Thomo’s Classic Album Series #2 – The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

Band – The Beatles

Line Up –

John Lennon (Vocals/Guitar/Piano/Moog)

Paul McCartney (Vocals/Bass/Guitar/Piano/Moog)

George Harrison (Vocals/Guitar/Bass/Moog)

Ringo Starr (Vocals/Drums)

Year – 1969

Producer – George Martin

Label – Apple

Are The Beatles the greatest band of all time? Obviously everything is subjective and very much of personal opinion (and personally I believe they are) but there’s no denying just how incredible an impact they had on the world of music.

For a band that were only together for ten years and had a recorded output that spanned seven of those, the evolution of their sound, their look, their personalities is something to behold. You can name hundreds of bands and trace their influence back to the Fab Four. You can even see them shaping ideas for whole genres to come (listen to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ from Revolver (1966) and you can hear the formative base for dance music, in particular The Chemical Brothers big beat style). As much as they looked to the future they were also never afraid to incorporate their own influences from their childhoods and teenage years.

I have listened to everything The Beatles have ever recorded (including the stuff they did as Tony Sheridan’s backing band) and over the years my favourite album of theirs has changed many times. I’ve gone through my A Hard Day’s Night (1964) stage, my Revolver (1966) stage, my The Beatles (White Album) (1968) stage and whilst I still love all of those records and listen to them regularly, the record I return to most is Abbey Road (1969). This was the last album ever recorded by the band (although Let It Be (1970) was released after this one, it had been recorded before) and at a time when they were falling apart, with each member pulling in different directions, it felt like the first record they had made as a collective in a long time.

It may not be their most adventurous album, although I’d argue that the almost side-long song medley that makes up the majority of the second half of the album is one of their most ambitious undertakings, but it is a joy to listen to. Even something as throwaway as ‘Octopus’s Garden’, which is just a way to get Ringo to have his customary vocal moment, works within the context of the album as a whole. Each member gets a chance to shine and contribute on a songwriting level. George offers up the song of his career (‘Something’), Lennon continues to push the boundaries with the almost eight minute ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, Ringo has the aforementioned ‘Octopus’s Garden’ but it’s Paul that is the star of the show here. Never the coolest Beatle, a lot of people can be dismissive of his songwriting at times as whimsical or throwaway (‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is a prime example of that on this album), however, the work he puts in on side two is pure brilliance. Even though mere song fragments, the segments that make up parts of the nine track song cycle are some of the most beautiful and moving he’s ever written. The second side of the album is a must listen for anyone that enjoys/has any kind of interest in music. The harmonies (especially on ‘Because’), the recurring motifs, the escalation of the cycle from early beat pop style to a pure majestic crescendo is one of the finest, most rewarding listening experiences of their career.

I must make a special mention to the final song ‘The End’ (not counting hidden track ‘Her Majesty’). A fitting title to mark not just the finish of the album but also the end of the decade, their decade together and the realisation that it was over for them as a band going forward. An upbeat release of a track, this is The Beatles going out with a blast. You can hear how incredible they sound when coming together (no pun intended), the huge drums of Ringo providing a bedrock for John, Paul and George to trade guitar solos over before it all drops out to leave us with the perfect sign off – “The love you take is equal to the love you make”.

This was their one last great hurrah and what a way to bring the most incredible journey to a climax (I try to ignore Let It Be (1970)). To go out on such an album of pure brilliance should have been expected from these guys but to do so with their most uplifting and joyous sounding record in what was, as a band, their darkest days, is just another example of what made them so amazing. Start anywhere in their catalogue and you will find something you love but make sure you carve out a little time for this album and you will recognise you’ve just listened to something special.

Track Listing

1. Come Together – 9/10

2. Something – 9.5/10

3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – 6/10

4. Oh! Darling – 8/10

5. Octopus’s Garden – 6/10

6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – 9/10

7. Here Comes The Sun – 8.5/10

8. Because – 9/10

9. You Never Give Me Your Money – 8.5/10

10. Sun King – 6/10

11. Mean Mr. Mustard – 7/10

12. Polythene Pam – 6.5/10

13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window – 6/10

14. Golden Slumbers – 9/10

15. Carry That Weight – 8.5/10

16. The End – 9.5/10

17. Her Majesty (Hidden Track)

Overall – 9.5/10

Spotify link –

https://open.spotify.com/album/0ETFjACtuP2ADo6LFhL6HN?si=UFBL85-9Q6OMRRDvbuSrFA

Apple Music link –

https://music.apple.com/gb/album/abbey-road-remastered/1441164426

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