In 2017, it almost seems redundant to talk about The Beatles. What song of theirs hasn’t already been analyzed, looked at from every angle, and argued about? What story about them hasn’t been mythologized and told by music critics for years? Yet despite this over-saturation of coverage, The Beatles’ music continues to be fresh and relevant even 50 years later. And that’s why I’m writing this story.
“Abbey Road” is flowing out of the stereo right now, and I realize from the start how long it’s been since I’ve really listened to The Beatles. It’s not that I forgot about the band, but that their music is so legendary that the simple act of listening became looked over. It’s like forgetting about the trees and flowers that make a city wonderful to live in, and then suddenly seeing them with fresh eyes on a summer day.
Because of this, my return to the Beatles has been joyous, exciting; intricate in the emotions it brings out. I know now how much we change as our lives go on. Every album feels different as we get older, as we pass through time and personal changes. The songs mean different things to us now. They ignite new emotions, feelings and perspectives. We hear a sound that suddenly pulls at our heartstrings or recalls a memory we had thought was lost. We spontaneously connect with a lyric that punches through the confusion of life.
And that is how it goes. When Paul’s voice rips through the fabric of “Oh! Darling” I feel the energetic pain of it all, the desperation that love tricks us into. Never before have I dived so deeply into the insanity of attachment as when the second chorus rings out:
“When you told me you didn’t need me anymore
Well you know I nearly broke down and cried
When you told me you didn’t need me anymore
Well you know I nearly fell down and died”
Now that I have the life experience to truly understand the song, it echoes ever deeper in my body, ringing through the strange detours and disappointments a life can take. I feel the frustration and confusion that relationships can inspire, and the power that a song can hold.
“You Never Give Me Money,” always one of my favorites from the album, is a multi-part track that sets off the medley on side B. While documenting the lost feeling of being young and directionless, the song also chronicles the internal struggles that “The Beatles” were facing at the time. During the recording process they began to feel that this would be the band’s last album, which explains lyrics like these at the end of this song:
Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go
The power of “Abbey Road” is in its dynamic nature. The Beatles move effortlessly from light pop numbers like “Here Comes the Sun” to psychedelic jams like “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Every layer and melody in the songs seems carefully crafted on an album that is, paradoxically, also free and inviting. The band isn’t afraid to throw in a few silly numbers like “Polythene Pam” among such sensual and romantic tracks as “Something.” It’s everything you could want from The Beatles, which is saying a lot.
By the the last three tracks on “Abbey Road,” we get a taste of just how good these guys were together. Blending styles and concepts effortlessly, they move toward the epic finale that is “The End,” screaming guitar solos and chants leading us into the angelic conclusion of the song, where the band sings:
“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”
“Abbey Road,” was, in the end, their last recording together. “Let It Be,” though released afterwards, was recorded in sessions before “Abbey Road.” That leaves us with the epic medley at album’s close as a swan song for The Beatles, the band that defined a music generation and grew into mythic figures. All we can do now is listen.