May. 7, 2014

An Appreciation: Abbey Road Side Two

“‘Let It Be’ was a miserable experience and I never thought we would get back together again. So I was very surprised when Paul rang me up and said ‘We want to make another record. Will you produce it for us, really produce it.’ I said ‘Yes, if I’m really allowed to produce it. If I have to go in and accept a lot of instructions I don’t like, I won’t do it.”

(George Martin, from Mark Lewisohn’s ‘Beatles Recording Sessions’ book)

McCartney was heavily involved in the medley in the studio


Me, being the complete Beatles fanatic I was from age five, REALLY love their final recorded album “Abbey Road.” I continue to get emotional to this day when I hear the medley, just as I did in 1969 when it was first released and I would listen to it night and day.

Of course, no one outside the inner Beatles circle knew for sure that this would be their last hurrah. I suppose ‘Beatles Nation’ thought it would go on forever. The band itself KNEW this was “The End.” It was inevitable with the legal squabbles, Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Allen Klein and the failing Apple Enterprises tugging them four different ways.

For these men, the fishbowl they had been living in for 8 years never hurt their creativity and songwriting mastery. They kept competing for space on the records right to the end. 

“Abbey Road” was the 1st rock record to feature Moog synthesizer.

George Martin had to walk on eggshells the last three years as this band had really come into its own in production and vision since the “Pepper” project in 1967. They had all written, played or produced material for other people’s projects. They were not the lovable mop tops anymore.

When the record started just weeks after the “Let It Be” project had mercifully ended, the band had one last collection of songs and some odds and ends they wrote in India during the Maharishi experience.

I want to briefly discuss Side One. There are some amazing songs on this first side. John Lennon’s “Come Together,” starts the record off and it is sexy and rockin’. Lennon would later be sued by Chuck Berry for plagiarism (Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ is very similar. Berry would later win the lawsuit). I like Lennon’s song more. Berry was added on the copyright as a writer.

George Harrison’s “Something” is simply my favorite later Beatles song. Harrision had been developing in Lennon/McCartney’s shadow and would simply blow his bandmates out of the water the next year with “All Thing Must Pass.”

McCartney’s “Maxwell Silver Hammer” is shlocky and typical of his most corny works like “Obla Di Obla Da,” etc. 

Paul followed that song with one of his finest later Beatles tracks: “Oh Darling.” McCartney wrote this song during the “Let It Be” sessions and can be seen in that film rehearsing it. What I truly love about this song is the fact that he came into the studio EVERY day early and sang himself hoarse just to get the effect on his voice. It worked. It is brilliant and amazing craft and execution.

Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden” is another song that can be glimpsed during the “Let It Be” film with George. The two of them collaborated on the song, but Harrison is not credited. Ringo wrote most of the song on Peter Seller’s yacht in 1968.

Harrison was a major contributor to Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden.”

Lennon’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was recorded on the same day that the album cover was shot of the four men walking across the street in front of the Abbey Road studio. The track is highlighted by many guitars and some shrieking harmonies by John, Paul and George.

Beatles get ready for “Abbey Road” cover shoot, which took all of 10 minutes.

Side Two:

“Here Comes The Sun” is stunningly beautiful and sets the tone for what was going to be a masterfully-recorded side of a record that goes down in rock history as meaningful and put together. Harrison wrote the song in Eric Clapton’s garden.

Lennon’s Beethoven-inspired “Because” is, in my  opinion, his best later Beatles track. It has tripled-tracked Lennon-McCartney-Harrison harmonies. This song comes right before the medley and is beautifully poetic. This song predates “Imagine,” but it can be argued that “Because” set Lennon on a course to write that fine (“Imagine”) song just three years later.

Okay. On to the 16-minute masterpiece known as ‘The Medley.’

“You Never Give Me Your Money” is McCartney at his best as a balladeer and sometimes satirist. While these songs don’t particularly tie in to each other lyrically, they make it work. This track has a bite to it much like Lennon’s Maharishi-hating “Sexie Sadie” (from the White Album). McCartney HATED Allen Klein, their manager at the time. He thought the band was getting screwed and he wrote that song as a direct message to Klein. The second part of the song is a boogie-esque lament about what it is like to struggle in England:

“Out of college, money spent/See no future, pay no rent
All the money’s gone, nowhere to go/Any jobber got the sack
Monday morning, turning back/Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go
But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go”

It is one of McCartney’s finest social statements, along the lines of “Eleanore Rigby” and “She’s Leaving Home.” McCartney has never really been given his due as a socially-conscious writer, but I would argue that these songs rank highly with Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” and “Revolution” in this category. 

John contributed “Sun King,” which has nonsensical Spanglishly language thrown in. It sounds great and belongs musically. The “Medley” would be lacking (in my opinion) without “Sun King. 

“Mean Mr. Mustard” and”Polythene Pam” were both Lennon throwaways he wrote in India. They fit beautifully as they pick up the pace. I do not take Lennon’s contributions lightly in this constructed 16-minute medley. These are just fun songs that round out the sonic background.

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is autobiographically true as a fan did enter through McCartney’s bathroom window and Paul wrote the story she told him as lyrics. This was a common practice Lennon and McCartney used in those days. TV commercials, newspaper articles, real life were all fodder for songs.

“Golden Slumbers” is beautifully crafted from borrowed lyrics from 17th century poet Thomas Dekkor. It is a nursery rhyme set to new McCartney music. It goes into “Carry That Weight,” which is a warning to his mates and inner circle that they will ALL have to carry that weight…’A long time.’

George and Paul remained friends until Harrison’s 2001 death.

“The End” is the track that always gets me misty when I hear it.

The track is beautifully constructed by the Beatles and George Martin. They are all working together and even Ringo plays a drum solo, which is the MOST famous drum solo in recorded rock history. Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison each contributed guitar solos. This is one hell of a way to end the Beatles. It is both exhilarating and sad in a bittersweet way. I love the medley and the entire “Abbey Road” record as a testament to pop and rock history.

It is a piece of history that is capped off by Paul’s 23-second “Her Majesty.” Of course Paul gets the last word, but it is a good little piece of music about his love for the Queen.

Side Note: “Let It Be,” which was originally called “Get Back” would be released after “Abbey Road.” “Abbey Road” really was the end and it let them go out as artists on a high note.

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