Happy 50th birthday, Abbey Road!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 26 September 1969, Abbey Road was The Beatles’ last studio album in terms of when it was recorded. Though the painfully spotty Let It Be was released in May 1970, the bulk of it was recorded before AR.

This would’ve been the perfect swan song to go out on. The album is absolutely brilliant, lightyears away from LIB. Though some people complain about all the song snippets on Side Two, they work perfectly in the musical context. Without all these miniature songs blending in and out of one another, it wouldn’t be the same album.

Recording began 22 February 1969, with producer George Martin agreeing to work with the band again on strict condition they let him produce it “the way we used to do it.” They also had to promise to adhere to a reasonable measure of discipline and behave themselves properly.

It seemed an impossible proposition after the acrimonious mood during the recording of their previous two albums, but in spite of continuing interpersonal tensions, it was a much more enjoyable experience all around.

The resulting album was a compromise between two schools of style. John wanted a traditional album with distinct, unrelated songs, while Paul and George Martin wanted a running theme like they’d done on the most overrated album of all time. Side One follows John’s style, while Side Two famously adheres to the latter vision.

John, never one to mince words, wasn’t exactly fond of the resulting product. He would’ve preferred his songs on one side and Paul’s on the other, and lit into Paul’s lightweight “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” as granny music. As for Side Two, John thought the medleys were “junk…just bits of songs thrown together.”

The band did little to promote AR, though it shot to #1 regardless, in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany. Over the last fifty years, critics have by and large highly praised it. It’s in my own Top 5 of fave Beatles’ albums.

Track listing:

“Come Together” (#1 in the U.S., #4 in the U.K.)
“Something” (#1 in the U.S., Australia, West Germany, Canada, and New Zealand; #2 in Norway; #3 in Ireland; #4 in the U.K.; #5 in Sweden; #11 in Austria)
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
“Oh! Darling”
“Octopus’s Garden”
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (recorded the last time all four Beatles were in the studio together, and a forerunner to doom metal)
“Here Comes the Sun”
“Because” (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played backwards)
“You Never Give Me Your Money” (first of the mini-songs)
“Sun King”
“Mean Mr. Mustard”
“Polythene Pam”
“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”
“Golden Slumbers” (a poem from Thomas Dekker’s play Patient Grissel, written 1599 and published 1603)
“Carry That Weight”
“The End”
“Your Majesty” (an ultra-short snippet after fourteen seconds of silence)

My fave tracks are “I Want You” (which wasn’t so popular originally), “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “The End.” I love the emotionally expectant mood of the final few songs (not counting hidden track “Your Majesty”), this tension building and building till the most perfect, bittersweet swan song ever.

Author: Carrie-Anne

Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

One thought on “Happy 50th birthday, Abbey Road!”

  1. Yes – many of the albums pre Abbey Road went John’s way.

    I like albums which tell a story or many stories.

    And the culture around Abbey Road!

    Someone had a remastered Abbey Road in the early 2000s which is how I got to know it – lots of covers from different artists like “Here there and everywhere” as Celine Dion sang it.

    And “Come together” and “Here comes the sun”. Those are two of my own favourites. And “Something”.

    They touch a melancholic and optimistic chord – a hope and affirmation in life.

    Maxwell’s Silver Hammer makes me laugh

    At the end there is “Carry that Weight” which I downloaded as an MIDI and if I had a polyphonic ringtone …

    Hmmm – what Abbey Road songs would you match to ringtones?

    Had the Ninth Symphony as an earworm and hopefully Moonlight Sonata backwards.

    Have a very mixed impression of the whole Patient Grissel/Griselda mythos – and that whole English Revolution of drama and Dekker. [trying to think – was it Restoration that I mean? Cromwell and all that – all I know about Cromwell comes from a roleplay in a short story and a bit more where a teacher is called Cromwell or Crommie because of their ways/quirks. Exposure to the 2 sources was 3 years apart – December 1992 and April 1995 respectively].

    If I didn’t know better I would take Dekker for Marvell [and still not be sure whether Marvell was Andrew or Thomas].

    Sun King I barely know anything about so I will run away and listen to it and also Octopus’s Garden. For so long [about 18 years – 1994-2002 – I would have said the Garden was my favourite on the album].

    Liked by 1 person

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