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.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with Furn here, this is the type of tune that makes me wish i could do drugs and not go into severe paranoia and just write cool songs. This is one of George's best if you ask me

    "no need to take the fast train to the land of spin out"

    Senior quote of the year,Furn!