First of all, I know that it’s really lame to use that opener on something about the Beatles. Sgt. Pepper said it and we’ve been repeating it for…well…40 years. So, color me guilty. Beyond that obvious ploy, though, it does apply.
It’s really hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since the first sounds of Abbey Road came off of that black vinyl and lifted all of us into another love affair with the Beatles. No matter how long we had listened to them, this record was different, even better, than what had come before.
The thing I remember most was playing the second side over and over and over…I still do that. It’s my favorite Beatle “side”, one of which I never tire. The musicianship seems better, and the vocals are flawless. Even Ringo, and his octopus are really endearing. George gave him a first class guitar solo on that song. It leads me to think it was a very affectionate effort to record it.
I’m really grateful that they recorded Abbey Road. It would have been so simple for lesser beings to just hang it up after the Get Back sessions that produced Let It Be. The sorriest part of it is that Let It Be came in afterwards, sort of stealing a bit of the glow from such a glorious recording. Although, some people really love Let It Be, there’s really no comparison between the two.
Abbey Road stands as a genuine masterpiece of recording, songwriting and musicianship. Even the little “bits” that weren’t considered whole songs turn up as special when it’s all put together. Kudos to Paul and George Martin for their vision of what it could be. I believe several polls have placed it as the favorite Beatles’ album among a majority of those who participated.
So, 40 years ago today, on 8 August, 1969 (the way the British state it), four still very young men made their way back and forth on a zebra crossing in front of their studio and made artistic, photographic and cultural history. Of all of the groundbreaking, innovative album covers made by them and a few others, this one stands out as the single most iconic presentation of a band. Looking at it, not only is there a visual image of what’s going on, but we’ve read so much about them that we can imagine what might have been going on emotionally, conversationally or even spiritually. It’s all there. The austerity and seriousness of George in his denim, long hair and beard. John’s eccentricity so evident in his white suite and, in the cover shot, his last gesture of leadership. Paul has the suit with, of all things, sandals, and opting finally to go barefooted. On anyone other than a Beatle, it would be fashion suicide. And there’s Ringo, all dressed up and looking as he should, prepared for anything.
It’s not over analyzation of anything to look at this album cover and see these things. Nor is it out of place to consider it simple and without meaning. There’s nothing right or wrong. It’s an image. But, it’s an image that has stayed with us unlike most others we encountered so many years ago.
Abbey Road doesn’t just take me back, it’s grown up with me. It’s new and fresh every time I listen to it. How did they manage to make that kind of music? How is it still that good?
The Beatles wrote and sang the music of my youth. Mine and many others. Now, in the “naughties”, as I read somewhere, that same music is still with me and just as powerful and evocative as ever. It will forever be the sound of the 60’s, but not anymore than it is, simply, the sound of joy and happiness and provocation…questions and answers.
If we can ascribe destiny to anyone, surely it must apply to those four. It will be interesting to see how it reads in another 40 years.
http://bit.ly/Nkza2 See these photos full size