As their swan song to the world, the Beatles' Abbey Road sealed the legacy — forever set in stone and brilliant to the very last drop. But it wasn't easy to squeeze one last album out of Mssrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. They were barely speaking to one another and becoming disenchanted with the whole collective attitude that had shaped their very existence. Instead, the Beatles were drifting apart -- musically, philosophically and personally. Throw in the business woes stirred up by Apple and Allen Klein, and it's no wonder the tension during The Beatles (The White Album) and Let It Be was coming to a head. Even longtime producer George Martin had had enough. But the ever-chipper McCartney refused to let sleeping dogs lie, and persuaded Martin to come along and make one more record "like we used to." While it wasn't exactly a communal affair on par with the days of old, Abbey Road exemplifies a pinnacle in a career that consistently busted the barometer for seven glorious years.
To get Abbey Road made, a number of disagreements and differences of opinion had to be sorted out and dealt with. To begin, Lennon was more interested in recording individual, straight ahead rock songs with minimal production value. McCartney, on the other hand, had grander illusions. Having successfully taken the band through the whimsy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney wanted to piece together a medley of songs with a heavy, conceptual bend. Fortunately, a compromise was agreed upon, and the album consisted of both individual songs and a medley. Lennon's chart-topping, Timothy Leary/Chuck Berry inspired "Come Together," as well as "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," the Beatles' longest song aside from "Revolution 9" (if you want to call that a song), certainly drove the point home. But the balance achieved with McCartney's string of songs that includes "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" mixed in with Lennon's "Sun King" and "Polythene Pam" is only half the story.
In the end, the victor of Abbey Road is undoubtedly George Harrison, whose emerging compositional skills resulted in no less than two of the album's strongest cuts: "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun." The former, of course, would go on to become one of most revered tunes in the Beatles' songbook. And just to make sure everyone got his due, Ringo Starr contributed a song of his own, sprightly entitled "Octopus's Garden," as well as playing a simple, yet sufficient drum solo during the album's closer, "The End." Without much analysis, it's easy to see that Abbey Road is a joyful celebration about everything the Beatles did right — magical harmonies, first-class songwriting, and tight interaction instrumentally, vocally, and everywhere else in between. Forgoing Everest or Billy's Left Boot, the album more or less earned its title when no one in the group or their immediate circle felt motivated enough to come up with anything else. In short, it was a tribute to the studio where they had grown into the world's biggest band. All it took was a half hour photo shoot on a crosswalk a few yards from the studio, and the front cover was a done deal. It would go on to become one of the most parodied photographs in pop culture, while bustling with supposed clues to McCartney's eminent demise. In reality, it was the last word from a phenomenon that still echoes with each generation.
~ Shawn Perry