Published on October 15th, 2019 | by Gerry Galipault0
Your Music Book Store (Oct. 15 and Beyond)
Oct. 1 marked the 50th anniversary for the U.S. release of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Much has been written and said about the Fab Four’s 11th studio album. There was tension in the air; they wanted to go back to their old recording styles in order to get the job done without any flare-ups, and in the end (no pun intended), to quote George Harrison, “it felt as if we were reaching the end of the line.”
“Let It Be” (1970) was their final album, but most of it was recorded before the “Abbey Road” sessions began, so in essence, “Abbey Road” was truly their swan song. They would disband in April 1970.
Author Kenneth Womack has written a formidable account of that period, titled “Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles” (released today via Cornell University Press). His book includes a foreword by Alan Parsons, who engineered the classic album.
Womack sat down for a brief Q&A with Pauseandplay.com.
P&P: What do you make of The Guardian’s recent story on tapes showing that “Abbey Road” wasn’t going to be their last album?
Womack: “The recording of the John, Paul, and George’s meeting on the Beatles’ potential LP followup to ‘Abbey Road’ has been well-known since the mid-1970s, and I am happy to note that I document its contents in ‘Solid State.’ And it is indeed a revelation in that the tape, which was recorded by John’s assistant Anthony Fawcett for an absent Ringo (Starr), finds the Beatles trying to make things work in spite of everything. The most poignant and despairing moments occur at the end of the recording, when Paul laments that ‘When we get in a studio, even on the worst day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, and we’re still there, you know.’ At the end, when they haven’t been able to bridge their impasse, John soberly concludes that ‘I guess that’s the end of the Beatles.’ ”
P&P: The conventional wisdom is that Paul and John were at each other’s throats, but these tapes say otherwise. What does your research tell you?
Womack: “For the most part, the Beatles’ internal squabbling occurred outside the studio, where they were less comfortable with themselves outside of their work as musicians. My research demonstrates this, time and time again. As long as they could gear up for another track, they were able to see their way through to making top-drawer recordings together. But it is telling that their most difficult instances occur when they’re in business meetings.”
P&P: Fifty years later, how does the album hold up, in your humble opinion?
Womack: “Given the key role of the solid state mixing desk, ‘Abbey Road’ has more than stood the test of time. The band’s musicianship and songwriting are as powerful and affecting as ever, and the wealth of material, especially the symphonic suite that brings the album and their career to a close, is transcendent.”
P&P: Your foreword is by Alan Parsons. How big of a role did he play in the album’s sound?
Womack: “Alan was central to the record’s production, especially given the technical challenges of the new mixing desk, as well as working with the Moog synthesizer and bringing the record to fruition.”
P&P: Personally, “Abbey Road” is my favorite Beatles album. Is it yours?
Womack: “For the most part, I defer to ‘The White Album,’ but at the moment, as we mark the 50th anniversary, it’s ‘Abbey Road.’ It is such a perfect and indelible culmination of their unparalleled musical career.”
Now here’s our weekly rundown of upcoming new music book releases …
“Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles” (Hardcover; author: Kenneth Womack; foreword by Alan Parsons, the engineer on that classic album; Womack will join the Magical Mystery Girls, an all-female Beatles tribute band, at “One Sweet Dream: An Evening of Abbey Road,” a boutique event scheduled for Oct. 27 at Outta The Rabbit Hole in Rockville, MD. [Tickets available here]; Digital Book; Merch; Cornell University Press)
“Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield’s Life in the Blues” (Hardcover; author: David Dann; Digital Book; University of Texas Press)
“Elton John: Fifty Years On – The Complete Guide to the Musical Genius of Elton John and Bernie Taupin” (Paperback; authors: Stephen Spignesi, Michael Lewis; On Tour; Merch; Post Hill Press)
“Another Day in the Life: My Life in Photos & Music” (Hardcover; On Tour; Merch; Genesis Publications)
“How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse” (Hardcover; co-author: Scott B. Bomar; BMG Books)
“God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop” (Hardcover; Digital Book; Dey Street Books)
“Morning Glory on the Vine: Early Songs & Drawings” (Hardcover; handwritten lyrics and watercolor paintings, originally handcrafted as a holiday gift to her friends in 1971, now released to the public for the first time; Merch; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
“RUSH: Wandering the Face of the Earth – The Official Touring History” (Hardcover; authors: Skip Daly, Eric Hansen; Merch; Insight Editions)
“Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie” (Hardcover; “Jackie” is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
“The Decade That Rocked: The Photography of Mark ‘Weissguy’ Weiss” (Hardcover; author: Richard Bienstock, with Daniel Siwek; foreword by Rob Halford; Insight Editions)
DONALD S. PASSMAN
“All You Need to Know About the Music Business: 10th Edition” (Hardcover; Simon & Schuster)
“Satisfaction: 10 Albums That Changed My Life” (Paperback; foreword by Heart’s Nancy Wilson; Krause Publications)
“The Beautiful Ones” (Hardcover; 288-page project combines the late pop star’s unfinished manuscript with never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets; Read here; Digital Book; Random House)
“Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton” (Hardcover; author: Philip Norman; Little, Brown and Company)
“Trains, Jesus, and Murder: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash” (Paperback; author: Richard Beck; Digital Book; Merch; Fortress Press)
“Idol Truth: A Memoir” (Hardcover; co-author: Chris Epting; Post Hill Press)
“The Beatles from A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour” (Hardcover; author: Peter Asher; Digital Book; Merch; Henry Holt and Co.)
“Woodstock: Interviews and Recollections” (Hardcover; Rare Bird Books)
“I Wonder U: How Prince Went Beyond Race and Back” (Paperback; author: Adilifu Nama; Merch; Rutgers University Press)
“Malcolm McLaren: The Autobiography” (Hardcover; Red Planet)
“The Letters of Cole Porter” (Hardcover; editors: Cliff Eisen, Dominic McHugh; Yale University Press)
“My Name Is Prince” (Hardcover; author: photographer Randee St. Nicholas; 380-plus page collection of published and previously unseen images; Amistad)
THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS
“13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History” (Hardcover; author: Paul Drummond; Anthology Editions)
“The History of Rock & Roll, Volume II: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock” (Hardcover; Digital Book; Flatiron Books)
“Scream With Me: The Enduring Legacy of the Misfits” (Hardcover; authors: Tom Bejgrowicz, Jeremy Dean; Digital Book; Abrams)
“Broadway Musicals, Show by Show” (Paperback, Ninth Edition; revised and updated by Cary Ginell; Applause)
“The Hot Rats Book: A Fifty-Year Retrospective of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats” (Hardcover; author: Bill Gubbins; Merch; Backbeat Books)
“Along Comes The Association: Beyond Folk Rock and Three-Piece Suits” (Hardcover; authors: founding member Russ Giguere, Ashley Wren Collins; Rare Bird Books)
NAT KING COLE
“Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life & Music of Nat King Cole” (Paperback; author: Will Friedwald; Oxford University Press)
“I’m Gonna Say It Now: The Writings of Phil Ochs” (Hardcover; edited by David Cohen; Backbeat Books)
“Digging Dave Brubeck and Time Out!” (Paperback; author: Alan Goldsher; Post Hill Press)