One of The Beatles' most endearing qualities was always their sense of fun and mischief. At a time when prog rock was surfacing in all its magnificent po-faced pomposity, Abbey Road punctured such allusions with cheeky hidden tricks like Her Majesty tacked on unnanounced at the end and with jaunty singalongs about psychopaths and sea creatures which only the likes of Paul and Ringo could get away with. I realise I'm in a minority (of at least two...a dear friend of mine bought Abbey Road solely on the strength of his obsession with this track) but Maxwell's Silver Hammer is a charming touch of McCartney brilliance in my book. I'm afraid I've simply never understood nor agreed with the snobbish hostility shown towards it. Silly sound effects and jokey backing vocals dovetail with Paul's impudent lead to create a little slice of Beatle magic. Octopus's Garden, similarly infused with daft nautical motifs like bubbled water and kazoos, creates a bouncy bonhomie which puts the comparatively leaden Yellow Submarine to shame.
I seem to be the only person who thinks this, but it's Paul's dreadfully overblown Oh! Darling which comes closest to spoiling side one. I admire the breadth of Macca's vocal range and dexterity but I feel that his bawling on this track does nothing to excite and everything to grate....if forced to choose, I would much prefer to airbrush this one off Abbey Road and retain the sheer fun of Maxwell and the Octopus....
As for the rest of side one: Something is breathtakingly wonderful and rightly takes its place near the top of the fab four's entire canon. George spreads his wings and soars, sloughing off his trademark saturnine vocal en route. A genuinely beautiful song - little wonder that Sinatra called it the greatest love song of the past fifty years and Lennon himself humbly acknowledged it as the best cut on the entire album.
Speaking of John, he tops and tails the first side of an album which nevertheless always strikes me as very much Paul's tour de force. Come Together, the quasi pornographic opener with the shiveringly prophetic whispers of "Shoot me!" has always been one of the more overrated Beatles numbers in my opinion. It's well known of course that it plagiarised the Chuck Berry track "You Can't Catch Me" embroiling Lennon in legal hot water further down the line...was it worth the hassle? I think not - a ranting stream of poor-man's Walrus style nonsense lyrics fail to lift this rather monotonous counter cultural rallying cry out of the doldrums. Never could quite grasp its appeal myself.
By contrast, I Want You (She's So Heavy) - which I used to mildly loathe - has for me taken on a maturity and grandeur over the ensuing years. The track seems to have acquired a patina of respectability, with its shifting time signatures and superbly textured wash of layered sound. Fabulous guitar work and a viscerally earnest, gutsy lyrical simplicity handled with astounding vocal prowess by John. Love the use of white noise to create the wind effect towards the climax and the classically surprising dead stop to this mighty juggernaut... the lads never did lose their knack of being able to catch their listeners on the hop.
I'll reserve my comments regarding side two for later.