50 Years of Beatlemania: Part III...End of the Road...Abbey Road
Knox County — Continuing this final chapter of our discussion of “50 Years of Beatlemania,” I will discuss my favorite album, Abbey Road. We will also discuss the reasons leading up to the dissolution of the band and many of the controversies they were involved in during their rise to fame around the world.
Abbey Road was the band’s last recorded studio album. Although Let It Be was the last album they completed before the band’s dissolution in April 1970, most of that album was recorded before the recording of Abbey Road began.
Notice that the album cover shows Paul with no shoes on as the boys cross Abbey Road. We’ll talk about that later. Many people have gone to that spot to recreate that scene with their own friends in the picture.
Here are the songs on Side one:
“Come Together.” The song was an expansion of “Let’s Get It Together,” which Lennon originally wrote for Timothy Leary’s governor of California campaign against Ronald Reagan.
“Something.” George Harrison wrote this song after he was inspired by James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves” from his album. The song was originally given to Joe Cocker, but was later recorded for Abbey Road. Cocker’s version appeared on his album, Joe Cocker.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” By McCartney, was performed by the Beatles during the Let It Be sessions as can be seen in the film. He wrote the song after the group’s trip to India in 1968 and wanted to record it for The White Album but it was turned down as “too complicated.” Tensions flared between Paul and John during the recording of this song resulting in John’s walking out and spending a week with Ono. She was often the reason for tension between the band members and may herself have been a big reason for the dissolution of the band.
“Oh ! Darling.” Written by McCartney in the doo-wop style that Frank Zappa had recently made popular.
“Octopus’s Garden.” Starr sang lead vocal on one track. This song was his second and last solo composition released on any album by the band. It was inspired by a trip to Sardinia aboard Peter Sellers’ yacht after Starr left the band for two weeks with his family during the sessions for The White Album.
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy.” Was written by Lennon about his relationship with Ono.
Here are the songs on Side two:
“Here Comes the Sun.” My favorite song on the album, was written by Harrison, which he wrote in Eric Clapton’s garden in Surrey, England while taking a break from band business. Harrison sang lead and acoustic guitar; McCartney voiced backup vocals and played base; and Starr played the drums. Lennon was still recuperating from a car accident and did not perform in the song. Give it a listen on YouTube.
“Because.” Inspired by Lennon listening to Ono playing Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano. As he was listening he suddenly said, “Can you play those chords backward?” She did, and he wrote “Because” around them. The song has a three-part harmony with Lennon McCartney, and Harrison.
“Medley.” Several short songs which were blended into a suite by McCartney and Martin. Included were: “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” written by McCartney after a fan did indeed enter his residence via his bathroom window; “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry the Weight,” and a reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money; and with vocals from all four Beatles, “The End.” As the song goes “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” And that was the end.
“Her Majesty” One song which was spliced in at the last minute because a technician was told never to waste anything. The Beatles liked the way it was done and included it on the album.
My Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
Back to Paul and his bare feet on the album cover. Much was made of the fact that he was barefoot because he was dead. Rumors were rampant after the completion of Abbey Road as each member went on to his own thing. Paul in fact decided to spend time with his new wife Linda at his Scottish retreat.
Other clues to the death rumor included the supposed message from “Revolution 9” from the White Album, which played backwards says “turn me on, dead man.” There was also a rumor he’d died in a car accident.
Of course Paul did finally appear in public again and the rest is history.
More than any other band of the day, the Beatles stirred up more controversy than any other group. It is all part of their heritage and some of the controversies may have led to their demise as a group. It is also one of the reasons why they are remembered so much and why their music is played constantly even today.
One member or the other was always getting into some kind of trouble. I remember one time when Paul was caught with marijuana at an airport somewhere.
On their fourth American tour in Memphis people gathered with the Ku Klux Klan, if you can believe it, to burn their Beatles materials because John had previously said that the band was more popular than Jesus. A firecracker was thrown onto the stage during the performance of the song “Help”. At that point the band decided to quit touring. They also became fed up with not being able to hear their music as they performed it because of constant screaming from the fans. One time on Ed Sullivan, Ed pled with the audience to scream at the end of their performance and not during it.
John and Yoko
John and Yoko, the dynamic “love” children of the day stirred up their own controversies. They met in 1966 and relationships between the four boys were never the same after that. John was often preoccupied with Yoko and the two of them often put their own projects ahead of the group. On their Two Virgins album, recorded in 1968, they both appeared naked on the album cover. The album was seized by police at Newark Airport.
And Then There Was…
Mararishi Mahesh Yogi, whose influence the Beatles fell under at one time. This was when their music started to get weird in my opinion. Maybe it was that damn sitar or all that hash or something. If it wasn’t a dispute with some of the lyrics of their songs like “Back in the USSR;” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which really wasn’t about the hallucinatory drug, LSD; and others; or the Love-Ins; the Peace Protests; and other general mayhem, our day would have been dull as far as the Beatles were concerned.
Then there was George’s supposed snub from the Queen. He refused to accept an OBE from the Queen (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2006, because Paul had been knighted in 1997. Harrison and his band mates accepted an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order) in 1965, but Lennon later returned the award in a peace protest.
The Saddest Note
The saddest note in all this is the murder of John Lennon on December 8, 1980 as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, were walking past their home at the Dakota in New York City. John was shot four times by Mark David Chapman. John had previously autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman. There was no funeral. John was cremated and his ashes scattered in Central Park near the Dakota. The Strawberry Fields memorial was later created there. I showed you a picture of my visit to that site when I was in NYC in Part I of this series.
Chapman pled guilty to second degree murder and received a 20 year-to-life sentence. He is still in prison in 2014, having been denied parole seven times.
Lennon’s message of peace and love didn’t get through to Chapman, unfortunately.
The “Beat” of the Beatles Goes On
All these 50 years later and still the controversy continues. The music still goes on too. There will always be a certain group of music lovers who will call themselves “Beatlemaniacs.” I count myself among them. Go listen to your favorite Beatle’s song on YouTube for your own special “flash from the past” trip.
Special Note: See The Beatles Are Here! By Penelope Rowlands, Algonquin Books. She includes quotes and stories from people of every part of the music business and all genres of music and how the Beatles influenced their music and the unbelievable impact the Beatles had on music that will be felt by the generations to come. She includes stories from Bruce Springsteen, Janis Ian, Berry Gordy, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Little Richard, B.B. King, and more.
Thanks for listening.