beatles - abbey road

The Beatles: Abbey Road (1969)

There’s a sense of the mythic in that opening bassline, the way it connect the drum.  It’s all sex and slink, a dirt revelation of the youth of 1969, 79…2019.  Abbey Road is the true last gospel of The Beatles, and  the true gospel of The Beatles, the last time the band would truly ever “Come Together,” and it’s little wonder it’s so glorious a send off, despite it being released after Let It Be.  

More than any other record, it’s Abbey Road that makes me think of The Beatles.  The delivery of notes and movement and images are the archetypes that conjure in my head when I think about the band.  It’s the signature tone of George’s guitar on “Something” which is one of the greatest songs about love to ever grace my ears.  It’s the absurdity of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” the gentle fun of “Octopus’s Garden” and the roiling tension and anguish of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  Abbey Road takes the experimentation of The White Album and coalesces it into a perfect capsule of the band’s essence.

And it’s not just the music (although it is SO MUCH THE MUSIC); you can talk all you want about the audacity and drama of Sgt. Pepper, or the groovy black and white illustration for Revolver, but nothing invades the mind quite like the site of the Fab Four walking across the street to the studio, Paul barefoot, George scowling in denim, Ringo perhaps looking the most proper as John blazes forth like a lion in his white suit.  I would stare at the cover for hours as a child, never once thinking there was any sense of marketing or forethought into the image – it was captured in a magical moment where the narratives of the song would swirl around the image, my brain trying in vain to figure out how this fit in with that, finally tiring and singing along at the top of my lungs.

One of the biggest moments for me is the medley that takes up the second half of the album.  Or more specifically, four songs in that piece: “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” because in high school my best friends formed a band called The Clams, and their centerpiece was this quartet, with each member taking turn on lead vocals.  For the sake of completeness, the band’s repertoire was unlike any other high school band at the time (1989-1991), comprised of Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne,” Billy Joel’s “Angry Young Man,” Jethro Tull’s “Cross Eyed Mary” and a host of Hendrix and Cream tunes, not to mention originals like “When Whales Make Love.” You went too far and were burnt by the sun, Clams…rest in peace.

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