September of this year has come and gone, and so has 50 years since the release of the The Beatles' last and arguably most iconic album, Abbey Road. Read a little about the history of the album and about The Beatles in Nashville (separately unfortunately, never together).
I didn't realize the semicentennial of the album until after my trip to France and London this past October (I know—you can mock me for saying I'm a Beatles fan but not knowing that), so this blog post is my little tribute to the album and legacy of one of the best bands of the 20th century (in my opinion). In addition to discussing the album, I'm also taking a look at the Beatles' history in Nashville (as in their visits here after they broke up).
The Final "Come Together"
Abbey Road was released on September 26th, 1969, and was the last Beatles' album to be recorded (though not the last to be released— that was Let It Be). It was named after the recording studio and road it was located on, and apparently for the first time in Beatles' history, the album did not include the band's name nor album title on the cover—just the iconic zebra-stripe crosswalk in northwest London.
The album is iconic for many reasons, besides the fact that it was their last time recording together—something each member knew during the recording sessions. I'm not sure if this is something that was said out loud, but it was known. So it was an album that they all wanted to make as special as possible, and to represent the pinnacle of their talent together. Unlike the last album released (Let It Be, which started as Get Back), where the recording sessions had turned into "open warfare", according to Giles Martin (producer and son of the late George Martin) in a Rolling Stone article . There was no jamming, and perhaps to keep from arguing, they had a "good idea about the direction each song was going to go in before they recorded it."
Of course it's my favorite of their albums, albeit it does not include my favorite of their songs; that belongs to The White Album. Any guesses? I'll give you a hint, it was written by McCartney and he's the only one who appears on the track (sorry that doesn't narrow it down much), and he's credited a couple of inspirations for the lyrics including the tumultuous state of race relations in the United States during the 1960's. Keep thinking on it if you don't know...I'll reveal the answer at the end of this blog post.
Back to Abbey Road. When it was released, the album was #1 on the British album chart for 17 weeks (it was on the chart total for 81 weeks). In the United States, it spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts of its total stay of 83 weeks. Not only that, but the album ranks 14th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (they own the #1 spot as well with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). And it was re-released in September for the 50th anniversary, with remixed tracks and additional session recordings and demos. Plus outtakes, a coffee-table book with a foreword by Paul McCartney, and several other great tidbits to keep you occupied for hours while listening to the remixed album. Quite the excellent Christmas gift for a Beatles' fan, don't you think? Hint, hint, Santa, if you're reading this :) ☺
That same Rolling Stone article I mentioned above reveals several interesting details about the album, if you didn't already know (which sadly, I didn't)...
- What was the last song recorded on the album? "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."
- How long did the photo session for the album take (crossing the road)? About 10 minutes.
- Which song did Ringo contribute? "Octopus' Garden."
- Who wrote my 2 favorite songs on the album, and arguably the most famous (I knew this one!) —"Here Comes the Sun" and "Something"? Not Paul nor John, but George Harrison. More on that and Harrison's solo album in the article.
- What was special about the track "the end" (other than it was the end of The Beatles)? Paul, George, and John all traded off guitar solos, in that order.
There's plenty more to learn in that article if you want to check it out. But how about some pictures now?
Abbey Road, 2019
This past October, my mom and I took a trip to Armentières, France, for one of my good friend's weddings. After we had a great time there and ate plenty of yummy French food, we went to London for the latter part of our trip. One of the things that was on both of our must-see lists was Abbey Road.
Apparently there are several "Abbey Roads" in London, so you need to be sure and look up the correct one, a.k.a where the recording studio still sits.
For future reference for anyone taking a trip to London, the closest Underground station to THE "Abbey Road" is St. John's Wood. There's only one exit out of this station, so from there, you head west on Grove End Road (which is essentially just walking straight out of the station and down the street a little ways). You'll turn the corner and right smack dab into the iconic crosswalk. Also looking for the large crowd of people walking back and forth across the street, with crazy people standing in the middle of the road taking photos will clue you in that you're in the right place. Can't miss it.
This is what mom and I did too, of course. When in Rome...or when in London. Check out a few of our photos below...
Beatlemania Comes to Tennessee
Memphis Shows, 1966
The Beatles as a band never actually came to Nashville unfortunately, though it wasn't for a lack of fans. See the letters below from a fan hoping they would come play at the Municipal Auditorium, and the response that she got back (I'm sure there are more where these came from too)...
But the closest they came to Nashville was Memphis in 1966, where they played at the Mid-South Coliseum.
Due to their candid and outspoken ways, especially in support of Civil Rights, the band was nervous about this particular tour stop, partly because the anti-Beatles sentiment was more prevalent in the "Bible-Belt" South (especially in light of Lennon's remark that the band was "more popular than Jesus"). According to a Memphis Commercial Appeal article from August, 2006, even the Mayor was against their performing in the city, and passed a unanimous resolution with the Board of Commissioners advising "The Beatles that they are not welcome in the City of Memphis." Oh well, too bad so sad—they performed anyway.
Before the shows, there were KKK pickets outside the coliseum as well as a Christian rally. Despite all that, the band performed 2 shows—one at 4 p.m. and another at 8:30 p.m.
Apparently the first show went by smoothly. But during the second show, a cherry-bomb firecracker was thrown on stage. Each member of the band looked at each other, wondering who had been shot. The incident apparently occurred while they were playing the song, "If I Needed Someone." The rest of the show was played through at a much-quicker pace.
Several articles that I've read about these shows all talk about how their experience in Memphis might have been a catalyst for why they never toured after that; I believe it. They were even meant to record an album there—Revolver—at Stax Records, but due to their manager's disapproval with the security and housing plans for the band, they decided against it.
...And then onto Nashville
I'm not covering every time a Beatle has come to Nashville in the past 50 years, but here are a few of the highlights...
Beaucoup of Blues Brings Ringo to Nashville in 1970 (And Several Other Performances)
Beaucoup of Blues, Ringo's second studio album, was recorded in Nashville in 1970, over just three days. Different from the sound of The Beatles and even his first solo album, Sentimental Journey, this album is more country and western in style and influence. Check it out from the Library, if you so wish...
While in Nashville, he also appeared on Johnny Cash's Show to promote his new album.
Over the years, Ringo has returned to Nashville several times—performing at the Gaylord Entertainment Center (2000), Wildhorse Saloon (2008), and even The Ryman a couple of times (including this year). Check out his signature below, in the Ryman guestbook from 2016.
It sounds like he's possibly the former Beatle that's visited Nashville the most—anyone know if that's true?
I'm having a difficult time confirming whether John Lennon came here or not. So if you can and know when/where/why he came here, I'd love to find out. 'Til then, here's a Tennessean news clipping from December 15th, 1980 from just after Lennon's assassination...
Paul McCartney Spends Six Weeks in Nashville in 1974
A few years after The Beatles' break-up, Paul McCartney moved onto another music gig with his new band, Wings. He brought his family and band to Nashville for six weeks, to record and prepare for a world tour in the following years.
His late wife, Linda, joined him and they rented a farm just outside of Lebanon, from songwriter Curly Putnam for $2,000/week. They chose that location because he was looking for a place that had both horses to ride and swimming facilities.
Nashville must've been a place that reminded him a little of home, since he also had a farm in Scotland and claimed he was raised on country music.
He even wrote a country song while he was here, inspired by a visit he made to Printer's Alley, called "Sally G". You can find this song on the album below, with several other legends...
According to a Tennessean article from 2014, McCartney's next visit to Nashville wouldn't occur again for another 36 years after this short-lived stay (in 2010, at Bridgestone Arena). He came again to Bonnaroo in 2013; more on that below.
Harrison Comes to Tennessee in 1998
George Harrison came to Tennessee, sadly not Nashville, in 1998; but not for a show either...sort of. January of that year, he came for the funeral of singer-songwriter Carl Perkins.
Harrison sang at the funeral as well, performing a rendition of Perkins' song "Your True Love."
I didn't know this (which isn't surprising, I have a lot to learn about The Beatles apparently), but Perkins' music was evidently an influence on The Beatles' early stuff.
Harrison passed away a few years after this, at the age of 58, from lung cancer. Though he's known especially for being the lead guitarist of The Beatles, his songwriting abilities rivaled Paul's and John's quite demonstrably, as already mentioned ("Here Comes the Sun", "Something", and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps").
He was the first Beatle to release a solo album (Wonderwall Music soundtrack), before the break-up even occurred actually. But my favorite album of his, and one that's considered to be his best work, is All Things Must Pass, which came out in 1970.
Check it out from the Library today, or listen to it on Hoopla...
Paul McCartney Headlines Bonnaroo, 2013
The only former Beatle that I've ever seen live is dear ol' Paul. Sure, I wish I could have seen them all, but Paul is my favorite so if he's the only one I ever see, I'm okay with that.
I saw him 7 years ago (7 years already?) at Bonnaroo; the only Bonnaroo I've ever been to as well, so far. And I have to say, the $300+ I spent on those tickets were completely worth it. I wasn't near the stage nor really very close but instead crammed up against thousands of other people about midway through the crowd, and loved every minute of it (maybe not all of it). But hearing countless Beatles' hits played over and over by his timeless voice, including tributes to his former bandmates (by playing Harrison's "Something" and a few others) was priceless. There's a lot of "-less"es in that sentence, but the most important one is "priceless", as in that experience was completely priceless. I would've paid maybe $500 to see him (and several of my other faves playing Bonnaroo that year). If he comes back to Nashville, which I'd guess he might, I'd definitely recommend going to see him if you have the chance.
Here are a few photos from his Bonnaroo show...
Despite Nashville's country music reputation, it's a town that welcomes and celebrates many different genres of music...especially The Beatles. For example, if you've been to a Predators game anytime recently (as in the past couple of years), you'll see that there's now a new chant, sung by the crowd when the refs are reviewing a play that fans would prefer to "let it be." That's right, during the review process, that's what you'll hear the fans singing—"Let It Be". I like to think it helps sway the refs in our favor every time.
Oh, and if you haven't guessed my favorite song by now, it's "Blackbird". Go listen to it today and make it your favorite too!
And lastly, if this blog post didn't fulfill your Beatles' fix, check out the list below that includes several other Beatles' albums in the Library's collection...
Get Your Fix from the Library
'Til next time, "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on"...and Happy Thanksgiving!