Rhea Kapur (V)

Even though I dislike the mainstream, formulaic pop that constantly fills Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” Playlist, I keep an eye on the charts. Billboard Hot 100? The top 200 albums? Rolling Stone’s Top 100? iTunes Top 100? You name it. Imagine my surprise when, just a few days into October, I saw not Taylor Swift’s Lover at the top of the Billboard 200, but The Beatles’ Abbey Road, as it was just past the album’s 50th anniversary (Sept. 26th).

I went through a brief Beatles phase this summer, after rediscovering Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the “Twist and Shout” cameo – the song was on repeat for weeks, so much so that Spotify would start recommending it in every single one of my personalized playlists. I mainly listened to their popular works – “Twist and Shout,” of course, “Hey Jude” (the beautiful lyrics of which, by the way, were written by Paul McCartney to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian during his parents’ divorce), “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Blackbird.” But, last week, after noticing the Beatles’ unusual appearance in the Billboard 200, and reminiscing about my summer obsession, I was intrigued. So I put in headphones, closed my doors, and blasted Abbey Road, Remastered 2009. The Beatles’ swan song. The famous last album. The goodbye. And I have to say – it was an experience.

My favorite song by far was “Carry That Weight,” one of the only songs on the album recorded with all four members. It’s dark, it’s deep, it’s striking. A bit of history: recorded as one with “Golden Slumbers,” an eerily reassuring, hopeful, and vulnerable track in and of itself, the song was written by Paul McCartney but it interestingly featured vocals from all four Beatles. The sheer pressure the song conveys (heavy trumpets, “weight” being repeated, etc. – and that abrupt ending) mirrors the Beatles’ own struggles at the time: inter-group rifts and management troubles with Apple plagued them. Fellow juniors, I bet you can relate to this pressure – I know I’m already feeling it. Take comfort in knowing that the Beatles, too, went through seemingly hopeless times – but of course, theirs was probably much more significant, as the band ended up breaking up at the end. However, those times overall turned out to be great and remembered from today’s perspective, and ours will too – have faith. The weight, in fact, will be “carried a long time.”

A couple more gems from Abbey Road – “You Never Give Me Your Money,” featuring a beautiful, poignant piano base, “Oh! Darling” with McCartney’s wrought, almost painful, but undeniably powerful vocals, and of course, “Come Together” with its unique instrumental backbone – quiet, but with all the more noticeable guitar and beats in the back. I highly recommend those. And check out the 2019 mix of Abbey Road – it has come out in honor of the 50th Anniversary! 

To continue my “classics~vibes” music pattern, I was reminded of Elton John – another great artist I constantly listened to this summer after watching the movie in his honor, Rocketman, with some friends. And what a movie that was. It was the first time I really listened to and recognized Elton John, and in theaters, too – the music was just all-encompassing and consuming in conjunction with the story of his eventful, bright-as-a-supernova life. Hearing the song “Rocketman” blasted, I could sense the mixed feelings and, of course, the Ray Bradbury influence – he wrote a short story in the 1950s entitled “The Rocket Man” upon which the song lyrics are heavily based. 

Elton John wrote about the most obscure things – the “blue jean baby” in his hands in “Tiny Dancer” (a classic, by the way – simply a beautiful song), or “Spanish Harlem” in “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (one of my favorite songs of all time, and one of Elton’s own favorites, too. I mean, the emotion in it is unparalleled). Honky Chateau is definitely a must-check-out album. But, I digress. Overall, Elton manages to make each and every one of his songs striking and beautiful. He’s simply a genius – not only with the jazz piano, which backs almost all of his songs, but with the lyrics and the voice, too. I’m eternally envious of those fortunate enough to have witnessed his genius in person, in his prime (Mr. Keating, looking at you!).

So I highly, highly recommend checking out Elton John and Abbey Road. Listen to them alone, in a quiet space, or even on a rainy morning bus ride, but with the music blasting as loud as you can bear – and really feel the music. Let it transport you away from the generic pop for a minute and take you back to the roaring 60s and 70s, when people, places, and music had unique character. Anyway, I’ve been listening to these two as I write this column, and it’s been the perfect vibe. I guarantee you, you’ll be hooked.