Although it’s ostensibly about the final album the Beatles recorded, Kenneth Womack’s “Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles” takes plenty of detours on its concise, 288-page journey.
Readers learn about John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s respective weddings; Lennon and George Harrison’s experimental and mostly forgotten pre-breakup solo LPs; Ringo Starr’s initial foray into acting; the Fabs’ breakup and subsequent release of Let it Be; and the technological updates to EMI Studios – only later renamed Abbey Road – that made Abbey Road sound so different than any album the Beatles had made before.
Other reasons for that include, obviously, the “huge medley” that made up Side 2; Lennon’s lengthy absences owing to heroin addiction and a car crash in Scotland; the Moog synthesizer; and Harrison’s continuing evolution toward songs of Lennon-McCartney caliber.
With an introduction by engineer Alan Parsons and archival remembrances from all the Beatles, plus Geoff Emerick, George Martin and others, Womack, the noted Beatles historian and Martin biographer, dives deeply into the band’s last recording sessions as he traces the musicians’ final months spanning the disastrous attempt to Get Back, through the ups and downs of Abbey Roadand their final photo shoot at Lennon’s estate as the Beatles “stroll(ed) away from the studio and into the waiting arms of history.”
Though it’s taut, “Solid State” can also be dense, particularly in its lengthy discussions of studio technology. That said, it’s quite successful in its depiction of just how busy the Beatles were in their waning days and a reminder of how much music went unmade because of their premature breakup.