Monday, October 31, 2016

Since We Seem to Love Talking About John Lennon

"Girl" / The Beatles

Well, we just happen to have another Rubber Soul track that should be worth discussing.

This was, after all, the album where the Beatles had to rise to the challenge, to stretch themselves beyond the pop love song mould; Bob Dylan (and Donovan -- let's not forget Donovan) had laid down the gauntlet for a more literary kind of rock song.

While I rarely find Rolling Stone relevant anymore, here's a smart assessment of that crucial moment in rock history. (This was "the album where the Beatles became the Beatles" -- well, so says a male writer born in 1966 who can have no idea of what it felt like in 1964 to hear "I Saw Her Standing There" for the first time.) But I digress...

I made this video for discussion purposes, just so you can listen to the track as I blather on. I'm sure you all already own it in one form or another (if you're like me, you own it in vinyl, CD, cassette, AND 8-track tape).

Okey-dokey. Sources tell me that this was the last track recorded (at Abbey Road Studios, naturally) for this album, and it was John's clever parry, trying to top Paul's clearly genius track "Michelle." If "Michelle" was going to be French, "Girl" was going to get European as hell, with Greek bazoukis and Viennese mandolins and accordions. (Although, depending upon whom you talk to, it was Paul who added the bazoukis.) Mid-tempo, minor key, but with a way more chromatic melodic line, as was John's wont.  

But that's all beside the point: Let's focus on the yearning of this track, the longing for love. John tarts it up with intellectual constructs (those memorable lines: "Was she taught when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure / Did she understand it when they said / That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure.") Had John been reading Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Working Class? Possibly. But bottom line? He really wanted a woman who could engage with him on another level. "She's the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry / Yet you don't regret a single day." This song was written after "Norwegian Wood" and he had already evolved.  He hadn't yet met Yoko Ono -- that would happen in 1966 -- but he was primed for something meaningful.

Although when we really look at this girl -- isn't she kind of a bitch? "And she promises the earth to me / And I believe her / After all this time I don't know why." Even worse, in that chantingly monotonic bridge: "She's the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there / You feel a fool / When you say she's looking good she acts as if it's understood she's cool / Oooh-ooh, oooh-ooh..." 

So let's get real. What do you remember most about this track? It's the rawness of John's vocals, collapsing into those lush harmonies, and that staggeringly sexy intake of breath. Was he sucking in his frustration or just taking a toke (this was the Beatles greatest pothead album)? 

And then there's the bridge, where whatever the lyrics say about "she's the kind of girl who yadda yadda yadda, " ALL we ever heard was the Beatles gleefully singing "tit-tit-tit-tit." And we were their fans, and we were in on it.

I wanted to be that kind of girl. Except she didn't actually seem, you know, to be someone I could be. But if Paul and John wanted that kind of girl . . . well . . . 

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