White Album Side 2

<-Side 1Julia->

Martha My Dear and we are immediately in a sunnier, less psychologically complex world than Side 1 which offers us a Brief Encounter for the Sixties generation; read the full review

I’m SO Tired begins with just three rising notes on the guitar and reveals an exhausted, troubled, Lennon singing because he is “mad for bed” and an intellectual woman. Read the Full Review

Blackbird  Little Rock inspired song that sounds that it has been with us from time immemorial. Immensely satisfying song to play Blackbird, achieves something quite magical in its own right.    Read the full review

Piggies  Inspired by Animal Farm, and written in 1966 along with Taxman, this becomes a baroque pop track with strings by George Martin  Read the full review

Rocky Raccoon one of Pauls character songs captured in a live take, with a honky-tonk piano overdub, which Paul described as a Mack Sennett movie set to music  Read the full review.

Don’t Pass Me By four years to write his first song, with the help of John and Paul, but just two weeks to write his second, with the help of Peter Sellers. Ringo’s graduation piece from the Apple Guild of Musical Creativity. Read the full review.

Why Don’t We Do IT in the Road Paul doing Conceptual Art as a raucous alpha male. Read the full review

I Will quintessentially a Paul song, of courtly love and lovers; “one of my most beautiful melodies”   Read the full review Continue reading “White Album Side 2”

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Julia

<-I WillSide 2 Overview->

Even though she preferred the Rolling Stones Julia, Lennon’s sister, called the White Album, “wonderfully creative and addictive” and that she “sang along with it all the way through.” Especially Julia her favourite ever song by her brother, not least because it is a song about her Mum and another mother.

Is this Johns moist beautiful song? It definitely builds on the open nostalgia they discovered and played free with up in a mountain village in the Himalayas. There is a corner of Rishikesh that is forever Liverpool. The great Beatles musicologist Alan Pollack accurately sums it up like this;

“This song is almost agonizingly exquisite in its restrained, laconic poetry, its combination of suggestive imagery with a reluctance to be explicit; “silent cloud touch me,” indeed.”

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When you talk to people in Liverpool today about how they value the industry of Beatles memorabilia (not that highly) they all rate the book by Julia Baird called Imagine This. John’s half-sister is named after his mother, and I am a big fan of the interpretation of her provided by Anne-Marie Duff in Nowhere Boy, especially the scenes of all three of them together along with Julia Lennon’s second husband. In the book Julia tells wonderful stories of them that ring true and resonate with the wistful memories floated by John in this song. Johns feelings are both those of a respectful son and a lustful lout; possibly Oedipal; shown awkwardly in the film, possibly because they are more about the directors lust for her leading man.

Like Pauls I Will Julia is a love song about love, a personal meditation on love. They are songs that, like most of the White Album, ask questions first and then embark on an attempt to answer them. Not so much Love Me Do, more “How do I love?”  Julia is also another song that casts off the pressures of being in the Fab Four in order to play around; with music.  And that music, it seems once again on the White Album, is untypical Beatles. Except, of course, that they were not only accomplished musicians but also avid music fans (see Ob-La-Di for more). Whilst they wrote much of the White Album up in Rishikesh, once back in Britain they caught up with the ever-evolving and amazingly diverse music scene going on in London. So diverse that, just recently Spanish scientists have “proven” that over a period from 1955-2105 popular music was at a rich and creative peak at that time (1968). A diverse creativity initiated by the “experimental style” of the Beatles own Sgt. Pepper.

Triggered by a combination of the Communist Ballads and Blues club, based at the Princess Louise pub in Holborn, and the post-1963 national Folk Club boom initiated by the Workers Music Association 6-week course in “Running a Folk Club” young folk musicians were everywhere in 1968, and they weren’t playing basic skiffle as the Quarrymen had done. In fact with musicians like John Renbourn (of Merrye England) and Bert Jansch (who heavily influenced ex-skiffle musician Jimmy Page) on the scene, arguably the best guitarists in popular music in 1968 were folkies rather than established pop stars or emerging blues musicians. In early 1968 Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter sounded like the most creative new album around, although Donovan’s folk-hippy triumph A Gift From A Flower to Garden was more likely to have influenced John with its two discs for both “little ones” and “heaven.”

It was The Fool who had indirectly connected the Beatles to this flourishingly creative folk scene. They had created the album cover for the Incredible String Band’s 1967 album 5,000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion and subsequently (after designing a Saville Theatre poster for Brian Epstein and Paul had seduced Marijke – yes he did) the Beatles enthusiastically commissioned them to be Apple’s design collective, setting them to work on the Apple Boutique in Baker Street.

Lennon was more interested in his musical instruments and commissioned The Fool to psychedelicise his acoustic Gibson guitar whilst he was still in the light and airy mode he had returned from India with. Perhaps he was still under the influence of Donovan and was considering writing more singer/songwriter material as his big bright blue pleasure machine looks ready for stage work (as seen below). As it is Julia is his only solo acoustic guitar track for the Beatles and it became just a part of the wonderful BBC Light Programme medley they simulated on the White Album.
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At first I thought that Julia was a breakthrough acoustic guitar love song for John, but he’d already been featured in HELP! serenading Eleanor Bron, whom he adored, in acoustic troubadour mode. However the lyrics to Hide Your Love Away are both cynical and self-deprecating as “I cannot sing my heart,” whereas, in Julia, John is straining to reveal his emotions with the immediacy of his signature newspaper realism, in order to reach her as “I can only speak my mind.”
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The Kinfauns run-through allowed John to block out a longer demo version of the song in May 1968, with extra verses and ending with “I can only speak my mind, Julia,” which he hadn’t yet done. However on 13th October 1968 Julia became the last track to be recorded for the White Album and was achieved in just three takes, take three becoming the released version. In between John had conjoined with the ocean child of his lyric; Yoko. The recording was made when he had become JohnandYoko whereas the song was written when she was maybe the one and then demoed when she was perhaps his future; maybe, perhaps, YES! I think the seeming certainty of his new love helps with the edited clarity of the “compact” recorded final version.

Julia is a shimmering, glimmering song of love, with a Continue reading “Julia”

I Will

<-Why Don’t We Do ITJulia->

This is quintessentially a Paul song – no-one could mistake it for a group effort, such is the lilting, sweet sentimentality of its sound and the subtlety and intricacy of its shifting structure, underpinned by a hummed bass-line, vocal overdubbing and unobtrusive taps for rhythm, with a complex and delightful coda. And yet, if we look at the lyrics themselves, we find a mystery at the core of the song that is somewhat at odds with the ‘finished’ feel of its sound. The obvious thing is to associate them, either with the crumbling edifice of Paul’s moribund relationship with Jane Asher or with one of his new-found squeezes (according to Steve Turner, Linda Eastman was due to arrive in London the week after the recording of this track). But, strangely, the song appears to be about no actual living person known to Paul at all….

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The title, repeated three times in the song itself, is, of course, a reference to the responses of bride and groom during the wedding service. This is, in itself, interesting. We could see the whole song as a reassertion of his desire for the perfect match, taking the words of the marriage ceremony and applying them to his freedom to ‘look elsewhere’.

The first two verses of the song subtly play around with our expectations. The first verse conveys the impression of a very conventional love song, the kind of lyric The Beatles might have penned at the start of their compositional lives as a group – think of ‘I do’ instead of ‘I Will’ and we remember:

Love, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true
So please….love me do

The lyric in verse 1 seems to be celebrating eternal love in past, present and future – he has loved the object of his affections for so long that it’s impossible to remember exactly how long, he continues to love her now (‘I love you still’) and will do so in the future, even if he has to wait a ‘lonely lifetime’ for his love to be reciprocated. This is courtly love for the 1960s – the devoted knight pledging his whole life to the pedestalised perfection of his objectivised desire.

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But, and it’s a big but, the second verse completely upsets our understanding of what McCartney is getting at. The loved one (if she exists) is not someone known to the persona-narrator here at all. Paul implies that he may never even have seen the object of his past, present and future affections, and that, if he did, he doesn’t know who she is. The next two lines deepen the mystery further – it ‘never really mattered’ whether he saw her or who she was/is; the important thing is the feeling – it is the romantic feeling that is rooted in the past, urgently with him in the here-and-now and destined to be there forever. In a way, we can see Paul here deconstructing his own romantic nature – at some level he knows he is the kind of person who, as another much earlier song has it, ‘falls in love too easily, falls in love too fast’.

The third verse middle-eight returns us to the clichéd conventionality of the opening verse, playing with space as well as time – he will love the object of his affections ‘forever and forever’, whether they are together or apart. This would, like the first verse, seem to suggest an actual loved one, with whom McCartney (or the persona-narrator) is sometimes with and sometimes without.

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But this apparent return to the solid, dependable ground of very early Beatles lyrics is immediately deconstructed by the first line of the final verse. It begins, as a last verse should, with a view of the end of things (‘when at last….’), but nevertheless suggests that the object of his love is still unknown to him (‘when at last I find you’). We’re back to the feeling of the second verse, that the important thing for this romantic is the journey, a journey made meaningful by the possibility of a joyous ending, but not defined by it. The persona-narrator is now desperate for the (unmet) loved one to sing to him, calling him to her, so that his passionate longing will be ‘easy’ in its fulfilment. The antepenultimate line, returning to the suggestion that this is actually someone he has met, is perhaps too much in love with the internal rhyme of ‘near you….endear you’, but the whole song ends with a repeated return to ‘I will’, the last on an upward note of yearning. It is a reminder of the dominant tense of the lyrics, the future – imagining and reasserting a romantic longing that, one feels, has never thus far been wholly embodied in any one person.

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The lyrics of the song almost certainly find their principal source in McCartney’s own imagination, self-analysis and intermittently troubled love-life, but there are perhaps suggestions of two intriguing mythic parallels. We might, for example, see Paul (or the persona-narrator) as a kind of Orpheus figure, the lyre-player and singer whose art is universally beguiling and who wins over his beautiful Eurydice with his music. Orpheus loses his Eurydice, of course, and is unable to resist looking back at her when he has found her in Hades and is about to lead her back to the world of the living, thus losing her again, this time forever. When Orpheus himself dies, his head is kept by the Muses to sing forever, enchanting people with the beauty of his melodies. This resonates powerfully with the feelings of intense yearning and loss that saturate the lyrics and, of course, with McCartney’s own personal history as universally ‘adored’ musician.

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But there is another, more ominous myth suggested by these lyrics, Continue reading “I Will”

Why Don’t We Do IT in the Road

<-Don’t Pass Me By – I Will->

Ian McDonald, in “Revolution in the Head”, describes “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” as a “minor relic of its long gone let-it-all-hang-out era”. Judged by the standards of our own time, the lyric is still blunt, confronting and leaves little room for ambiguity as to what “it” is.

All the songs on the White Album gain extra significance from their context in the overall sequence of songs. “Why Don’t We” probably gains most. Taken out of context, the song is a basic 12 bar blues in D. Normally Lennon and/or McCartney songs that use the 12 bar format (and they generally steered clear of it) will vary the basic chords in an interesting and subtle way. “Day Tripper” is a good example where the chords move from one to four in the usual manner:

Chord 1: Got a good reason
For taking the easy way out
Chord 4: Got a good reason
Chord 1: For taking the easy way out

So far so normal, but the chord on “(She was a) Day – – – Tripper” is a Major chord on the second step of the scale, so a chord in a new key and the beginning of a whole row of modulating chords that take you on a little journey to get you back home for the second verse, a feature that made listening to Beatles songs so exciting and fascinating.

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I follow a site called @darkmusictheory on my twitter feed. It consists of mostly young people saying “music theory is so boring I want to kill myself”. The predominating background idea is that if they understand music theory , they will then understand music and will become brilliant musicians. What could be more logical? Of course, music theory is just like learning the grammatical rules of any language. One can study French Grammar but it doesn’t mean you will be able to write like Proust, or even like a French blogger. One person wrote, “Music theory is so boring. But it is essential.” I wrote back, “Music Theory is useful, but not essential. Having a good ear is essential.” This remark generated a resounding silence…

I mention this because when I heard Beatles songs as I was growing up I had no idea about Music Theory (and of course neither did they) but I did hear that their music sounded unlike any other with a radiant, unpredictable quality that meant I never tired of listening to it. I now have a working knowledge of music theory and I find it fascinating to apply it to their work to see what is going on in the engine room so to speak, but I fortunately don’t know enough to let it interfere with my love of the music.

From a theoretical point of view, “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” is as basic as you can get. An unadorned 12-bar Blues such as any bar band might play. The feature that is unusual and that strikes everyone when they first hear it is the sound of McCartney’s vocal. Having got used to him as “the cute one”, suddenly he is sounding like some crazy axeman from the backwoods. As we have observed on previous songs, he is always “in character” on The White Album, each one carefully defined. Even when he sings “Blackbird”, which is perhaps most true to his public persona, he seems to be playing an “intimate folk-rock performer”, rather than being truly himself. In “Why Don’t We” he is raucous, alpha male, Jerry Lee’s slightly less crazy cousin and like we have never heard him before.

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The story is that “Why Don’t We” was one of the last tracks to be recorded for “The Beatles” on 9th/10th October 1968. John and George were working in the cavernous Studio 2 so Paul took over intimate Studio 1and recorded the song, multi-tracking himself playing all the instruments, much as he would do on his first solo album. Indeed this song would work well on that home-grown solo record. Ringo played drums, just bass drum,snare and cymbal with no hihats. The minimalism of the drums is mirrored in the restricted piano part and the slightly out of tune electric guitar, the repetitive lyric and the sense that it is all over before it’s begun. Indeed the main function of this song is to be a developed segué, much like “Wild Honey Pie”, rather than a fully realised song. It therefore functions brilliantly in the sequence of songs on Side 2 releasing the tension that builds up in, with all due respect to Ringo, the tedium of “Don’t Pass Me By”, and then works as a foil to the naive insouciance of “I Will” where McCartney sits centre stage playing yet another carefully crafted role, one in complete contrast to the slightly scary persona we meet here.

One could see this song as Conceptual Art, as Ian McDonald suggests, the sort of thing that Continue reading “Why Don’t We Do IT in the Road”

Don’t Pass Me By

<-Rocky Raccoon – Why Don’t We Do IT->

Whilst Lennon argued that Rishikesh stimulated even Ringo to write songs it might be better argued that it stimulated him to finish a song he’d started back in 1963 and had already told DJ Brian Matthew about on Top Gear (BBC radio before John Peel) as early as July 1964. Ringo complained that the boys wouldn’t record it, so Paul, who worked closely with Ringo on the 1968 recording, immediately sang a few lines of Don’t Pass Me By to Brian Matthew. To which Ringo replied “I got the ice-cream for you.” Not really Ringo!!

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Like Lennon in Help! Ringo had become an extra on his own album, and begun thinking that the other three were all tight with each other, and were excluding him. However he did, almost immediately, write Octopuses Garden when he left the Beatles Dolls House to holiday with Peter Sellers in August 1968; so Rishikesh did help kick-start his solo song-writing career. He also gave Sellers an early acetate of the White Album (11 tracks?) which he later turned into a reel-to-reel tape that can now be heard online, including an earlier, lumpier version of Don’t Pass Me By, which he proudly took with him when he (allegedly) quit the band.

When the first set of Beatles digital remasters were released in 2004, the Capitol album box sets which, with their deep reverb, strange sequencing and odd starts, were a complete and utter shock to us Brits, the first track I discovered/rediscovered was Boys by Ringo. I was already a fan of both versions of I Wanna Be Your Man but somehow I’d not picked up on Boys, although it was Ringo’s live showcase, as seen in the recent Eight Days a Week movie. In fact it was the regular Beatles drummer’s showcase as it had previously been Pete Bests second live showcase (after his preferred Matchbox).

As Jack has pointed out the White Album as a listening experience works best as a necklace of jewels that set each other off, and rewards those who listen to each side all the way through. It’s a Music Hall chocolate box of Varieties. I remember when we first heard it in 1968 we debated which was the best side, or perhaps suite, of music. Previously we used to argue about what was the best “unreleased” single on the album; It Won’t Be Long, Drive My Car and Taxman for example. The profligate abundance of the White Album changed this debate and, as I recall, we decided that either Side 1 or Side 3 was the best, with the largely acoustic Side 2 acting as a palette cleanser and Side 4 being the late evening wrap-up.
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So we could easily pass by Ringo’s own Don’t Pass Me By without too much difficulty because, it’s a Ringo track, and it’s bookended by neither George nor Paul’s strongest track on the White Album; the easy-listening pleasant valley dip before the sublime Julia. Whereas Ringo had previously been given hit singles to sing on both Revolver and Sgt Peppers, Don’t Pass Me By is far more of a follow-up to his co-writing outing on Rubber Soul, What Goes On; but written by the lesser song writer.

However that was album filler; this is somewhat less. In fact by isolating it and listening to it on its own without the ribbon of tracks on Side 2 to lift it, I found it quite a difficult listen, despite all the invention used at the production stage, not least the Byron Berline fiddle playing of Jack Fallon (who’d played with Duke Ellington). It’s real significance as a published work is in kick-starting Ringo’s compositional career. In that sense it is his first true Apple track with Lennon helping Ringo to finish writing it “in a fit of lethargy.” If they could do something to help James Taylor then they could help their very own Richard Starkey. It clearly worked as Ringo wrote Octopuses Garden shortly afterwords which means he took 4 years to write his first track and only 2 weeks to write his second. Just like Mick and Keith after John and Paul wrote I Wanna Be Your Man for them.

However, as Ringo himself puts itthere’s no great tune comes out.” So what goes on during its 3 minutes and 51 second duration? There’s a lumpy plodding bass, rather than a light walking bass, underpinning the typical Country & Western mix of forced cheer in delivering the “oh woe is poh boy me” lyrical sadness of his essentially bluegrass song. “Sounds like a Jerry Lee Lewis B-side” said The Big Three. I think Paul signals the artifice of the song in the wonky stumbling 8-second piano opening to the song, which replaced a 50 second orchestral intro (A Beginning which opened Anthology 3 but doesn’t work in the middle of Side 3) that a baffled George Martin had scored. Ringo then kicks it off with some big drums and we are sucked back into our liking of Ringo’s loveable personality as a way of empathising with the music. Around 2 minutes 45 seconds in it sounds like we might get lucky but an emphatic bass tells us we have another 60 seconds of 2-note bass stodge still to digest. In this time I would normally nip out of the music room and make a fresh cup coffee, but there is some joy in the improvised closing fiddle sequence, even though it actually embarrassed Fallon when it was included on the album. Those Boys!
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In fact Don’t Pass Me By is the apprenticeship for Ringo’s highly successful solo career and, for me, it is the moment that Apple finally made sense for Ringo; he hadn’t even gone to the glamorous opening of the Apple Boutique in Baker Street. Like all of us he did have creative talents, not just his  Continue reading “Don’t Pass Me By”

Rocky Raccoon

<-PiggiesDon’t Pass Me By->

Rocky Raccoon’ was mainly written by Paul McCartney, apparently sitting on a roof in India, although John Lennon and Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan also made contributions to the initial lyric when he got stuck. However there is nothing remotely Indian about the song, which could perhaps best be described as a folk rock ballad, based on North American folk and bluegrass music

The title was originally ‘Rocky Sassoon’ (as in Vidal Sassoon, the famous hairdresser of the time) but McCartney changed it to ‘Rocky Raccoon’ because he thought “it sounded more like a cowboy”. A raccoon is a dextrous medium-sized mammal, native to North America. ‘Coonskin’ hats were originally traditional native American caps that became very popular with American and Canadian frontiersmen, such as Davy Crockett, of the 18th and 19th Centuries. McCartney would have probably been familiar with these as a result of the extensive UK marketing campaign launched by Disney in 1955/6 to publicise the film ‘Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier’. In the 1950s, cowboy ’Westerns’ as they were known, were very popular and frequently shown cinema and TV films.

It has been suggested that the name ‘Rocky’ was inspired by Roky Erikson the American psychedelic ‘13th Floor Elevator’’s vocalist and guitarist. However it seems equally possible that McCartney might have been familiar with the animated ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ TV cartoon shows of the early 1960s, known for their quality writing and wry, often self-referential humour, mixing puns, cultural and topical satire – although Rocky is a flying squirrel and he and Bullwinkle J Moose live in the fictional town of Frostbite Falls in Minnesota. In Paul’s original version, Rocky Raccoon comes from Minnesota, though this was subsequently changed to Dakota.

But maybe ‘Rocky’ is just a great multi-meaning name to choose as it describes Rocky’s ‘rocky’ up and down relationship with Lil, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’ is, of course, a folk-‘rock’ song. “There are some names I use to amuse, Vera, Chuck and Dave or Nancy and Lil, and there are some I mean to be serious, like Eleanor Rigby, which are a little harder because they have to not be joke names. In this case Rocky Raccoon is some bloke in a raccoon hat, like Davy Crockett.”
Paul McCartney in Barry Miles’ ‘Many Years From Now’.

Essentially Rocky Raccoon is a a jokey song about a cuckolded young American man seeking revenge against a love rival, but finding salvation in religion. “Rocky Raccoon is quirky, very me. I like talking blues so I started off like that, then I did my tongue-in-cheek parody of a western and threw in some amusing lines. I just tried to keep it amusing, really; it’s me writing a play, a little one-act play giving them most of the dialogue.”
Paul McCartney in Barry Miles’ ‘Many Years From Now’.

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Paul once described the song as “a Mack Sennett movie set to music.” Mack Sennett was an innovator of slapstick comedy. He may also have had in mind the well-known poem: ‘The Shooting Of Dan McGrew’ by Robert W Service which involves a love triangle, a gunfight, a character named “Dangerous Dan McGrew” and the “the lady that’s known as Lou”. The third and fourth lines of the poem read:

‘Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.’

Another influence on McCartney might just have been the Doris Day song “The Black Hills of South Dakota” from the 1953 movie Calamity Jane – the first line of Rocky Racoon being ‘Now somewhere in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota’ Paul has also described the way in which he worked on the song:
These kind of things – you can’t really talk about how they come ’cause they just come into your head, you know. They really do! And it’s like John writing his books. There’s no…I don’t know how he does it, and he doesn’t know how he does it, but he just writes. I think people who actually do create and write…you tend to think, ‘Oh, how did he do that,’ but it actually does flow…just flows from into their head, into their hand, and they write it down, you know. And that’s what happened with this. I don’t know anything about the Appalachian mountains or cowboys and Indians or anything. But I just made it up, you know”.

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The Beatles recorded ‘Rocky Raccoon’ during a single session on 15 August 1968 – around half-way through the recording sessions for the album – with McCartney on vocals and acoustic guitar, Starr on drums and unusually Lennon on six-string bass. George Martin played the honky-tonk piano solo, and Lennon, McCartney and Harrison contributed backing vocals. Apparently it was difficult to record as it all had to be done all in one take as it would have been very hard to edit. Additional bass and drum parts, along with John’s harmonica, the harmonium, George Martin’s Honkey Tonk piano and the backing vocals were finally added to the 8th or 9th take. ‘Rocky Raccoon’ is also the last Beatles song to feature John Lennon’s harmonica playing.

Musically ‘Rocky Raccoon’ develops grad­u­ally, from Paul’s solo acoustic guitar added to by Ringo’s initially light high-hat and Lennon’s bass, building up to the lively bridge. While the structure is very straight-forward – verse / chorus / verse / chorus etc., and the chord pattern is also simple and repetitive, the verses vary in length according to the demands of the story, rather than dictating a fixed number of lines.
The song begins with an unaccompanied acoustic guitar with Paul’s semi-spoken explanation of who Rocky is.

Verse 1
Now somewhere in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota
There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon
And one day his woman ran off with another guy
Hit young Rocky in the eye
Rocky didn’t like that
He said, “I’m gonna get that boy”
So one day he walked into town
Booked himself a room in the local saloon

In line 1, the “Black Mountain Hills of Dakota” are the Black Hills of South Dakota, a mountain range that gets its name because the hills are covered by dark trees. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were long running ‘feuds’ between native Indians and whites in the region, and land ownership is still in dispute to this day.
There was an original version of this verse that went:

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Verse 2
Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible
Rocky had come, equipped with a gun
To shoot off the legs of his rival
His rival it seems, had broken his dreams
By stealing the girl of his fancy
Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil
But everyone knew her as Nancy
Now she and her man, who called himself Dan
Were in the next room at the hoe down
Rocky burst in, and grinning a grin
He said, “Danny boy, this is a showdown”
But Daniel was hot, he drew first and shot
And Rocky collapsed in the corner

Particularly in America, Gideon’s Bibles are often found in a drawer in a hotel or motel room. They are distributed by Gideon International, an evangelical Christian organization dedicated to publishing the Bible in over 94 languages and 194 countries worldwide.  Rocky’s girl’s name was Magill, but, while she called herself Lil for short, she also used the name Nancy as a pseudonym, possibly because she had many lovers and wanted to keep her real name secret. More likely though it was simply her ’stage’ name. ‘Lil’, which rhymes with Magill, could be short for Lily, or for ‘Little’, i.e., her full name might have been ‘Little Nancy Magill’. Here Paul is parodying the complex use of aliases often found in Western films.

The words ‘hoe down’ – an American folk dancing event – rhymes well with ‘show-down’ – a popular term for a gun-fight in Westerns. However it perhaps seems strange the hoedown is happening ‘in the next room’ and that Rocky would ‘burst in’ so just possibly in this context hoe down is a euphemism for ‘making love’? ‘Danny boy’ is just possibly a reference to the title of a classic Irish folk song of the same title.

During this verse the musical accompaniment gradually builds. Note Ringo’s harder beat just after the penultimate line that represents Dan’s shot.

The musical bridge ups the tempo with McCartney singing along in a wordless tune to George Martin’s ‘Honky Tonk’ saloon bar accompaniment, leading straight in to the next verse.

Verse 3
Now the doctor came in, stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table
He said, “Rocky, you met your match”
And Rocky said, “Doc, it’s only a scratch
And I’ll be better, I’ll be better, Doc, as soon as I am able”

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McCartney probably got the idea for the drunken doctor from personal experience. In his book, ‘A Hard Day’s Write’, Steve Turner quotes from Margo Bird of Apple Records:
Paul had a moped which he came off one day in May 1966. He was a bit stoned at the time and cut his mouth and chipped his tooth. The doctor that came to treat him was stinking of gin and didn’t make a very good job of the stitching which is why Paul had a nasty lump on his lip for a while.”
The last line can be read in two ways – first in terms of his physical and mental health and secondly in his gun-shooting ability to deal with Dan. A few people have commented that they always thought the last line was: “I’ll be better, doc, as soon as I am Mabel”!
An accordion-like harmonium adds to the background musical mix.

Verse 4
Now Rocky Raccoon, he fell back in his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible
Gideon checked out, and he left it, no doubt
To help with good Rocky’s revival

After having initially noticed the Gideon’s Bible on his arrival, the suggestion is that now it will help his recovery from both his injury and broken heart, and that religion had been there all along. There is also the joke that it was left behind by someone actually called Gideon. However, there are also some interesting multiple meanings: to ‘check out’ can mean to leave a hotel and pay the bill, but also to look in and see if everything is okay. ‘Revival’ refers to Rocky becoming physical and spiritually strong again, but at the same time what are known as ‘Religious Revival Meetings’ take place in America in an attempt to both to bring religion back into fashion and to gain new conversions. In the mid 1960’s there was also the popular American ‘folk music revival’.

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Paul has commented: “I like the idea of Gideon being a character. You get the meaning, and at the same time get in a poke at it. All in good fun.” However, it’s not quite clear exactly what he was actually poking fun at. It has been suggested that Linda Eastman’s voice can be heard on the somewhat ‘heavenly choir’ harmonies that begin half way through the final verse. This perhaps seems unlikely as she did not move to London until the end of September 1968 – although it is of course possible she might have been on a ‘visit’ from America at the time.

The track ends with a further rendition of the bridge that leads into the short segue before ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, which is also accompanied by a folksy American bluegrass violin.  So the song is over, but there is one further interesting question to consider. Bob Dylan and the Beatles saw themselves as musical rivals, though they influenced each other. Some have suggested that ‘Rocky Raccoon’ is an attempt to satirise Dylan and the musical adjustment to religious themes he explored in his semi-acoustic ‘John Wesley Harding’ album of 1967 that drew on American folk-music and the Bible. The real ‘John Wesley Hardin’ was a Texas Outlaw. Furthermore, like Rocky in the original first verse, Dylan was born in ‘a little town in Minnesota’, and at the time his hair-style could be described as looking a little like an unkempt mammal! In 1966 he had had a relatively minor motorcycle accident, from which he duly recovered. We shall doubtless never know if that’s what Paul consciously intended, so the answer will surely remain ‘blowing in the wind’…

Now ‘Rocky Raccoon’ happens to be the first Paul McCartney-led song I’ve written about for ‘Whiter than the Beatles’, and perhaps there’s a reason for that. Up to and including ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ I had been a big fan of the more McCartney-based songs, including such classics as ‘Yesterday’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘For No-one’ and even ‘When I’m 64’. But the Beatles’ White Album marks the point that, for me, his work starts to become too often over-sentimentalised and lacking that sense of lyrical sharpness and creativity, despite the formidable quality of the music and studio recording itself. I’m not saying his later compositions are not good, just that they appeal to me less.

But it’s not just McCartney who seems to be beginning to stop asking ‘What if…?’ on some (but by no means all) of the White Album tracks and ceasing to explore the possibilities – the rest of the Beatles, and indeed many other bands who flourished in the mid 1960s, would soon follow. Their choice, with just a few notable exceptions, would be to continue to come up with endless variations of the musical territories they had established. During the 1970s most bands added an ‘r’ to become ‘brands’ that reliably delivered risk-free products that embodied familiar musical formats, values and personalities.

With John now committed to his close relationship with Yoko and Paul’s to Linda, John and Paul were no longer each other’s critical best friends. Somehow McCartney without Lennon – and Lennon without McCartney – is like: Continue reading “Rocky Raccoon”

Piggies

<-Blackbird – Rocky Raccoon->

‘This little piggy…’

‘Piggies’ is a satirical George Harrison composition which he initially wrote in early 1966. As such it is contemporary with his ‘Taxman’ on ‘Revolver’ which also had social and political messages, each portrayed through the Beatles’ particular sense of humour, and ably abetted using George Martin’s previous experience in recording comedy songs. It therefore pre-dates Harrison’s later interest in Indian music and spiritualism. The song was eventually completed in September 1968 for The Beatles’ White album. “That one I wrote about two-and-a-half or three years ago, but I never finished it…I had put the lyrics in a book at home and I had completely forgotten about it until last summer when I dug them out.” George Harrison, 1968

The song is clearly based around George Orwell’s allegorical ‘Animal Farm’ novel, published in 1945. ‘Animal Farm’ uses a livestock farm as a metaphor for communism in which -while all animals are created equal – the pigs become dictators, declaring that “some animals are more equal than others”. However Harrison’s version attempts to replace communism with capitalism. His bigger piggies are the socially despicable, though outwardly refined, wealthy classes. As such it embraced the anti-establishment mood of the emerging ‘counter-culture’ of the time. Class-consciousness was an emerging issue in the mid 1960s, as exemplified in this classic late-night TV satirical comedy sketch:

Musically the track is a further exploration of what has been called ‘Baroque Pop’ in which classical and rock music are combined. It followed on from earlier Beatles’ tracks such as ‘In My Life’ and ‘For No One’, which featured instruments such as harpsichords, string quartets and French Horns, and were led by McCartney rather than Lennon. Meanwhile The Rolling Stones had explored a similar approach in ‘Lady Jane’, on their 1966 ‘Aftermath’ album.

On ‘Piggies’ George plays acoustic guitar, Paul is on bass and Ringo plays tambourine. The harpsichord was played by Chris Thomas, George Martin’s assistant editor who was in charge while Martin – increasingly unhappy with the atmosphere in the studio – was away on holiday. In Martin’s absence, Thomas also produced ‘Birthday’ and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, and played piano on ‘Long, Long, Long’ and ‘Savoy Truffle’. Meanwhile John explored the Abbey Road collection of effect records and tapes to find loops of pigs snorting. The track was completed later in October with George Martin adding the eight-piece string arrangements. In contrast to the previous four tracks Piggies is entirely in 4/4 time and has a simple and largely conventional structure. The bridge is in a different key.

Taken together, the acerbic lyrics and sounds of pigs snorting provide a stark contrast to the traditional, classical orchestration. The track begins with a short harpsichord introduction, immediately suggesting a classical concert in a grand stately home. The harpsichord happened to be set up ready for recording in another studio.

Verse 1
Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all the little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in

This first verse is problematical, and somewhat unresolved. Who is it being spoken by and to whom? It could be interpreted as being the bigger piggies looking down on the little piggies in a condescending manner and assuming that they are enjoying ‘playing around’ in the dirt (as indeed real pigs do!). Meanwhile the bigger piggies do not really care that for the little piggies ‘life is getting worse’. Thus presumably the ‘little piggies’ are the lower, working class, scrabbling to make a living doing all the dirty jobs no-one else wants to do. The first of John’s piggy grunts is heard after the fourth line.

Verse 2
Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
Always have clean shirts to play around in

Verse 2 presumably refers more to middle and senior managers, or better-paid ‘white collar’ workers as they were well known in those days. Factory-floor workers were ‘blue collar’ (i.e., overall) workers. The managers spend their time organising the little piggies, and therefore don’t get their hands, or shirts, dirty. The bigger piggies are also the wealthy bankers and business owners who wear white ‘dress’ shirts to formal occasions. Although the term ‘pig’ had at the time become a popular slang for the police, George has clarified that this was not the intended reference.

Verse 3 /Bridge
In their sties with all their backing
They don’t care what goes on around
In their eyes there’s something lacking
What they need’s a damn good whacking

In other words, the bigger, privileged piggies all have nice houses, sound financial backing, and lack a sense of care for or empathy with the plight of the little piggies. The final line ‘What they need’s a damn good whacking’ was apparently provided by George’s mother, who helped him out when he was trying to find a good rhyme with backing and lacking.

George’s altered and increasingly more angry voice was achieved by using an echo chamber and only using a very narrow frequency range. The lyric is then followed by a harpsichord middle section – listen out for Chris Thomas’s descending blues line towards the end!

Verse 4
Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon

The bigger piggies are able to attend dinner parties and go to expensive restaurants accompanied by their wives. The last line was originally ‘Clutching forks and knives to cut their pork chops‘, carrying the implication that ultimately the big piggies will cannibalise themselves. However, the final version: ‘Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon’ was suggested by John. This verse is sung as a mock operatic chorus.

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Meanwhile there is also a fifth verse, which was not included on the recording for the White album. It goes….

Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
You can see them on their trotters
At their piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks to thee pig brother.

Thus the bigger Piggies spend their time following the public-school tradition of ‘playing pranks’. There is also the irony of the little piggies saving their hard-earned money in ‘piggy banks’ as was then popular. ’Pig Brother’ is a reference to George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ from his novel ’1984’.

Apparently ‘Piggies’ took a long time to record, with many takes and over-dubs. It has been suggested that George’s ‘One More Time’ at the end is a recording of him demanding yet another take, followed by orchestral chords and finally the last of Lennon’s piggy sounds.

Mention must regrettably be made of Continue reading “Piggies”

Blackbird

<-I’m SO TiredPiggies->

Blackbird” is a song that sounds as if it has always been with us from time immemorial, found carved on a stone tablet, rather than written in 1968. It takes a simple technique of playing a bass line with a parallel line a tenth above (eight notes of the scale above the root create an octave, a further 2 steps gives a tenth) and a drone on the root note G in the middle. The vocal melody threads its way between these lines and this really accounts for 95% of the song, musically speaking. This is an immensely satisfying song to actually play. The bass part with the counter melody above, the rhythm part strummed on the middle string – the guitar becomes a one-man-band that you sing over and the whole thing feels complete. A lot of blues-men like Robert Johnson, Elmore James developed a self-contained way of playing and Blackbird achieves something quite magical in its own right.

The recording on The White Album enhances the sense of listening to Paul alone with his guitar by having his vocal completely dry, that is without any reverberation or room ambience. In the refrain he double tracks his vocal, and there is a very subtly applied second guitar doubling the guitar part in places, but the effect is of a solitary man singing his song into the dark black night.  One mysterious element on the track is the clicking sound that provides a pulse to the song. Allan Pollack thinks it is a metronome, but it speeds up and down in time with Paul’s performance on the various rehearsal takes so it must be something he is doing with his right “strumming” hand, or perhaps with his tapping foot.

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Some online tutorials say that open G tuning is necessary to play the song and Ian McDonald in “Revolution in The Head” talks about detuning the E strings (high and low) down to D, but Paul’s guitar is tuned normally and all of the content is achieved without anything unusual going on. The guitar picking technique is very different from John’s pattern on “Dear Prudence” and “Julia” so the online debates about whether Paul learnt this from Donovan can be settled – it is more than likely that Paul developed it himself.

Part of its structure is a particular harmonic thing between the melody and the bass line which intrigued me. Bach was always one of our favourite composers; we felt we had a lot in common with him… I developed the melody on guitar based on the Bach piece and took it somewhere else, took it to another level, then I just fitted the words to it.” – Paul McCartney in “Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles. It is unlikely that Paul and George had much in common with J. S. Bach, but it is not inconceivable that the Bourée from the Lute Suite in E minor BWV996 was influential on the guitar part of Blackbird

The Bourée turns up on Jethro Tull’s album “Stand Up” released in the following year, so J. S. Bach was making his presence felt in pop music, as he does in most musical genres eventually.

What is more likely is that decamping to Rishikesh, with only acoustic guitars available on which to compose songs, all three guitar-playing Beatles were forced to explore the instrument in more detail. Unlike most of their other songs, which use “off-the-peg” guitar chords, “Blackbird”, “Dear Prudence”, “Julia”, “Mother Nature’s Son” all come from playing chords where bass and melodic notes move against static open strings creating sweet harmonic clashes. A lot of “folk” based players were exploring similar territory. David Crosby was experimenting with different guitar tunings and many of his songs use the drone element created by letting open strings ring over moving harmonies – “Guinevere” and his demo version of “Almost Cut My Hair” are good examples, but it was Joni Mitchell who was the pre-eminent exponent of this technique. Her song “Marcie” for example uses a similar set of chords to “Blackbird”, tenths moving against a tonic drone, but it must be admitted that her retuning of the guitar and the mastery that she has of her idiom leaves her contemporaries in the dust.

It sounds as if I am a little disparaging of Blackbird. Nothing could be further from the truth. The song is a model of economy and clarity and has that “Beatles” quality of sounding definitive, as if it could not be any other way…

The form of the song is generated out of the evolving musical material. This is impressive in itself. Most songs use a pre-set form to present ideas. Verse-Chorus, Verse-bridge-Chorus or 32-bar structures are most common, but McCartney’s fluency as a song writer enables him to create structures like “Martha My Dear” and “Blackbird” that generate themselves out of an opening phrase.

As in “Martha”, the opening instrumental becomes the accompaniment to the first vocal line and this contains the lyric title and the musical identity of the song.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
is 3+4 = 7 beats long

Take these broken wings and learn to fly
is 4+4 = 8 beats

All your life
2+4 = 6 beats

You were only waiting for this moment to arrive
4+4 = 8 beats

The guitar repeats the phrase
4+4 = 8 beats

From this one sees how sung phrases that sound so natural and inevitable are in fact asymmetrical and balanced in such a way as to keep tipping you forward. This structure repeats for the second verse, leading to a new section:

Blackbird flying
Blackbird flying
Into the light of the dark, black night

This is not really a chorus even though it functions in the same way. Because of the harmony it feels transitional whereas a conventional “chorus” sounds like home. So McCartney is mixing the elements of verse/chorus and 32-bar structure to achieve a song of exceptional fluency.

There seems to be a consensus that the song was recorded in 6 hours on 11th June 1968. I was lucky enough to access a number of rehearsal takes of the song. In the early rehearsals George Martin can be heard talking to Paul about extending the song by repeating it from the beginning after playing the 2 verses and 2 refrains. He also suggests at the break point, a sound “in the distance” that then gets closer before recommencing the song from the beginning. This perhaps sowed the seed for using the recorded blackbird song at this point. There are also takes where John is in the studio trying to add slide guitar, but he is not very helpful, seeming to want to keep the song as short as possible and talking with Yoko a lot while Paul is struggling on with singing the song! So although the finished song sounds fluent, getting there involved a lot of dead ends and stumbling around.

There are numerous run-throughs by Paul, some quite focused although a lot are using funny voices and generally sound rather directionless as if he is waiting for John or George Martin to say “Do it like this…” Listening to the rehearsals it sounds like it was George Martin who cajoled the final shape of the song into being. An earlier take which appears on Anthology 3, reveals a more or less complete guitar part, indeed the guitar part is pretty consistent throughout the rehearsal takes. The changes come in the vocal part and particularly in the vocal delivery and in getting the structure right. It is interesting to notice how Paul’s final take, the one that appears on the album, corrects all the weak vocal phrasing. It is indeed remarkable how the work-in-progress versions of songs presented on the Anthology are inferior to the finished versions released on the albums. I don’t think this is to do with my being familiar with the released versions and missing the details on the Anthology takes. I think the Beatles had an ear for the definitive version of a song.

The lyrics were inspired by the civil rights movement in America; the ‘blackbird’ of the title was said to represent a typical woman facing oppression in the era.

I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’ As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place so, rather than say ‘Black woman living in Little Rock’ and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.” – Paul McCartney, “Many Years From Now” – Barry Miles

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The song has always seemed universal to me, a modern extension of Continue reading “Blackbird”

I’m SO Tired

<-Martha My DearPiggies->

There are very few Beatles tracks that one gets tired of listening to, and ‘I’m So Tired’, certainly isn’t one of them. But before considering ‘I’m So Tired’ in depth it is helpful to understand more about the context in which it was composed and what the Beatles were doing in India in the spring of 1968.

 

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In late August 1967 the Beatles had attended a seminar given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor in North Wales, but this was cut short on the announcement of the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Initially the interest in Transcendental Meditation (TM) had been taken up by George and John who were looking for an alternative to drugs, and, they hoped, would be something to give them the wisdom to run their new Apple company successfully. They both continued to publicly promote TM during the autumn of 1967, providing much world-wide publicity for the movement and sparking a huge interest in Indian mysticism and meditation that seemed to lead naturally on from the ‘Summer of Love’ of 1967. During this time Lennon continued to develop his working relationship with Yoko Ono, whom he had first met in 1966.

After the production of the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ during the autumn of 1967, in mid-February 1968 the band arrived in India for a retreat in Rishikesh, some 150 miles from Dehli, at the Maharishi’s Ashram – the Indian name for a place of spiritual worship. Along with their wives, girlfriends, assistants, and numerous reporters – most of whom who were kept out of the compound – the Beatles joined a group of some 60 people hoping to successfully train to become TM teachers. The course was due to run until the 25th April. Lennon and Harrison arrived first, with their wives, followed by the others five days later.

Whatever the merits, benefits and intensity of the TM sessions, between them the Beatles wrote many, and some of their best, songs while there. These included 18 songs that were included on the ‘White Album’ (the exceptions are ‘Martha My Dear’, ‘Birthday’, ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Savoy Truffle’, ‘Honey Pie’ and ‘Good Night’), and 2 songs on ‘Abbey Road’:’Mean Mr Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’. Lennon said: “We wrote about thirty new songs between us. Paul must have done about a dozen. George says he’s got six, and I wrote fifteen. And look what meditation did for Ringo – after all this time he wrote his first song.”

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The Maharishi disapproved of alcohol and recreational drugs, and these were banned, though it seems some attendees did manage to smuggle some in. It has also been reported that George and John did not indulge and were critical of those who did. Ringo stayed for just ten days, as he was not enjoying the food and his wife disliked the large number of insects, though he has continued to support and practice TM ever since. McCartney left after about a month, sometime around the 24th March, apparently to attend to business concerns, together with Jane Asher who had an acting commitment. While McCartney did not dismiss the work of the Mahirishi, there were suggestions that he was not wholly convinced by it.

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Harrison and Lennon remained until the 12th April, leaving as a result of now unsubstantiated rumours of the Maharishi’s inappropriate behaviour towards some of his female students, and concerns that he was taking excessive advantage of the band’s fame. This led to Lennon’s disillusionment with the Maharishi, and his hasty departure back to London – though he was also missing Yoko Ono. Apparently Harrison had already planned to leave at that point due to a prior commitment to meet with Ravi Shankar in the South of India. While waiting for transportation back to Dehli, Lennon wrote a highly critical song about the Maharishi that later became ‘Sexy Sadie’. The Beatles’ trip to India was the last time they all travelled together as a band.

Harrison later apologised for the way that he and Lennon had treated the Maharishi, and stated that the allegations of the Maharishi’s inappropriate behaviour were unfounded. The Maharishi died in 2008 at the age of 90. His since abandoned ashram was officially opened to the public in 2015 and has been renamed Beatles Ashram.

Along with ‘Buffalow Bill’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Sexy Sadie’ and ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide’, ‘I’m So Tired was written by John Lennon in direct response to the situation he found himself in while staying at the Maharishi’s camp. The more innocent account of the song’s genesis, provided by John himself was that: “‘I’m So Tired’ was me, in India again. I couldn’t sleep, I’m meditating all day and couldn’t sleep at night. The story is that.”

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But the reality is more complicated: a lot of things were troubling Lennon at the time. First, after establishing a working relationship with Yoko Ono, he now had become infatuated with her. While it is believed that they had not yet consummated their relationship, he had decided he wanted to split from his wife Cynthia. She was with him in India, and he was confused as to how to resolve the situation. Meanwhile with alcohol and drugs not allowed in the camp, John was missing both badly. Thus, three weeks into his visit, he was doubtless suffering withdrawal symptoms that would have caused insomnia. It is also known that John loved to sleep and it was very important to him. He had already written ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (from Revolver).

Please, don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me
Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping

David Quantick, in his book ‘Revolution: The Making Of The Beatles’ White Album’, suggests: “Like many artistic people who rise late, work late, and value their sleep perhaps a little too much, Lennon was mad for his bed.” He also points out that Lennon’s “great political gesture was the bed-in”, and that “His first solo single, ‘Give Peace A Chance,’ is one of the few classic songs actually recorded in bed”.

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So the song expresses Lennon’s highly disturbed state of mind. It was also a reply to Yoko who apparently had been sending him post-cards and telegrams on an almost daily basis. “I got so excited about her letters,” he said. “I started thinking of her as a woman, and not just an intellectual woman.” But beyond the lyric, the music brilliantly describes his insomnia, reflecting his state of mind perfectly, swapping from the tired, listless verse to the suddenly alert chorus, full of the anxiety, frustration and anger he was experiencing.

The song features all four of the Beatles and was recorded on 8 October 1968 in one session. They also recorded ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ during the same session. ‘I’m So Tired’ was the first song to be taped, and was completed in 14 takes. They recorded the song played live together as a band, with few overdubs using all eight of Abbey Road’s available tracks. Ringo’s drumming is masterful throughout, really driving the song along.  Lennon, who sings the main tune, later said that the song was one of his favourite Beatles’ recordings.

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‘I’m So Tired’ begins with just three rising notes on the guitar before the vocal starts, with Lennon starting slightly ahead. The first two verses and the first chorus are sung without a break, before a moment of complete silence before the final verse and chorus are sung, again without a break. Instead of silence, this time there are drum breaks before the final two repeats of the chorus.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink
No, no, no

“On the blink” is a way of saying that something – i.e., John’s mind – isn’t working properly, is acting strangely or malfunctioning. As well as happily rhyming with ‘wink’, a wink and a blink are both rapid eye movements. The third line expresses his desire for alcohol, but the final line a reminder that alcohol is not allowed, and anyway, that’s what he is trying to get away from.

I’m so tired, I don’t know what to do
I’m so tired, my mind is set on you
I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do

The second verse, while repeating the phrase ‘I’m so tired’, is clearly addressed to Yoko, confirming he is confused, but confirming his commitment to her. The last line, which Lennon sings with much greater intensity, runs into the chorus:  Continue reading “I’m SO Tired”

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