Chronologically the final album that The Beatles recorded together, the general public’s appreciation for Abbey Road seems to increase each year, despite it being very much an album of two halves.
Side one of Abbey Road is patchy and is unique in the fact that George Harrison’s contributions make for the two strongest tracks here, finally allowing the quiet one to surpass Lemon and Meccano as a songwriter, with “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” both being light years ahead of “Oh! Darling” and the sluggish “I Want You”. The first half Abbey Road is also notable for being the home to “Octopus’s Garden”, one of The Beatles’ most joyous numbers, and one written by Ringo no less.
Regardless of the unevenness of its first side, side two of Abbey Road is one of the finest sides of vinyl produced by anyone ever. With the majority of it being made up of off-cuts of tunes, melodies and lyrics that Lennon and McCartney couldn’t find homes for, it was a stroke of genius to edit them and stitch them together as a side long suite. The momentum of the album from “You Never Give Me Your Money” onwards is staggering. It may very well stand as producer George Martin’s greatest twenty minutes and a bit.
Listening to it now, the fact that The Beatles were barely talking to each other prior to recording Abbey Road is almost unbelievable, such is the coherence of the medley on the second side. It’s as if each section was a handcrafted tune purposefully written to morph into the next, the links between the trio of ” Mean Mr Mustard”, “Polythene Pam” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” are among The Beatles finest moments.
Towards the end of the second side medley there’s an obvious sprint to the finish line, with each member of the band getting their moment to show off (including some rare and thrilling drum rolls from dear old Ringo) before the message of love and peace at the end of, err, “The End”. Except that it isn’t, there’s the throwaway and jokey “Her Majesty” as the closer, possibly the greatest Beatles moment of all. A kiss off to all those idiots who thought that a rock and roll band had all the answers.
Now that’s class.