Abbey Road

I somehow seem to have acquired two copies of this album over the years, which suggests how much I value The Beatles’ artistic swansong. I think I snapped up my second copy in Cash Converters in the days just before vinyl had its second coming. It was going for a song and I rather fancied the idea of an Apple album made in France by Pathé Marconi.

My sister and brother-in-law have two copies of Sergeant Pepper hidden away in a trunk full of Cat Stevens and Rod Stewart albums that never see the light of day. Being an acquisitive collector, I am of course jealous, but it was actually Abbey Road and not its more lauded iconic predecessor that re-kindled my love affair with the Fab Four.

Earlier in my life, after a period of my childhood when my siblings and I would divide up our meals into four portions, one for each Beatle (and the best bits for our particular faves), over-exposure and perhaps an innate rebelliousness led me to jump the yellow submarine for a few years’ close allegiance to the Rolling Stones. That lasted up to and including Let It Bleed, whereupon I became far too caught up in the progressive-music underground bandwagon.

Emerging, though, from a darkened bedroom where I would listen to the questionable glories of Yes, King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator, spread-eagled on my bed between the two tinny speakers of my first very own stereo system, I bought my first copy of Abbey Road to see what all the fuss was about. My decision was no doubt assisted by that simple but evocative cover of the now shaggy-headed foursome striding across that famous North London zebra crossing.

It’s all part of the album’s mystique: from all those absurd rumours about Paul’s barefoot death to the various homages that have appeared over the years (and what initial indignation I felt when I first saw Booker T. & the MGs’ McLemore Avenue, before remembering that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery). And how appropriate it is that their last sojourn in the Abbey Road studios was to produce this their final masterpiece, so they could bow out with a creative bang rather than the desultory whimper that was Let It Be. Giving it this simple title was a nice way to acknowledge the importance of George Martin and his recording domain over the course of their career.

There’s also something appropriate in the way that George’s contributions finally equalled and even perhaps trumped those of Lennon and McCartney after all those begrudging allocations of a little space on each album for his song-writing efforts. Right at the last, George asserts that he was quite competent after all, thank you very much – only for Frank Sinatra (was it?) to go and spoil it all by saying something stoopid like ‘Something’ was his favourite Lennon and McCartney number.

While George graduates summa cum laude, it’s Ringo’s turn to provide some padding, although ‘Octupus’s Garden’ is certainly rather charming and every bit as worthwhile as, say, Paul’s ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, which pales into insignificance beside the first two tracks on Side 1: John’s ‘Come Together’ with its memorable cryptic lyrics, followed by ‘Something’. ‘Oh Darlin’ is notable for Paul’s superb singing and the side ends with the long and winding and ultimately somewhat tedious ‘I Want You’.

In truth, it’s not their finest half hour, but the second side makes up for it with knobs on and transforms Abbey Road into a truly great album. When I first heard it, I was a little mystified. I’d never heard anything quite like the suite of song snippets that follows George’s lovely ‘Here Comes The Sun’. They all segued into each other, ‘Sun King’ seemed a curiously close echo of George’s song, themes fade out only to reappear a little later and to drop the arm on an individual track demanded guesswork and a lot of luck.

Once I got used to it, though, it would become my single-most played and beloved side of a Beatles’ album. It’s audacious, creative, dramatic and chock full of such tuneful delights as ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and ‘Carry That Weight’. My wife and I would sing ‘Golden Slumbers’ to our daughter at bed time and she grew up to love this album as much as we do. Or more accurately, she grew up – as many of her generation have done – to love The Beatles as much as we do.

It has been with me for longer than I care to think, followed me on all my travels – from Northern Ireland to England and then on to France – and I shall give that second copy to my daughter when finally she’s ready to flee the parental home. It’s a testimony to an album’s creative endurance when it can be handed down from one generation to the next without any kind of condescension.

There's nowt 'questionable' about "21st Century Schizoid Man" Mark !! A pretty decent solo album from KC too in my opinion. Did later albums ever reach the heights of 'In the court..' ?

One thing which always amazed me about the Abbey Road album, not my fave Beatles album but superb anyway is the fact that not many of those wonderful tracks have been copied by other artistes except for maybe the brilliant Cocker version of "She came in through the bathroom window". I would have thought these tracks merited more cover versions.

I stand corrected about KC, Peter. Proof of the pudding is that 'The Court of...' has stayed with me through thick and thin. I don't play it these days, though. But very interesting point about covers of Abbey Road songs. I had forgotten about Joe Cocker's 'Bathroom Window'. Very fine! I used to have it, but it wriggled away over the course of time. Have a good summer, Peter.

Side 2 is definitely my favourite too. A fine ending to their relatively brief time in the spotlight. I always felt Harrison was underrated as a musician and composer which probably puts me in the minority. 'Don't bother me' was the first song I heard from George (not his finest hour by any means but we all have to start somewhere). All things must pass, and I'm glad it did really. Can you imagine what it would have been like if they'd carried on like the Strolling Bones? Shot to pieces vocals and gutless playing I suspect.

The Strolling Bones! I like it, Chris. No, I think they did absolutely the right thing. It's always an idea to get out while you're on top and we have the added bonus of some fine solo material to beef up the Fabs' collective legacy. I remember 'Don't Bother Me'! It was on their first or second LPs, wasn't it? Why did I let those go? I probably sold them for a song and bought a Yes album with the proceeds.

2nd LP I think Mark. It wasn't like their usual upbeat songs at that time. Probably why I liked it! Prog Rock was something I only scratched round the edges of really, but I did see Yes at QPR football ground once. I recall drinking an awful lot of wine and then someone gave me a salami sandwich.....the rest is a complete blank...

Probably the most exciting thing thats ever happened at Loftus Rd Chris !

I seem to recall swapping most of my LPs on a regular basis so something like 'The Yes Album' would have given way to something like Lindisfarne's 'The Fog on the Tyne" or whatever. Regular swapping was a great and cheap way to listen to loads of different bands.

Is it ok to ask if you are refuring to Loftus Rd W12 London.

I too appreciated YES as they attended theopening of my first vegie restaurant in W1.....along with Jess Conrad and Writing On The Wall.

Yes Barbara Loftus Rd, the home of QPR as Chris said

We lived not far away in Holland Rd.

Ah but which was more exciting, the gig or the salami sandwich incident...

I had both of those Peter. There was a record shop underneath the arches at Charing Cross station that bought second hand albums, so I'd sell them at some ridiculously low price and then go and buy something new.