Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Across The Universe (World Wildlife Fund Version)

Richard Furnstein: Good morning, the Beatles. Let's open the curtains, it's a lovely day. Some flapping birds and maybe a frog jumping into a crick. Wait, who is that cosmic specter at the window? John Lennon? The National Health glasses seem to tell the tale. And he's singing a song and it is WEIRD.

Robert Bunter: John Lennon's spirit was a collection of contradictions, taken to the farthest extremes. The same wracked, tortured freak who upset everybody with “I Am The Walrus,” “Yer Blues,” and “Revolution 9” is equally likely to calm us all down with a blissful, gauzy dreamscape like “Across The Universe.” I really love it! This is a beautiful mood that we can all get into.

Richard Furnstein: The World Wildlife Fund version of "Across The Universe" strips away the Phil Spector molasses to get down to the essentials (if you choose to ignore the cheap sound effects and squawking female backing vocals, which I suggest you do). There's a lot to enjoy in this song, meandering Lennon poetry (initially inspired by Cynthia Lennon's nagging), half baked spiritualism, and a gliding acoustic guitar that matches the cloudy brained lyric.

Robert Bunter: People don’t usually mention this one in the same breath with the heavy Lennon classics like “Strawberry Fields” and “A Day In The Life,” but it belongs there. I think it’s a major achievement. Lennon reportedly felt slighted by McCartney’s production ideas (basically, “Let’s do it really loose and sloppy, with a second-rate vocal track and then we’ll bring in some random girls to squawk on top of it, OK?”), but what does that have to do with anything? Was John so blissed out and lethargic that he didn’t have the gumption to insist on a higher-quality production concept? It was probably one of those passive-aggressive, poor communication things. Smiling Paul with his loose, anything-goes recording philosophy (except you’ll notice he was never quite so experimental when it was time to do something like “Hey Jude” or “Hello, Goodbye”) meets heavy-lidded, inscrutable John who is off on a cloud and just waiting for the group to break up anyway so that he can get on with his inferior post-Beatle life.

Richard Furnstein: An inferior life that included lots of squawking girl vocals and dodgy mantras (Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé).

Robert Bunter: But that’s not all. You’ve got surly, pimply George with his dusky complexion and second-rate moustache sitting in a lotus position in the corner, just reeking of bad vibes. And then there’s Ringo, whose benign attitude and hangdog mug masked even greater insecurities. You can just sit there, Ringo. No drums on this one. Plus, a disgusted George Martin behind the producer’s glass window, frowning at this group of talented yet emotionally immature young men who were in the process of throwing away their greatest gifts because they couldn’t apply the messages they sang about so beautifully (love, peace, harmony, communication) to their own dysfunctional lives. The next thing that happened was, John got his revenge on Paul by adding the shoddy phasing effects to the mono mix of Your Mother Should Know. Everything goes in cycles. That’s what’s happening here.

Richard Furnstein: Your timeline is off and I don’t appreciate that cruel speculation. You know my thoughts on the mono mix of “Your Mother Should Know.”

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