Thursday, July 14, 2011


Robert Bunter: One thing I really like about this song, besides the fact that it's like sweet audio butter that melts deliciously in my brainpan, is that it represents the Beatles just being Beatles (circa 1969) the very best they could. They weren't parodying the music of another era ("Oh, Darling!," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer") or writing about themselves ("You Never Give Me Your Money," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". It's just some vintage cosmic Lennon wordplay, sweetened with some vintage beautiful McCartney/Harrison harmonies, buoyed by some vintage harpsichords, topped with some vintage primal Moog synthesizer tones.

Richard Furnstein: That's a great point. "Because" is The Beatles at their most sophisticated. It's a gorgeous and classical song with very modern touches (the aforementioned Moog) and an unusual progressive feel. The story goes that Yoko was playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano (don't be so shocked; she went to Sarah Lawrence and came from money). John heard the C#m lurch and requested that she play the chord sequence backwards. It's not just a good story, it's an effective metaphor for the unusual sound of this song. The chords go backwards--and yet point to the future. Like a time traveler crashing his jalopy of a vessel into a Victorian garden. It's the twee "throw back the clock" promise of Sgt. Pepper's realized without the garish psychedelic dressing.

Robert Bunter: One thing this song is missing: Ringo! I can imagine him adding a sweet spoken passage, a la Good Night. It would be during the synthesizer solo, and he would say this: "Who knows why the world is round? Wot if a tree fell in the woods and no one was there to listen? Wot if they gave a war and nobody came? Things are more like they are now than they’ve ever been before. It's one of the many mysteries of the cosmic universe" or something like that, in his inimitable Liverpool accent.

That’s a great point. Wait: no, it isn’t.

Richard Furnstein: The message of "Because" is clear: Love is timeless: it's a finely tailored suit embracing raw emotion. An orphaned working class British child can have his world changed by an avant Japanese lady who cares more about screams and liberal arts fartery than Chuck Berry riffery.

Robert Bunter: That’s a great point. Wait: no, it isn’t. I’m not sure what one thing has to do with the other. But still – this is a great example of Lennon’s beautiful, dreamy side. His wit and cleverness are ever-present, yet baby-simple. He’s gazing at the slowly revolving reference frames of our ever-shifting natural world (spinning globe, blue skies, high winds) through the dazed, narcotized eyes of a sleepy, smiling infant who’s been fed one of those morphine-laced teething formulas that they used to give to babies in 1911 before they realized how harmful that was.

Richard Furnstein: Speaking of harmful: how about the complete shift in the musical understanding of this song following the Anthology alternate mix? Anthology provided a gorgeous acapella version of this song, which highlighted the angelic voices of our snarl-toothed heroes while forsaking the minor key tension and innovative arrangements that truly elevated the recording. Two vocal only versions emerged after the Anthology version: an Elliot Smith cover in The Royal Tenenbaums and the opening birds in the reverb tank version that opened the underrated Love stage production soundtrack. Hey, I love the voices of John, George, and Paul more than anyone else, but let's not forget that a weird and beautiful song lives underneath those suspended vocals.

Robert Bunter: I have nothing to add. Another triumph!


  1. Sorry to to be trivial, Elliott Smiths version is over the credits to American Beauty. His "needle in the hay" is in Royal Tenenbaums. There is , however, a lovely instrumental version of "hey jude" during the opening scene. Your writings bring me pure joy, thank you!

  2. Blimey! Thanks, Foggy. I'm sorry for mixing up a good movie with one of the worst of the times. Paper bag in the wind my arse!