It isn’t always revealing to hear a song you’ve known and loved for most of your life in a rough, unpolished, and tentative form. Sure, there’s something to be said about alternative versions and outtake versions, but when it’s a song such as George Harrison’s fine Beatles composition “Something,” the charm is lost when it’s presented in a form devoid of sheen and its confidence. It’s cool to hear the Fab Four working on what was to become one of their final classics, but this demo will probably appeal more to the obsessive.
In fact, that’s a concern we’ve had with the forthcoming expanded edition of Abbey Road—the dearth of interesting material. Unlike Sgt. Pepper, which was the sound of a band experimenting with the studio without having to worry about the live stage, or The Beatles, which was the sound of four people working on their own and then bringing it all back to the table, Abbey Road was an extremely focused, extremely tight production—almost economically so. Of course, after the disorganized, embarrassing and unproductive debacle of Get Back being intensely focused on the task at hand was the point. Thus, we’re not sure just how exciting or interesting an expanded edition of the album will be; in fact, in the half century since its release, only a handful of bootlegs have appeared documenting the making of this album proper, and the outtakes have been merely variations on the finished results. Most of the outtakes purporting to be from Abbey Road merely stem from the Get Back sessions and while there’s a case to be made for them as outtakes, Abbey Road was most definitely considered a separate project, and the material recorded is of a completely different caliber.
Still, we’re not meaning to rain on the joyous occasion of the anniversary, and we welcome this new collection, as we’re sure it’ll be a fantastic release, even if the material might not be something we return to very often.