This album, because it has aged better than most of the very late-period Beatles albums, has actually gained popularity over the years.
That’s even though, once side one is done, there is very little overt John Lennon sprinkled throughout the rest. What there is, however, is important. (“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven …”)
See, if you’re a Paul McCartney fan, this remains his brightest, most artistically satisfying, moment — even thirtysomething years later. However, it’s Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, George Harrison’s), undoubtably, that make it so.
While side two (does anybody know what that is anymore?) of this album remains McCartney’s most cohesive song cycle, it’s one whose magic (despite his labored attempts at recreating it over the years, on “Ram,” “Band on the Run,” “Back to the Egg,” among others) only grows more impressive after hearing those Lennon-less also-rans.
Meanwhile, if you’re a Harrison fan, this was the album when his potential finally was realized (to the tune of an A-side No. 1 tune in “Something” and the lilting, uplifting “Here Comes the Sun”).
But, for a band moments away from imploding, I think Beatles fans particularly love “Abbey Road” because those separate personalities for one moment seem whole — and for one last time.
“Because” stands as one of the greatest all-together-now harmonies to be heard on any rock record … and that includes the Beach Boys. (Too, it marks the introduction of the synthesizer as a lead instrument — well over a decade before MTV!)
Then there’s the trio’s relentlessly traded guitar solos, buffeting a typically utopion peace-loving Vietnam-era message, on the finale — “The End.”
In the end, the reason the album stands up better than, say, “The White Album” is, in fact, that “coming together.”
There’s more, however: While it’s “conceptual,” this one outstrips “Pepper” because it’s not locked into an Idea. Besides, the songs here, on balance, are stronger than those of either earlier album — even Ringo Starr’s. And the thing rocks a good bit more — in particular on side one, where Lennon dominates (“Come Together,” “I Want You.”)
I’ll never forget the first time I heard side one. (Obviously, this was back in the days of vinyl.) When “She’s So Heavy” ground down to that abrupt halt, I thought my turntable had skipped. I jumped up and put the needle back down.
SHEEEEESH-quiet. Again. SHEEEEESH-quiet. Again. SHEEEEESH-quiet.
A smile curled up my face.