This weekend, going through some old family photos, I found this folded up piece of newspaper: a page from The New York Times, October 5th, 1969. My dad, a huge Beatles fan, most likely saved it, though maybe it was my mom who originally tore it out of the paper to show him... she didn't really like The Beatles, and there was often a battle over the 8-track player in our old family van. It seems the author of the review also had plenty of criticisms about the band.
Nik Cohn makes the 15-minute medley on the second side the centerpiece of his review, as it was the only 15 minutes of the album he enjoyed—his headline reads, "The Beatles: For 15 Minutes, Tremendous." And even within those 15 minutes there are problems, according to Cohn, who declares: "Individually, the numbers are nothing special... and some of the lyrics are quite painful." Here are some other thoughts from Cohn, on one of the greatest albums in history:
- "There was a time when the Beatles's lyrics were one of their greatest attractions. Not any more. On Abbey Road, you get only marshmallow."
- "On Abbey Road the words are limp-wristed, pompous and fake."
- "This album is unmitigated disaster."
- "The badness ranges from mere gentle tedium to cringing embarrassment."
- "On 'Oh! Darling,' Lennon flounders in an orgy of gulps, howls and retches, flung together at random." [Note: Lennon didn't sing that song, McCartney did.]
And that's not all, he goes on to call the two songs by George Harrison: "mediocrity incarnate." Those two songs, by the way, are "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something." He says Lennon has sunk to new lows by ripping off not only earlier Beatles tracks, but other musicians as well. He says The Beatles have started to rely on "overkill"—something that "ruined their last double-album," as well. You know, the legendary album commonly known as The White Album? According to his review of that one, it was "boring beyond belief" and filled with "profound mediocrities."
You can read all of Cohn's Abbey Road review right here—he finishes off his takedown by declaring: "As it stands, Abbey Road isn't tremendous. Still, it has 15 fine minutes and, by rock standards, that's a lot."
You may find Cohn's name familiar—he wrote the New York magazine article that went on to become Saturday Night Fever, and while his "article was published as a piece of factual reporting," he later admitted he made it up: "My story was a fraud."