1,2,3,4,5,6,7 - All Good Children Go To Heaven

Jan 7, 2002 (Updated Mar 1, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:An outstanding final outing from the Fab Four

Cons:Their final outing? D'oh!

The Bottom Line: This review is dedicated to the late George Harrison (1943 - 2001). Rest In Peace, George.

After the release of the extraordinary, if slightly overrated "White Album" in 1968, the Beatles returned to the studio to lay down the tracks which would constitute their final two releases. The band was helplessly falling apart - with the bond between John Lennon and Paul McCartney crumbling and their desire to go solo too strong to bear. Nevertheless, the Beatles’ final album together, “Abbey Road” is a relentlessly more satisfying affair than its bloated predecessor. More than just a great set of tunes - it is a fantastic ALBUM. In its vinyl incarnation, it was divided into two neat halves - Side One, a collection of eight songs by all four Beatles, and Side Two, a breathless medley of nine song sketches. As such, the album deserves to be listened to from beginning to end without skipping any tracks. This reviewer has chosen to critique the album in its original form.

Side One

Lennon’s contributions to Side One are a trio of intriguing tunes indicative of the directions he would take after the Beatles’ split, namely politics, confessional rock and, um, Yoko:

The album’s opener “Come Together” is Lennon’s counter-culture “campaign song” - a bass-heavy blues-rock groove, with a guitar riff shamelessly nicked from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”. The lyrics are typical Lennon fare - image-heavy gobbledegook a la “I Am The Walrus” and “Glass Onion”:

“Here come old flat top
He come grooving up slowly
He got joo joo eyeball
He one holy roller…[and so forth]

This time, however, there’s a subliminal message of sorts tucked away in the mess - “One thing I can tell you is you got to be free”. You say you want a revolution? The title also inspires a sexual pun (ha ha).“Because”, with its wobbly vocals, watery Moog synthesiser and George Martin’s electric harpsichord, is a drug-induced psychedelic ramble in the guise of a ballad. Mmm, nice, but nothing to write home about.

“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is actually two songs entwined, a nightmarish rocker alternating with a bass-driven acid groove (with some superb bass from Macca). Unconventional and raw, you can be forgiven for thinking that the band quit Abbey Road for the afternoon and adjourned to a nearby garage to record this monster - its unexpected chord-changes, Moog and tape hiss ganging up for an assault on your ears. Like any backroom jam, it goes on for wayyyy too long - nearly eight minutes as a matter of fact. You keep wondering when or if this beast will end, and thankfully it does, and with the lovely “Here Comes The Sun”, no less. The lyrics consist of the repeated verse “I want you, I want you so bad/It’s driving me mad, it’s driving me mad” with the occasional “She’s so…heavy!!!”. The song contains hints of the confessional style Lennon had a jab at with earlier songs like “Help” and “Julia”, and would later perfect on his harrowing solo debut “Plastic Ono Band”. The person referred to in the song may be John’s mother or Yoko. The song could even be about both of them (as in “Julia”), with each half of the track referring to each woman separately; like a little boy, Lennon cries out for his estranged mother, wanting her so bad it’s driving him mad and, well, Yoko ain’t exactly the lightest woman on the planet (take a gander at the cover art for the “Two Virgins” album - yeeesh!). That’s my interpretation anyway.

Paul offers us two songs here: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, a jolly old music hall number about a hammer-wielding murderer (Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine), is a McCartney character song of the same ilk as “Lovely Rita” and “Rocky Raccoon”. Macca’s tongue is planted firmly in his cheek on this track; you’d swear he’d break out in chuckles any second. Complete with cheesy Moog solos and theatric backing vocals - “Maxwell” is a silly song, but it has camp appeal, of course. On the other hand, “Oh! darling”, a probable ode to the Lovely Linda, is a 50’s-style doo-wop/blues-rock hybrid.

Having shown promise with “Taxman” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, by 1969 George Harrison had surfaced as a songwriting talent worth reckoning, and his two majestic compositions found here certainly rival some of his partners’ best work, and are precursors to the Wall Of Sound gems he’d write for “Everything Must Pass”:

The John Lennon-opined best track on “Abbey Road”, and Frank’s Sinatra’s favourite Beatles song, “Something” is George’s masterpiece. A grand love song with George Martin’s gorgeous orchestral overdubs, brilliant guitar licks and sincere lyrics which combine the mystical with the sensual, it is indeed one of the album’s greatest moments. The happy-go-lucky pastoral-pop of “Here Comes The Sun”, kicks out the blues left, right and centre - another fantastic tune. ("Here Comes The Sun" was actually part of Side 2 on the original vinyl release but I have included it as part of Side 1 for the sake of this review)

Old Ringo has only one song up for grabs - “Octopus’s Garden”. The track's as good as a Starr composition can get (which isn’t saying much); it tries to be another surreal Yellow Submarine-ish light-hearted ditty, but fails miserably. It is, however, saved by Harrison’s bluegrass guitar solos and Ringo’s delightful scouse warble, and treated as part of an album rather than an individual song, I guess “Octopus’s Garden” works. As an additional plus, it might also go down well as a kind of nursery school sing-a-long. Sorry, Ringo, you’re a fine drummer, but as far as songwriting goes, you ain’t no Paul McCartney. Then again, “Octopus’s Garden” IS one of Yoko’s favourites….

Side Two: The Long Medley

Sensing that “Abbey Road” would be their last album together, the Beatles decided to have one last fling. And what better way to go out in style than to fish out a few choice song fragments left over from the “White Album” sessions and weld them together, creating a Long Medley? This phenomenal piece, my dear ladies and gents, is the star of “Abbey Road”:

It all begins with “You Never Give Me Your Money”, in which Macca uses the Beatle’s overbearing financial problems at Apple as a mirror for their souring relationship as a group. Like Lennon’s “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” from the previous album, it is almost a mini-medley in itself. Starting as a sad piano ballad, it then surges into tub-thumping honky tonk before ending in a rocker.
Yet, the Long Medley has merely begun, for hot on "You Never...'s" heels comes Lennon’s “The Sun King” - more spaced-out organ-based balladry which then continues on to “Mean Mr. Mustard”, a humorous Sgt. Pepperesque barrelhouse character song about a dirty old tramp who “sleeps in the park, shaves in the dark” and “keeps a ten bob note up his nose”.
Then John introduces us to Mr. Mustard’s equally quirky sister “Polythene Pam”, who is “so goodlooking but she looks like a man”. This track is almost proto-punk, with pounding drums, sneered lyrics and thrashed guitars (an acoustic 12-string, by the way). Next up is Paul’s “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window", a story of an obsessive fan set against a rocking backdrop and an excellent walking bass riff.
“Golden Slumbers” is a luxurious piano ballad, with comforting lyrics and a soulful vocal delivery from McCartney. The calm aroused by this song is quickly dispelled by the English pub singalong of “Carry That Weight”. Then, out of the blue comes a brassy orchestral reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money”.
Things end with a bang with the aptly titled “The End”, a driving rocker featuring some Ringo’s best drumming and even some pyrotechnics from George, and of course the fabled legend and fitting epitaph for the Beatles' career:

“In the end the love you make
Is equal to the love you take”

Time for a breather... Then suddenly and unexpectedly comes Paul’s charming “Her Majesty”, a whimsical acoustic love song barely half a minute in length - a lovely, off-kilter finale.

Sadly, “Abbey Road” was indeed the Beatles' final album. A collection of odds and ends, “Let It Be” came out the following year, but “Abbey Road” is a more fitting swansong. Sure, "I Love You..." could've been shorter and everyone could've done without "Octopus's Garden", but who cares? This beauty is the Beatles’ final masterpiece.

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