Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Abbey Road, AKA - The greatest album of all time.

Well it was a toss up as to whether the first post proper would be about the Fabs or Doctor Who, until I realised that I could spend the rest of my life on explaining why Doctor Who is so great.

The title is just to clarify the matter for those poor fools who think the likes of Nevermind or the Joshua Tree are the best albums of all time.

Now I am gonna work form the assumption that all sensible people accept that the Beatles are the greatest band that humanity has ever produced. People are of course free to disagree with this, but they should of course realise that whilst they are entitled to such an opinion, they are also wrong. They should then spend ever free moment listening to the entire output of the Beatles until they realise why they are wrong.

Anyhow, a lot of people will tell you Sgt. Pepper is the best album the Fabs did. These are the same sort of people that think Imagine is the best thing Lennon did and their opinion can safely be discounted. Revolved clearly has a strong claim for being the best album of all time, but ultimately fails on the basis that it doesn't have quite the depth and maturity of Abbey Road. To be fair though it basically gave rise to the entire britpop movement. Hopefully in another 10 years or so the music industry will catch up and we'll have a genre based on Abbey Road (Prog Rock doesn't count).

The White Album also has a claim to the title too, but fails because there are far too many songs that are basically solo efforts. That's not to say that it isn't completely fucking awesome though, because it is.


Anyway, back to Abbey Road.

First things first. The Fabs basically recorded this album after having all but broken up. The Let it Be project ended in rancour and petty back biting. Allen Klein was allegedly doing all he could to rob the Fabs out of their cash ("in business, his left hand never knew who his right hand was doing, he was a man after his own wallet") and Yoko was trying to sing. Everything had gone to hell. And yet, somehow the boys decided to "come together" one last time and create a masterpiece. The Abbey Road project was four people listening to the better angels of their nature.

Onto the songs:

1. Come Together. Classic Lennon here with nonsense lyrics somehow forming a rythmic impressionistic sound collage. All underpinned by Macca's Godlike bass playing. Seriously name me a better bassline than this one. Then try and name me another better one that wasn't also by Macca. I'll wait.


Ok then, moving on. The next thing to note, even for those of you stuck with the crappy EMI CDs, is the sound quality. This was done on an 8-track machine, the Fabs were using 4-track up to then. Moreover, this was the first album they mixed with stereo in mind. Previously the Fabs too a great deal of care and attention with the Mono mixes, then left some junior engineer to spend a couple of hours making a stereo mix. Abbey Road's stereo mix is mostly devoid of the weird imbalances that characterise the earlier albums. Add that to the 8 track goodness and you've got a lush, almost Floydian, soundscape.

Next thing to note. You can't hear it on the EMI CD's but on the original vinyl, Lennon's "Shoots" are actually "Shoot me!". In retrospect, this was probably not a wise lyric.


2. Something.

George's coming out party. Sure the weeping of his guitar was a highlight of the white album, but it was actually Eric Clapton playing and also not a single. Anyway one of the greatest love songs of all time and a prelude to the awesomeness that was to come from George in the form of his All Things Must Pass album. The surround sound version of this on the Anthology album is even better as little bits of instrumentation are as clear as a bell.

3. Maxwell's Silver Hammer.

Morons take great pains to have a pop at this and to use it as supposed evidence of Macca "loosing it". To this I say Bollocks. This song is brilliantly subversive. Pay attention to the lyrics people! This is the Macca doing a song about a serial killer in 1969! Why did he get away with it? Two reasons: 1) Cos' it jaunty and people didn't take notice of the lyrics, 2) by sheer force of how awesome Paul was at the time.

4. Oh Darling.

I will go on the record as saying John Lennon is the greatest rock N roll vocalist of all time. No question (although greatest singer may go to Roy Orbison). But, as the Anthology 3 CD proves, nobody could tear it up like Macca did here. This is one of the all time great Rock N Roll screamer songs. The sort of thing that makes Little Richard seem calm and sedate by comparison. It's basically Buddy Holly crossed with Helter Skelter. What other album can boast a song like that? None. That's part of why Abbey Road rocks the entire freaking world.

5. Octupusses Garden.

The title is probably incorrect (surely it should be Octupuss' Garden). The first thing to note about this song is that its better than Yellow Sumbmarine (therefore trumping Revolver). The second thing is that if you've only heard the EMI CD release, you've got a muddy poorly mastered version and you're not getting the best of it. The third thing to note is that Ringo wrote it (with a little help from his friend George). So for those keeping track Abbey Road is that good that it has a song, by the least talented writer in the Beatles, which is better than a song by the most talented Beatle on the Revolver album.

6. I Want You (she's so heavy).

This song basically created the Heavy Metal genre. Don't hold that against it! You see the Beatles were so talented and Abbey Road so good, that they did in one track what the likes of Sabbath and Deep Purple have spent years repeating. Also bear in mind the versatility we've had so far. Psychedelic weirdness (come together), love song (something), jaunty subversion (maxwell), Rock N Roll screamer (Oh Darling), nursery rhyme (Octupus) and heavy metal (this track). Also bear in mind that in 1969 this was side one of a vinyl album. Revolver and Pepper didn't have anuthing like this scope. The White Album did, but it lacks the sheer quality of Abbey Road.

7. Here Comes the Sun.

Now all right thinking people can stand together on the common ground that Something is brilliant. So George decides to really take the piss by kicking off side two of Abbey Road with an even better song. You could say this song is made of awesome. This would be right. But incomplete. It is actually made of optimism. This has to be the most sincerely optimistic song ever written.

8. Because

The most exquisite harmonies heard since the albums of The Mamas and The Papas. Nuff said. That they would go onto better it a few minutes later once again speaks of the brilliance of this album.

9. The Abbey Road Medley.

Simply put the groups crowning achievement. This is what you call going out on a high. Basically an impressionist song cycle about the Beatles themselves, where they come from and where they are going. You Never Give Me Your Money sees Macca in a subversive mood once again as he takes a pop and Allen Klien (where the Beatles are now), Sun King goes onto better the harmonies of Because it also has a much warmer and mellower vibe. Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam basically represent the where the Fabs came from, John's equivalent of the Penny Lane portrait of Liverpool.

Then we get into a Macca vibe again. She Came in Through the bathroom window is the ultimate Beatles concentrate. Virtuoso playing (George Harrison invents the mini-riff), typical Beatle harmonies, George Martin Orchestration everything you associate about the Fabs. Basically this track does in about two minutes what it takes Rubber Soul over 30 to do. This track really is made of awesome.

Golden Slumbers. Utterly, Utterly transcendent. Okay so the lyrics aren't Maccas. But the melody is heartbreakingly beautiful to the point of actually being precious. There's an implied empathy and compassion in the way that Paul sings it too. This is an ubber-lullaby for grown ups. Cross the awkward tenderness of Goodnight with the humanity of Dark Side of the Moon and you get this song.

Carry that Weight. Here we have Macca musing on the future of the Beatles and realising and accepting the negative aspects of the legacy, the companion piece to Let it Be. How many albums have this level of prescience? Also it has a fantastic singalong feel to it too. Which somehow fits, even though it should really undercut they lyrics.

The End ties up the Beatles legacy into a neat bow, has an awesome duelling guitar bit and the only decent drum solo ever.


Her Majesty. To paraphrase Niles Crane, what's the one thing better than a perfect album? A perfect album with one tiny flaw you can pick at all night. Fortunately the Fabs signed off with the infinitely more superior and fitting "Real Love" in the 90s.

Anywhow, anyone that reads this can feel free to agree with me below.

1 comment:

ARCHAVIST said...

Agree. Agree. Agree. And glad you liked Maxwell. I thought there was something wrong with me for liking that song. The best Beatles album and thus the best album ever. Mind you I sometimes prefer Revolver and then the White one and Rubber Soul and on times I just love Magical Mystery - Ok all the albums are the best albums ever, with the exception of For Sale which I don't dig too much.

Thank you
Dr Winston O'boogie JNR