Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm Looking Through You

Richard Furnstein: Come in, old friend. Let's listen to the pure joy in the introduction of "I'm Looking Through You" together. Open a window. Hell, open every window. Change of plans: go outside and roll around in the flaking heather with Donald and Phillip Everly. What a goddamned pleasure. Let's get an early lunch. It's on me.

Robert Bunter: Oh yeah sure, that’ll be great, hoss. The Beatles are serving up a queasy menu of doubt, suspicion and insecurity. Yesterday’s simple infatuation and tender affection have curdled. The sour aftertaste is masked by a catchy melody and stabbing organ fills (!), but we’re dealing with a smorgasbord of uncertain adult emotions as the Paul-figure moves inexorably toward maturity. The seeds of the disillusionment and pain that would later flower on tracks like “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “The Long And Winding Road” are planted here, and you’re sitting there with a napkin tied around your neck, holding your fork and spoon upright next to your empty plate, smiling eagerly in anticipation of another helping. Get the hell out of here.

Richard Furnstein: Enjoy your steaming pile of heartbreak, pal. Paul was probably skipping a lot of meals when he wrote this song following the end of his relationship with the lovely Jane Asher. There was always sadness in Paul's early love songs. Songs like "Things We Said Today," "And I Love Her," and "I'll Follow The Sun" are undeniably beautiful and romantic, but seem like a songwriter attempting depth by hinting at potential loss and heartbreak. Perhaps Paul was just trying to replicate the light and shade of John's "love" songs, which were more about the euphoric balance of sexual release and emotional trust in a new relationship. The loss of Asher finally gave Paul a similar but distinct edge to his love songs. Paul wasn't merely venting on "I'm Looking Through You," "Drive My Car," and "You Won't See Me"; he was revealing the sadness and pain behind his dreamy doe eyes. It's a straight shot from here to the elegiac "Let It Be" or the funereal "Little Willow." Paul didn't need cloying strings ("Yesterday") or horrorshow expectorations (Lennon's "Mother") to convey loss to the listener. The power was in his brown eyes, his spidery fingers, and his steady stare into the quaking unknown.

We’re dealing with a smorgasbord of uncertain adult emotions as the Paul-figure moves inexorably toward maturity.

Robert Bunter: I think the key line is “You don’t look different/But you have changed.” Paul was not used to feeling a real sense of need in romantic relationships in 1966; his Liverpool youth and Hamburg adolescence were filled with casual conquests with Paul seated firmly in the driver’s seat. In Jane Asher he was confronted for perhaps the first time with a strong, independent woman with her own career, needs and wants. Paul senses that she has changed, but has she really? What’s different is the power dynamics between the two of them. He probably wrote this song after a trifling spat where he wanted to spend the night in but she wanted to go attend the opening of the new Joe Orton comedy at the Gloanshire Playhouse. Now, of course Paul could go out whenever he wanted and stay out till all hours with a series of faceless secret girlfriends, but if he felt like staying in, it was just expected that “his woman” would be right there with him to fix the tea and digestive biscuits. Well I’m sorry Paul, but that’s not how it works with mature modern relationships in the 20th century. Why don’t you just pick up your little guitar and write a song about it? Oh, you’re so disillusioned. Where did she go, Paul? WHERE DID SHE GO?

Richard Furnstein: There's a lot to unpack here. John's lyrics (even in the early years) tend to be the subject of scrutiny for his emotional state while Paul's lyrics are typically taken at face value despite his poetic interpretations of loss. Imagine if John had written "Yesterday," it would have been acclaimed as a heartbreaking tribute to Julia Lennon. Instead, the listener interprets "Yesterday" as a melodramatic exploration of puppy love. It's similarly easy to point at the Asher incident as an emotional awakening for Paul, as if he could only feel pain following a broken heart. Show the man some respect: Paul had experienced the death of his mother when he was 14 and had those wounds exposed again as he helped John through Julia's death a few years later. It gives a heavier spin on the loss suggested by the line "Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight." Paul (much like John) was developing his capabilities to express more complex emotions in the pop song format. Asher was simply the wrong woman at the right time, pushing Paul into a new emotional language. It was a new day and Paul no longer had an angel on his shoulder ("You were above me, but not today"). Things would certainly get better.

Robert Bunter: Well it makes sense that Paul would be taking some serious emotional strides at this point. All the Beatles were developing so rapidly in every sense: musical sophistication, political awareness, expanded consciousness, breaking social barriers, brown suede jackets. The magic spell they were under must have naturally applied to matters of the heart, as well. That’s always the point: all the Beatles always did whatever they did because it was the very best thing they could possibly have done right then at that moment. It just happened to be time for Paul to confront his complex attitude towards relationships with women, so he did it. With a minimum of fuss and a lovely tune.

Richard Furnstein: Rubber Soul was the start of a new era for The Beatles. They were now operating without contemporaries. There was no need to pad out their albums with rock chestnuts or modern girl group numbers: that musical language no longer contained the answers. They finally mastered the form and could now just smile and watch their pathetic peers scramble to keep up. You don't sound different/I've learned the game." Remember the scene from Don't Look Back where Bob Dylan eviscerates Donovan while running through a ragged "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"? The Beatles were now doing this to mankind. "I'm Looking Through You" isn't about Paul getting over some some green-eyed cutie pie. Rather, it embraced the new supernatural powers of The Beatles race, scanning the fears and emotional confusion of the trembling human beings after each of their miraculous feats. Better drain out your boots when you hear "Wait," animals.

Robert Bunter: Oh crap!

No comments:

Post a Comment