Thursday, July 19, 2012

Think For Yourself

Richard Furnstein: What to say about this one? George sneaks another minor key, grouchpuss, slightly aggressive song into The Beatles non-stop party. However, this time he dresses the song up in the finest dancing clothes. Paul applies a wobbly fuzz bass, which lacks any real sustain or depth. Ringo piles a bunch of fun percussion all over this track (one of my favorite features of the Rubber Soul album). John and Paul toss a pile of sweet harmonies over George's awkward delivery on his sneering verses ("you've got time to rectify all the things that you should"). But, gosh, listen to the rude drive of the chorus. George is pissed again: let's dance!

Robert Bunter: George's mind had been opened to new levels of reality by Ravi Shankar and marijuanabis. Looking down at the rest of humanity from the lofty perch of his elevated consciousness, he sees a bunch of ugly kids and square adults. "Think For Yourself" (like "Don't Bother Me" before it) is ostensibly about a romantic relationship, but really it's George addressing his audience. "Leave me alone, you stink," he seems to say. "I'm not interested in anything but God and my wife and my Carl Perkins records." Pretty soon he's even going to lose interest in the Beatles. Good for him. I hope he managed to achieve some kind of mental nirvana while he was stinking up the world's greatest records with garbage like "For You Blue" and "The Inner Light." Praise the Lord!

Richard Furnstein: The sixties were a free wheelin' time, but you still had to hide your disdain for human beings in a cloak of misogyny and sneering judgment. This was famously John's edgy mode ("Run For Your Life" he warned a lowly woman/all humans), but George would prove to be the king of misguided anger. "I've got a word or two to say about the things that you do" he sneers, sounding like a stepfather grabbing your ear before you head off to the snooker match with the boys. George was all too happy to climb to the top of the mountain as The Beatles matured. However, his goal wasn't cosmic enlightenment, he just wanted to get away from the fat, ugly people waddling around the gift shop at base camp.

Robert Bunter: The raw session tapes for this song have leaked, and they provide a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. You can hear the boys (well, three of them - Ringo is inaudible since it was a vocal tracking session) descend into locker-room humor and wacky voices, pausing every so often to go to the bathroom. When they return, they're coughing and sniffling loudly and making oblique references to "lighting the torch." Personally, I would have loved the chance to goof about with these charming lads, but I can guarantee you I'd be utterly incapable of keeping up. They would have sneered at me and had Mal Evans escort me right the hell out of Abbey Road. Even in my fantasy world I know that the brotherly camraderie of these geniuses was a closed circle, with no room for a homely young fan. George would have looked over at me on my way out the door while he thickly sang, "Do what you want to do / and go where you're going to" and then John would have lit a fart. It's my fantasy but I'm keeping it honest. These are the facts.

George would mount this judgemental, hectoring steed many more times over his career, but never as charmingly as he does here.
Richard Furnstein: This is a great point. It is almost a gift to approach The Beatles as a legacy. I can't imagine comprehending and adjusting to these advanced human beings during the time of impact (much less joining them in mind altering trips to the bathroom). They always had a leg up on the rest of the human race. "You sing? Neat, we're better. Oh, cool hair. Maybe you should grow it out. See, our haircuts are great. You like these new boots? They are named after my band." It must have been absolutely humiliating for all involved. I can barely deal with the feelings of inadequacy now and I'm a grown man in a new century. At least we can look back on the impact of The Beatles and reason that they were the result of a different time (extreme acts from ancient black and white human beings like Hitler's pure evil and Einstein's baffling theories). We have the benefit of trying to live up to new and increasingly shoddy pop culture standards.

Robert Bunter: That's right. Kids of today probably have no difficulty imagining themselves fitting in comfortably at the Animal Collective studio tracking sessions or at Ron Jon's Surf Shop with Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder. The bar has been lowered.

Anyway, "Think For Yourself" represents the dawning of a new growth for sullen George Harrison and his thick, phlegmy voice. The other Beatles, as usual, elevate the proceedings, but the real star here is the Dark Horse on his high horse. George would mount this judgemental, hectoring steed many more times over his career, but never as charmingly as he does here.

Original Beatles fan art by Nate Johnson (

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