Abbey Road at 50 (Part 3)

Abbey Road always sounded good, the engineering work was superbly done.  However, I always thought the analogue tape had a lot of background hiss.  The remaster for CD was better.  Now, the disc undergoes more cleanup, plus some additional tracks from the vault.

Let’s look at the songs.

Side A

Come Together

Written and recorded in late July 1969, this was looked at as Lennon’s best contribution to Abbey Road.  Released as part of a double A-sided single, along with Harrison’s “Something.”  Lennon when he was on his game could always come up with a different vibe, something with a unique atmosphere.  His lyrics were somewhat cryptic, but the phrase, “Come Together,” was perfect for the divisiveness of the times.  It was never one of my favorite songs.  I won’t get into the backstory of Lennon ripping off a Chuck Berry lyric that led to a lawsuit and then an obligation to record some Berry songs on a later album.

Something

Perhaps Harrison’s most popular and enduring song.  It certainly was his most covered song, even by Frank Sinatra, who ironically gave credit to Lennon and McCartney for it. Ouch.  Harrison, like Lennon, copped a lyric from another song, this time from James Taylor’s song called “Something in the Way She Moves,” which was recorded on his only album for Apple Records.  Aside from the literary theft, Harrison constructs a song that he would struggle to top, along with a wonderful guitar solo.  The orchestra backing was tasteful.

george paul ringo sitting july 1969

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

McCartney loved the song so much he kept the Beatles working on it for a great portion of the 1969, first introducing it during the Let It Be sessions.  Lennon hated the kiddie cuteness.  Harrison was indifferent though didn’t think much of it, only the drudgery of the sessions.  Harrison’s saving grace was using his Moog synthesizer on the song.  Maxwell Edison, mentioned in the song was really a serial killer.

Oh, Darling

Another McCartney song that Lennon wasn’t keen on.  A 50s style song, McCartney brought it forth during the Let It Be sessions but it was set aside.  Lennon is said to have wanted to sing it because it was more in his style.  McCartney worked and worked on the lead vocal until he finally got the throaty version that put it over the top.  McCartney replaced Harrison’s lead guitar with his own.

Octopus’s Garden

Ringo’s contribution to the album, first introduced as a fragment during the Let It Be sessions.  The story goes that Harrison rewrote the song for Ringo, adding the bridge between the verses, and providing the lead guitar.  It’s a jaunty, boucey kiddies song, in the vein of “Yellow Submarine.”  The guitar work and harmony vocals raise the song beyond a piece of fluff.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Lennon introduced this song during the Let It Be sessions, but picked it back up during the August sessions.  The song is light on lyrics but heavy on attitude and muscle.  The finished song is an edit of versions from February and August, with guitar work by Lennon and Harrison.  Harrison’s Moog is used as the white noise that adds energy to the sound before it suddenly cuts off.  This is one of several places on the album that the Beatles let loose and push on the throttle.

 

Side B

Here Comes the Sun

Harrison’s other song, which in some ways is better than “Something.”  The basic track was recorded in July by Harrison McCartney and Starr. It was a Harrison song, so naturally, Lennon was absent.  In August, Harrison added the harmonium and Moog synthesizer, along with some tasty guitar pieces.  Martin added some woodwinds and strings.  The song rocks with an upbeat vibe, probably that energy from Clapton’s garden where it was composed.

Because

Lennon took a piece of Beethoven, performed backward, and built one of his most beautiful songs around it.  The music was courtesy of Yoko who played “Moonlight Sonata.”  Martin played it on an electric harpsichord with Lennon doubling on electric guitar.  The playoff is the beautiful three-part harmony by Lennon-McCartney-Harrison, that Martin added layers for effect.  If you’ve heard it without the instruments, it’s as inspiring as anything the Beach Boys sang.

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You Never Give Me Your Money

Written by McCartney while negotiations were underway that led to their publishing being sold.  The song kicks off the suite of songs on side 2.  The song underwent much restructuring, emerging as a series of edits of fragments that change tempo and style before it segues into the next song.

Sun King

Lennon’s song had it’s original during the time of the Let It Be sessions but didn’t emerge until July.  Finger-picking guitar style that Donovan taught him, Lennon imagined the song fragment would join the next song, after the nonsensical lyrics.  Lennon in a Playboy interview didn’t think much of the song fragments that were gussied up with nice harmonies, but weren’t strong songs by themselves.

Mean Mr. Mustard

Lennon got the idea from a newspaper account about a man who hid money in his body.  The song had it’s roots in the 1967 trip to India, and was briefly demoed during the White Album sessions, before finding its way into the Abbey Road sessions.  Lennon was using fragments of songs for Abbey Road.

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Polythene Pam

Recorded in July, the song was actually written in India an pertained to an event where he was taken to meet a woman at an apartment.  It featured a cascading musical ending with Harrison guitar work before evolving into the next song.

She Came In Through the Bathroom Window

The song was worked on during Let It Be but proved difficult to complete so it was put away. The song referenced a theft at McCartney’s home of clothing items.  When it was brought back out in July, the song gained another verse.  McCartney gave the song to Joe Cocker who recorded it, who made a great version from it.

Golden Slumbers

Using words by poet Thomas Dekker, McCartney wrote the melody for the inspired lullaby. It features beautiful piano work, and then augmented by orchestra.  It was introduced during the Let It Be sessions.

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Carry That Weight

McCartney envisioned “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” as connected songs. Both were introduced during the Let It Be sessions.  Orchestra was added, along with McCartney, Harrison and Starr adding hearty vocals.  Lennon was not there.

The End

Recorded in July and August, this was intended at the closing piece for the suite.  It existed as a different song, nothing like what eventually appeared on the album.  Starr’s drum solo, along with the three guitar solos were added as the album advanced.  Starr didn’t like solos and this was his only one on a Beatles album.  The guitar solos were by McCartney, Harrison and Lennon.  “And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take.”

Her Majesty

McCartney wrote the song during the Let It Be sessions, playing it on piano.  It was saved and recorded during the Abbey Road sessions, with just McCartney on solo guitar.  The song had been intended to fit in the suite of songs but McCartney decided it didn’t fit, so he was going to discard it.  The story goes that the recording engineer save it an placed it at the end of the acetate used for the Beatles to listen to the mix.  McCartney was surprised but liked what he heard, and that’s how the album ends.

End of part 3.

The final installment will look at the remixed anniversary edition and the bonus tracks. Stay tuned!


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