS BY SIMON HARPER

TRACKLIST
Released: September 1969
Producer: George Martin

Side 1
1. Come Together
2. Something
3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus’s Garden
6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Side 2
7. Here Comes The Sun
8. Because
9. You Never Give Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came In Through
The Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty

MUSICIANS
George Harrison: guitars, bass, vocals
John Lennon: guitars, piano, vocals
Paul McCartney: bass, guitars, piano, vocals
Ringo Starr: drums, percussion, vocals

1969: In the News
• Jay-Z is born.
1969: IN THE NEWS
• ‘On The Road’ author Jack Kerouac dies, aged forty-seven.
• Charles Manson’s followers carry out the Tate/La Bianca murders.
• Monty Python’s Flying Circus first airs.
• BBC1 and ITV introduce colour broadcasting.

1969: THE ALBUMS
Grateful Dead ‘Aoxomoxoa’
The Byrds ‘Ballad Of Easy Rider’
Marvin Gaye ‘Easy’
Aretha Franklin ‘I Say A Little Prayer’

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