Jun 062011
 

Ah, Abbey Road. Don’t you just love it?

The last album recorded by the Beatles.

When the chips were down they decided to ignore all the internal conflict and produced the final masterpiece … for the fans !

Lots of people cite it as their favourite Beatle album. It appears in most ‘top ten albums of all time’ lists.

Such brilliant tunes, ‘Something’ , ‘Come Together’,  er …. ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’

What the fuck ?

C’mon, it’s a soulless piece of mediocrity that was cobbled together, and it’s the only Beatles album that relies on George Harrison’s songwriting for any sort of credibility.

I’ve never really understood the veneration of this album. No Beatles album is totally awful but there are three that are just ok —  ‘Beatles For Sale’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Abbey Road’.

Most critics accept that the first two aren’t up to it but Abbey Road is consistently nominated as one the three best Beatles albums. Why ?

Admittedly, it sounded great at the time.  It was the first Beatles album to use true 8-track recording.  For the first time in Beatles album production, George Martin used a full stereo mix to make it sound amazing.  Amazing in 1969, that is.  These days it sounds a little dated, kinda early ‘70s , which, of course, it is , because it became the sonic template for most of those tired-sounding early seventies albums. Smoking dope in a Ladbroke Grove flat, listening to it on a very basic stereo, “Wow man, listen to Ringo’s drums moving from the left to the right speaker”. Big fat hairy fucking deal.

But the true ingredient of any great Beatles album is the quality of the songs, always was, always will be, so lets see what we get on Abbey Road.

There are ten tracks on the album, three by Lennon, three by McCartney, two by Harrison, one by Ringo and then there’s that bloody medley – more about that later !

SIDE 1

It starts with ‘Come Together’, a good Lennon song whose reputation was slightly tarnished when Chuck Berry sued him, successfully mind you, for stealing the opening line ‘Here come old flat top’ and some of the melody from ‘You Cant Catch Me’.

That’s followed by ‘Something’.  A Harrison classic, but every time I hear it I can’t help thinking that James Taylor had just completed recording his first album for Apple and that album’s best track was called ‘Something In The Way She Moves’.  Surely George couldn’t have nicked the title?

!!

So with Lennon’s and Harrison’s offerings out of the way we wait with bated breath for McCartney’s first contribution.  Good God ! It’s ‘Maxwells Silver Hammer’. Probably his worst Beatles song ever (he produced much worse as a solo artist but that’s another story). Worse than ‘Your Mother Should Know’.  Worse than ‘Obla Di Obla Da’.  Once upon a time Lennon would have given him a good kick up the hole if he came into the studio with such twee bollox. But by this stage Lennon didn’t give a shit and this is the first indication that all is not well with ‘Abbey Road’.

Then McCartney tries to show us how ballsy he can be by screaming his way through a pastiche of ‘50s doo wop called ‘Oh Darling’. Now once upon a time, even if McCartney did write the song, Lennon, who had one of the greatest rock voices, would have sung this. But by this point in Beatles history no one was talking to no one, so we have to endure Macca doing his Little Richard schtick. Spare me !

So far so good.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse along comes Ringo with “Octopus’s Garden”.  I’m not going to criticise this too much ‘cos Ringo’s tracks were always of the throw-away variety, but it’s placed at a point where the album should be trying to build up a head of steam as it approaches the end of side one but all it does is induce a big yawn.

Side one ends with Lennon’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. Once again, as Dunphy almost said, it’s a good song, not a great song.  At this stage of Rock history the band that people were really talking about was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the centrepiece of this song sounds uncannily like them. Actually the track is another piece of production wizardry by George Martin (see Strawberry Fields for another example) where he welded two different versions of the same song seamlessly together. The last two minutes, with its repetitive guitar motif is very impressive, as is the sudden ending, but this more of a production trick than an impressive piece of song writing.

 

SIDE 2

“Here Comes The Sun” is another excellent example of Harrison’s songwriting and how far ahead of Lennon/McCartney he was. A fine song that still makes me smile on a sunny day.

‘Because’ is where the Beatles decided to become the Beach Boys. Having taken the piss out of them with “Back In The USSR” they go for the real thing here, triple-tracking Lennon, McCartney and Harrison resulting in a nine-voice onslaught where Lennon tells us that ‘because the world is round, it turns me on’. Sure John, but I think it was probably the heroin.

And then we reach what a lot of people regard as the centrepiece of this ‘masterpiece’. The infamous ‘Medley’.

Now there are two ways of looking at this.

McCartney (why is it always McCartney who  does this shit ?) masterfully mixed eight pop classics together to create a collage, the like of which we had never heard before or since

or… (and guess what I think !)

Lennon/McCartney didn’t want to write any more new material for Abbey Road ‘cos they were saving stuff for their own solo albums and Harrison said ‘Fuck off. You’re not getting any more out of me’. But there were eight unfinished songs lying around since the White Album/Let It Be sessions that Lennon/McCartney couldn’t be arsed completing. so Macca gives Martin his famous thumbs up grin and says ‘Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea! Err..’.

The album ends with McCartney’s ‘Her Majesty’ which was originally supposed to be part of the medley but wasn’t even considered good enough for that !

So there you have it. The last gasp of a band that was already dead.

I’ve never believed the notion put forward by McCartney in the Anthology series that the Abbey Road recordings were a friendly and positive process. Reading Mark Lewisohn’s definitive guide to the Beatles recordings, there were very few occasions during the Abbey Road sessions when all four were in the studio together. They had realised that Let It Be was a complete disaster and decided to make one last stab at a better farewell.

But I don’t think that Lennon, outside of his own songs, had any real interest in Abbey Road and as a result he seems to have given McCartney a complete free rein.

This, I think, this is the core reason why this album ultimately sounds so soulless. It’s better than Let It Be but it’s certainly not the classic it’s supposed to be.  Far from it buddy !!

The first in a series of Classic Overrated Albums.

Coming soon – Dark Side Of The Moon.

 

 

  27 Responses to “Most Overrated Albums of All Time. No 1 : Abbey Road.”

Comments (27)
  1.  

    Even God, a Catholic and one of the Bhoys, didn’t include it in his top 10, but he did name the Beatles, courtesy of the Vatican’s top-ten, at number one.
    Dylan was left knocking on heavens door though, and I’d have issues with his choice of Jackson and Oasis – Santana also.

    Vatican top ten

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/feb/15/pope-top-10-albums-vatican

  2.  

    Beatles were over rated . period.

  3.  

    Agrree with Barry 100%. But to criticise the Fab Four is to be branded a heretic. They smack of the Emperors New Clothing.

  4.  

    All you need is love – they plagiarised Jesus. Let it be – they plagiarised Hamlet. Imagine – they plagiarised Sam Becket’s line: Imagination dead imagine – and the clever mopheads got away with it. They must have been great. Even Enda Kenny didn’t get away with plagiarising Obama.

  5.  

    Although I’ve enjoyed listening to Abbey Road, I can surely agree with most of the sentiments here. I’m puzzled by its status within The Beatles’ canon. It’s probably their fifth best album, if you’re being generous.

    However, I have to take issue with one statement:

    “Here Comes The Sun” is another excellent example of Harrison’s songwriting and how far ahead of Lennon/McCartney he was.

    To my mind that’s patently absurd. Harrison contributed just three songs to the “classic” Beatles repertoire — and “Something” plays like a mere reworking of his earlier “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” where the major/minor keys are reversed.

    And I don’t think this was because his talents were being repressed by the controlling egoism of Lennon and McCartney, we can just compare their post-Beatles output: Lennon/McCartney’s many later successes need no rehashing, but Harrison’s only hits were “My Sweet Lord” (where he ended up buying the rights to a song he plagiarised) and “Got My Mind Set On You” (a cover version).

    I can allow for a spirited debate on the relative merits of John and Paul — a staple of any pub conversation about music — but when someone tries earnestly to elevate George to their level, I have to shake my head in amusement.

    Talented hack though he may have been, if he wasn’t in The Beatles, I *guarantee* you no-one would ever have heard of George Harrison. So sue me.

    ::

  6.  

    Hi Darwin. I specifically refer to work credited to Lennon/McCartney, that is work they were happy to give to the Beatles. I think If you compare the Harrison songs to the L/McC stuff on this particular album he wins hands down. They (particularly Lennon) were saving their best songs for the upcoming solo albums.

  7.  

    PS. ‘Taxman’ is my favourite Harrison song. And ‘If I Needed Someone’ ain’t bad either !

  8.  

    i’m pretty sure the beatles used an 8 track on some of the songs on The white album.

  9.  

    “And in the” beginning – where to begin, Bock?

    I know you don’t like Wiki, so please forgive me – as much as I loved and love the Beatles, I’m not an expert on the trivia, so I’m referring to ol’ Wiki. All quotes from

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_Road

    unless otherwise stated.

    Well, first of all, gerrryo, re: 8-track on White Album, you’re right – see

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles_(album)#Technical_advances

    Abbey Road (AR) overrated, and (Barry and No.8) The Beatles overrated? Well, each to his own opinion, I guess.

    “Rolling Stone placed it at number 14 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2009, readers of the magazine also named Abbey Road the greatest Beatles album.

    From the Reception portion of Wiki: 5 stars from All Music, MSN Music, Rolling Stone and Sputnik Music, and a 10/10 from Pitchfork Media. Most successful Beatles album ever. Debuted in UK at #1, and was there for 17 weeks (one week off for the Stone’s Let it Bleed, which also debuted at #1). UK and NARM best-selling album of 1969.

    It achieved high placings (often as the highest placed Beatles album) in ‘best albums in history’ polls carried out between 1997 and 2006 in the US, the UK, and Australia”.

    But maybe you three guys are right, after all… o.O Or maybe it’s just sour grapes. Yeah – everyone really knew that they sucked, but just went along with the New Clothes trend. Uh huh.

    Benno – All you Need is Love and Let It Be seem to me to be pretty general statements that anyone could make. I didn’t find anyone that claimed the latter to be plagiarized from Hamlet! And what does Becket’s line have to do with Lennon’s song, except that it has the word “imagine” in it? In Becket’s title, it’s the 3rd word in the sentence (if you can call it a sentence); in all of the six times it’s mentioned in the song, it’s always the 1st word. Unless there’s something in Becket’s whole text that I don’t know about. So you’re kidding, right?

    Darwin – how exactly is Something a reworking of Guitar? So they both use major/minor reversal – except that in Guitar the minor is first, while in Something the major is first. And the chord progressions both start by descending from the root – except that in Guitar it’s root, root over minor 7th, 4th over major 6, ending with minor 6th; Something is root, root over major 7th and then over dominant 7th and straight to the 4th. Even when it switches to minor, it goes first to the major 7th under the root. And the progressions go to different places from there. Besides that, there’s not much in common between the songs. And even if you call that a reworking, so what? The songs are very different in beat and feel; if something works good once, why not do it again?

    I agree with you about Harrison vs L/M, though. Something and Sun are great, but they are only two songs. And Wrinkly, I kind of agree with you, although I don’t know about “hands down”. Come Together, Oh Darling, I Want You and a lot of the Medley are also good.

    TBC re: the article…

  10.  

    To my mind its all shite anyway. If you want to listen to real music I can recommend a Mr Bach and a Mr Mozart.

  11.  

    Some rock songwriters plagiarised Messrs Bach, Mozart and van Beethoven. I agree with Jack the lad that some pieces by the aforementioned certainly beat the band. Mr. Bach, an accomplished contrapuntalist, transcribes well to heavy metal guitar. Many years ago the inventor of an electronic mixing device called the Moog Synthesiser brought out an LP record titled Switched-on Bach, which I found electrifying. Later he followed it with one called Switched-on Mozart, but the novelty had worn off and maybe Mozart wasn’t as electrifying as Mr. Bach.

  12.  

    whiles we’re on the subject of overrated albums…..Anything metallica has released over the last 15 years pure and utter tripe I would highly recommend buying Finnish Folk-metal quintet finntroll’s magnum opus jaktens tid. Just sayin

  13.  

    are you frickin kidding me? abbey road overrated?? THE BEATLES OVERRATED?????? wth is wrong with you ppl, are you all idiots or what?

  14.  

    Never heard a Beatles song that made me want to hear another one…but on hearing Hand in Glove?…

  15.  

    There isn t a songwriter in the world worth his salt that would think the Beatles are over rated. Preposterous suggestion. What they managed to do in the brief time they were together may never be repeated. I do agree that Abbey Road as a piece of work is not as deserving of accolade as the likes of Revolver,The White Album or Rubber Soul and they are not even my favourite sixties band [Id go for the Kinks myself] but excellence can never be over rated it is what it is.

  16.  

    Abbey Road is certainly the most overrated Beatles album, but I’ll not hear a bad word about Beatles For Sale. That record is ace.

  17.  

    Agree with all the author’s sentiments, although I rather enjoyed “Because”. But yeah, a very good but not great record. Wayyy too much filler for such a relatively short record (at least compared to it’s double-disc predecessor)

  18.  

    Abbey Road is the greatest album of all time. Enough sad.

  19.  

    To say the Beatles are over rated, is to show the world you have absolutely no clue about what music is.

  20.  

    “To say the Beatles are over rated, is to show the world you have absolutely no clue about what music is”.

    Really? I guess I have no clue about what music is.

  21.  

    Can you point out where someone said the Beatles were overrated?

  22.  

    No body said the Beatles were over rated, til now

    The Beatles were / are over rated! There I’ve said it.

  23.  

    The author is just a newb trying to get attention to himself.

    Abbey Road is my favorite album of all time….sheer perfection !

  24.  

    Every asshole has an opinion and this blog proves it. Abbey Road is not only the best Beatle’s LP, but possible the best rock LP of all time.
    George Harrison was not nearly as good a songwriter as Lennon and McCartney. He did write a few great songs, but if you listen to the demos, you quickly realize that Lennon and McCartney helped him. All his demos sounded very similar to his solo LPs, but the Beatles’s tunes were much more sophisticated, because of the advice from the others.

  25.  

    If Abbey Road is overrated, then music itself is overrated.

  26.  

    Abbey Road was where John and Paul fell off. Thankfully George saved the album.

  27.  

    For a band that was ‘already dead’, it’s still a band that brings an awful
    lot of people alive through a brilliant kalaidiscope of music.

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