A centuries-old text reminds Dave Broom of the open-eyed joy that whisky once inspired.
It was one of my Perth cousins who played it to me first. Can’t remember how old I was. Young, but old enough, just finding my own way in music the way you do – recommendations, sitting at people’s feet, listening, plucking up the courage to say: ‘I don’t like it.’
Not that I disliked Abbey Road. I loved it. It intrigued; you didn’t know what was coming next, how long the song would be. Some went on forever, it seemed, put you in a trance; others flashed by like thoughts.
I got a copy, my own copy, an entry point. Played it obsessively, as you do when you only have four LPs and a clutch of singles. One day I’ll tell you what the rest were – I’m not embarrassed.
Abbey Road: the now iconic album cover has been replicated by thousands of fans visiting the namesake London studios.
To be honest, I’ve never been a Beatles obsessive. I left them behind soon after that purchase. I grind my teeth when they appear on the covers of Mojo and Uncut yet again.
‘I can take them or leave them,’ I say if the subject ever comes up. ‘Yes, I see their genius, I know how they were groundbreakers, but they didn’t have the swagger of the Stones, the wild vision of Dylan or Brian Wilson. Yes, there were great moments, but weren’t The Beatles just an Irish showband wanting to please, rather than taking risks?’
Neither do I buy into the reverence afforded to Sergeant Pepper; it’s always been Abbey Road for me. It’s their most fully realised album, the most richly layered, the one where they worked out how to use the studio as an instrument.
It’s as near to perfection as they got. If I didn’t like it, then why would I go to London for an evening, and sit around drinking whisky, listening to it? I could do that at home.
I was in London because I was listening to Abbey Road… in Abbey Road.
I say that to people, I say it to my 19-year-old niece and she goes: ‘I hate you.’
Abbey Road. In Abbey Road.
The idea is, let’s face it, stone cold genius. People. A room with a great hi-fi, a classic album (on vinyl), and you have a few drams.
I realise that I know all the words, the breaks, the arrangements. We mouth words and bass lines to each other, play along with Ringo. It takes me back to those nights in attic rooms and bedsits when you are finding your path in music, when you were discussing, passing on, learning. It takes me back to Perth and the memory of that beloved cousin, now gone.
Except now I’m not just in a room, I’m in the room where it was made. Those pianos were on it, that’s the mike that Lennon sang into, there’s the old mixing desk. I become the fanboy, grin as I shiver.
To some musicians this studio might just be a place of work, but I doubt it. This is a space that brings joy, a space that creates. There’s something about this room that goes beyond acoustics, that draws from the patina of sound that’s been laid down on the walls.
Some rooms just have it, in the same way as distilleries have it. There’s a whisky link, but this isn’t a night for connections being forced upon you. They come, they rise, you muse on them for a second, and move on. Sitting. Listening. Sipping.
Whisky and vinyl: is there a greater pairing?
That lack of agenda was what made it work. At no point were there ever attempts to draw parallels: ‘The choral section in Because is like the soaring stills in the Glenrothes stillhouse; the rich bass line on Come Together is like the depth given by Sherry casks; making an NAS whisky is like George Martin mixing, or the flow of Side 2’s medley; the energy of young whisky used here reflects the playfulness of Octopus’ Garden.’
Many brands would have. The ‘Rothes guys didn’t. In this world of complicated, overthought marketing projects, that is bold.
No, this was a simple idea, perfectly executed. This album is a classic; we think these drams are a match in quality. Sit back, relax and enjoy Abbey Road.
In Abbey Road.
Sometimes in this life you are just blessed.
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The winning entrant will receive membership to the distillery’s preservation society.