The Beatles’ 11th album, ‘Abbey Road’, was released 50 years ago today (September 26), and as the last thing the Beatles recorded together (‘Let It Be’ being mostly recorded before, but released after) it remains a perfect parting gift. To celebrate its anniversary, we set ourselves the piss-easy task of finding the best moments on the album. Of the dozens we came up with, here’s 10.
1. The handclaps on ‘Come Together’
Along with John Lennon’s spittle-flecked whisper of “shoot me” and McCartney’s unmistakably bendy bassline, it’s the sound the handclaps that usher you into ‘Abbey Road’. What a freaky welcome.
2. The guitar line on ‘Something’
Like the bassline on ‘Come Together’, this melody’s also iconic, but in this case it’s one that appears very few times and still manages to be utterly stand-out. It’s even better when it comes back in again right at the end of the guitar solo.
3. The vocal high-point on ‘Oh! Darling’
It’s actually hard to pick out the best part of McCartney’s vocal on this track, but it’s probably the moment his voice jumps up an octave to sing ‘you’ in the second verse, “Believe me when I beg you”. Closely followed by the roar that he sustains in the following one.
4. The final 90 seconds of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’
The final song on Side A is a snake-hipped devil – one of The Beatles’ most lascivious – and was written by John Lennon. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the Beatles track that The Last Shadow Puppets have taken to covering live. It unpredictably shifts pace and tone, and the final 90 or so seconds are among the best of ‘Abbey Road’ as a whole: an enormous, sinewy bass riff that suddenly comes to an end. And then…
5. All of George Harrison’s guitar part on ‘Here Comes The Sun’
Then comes side B, opened by the polar opposite of ‘I Want You’: a carefree, deliriously optimistic jingle composed by George Harrison while he was enjoying the sun at Eric Clapton’s house. Perfect.
6. The medley
The first time you listen to ‘Abbey Road’ in full, the unbroken chain of melody and noise between tracks – starting with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and ending at… well, ‘The End’ – will thrill you.
7. The guitar solo on ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’
On an album of excellent guitar solos, it’s hard to pick out just one, but the one on ‘YNGMYM’ is among the best because it’s full of surprises. After a little intro, Harrison pulls off one melodic twist and continues to take it higher and higher. Short but very, very sweet.
8. “Oh listen to that, Mal!”
Midway through ‘Polythene Pam’, Paul shouts “Yeah!”, John shouts “Great!” and, at the end of the guitar solo, he adds the above line, addressed to road manager Mal Evans. They make recording sound funny, whatever the politics of the band were at the time.
9. Paul McCartney’s vocals on ‘Golden Slumbers’
Initially delicate, McCartney goes full blast for the line “Golden slumbers fill your eyes…” and into the remainder of that verse. It’s as un-McCartney as vocals get. “I remember trying to get a very strong vocal on it,” he recalled later,” because it was such a gentle theme, so I worked on the strength of the vocal on it and ended up quite pleased with it.”
10. All the solos on ‘The End’
Ringo gets a solo. Paul gets a solo. George gets a solo. John gets a solo. Then the final three take it in turns for two-bar segments. That reciprocal give-and-take fits the final lyrics of ‘The End’, in a way: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.