What is there left to say about The Beatles? Arguably the biggest band in the world, the group produced an extensive discography in a relatively short space of time. For many Abbey Road is the last ‘true’ Beatles record, and it is easy to see why.
There isn’t a single Beatles record that doesn’t have at least one hugely well-known track, and Abbey Road is no exception. “Come Together” is a beautiful lesson in Beatles blues-rock with jumping bass and even bouncier vocals. To add to this, you have The Beatles’ (unironically) heaviest track in their catalogue: “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. What’s wonderful about these songs is they hold up so well in their 50 years of age, which is nothing but a testament to their brilliance.
Listening back to this album, I found huge interest in the latter half the record. From “Mean Mr Mustard” onwards, you are essentially listening to an operatic medley of classic Beatles sounds. These minute-long tracks flow seamlessly into each other. And if they were not listed as separate tracks, you’d be hard pushed to convince me they are. The flow of “Golden Slumbers” into “Carry That Weight” is particularly sublime. Oh, and you have to give props so Ringo’s only drum solo in the whole Beatles catalogue in the beginning of “The End”.
There are very few parts of this album which I dislike. Which makes it even harder to score. It is an age-old question; ‘Which is the best Beatles album?’. How would one rate Abbey Road against Revolver or Sgt. Peppers? I think probably, you can’t. It’s a personal preference. Whilst I adore this album, for myself it doesn’t exemplify The Beatles as much as an album like Revolver or the White Album does. Abbey Road is an excellent example of the magic that are The Beatles, but for now at least, I have some other favourite Beatles albums.8 10
Favourite tracks // I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Final medley of Mean Mr Mustard – Polythene Pam – She Came in Through the Bathroom Window – Golden Slumbers – Carry that Weight – The End
It’s been a few years since I last listened to Abbey Road and I was ready to love it more than I have done. The highlights are truly magical, as good as anything written in the decades since the album was released. The rest settles for being exceptional, a fine final dose of The Beatles for the world before John, Paul, George, and the drummer went their separate ways.
For me, the special something on Abbey Road is almost entirely due to George Harrison. “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” flutter away like a couple of songbirds. They’re brilliant, brilliant songs. And so spacious. The album tos and fros between light and heavy tunes, but the light stuff is where it’s at. “Come Together” stands out for the same reason. From the flat thwack of Ringo Starr’s toms to the effortless restraint of Lennon’s delivery, that track is one cool cat. When Abbey Road grooves it goes down real smooth.
And yet you do get the slightest sense of a band coming apart at the seams. Every track carries the mark of its writer, which sometimes undermines the album’s unity. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is more than a bit bit prim, for example. There’s a song that irons it’s underwear. And as the album’s centrepiece I’m not sure “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” has quite enough steel to it. The closing medley of songs comes across like, well, a medley.
Abbey Road was the last word of a band with nothing left to prove, and it sounds like it. Exceptional without being seminal, the record is not a high watermark, but then it didn’t need to be. The songs are great, the sound is great, and at 50 years old it’s younger at heart than most things are ever likely to be.8 10
Favourite tracks // Something
Here Comes the Sun
Of The Beatles’ discography, Abbey Road is one of the releases I’ve neglected. Released towards the end of their time as a band, with some of the material here being recorded even after Let It Be, it often gets overshadowed by what had come before. It’s not climbed the ranks to be my favourite this week, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
What clicks most throughout Abbey Road is a returned focus to solid rock tracks and brilliant guitar music. While the likes of “Here Comes the Sun” is by no means without auxiliary instrumentation, the core is still its twinkling, clean guitar line and airy vocals breezing into left and right ears respectively. On the other hand “I Want You” is a moody, raw outing, with rarely heard cracked screams and a growing surge of noise through its eight-minute playtime.
The final portion, worked into a medley, makes for a whistle-stop tour of Beatles music. Culminating in the appropriately titled closer, “The End”, featuring Ringo’s only drum solo in what is quite possibly the last recorded track as the Beatles. As enjoyable as it is, with one track flowing straight into the next, it’s hard not to feel as though this is a finale for the band. To be less kind, it can, at times, feel like the final scribblings and squabbles as each member tries to get their work on the album before everything ends. Each of these medley tracks hovers above the minute mark and, while they sound great, they are afforded the luxury of not requiring a fleshed-out structure.
Make no mistake, Abbey Road makes for a great listen. Without it, we’d be missing “Come Together”, “Something”, and the aforementioned “Here Comes The Sun” (okay, “Octopus’s Garden” too), all of which are widely regarded as hits for the band. The medley includes moments that feel a little further off the beaten track too and as a record, it’s full of history for the band (including that shoeless conspiracy). It’s not my favourite, but when it comes to The Beatles, even my least favourite album would make for a damn good listen.8 10
Favourite tracks // Here Comes the Sun
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)