Saturday, September 26, 2009

Abbey Road turns 40

The Beatles
Abbey Road
Rating: *****
1969 was, logically, the end of the 1960's. Some bands formed and some broke up. In August 1969, a three-day concert took place in Woodstock, New York. On September 26, the Beatles released Abbey Road. Like all their other albums, it went to the top of the charts. However, the album would be the last album the band recorded. Some say it's one of their best albums. Some say it's their best album and even called the best album ever made on an occasion or two. Personally for me, Abbey Road is my favorite album by anybody. I will go into the history of it and also give a track-by-track review.

1969 started off pretty rough for the Beatles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo had all felt they had grown out of the band but for some reason they were still together. The band was working on their next album, which had the working title of Get Back (which was later changed to Let It Be). While the band recorded and rehearsed, they were being filmed for a future documentary directed by Michael Lindsey-Hogg. Hogg captured a large amount of arguments, some of which made their way into the 1970 movie. The band resolved this by bringing in keyboardist Billy Preston into the sessions. With Preston, spirits were higher. On January 30, the Beatles had their gear set up on the offices of their record label Apple. Right there, the band performed their last show to a shocked crowd. The band played just a few songs before the police stopped them. Later in the year, John married Japanese artist Yoko Ono. Around the same month, Paul married New York photographer Linda Eastman. When John and Yoko had their honeymoon, they were unaware that the press would join them. This became known as the couple's "bed-in for peace". On June 1, the couple along with the press recorded "Give Peace A Chance".

There were also some bad things going for the Beatles that year. John and Yoko were arrested the year before for possession of marijuana. The man who caught them, Sgt. Pilcher, also busted George and his then wife Patti Boyd for drug possession. Things got really bad when the Let It Be album got shelved. Beatles producer, George Martin, remembers getting a phone call from Paul. Paul asked Martin if he'd produce their next album. Martin said he'd do it, only if they made an album like they use to: no tensions or arguments. With that, Abbey Road was recorded.

Track by track reviews

1. "Come Together"- Abbey Road starts off with this Lennon-penned rocker. Although the song's title became one of Lennon's sayings, the song is basically gibberish. "Walrus gumboot" is also mentioned, referring to "I Am The Walrus" and "Ono sideboard". According to sources, Lennon wrote the song originally for Timothy Leary to use in his campaign against Ronald Regan to become governor of California. Lennon made it a Beatles song once Leary was arrested for possession of cannabis. Lennon also got in trouble later on for using the lyric "Here come old flat top". Lennon settled this out of court. The song, in a whole, is a simple classic rock song. Various other bands would cover the song, notably Aerosmith in 1978.

2. "Something"- This is the only Beatles song that went to #1 and wasn't credited to Lennon/McCartney. This song is George Harrison's. Harrison's wrote this love song for his then wife, Patti Boyd. Despite the couple's split in 1974 and Boyd's marriage to Harrison's friend Eric Clapton, George was fine about it! Some think that by this time, George was becoming a better songwriter. It's a touching love song. Frank Sinatra even remarked that it was "the greatest Lennon/McCartney song ever written". Sure it is, Frank! In the Anthology book, George remarks that he had met Michael Jackson at the BBC for an interview. When the interviewer commented on the song, Michael said, "Oh, you wrote that? I thought it was Lennon/McCartney."

3. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"- If there was ever a list made of the weirdest Beatles songs ever made, this song would make the list. However, it's still a great song. The song, written mainly by Paul, is about a demented man named Maxwell Edison. In the first two verses, Maxwell kills both a girl named Joan and his teacher after beating them with a silver hammer. Maxwell also gets away by killing his judge too. As creepy and silly as it sounds, the song is still loved by Beatles fans. John, who didn't play on the track, had dismissed the song before as one of Paul's "granny-styled" songs. Ringo remarked in 2008 that the recording session for this song was the worst. According to sources, Ringo was hitting an anvil for the hammer sound! George once remarked that when it came to fruity songs, this was one of them.

4. "Oh! Darling"- This little doo-wop like song sung by Paul is one of the band's most overlooked songs. The lyrics are so simple and the beat is oh so catchy. Also, Ringo does some fantastic drumming in between the verses and chorus. In the chorus, Paul is nearly screaming the lyrics. In the Anthology book, Paul says that he wanted to sound "as though I'd been performing it on stage all week". John remarked in an interview in 1980 that he could've done a better job at singing it. Overall, this is a great song.

5. "Octopus' Garden"- Ringo wrote this whimsical tune by himself after going on a fishing trip with Peter Sellers. It also marks his second and last song that he wrote while the Beatles stayed together. In the lyrics, we hear that Ringo desires to live in an octopus' garden in the shade. "We can sing and dance around/Because we know we can't be found" puts you in agreement with Ringo. The song is one of the Beatles' more "kid friendly" songs but who cares? It's a really good song although Ringo admits that he was never a good songwriter.

6. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"- If you don't count the mess that is "Revolution 9", this is the longest Beatles song of all time. It's certainly a rocker and perhaps, more of a jamming tune since the song hardly has any words to it. You got to love the sound of the guitars (which I'm reading were overdubbed over and over) and that little organ solo in the middle. The song ends in white noise. The session the band did the overdubs was the last time all four Beatles were in the studio together.

7. "Here Comes The Sun"- Although it wasn't a hit, people still praise this simple little song. George wrote this song and it's easy to see why. The melodic sounds of acoustic make the song what it is. In Anthology, George said he wrote it when he felt the winter went on forever when it came to buissness at Apple. When it was spring, "you really deserve it". George said he was at Eric Clapton's house when he wrote this song. He said he just walked in the garden with one of Clapton's guitars and wrote the song. One of George's best, for sure.

8. "Because"- A weary but groovy drone is the one instrument in this song if you don't include the trumpets. John, Paul, and George sing this song together and their voices are so harmonious, especially at the "Ahh" parts. This song is also synthesizer heavy. Producer George Martin is playing an electric harpsichord on this.

9. "You Never Give Me Your Money"- It starts off as a piano-based song but all the instruments come together one by one. Once again, the band's voices blend in. When the song picks up the beat, Paul sings in his low voice. The lyrics of "But oh that magic feeling/No where to go" showcases Paul's lower voice. Also, the "funny paper" bit is, according to Paul, about the questions they'd ask on paper to management such as "When will I get famous?".At the end of the song, Paul yells the last lyrics while the counting in the end fades out.

10. "Sun King"- This should not be confused with "Here Comes The Sun". The song is pretty short and has barley any lyrics, some of which has the band singing in Spanish. John said in 1969 that they were just joking around when speaking Spanish. Paul just happened to know a few Spanish words. The silence at the end leads into...

11. "Mean Mr. Mustard"- John, with Paul backing up, sings this song. The song talks about a mean old man who hardly does anything in his life. However, he does have a sister named Pam. Pam takes him out to look at the queen and it's the "only place that he's ever been". Also, he always shouts out something obscene. What a dirty old man but as for his sister...

12. "Polythene Pam"- Next, the listener learns more about Mr. Mustard's sister. "She's oh so good looking but she looks like a man," sings John. She's also "the kind of a girl who brings the news of the world" and you can say she was "dressed to the hilt". The song was inspired by a true story. Paul says that John had met this girl (named Pam) through poet Royston Ellis. John would tell tales that when he was at Ellis' flat, there was this girl who wore nothing but polythene. John said in 1980 that she'd even have sex in polythene. The song goes on rocking...

13. "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window"- "Oh look out!" exclaims John. Would you look at where Pam ended up? This sleazy little number is sung by Paul, who sings, "She said she's always been a dancer/ She worked at fifteen clubs a day". You also got to love the lyric "She could steal/ But she could not rob". The song, believe it or not, is based on another true story. Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues remembers that a groupie had come into a window where singer Ray Thomas was. The band shared their story and Paul wrote a song right there. Some think the song has to do with Beatles fans sneaking in, or Apple Scruffs. This song ends the first suite.

14. "Golden Slumbers"- Don't be fooled by the song credits: Lennon/McCartney didn't write this song; they arranged it, as it is a traditional lullaby. Paul remarked in the Anthology mini-series that his father used to play it on the piano when he was a boy. The music for it was made up and not the original sheets that Paul had. Paul's voice is absolutely great in this short song that goes into...

15. "Carry That Weight"- "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight/ Carry that weight a long time" sings Ringo. A beautiful symphony plays then goes into what sounds like "You Never Give Me Your Money" but with different lyrics and this time, all the Beatles are singing it. The "weight" is sometimes thought to be the Beatles' past. That seems fitting because when the Beatles split, they were left with the tag that said they used to be in the Beatles. The song then goes back to the beginning and then...

16. "The End"- "Oh yeah, all right/ Are you going to be in my dreams, tonight?" asks Paul. This then goes to an impressive drum solo from Ringo that lasts for a while only to switch to a more rocking sound. Ringo says in Anthology that he didn't want to do a drum solo but he did it in this song. The last lyrics in the song are what John called in 1980 philosophical: "And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make". At the end, you'll hear a long silence. This was not on purpose or an accident. This was the last take of the last song. As the band remarks in Anthology, the room was just silent after they stopped playing. In some way, they all knew it would soon be the end of the Beatles.

17. "Her Majesty"- Paul is the only one on this song. "Her majesty she's pretty nice girl..." are the first lyrics in the only verse. It was originally planned that "The End" would close the album but Paul wanted it at the end. Some people call this song one of the first "hidden tracks". This is how Abbey Road ends: their shortest song of all time ends their last album recorded.

The cover for the album was from a photo session on August 8, 1969. They were only given ten minutes to have a picture taken on the actual Abbey Road. The band, as you see on the cover, was all dressed up. John is wearing white, Paul is barefoot, George is in denim, and Ringo is just wearing a suit. Abbey Road was released on September 26, 1969 in the UK and on October 1 in the US. Both "Come Together" and "Something" became number one hits. The album received mostly positive reviews. Before the year ended, the Beatles would have a new manager named Allen Klien. By 1970, Klien had put the band in a bad situation financially. It's well known that Klien did take some money from his acts. All the Beatles had agreed to Klien being their manager except Paul, who suggested his father-in-law Lee Eastman. Still, the band did manage to get Phil Spector to produce the unreleased Let It Be album. Meanwhile, the band had their last photo sessions. In April 1970, Paul filed a lawsuit against his band mates asking to end their partnership. The Beatles were over. Let It Be was released shortly after.

Over the years after Abbey Road was released, the cover has been spoofed in every shape and form. Most of the songs have been covered and people have had hits out of their versions. You can't help it but when you see a road crossing, you have to take a picture and pose.

Fans should be happier this year with Beatle-related events. The biggest of them all being that the band's entire catalogue is being reissued and newly remastered for the first time since 1987. They were released on September 9, which was also the same day The Beatles: Rock Band video game was released. Although there are only 45 songs on the disc, fans will get to download full albums. The first of the albums will be Abbey Road. There was no explanation on why Abbey Road but now that you've read this; the album is turning 40 years old. You just have to admit: its gotten better.

Note: Abbey Road will be available for download on Wii, PS3, and X-BOX systems on October 20. Although this won’t be exactly in time of the fortieth anniversary, you can play the entire album on this day. Plus, the album came out in the US in October so we really have two months to celebrate!

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