Monday, January 26, 2009

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

I wonder if, after 25 days, the albums that I haven't even touched yet say anything about me. For instance, today's is the first post from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which seems sort of weird, doesn't it? Considering that it was the first album I ever bought and all, maybe it IS weird. I dunno. Maybe it's more because the album works better as a whole than as the sum of its individual songs, so I don't think of the songs as much.

At any rate, this was the first album I ever bought (yes, it was like 1991, but I was deeply uncool, and unaware of pretty much all the music actually being made in real time around me), and I bought it because I liked poems, and someone showed me the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which I thought made a pretty cool poem. I bought Sgt. Pepper on an audiotape at a Sam Goody's in a mall. Then I blew my mind for the next 3 months listening to pretty much nothing else.

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" bears the weight of being maybe the pinnacle of psychedelic artistic achievement, with its oopsie! acronym, its very surreal lyrics, its weirdo production effects, and the fact that John's vocal sounds like he's singing into a toilet paper tube on the moon. But like everything else the Beatles did when they were on their game, it's such a GOOD song, so well-written at its core, and most of what makes it so good is actually in the guitars. The rest is icing.

For instance, that creepy and justly famous guitar figure that opens the song repeats under the first half of the verse, then goes into a drone for the second half of the verse so that Paul's bass can take over with a reply-- it's a line that's similar to the guitar's, but more marcato, and, even weirder, seems to be suddenly playing a waltz. Ringo's drumming a waltz-like beat, too. The effect for me is that the opening of the verse introduces a creepy feeling that settles into a familiar rhythmic pattern, thus gradually putting you at ease as the band whisks you along on this psychotic episode of a song. Neat, no?

But then there's no waltz anymore, there's this total shift into four-four and the head-bopping chorus. And, gees, Paul? You are wailing. It's always so embarrassing when I've been listening to a song as long as I've been listening to this one and have never noticed how fantastic Paul is on bass, but this is definitely one of those times. I think I'll go so far as to say that he really makes this for me. At least on this listen. Next time I might notice something else. Anyway, the chorus is so unexpected (inasmuch as anything can unexpected anymore on a Beatles track) and always sounds loud, no matter how loud you're actually playing it. I love it. I LOVE it.

So here's video from Yellow Submarine, which I didn't necessarily want to use-- this is best listened to with your eyes closed. But frankly, what with the endless incomprehensible stupidity about Beatles songs on the internet, I'm always afraid to just leave audio clips. But what the hell anyway, right? It's actually one of the best scenes in the movie.

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," released in the U.K. side A track 3 of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, June 1, 1967; in the U.S. side A track 3 of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, June 2, 1967.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous

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