More Abbey Road than I need

Formerly Everest

Abbey Road.4 discsAfter seeing Scott Freiman’s Deconstructing the Beatles: Abbey Road, Part 1, on film at the Spectrum, I made a decision. Though Part 2 was also available at the cinema for a day in August, I chose to see Freiman in person at The End of September instead.

As most people know from all the 50th-anniversary hype, Abbey Road was the last Beatles album recorded. Side two starts with Here Comes The Sun, George’s song written in Eric Clapton’s garden. Then Because, a truly lovely song, derived when John had asked Yoko to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata backward.

Then the medley, which came from a bunch of sources, some going back to the white album: You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End, with Her Majesty at the end.

A bed-in, of sorts

John was late getting to the sessions that took place in July and August of 1969. He and Yoko were in a car accident. A bed was brought into EMI Recording Studios so Yoko could rest there during the sessions.

As a result, John was absent for a few songs, notably Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight. The lyrics for the former were swiped, slightly altered, from Thomas Dekker’s 17th-century poem. The latter was sung by Paul, George, and Ringo.

There are at least three new packages of the album. One is the Super Deluxe Edition, which includes the medley as originally conceived, with Her Majesty placed between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.

Paul didn’t like the way it sounded, so he asked that Her Majesty be cut. Engineer John Kurlander, who knew not to throw out anything, attached the track to the end of the master tape after 20 seconds of silence. The song opens with the final, crashing chord of Mustard, while the final note was lost to Pam.

The album might have been named Everest, after a cigarette brand, but since they were at 3 Abbey Rd, St John’s Wood, London, the street name seemed an easier choice. And they could just go outside for ten minutes and get a photo of them crossing the road, rather than having to climb a mountain.

Super Deluxe?

I realize that I won’t be buying that Super Deluxe edition, even though it has a version of Goodbye, a song Paul wrote for Mary Hopkin. Her take reached #13 on the singles chart in the US. It got to #2 in the UK, blocked by the Beatles’ Get Back, and #1 in the Netherlands and Ireland.

Super Deluxe also has Come And Get It, a song Macca later said was planned for Abbey Road; I have his demo on Anthology 3. The song ended up being given to the Apple band The Iveys, who became Badfinger. That version is on the soundtrack of the movie The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers and one Ringo Starr.

But nope, no Super Deluxe or even the Anniversary Deluxe iteration Because I don’t need it. Now if YOU want to get it for me…

Listen to Coverville 1280: Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Album Cover.

Deconstructing Abbey Road, Side 1

Deconstructing Abbey RoadScott Freiman has presented several lectures about various Beatles periods. I’ve gone to see his talks on the early Beatles, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and the white album at the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. These presentation are always augmented with analyses of how the recordings were put together, and I found them worthwhile.

I had heard he was also doing presentations on DVDs and in movie presentations of his lectures. The Spectrum 8 Theatre in Albany had one showing of Deconstructing Abbey Road, Side 1. I wasn’t sure seeing something hitting on a half dozen songs was worthwhile, especially since half of them are not among my favorites.

But my wife was paying, so why pass on it? Abbey Road, as most Beatles fans know, was the last time that the Beatles recorded together at EMI Studios, soon thereafter renamed Abbey Road Studios. George Martin only agreed to produce the album because the group agreed to allow him to do his job.

Frieman laid out the historical framework of the Abbey Road, right after Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman, and John Lennon married Yoko Ono in March 1969. Many of the teenage girls were heartbroken when the “cute” Beatle and the photographer got married on the 12th.

The song The Ballad of John and Yoko documented the other honeymoon, after getting “married in Gibraltar, near Spain” on the 20th. The “bagism” event was covered by the press in the Amsterdam Hilton. Famously, only John and Paul were available for the recording, which was rushed out as a single though Get Back was still on the charts.

The B-side, Old Brown Shoe, was a George Harrison tune already recorded and showed the songwriting growth of the youngest Beatle.

As for Abbey Road proper, George Martin and the band now had access to eight tracks rather than four thanks to some new equipment. Some have said the album was overproduced. If it is – and I wouldn’t necessarily agree – it was the part of the learning curve.

Come Together, a Lennon track, ended up in a legal entanglement with Chuck Berry’s lawyers over the song You Can’t Catch Me. The pilfering is even more obvious when Freiman puts both songs up.

Speaking of stealing, James Taylor seems far less bothered by George Harrison’s purloining the first line of his song Something In the Way She Moves than I was. Still, Something is a great song. As Frank Sinatra noted, one of the best ones written by Lennon-McCartney (!).

Longtime roadie Mal Evans played the anvil sound in the chorus of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. It’s not my favorite track, and Lennon and Harrison also tired of McCartney’s perfectionism.

Oh! Darling was a second Macca song in a row. He wanted it to sound as though he’d “been performing it on stage all week.” I think that perhaps Lennon should have sung it, as he had remarked.

Octopus’s Garden was written and sung by Ringo Starr, though Harrison helped out on the former. “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.” It was too much like Yellow Submarine for my taste.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) was written by Lennon about his relationship with Ono. The finished song is a combination of two different recording attempts. “The first attempt occurred almost immediately after the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, in February 1969, with Billy Preston. This was subsequently combined with a second version made during the Abbey Road sessions proper in April. The two sections together ran to nearly 8 minutes, making it the Beatles’ second-longest released track.

“Lennon used Harrison’s Moog synthesizer with a white noise setting to create a ‘wind’ effect that was overdubbed on the second half of the track. During the final edit, Lennon told [Geoff] Emerick to ‘cut it right there’ at 7 minutes and 44 seconds, creating a sudden, jarring silence that concludes the first side of Abbey Road… The final mixing and editing for the track occurred on 20 August 1969, the last day all four Beatles were together in the studio.”

What’s astonishing is that the songs I like – the Lennon and Harrison ones, as it turns out, sound better when Freiman shares the component parts, especially the Preston organ on the early iteration of I Want You. The songs I like less, from McCartney and Starr, nevertheless sound better after his dissection.

As for Abbey Road Part 2, Freiman will live be at Proctors on Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., with Part 1 at 3:30 on the same day. Freiman on film will be at the Spectrum (and SEVERAL other places) on Tuesday, August 27 at 7 pm. Given the choice, I think I’ll opt for the in-person experience.

Music Throwback Saturday: Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?

“Would you greet me or politely turn away
“Would there suddenly be sunshine on a cold and rainy day”

NomanHurricaneSmithIn late January 2015, my family attended I attended one of those Deconstructing the Beatles lectures by Scott Freiman, “a series of entertaining multimedia presentations about the composition and production techniques” of the band.

Previously, the Wife and I experienced Looking Through A Glass Onion: Deconstructing The White Album, which also covered the recording of ‘Hey Jude’. Freiman “discusses the studio techniques used by the Beatles during 1968 and share many examples of rare audio and video of the Beatles in action.”

More recently, the three of us saw YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! Deconstructing The Early Beatles, in which Freiman traces “the birth of the Beatles from Liverpool to Hamburg. The journey continues from their initial recording sessions at EMI for ‘Love Me Do’ through their first several groundbreaking singles.”

At some point, Freiman mentioned Norman Smith, the engineer on all of the EMI studio recordings by the Beatles through Rubber Soul. As an avid reader of liner notes, I did recognize the name. After he stopped working with the Beatles, he produced early albums for Pink Floyd.

What I did not know, until Freiman played a clip, was that Norman became a recording artist under the name Hurricane Smith. His big hit, which I remember quite well, was “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?”, “which became a US No. 1 Cash Box and a Billboard Pop No. 3 hit. It reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in the Northern Hemisphere winter of 1972-73, when he was nearly 50.

I always thought the song had a certain melancholy, both in the vocal and the lyrics:
“Would you greet me or politely turn away
“Would there suddenly be sunshine on a cold and rainy day”

Hurricane Smith died in 2008.

LISTEN to Oh, Babe, What Would You Say? HERE or HERE or HERE.

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