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Abbey Road

An album by The Beatles

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My Dear Abbey

  • May 27, 2011
The thing about Beatles albums is that so many of them are essential that none of them can really stand out in the overall Beatles discography as THE essential Beatles album. None of them really stand out as their greatest work because you can argue that so much of it - with the POSSIBLE exceptions of their earlier work - is their greatest work. I have a great love for the Beatles, but when I talk about it, I tend to come off as a hater because I focus a lot on the band's demigod reputation, one which can't possibly be lived up to for a kid born at the outset of the 1980's.

My friends know I've attacked John Lennon in particular because so many of his songs come off like the work of a pretentious artiste who cares mainly about his public perception as a deep artiste. I've attacked The White Album with almost fanatical viciousness because it feels like an overblown spectacle. I hate the ridiculous ongoing feud between John supporters and Paul boosters because it tends to cast an enormous shadow over George - who neither of them could touch - so no one ever takes him seriously. I hate how people don't get the simple and obvious differences between the phrases "changed rock music" and "changed the world" and keep applying the latter to The Beatles.

However, one of the parts of Beatles legend I unquestionably love is their penultimate album, Abbey Road. Abbey Road is a musical miracle when you consider the circumstances. In 1969, when the album recorded, the bad wasn't merely sick of each other - they genuinely wanted to kill each other. They were split on artistic differences, each Beatle wanting the band to go in a direction different from the others, and yet they managed to set aside their differences - a prospect which must have been painful for all of them by this point - to record a magnificent grand finale which sounds like it was recorded by a tight-knit band in which all the members were trained in not just the same direction, but at the same speed, level, and distance.

It wouldn't be a real Beatles album if Abbey Road didn't contain a moment - a seven-minute moment that stretches well into eternity - of John's artistic pretentiousness called "I Want You (She's so Heavy)." Basically it features a heavy guitar riff and John repeating the phrase "I want her so bad" on a vocal track which sounds like it was layered about 300 times. It builds constantly before mercifully cutting off at what sounds like the apex. It's scary to think John might have wanted this to go on longer.

The first and second halves of Abbey Road are distinctly different. The first half contains the more traditional song output. It includes a traditional pop single with a catchy, simple hook ("Come together"), an oddly upbeat and joyful little ditty about a guy who kills people with a medical hammer ("Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), a children's song ("Octopus's Garden"), and a hopeful song of encouragement ("Here Comes the Sun").

A remarkable thing about Abbey Road is how simplified it sounds when compared to other later-day Beatles records technologically. Rhythms are simplified and the overall textures aren't quite as dense as they are on a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or an "Eleanor Rigby" or a "Norwegian Wood" or a "Strawberry Fields Forever." Many of the songs from the first half of Abbey Road, in fact, sound like they should chronologically be placed in a transitional phase, somewhere between Help! and Rubber Soul or Revolver. The exceptions could be made for "I Want You (She's so Heavy)" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," in which the only real complexities come from the harmonization and what sounds like a xylophone in the chorus. Other than those, your average electric guitar player could probably rock most of the first half without breaking a sweat.

"Oh! Darling," a Paul McCartney song, wouldn't be out of place in the Elvis Presley catalog because, despite the heavy, slow sound, it has a rockabilly feel to it. "Come Together" and "Here Comes the Sun" - probably my all-time favorite Beatles song - revel in their slow, simplified rhythms, and "Octopus's Garden" is mostly known for its popularity as a children's song. Only the second effort from Ringo as a songwriter, "Octopus's Garden" has become a staple of children's television, most notably on Sesame Street, for lyrics yearning to be among the simplified world of the sea.

The second half of Abbey Road gets more attention. "Because" features a synthesizer. But the half is known for the fantastic medley which begins at the next song, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and ending, appropriately enough, with "The End." The medley features a collection of eight short songs - five of them don't even break two minutes - meant to leave listeners dazzled and dazed. It is a remarkable composition in which every song transitions very smoothly into the next, even though the songs all sound very different from each other. "Polythene Pam" has a traditional hard rock guitar sound, while "Carry that Weight" features a husky harmonization. The full list begins with "You Never Give Me Your Money" gently fading out into the soft "Sun King." "Sun King" then transitions into "Mean Mr. Mustard" via a drum rim shot. "Mean Mr. Mustard" is more or less soft pop and it goes into "Polythene Pam" through some heavy drumwork. A hard guitar takes "Polythene Pam" to "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," which continues the guitar, although it's more relegated to the background. "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" rolls softly into the gentle lullaby "Golden Slumbers," and that goes into "Carry that Weight," as if "Carry that Weight" is the lullaby. Finally, "Carry that Weight" takes another guitar riff into "The End." After that, Abbey Road is closed by a 23 second closer called "Her Majesty."


It's naturally the medley that your average musician would have trouble trying to copy and paste. It obviously took a hell of an artistic vision to get right, and the fact that The Beatles pulled it off despite hating each other's guts is amazing.

Actually, the whole album is pretty amazing when you consider the whole background. The original plan was to call the album Everest, and cover it with a picture taken of Mount Everest from an airplane. But when the time came to do that, the band couldn't take another second with each other, so they just agreed to name it after their studio - Abbey Road - and shoot a picture of themselves crossing the intersection just to get it done. Funny how such iconic imagery can come out of wanting something immediately out of the way.

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May 27, 2011
darn. that is pretty thorough for a cd review. Thanks!
May 27, 2011
My philosophy is to review everything as if it's potentially a waste of money. Give as much detail as you can so people can figure out if it's worth their while!
May 27, 2011
I am down with that reasoning, I like doing that too so I won't be alone in spending my money on it LOL!!
More Abbey Road reviews
review by . September 18, 2006
posted in Music Matters
'Abbey Road' is actually the last album the Beatles recorded together. It is a triumph and a fine way to end their time together as history's most celebrated rock band. They agreed to do two "sides"--as was conventional before C.D.'s--each one uniform. Side one is rock and roll unadulterated. Side two is a pop symphony that is carefully melded together with several segues, making the songs melt into one another. It is correctly considered one of their great works, but the polish makes it different …
review by . November 18, 2000
posted in Music Matters
Pros: The Beatles     Cons: I Want More!!!!     Last night on television, I watched a special on the Beatles. After viewing this show, it became clear as to why I have not done a review of these guys. They are the pinnacle of rock and roll music. To review them, is to review my own life!      To realize how much this band means to me, I can give you this example. This album was released when I was 9 years old. I (with parents permission) …
review by . April 24, 2000
Pros: beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring, etc.     Cons: last Beatles album :(     True story: Tonight, I was planning on taking a shower, so I decided to put on a CD. I intended to pause it when I was ready to shower and start playing it again when I got out. The CD I happened to choose was the Beatles' "Abbey Road." Big mistake. When the entire glorious album was over some 40 minutes later, I had taken off my wrist watch-- and that's all. What was …
review by . January 19, 2000
Pros: Beautiful Songs and Production     Cons: Melancholy     All good things must come to an end sooner or later, and Abbey Road for the Beatles was their sweet goodbye. This was the last George Martin production for the Beatles, which is direct contrast to the Phil Spector production of the Get Back sessions. The arrangements on Abbey Road are lush and full and especially so on the 2nd side as mostly all of the songs glide into one another.      …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #12
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this album


ABBEY ROAD, recorded in the summer of 1969, was the last album recorded by the Beatles (LET IT BE was released in 1970, but recorded in early '69). The Beatles: Paul McCartney (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass); John Lennon (vocals, guitar, keyboards); George Harrison (vocals, guitar, synthesizer); Ringo Starr (vocals, drums, percussion). After the laborious disorganization and infighting that characterized early 1969's LET IT BE sessions (as famously captured on film), the fractious four were willing to let George Martin take the reins and to work with him as a cohesive unit for the much more succinct production of their (and the decade's) swan song, ABBEY ROAD. The superb performances make the album an artistic high point for all members of the group. Paul McCartney inspired the suite of songs that begins with "You Never Give Me Your Money." Often thought of as two long medleys, the songs that fill most of the second half of ABBEY ROAD segue seamlessly into one another, but are programmed as separate CD...
Song List: Disc 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)
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. End
17. Her ...
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Label: Capitol/EMI Records
Artist: The Beatles
Genre: Classic Rock
Release Date: September 26, 1969

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