Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Story of The Beatles' Last Song: I Want You (She's So Heavy) by James Woodall Review

Abbey Road was The Beatles’ last record and arguably their best. After recording a patchy album in Let It Be, the Fab Four joined producer George Martin at Abbey Road for the final time together and went out superbly with some of their best music ever (though Let It Be would be released after Abbey Road because of Phil Spector’s elaborate, time-consuming production). 

I didn’t realise I Want You (She’s So Heavy), the sixth track on the record, was the last Beatles recording as a group (it was originally planned to close the album - in the end it only closed out Side 1) and I expected James Woodall’s account of singling out this song to be a bit more meaningful and illuminating than it was. As it is, Woodall uses the song as a jumping off point to discuss The Beatles’ last year together and John and Yoko’s relationship, none of which is especially new or unique ground to cover.

If you already know a bit about The Beatles last years, there’s not a whole lot here that’ll be new to you. John and Yoko did heroin a lot, produced a lot of crap avant-garde art including unlistenable music, posed naked on an album cover, stayed in bed protesting the Vietnam war. Meanwhile their company Apple was a mess financially and there were squabbles over who their management was (it was five years post-break-up before all of the legalities were resolved). 

As for the recording of Abbey Road, there’s not a whole lot to it. It seemed to go more or less smoothly, a lot better than the Let It Be sessions, and everyone was producing good work, hard drugs and crazy partners aside. What’s there to say about the song itself, I Want You? It’s about Yoko, it’s a bit avant-garde (all that hiss and distortion that makes up the second half of the song), and possibly indicates the bold and exciting music The Beatles would have made had they stayed together and continued to make music. Possibly. 

Woodall’s writing is competent for the most part but his sentences are sometimes quite clumsily constructed. For example: 

“While no one in the wider world knew what, apart from recording and releasing records - with the green-skin outside of a Granny Smith apple on the A-side, its sliced white interior on the B-side - The Beatles were really doing (starting to fight), they, the band, knew intuitively how much real music they could still make.” 

The Story of The Beatles’ Last Song doesn’t contain a whole lot that’s original or insightful for those who already know about The Beatles’ breakup. But, for the more casual fan, it’s a sometimes compelling piece about the greatest band’s last gasp put to tape. Helluva haunting riff too!

The Story of The Beatles' Last Song: I Want You (She's So Heavy)

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