FEATURE: The End: The Beatles' Abbey Road at Fifty: A Truly Eye-Opening Album



The End


PHOTO CREDIT: Iain Macmillan 

The Beatles’ Abbey Road at Fifty: A Truly Eye-Opening Album


I don’ remember the exact year…


 PHOTO CREDIT: Apple Corps Ltd.

but it must have been when I was around six or seven – placing us, year-wise, at around 1989 or 1990. Whenever it was, I can recall seeing this album peering out from the vinyl collection at home. I do wonder whether children today will get the same effect when discovering legendary albums; whether a decline in physical sales means, for the most part, many will find albums through the Internet and not in a more traditional way. I was enthralled and captivated by an album cover that, to young eyes, was very different and intriguing! Abbey Road was the final album The Beatles recorded but, for me, it was one of the first I came across. When the album turns fifty tomorrow, I will dig out a vinyl copy and be sure to spin it all the way through! I am not sure about other people but, for me, Abbey Road defined The Beatles and their genius. Whilst Rubber Soul is my favourite album of theirs, Abbey Road has this sense of the epic and romantic; both intertwined into this opus of beauty. When I was a child, I sort of gazed at this striking cover and was sort of bowled over by its simplicity. When listening to the music within, the breadth and instant brilliance was hard to ignore. When recalling Abbey Road, I think its second side comes to mind.

There are wonderful songs throughout, but I had never heard anything like the suite that you get on that second side!You Never Give Me Your Money and The End seem like very different tracks, but they fit together seamlessly when part of this wonderful cycle. Come Together is classic Beatles territory and a song that got into my head right away. I love Something and its sense of entice and affection; Octopus’s Garden is pretty silly but a charming song that one would be loathed to dismiss. In terms of The Beatles’ cannon, Rubber Soul digs deeper but Abbey Road is the most important album. Experiencing this 1969-released work so young was a game-changer. I believe the copy I saw as a child is still at home and, like all great albums, there must be a few scratches here and there! Not only do I get transported back to childhood when I listen to Abbey Road, but I have a new appreciation for it as an adult.


0PHOTO CREDIT: Iain Macmillan

Thirty (ish) years after the album first swam in my ears, I cannot help but put it on and wonder what could have been. Abbey Road is a perfect finale for the greatest band ever, and it seems hard to believe they would call time very shortly afterwards. Unlike Let It Be (1970), Abbey Road has a sense of cohesion and memorability that ranks alongside their best albums. I think people rate Abbey Road so highly because it is so complete, evocative and nuanced – not just because it was the final Beatles recording and, therefore, has sentimental value. I didn’t know it way back then but, when listening to this timeless album, I was actually experiencing a piece of history. There is a great anniversary edition of Abbey Road that people need to get involved with an own. Back when I first found Abbey Road, I did not have access to the demos and rarities that we have on the new release.

The fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ last-recorded album makes me a bit emotional. On the one hand, it is sad to reflect on the fact the band would not record another album. I am also reminded of that first encounter with the album and the impact it had on me. I can only imagine what was happening in the studio when The Beatles recorded Abbey Road. They knew it was the last time they would be together. From a musical perspective, Abbey Road is a masterpiece. Compare what The Beatles were putting out in 1963 and then put that alongside Abbey Road – an album released only six years later! This article explains how diverse Abbey Road is and how the band were hitting new realms on their final outing. 

In two parts, this sprawling album represents how far The Beatles came throughout the decade. With such multifaceted work clear in each song, the amount of effort put in by all four members seems monumental. Even by today’s standards it represented yet another step forward for music from The Beatles.

Even on their way out, The Beatles were leaders to the future of music. The album covers a wider variety of topics and ideas, yet at the end, it is telling that the band concludes with a simple message about love (after all, so much of their catalog was concerned with the many facets of love). Perhaps we would all do well to remember their final line to the world, at the end of an incredible career, focused instead on that love: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.

Such an amazing work that ranges from the cool and laid back Come Together to the intense I Want You (She’s So Heavy); the sumptuous Here Comes the Sun and the power of Carry That Weight. There is so much happening across the album that it is hard to take it all in!

When I heard these songs as a child, I was only really used to a more Pop-based and simple Beatles. I was amazed by the catchiness of the music, but Abbey Road provided something more complex and emotive. I had never heard a song medley before and was transfixed by the snippets that were woven together perfectly; the staggering Because was a new sensation and, when thinking of Abbey Road, so many fresh ideas and worlds were being opened. I cannot give all the credit to Abbey Road, but I think that album made me more curious about music; opening my eyes and realising just how powerful it could be. How many people in 1962 and 1963 would imagine The Beatles releasing something like Abbey Road?! It is a remarkable album and one that will bring back a lot of memories for people tomorrow (26th September). There were those who were children when the album came out; those (like me) who discovered it through their parents and a new generation who are hearing it for the first time. I think Abbey Road is one of those albums that will last forever and amaze new ears decades from now. I play it now and I am picking up on things I did not realise existed; fresh twists and little sounds that thrill me. I am glad there are anniversary releases and we get to uncover tracks that give Abbey Road alternative dimensions; a broader telling of the recording process. Tomorrow, many people will converge to Abbey Road Studios in London and people across the world will share what Abbey Road means to them. Whilst there is a sadness knowing Abbey Road is the final album from The Beatles and they would never work together after that point, we have this marvellous, endlessly-enduring work that continues to bring…       

SO much joy.