Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Just A Child Of Nature

Robert Bunter: So, we’ve arrived at the Esher demos. Perhaps a word of explanation is in order, for readers who don’t know very much about the Beatles. After returning home from their spiritual explorations in India in 1968, the Beatles set about the task of preparing to record The Beatles, which you may know as the White Album. They gently tripped their way over to George’s psychedelically-painted bungalow in Esher, got out the old Brunnell three-speed reel-to-reel tape recorders and acoustic guitars, and recorded a series of astonishing bare-bones song sketches. There was probably a bowl of fruit nearby … I’m picturing tapestries hanging from the walls, joss sticks burning, and most likely they were seated on purple cushions on the floor. Their colorful, flowing garments were outrageous. 

Richard Furnstein: "I'm Just A Child Of Nature" is undoubtedly the most significant "outtake" from the Esher sessions. It certainly buries George's "Circles" and "Sour Milk Sea" (although, to be fair, SMS was later significantly improved by yowling soulster Jackie Lomax). You may recognize the melody as "Jealous Guy" from Lennon's Imagine album (and, if you do, congratulations for being aware of one of the most beautiful recordings in galaxy history). Here, Lennon is more concerned with trumpeting his advancing hippie man skills. Paul was strutting around Rishikesh in fragrant white gowns, proclaiming to Prudence Farrow that he was Mother Nature's Son. While Prudence was no Mia in the bone zone department, John couldn't let this peacockery stand so he came up with the ridiculous moniker Child of Nature. And there you have it: these mentally stunted adults couldn't just meditate in an affluent retreat in the land of elephants and okra, they had to arm wrestle and beat their chests like common sub-apes.

The solo years would allow John to revisit the song's lovely melody, this time as a testament to his unhealthy insecurities surrounding his Japanese wife.

Robert Bunter: John had returned from India with a clutch of wonderful new songs and a bad case of the Yokos. This diminutive Japanese concept artist (still living in London at the time) was haunting his dreams and interrupting his thoughts during his deepest meditations. He probably imagined her creepy little-girl voice chiming in with a bunch of inscrutable riddles and kindergarten mysticism. There he was, chanting in his humble hut, when all of a sudden, it’s: “John! John … it’s me Yoko … John … it’s me … if a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound? … what if they gave a war and nobody came? … John … things are more like they are now than they ever were before … John, John” until he’s half-mad. So, he takes a walk down to the stream and writes “I'm Just A Child Of Nature.”

Richard Furnstein: There is speculation that Lennon abandoned "I'm Just A..." because Paul had delivered the superior hippie kid anthem in "Mother Nature's Son." I'm sure this played a large role in the decision making of the increasingly petty and paranoid John Lennon. I would offer that the twinkling sentiments of the song didn't wear well back in grimey England. The Beatles probably returned from the misty mountains of India and had to face a generation of filthy, drug-swallowing deviants with loose hygienic standards and uneven facial hair. Lennon could probably see that his lovely snapshot of his easy breezy time in India would later be co-opted by these gross inferior creatures (imagine the "I'm Just A Child Of Nature" Lennon posters hanging in freshman dorm rooms!) and decided to shelve it. The solo years would allow John to revisit the song's lovely melody, this time as a testament to his unhealthy insecurities surrounding his Japanese wife.

Robert Bunter: I think this is the quintessential Lennon melody. If you stripped away all the layers of shifting identities and listened to the deepest part of his soul, this is what you’d hear. The gentle tune is pretty and memorable, yet the mood is darkened by weird, discordant moments (like the chord on the word “free” in the chorus) which somehow heighten the shimmering beauty instead of breaking the spell.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'll Cry Instead

Richard Furnstein: In a perfect union of lyrical theme and music, "I'll Cry Instead" starts with a confused and aimless musical introduction. The focus is on the country and western leanings of Lennon's latest tale of crying over a cruel woman, filtered through Elvis Presley's limited musical language. Paul's bass is the only real foundation in this song, as steady as Bill Black's thick rooting. The guitars and Ringo's drums meander all over the bass line. John is in girl trouble again and his buddies are searching for answers.

Robert Bunter: Personally, I put this one in the top tier of early Lennon angry weepers. The man is just doing what he does best: crying in his beer and angrily pondering the vicissitudes of a rigged game that has once again played him for a loser - a game called love. He's down, but not out. His words are glum, but his tone is menacing. A few more "pints" of lager and this old teddy boy's more than likely to throw his mug at the barroom mirror, laugh maniacally, goose the barmaid, march around imitating Hitler and punch Stu Sutcliffe in the head, unwittingly sowing the seeds of the cerebral hemorrhage which will send the tragic artist to an early grave. This post may be controversial, but I'm just reporting the facts.

Richard Furnstein: No, you are completely right. Lennon admits that he's mad and that he's "got a chip on his shoulder that's bigger than his feet." He only sees two paths ahead of him, make the girl feel sad for her actions or cry out the pain. As always, Lennon talks tough but retreats to the role of the lonely weeper. The proclamation that he'll be back and that the maidens of the world should be locked up is wishful thinking. Lennon will only return to form once he is sufficiently drunk or has entered into another dysfunctional relationship with a controlling woman who fills the role of his dead mother. Best of luck to you, John!

Robert Bunter: Lennon's characteristically inventive bridge plays the usual clever games with key changes and harmonic modulations. It's the kind of thing George tried to do on "You Like Me Too Much," but George came up short. John manages to take us on some weird detours but always remains solidly behind the steering wheel of the bus, taking us where he needs us to go. George's bridge sounds like he's just along for the ride, which is probably the way it was for George as a child, when his father was an actual bus driver in Liverpool. It's no wonder George looked up to John as a surrogate father figure, against which he later had to rebel in order to assert his own agency and independence: John's early bridges reminded him of his father's confident motoring style, while baby George was still trying to reach the pedals and operate a clutch. Hey, I'm sorry - these are the facts.

Richard Furnstein: A great comparison, Robert. I'm always mystified by the bridge (and the structure of the song in general). The way I hear it, "I'll Cry Instead" employs the structure of A-B-A-B-C-A-B-C-A-B. Huh, I guess that's not exotic at all, it just sounds more complicated than that because of the short duration of each of the song's movements and the baffling backing track. You goofs!

Robert Bunter: Sure, it’s baffling. Are the music’s unconventional harmonic motion and structural architecture a conscious attempt to mirror the lyric’s despondence and uncertainty? A tempting analysis, but probably (!) over-thinking it. It’s more likely that John was just cranking out another album filler track for what he called “the meat market” in between crazy screaming stadium gigs and besieged limo rides from luxury hotels to private planes. It’s just a wonderful accident that Lennon’s meat market crank-outs happened to be brilliant pop distillations which provided an unintentional window into their author’s fascinatingly damaged inner life. Who do you think we’re talking about here, Herman and the Hermits? This is The Beatles, and they packed more brilliant inspiration into throwaway tracks on the second side of their soundtrack albums than lesser artists could muster for their triple-lp concept albums, like the Smashing Pumpkins’ dopey Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or whatever the hell that drippy waste of time was supposed to be called.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Devil In Her Heart

Richard Furnstein: I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this one. George stands on his tippy toes and pretends he is John. It's so sweet and charming that I could puke. Little kid brother does his cool brother proud. This is the George that could have been; a light headed rock machine that makes the most mundane passages sound a bit off (ethnic?) because of his weird shaped mouth. It's a George without creative insecurities or half-baked Eastern philosophies. The Beatles just dress him up with an oversized Gretsch and point him to the microphone. "You sing this one, Georgie! Wait until you get a load of this, Little George is just like a big bad rocker!"

Robert Bunter: What I really like about this one is the vocal harmonies. The blend is thick and syrupy, with melancholy jazz chords flowing like molten brown cocoa butter from the mouths of three hard-rockin' British lads. It must have taken a lot of practice to get those parts right. I would have really enjoyed the chance to sit in on those rehearsal sessions. 

What's that, ma? No, I don't think I'm going to get that haircut we were planning on.

Richard Furnstein: When people ask me why With The Beatles is the greatest Beatles album, I just give the four word answer "Devil In Her Heart." It provides endless excitement, in part because you are bound to forget about this song and its perfect sound and performance. It's up there with "Little Child" and "Chains" as the most forgettable Beatles songs. And, you know what? Shame on you, brain. It's an album track like "Devil In Her Heart" that turns a great album into the best album possible. The performance shows the boys providing plenty of restraint. They may have been wild dogs trained in the depths of Germany's rock and roll toilets, but you wouldn't know if from the gentle push of this song.

Robert Bunter: So much of the early Beatles repertoire was aimed at the screaming nubile ladypersons who made up more than half of their audience in those days, but this is a song for the boys. The lyric is addressed to a male listener, of course, but I'm talking about the overall sound. This is something you could put on the plastic record player in your green 1964 adolescent room after you've just come home from riding your bike through the woods trails behind old man Gruber's vacant lot. Go ahead and take off your baseball cap, wipe the sweat from your brow and let the masculine yet sensitive sounds of this strange new band take your mind away. Maybe it's time to start saving the paper route money for that aqua-colored Harmony plug-in guitar you saw last week in the window at Gloanburg's. What's that, ma? No, I don't think I'm going to get that haircut we were planning on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Richard Furnstein: This song should be a complete disaster. Paul is wearing a striped shirt and thin mustache and is riding his bike down a dirt path. A day old baguette is in his basket. He pulls into the dirty town square and stops to admire the object of his affections, a sharp faced French girl named Michelle. He can barely speak French and she pretends that she's never heard of English (a lie), so Paul's gotta keep his game simple. He rhymes her name in mangled Frenglish; he gets a laugh. He babbles "I love you" over and over to her, when I'm sure they both know the phrase "je t'aime." Classic French girl pick-up blunder, but Paul makes it happen anyway because he has a child's face, is a millionaire, and plays bass guitar in the greatest band in the world.

Robert Bunter: Paulie is being very mannered and precious here. His cartoonish evocation of trite Francoid cliches stinks up the end of Rubber Soul's first side. Personally, I find it a great relief to turn the record over and enjoy the charming Ringoshuffler "What Goes On." Sonically, this song is the cousin of Lennon's "Girl," with its bogus European trappings. The boys were presumably cosmopolitan world-travelers at this point, but you wouldn't know it from Rubber Soul. Paul should have stuck with his main talent, which was writing world-class supreme excellent songs. This is an unfortunate example of his secondary talent, which was writing mid-grade throwaways which are barely elevated to the level of tolerability by virtue of their context.

Richard Furnstein: I love Paul's manly register in this song. In fact, the first Michelle of the song almost sounds like he turned this delicate love song over to that lumbering oaf Ringo Starr. I think Ringo could probably hang during the verses, but would lose it pretty quickly during the enthusiastic "I love you" breakdowns.

Robert Bunter: During a period of the Beatles career where they increasingly touted the virtues of communication and understanding, "Michelle" sticks out like a sore thumb. Michelle can't understand a word of what Paul is saying, except for his cod French fumblings. So they've never had a meaningful conversation. How does he know he loves her? Won't it be fun when they finally learn to communicate and realize they have nothing to say to each other! Love is not what happens when you see a pretty French girl. It's something much deeper than that. Do you know who I learned that from? I'll give you a hint: it was four men from Liverpool called The Beatles. C'mon, Paul. Get in the game here.

Richard Furnstein: The Beatles not only wrote love songs for English and American kids, they threw some love to the rest of Europe. Keep in mind, this is like three years after World War II (or something), so it was smart to record songs in German, make fun of Italian people, or try to impregnate beautiful French girls. George lays his sweet love all over the map with a roundwound guitar solo that gets low and stays there. An all time great song, especially if your girlfriend is named Michelle. Then you can sing it all the time and live out the promise of Paul's border crossing love.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Day Sunshine

Robert Bunter: Is there anything more universally human than reverence for the life-sustaining warmth of the sun? The Greeks personified it as Helios, son of Hyperion, piloting his shining chariot from East to West each day. Even in today’s modern world of lightning-speed technology and 24-hour media saturation, who among us has not paused to bask in the benevolent glow of …

Richard Furnstein: I'm going to stop you right there because you sound like an idiot. Paul's checking in with a twirling vaudeville hat and playful cane. He's kicking off side two of Revolver the only way he knows how: with perfect pop that provides only a slight whiff of the drug abuse that runs loose on the rest of the album. The subversive twists are subtle on "Good Day Sunshine"--the slow motion distorted chug of the introduction, the key change (if this suggests mind alteration, then Barry Manilow may be Timothy Leary), and vocals that swirl around the listener like sweet opium birds. Paul would search for a similar vibe with later side two lead off hitters "Martha My Dear" and "Hello Goodbye" (please forgive me for referencing a Capitol tracklisting), a little saccharine to lead you through the inevitable end of album drug haze.

Robert Bunter: When you’re right, you’re right. This is the first time in the catalog that Paul did one of these old-timey shuffles. I can imagine John and George giving each other little sidelong glances as they stood at the microphone recording the fantastic vocal harmonies. “George, this is a little fruity.” “I think you’re quite right, John. Paul has written a fruity song.” Ringo just sat in the corner playing cards with Neil Aspinall, having finished his tracks two days ago. Astute fans will note that the seeds of the breakup were planted here. George was looking forward to going home and spending more time burning joss sticks, listening to his sarod records and getting fitted for a flowing pair of silk yoga briefs. John, meanwhile, just noticed that his ego is a plastic illusion and is still seeing “fish with heads” in the corners of his vision. Against this backdrop, Paul’s mildly-psychedelicized update of 1930’s music hall razzmatazz must have really grated.

Richard Furnstein: I beg to differ, I think Paul's first few forays into the fruit bowl were seen as deliciously subversive from the Ultimate Gang™. Delightful, even. A drop of purple windowpane into granny's tea. A nice dusting of opium on Auntie Minn's biscuits. Paul wanted to welcome the entire world into the expanse of drugs and love and rich blonde girls on summer lawns. You aren't going to catch the elusive old lady fish with "Dr. Robert" or "Rain," you have to throw them a bone to bring out their inner freaky deaky. Sure, Paul later took it too far (I'm sure John wanted to freeze Paul's bloomers when "Honey Pie" was being tracked) but he's decidedly on point here.

Robert Bunter: Well, you’ve convinced me. Your theory that John and George felt good about Paul’s Revolver songwriting is difficult to argue with. I suppose I was reading too much into it, my perspective somewhat distorted by the hindsight of their later disdain for things like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. It’s easy to imagine all the boys (as well as George Martin) smiling delightedly while Paul presented them with this mid-period gem. “George, I think Paul did a really good job here.” “When you’re right, you’re right, John. IT’S LIKE A NICE DUSTING OF OPIUM ON AUNTI MINN’S BISCUITS.”

Richard Furnstein: Exactly. And you know Ringo was digging it because he was drunk and playing the most killer drums! Another day in the life of the four greatest human beings in Earth history.

Robert Bunter: (disgusted) Yeah.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'll Be On My Way

Robert Bunter: The scenario: Paul knocks off some boilerplate Buddy Holly and the Crickets '50s rock in 1963. Even he knows it's not good enough for the Fabs. So they call up Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. "Hey, Billy: you know how you're about to cover one of our songs? Why don't you put this other one on the B-side? Sure, you can have it. It's all yours. We'll get the songwriting money, of course. Sometimes when we think to ourselves about our future in rock and roll, we consider becoming professional songwriters for other artists, so they can have hits, too. It makes us feel like Lieber and Stoller or Goffin and King. Oh, and Billy? Do you want to know a secret? You stink."

Richard Furnstein: You have to feel for the Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas and the Peter and Gordons of the world. The Beatles were high as kites on King Shit Mountain, popping open endless pies and chortling with glee while a host of lesser beings were cowering in the valley of Thine Greatness. The best that these subhumans could hope for was a few soggy pizza bones to find their way into their desperate valley.

Robert Bunter: The Beatles own version on Live At The BBC is competent. They don't seem to be putting too much effort or heart into this one, but that's what those BBC shows were sometimes like. "Hey, we're just here hanging out at the radio studio, having a few laughs and reading fan mail." "Say, would you boys like to play another song for us?" "Sure, that would be gear. Here's one that we wrote and gave to Billy J. Kramer. He's a great bloke, really." "Say, you sound awfully condescending, Paul." "Yes, I have a very superior attitude."

Richard Furnstein: Exactly. That's the anatomy of "I'll Be On My Way"--egomaniacs write some trite pop for inferior musicians. The Beatles could hardly bother to toss off the BBC version. I think they maybe spent five minutes, seven minutes tops, recording this song. The waif clocks in just under two minutes and you have to factor in a few minutes for some milk breathed intern to tweak some royal seal encrusted microphones. Maybe a minute for John to dash off to the W.C. for a quick fag or to pilfer a few English "Crisps" from a fetid catering cart. Uh-oh, it's time to cut this one. Cue some aging British ghoul: "Say boys, here's a sincere question for the dying listeners at home that you are just about to steamroll into oblivion. Can you answer with a flippant and brilliant observation? Can John just make a monkey face and put on his best Peter Sellers? He can? Golly, thanks for the guiding light in the pathetic darkness that is our lives, you stoner casual sex supermen!"

Robert Bunter: OK, are you gonna talk about the lyric "As the June light turns to moonlight" or should I?

Richard Furnstein: You just did! But yeah, that couplet is the ultimate sign that Lennon/McCartney weren't breaking a sweat on this throwaway. "Good news, Billy J. The Beatles wrote you a song. Bad news, Billy J. It kind of stinks!"

It is insulting that the incredible Live At The BBC collection was promoted as the only place to get the Beatles recording of this lost Lennon/McCartney classic. There are so many killer recordings on that double disc set that it is easy to ignore this weak effort. Apple should have been promoting sweet recordings of "Soldier of Love," "Nothin' Shakin'," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and "Ooh! My Soul!" instead.

Robert Bunter: I think we've said all there is to say about this song. Sure, it's great!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blue Jay Way

Robert Bunter: This song is awful. Yet, there's something great about it. Let's review: goony stoner George Harrison takes a trip to California in August 1967, about a month after the international triumph of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP (Parlophone PCS 7027). The first thing that happened was, he donned a pair of heart-shaped glasses, took a mysterious drug (in his Anthology retelling, Harrison refers to it only as "a concoction") and walked around Haight Ashbury. His trip started to go sideways ("I became really afraid ... getting bigger and bigger, fish with heads, faces like vacuum cleaners coming out of shop doorways") and he eventually had to escape a growing crowd of "spotty kids" (by which he means acne-ridden) and get the hell out of there. Then he went to Los Angeles and rented a house on a street called Blue Jay Way. Derek Taylor was supposed to stop by, but he must have gotten mixed up (!) with the directions. George (no doubt still weirdly hungover from the concoction) wanted to go to sleep and escape the hallucinations, but he felt a gentleman's obligation to stay awake to greet his tardy guest. Remember, this is pre-cellphones. In today's world, a simple text message ("DEREK I'M TIRED DONT COME OVER TO BJW PLS") would have solved the problem. But in 1967, there was nothing for George to do but write this horrifying dirge. You can almost see the "fish with heads" hallucinations that were still lingering in the corners of his peripheral vision at 4:03 a.m. when you listen to this throbbing headache of a song.

Richard Furnstein: The something that's great about this song is the entire flippin' song. The first twenty five seconds of this song features the sounds of a bleary, filthy hippie man peering out of his stained curtains. It's still the middle of the night, but the street lights blend with the (broken) motion detector light on the garage to create a bit of a half night on the windswept driveway. Maybe our hero shouldn't have taken that nap (to be fair, he nodded off) or should have eaten some dinner with his segment and a half. What's done is done. Oh shit, a car is coming up the driveway. Wait, that's just the swoop of a lonely cello. What time is it? There's not a clock in this place. Time's stopped here in Piggies-Land and there are a million murderers in this dry night air.

Robert Bunter: It was Nicholas Schaffner who pointed out that, "although George's songwriting may be improving, he still doesn't know when enough is enough. Which is particularly unfortunate when the phrase he chooses to repeat 29 times is 'don't be long.'" Nice observation, Nicholas! I love you, man.

Richard Furnstein: The "it's all too much of 'It's All Too Much'" syndrome. Schaffner needs to check his head, George was right to lead us off into the abyss. It's a magical chant; no need to take the fast train to the land of spin out. George's friends have lost their way. He's flashing a light into the foggy bay for their safe return. Consistency in the message is critical, there's no room for confusion. It's bad enough that Ringo is playing in a steeple of melting time and bended light beams. George's "it won't be long" is all we have to anchor ourselves in this world.

Robert Bunter: You know, it occurs to me that this is the second time in a Beatles song (the other was I Am The Walrus) that the word "policeman" has been abbreviated to "P'leeceman" in order to fit the meter of the lyric. I wonder if this was a coincidence, or perhaps a weird in-joke. I can see John and George giggling about a thing like that, when they weren't cowering in the corner to escape the faces like vacuum cleaners and "fish with heads." All fish have heads! I assume the ones he was hallucinating had human heads. You know, it occurs to me that Captian Beefheart legendarily fell off the stage Mt. Tamalpais Fantasy Fair and Mountain Music Festival (also in California in 1967) after ingesting a drug that caused him to see a female member of the audience turn into a fish ("with bubbles coming out of her mouth"). What was this strange drug circulating in California, summer 1967? Perhaps it had some kind of ingredient that makes things look like fish.

Richard Furnstein: Mt. Tamalpais Fantasy Fair and Mountain Music Festival? Bands had all sorts of daft names back then. Just like Colonel Tucker's Medicinal Brew and Medical Compound.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Never Give Me Your Money

Robert Bunter: The Beatles did such a great job of encapsulating the emotions of humanity in song. Love, friendship, youthful excitement, spiritual oneness, social rebellion, confusion, fear, anger, nostalgia, sleepiness, boredom, contentment ... just buy yourself a copy of the mono box set (supplemented by Abbey Road, Let It Be and Yellow Submarine, of course) and you'll hear all of these (and so many more) evoked beautifully. Yet, some of the most heartbreaking moments in the catalog belong to those rare tracks where the boys sang about their own emotions. "You Never Give Me Your Money" is not a lyric that any of us can likely relate to. Paul is still singing about "you" and "me" like he's been doing since 1963, but this time, he's directly addressing the three close friends who are in the process of destroying the most important thing in his life - John Lennon, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (as I call him). Abbey Road is goddamn miracle of human achievement, and this song is one of the reasons why. With his entire life about to be wrenched apart, beautiful Paul manages to evoke the confusion and disappointment of the Beatles' upsetting legal battles and personal squabbles in a terrifyingly beautiful aching piano ballad. And that's just the beginning of the medley! It's the first act in an utterly incredible performance that is going to take us from this sad introduction through every possible shade of emotional color, finally culminating in a huge rock and roll extravaganza, a bone-crushing drum solo and a philosophical ending that puts everything they ever said into a 360-degree perspective of total cosmic wisdom.

Richard Furnstein:
Paul's in "sneak peek" mode, giving us some hints to his future with Wings. To be fair, Wings never quite reached the heights of "You Never Give Me Your Money." What we have here is mature candy; pop music that doesn't give a damn about format, conventional structure, lyrical theme, or sex and danger. It's the final destination of the Beatles' early movements away from pop conventions ("Nowhere Man," "Yesterday," "Paperback Writer").

Robert Bunter: How poignant to hear John and George harmonizing on this one. They were all so pissed off at Paul by now, they were ready to throw in the towel and break up the group. Yet, when he brought this song to the table, they had to admit: "This is really beautiful. It's almost enough to make me reconsider my opinion that you are the worst human being on the planet." They didn't, but that's because they were confused. Paul McCartney is FAR from the worst human being on the planet. I would say he's one of the best.

Richard Furnstein: I think this song is proof that he's one of the best. A superman of melody, taking the simple melodic themes of the introduction through passages that are at once frenetic, angelic, heavy, and, most importantly, beautiful. By his side is Ringo Starr, the other greatest human being on the planet, building a beautiful smooth ark with every bop of his hammer. The perfect descending riffs in this song are the sound of the boys setting off to sea. The sun is about to set, but goodness knows it's been a beautiful day.

Robert Bunter: Of course, this song doesn't end with the aching piano ballad. It breaks unexpectedly into a rock and roll thrill-ride, evoking the "magic feeling" of graduating college (something none of the Beatles had ever come close to doing) and having nowhere to go. Then he starts singing about "pick up the bags, get in the limousine," an obvious evocation of the Fabs' sudden rise to world fame, when "one sweet dream came true today." These are not situations that most of us mortals can relate to, yet Paul does such a great job, we feel like we can. Then we hear John's sardonic harmonies with the "1-2-3-4-5-6-7 / All good children go to heaven" chant, which sheds a darker light on Paul's feelgood vibes. George steps in with some brilliant guitar licks, and the sound effects start to gather themselves for "Sun King." You ought to get down on your knees right now and thank God for letting you be alive in the same world as side two of Abbey Road.

Richard Furnstein: Take this brother, may it serve you well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

For No One

Robert Bunter: What a downer! Quite possibly the most unrelentingly sad track in the entire catalog ... well, maybe tied with "Eleanor Rigby." It's not sad in the gentle melancholy way of "In My Life" or the poignantly longing way of "You Never Give Me Your Money." It's just a stone bummer. Paul uses the Fabs' trademark personal pronouns ("She Loves You," etc.) to devastating effect. The whole thing is addressed directly to you, the listener. And you, the listener, are in sorry shape.

Richard Furnstein: An economical weeper from Sir Paul. He gets right to the heart of the matter, describing the sun rising on a broken heart. Paul is more than comfortable telling a story in his songs, but he typically puts the spotlight on boring non-genius people going through their lives devoid of exotic drugs, beautiful blondes, and orgies with Peter Sellers (alleged). Paul keeps things nice and tight (and sad) in "For No One." His break-up songs on Rubber Soul find Paul stuck in the anger stage of acceptance ("You Won't See Me," "I'm Looking Through You"). "For No One" suggests his grief has moved on to depression and acceptance.

The feel of this one really brings me back to "Rigby" (acceptable shorthand in the Beatlemaniacal community). They both deliver some non-rock melancholy on Revolver (Paul's specialty from this period) while focusing on personal details and moments of reflection that speak more about the heartbreak than the early Beatles' focus on loving, leaving, and crying. The cause of the split doesn't matter to the songwriter, the isolation is the selling point here.

Robert Bunter: The song serves as an unsettling grey detour from the otherwise thrilling, ecstatic emotional rocket ride that is side two of Revolver. "Good Day Sunshine" celebrates a nice day with childlike glee; "And Your Bird Can Sing" makes a joyful psychedelic noise ... then, all of a sudden you find yourself waking up with a headache, pondering a girl who not only doesn't love you anymore but doesn't even care. It's like a bucket of cold water over your head. Don't worry, though. You'll surely be cheered up by "Dr. Robert" and his drugs. Then there's "I Want To Tell You," which is suffused with such infectious joy, it leaps right out of the speakers. Then "Got To Get You Into My Life," which does the same thing times fifty million, and finally we end up dazed in the blissful acid ecstasy of "Tomorrow Never Knows". But as you float downstream in the egoless glow of pure consciousness, it's hard not to be haunted by a lingering pale memory of "a love that should have lasted years." Good job, Paul McCartney! You've written a characteristically genius song which adds a nice emotional depth to the single best Beatles album.

Richard Furnstein: Much has been made of Alan Civil's French horn part in pedestrian Beatles writings. The facts are out there, and, yes, the guest solo is quite genius. In addition to providing another layer of British class to an already sterling song, the French horn manages to be both bubbly and burbling, suggesting a steady stream of tears. Our faces are left as damp as Mister Civil's spit valve. One imagines the distinguished horn player draining his instrument into an Abbey Road dustbin after his take as a group of moist eyes watch him from the control booth. Touched to be sure.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rocky Raccoon

Richard Furnstein: Ugh, can we skip this one? We can't? We really have to tell you about every Beatles song? Even the crummy ones for dumb children that are boring because kids like boring music because their brains are unformed? Really? Okay, take it away, Bunter. I'm going outside for a quick smoke.

Robert Bunter: Yes! It's go time. With "Rocky Raccoon," Paul uses the format of a nonsensical, western-flavored children's song to deliver a quintessential White Album melody. It's got that unmistakable mood of tentative melancholy that imbues other classics like "Cry Baby Cry," "Sexy Sadie," "I'm So Tired," "Blackbird," and "Dear Prudence." Everything's about to fall apart, Ringo just walked out, George Martin is disgusted, Yoko just followed John into the gent's room and Harrison is hogging the entire plate of digestive biscuits and English "crisps." Yet, we're still the Beatles, and we're going to sing you another sad yet uplifting song. Don't be fooled by the honking harmonicas, goofy voices, tack piano and scat singing: you're listening to the goddamn White Album and only an insensate clod would dare criticize even one glorious minute of this immortal masterpiece.

Richard Furnstein: Okay, I'm back. Did you talk about this song goes on for about three minutes too long? That Paul tries a Jagger-inspired American accent on this one? That the other Beatles were probably laughing at Paul for having the nerve to bring this one to the table?  This is the one song on The Beatles that makes me question the double album format. Sure, a single disc may mean that the world would never hear "Sexy Sadie" or "Savoy Truffle," but at least we would surely have been spared from this indignity.

Robert Bunter: You're certainly right about that. Stupid candy-ass Paul and his trifling ditties. Here's my impression of your dream-fantasy single-disc White Album edit: "Martha My Dear" (Slade cover version), "Wild Honey Pie," "Revolution 9" (extended mix from Kifauns To Chaos bootlegs), "Martha My Dear" (Beatles version), "Not Guilty," "Good Night." Plus a double A-side 45 with "What's The New Mary Jane" and "Old Brown Shoe" (1968 Esher demo). Only the classics for Richard Furnstein!

Richard Furnstein: "Rocky Raccoon" officially killed any chance for a song to start on an Am7. I guess Neil Young pulled it off about fifty times, but that's only because he added enough lurch to the chord to make it worthwhile. Paul's goal here is to provide the perfect starting chord for any douchebag in a baja to completely ruin a pleasant bonfire.

Robert Bunter: Now you're just baiting me.

Richard Furnstein: Sure am, "it's go time!" Oh wait, there's a story here, right? A raccoon or something is in the old west. He gets into some lover's quarrel and is shot in the leg and has to recover in a dingy hotel with a prostitute and a cross-eyed doctor. Then Paul doo doo doos all over the place, which doesn't really add to the character development. It does help you imagine this raccoon in a cowboy hat dancing around a diseased saloon for nickles. Thanks for the terrible plot for a Pixar movie, Paul.

Robert Bunter: I have to admit, that's a pretty funny paragraph. It's a shame that you don't use your comedic insights to celebrate great Beatles songs, instead of tearing them down.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things We Said Today

Richard Furnstein: Ch-ch-ch-ch-chug. Pop quiz: how many absolute perfect melodies have been created by humans in our four thousand years in existence? Two hundred? Forty? Like seven? However you break it down, "Things We Said Today" is hanging out at the top of the list. Paul's
wistful pledge of a new love is so unbelievably exciting and beautiful. The sadness of the verse melody is suspended in a cloud of minor chords; you hardly even notice that Paul's lyric is optimistic. Indeed, Paul loads up on "love" at the all you can eat songwriter buffet (check out "love to hear you say that love is love" in the tremendously awkward bridge). Save some loves for grumpy George, silly!

Robert Bunter: Well I'm just going to have to disagree with your assertion that "Things We Said Today" numbers among the "absolute perfect melodies" of men. Sure it's great, but do you remember a little tune called "Power Cut"? What about "Yesterday," "You Never Give Me Your Money," "You Won't See Me," and "She's Leaving Home"? I'm not going to argue that all of the greatest human melodies (without exception) were written by Paul McCartney - but I'm putting "Things We Said Today" near the upper middle of the list. Sure, it's ahead of "Goodbye" and "I'll Follow The Sun," but it's a ways away from "Blackbird," "Junk," and "Take It Away."
That being said, it is undoubtedly a true pleasure to hear Paul's urgent yet thoughtful meditation on the delights and vagaries of young bohemian love.

Richard Furnstein: More on the lyric: we're not entirely clear how we should interpret the "things we said today." Paul is anticipating a split (either distance or an actual divide with his new love) at the same time he is envisioning a time when he is "deep in love, not a lot too say" with his new lady. He is clearly placing a lot of value on these words; it's a tremendous moment and Paul's head is still cloudy with the new exciting prospects. The listener gets a whiff of the potential love twice in the song: in the introduction and the (hasty) fade-out. The aggressive strum of the acoustic guitar takes the place of the young lover's hearts. The rhythm tumbles throughout the song, pushing melodies into one another. It's so beautifully perfect that you have to accept Paul's minor lyrical fumblings. The boy has a lot on his mind and he has no idea how to tell you what he's been through.

Robert Bunter: Yeah. This song captures the essence of young love, when you're intoxicated with the heady emotions of incipient adulthood, yet still an unformed boy. Maturity is still just a concept; powerful new feelings define a compelling world of grown-up agency and freedom, but then as soon as you smell her hair, all control is forfeited in a swirl of boyish confusion. She holds all the cards, yet who even knows the rules of the game? What's the move? What's the object? Is anybody asking for promises? That is what it was like for all of us. Paul's haunting melodic construction (I would call it perhaps the most perfect melody ever created by humans) revels in the contradictions.

Richard Furnstein: I like to walk up to dudes wearing Beatles t-shirts or bomber jackets and say "Things We Said Today" to them. If I get a thumbs up, I know the guy is a true Beatlemaniac and he has a lifetime pass to the brotherhood. If he says "Pardon?" or "Get bent" I'm putting him on poseur notice. This song is for the true hearts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Long And Winding Road

Robert Bunter: Just as the curtain is about to fall on the greatest band ever, we get one more look at the soft side of a man I like to call James Paul McCartney. This is the Beatle who's given us showtunes ("Till There Was You"), immortal ballads ("Yesterday"), geriatric softshoe shuffles ("When I'm 64," "Honey Pie:) and sweet goopy sugar confections ("I Will"). Now, this gentle soul is going to give us a little bit of the elegaic Ray Charles sound. Cornball harps and choirs threaten to overtake the vocal in a swampy soup of sweetness.

Richard Furnstein: Paul didn't make anybody happy with this ballad. The band seems weary (some signs of life are present in the "many ways" bridge), Paul seems bored and responds by being boring, and Phil Spector tried to spice up this bland chili by throwing swooning angels, Hollywood melodrama, and cozy strings all over this one. Paul later got all pissy about Phil's treatment (leading to the queefing angels free mix on the regrettable Christmas repackaging Let It Be...Naked), but Phil was just giving this pointless song what it deserved. Paul wrote some silver screen dreck, so Phil piled on layer after layer of cheese. You don't like it, Paul? Write a better song. No need to throw a handful of mozzarella on "Let It Be" because that is an amazing song. Seem simple? It is.

Robert Bunter: Like other late-Beatles tracks ("Two Of Us"), this is a song that could be sung to new love Linda Eastman or old buddy John Lennon. Of course, I'm voting for the latter option. The corny, roll-the-credits atmosphere is more tolerable when considered as the sound of McCartney's bruised heart, as he ponders an uncertain future ahead and laments "You left me waiting here a long long time ago / Don't keep me standing here." He's looking at the inscrutable, emotionally distant, heroin addicted wastoid across from him in the Apple studios and wondering what happened to the brilliant teddy boy with the sharp wit and the rock and roll spirit, who he'd once counted as his closest friend and brother? Where did you go, Johnny? I'm standing here looking at this long and winding road all by myself and it's miserable. Why have you forsaken me? Oh man. That's so heavy.

Richard Furnstein: I think the let-it-be-schmaltzy version is the only version of this song to hear. Ringo's gentle touch glides along the soft rock swoons while George and John's boring white squeezings are lost in the abyss of molasses. There are some genuinely beautiful moments in the mix, particularly when the faceless angels swoop in to raise the chill factor. You can almost hear their stupid wings flitting against the studio ceiling in the overblown ending. The angels were trying to get the hell out of dodge before George pushed out "For You Blue."

"Yeah yeah yeah yeah," Paul implores, a lovely call back to the early days of Beatlemania. It's as if Paul is saying, "Thanks for rocking with us, kids, I just traded years of musical innovation into my parents' collection of dusty 78s." I hope I die before you get old.

Friday, April 8, 2011

In My Life

Richard Furnstein: I love the introduction to this one. A delicate, slightly overdriven electric guitar plays a mournful figure. The song's unique anti-rock tempo and structure are birthed from these six notes: the most beautiful and crucial six notes in their catalog. Lennon and McCartney's sad tale of nostalgia, faith, loss, and love lifts from the second repeated figure.

Robert Bunter: The boys were really maturing by the time they got to Rubber Soul. Their lyrics were exploring new areas at the same time they were opening up their musical palette with new instruments and recording techniques.

Looking at his past through a gauzy haze of cannabis fumes, Lennon manages to come up with a fond nostalgic reverie. The pages fly backwards off the calendar as we are treated to a gentle photo montage ... dear aunt Mimi looks over her shoulder and smiles at young John while setting out the English "crisps" for teatime ... schoolyard buddies Pete Shotton and Ivan Vaughn share a clandestine "ciggy" behind the Woolton churchyard ... John's first steady girlfriend Barbara Baker gazes shyly at the camera in her one-piece swimsuit ...  a doe-eyed young upstart named Paul knows all the lyrics to "Twenty Flight Rock" and joins the Quarrymen ... skipping stones on a lazy Liverpool riverbank in 1956 ...

It was only a few years later that John's visions of the past would take on a distinctly more nightmarish cast in "Strawberry Fields Forever" and, later, the Plastic Ono Band album. At this stage, the glasses are still rose-colored, although the song is imbued with melancholy undertones that indicate it wasn't all ciggies and "crisps" for this lad.

Richard Furnstein: Sure, but at this point there was no reason to expect the beauty of this song or his lyrical sweetness. It includes elements of "Yesterday" (sober perspective) and "This Boy" (rich harmonies), but there is a restraint in the performance that is way too sophisticated for rock musicians. Yet there's not much here beyond rock instruments (even George Martin's baroque interlude is tape manipulation of piano. The only ripple of muscle comes from Ringo's drumming. He's all restraint, pushing air through this travelogue and establishing the pace of John's rush of memories.

Robert Bunter:
Sure, they're leaving rock and roll behind. Good riddance! We're climbing aboard the Beatle growth train, headed for more interesting and unique locales. "In My Life" serves as a fascinating contrast to many of Lennon's other songs of this period, with personae like the world-weary Casanova in "Norwegian Wood," the messianic evangelist in "The Word, the sneering acid-head in "Rain." Here, on the other hand, we meet a kind-hearted, approachable chap who is capable of a heartwarming lyric like "though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before ... in my life, I love you more." Marijuana seemed to bring out a very lovely side of John (also evident on "Nowhere Man").

Richard Furnstein: Yeah, he probably was less of a womanizer or bully when he was all cheebed up. Get out the photo albums, John's baked and wants to ramble on about elementary school again!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

From Me To You

Richard Furnstein: Let's get this one over with. I imagine there are worse Beatles songs out there, but even the stinkers have some moments or concepts that are interesting. I find almost not value in "From Me To You," unless you count Lennon/McCartney taking baby steps in their growth as songwriters and climbing to the next rung. Unfortunately, the rungs reached in this song are economy and safety, hardly the best selling point for a single from the best rock band.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, the boys are pretty much staying pretty much within the formula here. Simple first- and second-person pronouns, tailor-made for the hormonal teenage girls who made up their main audience back then. A few primitive strums and Ringo keeps the beat. But: what's so bad about that? You have to remember what they were reacting to. In the context of 1963 pop music, this was a revolutionary clarion call. I know that, in the context of later achievements, this seems rather weak, but you have to look at the big picture.

Richard Furnstein: I imagine most people who express their dislike of early Beatles are focusing on "From Me To You," it fails to deliver excitement, innovation, or release. It is an excuse for John and Paul to shake some monosyllabic and meaningless action. The worst offender for me is the "lips that long to kiss you" bit of the bridge. This only exists for the Beatles to give mooneyes to hideous and square American teenage girls. The swell of applause on this part on live recordings is perhaps my least favorite moment in Beatles history (that includes the murder of John Lennon and the Yellow Submarine Songtrack reissue).

Robert Bunter: Oh, Richard, please spare us your arrogant contempt for "square American teenage girls." Who are you, Maynard G. Krebs? I'm sorry these four lads who were barely twenty years old didn't take the opportunity to record some backwards sitars and mellotron loops which would completely alienate everyone who liked them. Maybe then you would feel better about this charming early love song.

Richard Furnstein: I'd feel better about this "charming ditty" if it was an infestation of herpes. Or a family of raccoons in my garage. Or Steven Tyler in assless tights. No stars, Beatles. What's next?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Saw Her Standing There

Robert Bunter: How perfect is it that the Beatles' entire recorded career starts with a vigorous "one-two-three-FOUR!" countoff and ends with a stirring benedictory anthem entitled, yes, "The End"? I'll tell you how perfect: not at all. The Beatles recorded career actually started with the lackluster "Love Me Do" 45, and Abbey Road actually ends with the slight, fey McCartneydoodle I like to call "Her Majesty." And that's not even taking into account the fact that Let It Be was technically the last album released, even though it wasn't the last one to be recorded. So you can just discard everything you'd already thought about the perfect symmetry of the intro of "I Saw Her Standing There" and the gorgeous swan song of "The End." Wait, you haven't already thought about that? I guess I just assumed everybody learned about that in Beatles kindergarten. Richard, why don't you say a few words about this song. I need to collect myself.

Richard Furnstein: Paul plays it rough in the back of his throat and describes an indescribable seventeen year old girl. It's the Beatles at their most lascivious: the subject matter is all sleaze, their voices quickly jump from rough textures to howls, and the handclaps provide an insistent skin-on-skin shudder factor. Genuinely exciting stuff, even after all this time.

Robert Bunter: No doubt about that. Everybody knows the story about how Lennon injected primal sexuality into McCartney's original lyric draft, right? It was supposed to start "Well she was just seventeen / never been a beauty queen," but Lennon vetoed that and substituted "You know what I mean," thus forcing the listener to think about what he means, which is obviously that he thinks seventeen is the sexiest age a girl can possibly be. Wait, you people didn't already know that story?

Richard Furnstein: You are a real wealth of Beatles 101 information. Where are they from again? Liverville? I heard they were called the Silver Beatles at first! Can you confirm this please?

More on this song, trivia master: the verses are hardly revolutionary, but you have no real reason to expect the rush of the bridge. George delivers his solo deep in the Abbey Road Caverns, a sign that George Martin was probably not entirely sold on the youngster's shaggy riffology. If stuffy Mr. Martin had his way George and Ringo would have stayed at the docks at Liverlakes eating soggy fish and chips with aging beat relic Rory Storm. Sorry, George Martin, this is the band. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised with the crew in time!

Robert Bunter:
Yeah, it's funny to think about the power George Martin still held over the boys at this early juncture. He was playing the part of the grownup behind the mixing board and they were supposed to be the provincial rookies who didn't know what they were doing. He's standing there (!) giving orders, sipping tea and telling Ringo not to play the cymbals so loud, and meanwhile he doesn't know that he's dealing with four transcendental supermen who will shake human civilization to its very foundations. John, Paul, George and Ringo must have chuckled indulgently when this staid, conservatory-trained EMI lackey started calling the shots. "Oh, you want us to turn it down, Mr. Martin? Of course, so sorry." Then they reach over and turn it UP. Yeah yeah yeah! Whoo-ee! SHAKE IT!

Richard Furnstein: Lennon is surprisingly restrained on this number. Sure, his harmonies ground Paul's urgent lechery but there is little to hint at the riots that Lennon will later cause in his lead vocals. In summary, "I Saw Her Standing There" is as great as it is supposed to be, maybe even greater if you are willing to completely accept the To Catch A Predator lyrics.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour

Richard Furnstein: "Step right this way!" Paul shouts. Oh, where are you taking us, Paul? Oh, deeper into the Sgt Pepper's technicolor fantasy world? Are we taking a detour into the cartoonish sheen of high quality acid, fragrant fur coats, and BBC session horn players? Well, alright. We'll go with you on this magical ride. We know it will be a dead end, but at least it'll sound interesting (especially when John and George emerge from their drug haze long enough to provide hokey yet focused background vocals).

Robert Bunter: Here's McCartney: "Hmmmmm...look at that bus over there. Average, everyday people ride buses all the time; it's something we can all relate to. What if it was a trippy magic bus, taking everyone on a wild journey to who knows where? That's fantastic, y'know? Okay, let's go ahead and do it. I'll just ring the others and inform them know that this half-baked notion will be the centerpiece of our new album and feature-length Boxing Day television special. That settles that. I'm off to attend a happening at Miles "Hoppy" Indica's new avant-garde gallery. Good thing I have this cocaine! I'll just finish this plate of beans and English 'crisps' and then ring my driver to pop over and take me away. Hmmmm, 'take me away.' That's a good lyric. I'll just write it down on this scrap of paper, that way it will be worth over two million pounds at a Sotheby's auction in 1987. What a life!"
Richard Furnstein: In his classic over explaining of his flights of fancy from this era, Paul describes the mystery tours that were taking over soggy England during the late 1960s. Basically, a bunch of heart disease candidates cram into an unventilated bus to tour the fetid countryside and local oddities. It sounds like a nice diversion for people without real money or a sense of smell. Americans, on the other hand, have no real reference for this phenomena; instead, "magical mystery tour" sounds like a Scooby Doo adventure. The song rarely rises above the Hanna-Barbara implications of my American mind. Your mind isn't advanced by this material (unlike recent triumphs like "She's Leaving Home" or "Fixing A Hole'), it is basically an unconvincing appeal to have a good time. I'm having a grand old time, Paul. There's just no way in hell I'm getting on that gross bus or encouraging this stupid concept.

Robert Bunter: Me, neither. But if you separate this song from the malodorous, cramped bus concept which inspired it, you're dealing with a wonderfully muscular vintage 1967 Beatles song. Okay, so they were recycling the Sgt. Pepper formula a little bit, but come on! It's great, they had every right to explore that territory a bit more. How about that creepy ending? I always enjoyed the way it subtly deflated the brassy mood of the song. Suddenly the bus door opens and you step outside, only to find yourself confronted by a bleak, desolate expanse inhabited by a ghostly piano and the sound of gently tinkling wine glasses from a haunted otherness outside the boundaries of temporal mind-space. Also, the drums sound great on this track.

Richard Furnstein: Sure, Ringo's drums sound great (a perfect era for his snare), the aforementioned backing vocals make the song, and the clipped acoustic guitars deliver a little more grounded energy than most of the overcooked and delicately produced Beatles music for this era.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Till There Was You

Robert Bunter: Okay, I guess we've got to deal with this one now. Paul puts on his cutie-pie mask for pretty much the first time here. The Beatles were a gang of rough-and-rowdy Liverpool street toughs, swigging ale and pep pills as they slugged their way to the toppermost of the poppermost. But at least one of them was eager to make sure every listener knew that they were all-round family entertainers. Four charming lads who could schmaltz it up with the best of the smarmy lounge lizards. That one was Paul McCartney.

Richard Furnstein: Yeah, thank goddess for the sweet puppy breathed Paul. Don't get me wrong, I love the rock n' roll side of things. I want the Beatles to be a street gang, cutting throats of promoters and catching exotic sexual diseases from foreign prostitutes. I'm sure Paul had his fair share of uncomfortable drips.

But listen: this song plays a crucial role on the Beatles' finest album. It's the moment in Act II where Paul opens a door in the back of the Cavern Club. Instead of a utility closet or another dank passageway, he is suddenly in a world of beautiful music, fragrant meadows (!), and gentle bongos. Imagine light, jasmine, and butterflies entering the staid (yet iconic) cover shoot for With The Beatles. Don't look at "Till There Was You" as drippy soft serve in a land of rock perfection. Instead, view it as a necessary palette cleanser in the most delicious multiple-course meal. Thank you for the relief and sweet gentle tones, Paul.

Robert Bunter:
"Hey, fellas, let's do this saccharine pop tune from 'The Music Man'! It'll be a hilarious goof! Plus, we've got to show that we're versatile entertainers! Won't it be great to mix this one in with all the Little Richard screamers? Plus, the moms will love it! This will be a great chance to win their hearts, right! Plus ..."

Richard Furnstein: "Great idea, Paul. George, Ringo, and I agree that you are the greatest Beatle and you come up with great ideas for our rock albums. Maybe someday we should try that quiet storm classic that you've been kicking around for years, 'I'll Follow The Sun.' It can play the same role on a future triumph, smoothing out our rockin' bandit facial acne and inviting a blizzard of panties on stage. Thanks for everything you do, Paul."

Robert Bunter: Yeah, it's pretty gross. Even if you're inclined to cut Paul some slack and enjoy this one on its own terms, it's hard not to puke a little bit from his affected cuteness. The one redeeming factor is a completely advanced guitar solo. Who taught George how to play like that? He didn't learn those riffs at the Reeperbahn, I'll wager! Not bad, man.

Richard Furnstein: Good point, George gets credit for roughly 43% of those tossed panties.

Friday, April 1, 2011

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

Robert Bunter: Well, this song was heartbreaking enough when we assumed it was just the pinnacle of the early Lennon pain anthems. But when you start to ponder the possibility that it was in fact a stirring tribute to the psychic torment of closeted gay Beatles manager Brian Epstein (who loved John deeply), it went to the next level. I guess it's impossible to know John's true intentions, but the fact that the surviving Beatles chose this track to soundtrack the touching Epstein video montage in the Anthology series seems to offer at least tentative validation of this theory.

There are many tales of John treating Brian with stinging, offhand cruelty; they shared a deep and complex relationship. But, as ever, beneath Lennon's macho bluster, there beat the heart of a sensitive soul who was capable of an achingly melancholy portrait like this. He knew his friend was hurting, so he sang this song as a special message.

Richard Furnstein: Yeah, it sure was a sensitive soul that changed the lyrics of "Baby You're A Rich Man" to "Baby, you're a rich fag jew" or suggested that Brian's autobiography be titled "A Cellarful of Boys" instead of "A Cellarful of Noise." A sensitive man with a deep soul that picked on developmentally disabled and limbless children on stage. Don't let the "Imagine" repackaging of Lennon fool you, he was full of anger at himself and the world. His ego was constantly either readily crushed or ready to devour and destroy innocents in his path. Still, this song is a goddamned beaut. He finally matches the lyrical weight and simple melodic flow of hero-of-the-period Bob Dylan.

Lennon did admit that he let Epstein "toss him off" in a Barcelona getaway. So maybe that trumps all the tough guy posturing and old guard rock and roll machismo. And this song really does excel through Lennon's gentle touch and soft eyes. It's a look that he turned to more frequently after Help! (the last album that dipped into the legendary rock and roll toilets of Hamburg) and Lennon's soft  persona would come to trump his early rock fury. Even George Harrison gets in on the progressive love action, making eyes at a thick eyebrowed man in the film clip for "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away."

Robert Bunter: As author Nicholas Schaffner pointed out (in his immortal "The Beatles Forever," McGraw-Hill, 1977), Lennon is in Dylan mode here, but right when you'd expect the harmonica to come in, it turns out it's flutes (the first instance of outside musicians brought into a Beatles session, if you don't count George Martin and Andy White).

Richard Furnstein: And I don't. I don't count them. George Martin was a legit Beatle; total inner circle. Don't get me started on Andy White and his pointless thump-for-hire. We should never mention him again.

Robert Bunter: The Beatles really reach out and touch our hearts with this one. They were the greatest band ever. Let Me Tell You About The Beatles would like to dedicate this post to the memory of Brian Epstein and Nicholas Schaffner, in hopeful anticipation of a day when people don't have to hide their love away anymore.

Richard Furnstein: A real tear. Keep resting in peace, Brian!