Just a song....<BR>

Just a song....

In article <1992Jan12.035954.14874@gn.ecn.purdue.edu> nitin@gn.ecn.purdue.edu (Nitin Khanna) writes: >...Aren't you guys reading just a bit too much into these
>lyrics? It's just a *song*!! The guy was just having some
>fun with the song titles! John Lennon spent the majority of
>his post-Beatles life discrediting his early work, particularly
>the lyrics. Maybe he had a point. Just enjoy the tunes.

Yeah, you're right. "Glass Onion" is just a song. And "War and Peace" is just a book; "Macbeth" is just a play; and Beethoven's Ninth is just a symphony. :-)

John was, indeed, having fun with the lot of us---those who sought deep meanings in his lyrics from the very start, and those who will continue to do so from now till forever. At least that was his admitted purpose. Knowing that, I'm really reluctant to go much further than I did the last time when I tried to explain "Glass Onion." I have the spectre of Lennon's artistic persona laughing at me if I tried to make the point that "bent-back tulips" is an image of the upper classes, the "other half" that the singer refers to--aha! There's class consciousness in the subtext! Social commentary! Perhaps a subtle dig at elitism? And all in just one line. :-)

On the other hand, were it possible for me to meet the esteemed Mr. Lennon at Ye Cracke and, over several pints, explain what I saw in his lyrics, I'd hold my ground no matter what he said about the more significant songs in his (or Macca's for that matter) musical pantheon. Okay, maybe "Hello, Little Girl" (oops! it's that dreaded "girl" again :-) isn't High Art. Fine and dandy. But whether an artist is continually aware of it or not, there are more avenues of meaning in his/her work than he/she might have dreamt while creating it. Frankly, looking at "Glass Onion" as an expression of a man's subconscious, I can see it existing in at least two planes: one the surface, the joke-song that Lennon claimed it was; but also intriguingly a reflection of his sense of distance, his estrangement from the man who had, till then, been his closest artistic partner and a kind of platonic (if intense) soulmate. We don't always know our own mind; sometimes it takes an outsider to explain to us what's really going on inside of us. I think "Glass Onion" is only one example of many such psychological/artistic dramas from the Beatles' remarkable oeuvre.

But another point is equally valid: the awareness of what's art and what isn't. If Lennon had claimed he wrote no artistic material as a Beatle, then he'd be wrong. It's not for him to determine the aesthetic value of his work; that's for posterity. And what we're doing is getting a jump on the process. :-)

It's difficult to believe, sometimes, that much of what we accept as "art" today was not written/composed/designed to function as art per se. Certainly Shakespeare didn't write rollicking good stories like "Macbeth" so that high school students could memorize soliloquies. There was a time when it was a tale, a device for entertaining a crowd, pure and simple. True, it was written by a playwright who (by general consensus) could do that better than almost any other playwright in history. Jolly good for us all, then: we get the benefit of both worlds. You can study The Bard's language for a lifetime and never tire of his genius; yet you can see a production of the play itself (the play's *still* the thing) and have such a good time that you forget all your troubles. Not a bad deal.

If you have a hard time *just enjoying* any example of "art"---a painting by Bellini, a concerto by Avison, a novel by James Joyce--- then you're not getting the whole picture, so to speak. Which is your loss, unfortunately. The songs of the Beatles are no less enjoyable, no less invigorating, no less spine-tingling, for all their intricacy and craft. In fact, they're all the more unique for the way they can balance between two worlds. Try to run the works of The Dave Clark Five through the same such evaluation! :-)

Time may prove me wrong, but I suspect that, if anything, I'm a little cautious about the way in which Beatles music will be seen by future aesthetes. I imagine that it might take several generations for their works to be as acceptable in the realm of art as George Gershwin's works are now (and in 1924, when Paul Whiteman commissioned "Rhapsody in Blue", it was seen as "symphonic jazz"---a strange hybrid that appealed to both flappers and the hoi-polloi). But maybe I'm factoring in too much time. The evidence I see (not just from this newsgroup) is that people are anxious to start working much earlier toward analyzing the intricacies of Beatles' songs. I consider that a real boon. At least I've lived long enough to see the music of my youth become something significant and precious to younger generations. And maybe some of what makes it so special to *me* (both the sheer visceral excitement and the cool intellectual vision) will become special to others, well beyond my own humble attempts to explain it with words.

--
"And if you haven't got yours, send fourpence in and get a free one."


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