Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Morning Good Morning

Richard Furnstein: The rooster crows and the loneliness of night falls away. We suddenly confront the sun (Ringo's drum introduction), a million hungry critters, and the sad truths of our life. Woke up, fell out of bed, realized I don't love my wife or my child, and I want to take weird colored drugs with Mal Evans in order to escape. Is there any other way out of this world? It's a depressing worldview. John clearly craved domestic stability (dead mother, absentee seaman father) but couldn't face the drudgery of a suburban home life. Nothing to say but what a day. Pull up a chair and eat your pork chop, dear. "How's your boy been?" finds John referencing his lonely escape into masturbation to pass the time. It's an unfortunate endgame to his dying relationship to the perpetually nervous Cynthia Lennon. It's also a concise way to reference the biological necessities that open and close our limited days on this smog-filled planet. Shower, shave, defecate, eat some good food, and then take three tablets of acid and look at the lights with Magic Alex. That's the game of life.

Robert Bunter: Yes, yes. The mundane human interactions of ordinary folks, which McCartney regards with bemused affection ("Penny Lane," "Another Day," "London Town," the middle section of "A Day In The Life," "Hello Goodbye" and so many others) are terrifying and repugnant to Lennon's childhood-traumatized, chemically-enhanced eyes. One of the fascinating things about the Sgt. Pepper album ("Pepper," as I call it) is the way the magical fantasy-world established on side one (mostly by Paul, though John the dreamweaver pitched in with "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite") starts to gradually unravel on side two as the harsh realities of life intrude via Lennon tracks like "Good Morning Good Morning." Finally "A Day In The Life" destroys the charade ... it's like you're watching a crazy variety show in a gaily-colored theater, but as you get toward the end of the second act, the curtain starts to fall down and reveals the half-dressed extras and bored technicians, creating a sense of palpable unease. Then, a nuclear explosion (the "Day In The Life" final piano chord) blows the whole theater apart. Then you wake up and realize the whole magic performance was a dream. You're about to get up and change the record (pristine original Parlophone mono, of course, dummy!) but all of a sudden the terrifying inner groove loop comes on and you're not sure about anything anymore. Anyway, that's how "Pepper" goes. "Good Morning Good Morning" is like the part I was talking about where the curtain starts to fall away. The same beefy brass section and heavy rock guitar tone that made the opening "Sgt. Pepper" theme so charming now seem harsh and discordant. The gentle audience laughter and applause sound effects have been replaced by bleating animals.

Richard Furnstein: This isn't even a "four legs good/two legs bad" fantasy. Lennon's message is that we are all animals. "Good morning, love, here's your sausage and toast." Don't want to see the sausage being made? Too bad, because you are the sausage.

You know what I would to have seen being made? This song. Imagine Paul laying down that searing guitar lead, headphones framing his angel face as he effortlessly gave birth to Joe Satriani. Imagine Ringo perched high on his drum seat, bringing order to John's fractured view of pop music timing. His cymbal hits like landmines of pink clouds popping across the sepia tinted mediocrity visions of the lyrics. Will the clouds raze this city or will they waft across the sleepy countryside like a psychedelic dragon, bringing color, life, and mythical transfigurations to the milky landscape? The escape is coming, and it's not just for the hippies and their bold new pharmaceuticals. The sad businessmen with their aluminum wrapped Scotch eggs can feel it. The sexually frustrated/curtain twitching housewives are begging for it.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, that's another angle. Despite the horrifying implications of the bared-fang lyrics, horn section, animals and icepick-to-the-forehead guitar tone (especially after "It's time for tea and meet the wife"), this song rocks harder than anything else on Sgt. Pepper, with the possible exception of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)," which follows it. There is a fine sense of excitement as the song picks up steam toward the end. The Everyman character who's been shuffling thorough his uninspired routine all day is heading home from work. It's five o'clock and already the sun is setting. Did they have daylight savings time in England in 1967? He decides to "take a walk by the old school," a bit of breezy nostalgia. Lennon's arch narrator seems to be making fun of the square, 9-to-5 main character (tellingly, referred to as "you") with his goofy slang ("Now you feel cool," "Now you're in gear"). The smiling You-figure begins to revel in the urban hustle-bustle as he strolls through town, flirting with any girl who happens to ask what time it is. At this point, John switches from second person to first person in order to facilitate a bit of verbal cleverness ("Somebody needs to know THE TIME / glad THAT I'M here") but immediately switches back ("Watching the skirts you start to flirt"). He is me and you are he and we are all together. The song is full of ambiguity, actually. For example, is it: "I've got nothing to say, but it's OK" or "I've got nothing to say but 'it's OK'"? Either interpretation would shift the meaning 180 degrees. Or what about "Nothing to do to save his life, call his wife in?" Is this a doctor regarding a terminal patient on his deathbed with callous indifference, or simply a bored character who calls his wife because he can't find a thing to do "to save his life"?

Don't want to see the sausage being made? Too bad, because you are the sausage.

Richard Furnstein: I've always taken "called his wife in" as a loving tribute to the Bo√ęthian Wheel. That man actually dies. It's unexpected and crude but altogether real. The din of everyday mundane life highlighted in "Good Morning Good Morning" and "Penny Lane" (what a true shame that these songs were divorced from each other in final release form) includes both the light and the shade. The town is indeed getting dark (a man dies) but only an illogical skeptic would deny the inevitable of another day. A lesser songwriter would have shown us the promise of a new day through the miracle of a new baby's cry. Instead, he admits he has nothing to say and lets a gaggle of beasts (including the farm animals and jungle creatures) tell the end of the tale for him. The sun will indeed rise. The chickens need to be fed. Get to work.

Robert Bunter: That would be a great place to end this, but I'd just like to add that there is a logic to the order of the animal noises. The rooster crows for dawn, of course (could that long-dead rooster have known when it was recorded for EMI's sound effects library that he would be immortalized by the Beatles? He seems to crow with uncommon vigor). But at the end, each animal is chased by another larger creature. We hear a tweeting bird, then a cat, then a dog, then horses, sheep, woves and finally, humans (in the form of a fox hunt). In the stereo mix, they chase each other from the left speaker to the right. Then there is a chicken cluck that morphs into a guitar note.

Richard Furnstein: And what leads us out of this joyous cacophony? Only Paul McCartney (the supreme light himself) counting 1-2-3-4 into the Reprise. A primary education for a new day.

Robert Bunter: Beautiful!

No comments:

Post a Comment