Album Review: The Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)

By Sergio Ariza

The perfect end to a glorious career

The recording sessions of Get Back (which would eventually lead to the album Let It Be) had made it clear that the Beatles were nearing the end, as friction had been continuous - something that had begun on the recording of The White Album, after the trip to India. The 60's were coming to an end and the group that put the soundtrack to those years were coming to their end as well. Nobody was clear that it was going to be ‘the last Fab Four album’; but what was clear is that they did not want to go back to the hell that they had just put themselves through.

So Paul McCartney got in touch with George Martin, the man who had been with them from the beginning, and proposed that they record another album together. The experienced producer told him that he would only participate if everything went back to the way it was before, and everyone, including
John Lennon, behaved. A pact was reached and the magic returned to the studios that gave the album its name. The quibbles were still there, as Lennon (besides George Harrison and Ringo Starr) could not stand Maxwell's Silver Hammer and McCartney (besides Harrison and Starr) was not very comfortable with the constant presence of Yoko Ono, but the quarrels were kept at bay, and in the studio part of the comradeship of yesteryear was recovered. Paul added some of his best bass lines, with his Rickenbacker 4001, onto some of Lennon's songs, such as Come Together and I Want You (She's So Heavy) while Harrison, increasingly confident, was helping Ringo complete one of the only two songs he composed in the whole of the Liverpool lads' career, Octopus’s Garden.


On this album all four have their moments (including a small drum solo by Ringo) but their strength comes, as usual, from their strength as a collective, working as a group again instead of separately. As if that wasn't enough, everyone was at their best as musicians. Furthermore, Martin and McCartney dared to add an incredible medley on the second side, on which the songs flowed without pause; creating one of the highlights of the band’s career. Abbey Road is the Beatles at their best, and the album was a tremendous influence for the whole of the following decade.

Abbey Road
opened with the Come Together of a Lennon who already advances in this album the rawness of the Plastic Ono Band; his best contribution being the visceral I Want You (She's So Heavy), an ode to Ono, in which you can see that he has rediscovered the most primal blues. On the other hand Sun King shows that he has been listening to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac; and Because is a twist on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata that features some incredible three-voice harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison himself.

But the fact is that, in spite of such contributions, Lennon is surpassed on this record by the contributions of Harrison and McCartney. The former delivers the two best songs of his career and shows that he has reached the level of Lennon and McCartney. Specifically, these are Something and Here Comes The Sun; two monuments made songs. The former is one of the best love songs of all time - (the best according to Frank Sinatra; of course ‘the Voice’ also said it was his "favorite song by Lennon / McCartney") - inspired by a verse in a song by James Taylor. Harrison opens up ‘a jar of essences and colors’ with a memorable melody and a great work with 'Lucy', his beloved Les Paul Standard 1957. Here Comes The Sun is also fantastic and has a wonderful acoustic introduction for a song that thrills like the first rays of spring.


But, even so, the main protagonist of this album is a McCartney who is not only alive, but who stands out on the second side with the wonderful final medley that leads to the final trio of songs, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End; one of the most exciting moments in the history of popular music. The medley opens with the spectacular You Never Give Me Your Money, with Harrison's Telecaster Rosewood recorded through a Leslie (something they did on several occasions on the album) and Lennon helps him with his Epiphone Casino, while McCartney unveils a signature melody. The medley fragments flow seamlessly, including a return to the You Never Give Me Your Money tune on Carry That Weight, until it reaches the end with The End, on which, after the only drum solo of Ringo Starr's career on the Beatles, McCartney, Harrison and Lennon engage in a wonderful guitar duel, demonstrating the explosive chemistry that emerged when they worked together, leading to the famous final section that perfectly summarizes the career of the greatest group of all time, "and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you made".

Abbey Road
is the perfect end to an absolutely glorious career. The Beatles split up soon after, as the fighting returned after this small parenthesis, but they left at the top, after an immaculate career and without a blemish. The dream was over, but thanks to records like this, we can always dream it again.