❉ George Martin’s biographer, offers the most thorough and well researched account of the Beatles album to date.
Before engineering Dark Side Of The Moon and writing his own collection of slick songs, Alan Parsons worked with The Beatles on their self-referential Abbey Road. Encompassing, encouraging and inviting the comforts of their studio to their audiences by title, Parsons solemnly recognises that he intrinsically this was the last time “The Beatles would be The Beatles”. And what a way to celebrate their career, lovingly homaged and decorated by Beatle scholar Kenneth Womack on its fiftieth anniversary, a work fore worded by the Eye In The Sky writer himself.
Opening with Parsons, a heartfelt dedication is reserved for Geoff Emerick during the book’s close. Emerick, whose technical expertise translated John Lennon’s desired cabalistic effects on Tomorrow Never Knows and I Am The Walrus, returned to work with Liverpudlian band after a dismayed period of grace during The White Album sessions. Key contributions to Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run and Tug Of War has led posterity to label Emerick as “Paul’s guy”, despite the technical astuteness he provided the entire group, at its mechanical zenith in 1969.
George Harrison, the band’s stoic guitarist, had written a song of musical and seismic complexity, a lethargic lullaby to the power of the sun. Catching the ear of the discerning George Martin, Harrison’s elegy benefitted from the rigorous editing of cross cut editing and agrarian handclap overdubs. Ringo Starr, the twenty-nine old drummer who’d only taken to the pen of songcraft, had concluded a sea shanty, benefitting from the eight track overdubbed harmonies which were missing from Yellow Submarine. Capturing the fizzled, high pitch harmonies McCartney and Harrison intimated, Martin and engineer Alan Brown created a bubbly, watery world from microphones delicately placed near glasses. For the longstanding Beatle producer, Abbey Road presented his realised vision of studio as “magical workshop”, an album Martin would fondly remember as his favourite of The Beatles work.
Lennon, who’d absented himself from the early album sessions due to a car crash, duly arrived with muse/partner Yoko Ono in tow. His mind had presided the solo turn he would take in mere months, but his cordial behaviour shows an interest in The Beatles often forgotten about. Surmising that opening rocker Come Together was his musical détente, Womack opines though the funk may have united the Beatles, the telling “shoot me” coda suggested that his taste for heroin may have entered his music. His more naked Cold Turkey met with apathy from his bandmates, a roaring live rendition of the track in Toronto sealed his intent to quit the band on his flight back. And yet Lennon was seduced by the bravado and breadth as anyone else, disclaiming ““I tell you this next Beatles album is really something. So, tell the armchair people to hold their tongues and wait. Just shut up and listen!”
Lennon was right, the album really is something. Detailing, describing and devouring the antics, anecdotes and aspirations that went on, Womack nevertheless shows four men who achieved their greatest work through laughter. A light Lennon joke asking to play a guitar solo (understanding Harrison’s superior knowledge of the six string) led to the guitar orchestics of the rollicking Ringo-led finale, McCartney’s doleful, but batty, Her Majesty tellingly compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses. A touching and inspiring look at the Beatles last, and possibly greatest, album.
❉ ‘Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles’, by Kenneth Womack. Distributed by Cornell University Press.
❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.