I would like us all to wish Abbey Road a very happy 50th birthday. The seminal and influential album by The Beatles is, arguably, their best and it’s amazing how it keeps its timeless quality, half a decade on.
Right, we’ll start with this: anyone who claims to dislike The Beatles is just doing it for attention. You are not allowed to not like them, okay? Without the mop-top four-piece we wouldn’t have teenagers, we wouldn’t have some of the advanced studio techniques on music recordings, we definitely wouldn’t have one of the finest pop songs ever invented- Here Comes The Sun.
Abbey Road is the top of the top in terms of iconic albums. It came from a time of intense turmoil in Britain and America, a year after the student riots in Paris, set to a backdrop of anti-Vietnam protests and the emergence of the counter-culture. In the States, there was much furore over the Civil Rights Movement, in Britain we had media debates on mini-skirts and colour television.
It was a time when Nixon was having his wires tapped in the White House; a time when millions flocked to the cinema screens to see Butch Cassidy and Easy Rider; a moment in social history that goes down as the end of the hippy ideal with the promise and success of Woodstock.
Into this vacuum of culture came the Liverpudlian band’s creative peak. Now, my favourite album is Rubber Soul but I’m not sure you can make a claim for it to be their best. Just close your eyes and put Abbey Road on. Visualise the tranquility and tender shuffle of ‘Come Together’, the album’s opener. Ringo riffs a ripple on the snare as Lennon’s voice lilts and tilts through a minefield of references. The chugging bass trickles through the curtain-raiser, leading into the laid-back lullaby of ‘Something’.
Fun fact for you- George Harrison wrote ‘Something’ about a woman named Pattie Boyd, incidentally Boyd was the muse for Eric Clapton’s superlative love song ‘Wonderful Tonight’. Who says my opinionated articles don’t educate as well?
The action rolls on to ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, a song which John Lennon famously called ‘granny music’. It still adds to the general experience of the album’s first side, though. Following this comes the sugary sweet ‘Oh Darling!’ a doo-wop diddle that defines the era in perfect melody. Paul McCartney trills his way through the song, yearning and pining for the ‘darling’ in question.
Then comes the fun. ‘Octopus’s Garden’ is a genius bit of songwriting. We’d all like to be, under the sea, resting our head on the sea bed. Ringo Starr takes centre stage with a monotone solo, a story created on the yacht of Starr’s celebrity friend, Peter Sellers, when he visited him in Sardinia. The more you know. If this song doesn’t have an animated music video to it then the world is wrong and that needs acting upon…and fast.
A bluesy meander through Lennon’s expanded mind, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is a fine-tuned love-letter to Yoko Ono. The deep guitar reminiscent of some of the LSD tracks on The White Album. The song is lengthy but well worth giving it the full listen, as the sound of synthesized wind and fluorescent riffing make this track truly spiffing.
‘Here Comes The Sun’ is a beautiful piece of music. Composed by George Harrison, it is actually the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify. The more you know (again). I could not name anything better than sitting on the beach, looking out at the waves slowly licking the sandy beach and holding a beer up to the sky with this gorgeous song playing at full pelt. Blissful. The Beatles are to blame for many moments of procrastination.
I have always thought that after ‘Because’, the band members took a break and got royally out of their boxes, how else do you explain ‘Polythene Pam’ and ‘Mean Mr Mustard?’. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they are absolute genius but they must have been written under the influence? I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much as, by this point, you’re in a state of pure relaxation, enjoying the spaced-out sense of chilled euphoria.
This is known as the medley stage of Abbey Road and is meant to be enjoyed without breaks so if you, like me, are a massive cheapskate and don’t pay for premium or have an ad-blocker then that might be problematic. However, hidden away in the hilarity is ‘Golden Slumbers’, a song made famous on a Christmas advert a couple of years ago. This is a perfect Paul McCartney ballad. The tinkling piano, the calm and soothing vocal, the thoughtful lyrics. It has it all. Insomniacs take note, this is a song designed to gently push you into a golden slumber- (I’m well aware that sounds very similar to golden shower but stop sniggering and grow up…).
To recap, it is an album of timeless genius, of innovative and expansive possibility. When you consider that there was so much turmoil, so much hatred, so much activity going on around the world in 1969, that The Beatles took the population by the scruff of the neck and calmed them down.
Happy Birthday, Abbey Road (26th September, officially). Fifty years of bands trying to emulate and surpass this majestic masterpiece. Its reign as The Greatest Album of All-Time continues.