Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Here, There, And Everywhere

Robert Bunter: Paul McCartney’s ambition ranged beyond his generational peers; he longed to number himself among the great songsmiths of the 20th century. This was an admirable goal, but it occasionally led him to churn out subpar hat-and-cane soft shoe shufflers like “When I’m 64,” “Your Mother Should Know” and “Honey Pie” (not to mention a whole festering pile of rooty-toot solo tracks). He got it right with “Here There And Everywhere,” though. This is a song that has a structural integrity and verbal cleverness that ranks right up there with the finer work of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, yet it never descends into preciousness or nostalgia. The emotional core is pure and direct, not at all diluted by such trickery as having each verse begin with a separate word from the title, the non-repeated introductory prelude, the unorthodox harmonic modulations and having the bridge lyrics segue seamlessly into the succeeding verse. In the hands of a less-deft songwriter these would come off as showy gimmicks, but McCartney manages to evoke the benevolent warmth that the best Beatle music always does.

Richard Furnstein: A shimmering beauty. It's certainly up there with (its point of inspiration) "God Only Knows" as The Greatest Love Song In World History. Both songs share a similar quality of being at once complex and simple, although Tony Asher's lyrics for "God Only Knows" aim for a much deeper sentiment than "Here, There, And Everywhere."

Anyway, we're lucky that Paul McCartney plucked this song from the heavenly clouds of eternal genius when he did because the Revolver-era Beatles were particularly well suited to record this track. A swell of harmonies raise a glowing banner over the opening lines, before Ringo's gentle cracking leads us into a comforting chord sequence. Paul casts some shadows with a well place F#m ("wave of her hand") before settling back into a comforting tin-pan alley stroll. The performance is a lovely demonstration of restraint. Just listen to the crackle of John's bad boy rhythm guitar and George's sugar glider guitar leads. And then, all of a sudden, the "perfectly lovely" tune accelerates on the milky mile and blasts through the galaxy (right at the moment of "I want her everywhere") as Paul expertly changes key and mood. John and Paul would regularly claim they were just uneducated brutes taking a stab at writing some tunes, as if it was all about stealing some girl group melodies and throwing in some joker chords. That chorus isn't the work of some dumb cavemen, it's pure wonder.

Robert Bunter: Paul's love songs often take the long view - where John tended to be galvanized or tortured by the intense emotions of the immediate present, Paul often seemed to look ahead to the years of gentle mornings, quiet afternoons and tranquil evenings which are the lifestuff of a loving married couple. With John, it was all or nothing - he was in your face, screaming "Help!" or "You better run for your life!" or "I want you so bad it's driving me mad." Paul played it slow and steady, longing for a mellow partner with which he could live on a farm and smoke reefers with. "Here There And Everywhere" fits this template, along with "And I Love Her," "I Will,"  "When I'm 64," "Every Night," "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" and many others. Later he found that wonderful mellow reefer woman and they spent many happy years together.  Meanwhile, John married a crazy artist and spent the '70s lurching from one ridiculous obsession to another (radical left-wing politics, conceptual art installations, drunken party animalism with Nilsson and Ringo) before finally settling on the "stay at home and quietly bake a loaf of bread" plan that Paul was advocating all along. Or so it seemed to the outside world. Unfortunately that's not really how it was. John spent those late '70s post-Walls and Bridges years in an opiated stupor, his body wasting away to nothing and his once-sharp mind reduced to the floppy texture of an over-boiled noodle. Meanwhile Yoko was consulting a series of astrologers and wasting huge amounts of money. I'm sorry, these are the facts. 

Richard Furnstein: Hey man, I wish it wasn't true. John was unfortunately constantly searching for a way to fill his empty heart with life. Lennon's wanderlust combined with his (underdeveloped) political concepts and yearbook-yearning poetic musings capture the imagines of the sensitive and troubled. John wanted love (or, more accurately, to a mother's love) while the world presented him endless opportunities to live out Freddie Lennon's most reckless seaman fantasies. Meanwhile, Paul was similarly pushing towards the light, but found greater comfort in melody, emotional directness, and (you are absolutely right) domestic tranquility. Paul's steady hand would later be exposed as his greatest weakness in the band (his propensity for "granny music" late in The Beatles and throughout much of Wings). I'm certainly not the first to point out the fundamental differences in the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team. Consider for a second that Paul tried to bring emotional security to the neglected Julian Lennon during his parents' divorce in "Hey Jude" while John delivered a rattled and politically confused "Revolution" as the b-side. "Here, There, And Everywhere" can be similarly viewed as a peace offering, a guide to adulthood that takes a different form than John's sloganeering or George's green mysticism.

The whole thing sounds as warm and lovely as a bright morning with the lovely Linda on the McCartney's ramshackle Scottish farm in 1971. A cup of tea and a cigarette; read the latest issue of the Melody Maker while Linda boils an egg.
Robert Bunter: The spare musical arrangement and minimalist studio production show admirable restraint. On an album where the boys were restlessly pushing the boundaries of recorded sound (Revolver perhaps their most boldly experimental LP), they had the maturity to recognize that this gorgeous melody and (deceptively) simple lyric needed no sitars, tape loops, variable speed gimmicks or backwards masking. The guitar tone is bare; the drums are almost comically restrained, and Paul keeps his penchant for busy, clever bass lines in check. The only production flourishes are quite mild - a subtle splash of cymbal leading into the bridge - it sounds like a wave gently breaking over golden sand as the tide comes in (0:55)  - and a hint of Eastern European gypsy exoticism in the second guitar counter-melody (1:02) that leads the bridge back to the verse. Of course, Paul could deliver an emotionally-charged and virtuosic lead vocal, but he opts for a straight delivery of a melody so graceful it needs no adornment. The most prominent sonic element is the gooey "Oooh" harmony trio of John, George and Paul, but even here The Beatles (as I call them) have resisted the temptation to gild the lily. Not too many exotic note choices or melismas, just the basic chord progression.

Richard Furnstein: The stripped down nature of the song provides all the glitter that this song needs. The swelling ocean implied in Ringo's rich cymbal hit is absolutely perfect. The guitars provide some lovely and unexpected textures, including the bright push of tiny amplifier tubes as well as the ambient creaking wood and fret noise that runs throughout the song. I particularly want to call out John's somnambulist  "love never dies" and "watching their eyes" at 1:55." It's all too much.

Robert Bunter: The whole thing sounds as warm and lovely as a bright morning with the lovely Linda on the McCartney's ramshackle Scottish farm in 1971. A cup of tea and a cigarette; read the latest issue of the Melody Maker while Linda boils an egg. Later: vigorous physical lovemaking and an hour or two at the piano searching for melodies. These are the days of our lives.

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