Rock Commentaries, Part One, Chapter III

 

III 1964-1966: The Change                                                               46-69

 

The Animals             House of the Rising Sun       48

 The Who                     I Can’t Explain                    49

The Zombies               She’s Not There                  50

The Beatles                 Yesterday, Rain                   50

 Donovan                                                                    51

Simon and Garfunkle   The Sound of Silence        52

The Mamas and the Pappas   California Dreamin   59

Herman’s Hermits       Hush                                       59

Beach Boys                 Don’t Worry Baby                 60

Good Vibrations / God only Knows                             61/62

Yardbirds                     Shapes of Things                 63

Who Substitute                                                        63

Eleanor Rigby                                                               65

Byrds                           Turn!, Eight Mile’s High       68

Buffalo Springfield     For What it’s Worth               69

 

 

 III The Change: Early Classic Rock, 1964-1965.

 

Beatlemania was the final element of the ground prepared for the change. The Beatles invasion occurred in the early months of 1964, with their arrival in America to screaming mobs. On February 9th and 16 and they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. This begins what is called the British invasion, when British music suddenly became vary popular in America. Suddenly the Beatles held the top five spots on the singles charts. Their song “Cant buy me Love” was the first to top the charts in both Britain and America simultaneously. The two nations that were leaders of the free world began to vibrate in the same harmonies, in a fusion of cultures, as the British return the favor of the early sixties influence of American rock and blues. Then The Byrds re-invaded Britain with American electric folk. Donovan Van Morrison and Cat Stevens would develop an American influenced British pop folk, and soon Hendrix would be imported to ignite London, impressing the veteran British electric bluesmen. What occurs with Beatlemania is that the musicians are electrified by the possibility of popular music. Money and hopes suddenly emerge to support the enterprise of developing bands and musicians into rock stars. While the industry contains the seeds of its own corruption, the financial confidence infused into music and popular music by Beatlemania made possible the development of the bands in 1965 and 66 that would take over the world by 1967-69. So the English speaking nations happen to cultivate this popular music into a world art form.  

As distinct from its roots in the fifties and early sixties, the earliest beginnings of what we call classic rock proper can be set between 1964 and 1966, in Great Britain. In the last half of 1964, the Animals hit the charts with “House of the Rising Sun,” and the Kinks produced “You’ve Really Got Me,” redone well by Van Halen. Then early in 1965, there suddenly appears the Zombies “She’s not There,” Manfred Mann, “Come Tomorrow,” Two more Kinks songs, “Tired of Waiting” in Britain and “All Day and All of the Night” in the U. S., and the Moody Blues appeared with “Go Now.” Then in the spring the Yardbirds hit with “For your Love,” and by fall “Heart Full of Soul,” The Stones with “Last Time,” the Donovan album Catch the Wind is released, and Dylan sings “The Times They are a Changin’.” In the summer of 65, The Who do “I Can’t Explain,” then “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” The Stones “Satisfaction” was #1 in the U. S., and the Yardbirds “Heart Full of Soul” #3.

In America, the Byrds did Dylan’s “Tambourine Man,” which hit the charts in June of 1965. The Byrds “Tambourine Man” might be the first electric folk song. Suddenly the British blues guitar, British pop and mod music, and American electric folk all began to find the new sound. The Who released “My Generation” and “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere,” and Townshend began to smash his guitar. The Beatles released “Help!” in 1965, but the guitar is still the fifties sort of rockabilly rock guitar. In 1965, the immortal lyrics of the Beatles were still in the pop ballad form, in slow songs. Musicians were inspired by the dominance of the pop songs of The Beatles, and the whole music scene was infused with the newly opened possibility not only of jobs but of the fabulous life of rock stardom. As Roger McGuinn describes the event, the Americans were stunned by the Beatles in early 1964. In what he calls their stew of music forms, the Beatles had put chord changes from folk music to a Phil Specter style rock beat. “So I started incorporating the beat that they were doing into the folk songs that I was doing in Greenwich Village. And that was really the beginning of what turned into folk-rock and the Byrds.”[1] The division in music is illustrated dramatically on July 25 at the Newport Folk Festival, when Dylan went electric. There was a division between the folk purists, centering on Pete Seeger, and the new electric folk. Dylan appeared with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, prepared to go electric. He was booed by some in the crowd, and left the stage, returning with a folk guitar to please the audience. Electric folk was already being done, by the Byrds, Donovan and others. But, as Richie Unterberger describes the event, the Electra record president and founder saw this division, and he knew he wanted to go with Dylan and electric folk, signing bands rather than individual folk singers. By August, over in England, The Animals were #2 in Britain with “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” soon to become a favorite with the troops in Vietnam, and “Satisfaction” was #1 in Britain. In this, the “British invasion” the British charts are usually a few months ahead of the U. S., though not always. It is interesting that these beginnings are just before the U. S. anti-war movement, and there are yet no hippies. That too is just beginning.

An unmistakable deepening of the poetry appears in popular music right about 1964-1966. Outside of folk and the blues, the popular music of the early sixties can be properly classed as a kind of “Bubble gum” music about high school age dating. A lot of this is a great deal of fun, such as “twist and shout,” and some quite beautiful. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” is a Beatles contribution. “Please Please Me” was their first U.S. hit, and contains a surprisingly adult theme. The early Beetles music, and the music world as a whole, though, had yet to emerge from this early sixties world. But then something definitely happened. The Beatles lyrics hit a new vibration, and some of the simplest and most beautiful love songs of all time come out, “Yesterday,” “And I Love her,” “In My Life” and a few others. “Nowhere man” and “Fool on the Hill” introduce solitary characters, and a more contemplative, non-love theme to popular music. “Help!” is a rock song in transition between the old sort of fifties rock guitar and the new sort, fully developed by January of 1966 in the riff opening “Day Tripper.” A noticeable change occurs with the Beatles album Rubber Soul. While still a pop love song, “Norwegian Wood” is a lyric of a different order, a simple image, though a complex song. “For No One” is suddenly deeper, of the sorrow when love is gone. This change is apparent along many lines. The dramatic change became evident while listening to a radio special about women in music, when songs like My Boyfriend’s Back suddenly gave way to something astonishing: Janis Joplin singing “Piece of my heart,” in electric blues with anguished vocal and lyrics to match, the agony of repeatedly wounded and frustrated unrequited love, and the lover who like a martyr continues to love. Jefferson Airplane’s “Don’t you want Somebody to love” is a similar explosion of erotic angst, this frustrated passion of failed longing that is suited to the rock form. We see how suddenly the courtship songs burst from “bubblegum” songs about teenage puppy love to higher and deeper emotions and themes, even on the topic of love, where the passion of the lover is not only more intense and honest, but also more fundamental, as though it were the activity of some higher part of the soul. This love is its own justification, and the power of the expressions comes from their truth, the truth of love. Something that had been brewing in the direction out of the influences of folk, blues, and rockabilly suddenly burst out of the midst of the rejection of the old world and hope for a new that characterized the anti-war and civil rights movements. From this time, music would never be the same. As Crosby explained, the mass media allowed poetry to enter the popular imagination in a new way, and spawned an industry to support and encourage the enterprise. What is clear is that something happened.

 

Eric Burdon and the Animals

 

The power of the blues rock of Eric Burdon is especially impressive for how early it arrives, at number 9 on the U.S. singles chart by August of 1964. The lyrics are a traditional blues song whose author is unknown, recorded by Willie Dixon. On the liner notes aback of Dylan’s first album, it is written:

House of the risin’ sun is a traditional lament of a New Orleans woman driven into prostitution by poverty. Dylan learned the song from the singing of Dave Von Ronk. “I’d always known Risin Sun but never really knew I knew it until I heard Dave sing it.”

So it is likely that the Animals picked it up through Dylan’s first album, even before the Byrds electric folk. The version by the Animals is a good candidate for the first classic rock song, though it may still be electric blues.

 House of the Rising Sun.

 There is a house in New Orleans

They call the Rising Sun

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

And God I know I’m one.

 

My mother was a tailor

Sewed my new blue jeans

My father was a gamblin’ man

Down in New Orleans

 

Now the only thing a gambler needs

Is a suitcase and a trunk

And the only time he’s satisfied

Is when he’s on a drunk

 

Oh mother

Tell Your children

Not to do what I have done

Spend Your lives in sin and misery

In the house of the rising sun

 

I got one foot on the platform

The other on the train

I’m goin’ back to New Orleans

To wear that ball and chain.

 The song is an ominously moralistic warning in terms of the tragic recognition of the consequences of the New Orleans way of life, a sort of gospel-rock-blues. In “Baby Please Don’t go,” by Van Morrison and Them, the city of New Orleans has the same meaning. Seeing the film of the Animals performing this is shocking and stirring, as it must have been for those who had not yet heard the music that would follow. The strength of his voice and presence was astonishing and new, similar to the wall of sound Phil Specter had devised for Ronnie and the Ronnettes, but with an intellectual presence worthy of the commotion. The mode fits the message, and it is ironic and in accord with our theme that this should be a candidate for the first classic rock song. The Animals continued a string of hits with “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which appeared by July of ’65:

 In this dirty old part of the city

Where the sun refuse to shine

People tell me there ain’t no use in tryin’

 

Now my girl your so young and pretty

There’s just one thing I know is true

You”ll be dead before his time is due

 

See my daddy in bed and dy’n

See his hair been turnin’ grey

He’s been workin’ and slavin’ his life away

We gotta get out of this place

If its the last thing we ever do

We’ve gotta get out of this place

Girl, there’s a better life

For me and you

 The rejection of the old world and the search for a better life, which is to become a theme of the next eight years or so, is given one of its earliest expressions here. As Jerry Belanger noted long ago, there are a few songs with the same theme and the same statement, with many examples in songs by Alice Cooper, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and others. Louie Louie may be the first, while and the Animals song one of the best. It is the optimism of youth, to look at the world and resolve to find and do something better. In Louie, Louie, “Me Gotta go” now seems to me to mean he must get up from his bar tending and set sail for his love. When Iggy was in Europe, “I gotta go” meant the punk rejection of the modern state-world. Later, we might look at his new lyrics in more detail.

 

  The Early Who

Between January of 65 and March of 1966, the Who turned Mod angst into the driving force of rock proper, as the blues begin to emerge into Classic rock with singles, songs not recorded on an album until Live at Leads in 1970 or Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, in 1971. The Stones too, released “Satisfaction” in ’65. The first Who record was “My Generation.” It was the song that sprung the Who onto an unsuspecting world, hitting the charts as they would smash their guitars and knock over the drums at the end of the show, the first punk mood in the movement, the cultural development that was rock. “My generation” is the movement not of the hippies but of the mods, and the poet later on Quadrophenia, will call himself the “punk with the stutter.” Townshend is almost single-handedly responsible for the legacy of the mods, and for the continuation of the attitude into rock, though there is a bit of the mod in Jagger and the Beatles as well. That the song became an anthem of the entire generation in the late 60’s shows how the mod tributary entered classic rock via the Who. “Hope I die before I get old” is the mod equivalent of the American “don’t trust anyone over 30.” The mods in Quadrophenia brawl with another social sect called the “rockers,” who seem to be greasers and gear heads who listen to American fifties rock and roll, a different tributary, as we try to penetrate these British mysteries. The mods dressed slick and rode scooters with lights, ate leapers or speed, occasionally fought in the streets, and danced. The Who have the London working class attitude of defiance, similar to the early Beatles, before their producer dressed them more like mods. The mods hold jobs yet disdain their world. My friend Jay once explained to me the stutter in this song as something like the bashful or not self assured part of the youth rebellion or the mod anthem, the human part of the spirited revolt of a generation. They do not quite believe themselves, but are speaking anyway, and against a world that is not more believable than the world they stutter to pronounce.

The thunderous drums broke out with these singles, as in “Anyway” and “Happy Jack,” as had never been heard and seen before, but would be again from Zeppelin’s John Bonham. “Anyway, Anyhow Anywhere” is a revelry in liberty “I can go anyway,” “live anyhow” and “go anywhere” he chooses, even through locked doors, “don’t follow no lines that been laid before.” “I Can’t Explain” is a beginning of love song done in the rock mode:

New feeling inside / I can’t explain

Its a certain kind / I can’t explain

I feel hot and cold / I can’t explain

Way down to my soul, yea / can’t explain

 

I’m feelin good now, yeah, but / I can’t explain

Dizzy in the head, and I’m feelin blue

Things you say, well maybe their true

I’m getting funny dreams again and again

I know what it means but

 

I can’t explain

I think its love

 

Dizzy in the head, and I’m feelin’ bad

Things you say, well they got me real mad.

I’m getting funny dreams again and again

I know what it means but

 

I say to you / when I feel blue

 

Said I can’t explain

Drive me out of my mind

Yeah, I’m worried bout it

Cause I can’t explain.

 The beginning of love has these strange effects that no one can explain, and that is the universal expression we like so much in this song. The song shows that Townshend has loved, in the deeper sort that is accompanied by strange effects on the body, emotions and mind. “Funny dreams” occur because one is stirred “way down to his soul.” According to Townshend, the lyric was originally about music, but changed to be about love to produce the pop song (Who I Am, p .75). But this may be fitting, since love is the entry of most people into music. It drives him out of his mind, and he’s worried about it­, the path that leads to the path of “The Seeker” and the studies of Tommy and Quadrophenia.

 

The Zombies She’s Not There

 Well no one told me about her

The way she lied

Well no one told about her

Though many people cried [tried]

Well its too late to say your sorry

Why should I know

Why should I care

Please don’t bother tryin’ to find her

She’s not there

 

But let me tell you bout the way she looks

the way she acts and the color of her hair

Her voice was soft and cool

Her eyes were clear and bright

But she’s not there

 

Well no one told me about her

What could I do

Well no one told me about her

Though many people knew

 

But its too late to say your sorry

How would I know, why should I care

Please don’t bother tryin’ to find her

She’s not there

 “She’s not there” is a profound way of putting the truth that ones love is gone even while the person is right there, as we say of corpses, that the person is “not there” any more. Here he loved an image, the appearance of the soft cool voice and clear bright eyes that seemed to love him, and she has broken his heart, by infidelity. She was one of those siren women, serial heartbreakers, and as was said by The Platters, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Though he still loves, his reaction is right, that is, the friend to whom the song is addressed is told not to bother trying to find her, for the reason of the title, she is not there. Already, before Grace Slick, we begin to see electric love anguish at a new depth of meaning carried by the intense mode of classic rock.

In 1965, the Beatles reached the culmination of their development of the lyric love poem, or the perfection of the popular lyric love song, especially due to Paul McCartney. in collaboration with John Lennon. “Yesterday,” “In my Life,” “Rain,” “And I love her,” and “Norwegian Wood” are at the same time already examples of the new depth of poetry, though as yet without electric rock. The sentiments are distilled like perfume into simple, universal statements of the loss of love and supremacy of love for one’s one love over all the other relations in our lives.

 Yesterday

 Yesterday

All my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though there here to stay

Oh I believe in Yesterday

 

Suddenly

I’m not half the moon I used to be

There’s a shadow hangin over me

Oh Yesterday came suddenly

 

Why she had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.

I said something wrong,

Now I long for yesterday.

 

Yesterday

Love was such an easy game to play

Now I need a place to hide away

Oh I believe

In Yesterday

McCartney says he awoke with the tune to this one, then found the words, days later. It is a poem of lost love so general as to be sung by all who have ever lost love, and to increase the gratitude, or prevent taking for granted the present of those who have not yet lost their love. The line that he is not half the moon he once was is usually misheard, but he means to compare himself to the illumined and then halved moon. It is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most covered song of all time, and lacking more to say on it, I’ll relate the story in the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, that McCartney once dressed as a bum and played the song in this disguise on the street in Leinster Square.

“Rain” has always been among my favorites, and shows the beginnings of the critique of civilization that will become a theme for the remainder of the sixties. When the rain comes, they run and hide as though the weather were great injury, as with the sunshine, they slip into the shade, though in truth the weather’s fine. The guitar has begun to move toward electric rock, a move that would be completed with “Day Tripper,” on Revolver, the following year. On the radio, I heard Lennon claim that “Ticket to Ride” was the first “Heavy Metal” song.

 Rain

 When the rain comes

They run and hide their heads

They might as well be dead

When the rain comes

 When the sun shines,

they slip into the shade

And sip their lemonade

 

I can show you

That when it starts to rain

Everything looks the same

I can show you

I can show you

Rain

I don’t mind

Shine

The weather’s fine

 

That when it rains and shines

Its just a state of mind

I can show you

 

I have always gone into some ecstasy over this song, and wonder why. Rain, as we will see in #9 dream, is of some poetic significance, as is found by Lennon. Here, the people in civilized society hide from the elements, whether it is rain or shine. The line I can show you” is confirmation that there is some significance, as it is something a friend or lover might undertake to show his friend or love.

Rain and shine becomes like the buffets of fortune in general, and the revelation of the song is that how these effect us is within our control, or is a function of our state of mind. Knowing this, one may dispense with the accommodations of civilization designed to hide us from the weather. Rain washes the soul, and sunshine feeds the highest part, and it is this they hide from in the artificial world of civilization, in exchange for shelter.

 

Donovan 1965

With Donovan, American folk hits Britain. He was at fist thought of as a pop Dylan imitator, though his genius is quickly shown. Donovan may be the first fruit of the counter invasion of Britain by American folk. His electric folk may have been as early as the Byrds. From another view, a line of Irish or Scottish music that is at the Appalachian roots of American folk comes full circle, having journeyed through America to return with Dylan and back to Mr. Leitch. Van Morrison, then with Them, and Cat Stevens would soon join Donovan in this strain of British folk, and carry the torch a while before giving way without a successor. “Catch the Wind” is a song of lonely love, beautiful in both the love longed for and the recognition of the impossibility of capturing the one loved:

Catch the Wind

 In the chilly hour’s minutes of uncertainty

I wanna be

In the warm hold of your loving mind.

 

To feel you all around me

And to take your hand

Along the sand

Ah, but I may as well

Try and catch the wind

 

When sundown pales the sky

I wanna hide a while

Behind your smile

And everywhere I’d look, your eyes I’d find

 

For me to love you now

Would be the sweetest thing

T’would make me sing

Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

 

When rain has hung the leaves with tears

I want you near to kill my fears

To help me to leave all my blues behind

For standing in your heart

Is where I wanna be, and I long to be

 

Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind


The same phrase, catch the wind, is used in a different analogy by Plant, as in sailing, where one can in a way catch the wind, if only to borrow and not to keep.

 

Simon and Garfunkel

The year is 1965, and rock is just beginning to occur out West, but Simon and Garfunkle stayed in New York, bringing the New York Folk scene to a surprising completion. The poetry of Paul Simon is at once way more “pop” than Dylan, and yet Simon is one who might be the equal of Dylan as a song writer or lyricist. His poetry is of course less bitter and so more beautiful than that of Dylan, if not as intricate or as deep. Though it is not rock, and at most a kind of soft rock before the early seventies invention, the tunes of Simon have always been favorites among the classic rock stations, with Bridge Over Troubled Water to be considered among the best tunes of all time. In an astonishing overflow, I am a Rock, The Boxer, and The Sound of Silence might also be considered among these best of all the very famous songs. It is an especially good example of how one does not realize the meaning of some songs until one tries to restate in prose what it is that is being said. “Sounds of Silence” belongs rather to the early flourish of the writing of Simon, after which there was a bit of a lull, in 66-67, before Bookends in 1968.

Sounds of Silence 1965

Long before the Beatles visited the East, Simon has capitalized the poetic koan “The Sound Of Silence.” Simon uses the phrase capitalized, as a Biblical author would use a divine name, and this is astonishing. He comes to talk with the Silence as he has before, but now because a vision has been planted in him while he slept:

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within The Sound Of Silence.

In this dream vision, he walked around, again, in dreams, on a cobblestone street on a damp or drizzly night. He dreamed that a neon sign, later said to have flashed a warning, is said to have split the night and touched the very divine silence:

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone,

‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp,

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched The Sound Of Silence.

What he first sees in this light in his dream is ten thousand or so people. Their talking without speaking etc. is a defect, rather than a fullness, as the same words might be used to describe. They are talking without getting through, and hearing without understanding, while writing unsung songs alone. They are the poets, who are not yet doing what they are to do:

 And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dare

Disturb The Sound of Silence.

 “Ten thousand” is an interesting phrase, used for example by Lao Tzu and Bob Dylan, to refer to a certain multitude. These are the same as the “ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,” and “Ten thousand whispered and no body listening.” That this image should occur twice is amazing even if the idea were directly borrowed. One gets the impression of a great awakening and outpouring about to occur, a foretelling of what did in fact then occur, and continues still. The singer-songwriters were only getting started with Dylan and others like Simon and those then just beginning to write. But no one as yet spoke, disturbing the Sound of Silence. The poet then speaks, encouraging the ten thousand to speak out:

 “Fools” said I “You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you,

Take my arms that I might reach you.”

But my words like silent raindrops fell,

And echoed

In the wells of silence.

He tells them that their silence is like the growth of a cancer, apparently referring at least in part to the social commentary that is about to break out. The acquiescence of the majority is a complicity, in circumstances where the people and the poets ought speak out. But he thinks his call to them has no effect, but falls away like raindrops into the puddles. The people continue to worship the neon sign, the god that they had made, perhaps something like the neon signs of the fifties drive-Ins, or the streets of Los Vegas, superficial American commercial life:

 And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made.

And a sign flashed out its warning,

In the words that it was forming.

And the signs said, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls.”

And whispered in The Sound of Silence.

 The sign, though, that is seen in the dream of the poet has a message. The message is a warning, and we are left wondering why it is a warning. It says the words of the prophets are written in the graffiti of the many, even the poorest of the many in the inner cities, in places where only the ragged people go,” and are whispered within The Sound Of Silence. The people are about to speak living words. And why is this given in the dream as a warning? That such a thing is possible is part of the prophecy of the end times, from the prophet Joel (2:28) and in the Acts of the Apostles (2:17-21):

 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my spirit; and they shall prophesy…

As in Dylan’s “Hard Rain,” the things told might be, or only be like, the foretold outpouring of the end times, but it is clear that very suddenly, and especially in imitation of Dylan, many singers begin to compose their own lyrics, and many of these songs are extraordinarily beautiful.

 

Leaves that are Green

The title of the song is again capitalized in the body of the poem, and so it is a song about the mortality of poetry, along with everything else that is passing.

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.

I’m twenty-two now, and I won’t be for long

Time hurries on.

And the Leaves That Are Green turned to brown,

And they whither in the wind,

And they crumble in your hand.

 

Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl

I held her close, but she faded in the night

Like A poem I meant to write.

And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

And they whither in the wind,

And they crumble in your hand.

 

I threw a pebble in a brook

and watched the ripples run away

And they never made a sound.

And the Leaves that Are Green turned to brown

And they wither with the wind,

And crumble in your hand.

 

Hello, Hello, Hello, Good-bye,

Good-bye Good-bye Good-bye,

That’s all there is

And the Leaves that Are Green turned to brown

And they wither with the wind,

And crumble in your hand.

On a classic theme, the end of love induces a reflection on mortality, and the poet discusses things that pass away. After his life and the leaves, he says his love, though held close, faded with the night, slipping from him as a poem slips from memory. The poet’s poem is like the soul’s beloved, and slips away into “the night,” or back into the unconscious or Oblivion, somewhat as the passing time slips away. The leaves remind of a famous poem of Homer where, on the battlefield, Glaucos answers the question of Diomedes’, “Who are you?” by first comparing the passing generations to the fall of the leaves of a season (Iliad, VI, 145).

Blessed

 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit.

Blessed is the lamb whose blood flows.

Blessed are the Sat upon, Spat upon, Ratted on.

O Lord, why have you forsaken me?

I got no place to go’

I’v walked around So-Ho for the last night or so.

Ah, but it doesn’t matter, no.

 

Blessed is the land and the Kingdom.

Blessed is the man whose soul belongs to.

Blessed are the meth-drinkers, pot-sellers, illusion dwellers.

O Lord, why have you forsaken me?

My words trickle down from a wound

That I have no intention to heal.

 

Blessed are the stained glass.

window pane glass.

Blessed is the church service

makes me nervous.

Blessed are the penny-brooker, Cheap hookers,

groovey lookers.

Oh Lord, why have you forsaken me?

I have tended my own garden

Much too long.

 “Blessed” is a song like “Suzanne,” written in the divine image that is love. It is the revelation of the divine that follows on the recognition of mortality from the end of love in the previous song. “Leaves…”. Wandering around the neighborhood of New York south of Houston street, called So-Ho by the locals, the poet sees the meaning of the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, even transported into the world around him. He also sees the meaning of the enigmatic saying of Jesus from the cross, and wonders why he is alike forsaken. His words, the words of the poet, are like the blood of the Lamb whose blood flows. Like the Messiah, he has no intention to heal the wound, but accepts his suffering as a beautiful pain that brings him to this very vision and opens the flow of his poem. So the lover and the flow that is poetry are in the image of the Christ and the healing flow of grace said to occur through the crucifixion. What is being shown is the intelligibility of the soul based on the principle that the soul is an image of the Most High, and this principle will reappear, emerging on its own through our subway and tenement prophets, beginning with Simon.

The conclusion is also a conclusion from the loss of love: One sees that he has been too long concerned with his own suffering and his own affairs, somewhat as St. Francis saw to seek more to love than to be loved, and leads us to find the peace in prayers for others rather than for ourselves. The ancient Epicurean teaching or image of happiness is the tending of one’s own garden, and there is much to be said for minding one’s own business. But here the poet finds for himself, and shows others, the way through the end of love, because our own sorrows are cured when we are lost in the tending of the greater garden.

Two songs surround this love, as it seems, the love of the one named Kathy, for whom “Kathy’s Song,” about the rain, was written. She was in England, and he in New York alone missing her, and perhaps losing her, as he gazes into the rainy streets. The month is probably late July, though it is more often rainy in the autumn. His thoughts are literally with her, and so he says he can’t write the song he was working on. There follow the lines of the song’s revelation:

 

And so you see I have come to doubt

All that I once held as true.

I stand alone without beliefs

The only truth I know is you.

In love, the experience of the one loved is a more immediate contact with the divine, or with meaning, than any previous experience of the divine through belief. The faculty of love supersedes the faculty of belief. The principle is related to the thought that it is only regarding the beautiful, seen in love, that the intelligible is allowed to become visible to humans (Plato, Phaedrus, 250 b-d). Justice and wisdom, for example, do not reveal their lustre in the visible, but beauty alone of the divine penetrates the visible. So Juliet calls Romeo “The god of my idolatry,” which she says playfully, though it would be serious were it not in innocence. In the experience of love, as when the lover sees the light in the eyes of the one loved, if they can get them to gaze back, and lovers are held enraptured by the sight and presence of the one they love. Because it is the first actual experience of the divine, the lover does not at first discern or separate what is divine and what is the one loved. The course of love will often lead by nature to the discerning or the separating out of these things. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the prince Ferdinand at first thinks that the wondrous Miranda is the cause of all the music on the magic island (I, ii, 424-425). The music is actually caused by the wise man, as are many of all the wonders of the island where he has been shipwrecked.

The second love song “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me,” is about the recognition that the Bohemian lovers of the early sixties were thieves. While she sleeps and dreams of him, he is out holding up a liquor store, and now is on the run, a fugitive. But “April Come She Will” is about his seasonal love, as she leaves him annually. It is a temporary love that he wishes he could make last, but maybe should not have gotten himself into to begin, as though there might be a choice for him, since he loves her and could hardly do otherwise. The lover learns the reason for abstaining till marriage, the opposite of thievery, because their lying together fuses the attachment, at least for the lover, and then their heart is ripped out of their chest when the one they love leaves with the cycling seasons. “I Am a Rock” is written in the December toward which such a summer had been leading:

A winter’s day.

In a deep and dark December.

I am alone

Gazing from my window to the street below

On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

I am a Rock

I am an Island.

 

Don’t talk of love

Well I’ve heard the word before

It’s sleeping in my memory

I won’t disturb the slumber

Of feelings that have died

If I’d never loved

I never would have cried.

I am a Rock

I am an Island.

 

I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor.

Hiding in my room

Safe within my womb

I touch no one and no one touches me

I am a rock.

I am an Island.

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

The poet sees himself and addresses himself with sarcasm, talking himself out of the forlorn seclusion of the end of love that might have left him to become like the subject of the song “A Most Peculiar Man.” A rock is hard, and an island alone, as we are left from love lost and love unreturned. The great popularity of this song indicates that it is universal, or sung by everyone who has loved or tried to love.

 America

A perfection of folk become Pop in the vein of “America the Beautiful,” Simon weaves the story of he and Kathy, his traveling companion, on a quest for America that brings them smokeless on their Greyhound through Michigan, when I was about five years old, within some 35 miles. He seems to have thumbed from around the thumb of our mitten shaped state, probably down Highways 94 or 75, to meet up with Kathy toward New Jersey and take the bus. In love, everything around the poet becomes poetry, and that is how it seems here with the moments of their journey. The stunning conclusion, after Kathy has fallen asleep and he speaks to her:

 

Kathy, I’m lost, I said

For I knew she was sleeping

I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike

They’ve all come to look for America

 Like “Homeward Bound,” America has become a traditional American folk song, immortalizing this moment of a bus trip through Michigan.

1966 Scarborough Fair

 Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

Remember me to the one who lives there.

She once was a true love of mine.

 

On the side of a hill in the deep forest green

Tracing of sparrow on snow crested brown

Blankets and bedclothes / The child of the mountain

Sleeps unaware of the clarion call

 

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt:

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme;

Without no seems or needlework,

Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

 

On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves.

Washes the grave with silvery tears.

A soldier cleans and polishes a gun.

Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

 

Tell her to find me an acre of land

Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme;

Between the salt water and the sea strand,

Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

 

War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions

Generals order their soldiers to kill

And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten.

 

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather:

Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme;

And gather it all in a bunch of heather

Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

He asks another if he is going to this fair, which may have been a Renaissance festival. Cambric is a fine, thin linen or cotton like this, named for a town in France that seems to be named after the Welsh of Cambria. If he goes, he is asked to remind the one who lives there of him. That she once was a true love of his is paradoxical, as true love is always, and seems to mean they were separated or he was prevented from courting and marrying her by the war. The alternating lines of the song contrast the possibilities of peace with the reality of war. The trumpet call shows that the song is spoke by one away at war, the Vietnam war. To the anti-war movement, the human cost is most apparent, as in the Bob Seger song “2+2,” they think of the beauty of the everyday life, sacrificed in war.

 For Emily, Wherever I May find her

“For Emily” is named for Emily Dickenson, and our love for her, the princess of poetry for the folk/ hippie poets. We all long to be her love, the one she never found in her days in the Nineteenth century. Where he finds her is where he loves. Again all for the lover is transposed into poetry:

What a dream I had

Pressed in organdy,

clothed in crimoline of smokey burgundy

Softer than the rain

 

I wandered empty streets down

Past the shop displays

I heard cathedral bells

Tripping down the alleyways

 

And when you ran to me,

Your cheeks flushed with the night

 We walked on frosted fields

Of Juniper and lamplight

I held your hand

 

And when I awoke

And felt you warm and near

I kissed your honey hair

with my grateful tears

Oh I love you, girl

Oh I love you

There follows one of those romantic scenes of lovers running to meet one another in the fields. He then awakes to find his dream world real, and cries in gratitude. So love is a dream come true, when it is true. As Jung explains, in his own terms, an archetypal function causes the projection of the image, so that one is in love with both the one loved and a nascent or “unconscious” part or aspect of ones own soul. In more objective terms, the lover sees the angel of the one loved, and makes an image that at once is or is caused by the perfection of the one loved. And so love can awaken and cultivate the growth of this perfection. As Socrates explains to Phaedrus,[2] love is a gift from the gods sent for the benefit of both the lover and the one loved. So it is that, in often astonishing ways, true love is like the coming true of a dream. An imprinting occurs. As Konrad Lorenz observed regarding young ducks, who made him their mother, they too saw him as “mother” by an innate function. In the case of man, something like these things occur in the attachment at the core of the family in the union of love and marriage, an imprinting that occurs by itself, in part without deliberate choice.

The Mama’s and the Papa’s “California Dreamin” captures the moment in time when and the New York folk scene was about to move out west to join what was to become the hippie movement.

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is gray

I’ve been for a walk

On a winter’s day

I’d be safe and warm

If I was in L. A.

California dreamin’

On such a winter’s day

 

Stopped into a church

I passed along the way

Oh, I got down on my knees

And I began to pray

You know the preacher likes the cold

He knows I’m gonna stay.

California dreamin’

On such a winter’s day

 

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is gray

I’ve been for a walk

On a winter’s day.

If I didn’t tell her

I could leave today.

California dreamin’

On such a winter’s day

The first interesting thing one notices on reading the words is that the preacher likes the cold, because he knows Mr. Phillips will stay at the church to keep warm, while Phillips is dreaming of California. Is this to say that one can dispense with conventional religion in California, where it is naturally warm, though not in New York, where one bows on his knees in exchange for a little shelter from the winter?

The second thing is the romantically haunting line that if he did not tell her, he could leave for California this very day. He is tempted away or ready to leave his New York love for California. We are glad if he did not break her heart, but took her with him to the West coast and out of the winter.

 

Pop 1966: Herman’s Hermits Peter Noone

There’s a Kind of Hush

There’s a kind of Hush

All over the world tonight

All over the world you can hear the sound

Of lovers in love

 

Just the two of us

And nobody else in sight

And nobody else

 

So listen very carefully

Move closer now and you will see what I mean

It isn’t a dream

The only sound that you will hear

Is when I whisper in your ear I love you

Forever and ever

You know what I mean

 

There’s a kind of Hush

All over the world tonight

All over the world

people just like us are falling in love

The love thought of by the hippies is sometimes described as a universalizing of romantic love. That love goes on everywhere is also a great comfort to the loss of love. Lennon thought of the lover sleeping in everyone, and Bowie asks “Who will connect me with love.” In the most complete Christian image of the divine wedding, of God and man, one might see a metaphysical basis of this worldview.

 

Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys

The peak of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson occurs as the change in music is occurring, in 1965-66. It is in a way the last moment of the old music and the precursors of rock. Something happened in the development of music in general surrounding Brian Wilson. The song “Don’t Worry Baby” just brought tears to my eyes, and I wonder why. The boy meets girl stuff is beginning to touch on the breakdown that is also involved in spiritual ascent, and Mr. Wilson is beginning to enter the heights of genuine poetry. In this song, the challenge of a teen racer becomes like every challenge in every life in general, and the consolation of love similarly like all consolation

 

Well its been building up inside of me for, oh, I don’t know how long.

I don’t know why but I keep thinking something’s bound to go wrong.

But she looks in my eyes

And makes me realize, and she says

Don’t worry baby

Everything will turn out alright…

 

I guess I should have kept my mouth shut when I start to brag about my car.

But I can’t back down now because I pushed the other guys too far.

 

She makes me come alive

And makes me want to drive when she says

Don’t worry baby

Everything will turn out alright…

 

She told me baby when you race today, just take along my love with you.

And if you knew how much I love you baby, nothing could go wrong with you

Oh what she does to me

When she makes love to me and she says

Don’t worry baby everything will turn out alright…

The song expresses the comfort of a woman’s love, the solace of all things. In the drama of the song, from the early muscle car era, a drag racer has taken on a dangerous race challenge, facing death. One can feel the air of the night James Dean entered the challenge of chicken at the cliff. “She makes me want to drive” becomes analogous to the inspiration that can come from love to face all the challenges of life. As such it becomes an analogy of the universal circumstance of all lovers, and it is as song about the general circumstance that its beauty hits the chord of the soul and can even make us cry to see it. Is the new vibration at the connection of the soul to the intelligible, or divine things? He has found a truth of the soul, or come in contact with the truth about the soul, and shown us just one appearance of this, and we are overwhelmed, through the experience given us by the artist. The genius of the late Beech Boys vocal harmonies is to awaken the notes in the soul that see the searing beauty of the human soul in the moment of the drama of its life. So, this song is a good example of how the notes or harmonies work to communicate the meaning of the song, which cannot quite be communicated by words alone, without the experience transmitted by both together.

According to Brian Wilson, the song was written about the comfort of his wife to be, Marilyn.[3] Its sound was influenced decisively by the great song of Ronnie and the Ronettes, “Be My Baby,” in which Phil Specter introduced the “Wall of Sound.” This allows the music to carry an overwhelming wave of emotion. The combination of the wall of sound and Wilson’s emerging new vibration will become an essential character of Electric folk, and by 1967, Jefferson Airplane would bring something similar with the bursting passion of “Somebody to Love.”

“Good Vibrations” is another good example for the study of harmonics. The idea is said to have come from the reply of Wilson’s mother to the question of why the family dog was pleased with a certain visitor. From here it become an analogy for the attraction of love and the entry into the music, as though touching on the music of the spheres. One is reminded of the teachings of Kabbala, and the suggestion is that intelligible harmonies enter the world through the physics of sound. The notes here in vocals sound similar to the harmonic notes played on the guitar, where there is an unusual ring that is different from pitch.

 

 

I love the colorful clothes she wears

And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair

Hear the sound of a gentle word

On the wind that lifts her perfume

through the air

 

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations

She’s givin’ me incitations

 

Good, good, good, good vibrations.

Close my eyes

She’s somehow closer now

Softly smiles, I know she must be kind.

When I look in her eyes

She goes with me to a blossom world

I dont know where but she sends me there…

Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations happenin’ with her

The new vibration continues directly in the vocal harmonies of Crosby Still Nash and Young, and indirectly throughout rock, in the electric harmonies of the Byrds and as noted by Townshend in Tommy. All our favorite sixties images of the princess are here in a few short lines: colors, sunlight on her hair. Sound, speech and smell all mingle, as a word is heard on the wind wafting her perfume. When he closes his eyes, she is somehow closer, and this is the image made by love inside the lover. And when he opens his eyes, and looks into her eyes, he takes her away to “a blossom world,” a flower world opened through the imagination by love that leads to the perception of the best things.

 

  1. EMI Music Publishing,Warner /Chapell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

   “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is an imagination of a happy condition, a natural utopian dream song where the adult world longed for by teens is mixed in with the perennial imagination of the best or happiest condition. Here again, though we are still in the early twilight before the change, the fulfillment of the dream is the adult condition of being married, and thus happy. It is the natural dream of all youth. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn’t have to wait so long,” “We could be married / And then we’d be happy.” This is significant because soon it would be said, and with some truth, that the hippies lacked any imagination of the good polity that would provide the basis for a positive proscription to replace the society they rejected. It may be that they were kept from other imaginings because what was intended all along was a restoration of the common sense, if not the traditional, imagination. “Just an old fashioned love song / to weave our dreams upon.”

Note that the good songs on this album are all imaginative. The rest are like filler songs in a rock opera, useful for knowing the story, but not itself quite up to the rarer inspired standard. These lesser songs are about difficulties in love, and these do not ascend to poetry the way, for example, a blues or Zeppelin tune (such as Dazed and Confused) on the same theme might. This culminates in the breakdown described in the John B., which is an analogy, another sailor song, and did become a hit. He is on a bad trip, and like the sailor in Louie Louie ends up wanting to return home. If bad trip is to be taken literally, the new drugs may have brought him into contact with contents his mind he could not yet contain, or shown things he did not yet have the understanding to integrate, as again Mr. Jung might say. The remedy– understanding– is hard to come by. It comes gradually with years of toil, and cannot usually be done without teachers and fellow seekers.

The other place where Pet Sounds becomes especially poetic is of course God Only Knows. Equal to this is the prose of Wilson’s statement on the sleeve:

 

…I really fulfilled a dream with this album. Just before we did God Only Knows, Carl and I had prayer sessions asking the Lord for guidance and maximum love vibes for this crucial single. It was the first time that anyone ever used the word “God” in a commercial song…at least this is what we were told. During the production of Pet Sounds, I dreamed I had a halo over my head. This might have meant the angels were watching over Pet Sounds.

 

That this oversight has occurred seems apparent, though the halo may mean that Mr. Wilson is like a saint:

 

 

I may not always love you,

But long as there are stars above you,

You never need to doubt it,

I’ll make you so sure about it.

 

God only knows what I’d be without you.

God only knows what I’d be without you.

 

If you should ever leave me,

Though life would still go on believe me,

The world could show nothing to me,

So what good would living do me?

 

At first the lines do not seem to fit together. How do the first three make sense? Does it say: “Though I may not always love you, you need never doubt that I love you?” “It” in the third and fourth lines must be “that I love you,” or, what she need not doubt and what he will make her sure of is of course that he loves her, and not the whole sentence, that he may not always love her. One wonders at first if it is not an edited hodgepodge of lines, retained because they sound so good. But this is not what is being said, and could not have elicited McCartney’s praise. A second reading reveals a stunning point: Love is mortal, though it last as long as the stars. The stars, though, may be swept away (Revelation 6:13-14; 20:11; 21:1), and so no longer be above her. “Till doomsday” would mean the same thing. “She may die, and he may love another” is another suggestion (Janet), or she might ascend to be above the stars. This fits with the first line of the second quatrain, “If you should ever leave me,” and the first line may be a restatement from her side of the same thing. Yet then there would still be stars above him, and he still love her. Notice that it is not “As long as there are stars above me,” or even us. What lasts longer, or ascends to higher than the stars, is the immortal soul.

Love or marriage does not especially pertain to the immortal souls, which are singular. This is made clear in a passage of scripture, when Jesus answers the question of the Sadducee as to whom a woman married to seven brothers would be wed in the resurrection. “…for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:34). There is something in us–the immortal mind or soul– that is “like the angels in heaven.” In one sense, this may be what we most truly are. Of the little ones, Jesus says that their angels behold the face of his father in heaven (Matt 18:10-14). It may be because of this immortal something that if she should ever leave him, life would surely still go on. Here the lover has reached the end of the unraveling of a love, which always reveals thought on death and the significance of our particular lives and legacies. He is not suicidal, but only left in despair as regards life in the world. With nothing comparable to be shown him by the world, it would be questionable what good living would do him. The world could show nothing to him, apparently compared with what it has shown him in her, or in or through their love. Romantic or marriage love is the navel of ones attachment to the world, and the one loved becomes all the world to him.“He” is his immortal soul. The refrain is similar to Simon’s “…like the rain / There but for the grace of you go I.”

It is a song of gratitude, and the refrain is the foremost part, expressing the realization that he does not know what he would be without her. What he is with or because of her is related to the immortal soul, and love to salvation. Love is the participation of two in the immortal soul, perhaps from what is not yet, stirring or awakening that in each which always is, if to sacrifice and birth. Apart from the question of the physics of the immortal in us, this is the living thing in the soul or the life of the soul in this life. So for the saint, if not for the lover, living singular remains worthwhile, especially in the city.

 

 

The Yardbirds: 1966

 

With three of the great guitarists of all time, the Yardbirds had been turning blues into classic rock in 1965, with top twenty hits “Heart Full of Soul” and “For your Love.” Then by March of 1966, Jeff Beck hit the charts with “Shapes of Things.” Here both the new sound and the new depth of lyrics are evident.


 

Shapes of Things

 

Shapes of things before my eyes

Just teach me to despise

Will time make man more wise?

 

Here, within my lonely brain

My eyes just hurt my brain

But will it seem the same?

 

Come tomorrow will I be older?

Come tomorrow maybe a soldier

Come tomorrow, may I be bolder than today

 

Now the trees are almost green

But will they still be seen

When time and tide have been?

 

Fall into your passing hands

Please don’t destroy these lands

Don’t make them desert sands

 

Come tomorrow will I be older?

Come tomorrow maybe a soldier

Come tomorrow, may I be bolder than today

 

Soon I hope that I will find

A seed within my mind

That won’t displace my kind

 

(Springboard International Records, 1967)

 

 

 

The words call on wisdom as the one thing hoped for mankind: Will time make man more wise? The things he sees in the world, he despises. He wonders what the future will bring. The war is on, and he wonders if he will be made a soldier. He hopes to have more courage in the future. He looks at the trees awakening for spring, and wonders if they will still be here when the future has run its course. “Fall into your passing hands” seems to refer to how each generation is given stewardship of the earth for its time. He tells us to not destroy these lands, or turn the world into a desert, as seems to have occurred everywhere there has been much human civilization. Easter Island is a microcosm of how this happens, and so a lesson. We are capable of this desertification of the world in new ways, but it is also possible to avoid doing this. What if they had domesticated the flightless birds and conserved the forests on Easter Island? What were they doing instead? The early environmentalism of Dylan shows up here for a second time, now in pop rock More generally, it is a concern for mankind, entering popular music for the first time, with the exception of the peace on earth and good will hoped for in the Christmas songs. He is not overconfident in his own vision, but hopes that soon he will find a seed within his mind that won’t work toward the destruction of mankind, as so many of our conceptions seem to be doing.

 

On the charts in 1966, The Who’s Substitute is awash in dream images regarding the crossing over into majority from youth, as in much of the early Townshend lyrics. The lyrics are difficult, and worth considering:

 

 

You think we look pretty good together.

You think my shoes are made of leather.

But I’m a substitute for another guy,

I look pretty tall, but my heals are high.

The simple things you see are all complicated,

I look bloody young, but I’m just backdated, yeh

 

Substitute your lies for fact

I see right through your plastic mac

I look all white, but my dad was black

My substitute’s really made out of sack.

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth

North side of my town faced east

and the east was facing south

But now you dare to look me in the eye

Those crocodile tears I watch you cry

It’s a genuine problem and you won’t try

To work it out at all,

You just pass it by, pass it by

Substitute me for him

Substitute My coke for gin

Substitute you for my mum

At least I’ll get my washing done.

Your lies for fact

I see right through your plastic mac

I look all white but my dad was black

My Substitute’s really made out of sack

 

 

The context of the song is a limit in a love, where the poet loves, but the girl is not there. This leads him to run into a wall and a reflection. He is to her a substitute for one she wants but cannot have, one taller and younger. He has heeled shoes for height, and calls himself backdated. The circumstance, in which he loves but is to her a substitute causes her to lie to him. A plastic mac is a raincoat, perhaps the see through sort from the sixties. White and black are racial, but also language from the unconscious, and also means he is an undesirable sort. And from his father he gets the substitute that is sack, a British-ism for wine.

The plastic spoon of course replaces the silver spoon in the proverbial metaphor of good fortune. He is a product of the working class. The line about the directions of his town being turned one quarter, so north faces east, etc, is a very amusing line, related to the preceding one, about which side of town one lives on. The north side of a town is usually the rich side, as is the West, while the South is poorer. There are variations for example if the water on which a town is built happens to be on the north or west rather the east, or if the water flows west or, as in Egypt, north. The south side of Chicago is, according to Jim Croce, “the baddest part of town.” The West is not mentioned, but it opens out into the wilderness, and is divided economically by North and South. These are city people, from that town by the docks near London! But most towns divide up the same, with variations based on unique features such as a river on the West or harbor on the South, and by the pattern it is possible to have a basis for understanding every town.

The song reaches the crisis, when she is pictured lying, looking him in the eye and pretending to cry, and he insists that his problem is genuine, and she won’t address it. This leads him to consider what he is headed for should he marry her, which is the object of the dream of love: Because she substitutes him for the one she really wants, he will substitute his coke or soda for gin, perhaps like that of his father, though should he substitute her for his mother, he would at least get his washing done. The lack of love, though, would leave him to perpetuate the malaise of the London working class alcoholic househeads. It is the pull of this wretched fate that the violence of The Who strikes out against, and quite successfully, loudly awakening a generation, and showing the awakening of the generation to the search for more to life.

Substitute would be recorded live at Leeds in 1970. The album Live at Leeds may be the highest energy music that actually holds together. Hendrix also holds together sometimes at such a degree, as in Voodoo Child,” if he sometimes loses it, or lets it go, as in his “Star Spangled Banner.” Creed, too, later in the nineties, could manage such wild energy. White Stripes, in “Orchid” is almost overflowing its own rhythm, but still orderly enough to be music. One hears again as rock emerges from the blues, with the fifties tunes “Young Man’s Blues” and “Summertime Blues” surrounding the Townshend pathos, “Substitute,” with lyrics bursting out along with the explosion of thundering drums and guitar, the rock concert turns from Mod gathering to psychic torrent, and one can hear already the crisp beat that was to be taken over by the punks. The mod anger of this anguished rock love song of the Who is a bursting through illusion.

 

 

The Beatles 1966: Eleanor Rigby

 

With Rubber Soul, a transcendence that had gradually been happening to the Beatles blossomed from bubble gum music into poetry. In the lyrics, this increase in depth had begun to occur in 1965 with “Yesterday,” “In my life” and “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away.” With “Norwegian Wood,” on Rubber Soul, and then Revolver, also released in 1966, the Beatles begin to compile songs with poetry of a different order, and to produce the core of the songs central to their section in the library of classic rock­. “Day Tripper” is a different kind of rock song, more like the emerging rock of the late 60’s than it is like the Beatles popularization of the 50’s R&B, as in their remake of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Rather than singing the song of a lover, he sings the song of love, the advocate of love as a spiritual principle and remedy for the human condition of loneliness that would be the mission of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Eleanor Rigby begins like a self conscious poetry project, with what is like a subtitle made into a double refrain:

 

 

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

 

Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in a church where

a wedding has been.

Lives in a dream.

Waits at the window,

Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

Who is it for?

 

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

 

Ah look at all the lonely people.

Ah look at all the lonely people.

 

Father MacKenzie

Writing the words of a sermon

that no one will hear.

No one comes near. Look at him working,

Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there.

What does he care?

 

Eleanor Rigby

Died in the church and was buried along with her name.

Nobody came.

Father McKenzie

Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave.

No one was saved.

 

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

 

 

 

So the song is not only about Eleanor and Father McKenzie, but about all the lonely people. The lyric is a poetic exercise, looking in snapshots at the lives of two lonely people who perhaps ought have married. The snapshots are heart wrenching capsules of distilled meaning, special particulars that reveal the whole lonely meaning of these person’s lives. It contains an argument against celibacy for those not suited to the singular life, and perhaps a suggestion that solitude is not the best life for humans. Eleanor Rigby picks up rice because she wishes for her marriage, though its time has passed. She is not a nun, dedicated to celibacy. For this reason, she lives in a dream, wearing a face full of cosmetics, and waiting at the window for a love that now will never come, somewhat like Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, without the malice. The cosmetics are because her natural beauty has gone before its purpose was fulfilled. The jar by the door emphasizes that it is her face for going out into the world, behind which she lived in loneliness.

Father McKenzie is found writing a sermon that no one will hear even if it is delivered. He works without disruption, and has no visitors who like to come see him. He darns his own socks in the night where there would be a wife, instead of his loneliness.

The first two sections are powerful, but proceed steadily, so that we are impressed with the images and led inescapably toward what he will be getting at. The third rolls over us like a wave, before we have time to jolt in reaction to the deluge. The two kinds of fruitfulness that are the natural aim of erotic love of both the body and the mind, fail to come to fruition, and this is the sad meaning of their loneliness. Eleanor, who kept her maiden name, died while in the church, or in devotion. Her name dies with her, though the name would not literally have been continued had she been a McKenzie or married, it is her posterity that do not exist and are the loss. Shakespeare has Sonnets calling his love to leave the singular condition and make another copy of her beauty for the world. Fr. McKenzie is then seen wiping his hands, as though washing them of a crime, but of the dirt as he leaves her grave site after performing her funeral. No one was saved. He may have failed because love and salvation are sometimes related. Eros, the longing of the soul for completion, stirs the awakening or draws the soul forth for the ascent. Their loneliness is the loneliness of all the lonely people, and the poet wonders where they all come from, and where they all belong, or where they ought be going.

That no one was saved is a question asked of the Christian tradition by the love poets. It is especially a Catholic question, as to whether there should be a celibate priesthood. Some are singular, though not even all the apostles were celibate. One suspects that the celibate priests are not made by conventions of celibacy, and that more are dedicated to these conventions than are singular in their natures. Yet in our time, because the robes of the priesthood were used to hide homosexual pedophilia, the way of the few who are singular needs to be explained. And even if Fr. McKenzie had no need of a wife, ought he not have married for the sake of Eleanor Rigby? There is a similar theme in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, calling a potential nun to pass on her mortal beauty by having offspring. Romeo calls similarly to Rosalind, before he sees his Juliet.

A very interesting dialogue begins if we ask Don McLean what he thinks about the old music, sacred and secular, in relation to Eleanor Rigby. Does the music that he says died with the ascent of the new pop music function in this way? Or is this not a function of music?

Meanwhile, “Here There and Everywhere” is a happy love song, and also shows expanded meaning in comparison with the early love songs. “For No One,” a sad love song, is alike deeper or more profound, and more of a Classic. It may be the best song written on when love is gone. “And in her eyes you see nothing.” But the George Harrison song “Tomorrow never knows” is way out there, in its own ganre of spiritual experience music, and probably the first of its kind. There are many things in this lyric worth considering. We are glad that the “shining” void he finds is a discovery that Love is all and love is everyone.” “It is being.” “Being” is the way we speak of this, from the Greeks, and we, following them, talk about what is, and these elements probably do not come from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a sort of manual for those setting out to cross over. These are said to have been found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Apostle John may be the one in the West to say that God is Love (I John 4:7, 16). The shining void, however, is from the Tibetan Book of the Dead:

 

…Now thou art experiencing the radiance of the clear light of pure reality. Recognize it, O nobly born, thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics or color, naturally void, is the very reality, the all Good.[4]

 

The Void in the East is void in the sense that it is not any “thing,” with shape and color, etc, but “Being” or the Good is shining and full in the same sense as in the Bible and Plato. In the West, this becomes some ground of all things and of the imagination, and for those who do not consider transcendent being,­ this is what is always, upholding the changing things that come to be and pass away. The Biblical way of saying this is the Creator, not the creation. The truths of mathematics, as things that are always true and the same, are obviously and undeniably eternal. These are said to be the hem of His garment.

 

 

The Birds 1966; Pete Seeger, Traditional (Solomon)

Turn, Turn Turn

 

The Birds hit turn, or to everything there is a season, demonstrates the aim or intention of the new musicians to be genuine carriers of the great tradition. The song was written by the World War II veteran Pete Seeger, who also wrote “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “If I had a Hammer.” He was a bit of a socialist, investigated and harassed by his government for supposed un-American activities. Seeger made this section of Ecclesiastes into a folk song, and by adding “I swear its not too late” after “a time for peace,” he made it an anti war song. The title and refrain is also added, presenting the question of the meaning of “turn.” It is an imperative, that is, the line is telling us to turn, and it turns out that this is what both the Bible and Socrates tell us to do (Matt 18:3; Republic 514b1, 515c5; 516 a4; 518 c4, d1; 519 b3).

 

 

To everything, turn, turn, turn

There is a season, turn, turn, turn

And a time for every purpose under heaven.

 

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep

 

To everything, turn, turn, turn

There is a season

and a time to every purpose under heaven

 

A time to build up, a time to break down,

A time to dance, a time to mourn

A time to cast away stones

A time to gather stones together

 

To everything, turn, turn, turn

There is a season

and a time to every purpose under heaven

 

A time of love, a time of hate

A time of war, a time of peace

A time you may embrace

A time to refrain from embracing

 

To everything, turn, turn, turn

there is a season, turn, turn, turn

and a time to every purpose under heaven

 

A time to gain, a time to lose

A time to rend, a time to sew

A time to love, a time to hate

A time of peace

I swear its not too late

 

To everything, turn, turn, turn

There is a season, turn turn turn

and a time to every purpose under heaven

 

 

 

The song is adapted from the pages of scripture, in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-9), in the very famous poem of Solomon about the works and days of men, a beautiful section that continues through 3:15, and provides some relief from the general theme of the vacuity of all worldly things. “Turn” is an addition, apparently from the Israeli folk tradition. “All is vanity” is the refrain of the darker sections of the Preacher. I once heard that this book was assigned to first year seminarians, to unsettle or test their belief or faith. The teaching of this section is something like the teaching of certain things in moderation, derived from Aristotle’s teaching (Ethics Books 2-4) that virtue is a mean between excess and deficiency. It is also similar to the teaching called situational ethics, where the teaching tries to remember that there are circumstances in the practical world. Each thing is suited to its circumstances, and “seasons” emphasizes the natural order that is the background of the things of man. To each thing there is a season, and from this the hippies had one shred of a teaching of moderation. There is a time to refrain from embracing, and a beauty to the recognition. So, the intention of the additions to the scripture would seem to be a call for a turn of the American people to peace and righteousness or justice, even while recognizing that there is a time for war.

Their ’65 version of Dylan’s “Tambourine Man” and their own “Eight Miles High,” mentioned in McLean’s “American Pie,” mark the very beginnings of sixties pop rock proper and the beginnings of the Los Angles music scene. On the album Tambourine Man, the cover article explains: “The folk singers flip because the Byrds have found a way to get to the beauty, the poetry, the love that’s in the best of what’s called folk­ and they’ve found a way to get it into top 40 radio.” This had also been done with the 1963 cover of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul and Mary, still within the bounds of folk. David Crosby was in the Byrds with McGuin at the time. With “Eight Miles High,” the Byrds inaugurate popularized electric folk. It is this, more than any rock beat, that makes classic rock what it is.

“Eight Miles High” also came out in 1966. It was thought to be about Hallucinogens, but in truth it is a folk song about the trip to England. The image is of the soaring and landing of the electric folk influence from America. The street signs are not on corners, as in America, so that there is a confusion that symbolizes the culture shock. Unterberger (p. 229-230) cites McGuinn:

 

“Rain gray town, known for its sound” is London… “In places, small faces unbound” are the audiences we encountered. “Eight miles high, and when you touch down / You’ll find that its stranger than known­” That’s the airplane ride to England …when you get there, its different. “Nowhere is there warmth to be found / Among those afraid of losing their ground”­ That was the bands and the press and the people who had a kind of chip on their shoulder about, “What do you mean, your America’s answer to the Beatles”

 

The lines are a good example of how poetry distills or abstracts universal statements out of a particular experience. ‘Course, if your plane ride to London left from California in 1966, the world might well be stranger than known upon landing. In the seventies, we thought he was talking about Eight Mile road here in Michigan, as though the plural were a contraction! M&M grew up at the other end of this road, with the same initials. To the east, Eight Mile is the northern boundary of Detroit. And this is where we lived and where our high school was too, four miles that way up the road. The high school has now been moved to Six Mile Road, the Eight Mile building no longer a high but a middle school. And we have heard that the plane was only six miles high, leaving two to be accounted. As a substitute teacher, I was kicked out by the Vice Principal for smoking cigarettes, believe it or not, off school grounds and on a break, ‘cause I had a butt in my coat pocket that smelled, and some kid might smell it while I was trying to discuss the significance of Julius Caesar. Surely he knows all about Julius Caesar, and can teach these things smoke free! I was never kicked out when I went to high school there. But this really happened, right there on Eight Mile. Compared to Washington, is not Caesar a jerk? Oh, for a Plutarch to compare: Who hired Herod?

 

Steven Still’s song “For What its Worth,” the hit for the Buffalo Springfield band, was written after seeing a riot on the Sunset strip on November 12, 1966. It is the first recognition of the conflict of generations that would characterize the end of the sixties and continue until the American withdrawal from Vietnam. I remember a classmate, fellow French horn player Kirsten Williams, disrupting Mr. Schempf’s science class with a commentary in part on this song, about 1977. “There’s battle lines being drawn” is what the poet notices, and comments “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” The song notes that the young who are speaking their mind are meeting with armed resistance. The song calls the children to stop and consider what is occurring, rather than just cheering for their own side. For America, the question is not even whether they knew what they were talking about. The liberty of speech, our dedication to the freedom of peaceable assembly, the right to petition our government, and the political or deliberative process secured by our constitution came to be seriously endangered in the attempt of the government and the majority in America to suppress the youth movement of the sixties. Neil Young’s song Ohio might be considered For What its Worth part II, as it comments on the development of this conflict through the Kent State shootings, when four unarmed college kids in protest were shot to death. The sixties revolution nearly did become a violent uprising, though due to the dedication to peace, there is barely a single example of violent opposition to the violent suppression by police. In this, the hippies are like Martin Luther King, and the nonviolent movement for Black equality. And here again, on yet another point the spiritual impulse of the movement in music is evident. The hippies at Kent State were famously photographed putting flowers, stem first, into the barrels of the Guardsmen’s guns.

 

[1]    Richie Unterberger, Turn ! Turn! Turn!, p. 63.

[2]    Commenting on Phaedrus 245 d-e, which says that all animate life is self moving, and so immortal. Seth Benardete has given an account of the self motion of the soul in ascent, by the projection of this image, in “On Plato’s Phaedrus.”

[3]    Phillip Lambert, Inside the Music of Brian Wilson, pp. 135-136.

[4]    Cited by Carl Jung, in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, p. xxxviii-xxxix.

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