Thursday, April 5, 2012

Her Majesty

Robert Bunter: This is a case where context defines meaning. Placement at the end of the last recorded album of the Beatles career serves to deflate the transcendent glory of “The End,” which is a nice idea. Sure, they just brought tears to your eyes with primal guitar dueling, Ringo’s crucial drum solo and a haunting reflection on the Universal Love Equation (as I call it), but they’re at pains to avoid anything that might give the impression that they’re taking themselves too seriously. So they tacked on a funky little McCartney ditty to puncture the heavy mood. It sounds almost nothing like a McCartney song; it has the flavor of an old folk melody or bawdy pub singalong. The lyrics are pleasantly innocuous with just a touch of impudence. If they’d kept the track in its original spot (alternate Abbey Road side two mixes have it sandwiched in between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”), the implications would be totally different.

Richard Furnstein: The show is over, but Paul lifts the corner of the curtain to let a little light back on to the audience. "Her Majesty" is the pollen gently floating through the spring air, it doesn't matter if it lands on a lonely stigma. You are right, it breaks the heavy mood around the side two medley, where The Beatles threw everything at the listener to give him the strength to carry on in a post-Beatles world. But it's sketch-like nature and the crashing indecision of the song's introduction suggest that the ditties will survive. "The End" is a beautiful (ahem) ending, but seems a little forced for a band that was always thinking ahead to the next phase. "Her Majesty" is a relief. "Don't worry," they seem to be telling us, "McCartney's solo album is right around the corner and it is full of non songs like this!"

These false endings underscore the “nothing is real” message of the Beatles and give us hope in some cosmic sense that there always might be something more around the corner.
Robert Bunter: Both sides of Abbey Road end with surprises. The interminable frozen wasteland of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is clipped to an abrupt silence which provides a mighty jolt for the attention of the listener who’d been lulled into a stupor by the hypnotic repetition of the main riff. With side two, they give us another fake-out … we’re wiping the tears from our eyes at “The End,” which is followed by some silence. Well, that’s it for that! The album is done. Wait, what’s this? Fake endings are a staple of the Beatles catalog – you’ve got the eerie “Strawberry Fields Forever” coda, both sides of Sgt. Pepper’s (on side one, the “bye-bye” at the end of “She’s Leaving Home” seems like a natural finish but watch out because the terrifying Mr. Kite is leering around the corner; on side two, the reprise of the Pepper theme seems to bring down the curtain but the listener is abruptly shifted from the magical wonder-show to the melancholy dream that is “A Day In The Life”), “Hello Goodbye” and a moment at the ACTUAL end of the Beatles’ official recorded catalogue, “Free As A Bird,” when an incongruously showbizzy ukulele appears out of a swirl of backwards tapes and poorly-recorded Ringodrums. These false endings underscore the “nothing is real” message of the Beatles and give us hope in some cosmic sense that there always might be something more around the corner.

Richard Furnstein: I always wondered if George Martin supported the fake out ending to Abbey Road. Martin was very careful about sequencing closers for The Beatles. The early albums were based on the live set, so the shredders were given their natural position. That's all folks, there is blood on the mic. Later albums seem to blend the majestic ("Tomorrow Never Knows") and the pedestrian ("Run For Your Life") with consistently exciting results. The Abbey Road Medley was set to tear the faces off of the world (remember this is years before Genesis took us from the living room to Jerusalem in "Supper's Ready" from Foxtrot) and The Beatles decided to set off a roman candle after the bombastic fireworks display. Geoff Emerick later recounted the story of "Her Majesty" remaining on the master of Abbey Road in his soulless book Here, There and Everywhere. Abbey Road engineer John Kurlander kept the aborted snippet of the medley (following EMI rules) and Malcolm Davies missed the tape indication of the extra snippet in the final cutting. Sure, Davies should have been listening, but I think it all worked out in the end! (The album later went triple platinum.)

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with your analysis... I can't imagine the album order being any different now.

    Believe it or not a music professor at NYU brought it in along with sheet music sides to discussing modulating from the V of V and V of II. Dat song do have a couple of old-timey seventh chords, despite its simplicity.

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