Friday, February 15, 2013

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

Richard Furnstein: The winter's almost over, dear friend. Come inside, we've been expecting you. A wild man with fangs and lady hair will take your coat at the door. Don't mind those STAB-STAB-STAB guitars, things will settle into a fun groove. There are plenty of girls here. Have a look around. Hot with ten T's, pal. "HOTTTTTTTTTT." Look at them. They are smoking cigarettes and are dressed like beautiful women from another age. Skin and teeth and caring eyes. Sensitive pulsing. Comeoncomeoncomeon, let's keep moving. What's that sound? Is that a cowbell? Christ, that's a cowbell! Anything goes!

Robert Bunter: We have all been invited to John Lennon’s terrifying 1968 party. His childhood was difficult, his early adulthood was consumed with inhuman fame and creative development, and he’s spent the past year or two in a weird haze of drugs and mantra chanting. But don’t worry, he’s met a strange Japanese artist and now we can all join in the celebration! “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey”’s stabbing guitars, cowbell clanks, exuberant lyrics (and the bevy of attractive ladies which you seem to have conjured up in your overheated mind-dreams) seem to offer the promise of a raucous party, but as usual with John Lennon, everything is terrifying. What a celebration! Some freak is screaming a bunch of incomprehensible riddles in my face and yelling about monkeys … the imaginary attractive teeth ladies look like they don’t want to have anything to do with me … the punch has been laced with Purple Segments and the deli meats on the hospitality tray have long since spoiled. I don’t want to spoil the party, but please excuse me while I curl into the fetal position and silently cry while I wait for this thing to be over. The drumbeat is damaging my mind.

Richard Furnstein: The drumbeat is damaging the drums! It's a physical affair. I'm sure lowly assistant Mal Evans was calling the local Ludwig rep to get a line on some replacement heads after this session. It's even more devastating in the sequence of The White Album. Paul just delivered the soothing cradle cap massage that is "Mother Nature's Son," and then John creeps into the room like a crocodile arriving late to a picnic. All purpose and desire.

The monkey of the song is typically Lennon symbolism: the slow-eyed and mysterious creature hiding behind his flaking facade. This inner-self provides the wisdom to adjust to the challenges of a world full of evil. The symbol of the  monkey is not quite as simple as a reference to Lennon's junior varsity heroin addiction or even the rhesus monkeys that would steal food from the Maharishi's camp and defecate in the cabins. "Monkey" hints at a common Lennon theme: the renewal of self and the redemption of love. Indeed, it's almost a first draft of "God" from the Plastic Ono Band LP. The heights suggested in the lyrics are about emotional connection to the self (and the angelic saving presence of Mother Yoko Ono). It's a notable progression from The Beatles equating emotional heights with common drug use in their early recordings. George Harrison would often equate this feeling with spiritual enlightenment, but John just embraced the hollow perfection that is The John Figure.

John creeps into the room like a crocodile arriving late to a picnic. All purpose and desire.
Robert Bunter: On another level, this is an extension of the sort of throwaway-rock-and-raver-with-a-cool-guitar-lick that John had pioneered on earlier tracks like “I Feel Fine” and “Day Tripper.” But so much had changed in the brief few years that separated them. At the time of their unveiling, “Fine” and “Tripper” (as I call them) seemed a bit ominous and intimidating in their own right – creepy feedback and cryptic lyrics. Yet, they were hit singles that fit comfortably into the nascent development arc of their Merseybeat sound. Nobody is likely to have nightmares or bad trips inspired by “I Feel Fine,” even though it has those unsettling barking dogs tacked onto the end during the fadeout. The same cannot be said of “Monkey.” Lennon’s trademark acidhead optimism (“The Word,” “All You Need Is Love,” “Baby You’re A Rich Man”) seems to be operational with lyrics about flying high, going deep, ease and joyfulness. Yet, they have been warped and distorted into what I would argue is a just as much of a bared-fangs horrorshow as “Glass Onion” or “I Am The Walrus.” Lennon was in the middle of a really dark period (by the way, here are the periods of Lennon’s life: birth to 1956, happy; 1956-1963, dark; 1963-1968, happy; 1968-1972, oh my God, so unbelievably dark and terrifying; 1972 – 1980 relatively OK with a few cloudy patches) in 1968, and you can hear it on this track. The peppy hippie slogans have soured into bizarre riddles and monkey dreams. During that breakdown section where the drums dissolve and the babbling cacophony of voices is temporarily faded down, the collapsing walls of the party you initially described start to leak onto themselves and the monkey bites its own head off.

Richard Furnstein: Lennon often finds comfort between two states, suggesting severe depression. Lennon muses, "Your inside is out/And your outside is in/Your outside is in/And your inside is out." Sure, it may initially seem like instructions for a fun new dance. However, it was no longer about innocent fun for John Lennon. This was the same man who also switched in and out in the lyrics for "Revolution" and called the suicide hotline in "Yer Blues." Somehow, much like on "Yer Blues," Lennon corrals this isolation and fear, delivering a powerhouse rock band performance on the fractured White Album. Listen to Paul yelping helplessly in the background (at the 1:40 mark). He's deep in the moment. You imagine the four men locking into place, finding a way to shoot electrical salvation into each other's hearts. I imagine the ceiling of the studio was dripping with the sweat of millionaire geniuses. Catch a drop on your tongue and you may find your way back to Hamburg or Julia Lennon's loving arms. Heavy stuff for two minutes and twenty five seconds of pop music. "Brother, can you take me back?" 

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