Abbey Road, The Beatles’ eleventh and final studio album, is a masterpiece. Released Sept. 26, 1969, this album marked the last studio collaboration of all four Beatles since most of “Let It Be” was recorded just prior to that release. The band's final studio project, named after Abbey Road Studio, is their very best.
Early in 1969, The Beatles seemed to be on the edge of breaking up during the recording of what would become “Let it Be.” Around this time each member had started doing projects outside of The Beatles. It was Paul McCartney who approached George Martin, longtime producer of the band, and asked him to work with them on another studio album. Martin agreed, only if the band agreed to let him have control over the production from start to finish.
Abbey Road begins with John Lennon’s song “Come Together.” While the title sounds like a sing-along song, it is actually one of the band’s “harder” tracks with a loud, funky bass riff and blues-inspired guitar. Also, Ringo Starr’s drumming is at its finest on this track. The songs “Come Together” and “Something” were released as singles. George Harrison’s, “Something” is often regarded as one of his best songs. I 100% agree. It has a natural feel to it, almost like a raft flowing down a stream, or at least that's what I see when I think of just the music, not the lyrics.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is one of my favorites. The lyrics describe the daily life of a serial killer, with the music being in sharp contrast to the bubbly music. The way the vocals are delivered add to the effect that this is a children’s song gone wrong. The next McCartney song, “Oh Darling” has a completely different style than “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Paul’s voice carries the whole thing.
Starr's song, “Octopus’s Garden,” sounds just like a children's song. It lightens the mood after the powerful “Oh Darling” and the repetition of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which is a longer song that has a few moments of brilliance and some superb playing from the full band. It carries on for nearly eight minutes, and mostly repeats itself. That said, I wasn’t bored with it.
The “second part” is where the magic of this album really starts. It opens with the upbeat and new sounds of Harrison’s second contribution is the sonic masterpiece, “Here Comes the Sun.” The harmony of the vocals and the catchy feel capture the sense of a new beginning, like the sun coming out from behind the clouds as winter ends. This along with “Something” makes this Harrison’s best Beatles album ever.
“Because” features a “three-part harmony tripled so it sounds like nine voices,” said Paul in a 1995 interview for part three of The Beatles Anthology documentary series. The vocals are amazing and, at the time, this was very hard to record. “You Never Give Me Your Money” drops in perfectly with soft piano chords and dramatic vocals. The sound of the steady drumbeat is mesmerizing. The production of these songs were brilliant in how they blended together into a cohesive story.
“Sun King” reuses the three-part harmonies introduced with “Because,” while “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” is more upbeat and happy sounding, but they end in what sounds like a car crash or fiery wreck. “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” was inspired by “a determined female fan who crawled through a bathroom window of Paul’s home,” stated Beatlesbible.com. There is also a sweet riff going on throughout the song.
With a slight pause in the medley, “Golden Slumbers” rises as another dramatic McCartney song showcasing his gift for making melodies. This quickly leads to “Carry That Weight,” featuring a reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” where Ringo is prominent in the vocals. Fittingly, it all ends with “The End.” There is a showcase for each member. The guitar parts were played by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. Also, Starr has his only drum solo as a Beatle. It is a grand finale that brings this album, as well as the Beatles’ recording days, to an end in style.
And, of course, the album was a mega success, reaching the top of the charts in numerous countries. The songs on this album lean on each other, much as the Beatles needed to work off each other to produce the quality and quantity of music they made throughout their career. The album contains outstanding tracks, but they only stand out because The Beatles put together pieces of songs that weren’t quite complete on their own and created something unique.
So is Abbey Road the greatest Beatles album of all time? Yes, because it has so many new ideas that have yet to be replicated.
Favorite Tracks: “Come Together,” “Something,” “Maxwell's Silver Hammer,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “The End”
Least Favorite Tracks: N/A
Header Photo: Abbey Road, London, with white Volkswagen Taken by Dr. Ronald Kunze 25 September 1969.
Thumb Photo: "Picture of the Abbey Road studios. Taken by portum for wikipedia." from English Wikipedia. 11 December 2005