From menudo.uh.edu!swrinde!gatech!howland.reston.ans.net!vixen.cso.uiuc.edu!uchinews!quads!dlm3 Mon Nov 22 21:30:40 GMT-0600 1993
Re: "2 of Us"..whazzit about?
Re: "2 of Us"..whazzit about?Sender: email@example.com (News System) Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org References:
In article <1993Nov20.email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org (Jamesa Willer) writes:
>Yeah, but the *artist* is usually the *least* knowlegeable about their
>own work. (My wife said so, and she's an *art* major, so she *knows*...)
>saki posted a wonderful examination of this song some months back.
Amazingly, I found the original post, from October 1992. I apologize for the rerun. It was in response to just such a query as that of the original poster, who asked about the true meaning of "Two Of Us":
Paul had pretty definite ideas about this one...and far be it from me to contradict him. After all, the man knows for whom, presumably, he writes a song. And Paul was adamant that "Two Of Us" was for Linda Eastman, his then-recent girlfriend, soon-to-be wife. That's what he told journalist Ray Coleman.
But Paul had one remarkable gift among many, just like his erstwhile songwriting partner, a certain Mr. Lennon. And that was to be capable of writing a song with more than one target. Perhaps more accurately, Macca could manage to aim a ballad directly at one person, on the surface, but in the deep structure the song veered straight into another quadrant. You have to look at the song from more than one vantage to see the extradimensional intent. A rose is a rose is a rose...but depending how you hold it in your fingers, the physical planes, even the colors, can change.
Sure, as John said to the intruding fan in Tittenhurst Park (captured like home-movie footage in the film "Imagine") "They're only words". And they are...just like James Joyce wrote "only" words; or Shakespeare "only" plays; or the way a Greek fresco is "only" plaster and paint. "Two Of Us" may be "only" a love song for Paul's intended bride (curiously, it was not planned for Paul's own performance, having been demo'd for a group called Mortimer in 1969, though never issued by them).
Dr. Macca had written songs before this that had an ostensible surface meaning, clear and unambiguous, flummoxing the would-be critic looking for hidden revelation. "When I'm Sixty-Four" was written for Paul's father, so it is said, and was presented to him on his own sixty-fourth birthday (resurrected from an instrumental tune Paul had written in his late teens, when musical composition was just beginning to blossom for him).
But something else happens here. Was there ever a more quaintly sweet entreaty toward a loved one, begging her to make up her mind and marry the singer before his dreams of an idyllic English lower-middle-class union wafted away into modern complexity? ("Send me a postcard, drop me a line/Stating point of view....Fill in a form, mine forevermore....") It's a nice sublimation of one's private life within the lyrics of a more public offering. The parallels between Paul's provincial dream and the protagonist's fantasy come very close to the composer's ongoing relationship with his then-fiancee, Jane Asher, with whom he could never reconcile his old-fashioned vision of marriage.
Similar with "Martha My Dear", which everyone knows is about Paul's sheepdog. :-) Of course it borrows the canine's first name, but without deep analysis the song rings true as a tribute to a love about to be lost. The admonishment is gentle, but the woman's to blame for the break between two people "meant to be for each other".
And think of "Hey Jude", which Paul asserted many times began as "Hey Jules", meant as a song of comfort for John's son Julian upon the end of his parent's marriage. Obtuse lyrically (apparently still bearing a few lines from its stage as a work-in-progress), the song says more to the child's father than to the child. And Paul's message is one of relinquishment. The two compatriots had been together for over a decade, their shared creative output a wonder to the world of music. But Paul foresaw the split and prepared himself for it--while giving tacit permission to John to pursue his new direction within the words of the song.
I've always heard "The Two Of Us" as a gloss on that sentiment. To me it refers to a companionship as deep as love, certainly as intertwined as love, but based on intense complexities that govern male-to-male platonic relationships. It works fine for a woman and man, too, of course, for whom "Sunday driving" and "lifting latches" must have some personal resonance. And the most revealing phrase of the song---"You and I have memories/Longer than the road that stretches out ahead"---suggests an indefinable period of mutual recollection. That doesn't fit Paul and Linda terribly well in 1969, when they'd known each other for only a couple of years and had been romantically involved for a much shorter time.
As a metaphor it's fine, as far as it goes. Intensely deep infatuation often carries with it the illogical but indefatigable impression that one has known one's enamorata forever. And what Paul is saying in this lyric *is* rather remarkable: that memories reach back in time further than the infinite path of the future. But on the level of historical reality, it's always seemed to me that Paul was referring to an old comrade with whom he'd who'd been through the best of times *and* the worst of times---and to me the inevitable candidate seems to be John Lennon.
This way, some of the lyrics lose their self-contained mystery. "The two of us riding nowhere/Spending someone's hard-earned pay"---this suggests the aimlessness of John and Paul's Art College days, when they regularly cozened money from a parent, aunt or friend; "...Sunday driving, not arriving..." brings to mind their relentless all-day or all-night marathons hauling equipment in a van for some remote musical gig. "...sending postcards/Writing letters on my wall" might be the need to stay in touch with loved ones across the water when they were in Hamburg (I don't think it's literally writing letters on the wall, but rather using the wall as a makeshift desk).
It's arguable that these lyrics seem nostalgic about early, carefree days with a companion, when funds were tight and nights were filled with purposeless amusements like "burning matches" (remember the legend where Paul was charged with attempting to set fire to a German cinema?) "Lifting latches"---maybe the door to some hidden Hamburgian pleasures? Awfully hard to say absolutely, but it's the way I've always heard meaning in that part of the song. Of course I could be stretching things a bit...but I've got a special license for that. :-)
Now the last part seems to be to indicate the inevitable close of a beautiful friendship. "Two of us wearing raincoats/Standing solo in the sun...." (Is this a reference to John's treatise on precipitation? "Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines/It's just a state of mind...?") It would make sense then---or rather nonsense, like John's paradox suggesting that one can "get a tan from standing in the English rain"---to wear raincoats in the sun. But "standing solo"---is the team broken? Is the partnership at an end?
The repetition of two fast friends "on our way home", to me, implies a home for each, separate now for the first time in years...or like in "Hey Jude", almost a musical act of permission to each seek his own way in the world. But in doing so each brings the companionship home to a final rest. Admittedly it's a much-needed rest. The two of them had gone as far together as they could go. Or so it seemed at the time. The composer may have felt that he had to bring the pair to some kind of closure; otherwise the creative spirit in both of them might never have moved onward.
Odd, then, isn't it, that more than two decades from the time that compositional duo parted ways, their work while "standing solo" remains eclipsed by their work as a team? Perhaps it's not just the perception of hordes of stubborn acolytes like our humble selves. Some partnerships---whether artistic or emotional, platonic or romantic---were simply meant to be, and remain intact beyond all illusions of homecoming.
"They are 'The Beatles', the smash hit, refuse-all-imitations, Number One Group in the sensational Beat craze now devastating, if not deafening, the British Isles."
------------------------------------- saki (email@example.com) Click here to return to the rmb home page.
Click here to return to saki's index.