1969 was perhaps the most disheartening epoch in all of music history, because The Beatles had called it quits. But with this kind of heartbreak comes an insurmountable legacy that extends far beyond the landscape of just music; the kind of music The Beatles left behind is the very aesthetics of the human condition that taps into the many layers of the souls consciousness. It’s the kind of legacy that couldn’t possibly be defined in any form of colloquial terminology; that’s when you let the art speak for itself. In this case, we’re going to let their magnum opus, Abbey Road, do all of the talking; this was the final moment our four lads were in the studio together making music as a band.Of course in the midst of such an earth-shattering record came another record early on that seems to get overlooked, and that’s their Yellow Submarine LP; it was issued as a soundtrack to their 1968 animated film of the same name. It was a great addition to the late sixties, with its psychedelic tendencies conducive of the counterculture.
Now when it comes to the year 1970 and their last studio release, Let it Be, this is when conjecture comes into the conversation. Is it really their final album? Yes, it’s true that Let it Be is the last in line of their LP catalog, but it wasn’t really their FINAL album. They actually recorded the songs before the release of Abbey Road and set them aside for later. For a first hand look at the creation of these session cuts, one must look towards the great documentary, aptly titled Let it Be, that was released in correlation with the album. The film is also distinguished for capturing what would be their last public performance together, the legendary rooftop concert; this was where they conducted an unannounced show for the bystanders of the busy streets of central London atop their Apple Corps building.
Even though The Beatles decided to part ways in 1970, their mythical scope of veneration is one for the history books; they did more in their ten year formation than any other music act could ever dream of accomplishing. and I know this has been constantly stated for decades now, but it must be stated once more: The Beatles are not only the most important band of all time, but their importance makes them the greatest band of all time too. Maybe it was for the best that they ended it all early on, because their body of work probably wouldn’t have felt as organic and complete if they had continued any further; each member had their own vision in mind and they carried on that spirit through their solo work.
So here’s a final salute to The Beatles and their final years together by composing a very special top 10 list in their honor:
Top 10 Beatles Songs 1969-1970
10.) Two of Us
Starting off our top 10 list is the opening track from Let it Be. It’s one of their most gorgeous compositions courtesy of Paul McCartney, and features a chord voicing on the acoustic guitar that sticks to you unwillingly, but in a good way; it’s the kind of jingle that keeps you humming it for days on end.
The lyrics, according to Paul McCartney, were said to have been inspired by his wife Linda Eastman, but speculation beyond some of the passages have hinted that the song is also about John Lennon. Whatever the case may be, Two of Us is nothing short of woeful elegance, and it makes it all the more sad that this would be the final song to open up their album.
9.) It’s All Too Much
Their tenth studio album, Yellow Submarine, was the fourth soundtrack in their studio discography. It’s quite an interesting record, and probably their most underrated one because of the collection of music; side A of the record contained music by the Beatles, while side B contained orchestrated pieces from the film conducted by producer George Martin. Two of the six songs on side A, the titular song and All You Need Is Love, were already previously released on past projects; the former being from their 1966 record, Revolver, and the later being a single that was also released on another film soundtrack, Magical Mystery Tour.
The Beatles were legally obligated to churn out four new songs for the album, with It’s All Too Much being the clear standout. It was written by George Harrison, and features some of the coolest sounds of their career, adopting the obnoxious guitar feedback of their contemporaries with layers of brass instrumentation to add to the kaleidoscopic depth of the acid rock influence; Harrison has stated that the lyrics were inspired by his then-love for LSD, and when watching the films sequence of this tune, one can certainly see why.
8.) I’ve Got a Feeling
This Let it Be cut was actually two unfinished songs amalgamated into one: Paul McCartney’s section being the aforementioned title, and John Lennon’s section, which was a demo song from the White Album sessions titled, Everybody Had A Hard Year. It’s one of their most free-spirited and inspiring songs, with a quite a discrepancy in the two men’s lyrical content. Paul McCartney wrote his verses about his love, Linda, whom he married that year, while John Lennon’s verses were parallel to the hardships he was facing at that point; he was battling drug addiction, Yoko Ono had a miscarriage, he divorced his previous wife Cynthia, and was completely cut off from his son Julian.
7.) Here Comes the Sun
It’s songs like this that made George Harrison the unsung hero that he was. This is one of the absolute best from Abbey Road, and it’s one of the overall best acoustic-based songs of all time. George Harrison wrote this ray of sunshine in the garden of Eric Clapton’s home. The lyrics pertained to George Harrison’s solace of being away from the band, the legal restraints of Apple, and having to deal with the stress of the music business. That meditative aurora of being one with nature is prevalent here, and George Harrison further demonstrated just why he was the most spiritual one of the group.
6.) Get Back
Fun little fact: The Beatles won the Academy Award for best original song score for the film, Let it Be; thought that was worth mentioning. Anyway, Get Back is one of the groups biggest hits and almost served as the original title for Let it Be. What was referred to as the Get Back sessions, this period for The Beatles was perhaps their most emotionally draining, because this was after the hectic production of the White Album; they wanted to go back to their roots with this next record. It was mainly Paul who pushed this project forward, with the rest of the guys growing weary of the stress and becoming more distant from one another. Nonetheless, they all pulled through and created a collection of work, with this song in particular, that served as the perfect swan song to their career.
There were many versions of Get Back; the most notorious being an unpolished improvisation known as “No Pakistanis.” This was bizarre for the band because of its blatant anti-immigrant stance; its best we ignore it’s existence. Instead, we honor the version produced by Phil Spector with Billy Preston on the organ. This quirky flower-power anthem rocks harder 47 years later.
5.) I Want You (She’s so Heavy)
This song is quite legendary. It’s a very gloomy, yet passionate profession of love that Lennon wrote for Yoko Ono. It was the first song recorded by the band for Abbey Road, and what’s so fascinating about the song is a variety of different reasons. It’s structure makes it not only one of their most experimental, but also their longest composition; it clocks in just under eight minutes. It’s droning arpeggiated chord that overhangs throughout creates the kind of fervid tension that’s obvious in John’s simple lyrics; there are less than 15 words that make up the song, but John puts forth the kind of instability and undying obsession in his voice that showed how much he loved his woman.The overdub of guitars towards the end, Billy Preston’s Hammond organ, and that elongated finale that never seems to end makes this a towering powerhouse; its heavy sound pretty much pre-dated the genre doom metal.
4.) Let it Be
Here’s a song I know you all were waiting for; one of their most overplayed and undisputed classics. This was Paul in every sense of the word. The birth of the song came about during the accursed White Album sessions where consternation was unfolding between the guys. One night, Paul had a dream where his mother Mary, who had passed away from cancer when he was just 14 years old, came to visit him to let him know that everything was going to be all right; it was just the right amount of optimism needed to keep his spirit alive. With its poignant musings to her, many took to analyzing it as having religious allusions to it. It’s Paul’s most personal composition, and one that will still be played 40 more years down the road.
3.) The Long and Winding Road
This ballad pretty much summed up the final, volatile days of the Beatles’ career. The Long and Winding Road served as an open invitation into the emotional state of mind that Paul was feeling at that point, and when you listen to it within that context, it makes the song all the more heartbreaking. The inspiration of the song came to Paul while he was on his farm in Scotland; he sat down at is piano and envisioned someone like Ray Charles composing the song.
The finishing product that made its way to Let it Be, which featured an orchestra and female vocalists, drew criticism from Paul; he felt that Phil Spector had stripped his simple piano ballad of its raw intimacy. The overdubs were made due to the poor production quality on the early mix of the song, and who can really find any faults in the wall of sound that Spector created in the studio? Paul’s intended version can be heard on the remastered record, Let it Be…Naked, and it’s perfect in every way. However, this refurbished variation is the one everybody knows, and it’s absolutely stunning.
Speaking of Ray Charles, this George Harrison-penned song was actually inspired by Charles; many assumed it was written for his wife Pattie Boyd. It’s opening line was also directly inspired by James Taylor’s Something In the Way She Moves. All of that incentive aside, Something is, in Paul’s own words, the best song George has ever written. It’s the second most covered Beatles song, being recorded by more than 100 artists, with Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, and Joe Cocker being a handful.
Not enough can be said about this ball of heavenly euphony, except that it proved that George’s songwriting skills were just as good, if not slightly better, than Lennon and McCartney’s. Sinatra once said that Something was the greatest love song of the past 50 years; he was correct.
1.) The Abbey Road Medley
This may seem like cheating, what with the inclusion of eight songs and all, but this 16 minute suite that took up most of side B of Abbey Road is just too epic not to incorporate. The album is renowned for not only its timelessness as a whole, but that glorious potpourri of songs that were woven into one another seamlessly as if they were one entire piece. You Never Give Me Your Money begins the journey, and The End completes it. Everything else in between takes the listener on a colorful odyssey of groundbreaking creativity that just didn’t feel like it was produced in 1969. Standouts include the funny Mean Mr. Mustard, the bombastic Polythene Pam, the lullaby-esque Golden Slumbers, and the explosive finale The End.
This was the final album for The Beatles; the album that was a farewell goodbye to a band like no other. And with a medley like this, Abbey Road easily stands as the greatest album to conclude a band’s career.