Friday, December 30, 2011

If I Fell

Richard Furnstein: Good old soppy John Lennon has written a love song, or as close as a love song as he could get at this fragile early stage. He's offering up his heart to a young lady but can't stop bringing up his heartache from a recent relationship. The song quickly goes from the tender sentiment of the first verse to complete emotional insecurity and mind games. John's desire to love is trumped only by his desire to get back at his ex-girlfriend. "So I hope that you see that I would love to love you and that she will cry when she learns we are two" is such an incredibly twisted line. This is young love with an eye towards the rear view mirror. Hold me closer, tiny dancer. That girl that broke my heart is watching us...

Robert Bunter: You’re right about the lyrics – John’s still dealing from a deck stacked with anger, jealousy, spite, uncertainty and betrayal, thanks to his childhood traumas. But for me, the most noteworthy elements here are the musical construction and vocal performance. The melody and chord progression are just utterly lovely, the opening bars are an early example of the Beatles’ career-long habit of starting songs with an arresting intro, and the graceful Lennon/McCartney vocal duet is a small miracle of intuition. This melody would be completely beautiful as a solo Lennon vocal. It would also sound great with George chiming in on some gooey three-part chord stacking a la “This Boy.” A straight duet would have been nice, as well. Yet with their typically unerring instinct for perfection, they decided to use a combination of nicely harmonized lines and unison passages. Mark Hertzgaard described this as sounding like “two meadow hawks, gently gliding around each other” or something like that (I have the book in the car but I don’t feel like going down to get it), and I’ve never been able to listen to this song without remembering that beautiful image. He also described the piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane as sounding like a hummingbird who pauses briefly before a flower before hovering away in delightful patterns. What is this, “Wide World of Animals?” Nice imagery, Hertzgaard, and great song, Beatles.

John’s still dealing from a deck stacked with anger, jealousy, spite, uncertainty and betrayal, thanks to his childhood traumas.

Richard Furnstein: Without a doubt, you are right. Hertzgaard is right. The birds are right. You don't think hawks understand love? Spend some time at a bird sanctuary, son. You'll see beauty, joy, trust issues, in-flight doing it, and other emotional improbabilities. It's all here and dressed up in the loveliest arrangement and recording that The Beatles had yet attempted (yep, that includes "This Boy" and "And I Love Her"). Lennon gives it one of his single best melodies and this one goes in the all time Lennon file along with "Instant Karma" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." Absolute perfection.

Robert Bunter: What else is there to say? I remember the first time I heard this track, as a young man listening to a radio on a Saturday evening near a fireplace in Drexel Hill. Even at the age of seven, I recognized the presence of sophisticated adult emotions that I had no business knowing about yet. I was given to know the bewitching enchantment and paralyzing uncertainty of love. I remember jotting down some notes in my primitive child’s handwriting on the inner pages of my well-worn Trapper Keeper. I still have the paper … it says: “Bewitching enchantment … paralyzing uncertainty … consult Hertzgaard for bird similies,” and then underneath that there’s a drawing of a man sitting on a whoopee cushion and it says “BLAAAAAAT!” coming out of the seat. Those wonderful childhood days have passed, but this immortal song will never go away. Listen to it now, friends, and celebrate the beauty. Happy new year, Rich. 

Richard Furnstein: And a ding dong ding dong to you, too. 

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