Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'm So Tired

Richard Furnstein: The post-witching hour blues. John Lennon contemplates the state of his life after meeting Yoko Ono. It's hard to imagine this was written in an Indian bungalow on a Maharishi Mahesh Yogi retreat. The song's mood is both claustrophobic and familiar; the dwindling cigarette smoke climbs stark bedroom walls and the consistent ticking of the clock seems louder than it has before. This is not the sleepwalker's dreamland of "I'm Only Sleeping." There is no sense of escape in "I'm So Tired," only the pulsing inevitability of the next day.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, I can hear all that, but the melody is so lovely. It's quintessentially Lennonesque - a chord progression that could almost have been written in the '50s, but with just enough trickiness to save it from sounding like American Graffiti or Grease. This was John's default mode - even some of his farthest-out work ("Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "Strawberry Fields Forever") contains a noticeable whiff of doo-wop. True to form, he unleashes his deadly falsetto. I defy you to find me an example of John singing falsetto that doesn't send shivers right down to the bottom of your spine. Yeah, the lyrics are a neurotic junkie's insomniac lament, but this particular neurotic junkie insomniac had a preternatural gift for sweet songs. This is one of my favorite White Album tracks, actually.

The lyrics are a neurotic junkie's insomniac lament, but this particular neurotic junkie insomniac had a preternatural gift for sweet songs.
Richard Furnstein: Great point. Lennon certainly had trouble escaping his roots during his experimental efforts: think of Yoko struggling to escape a plastic bag while John leads a group of mustached session hacks in a Chuck Berry groover. That was his idea of the summit of freak. "I'm So Tired" has no such pretenses, instead it presents the solemn self-reflection and internal paranoia as "the edge." Here was a naked man standing in the rich tamarind forests, attempting to explore the questions in his shattered subconscious. Yet, this great dreamer was left with some pilfered fifties chords and some lonely pining for female comforts and the comforting tug of his ciggies. In a way, "I'm So Tired" is John admitting that the great transcendental experiment couldn't ease his long-standing pain. He's all too aware of the time passing by and the limitations of the late hour. The poor man.

Robert Bunter: Yeah. He was carrying a heavy torch for Yoko during the trip to India (when "Tired" was written), though they hadn't consummated their relationship yet. She was just a sort of weirdo pen-pal who'd been flitting around the periphery of his life for the past year or two. He's over there in India on his mediation trip with his wife Cynthia, but his mind is clearly elsewhere. It's been noted (by John himself, actually) that during the supposedly blissful retreat, he was coughing up songs about suicide and insomnia. He certainly wasn't the first man to get upset over a woman, but his natural gifts allowed him to express his pain in beautiful melodies. We are lucky to have these gifts. Of course, the other three Beatles and George Martin stepped up to the plate and knocked the whole thing out of the park. Ringo's drums come thudding down on your skull with the weight of a thousand sorrows; Paul's macho man backing vocals provide necessary heft to the choruses; George contributes his characteristic stinging lead guitar. The White Album is widely recognized as the point of divergence for the Beatles' personal friendships, but I like to imagine the "Tired" sessions as a heartwarming moment. "Hey, lads, John seems to be feeling a little blue. Let's give him a bit of a lift! Ringo, get yer drooms! George, grab your guitar!" And then George frowns at Paul. "You're not the boss of me," he thinks to himself but doesn't say. He just glowers and sulks while the engineers turn on his amplifier. Hmmmm. I guess you can start to see the cracks in the foundation, after all. It's not pretty, but those are the facts.

Richard Furnstein: Another important fact is that John and Yoko certainly consummated their relationship by the time of the "I'm So Tired" recording sessions. All of the sexual tension and emotional insecurities of John's delicate India composition have been replaced by the bulbous emotions that come along with the physical act of love with a mysterious Japanese conceptual artist. Listen to the sweet late night restraint that haunts Lennon's vocal performance on this one. Heck, look at the collage poster that came with the White Album. It includes a photo of a naked John Lennon talking on the phone (presumably to Mal Evans). Yoko is sleeping by his side. John looks particularly well rested (ahem). The poster also includes several sleepy photos of Paul (making his classic dreamy genius expression and his "deep in thought while composing another masterpiece" face). It sure is nice to see these increasingly distant friends brought together by their sleepiness. Although on second thought, maybe Paul was just really stoned...

Robert Bunter: Yeah, every time I look at that photo, I assume he's talking to Mal Evans, too. 

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