Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?

Richard Furnstein: Paul gets downright frisky in this offering for The White Album's "zoo side." Paul was inspired to write "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" after watching monkeys copulate on the road in India. Most people would just stash that story away and bring it out for emergency filler at a dinner party, but Paul was driven to write one of his most boring songs after the incident. Like many of the songs on The White Album, the simplicity of "WDWDIITR" seems to be a response to the ornate and meticulous production of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles' bare boned production works best with the emotionally direct ("Julia," "I Will") and lacerating ("Helter Skelter," "Yer Blues") numbers, but makes the thinner material feel even more underfed and unloved. It is is hard to find much to dig on this one. Ths song goes on way too long (for a song clocking in at 102 seconds) and feels like it is in sharp decline after the thinly recorded power fills in the song's introduction.

Robert Bunter: The key word here is filler. McCartney, the most naturally gifted of the Beatles, was always more than willing to include something half-baked or tossed off. Go dig up any interview where he discusses his solo debut McCartney and you'll find a rather convincing defense of this type of padding. Sticks-in-the-mud see laziness and the need for a harsh editor (like staid, conservatory-trained producer George Martin or the brisk impatience and short attention span of a John Lennon), but Paul says, "Hey, don't be so dismissive. Have a second look at this funny little ditty. Sure, it's no 'Hey Jude' or 'Yesterday,' but what do you want? A whole album full of unassailable brilliance? We already did that three times (A Collection of Beatle Oldies, Beatles '65, Revolver). Why don't you enjoy this sprawling two-disc set in all its incohate glory?" I would say he's got a point. I'll take "That Would Be Something," "Wild Honey Pie," "WDWDIITR" and "Smile Away," thank you. I hope you enjoy your golden platter consisting entirely of lobster, caviar, truffles and wagyu Kobe beef. It's a little rich, don't you think? I've got potatoes and some sardines over here. They get the job done.

Richard Furnstein: I see what you mean, Paulheads have to accept that he's going to throw up some lightweight material at times. You can't have a "Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five" without taking on some "Zoo Gang." Like "Take It Away"? Great, but don't forget to nosh on some "Ode To A Koala Bear" for fiber. This is the man facing the great unknown with the tape rolling. It's almost as if Paul has to shake loose the fragments and ditties to get to the tender meat stuff that will make grown men weep. What are the alternatives? Dealing with George Harrison and his lyrical hysterics and swampy major sevenths? Listen, I get the process, but "Do It Road" kind of stinks.

Robert Bunter: Your honor, I object. Robert Bunter for the defense: if you're willing to grant the acceptiblity and necessity of McCartney's throwaway material, I think you've got a real gem here. Exhibit A: a glorious, throat-shredding vocal performance like only Paul can deliver. Exhibit B: a great extraneous noise (the off-mike "hah?" at :16). The Beatles were geniuses when it came to extraneous noises ("Lovely Rita," for example) and this is a great one. Exhibit C: the lyric. It's Paul showing off his bad-boy side (he would do it again with "Hi Hi Hi" and the likes). It's also strange: why doesn't he talk about doing it on the road? It's because "in the road" sounds more cryptic and unsettling, and the White Album is nothing if not cryptic and unsettling. I'm going to stop numbering the exhibits now - I'd just like to add that it makes a nice contrast with "I Will" which follows and the bass line is totally ill.

Thank God for the wonderful Beatles and their interminable, ponderous White Album and the stupid piece of unpalatable swill that is "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."
Richard Furnstein: Listen, I hear you. I get the "cryptic and unsettling" bit; "WDWDIITR" fits in nicely with the sinewy weeds that reach into the windows of "Cry Baby Cry," "Everybody's Got Something To Hide," and "Long Long Long." I'll take McCartney filler all day, sir. I just don't think I can comfortably swallow this plate of cold, dry spaghetti. Sure, the real meat is right around the corner. Want beauty and depth? Dig into "I Will" and "Julia." "WDWDIITR" is just another station on the weird roadway of The White Album. It is ultimately vulnerable to the "what if" debate that has always followed this double album. But Gosh, let's just give it a pass. It's The Beatles Bloody White Album, ferchrissake.

Robert Bunter: Right, that's what I'm saying. If the Beatles and George Martin had trimmed the double-LP fat to leave behind "a really super single album" (Martin's phrase), they would have lessened the White Album's considerable impact. It's dense and difficult, with sinister undercurrents, bizarre non-sequiturs and melancholy moods. Think of it this way: the Martin-approved single LP White Album (my guess: Back In The USSR / While My Guitar Gently Weeps / Dear Prudence / Mother Nature's Son / Revolution 1 / Martha My Dear / Sexy Sadie / Helter Skelter / I'm So Tired / Blackbird / Ob-La-Di / Julia / Cry Baby Cry / I Will) would have been a widely-acknowledged masterpiece, and the leftovers would have emerged as a fascinating collection of bootleg tracks. But they made the right choice. Thank God for the wonderful Beatles and their interminable, ponderous White Album and the stupid piece of unpalatable swill that is "Why Don't We Do It In The Road." [claps hands slowly in disgusted, sarcastic applause]

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