The age of thirteen is a tender one. It marks the foray into the wonderful world of being a teenager, and for Jewish male personnel, it is the age where you put your dreidel away and assume responsibility as a man. Naturally, when you’ve reached this most magical of ages, numerous and pivotal changes are inevitably going to occur. Some people get assaulted by waves of acne. Others’ personalities do a summersault for the more refined. My venture into this new territory was marked by something drastically different. Upon reaching the glorious age of thirteen, I found a pair of headphones, a pack of batteries, and a copy of 1969’s Abbey Road
in my hands.
is an album that honestly needs no introduction. Everything about the album exudes “classic” in every sense of the word. From the legacy to the cover art, it could put up one hell of a fight for the title of “most famous album ever”. With that said, how’s the music" When I first popped the album into the aforementioned CD player, the first thing that greeted my ears was the swampy and familiar Come Together
. As a budding still-rather-young Beatles fan, nothing could have delighted me more. Let us flash forward to present day. Everyone who knows the Beatles knows that while Let It Be
was the last album to be released before the groups’ well-publicized and legendary split, Abbey Road
was the last to be recorded. Acknowledging this, many may wonder how the band evolved from their last effort, as it’s almost given that the next Beatles album you purchase/steal/smuggle will be virtually nothing like the one you previously obtained. While Let It Be
’s back to the basics attempt failed in some places and flourished in others, the formula that was supposed to be utilized on it is found in much better form here. While sound effects and other still innovative techniques were used (the most glaring of which I’ll cover later), the formula for the songs, both lyrically and musically, are far more stripped down, featuring the guitar, bass, drums, and vocal combo of the earlier days.
Returning to my more adolescent story-self, I simply couldn’t have been more delighted by the time Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
had just taken it’s glorious bow, and so far the album was playing like an official version of 1967-1970
. However, my excitement was not to go unmolested. While I can now safely view the song as slight but charming, my remorse for the tune back in the day was well known among my inner-circle of gangsters and gun-smugglers. On it, we find Sir McCartney dabbling with more of that vaudevillian good-ness, setting a jaunty and ever-so-perking setting for the serial killer inspired lyrics. Again, the Beatles manage to surprise with lyrical content, though by now it was safe to assume that the band was no longer considered innocent. Still, I shall provide a sample:
Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again
Teacher gets annoyed
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant scene
She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away
So he waits behind
Writing 50 times "I must not be so”
But when she turns her back on the boy
He creeps up from behind
Bang-Bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head,
Bang-Bang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead
No explanation necessary.
My unabashed repentance concerning Maxwell
was to be put to rest, however, by the time Oh! Darling
had had it’s say. Again, let us jump forward here for a quick elaboration of a certain theory. It has often been said that Ringo Starr couldn’t play the drums to save his life. It has been suggested that every other Beatle was far superior to him in skill and relevance. As understandable as this is sometimes when listening to certain songs by the band (namely, all of their early stuff, in which Ringo plays a simple 4/4 beat with minimum to no fills), I must say upon listening to Oh! Darling
, nothing could be further from the truth. Even though the song is in mock-50’s, coaster-esque style, the drumming is frankly jaw-dropping, especially for someone who was considered by many to be so inept at his chosen profession.
As I sat spell-bounded by the song and listened to the layers of guitars and the absolutely ripping vocals, I was once again a happy boy, dosed by an album that’s tranquility was unsurpassed. Ringo threw his hat into the ring, providing his second and final Beatles composition, entitled Octopus’s Garden
. Containing fairly childish lyrics is almost a Ringo trademark, and while that can be easily over-looked, the song seems to display some sort of un-inspired vibe. Making up for Ringo’s short-comings is George Harrison, who provides a deviously clever guitar solo over a pounding rhythm and aqua-marine sound effects. And therein lies one of the few problems with an otherwise superb album. While songs like I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
are fantastic musically, (this one in particular boasting a subtle build-up guitar and harmony wise that lends more to the genius of John Lennon than anything), a bulk of the lyrics seem less thought out than some previous offerings. In particular, I Want You
is a case-in-point example of this. The lyrical content is essentially the same two lines repeated throughout the entire seven and a half minute long song. Some people may find the excessive length of the tune poisonous, I find it necessary. Without the extended track-length, the subtleties added would not be half as powerful or captivating.
While Harrison was finally proving himself equal to his more lavishly praised comrades with the uncontrollably catchy and happy mellotron-infested Here Comes the Sun
, I was still struggling to figure out what I was hearing. One minute, the album was bright and peppy. The next, it was dark and brooding. Because
, which is essentially a certain Beethoven sonata played backwards, offers without a doubt the best vocal harmonization of the Fab Four’s career, and taking into account the groups’ prestige in this area, that should say a lot. Introspective, beautiful lyrics build you up to a indescribably higher place, only to be completely knocked on your ass
by what’s to come next.
The Beatles had always tried to be original. Not surprisingly, they’d always succeeded. Whether it was musical genres, recording techniques, or just plain good songwriting, innovation was never far from their name. But the legendary medley that begins with the three-pronged You Never Give Me Your Money
is perhaps the greatest achievement of their entire career. As I sat back, fresh-faced and still completely unprepared, I noticed how great the songs were that were passing by. Then, I began to notice that the songs were playing like an opera, completely running together and beginning and ending before I’d even noticed. Just as I grasped the concept and prepared for another abrupt deviation, I noticed that some songs’ choruses were even reprised in others. Quite wacky, I must admit. While the concept officially starts with You Never Give Me Your Money
because it is the song that gets reprised, it in itself is a medley, going from a quite piano-laden ballad to a Lady Madonna
-ish tune, to its final form of a balls-out rock number, complete with a harmonized Lennon refrain of:
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven; all good children go to heaven.
As the medley continued in songs like the compressed, rocking Polythene Pam
and the somber, touching ballad Golden Slumbers
, I eventually reached a song entitled The End
. And nothing could have prepared me for it. I sat spellbound as each Beatle (John, Paul, and George) traded licks in an exciting solo, and was even more surprised when Ringo took a pretty competent drum solo of his own. About two years after my initial listen, it would come to my attention that the band had to convince him to do a drum solo, as he “didn’t like those thirty-minute wankers”. After the turbo-charged The End
, I was greeted with silence. Just as I was preparing to turn off the album, Her Majesty
made it’s brief, thirty (ish) second appearance. Let down by the somewhat under-whelming ending to the album, and by extension the career of the greatest rock and roll band ever, I took off my headphones, and put the album away.
It is now two years since that magical age of thirteen, and as I’ve developed, so has my opinion. One day, after my initial lukewarm reception to the album, I found myself completely attached to it, unable to tear myself from the utter relaxation offered by songs like Sun King
and She Came In Through the Bathroom Window
. As I kept listening, I finally managed to form an opinion. The album is overall one that requires time to understand. While there are hits a-plenty, the subtleties in some songs and even the bombastic beats offered by Ringo in others require multiple listens to fully understand. In the end, the Beatles did not disappoint with their final offering, but rather left the musical world with more to think about than they had upon their world-renowned arrival. While they would all go their respective and successful ways, the magic dies with Her Majesty
(even that grew on me), but only until you put the album on again.
And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make
The return of George Martin
Graceful ending to a great career
I Want You
may drag on to some