top of page

Abbey Road long medley raw notes

Sunday 6/28/20

Shaved, chugged some coffee, finished a feature, wrote some letters, all this morning (7 AM at the moment), and now high-tailing it out of here to walk many miles and run stairs. Also sent some thoughts/notes for the podcast I'll be interviewed on tomorrow, about the long medley on Abbey Road. Just throw them in here in raw form, as I think they're interesting.

Abbey Road long medley thoughts. I might add to this later today--I just have a lot to fit in today--but wanted to get you this early. Things that should come up, in addition to other stuff that will just come up: The Thomas Dekker text, and the way McCartney sings the opening--it's right out of "Hey Jude." He did a kind of entrance that he'd been perfecting over years. The intertextuality of the melodic return of the "You Never Give Me Your Money" refrains, sans words. The reference is to another portion of the record, so the reference isn't self-contained. The nine guitar solos at the end will lead us into a number of things. The solos are all two bars long, they go in the same order, repeating three times--McCartney, Harrison, Lennon. The final guitar solo--by Lennon--is my all-time favorite guitar solo by anyone. We should talk about his guitar playing in detail. That will involve the Star Club tapes from Hamburg December 1962. They comprise the fiction chapter of my Beatles book, and they lead into a discussion of this medley on Abbey Road. We should talk about Lennon's rhythm guitar on those Star Club tapes, and his guitar work on "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You," "You Can't Do That," "Get Back," "Honey Pie," "Yer Blues," and "Long Tall Sally." The studio version--that is, the version released on the eponymous E.P.--of "Long Tall Sally" prefigures the Abbey Road guitar duel. Lennon solos first, then Harrison. This should be right in your alley, but I want to play up the guitars, look at the early Beatles notion of "the rhythm is in the guitars." They ceded a lot of beat to, and seeded a lot of beat in, the guitars. This will take us back to their drummerless days, trying to recruit the likes of Johnny Hutch of the Big Three to play with them--the Big Three are worth some comments as well. They were this power trio before power trios. Proto-hard rockers. Sort of like a poor man's Liverpudlian Cream. Check out their version of "Some Other Guy." A discussion of the long medley will include us getting somewhat into the short medley. One theme for us is Lennon's physicality of guitar playing. You have to apply a great deal of physical force to a guitar to make it sound as he does. This goes all the way back to the Star Club tapes, to A Hard Day's Night, to "Polythene Pam," to that final solo. I want to talk about who sings what--as with the "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight," part, Starr's drumming. Not just the "token" solo, but that as well. He actually enters to start his solo dead early--it's the same technique that Harrison uses on the live version of "Long Tall Sally" from the Hollywood Bowl. The Beatles did this a bunch, it's a technique of theirs that no one talks about--they'd get a jump on you, if you will, get a jump on your ear. We'll get into the meta quality of the long medley, when the Beatles had gone meta in the past--it became a thing from post-Sgt. Pepper on. I want to talk about the adrenal force of this music. You have certain moments in rock and roll--Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star Club, Dylan at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square Club--that are so aggressively physical. This goes even further, while wrapped in a kind of Baroque texture of seduction and wisdom. Metaphysics. In a way, this is the Beatles in Hamburg, but in 1969. We should talk about their gig in Sweden on October 24, 1963, which is also in that chapter--or will be--in the book. I think in some ways you hear all of the evidence for what a future will hold in those Hamburg recordings, and this is the final stop, the natural close of the progression which was thematically rooted in something that happened many years prior. Sonically rooted, too.

Okay, to the streets. Pure focus this week, pure force. You are not losing to these people.

bottom of page