#1 The Beatles – Abbey Road – Golden Slumbers Medley
Although it was released before “Let It Be“, the Beatles “Abbey Road” LP, released in the Fall of 1969, was their final collaboration. It’s one of those rare albums that you can let track from start to finish without disappointment. When I used to do that very thing, late at night when insomnia turned me to the reel to reel tape recorder that was within reach next to my bed, I always vectored to side two.
I first bought the LP in a market in Santiago, Chile. It was a bootleg, missing the little “Her Majesty” coda that was glued on to the end. And I found out when I got it home that it was in monaural. It’s the one Beatle collection that I’ve purchased, over the years, in every format.
And I always vector to the “Golden Slumbers Medley“.
It’s a piece that Paul McCartney and producer George Martin pieced together, reprising the musical themes from the album. It was also the last recording to feature vocals from all four of the Beatles. Ringo Starr‘ was quoted as saying his drum solo was a nod to Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy‘s extended performance on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. And the rotating two bar guitar riffs between McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon was described by engineer Geoff Emerick, as a trip back in time. “… they were kids again, playing together for the sheer enjoyment of it. More than anything, they reminded me of gunslingers, with their guitars strapped on, looks of steely-eyed resolve, determined to outdo one another. Yet there was no animosity, no tension at all – you could tell they were simply having fun.”
Lennon quietly left the band after the session and McCartney would announce the Beatles’ breakup in April. The magic was at an end. And as the century turned, only Ringo and Paul were still standing.
In the Fall of 2018, my wife and I spent an extended vacation in London. We hired a personal tour guide to show us all the historic landmarks. Most were selected by my bride, a confirmed Anglophile and an unabashed fan of the Royal Family. For me, there was only one place I wanted to see: That well trodden road crossing in St John’s Wood, City of Westminster. We took the requisite photograph of ourselves crossing the street at the exact spot where George, Paul, Ringo and John shot the iconic album cover. We had to wait our turn. There were other pilgrims there who wanted to do the same thing.
But it felt like we were walking on holy ground. I could almost feel my parents smiling down from heaven and saying in unison, “Well, that’s a bucket list item checked off.”
They would be right.
For this final entry in my 31 Days of Faves, I’ve selected a live performance of the Medley. It’s an extraordinary musical moment, featuring Paul, with Phil Collins on the drums and Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton trading guitar licks with the master. It’s faithful to the original, almost not for note. After all, who would dare to render the classic any other way?