Friday, September 16, 2011


Robert Bunter: The "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single was released on 6/10/66 (four days after the birth of ace guitarist Steve Vai), two months before the appearance of the Revolver LP. That means "Rain" can be definitively marked as the moment the world learned of the Beatles' psychedelic revolution. They were leaving everybody in the dust. Everybody had just finished growing their hair out and twisting to the primitive rock of the early albums ... suddenly, Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul taught us all that we need to learn about smoking reefers and complex adult emotional situations. That's certainly going to take some getting used to. Well, don't get to comfortable. Your head is about to get whipped back violently when you spin this new one. "Paperback Writer" is, like, Paul being Paul, but somehow he's doing it twenty levels higher than he's ever done before. But when you flip the record over, you're staring Lennon in the face and his pupils are dilated to the size of funhouse mirrors. Complex molecules are coursing through his rapid bloodstream and he sounds slowed down and speeded up at the same time, and he's talking about how people react to the weather but you know he's really talking about the essential unity between the internal and external universe of experience, but how do you know that? You've never had thoughts like that before, you're only fifteen years old. And why do your legs suddenly feel like they're vibrating with motionless internal thrumming, like a bell that was just rung but instead of becoming still the vibrations just get stronger as it goes on?

Richard Furnstein: Ah, yes. The times were a-changing approach. Dad just figured out how to sniff out the reefer on their weekend clothes and then old Tommy and Alice started dropping purple windowpane segments. No grisly evidence. "Eat your cornflakes, love. Your eyes look sickly." "Why don't you sit on a cornflake and eat your semolina pilchard, Dad. I'm not hungry anymore. I don't have to eat your square corporate flakes and evaporating milk, dragonface.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, it was like that show “The Wonder Years.” Ringo famously said that he felt inspired by otherworldly forces when he recorded “Rain’s” unbelievable drum track (“I know me, I know my drumming … and then there’s “Rain.”). It is certainly a great drum track, but I think Ringo’s giving himself short shrift. He recorded plenty of great drum tracks. You know who else did? (whispers): Paul McCartney. Here’s what really happened: Ringo was sleeping off a night of “the jazz Woodbines” and a few too many “crisps” and beans. He’s passed out on the sofa where Mal Evans is usually sleeping in Furnstein’s write-ups. George gently covers his ears, Paul sits at the drum throne and does the track, John smiles sardonically and nods his giant head in grim approval from the control room. When he woke up, he thought he’d done it. Hey, it was the ‘60s. Nobody’s keeping score, right? In every subsequent interview when Ringo marveled with astonished humility about his burst of inspiration, Paul was suppressing giggles in the other corner of the room. Ringo always wondered why but didn’t ask any questions for fear of learning the truth, a truth which, maybe, deep down, he already knew. What’s the difference? “It’s just a state of mind.” That’s what this song is really about.

Richard Furnstein: A titillating scenario, to be sure. It would explain Ringo's utter confusion over the genesis of this (admittedly) sloppy and overblown track. Give me the thwacking on "Hey Jude" any day (or for a little Paul brilliance, the killer endless drum fill on "Dear Prudence"). Don't look so bewildered, Ringo. Close your mouth, fix your motor cap, and thank the man when he says you are a great drummer. It doesn't do you any good to look with wonder at your inanimate drum sticks. They can't provide you answers.

Robert Bunter: How dare you! I was kidding. Never doubt the power of Ringo, that’s lesson number one in Beatlemaniacal primary school. I could point out the uniform excellence of all the instruments, voices, lyrics and production on this track, but you’ve heard it all before. Schaffner called it “a vintage Lennon mind game,” which sums it up perfectly. I love the way this song makes my brain feel. Richard, what do you think of the stereo mix? I’ve been listening to this thing in headphones all morning. It’s pretty extreme, like most of the stereo mixes, but I’m not really against it. The vocal harmonies tickle my right eardrum and the separation is beneficial to the tambourine.

Richard Furnstein: I gave him proper consideration. I'm just not putting "Rain" in the holy trinity, Bob.

I'm not hungry anymore. I don't have to eat your square corporate flakes and evaporating milk, dragonface.

The stereo version? Must I? Okay, let me dig it out. Well, it at least has the drums front and center in both channels. John's vocal is buried to the left, furthering adding to the transistor radio vocal effect. Hell, this isn't bad, but what do I expect with The Beatles. It's actually got a bit more pop than the mono version, which emphasizes the vocal and tambo tracks a touch more. The drums seem a bit less like an overgrown monster tearing through the garden in mono as well. Hey man, it's all here for us to enjoy.

Robert Bunter: Ha! You fell for it. The mono mix is inarguably superior because of the bass frequency response and the added clarity on the tom-toms. Sorry to break it to you, but you’ve been Buntered again! Word to the wise: Beatles stereo mixes stink, get with the program.

Richard Furnstein: I'll get you in the end.