Today we discuss one of my favorite, and most highly significant albums ever recorded. “Abbey Road”, by the Beatles, is the last album they ever recorded as a group. Based on some unusual circumstances with the start and stop of “Let It Be”, that was actually the last full album they released, but chronologically this was the last album they recorded together, and as most of the band would say, they knew the end was near. Personality conflicts, differences in musical and business opinions and the collective stress of a decade under a microscope had taken its toll on the band. All of that considered, they somehow produced some of their finest work ever, and this album is highly regarded, rated #5 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Even the album cover is considered legendary, with the famous photo of them crossing the street together in front of their studio of the same name. I think it is easy to say that at least three of the four Beatles did their finest work on this album. John’s leadership role had diminished somewhat by this point, and I think I would look back at their earliest days and “Rubber Soul” as his greatest contributions to the band. That being said, “Come Together” is an instantly recognizable late-era Beatles track, and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is one of the most blues-rooted songs the band ever recorded. Turning to Ringo Starr, he contributed another solo composition “Octopus’s Garden”, and his drumming on the side two medley, including his brief solo, makes a major impact on the album. George Harrison unquestionably delivers his two most impactful songs on this album, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”, which was the first single off of the album, and the first Harrison song ever released as an “A” side single. It has become the most covered Beatles song ever, and whenever Paul performs his favorite George song in concert, this is almost always the pick. The melody is beautiful, a remarkable song, and I would put his guitar solo on this song up against Clapton’s work on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Sir Paul McCartney. Paul’s overwhelmingly impressive musical talent is on full display on this album. His first song is the ridiculous “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, which feels like a sequel to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”. With that said, he then follows up with “Oh! Darling”, which I consider his most amazing vocal performance ever. As great as that song is, his true triumph on this album is the infamous medley of short songs that takes up most of Side Two. To be fair, there are three Lennon leads in the middle of this medley, but the formation, construction, and dominant tracks of this medley are all Paul McCartney. Starting with the piano intro to “You Never Give Me Your Money”, the album then blends together “Sun King”, “Mean Mr. Mustard”, Polythene Pam”, “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, culminating with Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney all taking turns on lead guitar through “The End”. In all, it runs approximately 16 minutes, and even though I normally love randomly shuffling songs, I believe these songs should always be listened to in sequence, in their entirety. Incredible hooks, beautiful Beatle harmonies, stellar instrumental performances, and ultimately very poignant lyrics.
Combined together, we have the most impactful rock and roll band of all time, delivering a final act truly worthy of their place in musical history. If you haven’t listened to this album recently, or perhaps ever in its entirety, I can’t recommend it any higher. To the new Beatle fan, this is a great album, along with “A Hard Day’s Night”, to showcase how good both the early and late Beatles eras were, with “Rubber Soul” added in to cover their transition phase.
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make…” The Beatles – Abbey Road