Abbey Road (1969)
Following the disastrous Let It Be sessions, Paul had approached producer George Martin asking if they could make an album “the way we used to.” Martin agreed, but only if the band would be “the way (they) used to be.” Paul agreed, and sessions began for the Beatles best-selling record, Abbey Road, briefly recorded under the working title “Everest”. Songs about being in debt, being broke, and being ripped off dominated the sessions. George came into his own as a writer with Here Comes the Sun and Something. The sessions proved to be the last for the Beatles. The cassette version of Abbey Road has Come Together and Here Comes the Sun switched on the track list, and the UK version does not list Her Majesty on the back cover, whereas some US copies feature one or the other, or both. Rumors circulated for some time that Paul was not wearing pants for the cover photo and they were airbrushed on, but photo outtakes from the same session have proven this false. The album won the 1969 Grammy for Best Engineered (Non-Classical) Recording. Nominated for Album Of The Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Group.
The last time all four Beatles were in the studio together was August 20, 1969, in a two-part, 10 1/2 hour session in which the final touches were made on I Want You (She’s So Heavy) and the final running order was decided. Before the session the sides were reversed; the two medleys which would appear on side B were set to close out side A, and I Want You (She’s So Heavy) closed out side B.
Clash and compromise
Even though a stated effort was made to be civil, John and Paul argued regularly during the sessions. John wanted to create an album of distinct songs, while Paul, backed by George Martin, wanted a thematic approach similar to Sgt. Pepper’s Heart Club Band. John dismissed Paul’s compositions as “granny music” and the B-side medley as “just bits of songs thrown together” and “junk”. John even favored separating his compositions from Paul’s by placing them on different sides of the album. Additionally, Yoko’s presence in the studio continued to distract the band, and when doctors required her to stay on bed rest following a car accident John had a bed put in the studio.
The Capitol mastering controversy
In order to more easily cut masters the masters, and because the album sides were longer than the standard 23 minutes, Capitol dropped the overall volume and filtered some of the bass, which enables the record grooves to be narrower and more sound to fit on it (deeper bass requires wider grooves). Because it was necessary to turn the volume up louder, surface noise is more evident and the overall sound quality is diminished.
Rolling Stone’s original review
Ed Ward turned in a scathing review of Abbey Road in the November 15, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone:
“What’s it like? Well, I don’t much like it, but then I have a thing about the Beatles. Since Revolver I’ve been buying their albums, playing them a couple of times, and then forgetting about them. The last album was, admittedly, exciting in places, but I still don’t play it much because there’s still too much stuff on it that should have been edited…Of course, the Beatles are still the Beatles, but it does tread a rather tenuous line between boredom, Beatledom, and bubblegum…
…Side two is a disaster…The slump begins with “Because,” which is a rather nothing song…the biggest bomb on the album is “Sun King,” which overflows with sixth and ninth chords and finally degenerates into a Muzak-sounding thing with Italian lyrics. It is probably the worst thing the Beatles have done since they changed drummers. This leads into the “Suite” which finishes up the side. There are six little songs, each slightly under two minutes long, all of which are so heavily overproduced that they are hard to listen to…
…It is tempting to think that the Beatles are saying with this album that the only alternative to “getting back” for them is producing more garbage on this order, and that they have priced it so outrageously so that fewer people would buy it. But if that’s so, then why bother to release it at all? They must realize that any album they choose to release is going to get a gold record just because so many people love, respect and trust the Beatles. They’ve been shucking us a lot recently, and it’s a shame because they don’t have to. Surely they must have enough talent and intelligence to do better than this. Or do they? Tune in next time and find out.”
Abbey Road was later ranked #14 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list.
- Come Together
- Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
- Oh! Darling
- Octopus’s Garden
- I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
- Here Comes The Sun
- You Never Give Me Your Money
- Sun King
- Mean Mr. Mustard
- Polythene Pam
- She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
- Golden Slumbers
- Carry That Weight
- The End
- Her Majesty
- Apple PCS 7088, released September 26, 1969
- Apple SO 383, released October 1, 1969
- Parlophone PCS 7088 (Green Vinyl), released 1979
- Capitol SEAX 11900, released December 1978
- Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-023, released December 28, 1979
- Capitol C1-46446, released October 20, 1987
- Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2 (stereo CD), released October 20, 1987
- Apple 0946 3 82468 2 4 (remastered stereo CD), released September 9, 2009
Back cover, vinyl
Back cover, vinyl (Her Majesty unlisted)
Back cover, original CD