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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
The Young Person's Guide to the Beatles: Opinions on 5 Beatles Songs I Have Yet to Opine About
Something you don't know about me (unless you are Laura Jane Inner Circle, in which case you definitely know it about me) is that Matthew Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces thinks I should write a book called The Young Person's Guide to the Beatles, sort of like Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, only about the Beatles, and written by me, and conceptualized by Friedberger. You could even call this project "LJ & Friedberger's premiere collaborative effort."
Something you don't know about me, but could possibly intuit about me, is that I'm presently too lazy to write a book. Also, I think writing a book would stress me out. I think I would make up some unfeasible and self-defeating standard for book-writing that I could never live up to, and then would punish myself for not doing a good enough job of writing a book. Then I would feel guilty, and then I would go insane. Shit. Friedberger doesn't understand me after all!
Something even a dimwit could guess about me is: there is no such thing as a Beatles song I don't have an opinion about. Another thing a dimwit, or even a baby, or even a dog, could fathom about me is: I really like writing self-indulgent nogoodforme posts. So, my new idea is, I am going to write as many self-indulgent nogoodforme posts about the Beatles as I can possibly churn out, and then eventually I will have enough material to make a book, and Matthew Friedberger will be SO PROUD OF ME.
Today, Young People, we will be exploring the psychological, ideological, spiritual and artistic depths of five Beatles songs that I have not yet discussed on nogoodforme.com. You may now take out your two allotted HB pencils and spiral-bound Hilroy notebooks. Your first lesson begins NOW.
1. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
On the evening of May 26th, 2009, I was "booking it" down College Street semi-drunkedly, listening to "Run For Your Life" on my losery lil' iPod Shuffle, when I ran into a dude who was, quite literally, running for his life. Two things you should know about "where I was at" that night:
1) My whole agenda for listening to "Run For Your Life" was that I was desperately trying to think of a veritable (Veritable? Really? Why not just not use an adverb there, Show-off-y McShow-off-erson?) slew of clever points about how, unlike "Pretty Big Mouth" by Count Five, "Run For Your Life" is actually not sexist at all, despite it's being one of the most obviously fucked-ly sexist songs of all time. My general argument on the matter is: "Run For Your Life" is a sharply sardonic send-up of the pop music climate of JL's day (id est: all those boring "My baby done wronged me and I'm sad about it and will avenge the situation somehow" songs by bands like the Underdogs and the Knickerbockers that I am too lazy to think of right now), and;
2) The dude I ran into, the one who was running for his life, is a) a Leo, and b) a fairly-significant dude in my life, in that we made out once, and between us possess an irritatingly-unextinguishable "spark."
Homeboy was carrying a Red Lobster duffel bag. I was all armed and ready to make some John Lennonistically snide remark about it, when I realized that (oops!) dude was in legitimate pain. I could see it on his face. I soon learned that bro's house had just caught fire, his three cats were in danger, and he was presently en route to his brother's house for safety. Isn't life fucked up?
In that moment, I learned that the Beatles were an important band because, even when they were being insincere, they were being honest. And that, though championing sincerity is my "thing" right now, the importance of being honest transcends everything. "Run For Your Life" may be parody above all else, but John Lennon's genius lies in how, even when he is blatantly lying- he never lies.
For instance: you can listen to "Help" a thousand times, and it might never cross your mind that it, as an Object, is telling the story of a man at his personal worst, begging and pleading you, or anybody, or everybody, to please help him, NOW. And that in no way means that you are missing "Help"'s point; it actually means that JL succeeded at making a startling amount of pain palatable, and I think the same is true of "Run For Your Life." As of a half-hour ago, my opinion on "Run For Your Life" is that it is about running for your life. Literally.
Sometimes, like now, I'll go through a phase of intensely loving the Kinks, or Friedberger, or whoever, and it makes me question my love for the Beatles, which fucks me up. But then I live a night like tonight, when I listen to a song I've listened to (honestly) about 500 times over the course of my life, and discover something completely new about it. Not many bands can swing that; as far as I know, only one can. I so often listen to specific Beatles songs for specific purposes, to evoke specific feelings, to prove specific points. Often, this works. But, almost equally often, those purposes, feelings and points are interrupted by weird lifey circumstances- often my own, often John's or Paul's. And then I think, "Fuck the Kinks."
All I ever do is walk down the street, but right now, I feel like I never walk down the street. I run. I am running: perhaps towards my death, but always for my life. And that makes me think: what a little, little girl I still am.
2. I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU
"Lola" by the Kinks is the story of my life for a number of reasons, but the one I'm in the mood to talk about right now is that it tells the story of how, in life, nothing ever happens the way you expect it will.
I have absolutely no idea if "Lola"'s narrative is fictional, farcical, fathomed, facetious, or for real. All I can bank on is that, since Ray Davies wrote it, it is sincere. On paper, "Lola" is the story of Ray Davies meeting the girl of his dreams, only to discover that she is, in fact, a dude! Oh, Ray Davies- why are we the exact same person?
Precisely one week and four days ago, I met the dude of my dreams. Contrary to popular belief, he was not Matthew Friedberger. Also, he was not a chick, so I suppose this is one instance wherein things worked out better for me than they did for Ray Davies?
That's all I'm going to say about Dream Dude, because I am 75% sure that Dream Dude is reading this, and I don't want to fuck things up with Dream Dude by being creepy about him on the Internet.
Since meeting Dream Dude two Fridays ago, things have not worked out in the exact perfect way I fantasized they would. I am in no way surprised about this. If anything, I'm surprised that I even bothered to fantasize about Dream Dude at all, since, in my case, fantasizing only ever sets me up for defeat. Or it used to, at least, before I came to terms with the fact that everything is wrong. Life is an unstoppable parade of its most unthinkable permutations exploding in your face constantly. After nearly 24 years of this neverending extravaganza of bullshit, the point has finally sunk in: even expecting the unexpected is asking too much of that sadistic asshole we call Life. Enlightened people ask nothing of life; it's the only way it won't let you down.
"I'm Looking Through You" is the story of Paul McCartney Paul McCartneyishly realizing the same thing that Ray Davies and I learned the hard way.
If I was in charge of everything in the entire Universe, "I'm Looking Through You" by Paul McCartney would replace "In My Life" by John Lennon as "The Most Emotionally Manipulative Track Off Rubber Soul" in the Beatles' canon. Personally, I kind of hate "In My Life." It's corny. I can handle both sincere dishonesty and honest insincerity, but I cannot handle "In My Life"- I can't decide if it's ingenuine, insincere, dishonest, semi-phony, cool, lame, good, bad, or whatever. All I know is that I don't trust it, and that the only thing I trust in this life is myself. And I think: "In My Life"? Not that great.
According to Sir James Paul McCartney in "I'm Looking Through You," love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight. According to Laura Jane Faulds, Paul McCartney is entirely correct on this matter. Case in point:
Two weeks ago, I (Laura Jane Faulds) went out on a "date" with a dude that I'd thought I'd been in love with for the past fucking seven fucking months of my life. Case in point:
I was wrong.
Conveniently for Laura Jane Faulds ("me"), immediately after said "date," "I'm Looking Through You" by Paul McCartney came onto her ("my") iPod shuffle. Just like the ten trillion other times I'd listened to "I'm Looking Through You," my brain immediately conjured up its "same old" "I'm Looking Through You" imagery- this vision I have of Paul McCartney meeting and greeting Jane Asher at some train station located outside of Paris, France- the one where, when I was eleven years old, I saw a sexy blonde hippie chick in a tie-dyed lingerie camisole run off a train and leap into the arms of a sexy dreadlocked hippie dude, and, for the first time in my life, understood that love was REAL.
"I'm Looking Through You" is Paul McCartney at his all-time most sincere. "I'm looking through you," he sings- "You're not the same." That's harsh. But, Sir Paul, I thought that Sunday- you know what is a thousand times harsh-er? When you look through him, and you see- he has not changed one bit. It is you who has changed.
But, Sir Paul, I am thinking tonight- you know what is a thousand times better? When you look through him, and you see- he has not changed one bit.
It is you who has changed.
3. FOR YOU BLUE
In addition to being my least-favourite Beatle, George Harrison is also one my all-time least-favourite lyricists. Bro may have been able to play a mean Claptony melodic guitar solo, but when it came to writing words down, George was (I'm sorry!) utterly talentless. Case in point: listen to "Bangla Desh." Your homework? Send a minimum 10,000 word essay to email@example.com unpacking the sheer meaninglessness of its lyrical content. As a rule, George Harrison sucked as a lyricist because his words are devoid of even the most remedial understanding of such concepts as "metaphor," "hyperbole," and/or "double entendre."
However, there is a siilver lining to every dark cloud, and/or horse; in George's case, the upside to his linguistic stupidity (retardation?) is that it necessarily implies sincerity. As much as I can't relate to the notion of writing words down without having approx. 10,000 themes, sub-themes, points, sub-points, ideas and ideologies lurking behind the physical act of pen hitting paper, George's lyrics are always guaranteed to speak the truth, boring as it may be. But, as they say: Still Waters Run Deep.
As much as I could give a flying fuck about, say, "My Sweet Lord" vis a vis "I Am The Walrus," there are two instances in GH's oeuvre wherein his simplicity trumps JL's (and even PMcC's!) complexity to a near-startling degree: one is "Long, Long, Long", and the other is "For You Blue."
Okay, let's be honest with ourselves for a second here- the coolest part of "For You Blue" by George Harrison is by far and away when John Lennon says, "The Queen says No to pot-smoking FBI members." But here's the thing-
As much as we should all take many long, long, long moments out of our long, long, long lives to think about why "coolness" is powerful, legitimate, and a thousand light-years beyond "superficial," "coolness" will never be "greatness," and now is the time for all of us- myself included- to reflect upon that fundamental truth. "For You Blue" is the Universe's most fundamental proof of exactly why, and how, that is true.
As I said earlier, the only person I trust is myself, and the only truth I know is my own. My name is Laura Jane Faulds, and truthfully- I'm the coolest person I've ever known. I'm cool for a thousand reasons, but, let's be honest with ourselves for a second here- who the Helen Keller gives a wishbone?
I don't. What I care about, mostly, is why I'm great, and I am great for the exact same reason as "For You Blue"- because of the truth. Truthfully, truth be told, at this point in my life, I'm kind of a fucking loser. I'm unemployed, single, spend most of my free time hanging out with my Dad, am famous only on the Inter-lame-ternet, drink too much, don't eat enough, and my best friend is a tie between my therapist, my ex-boyfriend, and the lead singer of the Kinks forty years ago.
If I weren't great, all of these truths would bum me the hell out. If I weren't great, I would have given up on myself one year and three months ago. But, because I am great, I am wearing pink jeans, pay a lot of attention to what flowers look like, am happy as a damned clam, write like a maniac, and stare the truth down, every day. I surpass it, I endure it, and I accept it.
"For You Blue" is the sweetest Beatles love song there is, because it is only true. Because it is sincere, and only sincere. When it comes to pop songs, the splendor & grandiosity of "I Am The Walrus" can trump "For You Blue" in an instant. But when it comes to love, I don't know about you, but there's nothing I'd rather hear than "Because you're sweet and lovely, Girl, I love you. Because you're sweet and lovely, Girl, it's true- I'm living every moment, Girl, for you." Gimme the slickest, sickest simile the world has ever known- it means NOTHING compared to that.
When, in "For You Blue," George Harrison says "Elmore James ain't got nothin' on that one," he cracks, and giggles- it's not cool, but it's sweet, it's great. It's true because it's a lie, the laugh says so. I have no idea who Elmore James is, but I'll take George Harrison's word for it- whoever Elmore James may be, he's certainly got something on "For You Blue," and that's the TRUTH.
4. HEY BULLDOG
Just as "For You Blue" is one of George Harrison's finest moments because it tells the truth, John Lennon's "Hey Bulldog" is one of his straight-up coolest moments as a songwriter because it makes no sense. What's more, it makes no apologies for its meaninglessness, just like 95% of all killer pop songs written by non-great bands. "Hey Bulldog" is a really non-Beatlesy Beatles song, because it's fluff. For all intents and purposes, "Hey Bulldog" is more akin to "Yummy Yummy" by the Ohio Express than it is to, say, "Strawberry Fields Forever." The only real difference between "Hey Bulldog" and "Yummy Yummy," besides everything about it, which is a given, is that John Lennon is a naturally gifted writer of prose, so even when his sentences are throwaways, they are still beautiful, and function marvelously as aesthetic objects.
As a human being, I relate marginally more to Ray Davies than I do to John Lennon, but as an artist, I relate more to John Lennon than anybody. I have no idea why I think anyone in the world could possibly care about this, but Oh Well- like John Lennon, I am very self-indulgent.
Personally, I find that my gift as a writer lies in my ability to write punchy first and last sentences that tie into one another in a manner that reads as kind of powerful. Everything in between, however, kind of makes no sense, and I wonder when people are going to figure that out.
The thing is, though, everything I write always kind of makes sense as I'm writing it; it's only later, when I read it back with a bit of distance, that I think "Wait- is that really an opinion I hold?"
I can never tell.
When you compare the "abstract-itude" of "Hey Bulldog"'s lyric to, say, "Strawberry Fields Forever," it's obvsduh that our Johnny ain't exactly over-achieving on this one. But when you compare it to, say, every other song ever written, its depths take on near-Biblical proportions. My personal favourite lyric in "Hey Bulldog" is the one that goes "Childlike/No one understands/Jackknife/In your sweaty hands"- I love it as I do because I bet when John was writing it, it meant EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING- such is the magic of being a writer who is in it.
And then, in the life of John Lennon, a couple days inevitably passed. John Lennon got stoned, had a couple hundred thousand revelations about his life, did his taxes, cried, went for a walk, drove to Abbey Road, recorded "Hey Bulldog" and then listened back to it.
"What the fuck?" I can only assume he thought. "Are those really opinions that I hold?"
Yes, no, maybe so. Who knows? They can't all be Magnum Opuses.
5. IN SPITE OF ALL THE DANGER
I could, and will, spend the rest of my life writing about the Beatles. I have little doubt in my mind that, one day, you and/or anyone will be able to walk into any bookstore in the world and purchase your very own copy of "The Young Person's Guide to the Beatles" by Laura Jane Faulds. The words you are reading right now are the very first I've ever written for "The Young Person's Guide to the Beatles," which means that they are the "In Spite of all the Danger" of "The Young Person's Guide to the Beatles."
"In Spite of all the Danger" is about twenty trillion times better than it needs to be, considering how it was hastily recorded by three 16-thru-18 year old boys in a "Make Your Own Acetate" booth at a shitty record store in Liverpool in 1961. It is absolutely impossible to tell if "In Spite of all the Danger" is good because you know it's going to grow up to be "Hey Jude," or if it's good because- hey- it's just kinda good.
I'm sure you can imagine exactly how crazy I am, but honestly, you have no idea how crazy I am. I'm crazy, and lose sight of the greatness I discussed two Beatles songs ago approx. twenty trillion times a day. A couple of months ago, I was having a characteristic emotional breakdown when my ex-boyfriend reminded me that- hey- my life at this point is decidedly superior to John Lennon's when the Beatles were in Hamburg.
"This is my Beatles in Hamburg year," I thought, of 2009. I have to go right now; I'm late for band practice. There are a lot of Beatles songs; therefore, there are a lot of opportunities for me to further pontificate upon every last note those four dudes ever wrote.
But I guess what I really want to say is that, like I said, the Beatles were the first band who ever TOLD THE TRUTH. And when you tell the truth about yourself, you tell the truth about the entire world.
In spite of all the danger, in spite of all the heartbreak- I'm looking through you- I swear it (!)- and: we're all the same.
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