Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You Never Give Me Your Money

I have no comment on the frenzy in the Beatles press yesterday about the engagement and subsequent oops-no-engagement-to-see-here between Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell, other than to note that Paul finally went for a brunette, which gives me hope that if I ever acquire a time machine I might have a shot at him after all. (Don't tell me you wouldn't do dirty things with a time machine. You know you would.) I'm actually more irritated at the news that Paul will be playing at the Grammy Awards show, because now I feel like I'm going to have to watch the damned thing. Ugh.

I was going to write about "Act Naturally" today, but there Paul went and stole the spotlight from Ringo-- isn't that just like Paul? Screw it. "Act Naturally" will wait til tomorrow, and today we'll do, um... "You Never Give Me Your Money."

The song that kicks off the suite on the Abbey Road B-side, "You Never Give Me Your Money" is a mini-suite all to itself, vascillating interestingly through different musical stuff with some good jamming and weirdness at the end to lead, via tape loop, into "Sun King." In his totally indispensable book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald calls this the song that "marks the psychological opening of [Paul's] solo career," which seems about right. We find Paul in a rare introspective, sad mood here, clearly craving escape from the growing Beatles madness around him. It's OK, Paul. Soon we'll be away from here.

The opening melody seems atypically Paul-- its sort of monotonal melody, not to mention the wordplay in the lyrics, are more John-esque-- and he sings it with less of his customary showmanship and more true pathos. Then when we enter part 2, the "out of college" bit, Paul sings in an exaggerated tone that I swear sounds like a parody of a Paul McCartney song, as if he realized he needs to tell us a good story now to keep us interested. Because that "out of college" guy isn't him anymore. But like fiction writers who reveal heaps about themselves through their characters, Paul IS actually singing about himself. That vocal is so expressive, so hurt, that you almost get a lump in your throat when he sings "oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go," don't you? I mean, don't you have a soul? "Wipe that tear away," Paul sings, and now we're flirting again, and I do wipe it away, because it's going to be OK because Paul says so. Paul is going to drive into the sunset and find somewhere to go after all. (It was called Ram.)

It's so easy to talk about this song in terms of the Beatles Story and the misery of their financial problems and issues with each other, but beyond that it's a lovely piece of music anyway. Paul, as usual, plays the hell out of his bass, and piano, and probably half the other instruments, though if I'm remembering correctly that might actually be John on the lead guitar bit at the end, playing as if to say, "Man, I HEAR you." Paul might have revealed more than he meant to here, but at least it's clear that he wasn't (entirely) the bad guy that he frequently comes across as being in the last years of the Beatles. He is just as sad as we are that the whole thing's falling apart.

Here's a bootleg of "You Never Give Me Your Money" that I actually quite like because of the fun jam at the end, which, were it not for the edit into "Sun King," would be the perfect way to end the song. A note of sunshine at the end, as it were. 

(Paul's goofy eyes and apparent nibbling of the mic make him look like a sleepy Cookie Monster.)

"You Never Give Me Your Money," released in the U.K. side B track 3 of Abbey Road, released September 26, 1969; in the U.S. side B track 3 of Abbey Road, released October 1, 1969.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Megan. I've always been so simply ravished by the musical beauty of this song that I never for a moment contemplated that it had any lyrical meaning. I'll bet you're a fine editor. I would add something which might tweak your interpretation. I think the second part is not Paul mocking himself, but Paul doing his Elvis voice, the perfect voice for him to use when looking back on the beginning of things. "Out of college," is a compromise, because John and Paul didn't go. He is thinking out of high school, when things first started, and they were so inspired by Elvis. And he yearns for the simplicity of life ... that magic feeling ... no where to go. That's the magic feeling in life (and, what many of us forget) of romance too: no where to go, just hanging and enjoying the time. The purity of his voice when he rises above middle C with his Elvis voice often makes me want to give up singing all together. I hear his voice and can't think of anything else.

    (And, for the record, I hear this voice on "Lady Madonna", the opening of "Rocky Raccoon" (supposedly inspired by Elvis movies), here, and also later after Elvis' death on the LondonTown album in "Name and Address" (a real fun classic).)

    I can get pretty senseless: thanks again for your interpretation.