Tuesday, June 05, 2007

“Fixing A Hole” / The Beatles

If "Getting Better” shares the same good-time bounce as “A Little Help From My Friends,” our next track, “Fixing a Hole,” is close cousin to “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” (which in fact they’d recorded just a couple days earlier). It has the same sort of spooky carnival sound, full of minor chords and double-tracked echoes and wheezy organ, though with a jazzier tempo that makes it less sinister. Not as trippy as “Lucy In The Sky,” it still sounds half-stoned – hear how the rhythm lazes behind the beat, how Harrison’s guitar oozes and slides around, how vague the language is. Paul McCartney is perfectly capable of precise images – we know that from "Penny Lane" and "When I’m Sixty-Four" -- but this is definitely not the place for neat poetry.  

“Fixing A Hole” sounds, on the face of it, like an episode of Home Improvement. I can just read the TV Guide synopsis: “Industrious homeowner Paul McCartney tackles a number of D.I.Y. projects – fixing a hole in his roof, spackling some cracks in his door, painting his room.” Scintillating.

But wait -- he’s got a special agenda. Absolutely every one of these repairs is intended to help his mind to go “wandering / Where it will go.” And the way his voice floats off into space on “where it will go,” it’s not too hard to get the psychedelic subtext. He’s not just painting, he’s “painting my room in the colourful way.” Coming out of the austere gray 1950s, I remember the Sixties as a sudden burst of Technicolor – A Hard Day’s Night evolving into Help! The satin uniforms of Sgt. Pepper’s were just the latest flowering of the Mod fashion revolution, and Swinging London was saturated with colour; already the gaudiness was spreading west, to run riot in San Francisco for the Summer of Love. Even more specifically, of course, color was code for the altered reality of mind-expanding drugs.

Paul’s now in a world where logic doesn’t rule. Why would he want to fix that hole? Don't you want that hole in your roof, to let your mind out and go free? Of course, "fixing" has a double meaning -- it can also mean "setting in place," rather than "repairing" -- but he's not about to solve the ambiguity.

In that punchy chorus, Paul defiantly declares: “And it really doesn’t matter / If I’m wrong, I’m right / Where I belong I’m right / Where I belong.” (A little pig-headed, maybe, though McCartney the compulsive charmer softens it with his flippant vocals.) Notice how the line breaks make the words seem like Zen koans, scrambling his prosaic declaration "And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong / I'm right where I belong / I'm right where I belong." Then he draws his line in the sand: “See the people standing there / Who disagree / And never win / And wonder why they don’t get in my door.” Erm . . . excuse me? I don’t know about you, but I want to get in Paul McCartney’s door. (And didn’t he say, back on the album’s title track, that he’d love to take me home with him? I remember that distinctly.) So the last thing I’m going to do is to disagree. I want to join the Beatles’ club, whether it a lonely-hearts society or whatever.

“I’m taking the time for a number of things / That weren’t important yesterday,” Paul announces in the last verse. In 1967, we knew what these new priorities were – drugs, and sex, and peace and love and a whole lot of other non-Tory ideals. Dogs and cats living together, that sort of thing. Clearly the Beatles had signed on to the social revolution – now it was up to us to follow.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Interesting observations. This has never been a track I've paid much attention to, but it does fit in with the whole.