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Abbey Road – The Beatles

October 22, 2008

The Beatles – Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)

When one mentions the Beatles, you usually think of “Yellow Submarine” or “Help!” or maybe, MAYBE, “All You Need is Love”. Despite all of their pop-hits, the Beatles were an extremely talented group of musicians…they didn’t become “Bigger than Jesus” for nothing. So here we go…

The album opens with a bluesy number, Come Together, which creates a very modern image of the Beatles. With a familiar bass-line and almost a complete absence of guitar until the chorus, “Come Together” certainly shows the Beatles taking their music in a different direction, seeming to imitate Jim Morrison and the Doors style of writing. Nonetheless, it has become one of Aerosmith’s most famous songs after they covered it on the soundtrack to the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.
Come Together transitions into “Something”, one of George Harrison’s several successful songs written for the Beatles.
“Something” is somewhat of a love-ballad, detailing the insecurities of the narrators relationship. Musically, the song is very ahead of it’s time at some points, relying heavily on odd filters used on the guitars and strange keyboard effects.
Next up is one of the strangest Beatles songs ever. Personally, it is my favorite on the album (hm, that can’t be healthy). Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a song about Maxwell Edison who goes around his town murdering people with his silver hammer, first a girl in one of his science classes, then his professor, and eventually the judge who was overseeing his murder trial. The song is very upbeat, almost one that would have a bouncing red dot moving over every word for karaoke. Regardless of the questionable subject matter, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is one of the more fun Beatles songs to listen to.
“Oh! Darling” is another love song, this time written by Paul McCartney. The song has a very strong relation to gospel music, mainly deriving from Paul’s shouting of the lyrics at times. The song also shares styles with southern blues/R&B music, again referring to Paul’s vocal work.
The next song on Abbey Road is Ringo Starr’s only written contribution to this album, “Octopus’s Garden”. Another upbeat and happy song, this one talks about the singer’s desire to live somewhere where there are no problems, no worries, somewhere where he can just be free to do whatever he wants. This is also Ringo’s second time singing lead vocals on a Beatles song, causing the song to have a much different style than those of Lennon/McCartney.
One of the Beatle’s more experimental songs of their career is “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. Ending the first side of the album, “I Want You” is a blues/progressive based song that was written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The song clocks in at 7:47, making it the longest on the album by over 3 minutes. Revolving around one hypnotic guitar riff, this song focuses more on the musical nature of the song than the lyrical (the song contains only 14 different words). Another typical contribution from Yoko Ono, “I Want You” in one of the odder tracks on the album.
“Here Comes the Sun” is arguably George Harrison’s most successful foray into songwriting, even though it was not released as an official single. The story behind this song is one of the happier stories in Beatles history. George had grown tired of Apple Records (the Beatles record company), stating that it “was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen.” One day, Harrison decided to go to a close friends house (Eric Clapton) and just walked around his garden, watched all of the plants begin to grow again as the ice melted away. Of course, this called for him to write a song. Overall a calm, relaxing song, “Here Comes the Sun” was recorded without the presence of John Lennon, who was busy recovering from a car accident.
The final “song” on the album before the “Abbey Road Suite” is “Because”, another highly experimental track featuring a harpsichord, a guitar played through many filters, and a moog-synthesizer part, not to mention the three part vocal harmonies performed by McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison. A very interesting piece, “Because” closes up the true album before the epic suite.
The remaining 15+ minutes of the album are divided up among 8 songs, collectively known as the “Abbey Road Suite”. There is no unifying theme to the suite, other than that the songs were all pieces written by either John Lennon or Paul McCartney and were never finished. Coming into the recording of Abbey Road, the band essentially knew that this would be their last album. All of these songs were ones that had been previously written, never finished, and somebody wanted them to be put onto the album. So, they were combined into one giant medley of songs that flow into each other. While the medley is musically fascinating, the songs have essentially nothing in common with each other. If you want the true experience, I suggest you buy the album and listen to it.
The only thing after the medley is a 24 second piece called “Her Majesty”, a piece that was accidentally included on the album by a studio technician who was told not to ever throw any material out. He saw the piece of cut tape on the floor and decided to attach it to the end of the album. The song is what a 24 second song can be; a catchy jingle about wanting to marry the Queen of England.

In conclusion, Abbey Road is one of the greatest Beatles albums. It has such drastic musical differences in both theme and style and does not rely on one type of playing. The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, they were “Bigger than Jesus”, and they went out with a bang.

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