Friday, August 13, 2004

Who needs drugs when you've got the Beatles? :)

Lately I've started listening to music in the car again. I mean, I was, even after Jody died, but I was sticking to the classical and news stations, and a couple of CDs my friend P-Doug gave me that I guess I felt it was okay to associate with this period in my life. I mean, as I look up, I can still see Jody's name in the "offline" section of my ICQ bar. Still can't quite believe it will never light up again, but... I digress, right?

Anyway, this week I've been listening to a couple of XTC albums. But I don't want to get tired of them, so yesterday, I switched over to my copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was introduced to that album—as an album—back in the mid-80s when I was a young teenager, long time after the album was released. I knew some of the songs from the album from airplay on the radio, and a couple of them, namely Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds and When I'm 64, are featured in the movie Yellow Submarine, so I knew them pretty well. But this album, as a collection, as something you roll through end to end, was new to me. What an experience.

[A note here... when I say "end to end", I'm not including Within You Without You, the last song on side one... yes, kids, I remember when listening to the second half of an album required you to actually turn it over... I can listen to it now; it's still not one of my favourites, and for me, it's sort of the SPLHCB's Apocrypha. When I was a kid, though, I absolutely loathed the song. Too long and too boring. Sorry, George... I sincerely love a lot of your stuff, especially once you were out on your own (like Blow Away, Got My Mind Set On You, When We Was Fab, Breath Away From Heaven, Just For Today, Devil's Radio... okay, pretty much anything from Cloud 9), but this one just ain't one of them.]

A number of the songs on Sgt. Pepper are special and deep for me; I like pretty much all of them one way or another (is there anything in the world as innocently eerie as the ending of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite? I still get goosebumps.). But the one that really stands out from all the rest, and has from the first time I heard it, is A Day In the Life. The orchestration, the otherworld-in-this-world lyrics, the pacing... just phenomenal. One of those songs in your life that's like a revelation. I'd never heard a song anything like it. I could close my eyes and the music would fill my mind with images, enhanced by the orchestra, the broad, rising bass. I swear to you, with nothing more in my system than cola and a peanut butter sandwich, that song could make me feel like what being high is supposed to be like.

One image the song inspired in me has always been particular powerful, because it's so compelling, so sensual, so hopeful in spite of its setting. It's not quite what you'd call religious, though. It's not exactly profane, either, but it leans more in that direction. Times I would listen to the song, the parts that John sings "I'd love to turn you on...", followed by the rising cacophony (there are two such instances in the course of the song, one in the middle and one at the end), would inspire in me this vision of a ruined downtown city street, deserted, like the end of civilization. Newspapers blowing around, that kind of thing. Stark in the setting sun at the end of the street. And in one of those huge, 1930s-style glass store front window displays, two teenagers, a girl and a boy, wearing only t-shirts, making love. The boy reaching out his hand, reacting as he burns it in a candle's flame (itself personified by the driving 'beat' of the piano). It's like they're remaking the world, starting over, a new generation's Adam and Eve. I know how odd that all sounds, believe me, and I don't know where the image really came from, but if I'm sitting somewhere listening to it, I can close my eyes and just about feel the music cupping my face and lifting me away during those parts. Psychologically, it's very intense. And it's not even erotic, despite the imagery; it's more sensual, spiritual. Obviously, I couldn't entirely indulge my mind in it while I was driving around, but it was nice to be visited by a vision that's still powerful after about twenty years.


Anonymous said...

Thats a fantastic concept album... I like some of Yes' old albums... some early Genesis and some 70's The Who for that stuff... If you listen to it all in one pass it can really blow your mind!
I wish I had some way to just lock myself up, but on some headset and just lose myself in an album right now... I need to escape out of reality for a bit.

Lone Primate said...

Escape this!
There's always the old plastic bag and rubber band trick... :)