Friday, November 16, 2012

She Came In Through The Bathroom Window

Robert Bunter: Wonderful. Just wonderful! The medley on side two of Abbey Road stands tall as one of the very best things the Beatles ever did, and the fact that “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is actually one of its second-tier songs just points to what a ridiculously abundant smorgasbord they were serving up at this late stage. This track is a prime-cut slab of vintage organic grass-fed Beatles music meat in every way. Many observers (and the band members themselves) have noted that Abbey Road was conceived as a swan song; one last mind-bending encore before the curtain fell on their otherworldly career. At some level, they knew they didn’t have far to go to the finish line. After the at-times-uninspired Get Back/Let It Be project (which Rolling Stone called a “cardboard tombstone”), the group (especially Paul) wanted to rally the troops for one last home run. As much as I wish history had played out differently, it’s not difficult to see that the prospect of their imminent breakup focused their energies and helped them emerge from the sullen, grouchy torpor that had been enveloping them. I think you can hear that energy on “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and the Abbey Road medley as a whole.  

Richard Furnstein: Yes, little child. That sound you hear is pure love. The Abbey Road medley was The Beatles flashing their considerable tools one last time. George sounds particularly healthy on this track; his guitar shimmering and gliding with expert precision. Ringo is having tons of fun here: shaking his tambourine as a tribute to hated thronethief Andy White and adding a shattering accent beat in the second verse. Paul delivers this perfect blessing of a song through his genius uterean mind. I'm not sure what John was doing. Does he play that crisp acoustic guitar? Was he just having the junkie shakes in the canteen with Mal Evans? 

Robert Bunter: I think I can hear John on the lovely “Aaaaaah” backing vocals, but that’s not the point. I hear Lennon all over this track in terms of his influence on Paul McCartney. This song has nary a trace of the maudlin sentimentality or cuteness that sometimes mars Paul’s work. His oblique, cryptic story of thieves, strippers and crooked cops seems to emerge from the same crazy town inhabited by the bizarre cast of Lennon characters we just met in “Polythene Pam” and “Mean Mr. Mustard.” The plot of this story never really adds up, but the irresistible, happy-go-lucky momentum of the song evokes a series of car chases, wisecracks and hilarious near-miss escape scenes. The McCartney-figure who appears throughout the Abbey Road medley on tracks like “Bathroom Window” and the second part of “You Never Give Me Your Money” (“out of college / money spent … all the money’s gone”) could be played by Bruce Willis – he’s a rambler, a gambler and a low-down dirty scrambler, sliding through life on a smirk and a dream, but underneath it all there beats a heart of pure gold. The McCartney/Bruce Willis character is counterbalanced by the wistful, philosophical, sincere Paul persona of “Golden Slumbers” and “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Meanwhile, all of the various Paul-figures are counterbalanced and complemented by Lennon’s stoned philosopher (“Because”), creepy deviants (“Mustard,” “Pam”) and gentle tropical hymnody (“Sun King”). At times the medley offers sincere, heartbroken commentary on the rise, fall and dissolution of the Beatles, but these heavy moments are lightened with a typically Beatlesian procession of wacky characters and Everymen. Maybe the girl who came in through the bathroom window is actually the young runaway from “She’s Leaving Home,” a few years older and with some new “tricks” up her sleeve, on the run from a series of parking tickets issued by Lovely Rita. Maybe Mean Mr. Mustard is the same pervert with the mirrored boots from “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” Are you with me on this, Richard?

There was a real John Lennon who ate food and changed guitar strings, but at the same time there is and will always be a “John Lennon,” endlessly shape-shifting who exists solely in the minds of our brothers and sisters the world over.

Richard Furnstein: You just gave me genuine shivers. I always thought it was the girl from "She's Leaving Home" as well! Returning home to face her parents after her adventures in Eastern thought and increasingly underwhelming sexual intercourse with A Man From The Motor Trade (Bruce?). It's the most unlikely cameo to appear late in this Beatles story. Surely, the lovely Desmond from "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," the flawed entertainer that is Billy Shears, or even the anonymous paperback writer would have been a more popular returning character. Yet, it is that lonely, lost girl that crawls back into this grand picture. "Once there was a way to get back homeward," our narrator (Paul) would later observe. She found her one chance out of the champa degenerate lifestyle that was all surface flash and false promises of freedom ("didn't anybody tell her?"). Is she home to stay? Will the familiar sights and sounds of home comfort her?

Here, fair Robert. Are you with ME on this? The girl, the perverts, and the mawkish Billy Shears were all manifestations of The Beatles psyche. The Beatles themselves were heading homeward with the Abbey Road medley. They were packing up their playthings, these manifestations. However, is it the home of Abbey Road Studios, brotherhood, and further sonic explorations or is it a return to childhood freedoms, reliable marital sex, and comfort foods (Ringo's mythical Heinz beans)? We're still guessing.

Robert Bunter: We’ve really gotten to the bottom of the whole thing. When the Beatles sang about fictional characters, they were really singing about themselves. Yes. But when they sang about themselves (“Yer Blues,” “Fixing A Hole,” “Strawberry Fields Forver,” “Hey Jude”, etc.), weren’t they actually singing about fictional characters in some final sense? After all, who is “John Lennon”? What is “Paul McCartney”? Names on an album sleeve? Pictures on a screen? Beautiful voices etched into vinyl and the world’s communal heartspace? They were (and are) real human men with birthdays, nose hair, foibles and underpants, but they are also collective constructs. There was a real John Lennon who ate food and changed guitar strings, but at the same time there is and will always be a “John Lennon,” endlessly shape-shifting (the smirking moptop in a grey suit suddenly morphs into a bearded walrus with granny glasses or a colorful Yellow Submarine cartoon character) who exists solely in the minds of our brothers and sisters the world over.

Richard Furnstein: Will they someday be nothing more than mythical creatures? Will our children's great grandchildren watch the Ed Sullivan appearance and think "That Paul McCartney sure is doing a great Paul McCartney"? Did The Beatles actually exist before they existed? Etches in a cave or spirits in the cauldron. It's an exciting prospect albeit totally depressing (citation: Julian Lennon's Valotte album). The Beatles were the dopey cartoon versions and they were those flawed mortals--recording useless electronic sounds for side projects, getting shafted by false prophets (The Maharishi, Magic Alex), and, yes, breaking up. It had to be this way. They died for all of our sins.  

Robert Bunter: Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right.

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