Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dear Prudence

To begin the new year, I wanted to find a good kick-in-the-butt song, something that’s motivating and cheery without being too syrupy about it. On New Year’s Day, I tend to wake up with a wicked hangover, stumble to the window to see a wash of sleet/snow/ice sheets/pick-your-Boston-weather-poison, realize I only have enough coffee to make about a quarter pot, and then spill the grounds all over the floor. So I needed something to arouse me, but if I had made myself listen to an over-the-top happy song like “Good Day Sunshine,” I’d probably kick over the turntable and abandon this whole project.

But “Dear Prudence” provides better balance. Its cheerfulness is more of a gentle coax, someone nudging you to wake you up in the morning. But the intensity grows and grows, and by the end it’s this mind-blowing celebration of just getting the heck out of the house and DOING something, yes YES COME OUT TO PLAY! Just, awesome.

Written during the hyper-creative period of the Beatles’ trip to India to meditate with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (RIP), “Dear Prudence” was directed to Prudence Farrow (Mia’s sister), part of the celebrity entourage on the trip. She was apparently a more devout meditator than the others, preferring to stay inside while everyone else hung out. So John Lennon would sing up to her window to try to get her to come and be more social (which she didn’t—and I think she’s still a TM teacher today, so clearly she had found her calling).

Everything about this song shows total mastery of mood and buildup and making the most out of simple material. That little twangy two-pitch acoustic guitar figure that opens the song sticks around for pretty much the entire time and holds the entire thing together. And I love the chromatic bassline, which is, again, so ridiculously simple and so perfect—it enters at exactly the right time, when the guitar figure might have gotten dreary, and provides a little extra bounciness. Listen to the drums—this was apparently recorded after Ringo had walked out of the studio in one of those fits of temper that so plagued the White Album sessions, so Paul was drumming, but it still sounds like Ringo to me. Either Ringo overdubbed a drum bit later, or Paul is just a master of mimicry—I’d believe either explanation. Anyway, by the end, all the simple motives have been built upon such that there’s just this glorious wash of sound for the final verse, over which that ecstatic solo just soars.

Dear God, isn’t this song awesome? Totally one of my favorites—I could listen to it forever. I am so ready to go out and play, dammit.

“Dear Prudence,” disc 1 track 2 of The Beatles aka The White Album. UK release November 22, 1968; US release November 25, 1968.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous

1 comment:

  1. Wow; Prudence was a little hottie! I'd never seen a photo of her.