From menudo.uh.edu!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!sdd.hp.com!elroy.jpl.nasa.gov!ucla-cs!ucla-ma!julia!dmac Fri Apr 23 02:22:03 GMT-0600 1993
Re: Aesthetically challenged<BR>

Re: Aesthetically challenged

Summary: Add :-) only if truly necessary
Sender: news@math.ucla.edu
References: <1r4dg0$ct6@slab.mtholyoke.edu> <1r692r$bei@geraldo.cc.utexas.edu>

In article <1r692r$bei@geraldo.cc.utexas.edu> mats@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu (Mathews Joshua Thundyil) writes: >In article <1r4dg0$ct6@slab.mtholyoke.edu> mdubey@MtHolyoke.edu (Ms Dubey) writes:
>>
>>... I also aimed a battery of
>>examples at him to prove that the Beatles have sometimes sublimely
>>brilliant lyrics (such as all of Pepper, all of Abbey Road, all of the
>>white album, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever and Hey Bulldog and
>>Across the Universe and Hey Jude and Eleanor Rigby and Tomorrow Never
>>Knows and Fool On the Hill and Norwegian Wood and...)
>>
>>Do reply, and discuss subjectivity, music, poetry and humour, and
>>anything else you may deem fit to include. Or none of it. Thanks.
>>
>I see the pains you are labouring under - it is every Music lovers aim to
>spread that knowledge of good music. But as we discussed here in a different
>context not so long ago - Different people like different music and methinks
>that there is very little that can change opinions (save an unprejudiced ear).

How about a good book?

That's my solution. Something pithy and voluminous, if possible, to persuade the unpersuadable. Maybe by translating the Fabs' lyrics into the language of the literary critic would make it easier to vizualize how important was their contribution to the world of poetry.

Tim Riley's tome is all well and good but I myself prefer a little known treatise by Arthur Kelly. It's a modest guide to meanings within the Beatles musical canon, and every time I peruse its pages I'm astonished anew at its fabaceous fulsomeness in describing the Boys' own lyrical tapestry. I'll quote a few of the better entries (which I'd gladly do with the author's permission, if I knew where to reach him). Share these with your friend and see if they change his mind. At the very least it should keep him from getting off on the wrong track about deep lyrical meaning:


"Cry For A Shadow" (1961)---A brilliant evocation of the pain of failure and fame. The composers seek to explain the complexities of their world via the meta-lyrical eloquence of wordless, stark terror. The cries of despair are meant to emphasize the mute sellout of the popular musical "artiste" versus the struggling and verbose art-school intellectual. Pay particular attention to the ironically clever, unspoken counterpoint to the theme Frost explored in 'The Road Not Taken', attributable no doubt to songwriter Harrison's own angst over his abandonment of an electronics career.

"Please Please Me" (1962)---An early appearance of pro-feminist ideals emerging from the rather unlikely working-class background of postwar Liverpool. Instead of berating the symbolic woman for her submissive tendencies (cf. Presley's treatment of this subject in 'It's Now Or Never' [1957]), the protagonist, using language of respectful etiquette, endeavors to enlighten his partner about her own nascent abilities to explore the realms of sensual pleasure.

"Misery" (1963)---Existentialist philosophies of detached observation ('It's gonna be a drag...') clash with suppressed emotional upheavals ('I'm the kind of guy/Who never used to cry...') in the singer's expressive, split-personality internal monologue. A succinct treatise on the value of memory in assessing the worth of modern relationships. In addition, the use of imperative verbs in the closing lines drives home the intensity of the protagonist's commitment to public revelation of his experience...and thus, he undoubtedly hopes, catharsis of same.

"Baby's In Black" (1964)---The inevitable journey toward entropy and chaos is depicted metaphorically through the reduction of the visible chromatic spectrum to its inevitable finale. Rather than exploring and emphasizing cosmological potential (cf. Danny Williams' 1963 masterwork 'White On White'), the songwriters choose instead to focus on the end result of energy expenditure: the point at which energy and mass combine to equivalency, i.e. the blackness of empty space. Speculation abounds as to whether this song influenced Cambridge astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in his improved theory of relativity.

"Norwegian Wood" (1965)---A growing involvement with the botanical world is expressed in this poignant composition, an early paean to environmental concerns. The songwriter strikes out on a new path in the genre of protest music, placing his desire for the preservation of forestry in lyrical juxtaposition to the devastating effects of pyromaniacal destruction. The suggestion by Mr. Lennon that Scandinavian political theory would some day play a part in preserving British natural resources is a much-misunderstood but insightful commentary; cf. similar observances in Brewer & Shipley's 1970 work 'One Toke Over The Line.'

"Eleanor Rigby" (1966)---This apparently-straightforward narrative belies a deeper message. The composer, at this point in his personal history, can be seen as revealing his growing obsession with HRH the Queen, traceable from his earliest collaborative efforts with Mr. Lennon ('Hello Little Girl' [1960], 'I Saw Her Standing There' [first performed c. 1962 but probably written much earlier, c. 1943, when the Queen was actually seventeen; perhaps adapted from a work by James McCartney Senior?]). The writer clothes his enamorata in the guise of a Church of England devotee, piously concerned with her approaching mortal release (viz., the health of the C. of E. in mid-sixties Britain), contraposed with voyeuristic attentions of a humble cleric (the songwriter in disguise; there are many attestations proving that 'Father McKenzie' was originally 'Father McCartney'). A masterful primary offering in the composer's great *triumvirate* (the second of which will be shortly considered, the finale, of course, obviously the melodically-complex and lyrically-convoluted 'Her Majesty' [1969]).

"Penny Lane" (1967)---The second entry in McCartney's triplecrown is perhaps his highest metaphorical accomplishment. His love interest is now given a new name, a simple suburban chit with the engaging appellation 'Penny Lane' (a cryptic Old English rendition of 'Elizabeth'---note that there are nine letters in each name!) Miss Lane has now put aside her theological concerns, and is instead heavily involved in the economic developments of her realm. Imagery involving commerce and trade are particularly apparent, and in fact the strength of the singer's love for his muchdesired, but unapproachable, monarch is expressed via his fevered preoccupation with buying power of the British pound for rare goods ('selling poppies from a tray') available in the common market.


Well, I'm sure you'll agree it's a delighful and informative book, and it's actually helped me many times when I have no idea, or only a very dim one, what the Fabs' lyrics mean. The famous London bookstore Pobjoy's, right on Charing Cross near Foyles, had a stack of these books last time I was there, though I'll admit the principal complication in finding this tome is that it simply doesn't exist. But that's just a technicality. --


"They could be at the centre of a short-lived mania; or it could be the start of a long residency as Britain's biggest teenage attraction!" ----------------------------------------------saki (dmac@math.ucla.edu) Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.