Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Looking Through You

I saw a very good old friend while in Chicago for these past several days, and today on Facebook I happened to read that "I'm Looking Through You" is her favorite song. So I figured I'd listen to it today. I tend to take these kinds of things as kismet, especially when I otherwise can't decide what to do, and especially when it's this friend, whom I shared some excellent Beatle geekery with back in high school.

"I'm Looking Through You" is for Jane Asher, Paul's girlfriend through the bulk of his career as a Beatle. They seem to have been a contentious couple, at least if you count the songs that she inspired, such as this one, "You Won't See Me," and "We Can Work It Out." (Then again, she also gets to say that "Here, There, and Everywhere" is for her, so it's not all bad.) But who's not contentious when you're as young and famous and cool as they were?

There's a quality to Paul's singing-- it's so resonant and, frequently, so pitch-perfect-- that even when he's rocking out I find it hard to believe he can ever be angry-- his singing always just sounds so ingratiating and sincere, even as it's winking. (Even in a song like "Helter Skelter," he sounds to me like he's just having fun being loud.) But here he comes as close to true ire as I can ever remember. And it's not just ire-- there's real sarcasm in the lyrics ("love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight" and all that), something we're more accustomed to hearing from John or George than our charming Paul. And an angry, sarcastic song sung over an acoustic guitar in 1965 tends to make people think of Dylan almost inevitably-- I've read some theories that this was Dylan-inspired, and probably it was a bit. But I feel like on Rubber Soul the Beatles really took the folk rock craze and made it their own thing. "I'm Looking Through You" just sounds like 100% Beatles to me.

That's probably partly because for a song with angry lyrics, it's so darned catchy. It's a great sing-along song. And the cleverness of the musical details is Beatley through and through. I love that the verses are all acoustic until the ends of them, when Paul sings at the high part of his range with something close to fury, and the electric guitar comes in out of nowhere, just crackles in on the tonic note with this totally awesome and emphatic on-the-beat thing. Isn't that rad? Yes, it is. The Hammond organ that comes in on that bit is actually played by Ringo, who's tight as hell. His drumming on this song is very cool too-- the unrelenting backbeat keeps the tension high, or keeps your head bopping, depending on how you're hearing it.

Isn't it excellent? Paul left these lovely scattered masterpieces all over his Beatles career-- even if "I'm Looking Through You" is overshadowed by some of his more obvious masterpieces, it just goes to show what a craftsman he could be even when he was all pissy with his girlfriend.

"I'm Looking Through You," released in the U.K. side B track 3 of Rubber Soul, December 3, 1965; in the U.S. side B track 3 of Capitol's crappy Rubber Soul, December 6, 1965.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Megan. You're right, a song that attacks someone shouldn't be this catchy and upbeat sounding. Rubber Soul may be my second favorite Beatles album and when this song comes on i have to crank the volume up. You can't play it loud enough. Those accent guitar strums explode off the speakers. Doesn't the strain in Paul's voice at the end remind you just a bit of what he does with his voice in the magnificent song Oh, Darling? Can't wait till you write about it.