Abbey Road Resurfaced (Side 1)
It’s been 40 years since Abbey Road was released, and there’s been a load of celebrations taking place to mark this anniversary. Lately, it must have been almost impossible to drive down the actual Abbey Road in London’s NW8, without almost running over four idiots re-enacting the famous front cover photograph. What with The Beatles – Rock Band game being released, and the reissued albums, it seems like we’re in the middle of Beatlemania once again.
I thought now would be an appropriate time to reassess Abbey Road. Many people cite it as the best Beatles album, or even the best album ever made. However, I’ve never found it to be either of those things. I think that when you consider all the songs, you find an album which is unsatisfying, by Beatles standards. So, I hereby present to you the first part of my track-by-track dissection of the album:
Come Together – This is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and makes for a very good opener. I find the lyrics to be somewhat less than meaningful, and the drums a little limp, but I love the overall ‘feel’ of the song. It almost seems like funk or soul. At the time, the band was playing with soul musician Billy Preston, and John Lennon even suggested that he joined them full time. I wonder if Lennon felt threatened by acts like Sly & the Family Stone, who in 1969, were surely a lot more relevant than The Beatles.
Something – Again, this is another track that I really like. Famously, Frank Sinatra said it was his favourite Lennon/McCartney song [sic]. I think it’s probably as good as some of John and/or Paul’s earlier work. But I don’t think it’s surprising that Sinatra liked it. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by Sinatra, Gene McDaniels or any other crooner. It’s very good, but hardly groundbreaking.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – This is the first song in what I like to call this album’s ‘Trilogy of Error’. The song has been rightly criticised over the years; mostly for being rubbish. It has all the worst aspects of McCartney’s writing: it’s a silly, slice of life, character song. It must be difficult for bands to try and balance light-hearted material with the more serious songs, and I think this album fails in that respect.
Oh! Darling – I don’t have much to say about this one as it’s mediocre. I’ve always liked Macca in his blues shouter mode, but the music and lyrics are just too bland for it to be truly interesting.
Octopus’s Garden – The band liked to allocate one song per album for Ringo to sing, but did he really need to write the song too?! This, along with MSH, Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam, makes the album feel quite frivolous. With its nautical theme, it also seems like a cynical attempt to repeat the success of Yellow Submarine.
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – I love the sinister nature of this song, especially the end section. It shows just how much darker Lennon’s work had become. Many people have criticised the abrupt ending, and I’ll admit to finding it disconcerting at first. Maybe that’s the point though.
Stay tuned for my critique of Side 2 of Abbey Road…