Tomorrow Never Knows: All Together Now!

In one of my favorite books on The Beatles and Liverpool, Liverpool: The 5th Beatle, author P. Willis Pitts says, “If The Beatles had not been from disparate cultures, they might not have survived. Ethnically, the four Beatles represented four very different facets of Liverpool in a microcosm. And this not only kept them together for so long, but was what made their music so juicy and colorful.”[1]

 

Never is that more obvious than in “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

 

Ringo, the earthy boy from The Dingle who unpretentiously coined remarkable idioms, gave us the clever title, “Tomorrow Never Knows.” When asked for the fourteen millionth time what the future would hold for The Beatles, Ringo (the actual working-class hero) shrugged and said, “Tomorrow never knows.” And instantly John logged the phrase in, just as he did with Ringo’s earlier wry observation about “a hard day…er, day’s night.” Like any author worth his salt, Lennon captured le mot juste (the best phrase) from his Scouse friend and eventually used it. (As John always said, “When you steal, steal from the best!”)

 

Furthermore, in the musical web that is “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Ringo’s drumming guided the group expertly through the complicated, interlocking sound. As Willis-Pitts so astutely observes, “Ringo laid it down, and unlike most drummers of the modern era, did not blend with Paul in that symbolic marriage of drummer and bassist…Ringo laid it down for the whole group.”[2] In “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Starr’s sound formed the unshakeable foundation upon which this otherwise unfettered and mystical song was constructed.[3]

 

Paul – the prim Allerton row house PR man for the group – provided the friendly introductions that propelled John to write the song. In 1966, Paul introduced John to Barry Miles and John Dunbar who ran London’s Indica bookstore. Here, John (initially in search of Nietzsche’s works) was handed a copy of Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.[4] Glomming hungrily onto this Cliffs Notes version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, (Tim Riley refers to it as “a shortcut” to the ancient practice, a “trip guide”[5]) John conceived the idea of writing a musical equivalent to Leary’s work.

 

Paul’s part as “co-inspirator” for the song isn’t his only role, however, in the life of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” As Riley wisely observes in Tell Me Why, “Ringo and Paul…lay down a feverish groove beneath the chaos as noises, backwards guitars, and birds swoop all around them.”[6] Furthermore, the sixteen tape loops made by The Beatles which fill the song’s entirety were made in Paul’s home on his Grundig recorder. Paul introduced the others to his technique (as Sir George Martin explained it) of “moving the erase head and putting on a loop [so that] he could actually saturate the tape with a single noise. It would go round and round, and eventually the tape couldn’t absorb any more…”[7] McCartney’s technique was adopted by the others; The Beatles were given an assignment to create their own, and voila![8]

 

Though we are told that the spirited boy from Speke, George Harrison, did not play a large role on this track (other than performing guitar on his loops), “Tomorrow Never Knows” would have been virtually impossible without George. It is George who first dragged his mates into Eastern mysticism. In fact, in The Beatles Anthology, George questioned whether John truly understood the immensity of the lyrics in “Tomorrow Never Knows.” George said, “I am not too sure…John actually fully understood what he was saying. He knew he was onto something when he saw those words and turned them into a song. But to have experienced what the lyrics in that song are actually about? I don’t know if he fully understood it.”[9] And then George went on to explain the song in great detail. The philosophy behind the song was Harrison’s wheelhouse.

 

Whether or not John grasped the fullness of Leary’s words or the philosophy housed in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, our Woolton upper-middle class intellectual – John Lennon – penned a tribute to both that is accurate, poetic, and moving. With a wisdom that knew what to include and what to leave out, John lifted up the most pertinent points and linked them logically and artistically. From that opening line that initially fascinated him,

 

“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream; this is not dying…”

 

to the magnificent conclusion of the song, John walked the listener carefully through the process of 1) eliminating all conflicting outside thoughts, 2) focusing solely upon meditation, 3) allowing spiritual healing to occur, and finally, 4) facing death with the certainty of a new beginning, not a sad ending.[10]

 

Furthermore, without ever allowing the melody to become laborious or monotonous, John created a true Indian song, based upon one unvarying chord. As George Harrison observed, “Indian music doesn’t modulate…you pick what key you’re in, and it stays in that key…[and] “Tomorrow Never Knows” was the first [song] that stayed there; the whole song was on one chord.” Creating a song in this manner and yet making it palatable and memorable for non-Indian listeners was, in itself, a musical coup. Once again, John Lennon proved himself the equal of any songwriter. His work is brilliant.

 

P. Willis Pitts points out that “[The Beatles’] songs worked, more or less, because each piece was only part of a fragment, part of a whole. Like an exploded diagram of a functional machine, these separate productions were an indication of how Beatles’ songs worked.”[11] No part could function without the other, and it took the amalgam to make a classic.

 

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the final song on Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Working together as The Boys gradually began to face “an ending” which will be “the beginning” for their solo careers, they all created a masterpiece and faced the hard days’ nights to come with a faith that whispered, “In the universe as a whole, all will eventually be well.”

 

[1] Willi-Pitts, Liverpool: The 5th Beatle, 117.

[2] Willis, Pitts, 118.

[3] In The Beatles Anthology, p. 210, Ringo comments, “I was proud of my drumming on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’…I was quite proud of my drumming all the way through, really.”

[4] Miles, Many Years from Now, 290-291 and Riley, Lennon, 303.

[5] Riley, Lennon, 304.

[6] Riley, Tell Me Why, 199.

[7] Turner, A Hard Days’ Write, 116.

[8] In The Beatles Anthology, 210, George says, “Everybody went home and made a spool, a loop.”

[9] The Beatles, The Beatles Anthology, 210.

[10] See George Harrison’s brilliant explanation of the song’s lyrics in The Anthology, 210.

[11] Willis-Pitts, 118.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Paul McCartney: Into His Life

As we continue looking at Side Two of Revolver, we thought it might be fun to compare and contrast two of Paul’s love songs…we’d love to hear from you about the similarities and differences you perceive!

 

Revolver is a Paul-centric LP. No doubt about it. It is the first of The Beatles’ LPs in which Sir Macca (and not the former “Leader Beatle,” John Lennon) dominates,  singing, and thus having composed, six of the 14 tracks. (Really, seven, if you count his predominate influence on “Yellow Submarine”).

 

John Lennon was the real-life “Ancient Mariner.” Like Coleridge’s weathered protagonist, Lennon always grabbed you by the elbow, and began to tell you his tragic life’s story. In “I’ll Cry Instead,” his BBC cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (to which John adds the telling word, “Mother”), “If I Fell” or “I’m A Loser,” John is consistently bemoaning about Julia’s absence in his life and his consuming heartbreak over her loss…or perhaps, as he sees it, his inability to keep her.

 

“Beatle Paul” is just as thematically consistent. From early on, he composes songs about his struggling (and later, failing) relationship with Jane Asher. On Side One of Beatles For Sale, he reminds Jane in “I’ll Follow the Sun” that:

 

“One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

One day, you’ll know I was the one,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

And now the time has come,

And so my love, I must go…

And though I lose a friend, in the end you will know…”

 

Then, on Side Two of Beatles for Sale, he tries a tougher tack, saying in “What You’re Doing”:

 

“You got me running…and there’s no fun in it…

Why would it be so much

To ask of you what you’re doin’ to me!?”

 

Over and over, in “We Can Work it Out,” “You Won’t See Me,” and “I’m Looking Through You,” Paul sings to Jane Asher of his frustration, of  his need for her to “be there” for him. In fact, our Fest Blog examined that theme earlier this year when we studied the lovely “Here, There, and Everywhere.

 

Now, here on Revolver’s Side Two, Paul speaks to Jane again, first in the uplifting “Good Day Sunshine” where he praises her for being with him on a sunny day, and then in the dark and poignant ballad, “For No One” and finally, in the brass-accompanied riot that is “Got to Get You Into My Life.” All three Side Two songs express Paul’s longing, in meter and verse, for his lady.

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” – though admittedly a double entendre – a crafty nod to Paul’s use of marijuana – is in a basic, literal sense his mission statement.

 

“And then, suddenly, I see you!

Did I tell you I need you?

Every single day of my life!”

 

Song after song, ballad after ballad, Paul has been telling Jane (and hence, all of us) one thing: “Got to get you into my life.” And, the fact that Jane has justifiably resisted and sought her own very successful theatrical career has only inspired Paul to continue penning attention-getting poems set to music for her.

 

By 1966, however, it has become fairly obvious to them both that the relationship isn’t working. In fact, when Paul begs her to come home, “she takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry…she no longer needs him.”  They’re at irreconcilable odds, really.

 

Perhaps, a clue to their unresolved issues is to be found in the way in which “For No One” was recorded. Because the entire song is Paul and only Paul. George and John are not needed. Ringo will play percussion…but Paul alone – the center of attention – will sing and perform his composition on the Steinway grand. Perhaps that is why for Jane Asher:

 

“… in her eyes, you see nothing,
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one…

A love that should have lasted years.”

 

With the wrong instruments, “For No One” could have come off as “whiny and cheesy.” Instead, the composition (with the phenomenal clavichord work of Sir George Martin and the breath-taking French horn touches of Alan Civil) is elegant and deeply tragic on several levels. Because not only are Paul and Jane falling apart, but The Beatles are beginning to unravel as well.  When we hear those last words: “There will be times when all the things [they] said will fill your head. You won’t forget [them],” we somehow flash to the eroding friendship between John, Paul, George, and Ringo. We sigh.

 

And so, in the guise of his former, chipper self, Paul makes one last attempt on Revolver to woo Jane back again. Not discounting the very popular “marijuana theory” (which certainly exists on one level), in “Got to Get You Into My Life,” Paul expresses undiminished determination to get Jane into his life. He jauntily and emphatically speaks to her in hopes that the visions prevalent in “For No One” will never come to be. McCartney sings:

 

“What can I do, what can I be?

When I’m with you, I want to stay there!

And you know I’ll never leave…and if I do,

I know the way there!”

 

Here interestingly, Paul speaks his soul to Jane in an ear-catching new way, via a SOUL song! As Dr. Kit O’Toole, author of Songs We Were Singing: Guided Tours Through The Beatles Lesser Known Tracks has stated:

 

“The horns [in “Got to Get You Into My Life”] were a remnant of the band’s original idea to record Revolver at Stax Records in Memphis. They had long emulated the bass and drum sounds found on American soul records, and they wanted to extend that. So they recruited guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG’s to produce Revolver, and they asked Brian Epstein to “make it happen.” But all the Memphis studios wanted exorbitant fees to host The Beatles, so the boys ended up back in Abbey Road. But the soul sound still intrigued them, so “Got to Get You into My Life” is their interpretation of the genre.”  

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” is one of Paul’s final attempts to catch Jane’s ear and to express his soul’s need for her lifelong companionship.

 

“You want her, you need her…

And yet you don’t believe her

When she says her love is dead:

You think she needs you.”

 

Both “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “For No One” are the swan songs for a love that could not survive. However, on 15 May 1967, when Paul met Linda Eastman in London’s Bag O’Nails, his long-deferred dream became reality. He got her into his life, and in that moment, everything changed.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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What Price is Fame? The Message of “And Your Bird Can Sing”

The most overlooked and misconstrued song on Revolver is “And Your Bird Can Sing.” Far-flung explanations for John Lennon’s seething lyrics point to John’s purported jealousy of Frank Sinatra or his irritation over some failed one-night stand. But a deeper examination of the song reveals a more practical root for “The Leader Beatle’s” ire. Let’s take a look.

 

No one “did anger” the way John Lennon did it. (To wit, “Run for Your Life,” “You Can’t Do That,” “I’ll Cry Instead,” and “How Do You Sleep”). When provoked, John had no problems articulating indignation. He had “a chip on his shoulder that [was] bigger than his feet,” and John was never reluctant to let those who irked him “have it,” with both barrels.

 

In “And Your Bird Can Sing,” John is not only angry and frustrated; he’s deeply hurt. In this second song on Side Two of Revolver, John is speaking directly (and harshly) to someone he knows – someone very close to him, someone whom he feels has betrayed his trust. We know this is the case because John vows in the bridge that no matter how cruel the person is to him,

 

“Look in my direction,

I’ll be ’round; I’ll be ’round.”

 

In other words, John has no intention of turning his back on the offender. Despite his perceived disloyalty demonstrated by the former friend, John will always be there.

 

So, who is the “bad guy” in this scenario, and what did he/she do? Well, as the song unfolds, John gives us numerous (though cryptic) clues to the betrayer’s identity:

 

  • The person has “everything he wants.” (i.e.: He’s well-to-do: living in a chic locale and driving a prized car. He’s making headlines, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, and succeeding in his powerful career.)

 

  • The person has “seen Seven Wonders.” (He’s well-traveled. He’s seen the world from the Spanish Riviera to the width and breadth of North America to exotic Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. In John’s eyes, this person has seen it all, done it all. He’s far more cosmopolitan than John, far more polished and experienced).

 

  • The person purports to “have heard every sound there is.” (This tidbit clues us into the fact that the individual in question is involved in the music industry. However, John’s legendary sarcasm here hangs on two words: “you say.” John is smirking as he hisses, “You say you’re a music expert. You say you’ve heard every sound there is.” We get the feeling that the individual to whom John is singing has made unwelcome suggestions to John about his compositions or performances).

 

  • The person has quirky, idiomatic tastes. (Well, after all, his bird is green…which leads us to perceive him as exotic and singular for his day).

 

  • Finally (and most significantly), this individual is extremely important to John. In fact, according to the lyrics, at an earlier point in their relationship, John wrongly assumed this person, “got him,” understood him, “heard him,” “saw him.” Now, in the sunless backlash born of faithlessness, John is striking out via verbal attack.

 

So…who can it be now? Who fits this five-point profile?

 

Who had a very intimate relationship with John – so deep that he shared John’s secrets and trusted John with his own? Who had been so close to John that it was rumored by mutual associates such as Yankel Feather and Joe Flannery that a possible love affair might exist between the two? Who had been John’s advocate before possessions, world travels, the myriad demands of business, and the intricate web of power struggles set in? If your answer is “Brian Epstein,” then we’re on the same page.

 

It is the reference to the “green bird” that really highlights Brian’s identity for us. In Liverpool’s Scouse lingo, a “baird” is a term for a girl or a girlfriend. And “to swing,” in the 1960s, meant “to step out from the norm sexually.” Thus, John’s reference to his friend’s unusual “green bird” – a bird who “swings” – was, in all likelihood, a Lennonistic dig at Brian’s gay relationships.  On The Anthology version of this song, when Paul and John sing, “and your bird can swing,” they snicker naughtily at their sly double entendre. Wicked schoolboys both, they are being naughty.

 

If we agree that John is, in fact, addressing “Eppy” in this song, a second question immediately arises: what on earth would have caused John to become angry enough with Brian that he penned this attack – a song only slightly less hostile than “How Do You Sleep?” Well, let’s think back:

 

By 1966, John yearned to stop touring. All of The Beatles did. And although they had expressed that sentiment to Brian over and over again, he had completely ignored them, turned a deaf ear to their pleas. While this was frustrating for Paul and George, it was a personal wound for John.

 

You see, in December of 1961 – upon assuming management of The Beatles – Brian had pledged to Mimi Smith that no matter what happened to the other boys, he would always protect John. He had vowed to work tirelessly to defend her nephew’s best interests. Always. But now, John feels that Brian has stopped putting him first. Consumed with desire for wealth, fame, and power, Brian (John thinks) is pushing The Beatles too hard – callously demanding new films, tours, singles and LPs, interviews, radio shows, television programmes, and personal appearances. As John might have phrased it, “He wants work without end, amen!” And once upon a time, long, long ago…Brian had promised better.

 

Hence, “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

 

“You don’t hear me!” “You don’t see me!” “You don’t get me!” John lashes out with real invective, linking each verse with the string of repeating accusations. John sees Brian’s refusal to address his needs as an infidelity.

 

This song, therefore, fits snugly into the “broken relationships” theme of Revolver. Originally entitled, “You Don’t Get Me!” it shatters the giddy mood of “Good Day Sunshine” and shoves us back into Revolver’s agonies. Track Two, Side One gave us “Eleanor Rigby.” Here, in Track Two, Side Two, John and Brian are “the lonely people,” standing in a church of broken promises, surrounded by memories from May of 1963, when they vacationed on the Spanish Riviera. During those days, John and Brian had formed a bond — a friendship born of shared vulnerabilities rarely voiced to anyone else. They had reached out to one another in mutual trust. Now a mere three years later, John is spewing fury over his perceived loss of that trust while Brian steadily continues to pursue the course he feels The Beatles must follow.

 

But for John, having “everything you want,” “seeing Seven Wonders,” “knowing every sound there is,” and owning an exotic green, swinging bird means nothing if, in the process of garnering such success, you sacrifice a friend. Frustrated and fuming, but promising to “be ’round” when Brian finally hears him, sees him, and gets him once again, John and the others are (for the moment) hanging on. However, the unresolved chord at the end of this song reminds us that in the future, anything can happen.

 

Sadly, by August 1967, anything did. Fame exacted its price. And the birdsong fell silent.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Something We Can Smile About

Over the last few months of 2016, we began taking a look at the songs on Revolver…and reminding ourselves why it was such a pivotal LP for the lads. Together (combining our Fest blog and your comments) we scratched beneath the surface of the music and lyrics to uncover new insights. Just as the year ended, we neatly completed our examination of Side One.

 

Now…

 

…perfect for the beginning of a brand-new year with myriad possibilities is “Good Day Sunshine.” Wisely selected to kick off Side Two of Revolver, this buoyant ditty expresses all the optimism contained in every “chance to begin again.” Martin employed its bright melody and uplifting lyrics to woo Beatles fans into the second half of the LP. After the anger rife in “Taxman,” the loneliness pervading “Eleanor Rigby,” and the deeply somber nature of “She Said She Said,” Paul McCartney’s “Good Day Sunshine” offered listeners something heartening, something upbeat, something to laugh (or smile) about.

 

Furthermore, for those fans who (by the close of Side One) were despairing that The Beatles they knew and loved had vanished – morphing into Revolver’s highly-engineered group of complex musicians – this song provided a return to The Beatles of yore. This is the way young John and Paul used to sound when they performed in Liverpool College of Art’s Room 21 at lunchtime. This is the sound of The Beatles, live at the BBC. This is the unplugged sound of The Beatles of old. And fans were glad of it.

 

Although both John and Paul admitted that Paul wrote 95 percent of “Good Day Sunshine,” the number is, without a doubt, highly influenced by John. But not John Lennon this time: the inspiration came from John Sebastian.

 

Over in America, Sebastian, the Greenwich Village-based lead singer and songwriter for The Lovin’ Spoonful, was hitting America for six! In 1965, he’d scored with “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” and swiftly followed up with “Do You Believe in Magic?”  Then in ’66, he had another big, big, BIG hit: “Daydream.” So, the very observant James Paul McCartney handily employed Sebastian’s easy-does-it, lazy-days techniques in his new composition, “Good Day Sunshine.”

 

In keeping with the Spoonful genre, the Revolver song’s lyrics were lighthearted and happy-go-lucky:

 

“She feels good! She knows she’s lookin’ fine!

I’m so proud to know that she is mine!”

 

That’s about as simple and content as a lyric line can get. Spoonful-esque! But remembering Russell Reising’s caveat that on Revolver, “there are no silly love songs,” savvy listeners long suspected that somewhere in this McCartney number, there was a deeper, hidden meaning. In the volume, All the Songs, the collaborative authors suggested that when Paul sang, “I feel good in a special way,” he might have been slyly alluding to his Revolver era fascination with marijuana. If this is true, then “Good Day Sunshine” was the predecessor to “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and both songs boasted a second level of meaning. (“More here than meets the eye!”)

 

But honestly, for original, old-time Beatles fans, added incentives to enjoy “Good Day Sunshine” were not necessary. All of the traditional “fab” ingredients were already present in the mix. The Beatles’ winning love song formula was there. George Martin’s honky-tonk piano lead was expert. The Lennon/McCartney backing vocals were spot on. And, as Robert Rodriguez pointed out in his insightful book, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, Ringo’s “cymbal splashes and added percussion touch-ups, such as handclaps” were welcome custom. Finally, the entire offering was infused with McCartney magic.

 

Sometimes less truly is more. And this unadorned, joyful ditty proves that rule. Fans who were bewildered and confused by “She Said She Said” were – after singing or toe-tapping along with “Good Day Sunshine” – pulled back into the fold. They leaned in once again, hovering over the turntable and listening…just as George Martin had predicted they would. They reconnected.

 

Then…the second selection on Side Two began and Revolver, once more, took a dark and unexpected turn! What was it? And to whom was that next song written?

 

See you next time for “And Your Bird Can Sing.”


1. For those unfamiliar with this British phrase, “hitting someone for six” means making an impact. It originate in cricket when a player hits six off the bowling.

2. Turner, Steve, A Hard Day’s Write, 112-113.

3. Reising, Russell, “Vacio Luminoso,” 127.

4. Rodriguez, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 144.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Instant Karmal Knowledge

“And so this is Christmas,

And what have you done,

Another year over…

A new one just begun.”

 

Already it’s here. The final blog of 2016. The year is winding to a close faster than any of us ever wanted it to or imagined it could. But try as we might, we can’t slow its pace or turn back time. Life is rapidly moving on.

 

Two springs ago, the night my mother passed, she pointedly looked at me and said, “But…I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do!!!” It’s a haunting quote – one I’ve never forgotten. I wonder if John felt the same. I wonder how many people do.

 

I have a little snow globe on my desk that says, “Time is a gift.” Every day, I shake it, only to watch the snow flakes quickly settle to the bottom and fall silent. And as the magic swiftly vanishes, I think to myself how precious each moment is…how precious – and how fleeting.

 

Plainly said, each of us has but a moment – a brief time to reach out and offer love, to be kind, to be open, to give peace (and people) a chance, to appreciate life and those around us, to set things right. If The Beatles taught me anything, they taught me that we are here to give of ourselves to others. In Biblical terms, to “be not weary in well-doing.” The boys said it over and over:

 

  1. Love is giving, giving love.
  2. Ah! Look at all the lonely people!
  3. With our love, we can change the world…
  4. I get by, with a little help from my friends.
  5. Love, love, love…love is all you need.

 

And just in case you missed the message – couched as it is in this poetic form – John (in his unvarnished, lay-it-on-the-line manner) spelled it out for us all very clearly. You can’t miss the memo here:

 

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head!
You better get yourself together…
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead!
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love?
What on earth you tryin’ to do?
It’s up to you! Yeah, you!!

Instant Karma’s gonna get you…
Gonna look you right in the face!
Better get yourself together, darlin’,
Join the human race!
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin’ at fools like me?
Who in the hell d’you think you are?
A super star?
Well, right you are!

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun…
Well, we all shine on!
Ev’ryone, come on!

 

 

I don’t know what “getting yourself together, darlin’” involves for you, but I know what it involves for me, and I think I’d best be doing it.

 

Because as the wild ride known as 2016 begins to tick away into memory, I think we can all agree that it has been challenging for us all. Some things were said that should never have been said. Some things were done that should never have been done. And while we’d like to believe that karma is not instant and life will give us abundant opportunity to make things right, the unrelenting march of time does not, my friend, slow for regret.

 

Instead, there is a finite amount of days before the ball drops in Times Square, a precious moment before the snowflakes settle. There isn’t “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” as Shakespeare once suggested.  Instead, there is, “a bit of hurry up involved” to quote another Englishman, just as wise.

 

And so this is Christmas…and what have we done? Well, not as well as we’d hoped, actually. But perhaps in the next 30 days, we can undo some of that. We can try to Come Together and be friends again…repair and reunite, heal the hurts, and walk into 2017 closer than ever.

 

And that, I believe, is the message not only of our Beatles but of the season. May that light Shine On.

 

In honor of our beloved Sir George Martin and dedicated to the lasting memory of John Winston Lennon. John, you said that you never die until the last person who speaks your name is gone. “I call your name” daily. You will always be remembered.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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I Know What It’s Like…

“I know what it’s like to be dead…I know what it is to be sad…”

 

John Lennon was the master of understatement. In a few, simple words, he could summarize a powerful idea, minimizing the emotion behind it. (To wit, “All we are saying is ‘Give peace a chance.'”) He could present a great concept unobtrusively, giving it a chance to be mulled over and accepted.

 

And that is exactly what John is doing in “She Said, She Said,” the compelling closer song to Side One of Revolver.

 

Possibly no one who ever lived better understood “what it’s like to be dead” and “what it is to be sad.” At age 4½, his parents bitterly wrangled over which of them was to have custody of John. Fred Lennon wanted to take his son away to New Zealand to live with him, and Julia Lennon wanted her son to be reared in Liverpool.

 

Whether Fred and Julia put the boy in between them and made him choose one or the other (the traditional point of view, and the version John always recited) or whether Fred and Julia came to an amicable agreement about John’s care (as Fred’s friend, Billy Hall told Mark Lewisohn…though admittedly, Hall was not actually in the room when this discussion took place), the fact of the matter is, Fred exited John’s life. And Julia – for extremely complicated reasons of her own – did return John to Liverpool but dropped the boy that afternoon at her sister Mimi’s house, where John was to live permanently. And, Julia reluctantly walked away to live a life of her own.

 

Over the next few years, as John struggled to adapt (and was – no wonder! – expelled for misbehavior from Mosspits Infant’s School), he thought quite a bit about his vanished parents. Fred’s frequent letters to his son were destroyed by Mimi, who claimed (and perhaps truly believed) that she was creating stability for the child.

 

Therefore, John – in essence – thought his father was, at first, angry with him. And then later, missing in action. And finally, perhaps dead. Even though John reveled in the love that his wonderful Uncle George provided – clung to that love like a life raft – the boy still longed for his father. And with each silent, passing year, John understood better and better what it was like to be dead. What it was to be sad.

 

Similarly, John’s mother, Julia, – though living only a couple of miles away, in Spring Wood – honored Mimi’s request to minimize intervention into John’s life. Julia was rarely seen, and even when she was, the reunion was brief. But it was enough for John. As Fred’s memory slowly faded, Julia’s did not. He ached for his mother. And John tried everything he could think of (good behavior, bad behavior, wit, talent, and imagination) to reach her…to no avail.

 

The only constants in John’s young life were his decorous Aunt Mimi and his beloved Uncle “Ge’rge.” But the summer before John turned 15 years old – when he most needed a male role model and a best mate – kind, funny, gentle Uncle George was taken from him forever. And, as John roared and flailed in the throes of unstoppable hysteria, he knew once again what it was like to be dead…what it was to be sad.

 

You probably know the rest of the story: how Julia returned at this crucial moment in her son’s life and offered herself as his best friend (not his mum, of course…he already had a mother in Mimi). Julia became his constant companion and John, her shadow. She encouraged the teenager to “sag off school” and bike to her house for ginger beer, sweet cakes, and rock’n’roll. She taught her son to play guitar; she spun her Buddy Holly and Elvis records for him. She gave him the gift of extemporaneous laughter. And in the magic of the moment, Julia whispered to the boy that he had “music in bones.” She said, she said that he was destined to form a band – to see his name in lights, to shine on. And for a time, all was well.

 

But on 15 July 1958, Julia was hit by a drunk off-duty policeman and killed. And in that instant, John changed. He had lost his father, his uncle, and now his mother – twice. And now, in a deep, violet darkness of the soul, John came to understand intimately what it was like to be dead…what it was to be sad.

 

That, of course, explains August of 1960: The Beatles, happily en route to Hamburg, stop at the Arnhem War Memorial for a snack and a smoke. Manager Allan Williams urges all of the boys out of the minibus for a roadside picnic and photograph. But John will not exit. He refuses to “muck about” in a graveyard…to smile and chit-chat in the presence of death. And so, alone, John broods on the bus, shaken by his surroundings. And though Williams berates the boy for his obstinacy, John turns a deaf ear. Because even on his best of days, John remembers what it’s like to be dead, what it is to be sad. And he does not take it lightly.

 

Now…substitute the name “Peter Fonda” for “Allan Williams.”
Substitute “Hollywood gala” for “Arnhem War Memorial.”
Substitute “August 1965” for “August 1960.”
And having made those few changes, the backstory for “She Said, She Said” emerges:

 

At an August 1965 Hollywood gala, John blanches when Peter Fonda “rambles on” about his first-hand knowledge of death. Rattled, John flash-fires at the American film star and silences him forthwith…not because Fonda is downing John’s drug-induced mellow, but because Fonda is trampling on sacred ground. Introducing the topic of death as party prattle – as idle chatter – is not, to John’s way of thinking, simply “irritating.” The American star has been grossly inappropriate. He has opened old wounds, and John is left panting for air.

 

John swiftly quells the subject, and the party moves on. But the damage has already been done, and in the months that follow, John can never shush the lingering, whispering memories that Fonda’s casual party boast (“I know what it’s like to be dead!”) engendered. The phrase haunts Lennon. And so, just as John in the past had transformed many other wounds and torments into music, he begins to weave Fonda’s hellish echo into something unforgettable as well. John begins to write “She Said, She Said.”

 

But this time, however, John isn’t writing just for himself and about himself. He begins to compose the tragic tale of all four Beatles in the year of our Lord, 1966. And the story isn’t easy to convey…

 

You see, in 1966, The Beatles were living under a dome of stress that would have collapsed most organizations and failed most friendships. The beleaguered boys were getting ready for yet another World Tour, despite the fact that they’d grown bitter and cynical about the grueling experience. Brian Epstein’s heavy-handed influence. which had always held them on course was slipping away, and the boys were arguing with one another – heavily involving themselves in drugs as pressures all about them were mounting.

Unfeeling “takers” were attacking them from all sides: screaming fans who didn’t hear them when they sang; journalists and paparazzi who didn’t see how very bored and tortured the boys were, and unfeeling powers-that-be at Capitol, EMI, and Northern Music who didn’t care that The Beatles were utterly exhausted. To all of these users and shakers, the four boys were virtually invisible. It was a harsh reality.

 

Indeed, John, Paul, George, and Ringo began to feel as if they “had never been born,” as if only “The Collective” – the band known as The Beatles – really mattered. The four unique individuals who had once comprised the group had, somewhere along the line, been sacrificed (in true Help! fashion), “jolly with a knife!”

 

This is John’s message in “She Said, She Said.” In simple terms, he conveys each of The Beatles’ feelings. He speaks in muted understatement, presenting his friends’ great hopes and even greater fears as they face the end of touring and the beginning of “the yet-to-come.”

 

This anguished song is pure performance art, a vivid medium through which John can offer listeners the graphic opportunity to see, hear, feel, and experience what he and Paul and George and Ringo were enduring. As the song swirls up and up to confusion and clamor, each of us is given the chance to ride out the mania, to understand. We are privy to madness.

 

“She Said, She Said” is a rare sortie into the most intimate emotions of The Beatles in 1966…and into the solitary, broken life of John Lennon, for whom death and sadness were familiar escorts. Of this John sings, as Revolver finds the playout grooves and Side One concludes. Of course, on the flip side, there was more to come.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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It’s just a Submarine, dammit! (or is it?)

The Beatles were very lenient with the public’s interpretations of their songs.

 

In fact, only one or two times did the lads insist that the public’s comments about their lyrics was “dead wrong.” Toward the end of his life, John Lennon was adamant that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was not about LSD! (And Paul McCartney backed him up on this). Similarly, Paul once said, “Personally, I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything! But when someone suggests that “Can’t Buy Me Love” is about a prostitute, I draw the line! That’s going too far.” (1)  But other than these two exceptions, as a rule, The Beatles welcomed the public’s multi-colored explanations of Beatles lyrics. In fact, they came to expect it.

 

I can just imagine Paul “laying in bed in the Asher’s garret,” (2)  working on the lyrics for “Yellow Submarine.” I can almost see the glimmer in his eye as he imagines what the “average Jill or Joe,” the scholarly professor, and the protester are going to make of his “simple children’s song.” It must have amused him.

 

The thing is…every single Beatles LP included a song for Ringo. And this is Ringo’s Revolver song, written in his tight vocal range and fitted for his “down-to-earth,” genuine personality. Ringo possessed a gentleness that appealed to many people, including children. (Hence, his work as Mr. Conductor on Shining Time’s (Series One) Thomas the Tank Engine show and his I Wanna Be Santa Claus CD years later). Paul’s placing of Ringo in the classic role of storyteller for “Yellow Submarine” was ideal. It worked.

 

But almost as soon as the LP was released, critics began to offer up far-flung, complex explanations of the magical song’s “deep and hidden meanings.” Here are just a few:

 

  • 1.) Sir Paul’s Explanation – Paul says he was trying to create “a story, a sort of [tale of] an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he’d lived.” Tim Riley points out that Paul wanted to create a song “suited to the drummer’s humble charm,” (3) an enchanted story of a lovely life beneath the sea. To accomplish this, Paul’s original tale was populated by many submarines of vivid colors, but as McCartney honed the story, it became the narrative of one yellow submarine and the magical people aboard this legendary vessel. (4)

 

In fact, Paul told author Barry Miles, “I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo, which it eventually turned out to be…I quite like children’s things; I like children’s minds and imagination. So it didn’t seem uncool to me to have a pretty surreal idea that was also a children’s idea. I thought also, with Ringo being so good with children—a knockabout-uncle type—it might not be a bad idea for him to have a children’s song, rather than a very serious song. He wasn’t that keen on singing.” (5)

 

In short, on Side One of Revolver – a highly complex, intense compendium of thought-provoking songs – Paul’s concept was to offer up a simple ditty with “short words…which would be picked up quickly and sung by children.” (6) It was to be a breath of fresh air, as it were.

 

  • 2.) Donovan’s Story – During the writing of Revolver, Donovan and McCartney were close friends, in the habit of dropping in on one another at a moment’s notice to share their latest compositions. Donovan says, “One of the songs Paul played for me was about a yellow submarine, but he was missing a line or two. He asked me if I’d like to make a contribution. I left the room and came back with ‘sky of blue and sea of green.'” (7) And with an insider’s eye on the song’s composition, Donovan goes on to say that he felt Paul was using “Yellow Submarine” to convey the story of The Beatles.

 

Indeed, on the 2 May 2014  Howard Stern Show, Donovan stated: “It’s not really a submarine; it’s really about the life that [The Beatles] had been forced into living inside their own lives in the white tower called ‘Beatle fame’ and not really having any contact with reality out there anymore…you know, we are insulated from the outer world.” Donovan believed that “the friends aboard the submarine” were The Beatles’ entourage and close friends/associates, and that the sea was the protective bubble surrounding the group, encasing them while at the same time, cutting them off from life at large.

 

  • 3.) The Drug Innuendo Theory – In the summer of 1966, a popular drug had been released in New York: Nembutal capsules which were large, elongated, bluntly-rounded, and yellow – thus acquiring the nickname “Yellow Submarines.” But McCartney – who had no problem admitting that he used marijuana and enjoyed it – resisted the implication that his song celebrated the new drug. Paul insisted that the only “yellow submarines” he’d ever tasted were sugary Greek sweets that had to be dropped into water to be consumed. (8)  As the drug culture loudly contended that The Beatles were giving them a “secret nod of approval,” Robert Christgua of Esquire magazine vehemently refuted this claim. He wrote:  “I can’t believe that The Beatles indulge in the simplistic kind of symbolism that turns a yellow submarine into a Nembutal or a banana—it is just a yellow submarine, dammit!” 

 

  • 4.) The Political Statement Philosophy – Because a submarine is, as Robert Rodriguez has aptly pointed out, “a piece of military equipment,” (9) it was only moments after the song’s release that radicals began applauding The Beatles for the strong anti-Vietnam statement espoused in “Yellow Submarine.” In fact, one imaginative reviewer wrote: “The Yellow Submarine may suggest, in the context of The Beatles’ anti-Vietnam War statement in Tokyo this year, that the society over which Old Glory floats is as isolated and morally irresponsible as a nuclear submarine.” (10) Jumping on the bandwagon in droves, various 1966-1967 protest groups embraced “Yellow Submarine” as their anti-war anthem. But none of The Beatles seconded this notion or gave it credence.

 

Naturally, there are other wild-eyed theories out there, some as far-fetched as the notion that the song proves John Lennon’s obsession with phallic-symbols (echoed by John’s submarine bath scene in A Hard Day’s Night). But since John had nothing to do with the writing of “Yellow Submarine,” this argument rather collapses under its own weight, doesn’t it?

 

So…what say you? Which theory do you believe? Paul proclaimed, “I knew ‘Yellow Submarine’ would get connotations, but it really was a children’s song.” (11) Or was it? Send us your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and we’ll share them with one another. Furthermore, if you have a theory we haven’t discussed, send that along as well! We’d love to hear from you!

 

The measure of a great work of literature is that decades after its creation, the work’s depth of meaning is still being debated and discussed. Paul might have set out to create a unpretentious, light-hearted song, but for The Beatles, a masterpiece was always the final destination. And so it is here as well.   


1. The Beatles, The Anthology, 114.
2. Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 198, and Riley, Tell Me Why, 187.
3. Riley, Tell Me Why, 188.
4. Turner, 108.
5. Miles, Many Years from Now, 286-287.
6. Turner, 108.
7. Turner, 108.
8. Turner, 109.
9. Rodriguez, Robert, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 140.
10. Doggett, Peter, There’s a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the ’60s, 107–108.  
11. Turner, 109


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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One Last Chance, Here, There, and Everywhere…

Paul had tried to say it a hundred different ways. On Beatles for Sale, he’d tried laying out his case to Jane Asher logically:

 

Hey, what you’re doing, I’m feeling blue and lonely!
Would it be too much to ask you
What you’re doing to me?

 

You got me running, and there’s no fun in it!
Why should it be so much to ask of you
What you’re doing to me?

 

On Rubber Soul, he’d tried exhorting her:

 

I’m looking through you! Where did you go?
I thought I knew you! What did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed!
I’m looking through you; you’re not the same!

 

On his double-sided single (with “Day Tripper”), he’d tried warning her:

 

Try to see it my way,
Do I have to keep on talking ’til I can’t go on?
While you see it your way,
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone!

 

For years, in song after song after song, only the melody had changed. But the lyrics had been pretty much the same: “I need you here. I need you to give up what you’re doing and be with me. If you can’t find a way to be with me, we’re eventually going to come to an unhappy end.” That was the general thesis statement in “You Won’t See Me.” It was intrinsically implied in “All My Loving.” Paul’s basic theme was always there.

 

But Paul’s words had done no good. Jane had continued to pursue her glamorous career as a successful actress. She had continued to travel the globe and forge her own way in the world, and Paul was at the end of his rope, really.

 

So, on Revolver, he sat down to write to her one last time, to woo her, to create a love song that would haunt her and say in the most enchanting way he knew how: “This is what our life could be, if you would simply be with me. Here’s the nirvana. Here’s the perfect world we could have, if only…”

 

And for Paul, whose wheelhouse was generally his incredible music – not his lyrics – this song is special. It’s poetry. It’s lovely, sincere poetry, written with a master’s hand. I know you’ve heard it a million times. You know it by heart. But you know the song. Take time now to read the poetry aloud. Forget the heartbreaking melody. Just speak (or whisper) the words to yourself. Try it.

 

This is Paul’s plea. And it’s poignant. It’s a vision for “the maiden faire” who has always eluded him. It’s one last chance…

 

To lead a better life
I need my love to be here!

Here, making each day of the year…
Changing my life with a wave of her hand!
Nobody can deny that there’s something there.

There, running my hands through her hair…
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn’t know he’s there.

I want her everywhere
And if she’s beside me I know I need never care…

But to love her is to need her everywhere, knowing that love is to share!
Each one believing that love never dies,
Watching her eyes…and hoping I’m always there…

I want her everywhere
And if she’s beside me I know I need never care!!!

But to love her is to need her everywhere, knowing that love is to share…

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching their eyes and hoping I’m always there

I will be there, and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere.

 

And with that, Paul McCartney’s case is closed. Because really, could it be more plain, simple, honest, or touching?

 

One last time, Paul has laid out his evidence and vision to the girl he can’t quite pin down. (“I need you everywhere, knowing that love it to share.”) He has asked her one final time to relinquish the things that pull her away from him and to make him her world. And he has done it so effectively that he realizes if she declines, this time the offer must expire. This time, he will understand. This time, he will move on.

 

When asked about this song, John Lennon said that if he were on a desert island and could only have a limited number of tunes to cherish for the rest of his life, this would be one of his picks. This song. Because for a lyricist like John, this lonely, despairing plea speaks volumes.

 

“Here, There, and Everywhere” is truly one of Paul McCartney’s best because it comes from the heart. It’s not a white-washed, thumbs-up, “silly love song.” It’s a dramatic final gesture. Sadly, however (or maybe not!), this proposal was not enough. And when Jane Asher turned and moved in another direction, that paved the way for the entry of Linda Eastman.

 

Yes, here, there, and everywhere, Paul’s story has a happy ending. Always. Even if it was not the one anticipated.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Love You To…????

This phrase I understand: “Love you, too!” (Meaning: “Love you, also.”)

 

And yes, I grasp the vaguer meaning of this phrase: “Love you two.” (As in: “I love John first, but I love you two”).

 

But now, consider the curious phrase: “Love you to…” — It’s a quandary! It’s an unfinished preposition waiting for a following noun. (As in: “Love you to death!” or “Love you to pieces!” or “Love you to the end of time!”)

 

Or… it could be an unfinished infinitive waiting for a following verb. (As in: “Love you to love me.” Or “Love you to listen.” Or “Love you to comprehend what I’m saying”).

 

But as George Harrison’s title stands – without any other nouns, verbs, or explanations to complete it – the phrase is incomplete, unclear, and ambiguous. And really, that is where George Harrison was when he penned this 1966 song. Recently returned from a trip to India where he had begun sitar studies under Ravi Shankar and the study of the Hindu religion, George was an excited newbie. He was completely enthusiastic, but green – an amazed young man muddling through the murky waters of a complex, new faith and an equally complex mode of musical expression. George was a bit overcome.

 

Recently married to Pattie Boyd, George wanted to make this song a love ballad for his wife. He really did! But the tenets of his new faith kept pulling at him, sternly reminding him that:

 

A lifetime is so short,
A new one can’t be bought…

The brevity of existence kept bothering George, niggling at him – and those beliefs transformed his love song into a serious warning refrain: a song about living not only for today, but also living a life worthy of the hereafter.

 

George tried to shrug off his feelings of impending doom: of death at his back, of time running out, of life slipping away, but in “Love You To,” he failed to escape that weighty influence. Even when employing his famous, droll Harrison humor to minimize the song’s grim overtones, the boy’s wit was still dark:

 

Love me while you can,
Before I’m a dead old man!

 
he said. Despite his best efforts, George’s love song kept slipping into a sermon. No matter what George tried to say (or sing), his bride’s ballad kept circling back around to one all-important message: Life is short; time is limited; live prudently! Or in George’s adaptation:

 

Each day just goes so fast
I turn around, it’s past…

 
It was a bit depressing. As the song neared its close, George struggled to find something to smile about, to celebrate.

 

Well, a bit before The Beatles’ time – when the poets of the Middle Ages felt death pressing down upon them, they decided that the wisest thing to do was to carpe diem…to “seize the moment!” They decided to make hay while the sun shines! To quote Medieval poet Robert Herrick’s words, “Gather ye rosebuds while you may!”

 

And in 1966, George reached the same conclusion. He decided the very same thing. At the end of his song, he advised Pattie (and all of us) to go for the gusto! To grab happiness while you can! To smile while you still have teeth!

 

Make love all day long!
Make love singing songs!

 

he advised us. It was the only viable solution to mortality that George could offer.

 

By The Summer of Love (1967) when George released “Within You, Without You” as the opener for Side 2 of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, both his faith and his acumen on the sitar had reached a higher plane. By then, he was able to speak with more depth and wisdom. But here on Revolver, George is clearly grappling with a vast belief system and an intricate musical genre, so he falls back on immediate gratification as a ready, easy solution.

 

Or maybe…maybe George’s answer was, in fact, the very best solution anyone could offer.

 

In 1967, John Lennon would so famously tell the world that, “Love is all you need.” And here, George is voicing the exact same sentiment. In light of death, aging, and fleeting existence, the youngest Beatle turns to Pattie and to us, advising everyone to cling tightly to love. Sage advice, I think. Perhaps our kid wasn’t such a newbie after all.

 


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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