Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Want You (She's So Heavy)

Richard Furnstein: This is a new phase John Lennon song. The jabberwocky of "Glass Onion" and the blurry poetry of "Strawberry Fields Forever" have been replaced by Lennon The Straight Shooter. "Don't Let Me Down" was one of the first Lennon songs to utilize this new approach, and he would take it to new levels of heavy on Plastic Ono Band. "I Want You" is Lennon writing about Yoko Ono in the style of Yoko Ono. There's a direct line from John bleeding his love all over the floor in fourteen words or less in this song and Yoko's bleating and pleading on "Why?" (a single word chant on her Plastic Ono Band) or "Don't Worry, Kyoko" (a startling two words, "Cold Turkey" b-side). Let's get down to the heart of the matter. It's all S.O.S. or "I love you" when the day is done.

Robert Bunter: It's one of the most overused words in my Beatles vocabulary, but this track is primal. John wants his mother's love, and he believes he's finally found it in Yoko and heroin. The various Lennon masks lay discarded on the floor of his squalid Montague Square flat (on loan from Ringo while John gets Tittenhurst painted completely white) - there's the grinning moptop, the Joycean punster, the Dylanesque sophisticate, the acid prophet, the youth culture sloganeer, the political rabblerouser - all tossed haphazardly aside like so many nickels and dimes. Behind all the personas, there's a terrifying snakepit of madness, hurt, anger and need. "She's So Heavy" evokes this with horror-movie organ chords, moog-generated howling wind noises, hypnotic stupor-inducing length and repetitiveness. By the time this thing ends with a sudden silence, the listener feels like they've spent a year trudging through a frozen tundra. The effect is heightened by the clever sequencing of "Here Comes The Sun" as the next track when you flip the record over. George leads us out of the cold and warmly sets the table for the exhilarating rocket ride of Abbey Road's second side. But as we step on the gas and wipe that tear away, we glance at the rear-view mirror and see a screeching, bearded madman in a pure white funeral suit with bloodshot eyes, his extremities starting to go numb from cold snow and worse things. Jesus!

Richard Furnstein: The Nordic howl and the shivers of cold metal entering your arm. It's a medical condition. "P.S. I Love You." John manages to outdo the lunkhead grooves and hairfaced sleaze of the heavy British bands of the day. Ten Years After couldn't even change the oil in John's bluesmachine. Like most of the songs on Abbey Road rest of The Beatles play their part perfectly. Paul almost steals the show with an hyperactive bass part. George is a master of steely tension and liquid drip guitar riffs. Ringo is yet again the master; he even brought along the congas to spice up the party! And the windchill at the end of the song? That's the sound of all of us entering the void that is tomorrow. Snow blind and kept alive through a precious combination of drugs, food, and love. Will there be enough to get us through the next day? God, I hope so.
John wants his mother's love, and he believes he's finally found it in Yoko and heroin. The various Lennon masks lay discarded on the floor of his squalid Montague Square flat.

Robert Bunter: In an interview, Lennon said "When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone had the foresight to notice me drowning,' you just scream." It's interesting that the closest metaphor he can devise for his love for Yoko is drowning; she's "driving me mad" because "she's so heavy." This is not the same figure who celebrated the youthful joy of love ("She Loves You"), slowly grew to understand it's more sophisticated shadings and nuances ("If I Fell,") or universalized it as a prime focus of human existence ("The Word," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "All You Need Is Love"). The Lennon of "She's So Heavy" finds love has become a ten ton burden instead of a life preserver. The minimalist lyrics are delivered to two listeners. He tells Yoko "I want you so bad," while declaring to the other Beatles and the rest of the world that "she's so heavy." That's pretty much all he had to say at this point, other than "could you please get me more heroin?" and "I want a divorce. I'm splitting up the group." Pretty grim.

Richard Furnstein: Sure, it's grim, but that's life. "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead," is mighty grim, too. It's all coming to an end. Lennon wasn't taking the stability of a little woman love for granted. He had seen that it could go away in an instant. A drunk police officer could run over your mother or your wife could be a minute late for the train to India. Humans just have to dodge and sway the obstacles of life and hope they wind up living out their final days in a lovely cottage on the Isle of Wight. Lennon is screaming at us to live and love now. The abrupt ending was the result of John telling Geoff Emerick to "cut it right there." John was playing God, quickly lowering the curtain on the first act of the final play. The Beatles' catalog was full of these moments of happy accidents. They dialed past a performance of King Lear that was broadcast on the BBC, providing gravitas to the absurd death dance of "I Am The Walrus." "Revolution 9" was almost entirely composed of these blink and you miss it moments that define creativity. "Cut it right there" says everything about Lennon's head circa 1969. The song was long enough already. They could have maintained the ritual of the lurching riff forever but they eventually had to snip the tape.

So heavy.

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