Although I had been a member of The Beatles Fan Club since 1965, by 1969 my loyalty was waning. There had been ongoing news in The Beatles Monthly about a new release but apart from the “Get Back” single on 11th April, I was getting tired of waiting. Luckily, an even better group released their magnificent third album on 25th April. “On The Threshold Of A Dream” fulfilled all the requirements a 14 year old grammar school boy could want. It was full of “bright creative splashes” and side two was especially innovative. I knew then that The Moody Blues records would, in time, prove to be infinitely better than any Beatles record. My friends Andrew and Alex both bought “Abbey Road” and I listened to it a few times and grudgingly admitted it was okay but subsequent purchases of other Moodies’ (as we aficionados liked to call them) albums (“In Search Of The Lost Chord” from 1968 and “To Our Children’s Children’s Children in November 1969) reinforced my new loyalty. Why should we fans have to wait a whole year for a new release? The Beatles used to produce two albums a year and now The Moodies were doing the same.
You may be surprised to hear that I have changed my mind a little over the years. I am prepared to admit that “Abbey Road” is a little better than anything The Moodies produced. Okay then, it’s about a million times better. I listened to it yesterday as part of my new regime of listening to one classic album a day and it blew me away.
You will know this album. You don’t need me to go through it song by song. All I will say is that listening to the “remastered” version released in 2019, several things stand out.
1) Ringo’s drumming is sensational. As the medley on side two builds it seems that his playing is driving the whole thing forward with immense creativity. He had to be persuaded to do a solo during “The End” but, really, the whole album is an incredible virtuoso performance.
2) Billy Preston’s organ playing on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” has been brought much higher in the mix and gives so much more depth to a song that frankly, when I listened to it on Alex’s record player in 1969, went on too long. Now it’s mildly disappointing when it finishes.
3) The moog synthesiser appears on several tracks and is great. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Here Comes The Sun” really benefit from subtle added flourishes. It’s never rammed down your throat – it’s very understated. That falling line in “Here Comes The Sun” was a mistake apparently, which George Harrison liked and kept. Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause had demonstrated the instrument earlier in the year. Maybe I should make a future blog on “All Good Men” by them.
4) It’s George Martin playing that beautiful harpsichord on “Because”.
5) “Mean Mr Mustard” was, allegedly, inspired by a headline in a paper which read “Scotsman’s meanness was legendary.” It was about John Mustard who lived in Old Park Road, Enfield. Excitingly, Peter and I lived about a mile from there at the same time as John Mustard. I find it exciting anyway.
6) John Lennon wanted the sides reversed. He also wanted all his songs on one side and all Paul McCartney’s on the other. If he had his way about reversing the sides, the last song on the last album they recorded would have just been cut off mid chord. What a great way to go that would have been.
7) “Her Majesty” is rubbish. It would have been so much better to finish with “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” which reminds me of “Nothing Lasts” by The Steve Miller Band: “The secret to this life is so very easy to learn. If you ever love another never ask for anything in return.”
This is a very good album. But you knew that anyway.
9 thoughts on “Abbey Road by The Beatles”
Thanks Mick, I haven’t listened to the 2019 remastered version before, but on the strength of your excellent piece I’m playing it now on Spotify. My first reaction is, the bass is about as twice as strong as the original and it’s making my Bose speakers rattle! Excellent.
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I find Abbey Rd intensely sad. I think I know too much about the appalling relationships within the band to view it, as many people do, through rose-tinted specs. Lennon’s determination to slag off anything they were doing by then – good or not – and McCartney’s belief that crap like Her Majesty and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer were actually worth recording, tend to overshadow any enjoyment I can get from the music itself. I know that’s not the point, and I can see how technically accomplished the record is, but it does seem like a sad, bitter, farewell.
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