Where does one start with The Beatles? Let’s begin at the end. Technically, Let It Be was released (1970) after Abbey Road (1969), but Let It Be was recorded before AB. Allegedly, the Fab Four were in a lengthy fight over the mix for LIB. Abbey Road is a confusing album to me. It seems so disjointed like a compilation of a few solo EPs or Singles. George Harrison’s work shining the brightest. I think the band knew the jig was up. This was the last hurrah. The Carried Weight of keeping the band together would soon be lifted. However, the highs are very high, perhaps, some of the Beatles’ best songs ever written. But the lows, well, I just don’t get them. At all. Friends and critics consider this the best album of all time and that may be a worthy yet personal judgment. It’s just not one I share to that superlative degree. This record is another from my parents’ collection.
The album opens with the iconic “Come Together” bass line. Lennon penned the song for Timothy Leary’s (the psychedelics guru) in his California Governor’s race against Ronald Reagan. The song would not be enough to get Leary to the winner’s podium, but we, the listeners, get one of Lennon’s best. The flow immediately goes in another direction with George Harrison’s ethereal love song “Something.” Even cromags like myself can’t help but feel a little jelly in the knees. This sublime song is followed up with a Macca clunker in “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” There’s no need for this track, and it takes the album in yet another incongruent direction. Please Silver Hammer, Don’t Hurt Em (MC Hammer reference and I used to jokingly sign off my emails, Becker “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt Em” Hall). McCartney gets back on track with “Oh! Darling.” Now this should have logically followed “Something.” Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden” is more “Yellow Submarine” schlock. Skip! The final song on Side A is Lennon’s great “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” which is a literal heavy, guttural rock tune. I can’t help but think this was a song left on the cutting room floor of Lennon’s magnificent Plastic Ono Band solo album which was made around the same time in the Abbey Road studio.
Side B begins with another masterful Harrison ditty, “Here Comes The Sun.” The track effectively lifts us from the lightless “I Want You” but then back down she blows with Lennon’s haunting yet gorgeous “Because,” a re-working of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Here, we finally get some needed Beatle harmonies (Elliott Smith’s cover is def worth a listen as well). Sunrise, Sunset. Up, Down. Push, Pull. So there’s a little theme there but then the real confusion begins with the album’s bizarre medley. “Sun King” can be skipped. The album loses it’s personal touch in “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam” and “She Came Through The Bathroom Window.” I don’t get these songs or the need for them on the album. Maybe you can tell me what I’m not seeing. Macca then saves the album with an incredible personal medley of his own in “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” which continue the play on the initial medley, riffing on “Money.” “Golden Slumbers” may be my favorite Beatles song. “The End” concludes the Beatles journey but opens the door for Big Star. Open, Close. The End, Big Star. I’m stretching to find a theme here. Something that will convince me of the album’s unparalleled greatness.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t include the magical Chris Farley’s SNL interview w Paul McCartney: Enjoy.
This is the second time I’ve tried to write about this record. Previously, I had written a couple of sentences when I got a call from your school that you had a serious accident on the school playground. This was when you had your tooth knocked out in a brutal head on head collision. Your gums and upper lip exploded. Mom was out of town for work so I had to rush to school and bring you to the dentist immediately. But my God were you tough. Fortunately, it was a clean break and x-rays showed the permanents were fine in your gums. Because your lips and gums were so swollen and caked with blood, your dentist demanded that you come home with me. But you wouldn’t have it. You sat up and said “NO! I’m going back to school!” And you did. I was so proud of you. Any personal association I had with this album has been overridden by this scary but awesome moment and day with you.
Favorite Tracks: “Golden Slumbers” “Carry That Weight” “Something” “Here Comes The Sun” “Come Together” “Because”
Pressing: Apple Records-SO-383. Original Jacksonville Pressing. 1969