Beatles' epic 'Abbey Road' remains the greatest mic drop in pop music history, 50 years later

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  8 months ago  •  22 comments

Beatles' epic 'Abbey Road' remains the greatest mic drop in pop music history, 50 years later
Lennon’s murder in December 1980 would dash any hopes of a Beatles reunion, leaving “Abbey Road” as the group's last musical statement to the world.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

By   Kenneth Womack, author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles"

Fifty years ago this week, arguably the world’s most celebrated and inarguably the most   commercially successful rock band   delivered its final studio album “Abbey Road” to the masses. But within a matter of weeks of the LP’s completion in August 1969, the group had disbanded in a spate of bitter acrimony.

The album’s famous cover photograph depicts the band strolling away from EMI Recording Studios, the space where it had recorded the vast majority of its music. And save for the 1970 release of the “Let It Be” soundtrack, “Abbey Road” was effectively the Beatles’ final achievement as a foursome, their last message to a global audience that had watched them evolve from four mop tops into the finest and most successful musical craftsmen of their generation.

Save for the 1970 release of the “Let It Be”soundtrack, “Abbey Road”was effectively the Beatles’ final achievement as a foursome.

And while many listeners place “Abbey Road” at or near the top of the Beatles’ roster of album-length achievements, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when the LP was originally released in the autumn of 1969, it was met with a rocky introduction in the popular press. In his October   1969 review in The New York Times , Nik Cohn lauded the album’s concluding symphonic suite before panning the remainder of its contents, which included such classics as “Come Together,” “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” deriding them as “pretty average stuff.”

The editors of Rolling Stone magazine were so uncertain about the quality of “Abbey Road” that they commissioned two separate reviews of the LP. Up first was Ed Ward, who disparaged the record for traversing “a rather tenuous line between boredom, Beatledom, and bubblegum.” And unlike Cohn, Ward couldn’t stand the songs that comprised the medley, describing them as “so heavily overproduced that they are hard to listen to.”

Thankfully, reviewer John Mendelsohn came out shortly with a more nuanced reading of “Abbey Road.” In his bravura review, Mendelsohn described “Abbey Road”as being “breathtakingly recorded” and declared the medley as equal to “the whole of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’” observing “that the Beatles can unify seemingly countless musical fragments and lyrical doodlings into a uniformly wonderful suite.”

Indeed, it is the relative swiftness with which the Beatles recorded “Abbey Road” that belies its complexity and power, even 50 years later. By that fabled summer of 1969, the Beatles were at the top of their game — as songwriters, musicians, artists. The medley that concluded the album — and, fittingly, their career — was chock-full of unforgettable musical drama and wordplay, including heartrending numbers such as “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight.” The high-octane rock ‘n’ roll panache in “The End” included this philosophical couplet: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” As the Beatles’ de facto epitaph, those words will surely echo across the centuries.

But "Abbey Road’s” majesty didn’t mean fans were ready for the Beatles to exit the stage just yet. Rumors of a potential reunion would flourish throughout the 1970s, culminating in 1976 with promoter   Sid Bernstein’s eye-popping offer of a $230 million payday . “There were phenomenal amounts of money being offered,” Paul McCartney later recalled. “But it just went round and round. There might be three of us thinking, ‘It might not be a bad idea’ — but the other one would go, ‘Nah, I don’t think so,’ and sort of veto it.”

As it happened, McCartney and John Lennon considered only one offer during their post-Beatles years together — and it was easily the cheapest of the lot. It was during the April 24, 1976, episode of “Saturday Night Live” when producer Lorne Michaels took to the airwaves and made a pitch for the band to reunite. “The National Broadcasting Company has authorized me to offer you this check to be on our show,”   he said , holding up a certified check for $3,000 — far less than they had received for their appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964.

As it turned out, Lennon and McCartney were watching “SNL” that night across town in John’s Dakota apartment building. “Paul and I were together watching that show,”   Lennon remarked during one of his last interviews . “He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired.”

Of course,   Lennon’s murder in December 1980   would dash any hopes of a Beatles reunion, leaving “Abbey Road” as their last musical statement to the world. In so doing, they would create a mystique that lingers to this day. It was the greatest mic drop in the history of popular music.


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Perrie Halpern R.A.
1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.    8 months ago

I have walked down that very zebra crossing as have my kids. And I always think how prophetic it was that "The End" was their last song together, and I get a shiver down my spine. The only other songwriter I know who did that was Billy Joel, who wrote "Famous Last Words" as the last song he ever wrote. 

And these are the last words I have to say
It's always hard to say goodbye
But now it's time to put this book away
Then that's the story of my life 

These are the last words I have to say
That's why it took so long to write
There will be other words some other day
Ain't that the story of my life

Oh, these are the last words I have to say
Before another age goes by
With all those other songs I have to play
Yeah that's the story of my life

How do you remember Abby Road and what did you think of the album?

Buzz of the Orient
2  Buzz of the Orient    8 months ago

For the dual purpose of recollection and honouring the 50th anniversary of the album, I just listened to it again (this time without the benefit of anything that would enhance my enjoyment of it) and I have to say it isn't my favourite Beatles album, although it does have some pretty good songs on it.  I think "Here Comes the Sun" could be one of the most optimistic songs ever, and I always liked "Something".

Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    8 months ago

It's not one of my faves either, but those two songs alone make it all worthwhile! 

3  Sunshine    8 months ago

I wish I had bought that album back in the day.  I think the only Beatles album I have is Sargeant Peppers.  I liked their songs but never a huge fan of them.  George was my favorite.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sunshine @3    8 months ago

They are one of my all time favorite bands and George was my fave, too. It makes me so sad that he spent the last years of his life in so much pain ( from the stabbing from the break in and then from cancer). He was a very kind man and lived his life in that an honorable way.

Buzz of the Orient
3.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Sunshine @3    8 months ago
"George was my favorite."

Mine as well.  Although "All Things Must Pass". he created such great songs as:  When My Guitar Gently Weeps (especially with Eric Clapton), Here Comes the Sun, Something, and My Sweet Lord.  Oh, the memories.

6  JohnRussell    8 months ago

The End.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
6.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  JohnRussell @6    8 months ago

Great message, right?

7  Kathleen    8 months ago

We have the album. My husband has a collection of over 1500 albums.  I think it’s time to listen to it. 

Perrie Halpern R.A.
7.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kathleen @7    8 months ago

Your home sounds like ours. It's hard to keep up with all the audio media we have in my house. 

7.1.1  Kathleen  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7.1    8 months ago

I wished my husband would download all his movies, that’s another great amount. Keep in mind that some of those albums could be worth a lot. You may want to check to see if your husband may have some valuable albums. We have old 45’s too.  I know what you mean : )

Transyferous Rex
8  Transyferous Rex    8 months ago

Great album. There are only a handful of albums that you can put on and enjoy from start to finish. Wanna tell her that I lover her a lot, but I gotta get a belly full of wine...

Perrie Halpern R.A.
8.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Transyferous Rex @8    8 months ago

Great line, right?

Transyferous Rex
8.1.1  Transyferous Rex  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @8.1    8 months ago

Yes. Great little nugget at the end of the album.

Now, if not listening to the radio, I'm streaming, and typically streaming some sort of station or genre. The result? I don't listen to albums anymore. Pink Floyd was playing, and I thought to myself, "I'll play Dark Side of the Moon." What an album. I searched, found it, played it, and it played out of order. I felt cheated. Made me realize that I don't listen to albums anymore, and I wondered if kids are missing the experience. Abby Road is one of those albums. Great songs, but the order and transitions make them better, IMO. Is there any such thing as an album experience these days? I don't know. I haven't bought an actual album in twenty or more years. I take that back, I bought a 1984 CD, for $1.99, a while back. Impulse buy, while standing in the check-out line. Opened it like a little kid when I got in the car. 

9  Ender    8 months ago

They stand the test of time.

When I was selling cars several years ago a young woman came onto the lot. She was a huge Beatles' fan.

I ended up selling her a red new (at the time) beetle bug. One of the happiest sales I made.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
9.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Ender @9    8 months ago

That is an adorable story. Thanks for sharing and it would make me smile, too.

9.1.1  Ender  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @9.1    8 months ago

She went on a test drive with another employee. When they came back they kept freaking out about a noise that they heard when they speed up and slow down.

I had to laugh and drive with the both of them to show where the top fin would open and close, depending on speed.

Cool little car. She cracked up about the flower vase.

Freedom Warrior
10  Freedom Warrior    8 months ago

 With such a massive catalog of this caliber I have always struggled with rating albums relative to other periods of time in which the artist was massively creative and groundbreaking as this catalog was. so as a result I can only think to my reaction at the time and reflect on those feelings that the songs bring back to me which is one of greatest values of music.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
10.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Freedom Warrior @10    8 months ago

I would have to agree with you. it's really hard to judge. 

Steve Ott
11  Steve Ott    8 months ago

If you watch the movie "Let it Be" and then listen to the album, you'll understand why the The End is the end ( except "Her Majesty" is the actual end ). They knew it was the end, no one else did.

If I had to pick one album, it would be Rubber Soul. It was a breakthrough in music for them. Unfortunately, they never had the chance to make another breakthrough.


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