Thursday, April 2, 2015

When I Get Home

Cynthia Lennon: September 10, 1939-April 1, 2015
Richard Furnstein: We lost another one, dear friend. Cynthia Lennon is the latest guest speaker at that Great Beatles Convention In The Sky. Look at that all star panel on the stage: the peaceful John Lennon, the gregarious George Harrison, the noble Mal Evans, the solemn Billy Preston, the monkish Brian Epstein, the jubilant Maureen Starkey, and the emotional Derek Taylor. Golly, there are only a few empty chairs up there now.

Cynthia was always a sad figure in the story of the Beatles. She was a hidden and forgotten part of the Beatles; a too-old-for-her-years figure pining for a fractured man child who would never love or accept the responsibilities and normalcy that she represented. Her big moments speak to betrayal and mistreatment: being hidden from the screaming teenagers to encourage their fantasies of bedding John; bearing and raising the ignored Julian Lennon while her husband toured the world and slept with endless women: refusing the romantic advances of Magic Alex; missing that train to Bangor to meet both the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Mike Love; and--the final indignity--walking in on John and Yoko together in her Kenwood home.

Robert Bunter: John Lennon was a goddamn asshole. I'm sorry but these are the facts. "Give Peace A Chance" notwithstanding, he was basically a selfish pig and nowhere is that stark reality more apparent than in the life of Cynthia Lennon. Practically the first thing she did after they met was to dye her hair blonde to look more like the sticky, creased portrait of Brigitte Bardot that John carried around in the pocket of his black drannies (drainpipe trousers, a stupid pants style favored by young British rockabilly jerkoffs in the '50s). The relationship quickly became physical, and selfish John cared only about his personal dick stimulation - no primitive UK sheepskin for this drunken Scouse greasepail! So inevitably she becomes pregnant and only then does John ask her to get married. Justice of the Peace or some shit and a drugged up Brian Epstein was the best man with some construction work happening outside (captured in one of Cynthia's great drawings). Oh yeah right Cynthia, it looks like your dreamboat has really docked this time. Get the hell out of here. Next thing you know he's famous and you've already said what happened after that. Oh, one more thing - he beat her.

Richard Furnstein: Exhibit Whatever: stink filler "When I Get Home" from the non-soundtrack side of A Hard Day's Night. In this song, a drunk and violent John finally comes home from a tour of rock n' roll clubs and other moist areas of Portugal. You can almost hear him barge into their lovely Kenwood house, drunk as a fire ant and full of fresh drip infection. Just listen to that primal scream in the introduction, it pretty much shouts out to be let into the damned-door-because-I-lost-my-keys-where-are-my-Buddy-Holly-records-where-is-the-Cutty-Sark-ferchrissake-Cyn. Sure, John has a lot of things to tell her when he gets home, but it's either drunken ramblings about Ringo's flatulence or the amphetamine selection in Lisbon. "Julian has a double ear infection? [Fart noise.] C'mere, I'm 'gonna love you til the cows come home.'" What a disgusting scene. It's all there on the record, Your Honor.

Cynthia wasn't a Jungian archetype, an Oedipal mother figure or a conniving shrew. She was a real person who the real John Lennon fell in love with before he became "John Lennon."
Robert Bunter: Ha, this is the second post in a row where you've talked about how smelly John Lennon was. We can only imagine what he smells like now. But let's back up for a moment and take an objective look at "When I Get Home." This is a pure rock and roll monster. Even by the standards of early Beatles stompers, this track is a revelation. I feel as though I'm hearing it for the first time. John, George and Paul use their trademark three-part harmony on the intense "WO-a-WO HAAAAA!!!!" intro while Ringo beats the shit of of his drums even more than usual and Paul plays a thunderous bassline that almost never strays from the primal root note of every chord. Then you've got John's lead vocal: one of the twentieth century's most compelling voices unleashes a brutal assault that is every bit as heavy as what he would later attempt on "Revolution" or "Cold Turkey." The fact that this was a third-to-last-song-on-side-two throwaway track on an LP filled with much more significant achievements is frankly mind-boggling.

Richard Furnstein: The band really conveys the excitement of a homecoming. Sure, it's got some awful bits (John's Italian-man vocal inflections early in the song, the line "no time for trivialities," and the clunky middle eight), but the the fire behind the vocals and Ringo's good nature enthusiasm are easy to love. Question for you, Robert: is this the most sentimental Cynthia-influenced song in the canon? The most apparent Cynthia references are largely negative or dismissive. John is bored out of skull with domestic life in "Good Morning Good Morning." "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" is more about Brian Epstein's homosexuality than his denial of his marriage in the early years. "Don't Let Me Down" features that cruel line about being in love for the first time with Yoko. I can't place any sweetheart songs about Cynthia. His early songs are mainly about weeping or coming up with revenge fantasies about the women who mistreated him.

Robert Bunter: I think that's kind of the point. Cynthia wasn't a Jungian archetype, an Oedipal mother figure or a conniving shrew. She was a real person who the real John Lennon fell in love with before he became "John Lennon." When John sang to Cynthia it wasn't from the stage of a baseball stadium or an AM radio speaker. The tender whispers of a young couple before turning out the light; the desperate scribbled vulnerability of letters mailed home from some dank provincial beer hall; the simple touch in a solitary moment or the knowing smile across a crowded room - these were the songs John sang to Cynthia Lennon. As John came to mean more and more to the world at large, perhaps he lost touch with this. He turned himself inside out for all the world to see and we stood in stunned admiration at the candid beauty of his exposed soul and thanked him for the gift. But before he was ours, he was hers. The nowhere man sitting in his nowhere land making all his nowhere plans for nobody while his flesh-and-blood wife and son waited patiently for him to come out of the goddamn TV room and say something to them for a change. Let us consider with humble gratitude that Cynthia was able to emerge from her troubled relationship with John and build a long and happy life for herself, and bid her beautiful spirit a fond farewell. We never really knew her, and that is as it should be.