Saturday, June 22, 2013

Which Beatles album is actually their last?

Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone:




So let's argue: Which album truly counts as the grand finale?
The case for Let It Be: It came out in 1970, which was after 1969. The case for Abbey Road: (1) virtually all of Let It Be was in the can before the Abbey Road sessions even began; (2) Abbey Road feels more like a classic Beatles record; (3) "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" was the last time all four played in the studio together; (4) the last song on Abbey Road is called "The End"; (5) except for "Her Majesty"; (6) rebounding from the Let It Be debacle was the main reason the lads summoned up that team spirit for Abbey Road; (7) "Her Majesty" is awesome; (8) in the end the love you take is equal to the love; (9) you make.


What do you think?

15 comments:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

The only real argument for Let It Be as the "last" album is that "I Me Mine" was recorded after Abbey Road--it was, if I recall correctly, the last "Beatles" recording session, albeit one missing John Lennon.

It's a pretty weak argument. Abbey Road is the last Beatles album.

Nancy Carr said...

"Abbey Road," no question. Yes, "Let it Be" was chronologically last, but it was finished earlier (to the degree it can be said to be "finished" at all), and the band didn't think of it as their last album. On "Abbey Road" they knew it was the last go-round.

Anyone want to take up the cudgels for "Let It Be"?

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to take up the cudgels for "Let It Be"?

No. I've always seen Abbey Road as the last Beatles album. I've always seen Let It Be as sort of an official bootleg album, if that makes sense.

- hologram sam

Stew said...

Abbey Road has a sense of closure and reflection. Once I knew that it was the last thing they did together, I couldn't un-know it, so I will always hear it that way.

theymaybeparted said...

Even I can't make the case for Let it Be. Abbey Road was their final creative output, plain and simple, and it in itself drew FROM the Let it Be sessions, not the other way around (while Let it Be was in some ways an outgrowth of the White Album).

If Let it Be is their "last" album, then really we should say their last album was Anthology 3 -- their last release of previously unreleased songs.

Or, going by the "I Me Mine" rule (which was the only thing I had in favor for LIB being last, too), then really it's Anthology 2, since it had a new recording in "Real Love."

-Dan

SideTwo3rdTrack said...

'Let It Be' is the final slanging match before the divorce, 'Abbey Road' is them accepting the divorce and making a tidy ending of it, for the kid's sake, for everyone's sake...

The whole 'Get Back' project was meant to be a fresh start but ended up the complete opposite. Certainly they knew what they were doing when they repackaged it 'Let It Be', that it was some sort of ending.

Michael Gerber said...

Even I can't make the case for Let it Be. Abbey Road was their final creative output, plain and simple, and it in itself drew FROM the Let it Be sessions, not the other way around (while Let it Be was in some ways an outgrowth of the White Album).

THIS, especially the last sentence. The reason I find Let It Be unlistenable--I mean, psychologically painful--is how it is a continuation of the White sessions disharmony without any of White's moments of incredible brilliance. And the reason I can listen to Abbey Road (though I don't listen to it often) is that it's a return to White's songwriting and production excellence, and commitment to group harmony (as difficult as it was to maintain). Abbey Road is The Beatles half-healed, halfway to the new working methods they needed, halfway to what they would've been (and should've been) in the Seventies.

The difficulties in The Beatles were like a fever that hit after India, intensified through the White sessions, burned hottest during those first Twickenham sessions, then gradually but steadily cooled. McCartney's idea to tour/perform live was a bad idea, because it was an attempt to weld the four of them back together via compression and heat. But heat was exactly what they didn't need; what they needed was for all four of them to do what George did in '69, cool it. But you can understand why Paul suggested what he did, because it had always worked before.

If a "cool" solution had been applied post-White, Lennon's departure would've been temporary--1972? And even with the trauma of Let It Be, it wouldn't have stuck but for the legal/financial problems caused by Klein, and the need for McCartney to sue to protect himself, and The Beatles' catalog.

Annie McNeil said...

"I Me Mine" was recorded after Abbey Road--it was, if I recall correctly, the last "Beatles" recording session, albeit one missing John Lennon.

I didn't know that! How interesting.

Yeah, Abbey Road gets my vote, too. I never got around to commenting in Nancy's "analyzing the medleys" post, much as I wanted to. It's hard for me gather my thoughts on the subject; side two of Abbey Road is what drew me deep into The Beatles and made me the uber-fan that I am today. The way the music cycles between desperate regret and desperate hope is deeply moving to me. I just love it to bits.

And the "slideshow" effect of "Carry That Weight/The End", where we see snapshots of each Beatle individually, is a lovely way to say goodnight. Goodnight, but not goodbye: "You gonna be in my dreams, tonight."

king kevin said...

I completely agree about Abbey Road, but LIB certainly has a doomy air about it- the black cover with the individual portraits, grainy back cover photos, etc. If Abbey Road is the self-consciously positive yin of the breakup, then LIB is the yang. Out of control, half finished and wrung through the mill by Mr. Spector. i do love it for some reason. Especially my gnarled Apple vinyl copy.

Ed said...

Well said, King Kevin -- I've never thought of it that way before, but this will be my new answer. The two are inseparable, yin and yang.

Oddly, I find AR to be the uglier album, thanks to some tracks I've always found hard on the ears ("Come Together," "I Want You," "Because"); and—contrary to MG—LIB has always felt expansive & even hopeful to me ("I Me Mine" aside)...

Michael Gerber said...

Wow, @Ed--does that go for the Nagra reels and stuff, or just the Spector? What do you think of "Let It Be--Naked"?

Ed said...

Just the Spector!

Michael Gerber said...

Sure--actually I can see that, that makes a kind of sense.

So much of my negative feelings about LIB and sessions come from serial disappointment over things like Sweet Apple Trax as a kid. I suspect if I'd only had the Spector LIB to listen to, I'd feel differently.

Stew said...

Abbey Road is The Beatles half-healed, halfway to the new working methods they needed, halfway to what they would've been (and should've been) in the Seventies.

@Michael Gerber - I agree about the sound of Abbey Road. So what do you think happened to disrupt the half-healing? Do you think it was another disruptive event after Abbey Road?

Anonymous said...

I used to think Abbey Road, until one considers that Let it be's sessions do pick up again in January '70 with I Me Mine, Let it be & For You Blue. And then you have the March Spector Sessions which were organized by Lennon, Harrison and Starr. Bearing this work in mind, it's correct to answer "Let it be."