Part 7 of Learning…With The Beatles
And in the End their swansong was introduced by a great rock performance as The Beatles did finally Come Together. They returned to their nest at Abbey Road and produced what often sounds like, in the 21st Century, their greatest album, because of the quality of the recordings they captured in Abbey Road Studio 2. Abbey Road was both their spiritual home and their creative playground. It was the very specific place where both their craft in producing music and their accumulated tacit knowledge in playing the studio, produced the universal music we are still listening to today. “Home” had been a key theme of Get Back, for the scousers who had changed the world and had also been our surrogate, provincially English, champions in the class war of the sixties; they needed sanctuary from the forces amassing against them and perhaps became nostalgic for the simple verities of rock n’roll.
Ultimately they did return home; not to Liverpool however but to Abbey Road. They ennobled their prolifically creative craft centre by naming their last album after it. EMI ultimately returned the compliment by renaming their recording studio Abbey Road after the album. It is now simply known as Abbey Road Studios, and remains a key Beatles shrine for their enduring fanbase, a flash mob met there in August 2009 to celebrate the albums 40th anniversary, and the studio has a webcam pointed at the famous crossing where the Fab Four popped outside, as they had done for the rooftop concert, and crossed over into middle age ending their career on a pedestrian crossing.
Working like a pack of dogs
If you look at the record 1969 and 1970, along with 1968, were arguably the period of greatest productivity for John, Paul, George and Ringo. Whilst the public was perhaps in mourning for the Fab Four and their psychedelic teen alter-egos, the four Beatles were getting on with preparing their post-Beatles life in the 1970s. John and Paul cemented their divorce by marrying Yoko and Linda within a week of each other, George traded on his status as a senior alumni of this early School of Rock by collaborating extensively and adding to his stockpile of songs, allowing him to release a triple album, All Things Must Pass, arguably the best of album of 1970; if that honour didnt fall to Lennon or possibly McCartney. Ringo, who always felt lucky to be in The Beatles, was both the first to record a solo album, Sentimental Journey, and the first to become a solo actor, in Candy and the Magic Christian.
Abbey Road; the Album
How to characterise the sonically buffed Abbey Road where The Beatles were finally captured on eight-track so that they would sound perfect to us forever? I would describe Side One of Abbey Road as “The Beatles” Part Two. Even more of that magnificent trick of making individual songs as complex as albums. And Side Two of Abbey Road is “Love” Part One, a brilliant “operatic” mix of songs, bridges, walls, beginnings and endings; unconsciously elegaic. George Martin and Paul McCartney finally got their way over John Lennon and produced the next generation of Beatles music even as they were splitting up, finally fulfilled in Las Vegas by Cirque de Soleil as a tribute to George Harrison. More surprisingly, given that Abbey Road included this final Lennon and McCartney songfest, the star songwriter on the album turned out to be George Harrison. Even the rabidly anti-rock Frank Sinatra was seduced by Harrison’s Something; “the greatest love song of the twentieth century” as he christened it.
From Come Together to Because The Beatles refined the trick of the White Album of producing complex songs that they performed brilliantly, but generally of a higher quality than that achieved on the White Album; at least the classics are! Come Together is glorious swamp rock yet George Martin only recognised how good it was when he was remixing The Beatles body of work for “Love”. McCartney’s took his loving 50s pastiche Oh Darling so seriously he sang for a week until his voice was hoarse enough to achieve the right effect. Ringo’s Octopuses Garden, a highlight of the Love show in Vegas, finally realised his worldview on a Beatles album. As ever kids sing Beatles songs and Abbey Road gave them two more.
Then the summative and elegaic songcycle introduced by You Never Give Me Your Money sends The Beatles out into the World as John, or Paul, or George or Ringo, and ends on the couplet that Kenneth Womack argues is worthy of Shakespeare; and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.
The Beatles have kept our love because they tried to make the changes of the sixties work for us; that they failed says more about us than them.
Learning…With The Beatles concludes with And In The End; the Assessment in two weeks time in late February