Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Michelle

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.

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