I’m in the mood to make unqualified blanket statements today because I can. So here’s one: Abbey Road is the best Beatles studio album – not Sgt Peppers, not Revolver, or whatflippingever.
Abbey Road, from 1969, was the last album the Beatles recorded together (Let It Be, recorded earlier, was released in ’70) and wrapped up the ’60s on a triumphant note. The squabbling and contrary agendas that had permanently poisoned the band – and that also seemed to represent the death of the idealism of the ’60s – were somehow put aside as the individual members became a magical unit one last time: dream, nightmare, dream, and out.
Though not necessarily containing the band’s best songs, Abbey Road is their best album as one song flows into the other, with melodic and lyrical themes recurring and interweaving like a true rock symphony, especially on the vinyl Side Two where “You Never Give Me your Money” flows into “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” – each song different yet cut from the same cloth.
“Lennon and McCartney” would become “Lennon” and “McCartney” and never again emphasize each other’s strengths and cancel out each other’s weakness. George Harrison contributed two of his best songs, “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” and even Ringo contributed with the charming “Octopus’s Garden.”
So sure, listen to your Beatles 1 and have the distilled essence of their popularity piled on top of you in an orgy of reductionism, but save some time for an elegant, rocking little symphony that is greater than the sum of its parts and was a brilliant final cascade of light for the fireworks show that was the ’60s. It’s enough to draw a tear.