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Published on September 3rd, 2009 | by Darren Byrne

20

What’s Your Favourite Beatles Album?

John Lennon

John Lennon

As part of the Beatles Week on Culch.ie, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to my old Beatles back catalogue. Granted, I don’t have a gramaphone player anymore to listen to the vinyls but my CD player and MP3 player do the songs justice too.

When I first discovered the Beatles, it wasn’t long before Abbey Road stood out for me as their best work, my favourite album. And as I peruse their catalogue again today, that hasn’t changed. Just glancing over the tracklisting, the songs jump out as original, clever, funny, sentimental and complex.

  1. Come Together
  2. Something
  3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
  4. Oh! Darling
  5. Octopus’s Garden
  6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
  7. Here Comes The Sun
  8. Because
  9. You Never Give Me Your Money
  10. Sun King
  11. Mean Mr Mustard
  12. Polythene Pam
  13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  14. Golden Slumbers
  15. Carry That Weight
  16. The End
    – Her Majesty

1969

1969 – Woodstock, the Manson murders, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon – it was a changing time and released late that year was Abbey Road by the Beatles, an amazingly innovative piece of music, timeless. When you consider that it was the band’s last work together, it is a brilliant, unforgettable farewell, which ensured they finished on a high.

John Lennon once said that “talking about music is a bit like talking about sex” – it’s better to experience it than describe it. That said, I can’t just play all the songs and ask you to listen (though you should), so I’ll talk you through the album.

While Let It Be was the band’s final studio album to be released, it was recorded before Abbey Road in what is known as the ‘winter of the band’s discontent’.  So disappointed with the final outcome of Let it Be, Paul convinced the others that they could do better and they all agreed to stop squabbling and get back to basics for their final hurrah.

Track by Track

So, with The Beatles imploding, Come Together has to be the most openly ironic beginning to an album. From this to the final fade The End, Abbey Road managed to give each member of the band a chance to shine on their own, while contributing to the bigger picture too. Covered many times, one of the ones that stands out for me is Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin’s version for George Martin’s In My Life album. Unique, to say the least:

George Harrison

George Harrison

Abbey Road is especially noteworthy as it has two of George Harrison’s best songs as a Beatle: Something and Here Comes the Sun. Harrison’s work was often overshadowed by the Lennon/McCartney hit-machine, but here they stand out as never before. On Something, George’s passionate guitar builds upon the lyrics and George Martin’s subtle, orchestral score adds a maturity to the track that makes you forget that The Beatles were still in their twenties when they pulled this album together.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer may seem a bit juvenile at first. The jaunty McCartney track, once described by Lennon as one of Paul’s granny tunes, gets more and more catchy on each listen. Maybe irony is the theme of Abbey Road with this fun song sung so sweetly by Paul, while it’s subject matter is that of a homicidal youth.

Paul’s bluesy, wailing Oh! Darling, was not the typical sounding McCartney song and Lennon later lamented that he would like to have sung it, as he like the track so much. It’s hard to imagine the song without Paul’s voice though. It’s a stadium rock anthem, as far as I’m concerned, and that Paul only recorded it once per day when in studio for the album is what gives it the fresh sound.

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr

Octopus’s Garden is pure whimsy. It’s Ringo’s apex with The Beatles. It may lack the complexity and depth of many Lennon/McCartney tracks, but it makes up for it in being catchy and forever memorable. I first learned it back in primary school and I still love it now.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) is Lennon’s answer to Oh! Darling. It goes on forever, and was far ahead of it’s time in terms of rock tracks. The freestyle rhythm and blues coupled with the sudden, jarring silence at track’s end brought a close to side one of the original album.

Here Comes The Sun, Harrison’s second track on Abbey Road, despite the fact that it was never released as a single, became one of the most popular and most covered tracks on the album. Harrison wrote it it Eric Clapton’s house when avoiding an Apple Corps board meeting. For him is was about freedom and breaking away from tedium. Irony continues to meander through the album here as the clouds were certainly gathering above the heads of the band members at this point.

Because proved that The Beatles never gave up being experimental, right to the end. With Harrison’s Moog synthesiser and the heavy over dubbed harmonies from him, Paul and John, Because is a strange sounding track, playing with the Beach Boys sound. I would describe it as dreamlike.

Everything after this should be awful. It’s piecemeal. It’s unfinished songs knitted together into medleys and scored by George Martin. It shouldn’t work, but…

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney

The Abbey Road Medley

The medley comprises eight songs flowing into each other as follows:

  1. You Never Give Me Your Money
  2. Sun King
  3. Mean Mr Mustard
  4. Polythene Pam
  5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  6. Golden Slumbers
  7. Carry That Weight
  8. The End

The highlight, for me, is the Golden Slumbers arc. It’s beautiful and still appears on my top 25 most played tracks on my iPod.

The whole thing is Paul’s baby, with the majority of it written by him and the whole piece arrange by him and George Martin, but it wouldn’t work without the crazed counterpoint of Lennon’s characters: the Sun King, Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.

The band may not have been aware of their impending break up as they were recording it, but The End is a gorgeous prophetic tune and signals the final fairwell for The Beatles. Kinda!

If you wait for a little while at the end, we hear a cheeky little tune called Her Majesty. Well, The Beatles could hardly be conventional could they?

The Album Cover

Abbey Road
Abbey Road

I couldn’t finish without mentioning the album’s cover. It’s one of the most iconic images in music, the foursome walking across the zebra crossing at Abbey Road. Taken outside the studio on August 8th 1969, it has been imitated and parodied time and time again over the years. The Wikipedia’s article on it is well worth a read. Indeed, the Daily Mail has a fantastic collection of Abbey Road cover imitations. Check that out here. You might also like to see the Abbey Road webcam here.

The End

And, in the end, the love you take / Is equal to the love you make

So, that’s my favourite Beatles album. What’s yours? I know Revolver and Sgt. Pepper are often heralded as being better musically and the White Album is about them pushing the envelope as far as possible, but Abbey Road shows us everything. Ringo’s impeccable drumming, Harrison’s groundbreaking guitar and synth work, along with John and Paul’s sheer brilliance in songwriting and singing. Even George Martin deserves to be considered the fifth Beatle on this record.

[poll id=”5″]

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About the Author

Blogger, writer, movie buff, amateur dramatist and all round nice guy. When I'm not spouting about on Culch.ie, I can be found Tweeting inanities @DarrenByrne or @Culch_ie. I am the admin behind Culch.ie and if you want to contact me for anything, drop me a mail.



20 Responses to What’s Your Favourite Beatles Album?

  1. Séamus says:

    Loved the Beatles growing up, their early songs, had Rubber Soul and liked Norwegian Wood best on that, but I’d have to say Magical Mystery Tour as I listened to that, over and over, by myself, during many stays at Boston’s Childrens Hospital in my teens. Blue Jay Way, Strawberry Fields Forever, Fool on the Hill and the other songs were my favorite distractions in those times.

  2. Ronan says:

    Magical Mystery Tour is my favourite, except in the UK it’s not actually a proper album. The title track, the Fool on the HIll, Walrus, Hello Goodbye, Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, all classics. All on this magnificent album. (Well in the US anyway)

  3. johnmfinn says:

    Rubber Soul stands out for me. I just love every song off that album and it is one of very few albums I don’t get sick of listening to.

  4. I think Abbey Road is technically their best and ‘most complete’ album. But choosing a personal *favourite* is a tougher choice.

    My favourite songs are probably on Mystery Tour.. but as an album it doesn’t really work as well as others.

    Sgt. Peppers, undeniably brilliant but not my favourite.

    I think… I’d probably have to go with the White Album. I love the raw rock&roll feel to it. Some absolutely outstanding and iconic tracks on it and a great energy running throughout the two discs.

    Really tough choice though. Rubber Soul and Revolver also deserve more than a passing mention.

  5. Cillian O'Brien says:

    Revolver.

  6. Séamus says:

    Darren, a good future Beatles subject for you to post on might be which Beatles we liked the most, and why.

  7. Frank says:

    Sgt Peppers

  8. Niall says:

    Great post Darren. I’m a big fan of Abbey Road, Revolver, The White Album, Sgt. Peppers and The Magical Mystery Tour but I have to pick Rubber Soul as my favourite.

    Any way to add in a poll?

  9. Darren Byrne says:

    @Niall Thanks a mil. Poll now added to bottom of the post. Good idea.

  10. Darren Byrne says:

    @Seamus Ah, you poor thing. At least you had some decent music in hospital with you. Like the post idea too. I’ll have a look at it over the weekend. Tough one.

    @Ronan I think it’s fair to include Magical Mystery Tour. It’s an 11 track album, essentially.

    @John That’s me with Abbey Road. It just doesn’t get old. Revolver would be close on its heels.

    @Michael The White Album is special alright. Unfortunately, it felt more of a collection of solo tracks rather a cohesive Beatles album. Still great though.

    @Cillian, @Matt, @Frank I’ve added a poll now. Go vote.

  11. MJ says:

    Voted. 8 results so far suggest early stuff as the best. Groovy baby.

  12. Mary says:

    Rubber Soul all the way, for me. I know the ending of Abbey Road gets a lot of attention… but the last five or six tracks on RS are possibly my favorite 30 minutes on any rock record. I especially love George’s solo on “Run For Your Life”- the way it slides from whimsical to menacing chills me every time, and really makes me appreciate how he could capture such strong emotional beats in such relatively simple notes.

  13. Darren Byrne says:

    @MJ I dunno. Abbey Road is doing well.

    @Mary Nice observation. Personally, I adore the first half of Rubber Soul, but ‘side two’ seems to lose its way a bit. There’s a highs of In My Life sitting alongside the overly simple I’m looking Through You. I will say Harrison’s If I Needed Someone goes sadly overlooked. It’s a great track.

  14. Maxi Cane says:

    It has to be Abbey Road all the way.

  15. Simon says:

    White Album. Its sheer variety and the way it survives repeated plays, and never sounds stale.

  16. Patar says:

    Rubber Soul is my favourite, because every songs has the same mood within them. Revolver may have better songs but it’s kind of strange listening to Here, There & Everywhere and Tomorrow Never Knows at the same album.

  17. Phil says:

    It took me a long time to really come around to the idea that I liked the Beatles.

    My fav is Rubber Soul.

  18. Lottie says:

    I can’t choose just one. There are great songs on each and songs I’ve still never heard of on each too.

    I like the Beatles “1” album that came out aroudn 2000. It’s great for a Beatles novice. And it’s not cheating!

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