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Old Jul 25, 2005, 05:47 AM   #1
gberman
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Default Does Abbey Road get short shrift?

I know this is a long post, but I have a point to make...

"Abbey Road" is my favorite Beatles album, just edging out "Revolver" (although it's nearly impossible to single out any Beatles album as a favorite). It's brilliance--the songwriting, singing, musicianship, and George Martin's production--is absolutely remarkable. But I've always been baffled that, while it is usually listed in the top 10 of whoever puts out such lists of "Greatest Albums", has never come in at #1 in any major music publication that I've seen. I'll even venture to say that it has often been treated as little more than a footnote in many of the best-known historical account's of the Beatles' music. An exaggeration? Not really.
"Abbey Road" was cursed with bad timing when it was released 36 years ago. As we know, "Let It Be" was recorded first, but released long after "Abbey Road", leaving more casual fans to believe that the doldrums the Beatles went through during the "Let It Be" sessions revealed the break-up of the group. This is just one of the many misunderstandings about "Let It Be", along with the fact that the sessions were not for an album per se, but were really supposed to be rehearsals for the group's TV concert special that never happened. Also, don't forget that this heavily documented period, showing the group feeling cranky and lethargic, only lasted about one month.
Anyway, they re-gathered their energy, asked George Martin to produce a new album for them, and "Abbey Road" was born. But...
The documentary film "The Compleat Beatles", released in '82 and still one of the best documentaries ever made about them, devotes 3 1/2 minutes (by my stopwatch) to the "Let It Be" phase of their work, while the "Abbey Road" section takes up a mere 1 minute, 37 seconds--not a lot of attention for an album the film calls "their most polished production to date." A little later on, it returns to the subject of "Let It Be" with a full-length version of an alternative take of them performing the title song. The narration concludes with, "the album sounded like what it was destined to become: the Beatles swan song." Oh, really?
In the brilliant "Anthology" documentary, the segment on "Let It Be" takes up a full 30 minutes. A short while later the entire segment on "Abbey Road" runs a paltry 7 minutes--and that includes the unedited "Something" promo film. George Martin even calls AR "a very, very, happy album, and everybody worked frightfully well". Faint praise for such a major accomplishment by both the Beatles and Martin himself.
Yes, there was tons of film footage and audio recorded from the "Let It Be" sessions, so why not include it in a documentary if you can--but that hardly excuses the off-hand manner that has so often accompanied mention of "Abbey Road."
Even last year's special issue of Roling Stone, listing the greatest rock artists of all time, allows the error to repeat itself. Naturally, the Beatles took the #1 spot on the list, but Elvis Costello's glowing tribute to them refers to "Let It Be" as "their break-up album", as if "Abbey Road" never existed.
"Abbey Road" was, in fact, the Beatles break-up album, and they probably knew it at the time. Seeing such a masterpiece get virtually lost in the shuffle in subsequent accounts of their career, simply because it was not the last album of theirs to be released, is a real injustice.
So here's to the Beatles' real swan song. What a way to go.
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Old Jul 25, 2005, 07:45 AM   #2
pepperland67
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You bring up some very good points. Abbey Road is also my favorite album, and I agree that it's an incredible way for them to go out as a band. It's a masterpiece, no doubt about it. And yeah, things were still bad between them at the end of their recording career, but Abbey Road is the proof that they could still put feelings aside and make amazing music.
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Old Jul 25, 2005, 10:22 AM   #3
ringo_rama
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Those are good points, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it top some lists. But even if it doesn't, is #5 that bad? Or #7? To be honest, I never take any of those lists seriously, so I couldn't care less.

But it seems that every decade or so, the Beatles "best album" according to the general public changes. In the 90s, it was all about Sgt. Pepper. Nowadays, Revolver tops most lists. In the 2060s, it'll probably be Beatles '65 or something like that.
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Old Jul 25, 2005, 02:20 PM   #4
matt5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ringo_rama
But it seems that every decade or so, the Beatles "best album" according to the general public changes. In the 90s, it was all about Sgt. Pepper. Nowadays, Revolver tops most lists. In the 2060s, it'll probably be Beatles '65 or something like that.
I agree.

Keep in mind that there are so many great Beatles albums, that unfortuneatley some will get short thrift.

I personally feel that Help gets short thrift.
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