Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Richard Furnstein: "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" is the end of the line, the final stop on The Beatles' Hamburg express. It was a road littered with backstage weisswursts and quaalude smoothies; four boys trying to match the raw buzz of their beloved rock and roll singles. The Help! album was the last hurrah of a floppy haired rock band--before the sound of sitars filled the room and love and money complicated lives instead of simply fulfilling teenage fantasies. "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" is the sound of young men who were still satisfied with the sound of drums bouncing off of unpainted walls, smoky guitar parts, and shredding your throat because it is the last song. The retreat to the studio and from their former selves really began with Rubber Soul and its sophisticated arrangements. Sgt. Pepper's would be the full realization of the artificial world of tape and echo. Sure, they'd try to revisit the primordial wail on Let It Be, but the love was gone. Why would they retreat to the limited palette of early rock and roll when they have climbed the highest mountain of Pepperland. So long, dear friends.

 Robert Bunter: Yeah, it’s pretty raw. A basic 12-bar blues with a repetitive guitar riff, ape-man cymbal assault, screeching vocal through a slapback delay. You’re right that the Beatles didn’t manage to recapture the youthful magic on the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, but it wasn’t all that much later that Lennon managed to re-invent this song in a much more successful way at the “Live Peace In Toronto 1969” concert event. Hairy-scary beardo junkie John in the pure white suit and bloodshot eyes, screeching “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” with Klaus Voorman and Clapton on guitar while Yoko writhed around in a bag. Whoo-whee! SHAKE IT! That was a spectacle intense enough to make those long-ago Hamburg weisswursts look like demure cocktail wieners. The point is, this song has always been terrifying. It sticks out like a sore, infected thumb on “Help!” among the gentle acousticism, McCartney pop, Harrison flops and George Martin piano riffs.

Richard Furnstein: Well, sure, the Toronto version is a horrorshow. Lennon was entering his thirties in half vampire/half Howard Hughes mode, trying to capture some of the vital life essence of his younger years. It's easy to interpret his smacked out Toronto performance of "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" as more than a "Rock and Roll Revival," it was a desperate attempt to ground himself as his childhood friendships and the juvenile comforts of The Beatles years were rapidly dissolving. He would later calmy assert "I just believe in me/Yoko and me," but that performance of "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" suggests that all he could count on was fear and isolation. Look at that man screaming into the void ahead of him. The stage fright filtered through a blitz of drugs and destroyed ego. Lennon's cagey behavior in the footage of that concert suggest a broken man who, while adored by the world, couldn't face a crowd of simple Canadians without being held up by his famous friends and his eccentric wife. It's Lennon doing "his new thing," but it's essentially his old thing (just sloppier). He would later package the set (along with a stirring version of "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)" as Live Peace, but the evidence suggests anything but peace. It's a portrait of a thirty year old man at war with himself. Give peace a chance, John.

That was a spectacle intense enough to make those long-ago Hamburg weisswursts look like demure cocktail wieners.

Robert Bunter: The Beatles sure did love Larry Williams. They covered three of his songs, perhaps more than any other artist: “Bad Boy,” “Slow Down” and “Lizzy.” Without the Beatles’ kudos and admiration (not to mention all the generous royalty cheques!), he would have perhaps died in penniless obscurity. As it stands, I’m not sure how he died, or anything else about his life, really. I keep getting him mixed up with Andre Williams, who recorded “Bacon Fat.” The important thing is that the Beatles loved him. They probably rushed to the record shop eagerly to greet each new release, pushing each other out of the way in the queue, waving fistfuls of cash at the hapless clerks. “’Ere then, give us the new Larry Williams, mate!” Then they would rush home to their dank flat and listen to them excitedly. Larry Williams may have died (I am unsure), but his memory will always live on, in vivid recollections like that one.

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