Let's review the Beatles: Abbey Road

Abbey Road (1969)
Purchased: High School
One liner: After the failed documentary project Get Back, The Beatles return to the studio, get "back to basics" and record one more classic record.

Review: Being ever-dutiful to understanding Beatles history, I, um, bought the band's last studio album (Let It Be was recorded prior to Abbey Road, but the material was released after) second. Keep in mind I'm still just an economical high schooler, so I believe the real logic here was collecting "Come Together," "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun" in one swoop.

A slight step up, I bought this disc at an independent retailer... um, that just happened to be at the mall. Since we were living in a time before the Internet, my strategy for buying CDs would be to bounce from record store to Target to record store seeing who had the best deals. Minus the Merle Hay mall, none of my usual spots had Abbey Road. And I reaaaally wanted this album, there just wasn't a moment to spare. So I ponied up $16 (a small fortune) at Disc Jockey (or whatever it was called) and picked up Abbey Road. Though I had heard it a number of times before already, it was still exciting hearing my copy for the first time.

This was groundbreaking stuff for young Slagle. I became completely obsessed with Abbey Road. The singles, the Side Two medley, the cover art, "Her Majesty," etc. etc. I hadn't gotten too cynical yet, so even ditties like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and "Octupus's Garden" passed the test. For awhile, it acted as the benchmark I used to judge all albums and the experience of hearing it could possibly be traced to why I'm still obsessed with music today. Well, that and Dark Side of the Moon. And the Digital Underground's Sex Packets. What? There was a lot going on.

Today, I tend to jump in on the abuse Paul McCartney gets for being the most saccharine Beatle. But that wasn't always the case. Ah, high school. Music had a handy way of providing escape from the awkward period that was my sophomore through senior year. My parents' divorce, a new job and unrequited crushes bounced around in my 16-year-old, hormone-addled brain. Only then could Paul reach me – and he did – with a song called "You Never Give Me Your Money" (side two, track three). Why? Even a cursory pass over the lyrics and you realize this song had absolutely nothing to do with my problems. It doesn't help my case that it ends with John Lennon repeating "one two three four five six seven/all good children go to heaven." Eh?

But in the right mindset, I guess you can apply anything to anything. And in this case the final verse (before the counting part) contained a fairly generic, but upbeat promise about packing up your bags and blowing town with some floozy. I guess the idea appealed to me. In fact, in doing research for this project, I was able to dig up this sappy little mixtape (which also contained The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and some ELO songs). The name of this little love bomb actually refs the song – I called it "One Sweet Dream." Fortunately I think this is as cheesy as I got, but I'll admit it: the song got to me. Guilty as charged. You win this time, Paul.

Rating: For still ranking in my top 3 Beatles albums: 1,200 points. For containing the most iconic image on an album cover ever (i.e., see the logo I created for this series): 500 points. For making me a sappy stooge in high school: -10 points.

Final thought: I really like the song "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," which usually puts me in the minority. I guess I can see why. Next to "Revolution 9," it was the longest song the band ever released (7:47) and its lyrics contain roughly 12 words total. But hey, that just makes it easier to sing along.

Next up: The Beatles (The White Album)


Anonymous said...

Wait, um, er, WHAT? You bought this for the first time on *CD*??

Either you are still even younger than I could have imagined or, uh ...

god, I am even hopelessly older than I realized.

- Bruce

Mark said...

When I listened to this album (on vinyl!) in jr. high and high school, I was always frustrated with "I Want You." It was at the end of "side one" and just got in the way of the wonderful medley on "side two." However, as I got older, it grew on me more and more. Now I rank it as one of my favorites.

I wouldn't be too hard on yourself for letting Paul get to you on this album. He was really at the top of his game, and I love his voice on this album maybe more than any other. When I was in grade school, I wanted to look like Paul from the Sgt. Pepper's album. As I approached high school, I was far more impressed with the more offbeat look (and sound!) of John. Still, Paul was an incredibly important force within the band. I doubt Abbey Road would have come about without his prodding.

Ronson said...

Hmmm, I'm not really sure. I always think of vinyl primarily existing through the 70s (I bought a few tapes when I was a kid), but I was also kind of a late-bloomer in music consumerism. The CD revolution was when I first really started getting into music in general.

Mark - your comment re: wanting to look like Paul jogged my memory for my White Album anecdote. Thanks!