Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
We hooked a couple of heavies for you this week (ugh!)—but play it cool. Anyway, the Beatles' Abbey Road and the Who's Tommy (thanks Pixie) have come to hand. The first should be released within the fortnight, the second within a month. These albums represent the product of the surviving first and second generation English rock groups. The Procul Harum are the best of the third generation and their utterly distinctive sound comes under review on the new A Sally Dog album. We take it that a new generation of groups appears every eighteen months to two years. Today we're into a fourth or even fifth generation since the early sixties when the rock group first evolved, from the primitive —and great—R'n'B combos Stateside (Coasters. Drifters, Shirelles, Seasons, Everlys), into a major social and musical force. Led Zepplin might represent the fourth generation, Blind Faith the fifth, although one is not altogether sure whether these are the healthy children of intermarriage or the sickly offspring of incestuous relationships.
Patriarchs they may be, but the Beatles still put out a lot of rubbish, sweetly though they sugar it. I'm the biggest Beatles fan this side of the black stump (and t'other, too?)— some 200 to 300 recordings—yet it's true. Not that their new album Abbey Road (Apple-PCS7088) is all rubbish—very little of it is. But the seven-song medley taking most of side two is a mess for a start. And one has the feeling these days that the Beatles are trying to recreate something of their lost youth, when the boyish simplicity has gone. "The Beatles are just a democratic group of middle-aged teenagers", says John in Toronto. And Lennon in London: "I couldn't pin us down to being on a heavy scene, or a commercial pop scene or a straight tuneful scene. We're just on whatever's going now. Just rockin' along."
The Beatles pinch from everyone, good, bad. and indifferent. They are the greatest mimics on the music scene. Platters. Beach Boys. Fleetwood Mac are some of them more obvious styles adopted here. I'm not sure whether this is a sign of the charlatan or the genius—genius supposedly: it always comes out sounding pure Beatles. Shakespeare did it too, didn't he? "We are only a collection of all the things we've ever been influenced by", says George. "We don't copy, of course". The Harrison-Lennon friendship with Eric, Jack and Ginger shows up in the dominant Cream influence on this album. Not that it really sounds like Cream. But its funky Beatles, the Beatles with a fresh face on. There is a lot more instrumental work here than on their past records. Longer breaks, little guitar riffs and solos, little eruptions of sound behind the vocals, drums, bass and keyboard woven into fascinating textures. There's no lyric sheet included with Abbey Road and it's scarcely missed. The The [sic] Liverpool lads have been chatting to Dylan again lately—like him they seem to have left the profound sociological comment way behind. The words are all good time.
Still, the album docs kick off with a great Lennon lyric. The song is "Come Together", with freaky little rolls on percussion.
He'll come home flat top He come
groovin' up slowly He got
juju eyeballs He want
poly roller He got
Got to be a joker he just do what he please.
He wear no shoeshinc He got
toejam football He got
mockin' finger He shoop
Coca-Cola He say
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
He bad production He got
walrus grumble He got
Ono sideboard He want
spinal cracker He got
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
Come Together, etc.
He roller coaster He got
early warning He got
muddy water He want
mojo filter He say
Got to be good looking cos he's so hard to see
Come Together . . .
"Something" is a Harrisong. George has left his fake Orientalism, but the flowing melody line of this beautiful number is perhaps a residue of the Eastern trip. Crying strings, internal rhymes. This is being backed as his best ever, tho' methinks "Long, Long Long" from the double album was that.
"Maxwell's Silver Hammer"—McCartney's jaunty tale of a psychopathic med. student, Maxwell Edison, who goes round bang-banging heads with his hammer. (PC 31 said. "We've caught a dirty one!") Ringo on anvil.
"Oh! Darling"—a gas. Paul doing a big sob late 50's rock-a-aballad. Chung.—chung, piano, echoes and all.
"Octopus's Garden"—Ringo's song. Afraid this self-penned kiddies tune isn't a patch on "Yellow Submarine". Blowing bubbles in a glass
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)"—Lennon should keep away from these low-down tortured blues. It goes on a bit then stops disgustingly in the middle of a bar. Somebody pulled the plug out?
Side Two opens with a summery little song from George, "Here Comes the Sun". More appropriate here. I should think, than in London.
"Because"—(Yoko was playing some classical bit, and I said "play the backwards" and we had tune.) A goan-awful/lovely close harmony song in the Beach Boys Smiley Smile mould. Lots of "Aaaahhooohhh's".
Now comes the piano intro ala Clive West-lake to "You Never Give Me Your Money", first song in the marathon medley session. "In the middle of negotiations you break down." This long medley includes some good ideas but they would have been better developed separately. There seems to be no thematic or musical reason for mixing these seven songs up together. Time magazine has already started gushing about significances: "A kind of odyssey from innocence to experience". Nah!
We merge into "The Sun King" with gentle Mac-type guitar and swishing cymbals. It's got a rib-tickling phoney phonetic Italian chorus too. Through "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" into "The End" where Ringo does a Ginger Baker—bop, bop, bang bang, tiddly-pom. A long pause till we hear "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl" and it's over Next we run into "Mean Mr. Mustard" ("Keeps a ten bob note up his nose") and "Polythene Pam" ("She's the kind of girl who makes the News of the World, you could say she was attractively built".)
If the Beatles took any notice of reviews and worried at all about coming up with somethin' new, the pressures on them would be incredible. Fortunately, they don't give a damn. I've got a love-hate relationship with this new album—after all we've only spun it ten, twenty times in succession. It's musical whiz-kids mucking round—they're still flexing their muscles for an(other) artistically disciplined work. As it stands Abbey Road is funky, funny, and fun. The LP is already predicted to outsell Rubber Soul, the group's biggest album in NZ so far.