Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Robert Bunter: Hoo boy. Rubber Soul just got really sophisticated. We're talking about mature attitudes, adult problems, exotic instruments, evocative scale patterns. We're talking about the changing dynamics of male-female relationships in the early blush of pre-feminist role confusion. Forget about "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You," teen-bopper - John is not going to be happy until the two of you have made adult love, and probably not even then. He's just going to ponder your frustrated encounter and write a beautiful song about it. Then he's going to burn down your stupid apartment. That's what "So / I lit a fire" is about. He later revealed that in an interview.

Richard Furnstein: That's right. The Boys are all grown up. They held your hand, but only when they were luring you away from the bar to have adult sexual encounters in your cheaply furnished apartment (that's what "Norwegian Wood" is, think Ikea and dimming halogen lamps). You're a liberated chick right (or "Bird," if you want us to walk you through this entire process)? Cool, then adult sex is just what the doctor ordered. Cuddling ain't on the menu, I'd rather sleep in your bathtub than curl up in your princess bed. No offense, I'm just a complicated rock star.

Robert Bunter: Complicated. That's exactly the feeling. "I've got a lot on me mind, dear. I've been experimenting with mind-expanding drugs, writing songs with Paul McCartney and buying a house. Did I mention I have a wife and child? There's a lot for me to deal with right now, and your coy flirtations and manipulative games are not helping." Much speculation has circulated that "Norwegian Wood" was written about John's affair with journalist Maureen Cleave - HERE she is flirting with Bob Dylan. That must have been some crazy evening. Soft light, a frisky Beaujolais paired with smoked kippers, French cigarettes from a brass pocket case, Donovan's latest on the hi-fi. Maureen whispers something, John mumbles and adjusts his sunglasses...

Richard Furnstein: I feel like I'm watching the intimate details of mating rituals on some late night PBS special on the honey badger. It's simultaneously tender, primal, practical, and savage. "Norwegian Wood" seems to discuss the foibles of the western male--all unfocused sexual energy and swagger--colliding with the promise of sexual independence and release promised to all young women in the rock and roll wars. Your downfall is either drink or women. You either sleep in the bath because you are too drunk to know any better or you fear intimacy that advances past the frilly things. It's a N.O.W. badge come to life, fitting awkwardly in the realities of late nights, surging hormones, fame lust, and sexual manipulation.

You're a liberated chick, right? Cool, then adult sex is just what the doctor ordered.

One thing I was never clear on: should this song make you feel sad for the characters? Is it just a numb slice-o-life commentary? Where do you stand, Bunter? Is it more "Good Morning" than "She's Leaving Home"?

Robert Bunter: Wow, great question. You've cut right to the heart of the matter. I think we're dealing with John's marijuana-induced emotional detachment. He is not sure how to regard the woman, the situation or himself. So, he presents us with this gauzy, impressionistic series of vague images and leaves out the conclusions and emotions. There is a sort of sadness here, but it's evoked by the absence of emotion rather than its presence. None of McCartney's deftly-betugged heartstrings for this old boy (who I like to call Johnny "Moondog" Lennon). He's just going to serve you up a raw plate of painful reality and let you draw your own conclusions. The road to "A Day In The Life," the ultimate masterpiece of aching detachment, starts here.

Richard Furnstein: Let's put a bow on this one, because this is another gift to the faithful readers. I would like to recognize the use of sitar on the track (hard to believe that George was able to manage good taste in his early days on that yawning, cranky beast of an instrument). George picked up the sitar after seeing musicians cradling the stringed monsters on the set of Help! George must have incredible luck pulling new sensations from movie sets. His first wife and renowned Best Looking Beatles Wife Patti Boyd was a fringe benefit from the shooting of A Hard Day's Night. Any idea if he pulled anything interesting in the shooting of Let It Be?

Robert Bunter: An old brown shoe. Hahahahahahahahahaha!

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