Monday, August 29, 2011

And Your Bird Can Sing

Robert Bunter: Oh yeah! Now we're talking! Whooo-WHEE. SHAKE IT! This is truly the peak moment of The Beatles. Right after the last chord stopped ringing in the control room after the final mixdown playback, the inexorable, surging wave of improvement and electrifying energy blasts that was The Beatles' Amazing Career finally broke and started to roll back. The lads still had a few good innings left to play, and plenty of tricks were still up their sleeves, but they would be played on a slightly lower field. You only get one chance in life to knock it so far out of the park that the goddamn baseball achieves escape velocity and heads right up into space orbit, into the center of the smiling sun, and this was when the Beatles took that chance. God was there and He caught that "ball" with practiced ease and the slightest hint of a smile at the corner of His mouth. He nodded and thought to Himself, "That'll do, Johnny. That'll do fine."

Richard Furnstein: Good almighty, put on the mono version right now. Paul's bass is like a locomotive, tearing through boring British homes. He's exposing the pipes, you see Uncle Corky eating his crisps with tea. It's all over. Hey mankind, your dream was boring and inadequate and John and Paul wrote a new script and it rules so get in line or die. This is the future, man.

Robert Bunter: Beatles are the best band. Revolver is the best record. "And Your Bird Can Sing" is the best song. The blog is over. From here on in, it's all downhill and writeups about the Marvelettes covers on side nine of the Beatles At The Beeb bootleg box. Do I really have to dissect this wondrous thing? OK - the band is firing on all cylinders. The guitars are blasting out electric harmony parts while Ringo flogs the topside of the Ludwig ThunderTubs. Paul's bass is a locomotive, as you correctly noted. George's solo recontextualizes the universe of critical possibilities into new and compulsive color-shards. John and Paul sing harmonies that just make you want to die. And John's lyric uses the full power of his linguistic inventiveness and psychedelic flights of fancy. On paper, it's gibberish, but when you hear it sung (turn it up, man, turn it up!), the meaning(s?) is (are?) crystal clear. He's being accusatory, smug, self-assured, enigmatic, yet the whole thing is undeniably joyous. Get with the program.

Richard Furnstein: You are correct, my oldest friend. I don't tell you often enough, but I love you. To me, "Bird Can Sing" is one of The Beatles' under analyzed "reflections of rich dudes" songs. It's an elite group that includes gems like "Can't Buy Me Love," "Baby You're A Rich Man," "All You Need Is Love," and most of George's reflective material. The Beatles knew they were the hottest poop in the universe and were rich to boot. They slowly start to realize that there is more out there than cash, sleeping with Joan Baez, and wearing really cool clothes. There was love out there and peace and understand and curry. John seems to be singing to his fellow rich men who have it all, including a "bird that can sing." Hello, Marianne Faithfull. Come right in, Linda Eastman. We've been expecting you, Yoko Ono. Yes, the adolescent minds in The Beatles are simultaneously trying to expand (cue the sitars) while staying true to their schoolboy purpose (cue Chuck Berry lick). Girls? Shit, they can join the band. Get in the booth, honey. What can possibly go wrong? It's such an innocent idea that foreshadows the increasing rift as Yoko insisted on sitting next to John when he was in the toilet and Linda's father tried to get a slice of The Beatles' management pie.

Open a window, it smells like childhood pies.
Sure, your bird can sing, boys, but maybe let it squawk in silence. Yet, here we have The Beatles at their prime touting the virtues of money, culture, free love, and luxury automobiles. And it's beautiful. Open a window, it smells like childhood pies.

Robert Bunter: Hmmm ... I never really considered your girls-joining-the-band angle, although there's enough ambiguity here for many interpretations. I always heard the lyric as a Dylanesque put-down of a poor little rich girl who thinks she's Miss Sand but doesn't really know where it's at, like "Queen Jane Approximately" for example. But, you know the old trick of lyric analysis: you just turn it around. "Sure, Dylan was writing a series of withering insults about the fools that he saw everywhere he looked. But, really, on a deeper level, wasn't he really writing about ... HIMSELF?!" Viewed from this angle, I can get behind your "reflections of a rich dude" angle. Lennon's prize possessions (deluxe Vox organ stand, mahogany bookcase, colorful Rolls-Royce, rare art collection, novelty gag gifts) are really weighing him down. "You may be awoken / I'll be round," actually the voice of Yoko, singing to and through John from the future? It's not outside the realm of possibility.

Richard Furnstein: Exactly. Who will be awoken? And when? And how? Cue sitars. It's an exciting prospect: John Lennon, on the edge of "Strawberry Fields" and "A Day In The Life," considering the effects of his mind on the world (and possibly himself, consider the upcoming acid madness of Syd Barrett). It's the brash and dramatic dealings of an insecure genius, and we're still trying to catch up.

The resulting track is perhaps the band's most perfect recording. And this time I think I'm right.

Robert Bunter: You're not going to get any argument from me about that one. Now we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'll give you a hint: it's old and brown.

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