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!

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