ABBEY ROAD (1969) – The Beatles’ valedictory statement

If you’re wondering about this blog’s suddenly suffering from Beatlemania, click on the above image to get some answers!

And enter our contest for a chance to win the 2-CD anniversary edition of Abbey Road! Click on the above image for contest rules.

Abbey Road – Released Sept. 26, 1969

Abbey Road was actually recorded after Let It Be. But The Beatles let the Let It Be tapes fester for so long that Abbey Road made it out of the gate first. Since then, there have been many debates as to whether or not The Fabs and those around them knew that this would be their last album. If you believe that they knew, then this is a pretty amazing way for a group to end their career. In spite of some sputtering here and there, this is Beatles on all cylinders.

Come Together: This is one of those Beatles songs where performance is everything, and it really is beautifully performed…as long as you don’t listen to closely to the lyrics. If this song really is “an exultation to the simultaneous orgasm” (as one British music critic graphically put it), I’d say lyrics such as “Hold you in his armchair, you can feel his disease” are pretty lousy foreplay. Nevertheless, the song has Lennon’s usual great vocals and some stinging guitar work.

Something: Sorry, I know this one put George in the (long-deserved) spotlight, but I think it’s overrated — a little too heart-on-its-sleeve for me. The “official” video for the song, showing each Beatle with his beloved spouse, is even more treacly. Hard to believe that Frank Sinatra got so worked up about lyrics such as “I don’t want to leave her now, you know I believe and how.”

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer: George and John dismissed this song, respectively, as a “fruity” number “for the grannies to dig,” and there’s not much to add to those assessments. An ostensibly cheery number about a psychotic killer, this was deservedly delivered in full ham by Steve Martin (in his film debut!) in the equally psychotic 1978 movie-musical version of Sgt. Pepper.

Oh! Darling: It might be only a pastiche of ’50s doo-wop songs, but Paul was to get far more trivial in his solo career. Legend has it that he screamed himself hoarse for three days to get the proper sound for this song, and the boy comes through with flying colors here. To be properly noted on any Beatles fan’s catalogue of great rockers.

Octopus’ Garden: The critics poo-poo’d this Ringo number as a sub-Yellow Submarine, but at his best, Ringo and whimsy go hand-in-glove (George proclaimed this one of the best songs on Abbey Road). For the Beatle who gave the least expectations to fans, this is a pretty enjoyable tune, and at least better than some of John and Paul’s worst.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy): Like Hey Jude and George’s later Isn’t It a Pity, a rock epic that goes on far longer and more fascinatingly than it should have a right to. John’s growing need for simplicity in his lyrics — as he told Rolling Stone, when you’re drowning, you don’t make a big speech, you just scream — finds full creative flower here, with an ending that soars to the heavens and then stops in mid-air. Stunning.

Here Comes the Sun: I’m going to go out on a limb here: I know that George Harrison’s contributions to Abbey Road (this song and Something) are what made his late-Beatles-era reputation, but nice as they are, I think they’re a bit too overrated and earnest. For me, he’s trying a little too hard here to sell the sunny optimism. If Paul had written that “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes” bit in the middle, he’d be taken to task for being too saccharine. George deserved his moment in the spotlight, but even a back-burner number like Not Guilty holds up better for me.

Because: The last of the great three-part-harmony “genre” exercised in This Boy and Yes It Is. Hard to believe that these guys were on the verge of a break-up when this was recorded; they never sounded more in tune with each other. The a-cappella version on Anthology 3 is even more intriguing.

You Never Give Me Your Money: This is one of those Beatles songs that seems to tell a story while never quite making sense when you examine the lyrics alone. When the results of this “genre” are bad, they’re really bad (see She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, below), but some great guitar playing and Paul’s shattering vocals carry it off, so that you’re so entranced, you hardly even notice the song ends with a banal nursery rhyme.

Sun King: Short but sweet, a modest but nice evocation of a beautiful sunrise. It plays even better backwards (on the Beatles compilation CD LOVE).

Mean Mr. Mustard: This sounds less like an earthy John Lennon characterization and more like that Monty Python sketch where a bunch of guys sit around coming up with ever more penniless stories about their childhood. He sleeps in a hole in the road? And keeps a ten-pound note up his nose? Would anyone even serve this guy at a local McDonald’s?

Polythene Pam: Not much more than a John Lennon toss-off that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of his books of non-sequitor writing. Still, a well-built woman in a polythene outfit? Works for me.

She Came in through The Bathroom Window: Another free-associational head-scratcher, this one courtesy of Paul for a change. A girl who sucks her thumb and works at fifteen clubs a day?? Sounds like she’ll make someone happy.

Golden Slumbers: Paul’s interesting update of the old lullaby, re-done mainly because he couldn’t read the original’s musical notes. Nicely done just the same, and a perfect kick-off to Abbey Road‘s bittersweet finale.

Carry That Weight: The song never makes it clear just what weight is being carried, but just the same, the…er…full weight of the song really comes across, especially with George Martin’s great production. A worthy part of the breathtaking trilogy that ends the album.

The End: A perfect coda to a near-perfect recording career, providing each member with a chop-displaying solo (even Ringo) before Paul’s simplistically beautiful vocal brings everything to a dreamily flawless close. Darn near makes me cry every time I hear it.

Her Majesty: A 22-second P.S. to get your attention. Just in case you thought the album was done.

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Review of the album YELLOW SUBMARINE (1969), and the rules of our ABBEY ROAD Contest

Why our sudden interest in Beatles albums? Click on the above image for a complete explanation!

Yellow Submarine – Released Jan. 13, 1969

In contrast to the acclaim for the lovely animated cartoon of the same name, the soundtrack album for Yellow Submarine was greeted largely with indifference by many critics and Beatles fans (though reaching No. 3 on the record charts ain’t exactly chopped liver). This might have been due to The Beatles’ Capitol Records-like stunt of filling the first side of the album with Beatles tunes, followed by the movie’s instrumentals on Side 2 — and also by the album’s “recycling” of two previous hits to fill out the Beatle-laden side of the album. Heard in retrospect, though, the album is quite enjoyable on its own terms.

(Since this album is such a hybrid, I am going to review its selections a bit differently than before. As I noted, two of the songs come from previous albums, for which I will simply post a link to their previous reviews on this blog. And I am going to review Side 2 as a complete entity of its own.)

Yellow Submarine – (Previously reviewed as part of the album Revolver.)

Only a Northern Song – If you’re listening to this song, you may think George wrote this only to fulfill a contractual obligation, and you’re correct. The Beatles’ “new” musical contributions to the Yellow Submarine film soundtrack are generally regarded as “filler.” This one is no exception (it’s basically tossed-off in the film, too), though the song’s juicy organ line propels it along well enough to give it at least one listen.

All Together Now – The movie’s visuals dress up what is otherwise one of Paul’s weaker lyrical attempts, which is little more than a nursery-rhyme game. (However, it’s also disconcerting to see a G-rated cartoon sporting a song that asks, “Can I take my friend to bed?”) The song works better in retrospect than when you’re actually listening to it.

Hey Bulldog – Another free-associational song from John Lennon, who un-ironically sings “You can talk to me” in the middle of gibberish that makes it quite clear you’d better not have a conversation with him right then. It was originally deleted from the movie, and it’s not hard to see why.

It’s All Too Much – One of George Harrison’s most underrated Beatles songs –probably underrated even by George himself. The song’s glorious kick-off sounds like Harrison’s answer to Lennon’s famed guitar feedback on I Feel Fine; I still get a chill when I hear it. And the lyrics are as delightfully non sequitor as anything Lennon ever dreamed up (“Show me that I’m everywhere/And get me home for tea”). An unsung (so to speak) little gem.

All You Need Is Love – (Previously reviewed as part of the album Magical Mystery Tour.)

Instrumental music composed and conducted by George Martin: Pepperland, Sea of Time, Sea of Holes, Sea of Monsters, March of the Meanies, Pepperland Laid Waste, Yellow Submarine in Pepperland

As previously noted, many Beatles fans shouted “Rip-off!” when they discovered that the soundtrack album’s second side contained nothing but…music from the movie’s soundtrack! But as with any good soundtrack, the movie’s instrumentals hold up quite well on their own, and hearing just the first few bars of any of those selections is enough to draw up nostalgia-tinged memories of the movie. My favorite of all of the selections is March of the Meanies.

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How would you like a shot at winning the two-CD 50th-anniversary edition of Abbey Road? If so, please read and follow our contest’s instructions as posted below.

1. Following are five (5) trivia questions related to the album Abbey Road. Read them, and write your answer to each question. (NOTE: Three of the questions are open-ended “multiple choice” and have more than one answer. You need provide only one answer for each of those questions; just be sure that your answer is one of the correct possibilities.)

2. Email your answers to:

socialmediaspecialist61@gmail.com

Please write “Abbey Road Contest” in the email’s “Subject” section, and be sure to include your name and the email address you wish to use for the contest.

3. The contest ends on Mon., Feb. 10, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time. At that time, I will choose three (3) contest winners based on the order in which the winning entries were sent. You must answer all 5 questions correctly in order to be considered for the contest. (There’s a little device called the Internet that should enable you to find the correct answers.)

4. Here are the prizes for the three winning entrants.

First prize: The two-CD 50th-anniversary edition of The Beatles’ album Abbey Road. (Please note that this is not the album’s deluxe edition that contains several extras, just the two CDs containing the original album and its outtakes.)

Second prize: The 2009 remastered edition of The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (Please note that this is not the 2017 50th-anniversary edition, just the earlier remastered version.)

Third prize: Steve Turner’s 1994 book The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Write – The Stories Behind Every Song. A fascinating read that provides the origin stories for all of the songs that The Beatles “officially” released on their 13 studio albums and the three Anthology collections.

Here are the 5 Abbey Road-related questions that you need to answer correctly.

1. What was the working title for Abbey Road, and what inspired that title? (There are 2 possible correct answers for the second part of this question; I will accept either or both of them.)

2. The cover of Abbey Road inspired the famous “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory. Name two (2) of the clues from the album’s cover which supposedly proved that Paul McCartney was dead. (There are several possible correct answers for this question; please don’t make one up.)

3. What did Frank Sinatra get wrong about George Harrison’s song Something?

4. What song did most of the four Beatles agree was the worst song on Abbey Road?

5. On the back cover photo of Abbey Road is a blurred image of a woman walking through the shot. Most sources indicate that the woman was a passer-by who had no idea she was in the shot. Apart from that, who was the woman believed to be? (Again, there are 2 possible correct answers for this question: I will accept either or both of them.)

Email your entry to us as soon as possible, and good luck!