The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover
EMI
By Lily Rothman
September 26, 2014

Forty-five years ago, on Sept. 26, 1969, one of the most acclaimed rock albums in history was released: The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

And, unlike some cultural behemoths that take a while to sink in, the grandeur of the album was immediately recognized. As TIME noted in the Oct. 3, 1969, review of the record, there was something special going on:

“We were more together than we had been for a long time,” said John Lennon last week. “It’s lucky when you get all four feeling funky at the same time.” Lennon was talking about a recording session last summer that produced the latest Beatles record. Out this week, it is called Abbey Road, in honor of the group’s favorite studios in London. The disk proves lucky indeed — for listeners who like being disarmed by the world’s four most fortunate and famous music makers. Melodic, inventive, crammed with musical delights, Abbey Road is the best thing the Beatles have done since Sgt. Pepper (1967). Whereas that historic record stretched the ear and challenged the mind and imagination, Abbey Road is a return to the modest, pie-Pepper style of Rubber Soul and Revolver. It has a cheerful coherence — each song’s mood fits comfortably with every other — and a sense of wholeness clearly contrived as a revel in musical pleasure.

…The record’s unity is best illustrated by the tightly knit and unpretentious way it combines a variety of styles. Among them: old-line rock ‘n’ roll (Oh! Darling), low blues (I Want You), high camp (Maxwell’s Silver Hammer), folk (Here Comes the Sun). Though the listener here and there finds such things as a vocal chorus or a swash of electronic sound, most of the time the instrumental textures are uncluttered by overdubbing. Rarely has John played better guitar than on I Want You (She’s So Heavy), a cunning combination of two songs with a chilling, mean blues throb. Rarely have Bassist Paul and Drummer Ringo achieved more cohesive yet flexible rhythm than on Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.

And, despite a majority of songs bearing the familiar Lennon/McCartney credit, the album was also George Harrison’s time to shine. His song “Something” was already getting radio play, and the time he had recently spent with Bob Dylan was paying off. “This has helped him achieve a new confidence in his own musical personality,” the reviewer noted. “His three colleagues frankly think that Something is the best song in the album”

Read a 1969 story about the “Paul is dead” urban legend started by the Abbey Road album art, here in TIME’s archives: Of Rumor, Myth and a Beatle

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