Making Me Feel Like I’ve Never Been Born

Now, there’s a whole lotta writing about the Beatles, everyone knows the story, everyone has a favorite Beatle. If you don’t know who your favorite Beatle is, you probably also don’t know people shit their pants when they die.

There’s this Beatles joke I want to tell you—

Phil Spector is trying to complete Let It Be, but the lads from Liverpool are on the outs. He gathers them together in the studio and says:

Listen fellas, I know you got problems, but think of the music! You guys are the Beatles, for chrissakes! Four distinct personalities combining to make the perfect pop group!

“Paul . . . you’re the
voice and the face of the Beatles, you know? Without your charisma, the group would still be stuck hacking out Twist And Shout six times a night to bored Krauts in Hamburg. Instead, you guys are the Number One act in all of rock’n’roll!

“George . . . listen George, you make your guitar gently weep. You’re the
sound of the Beatles. No one sounds like you—you’re a true original. No one thought of taking Eastern instruments and making rock music with them. Guitar, sitar . . . you’re a unique and influential force in modern music.

“John . . . you’re the
heart, the very soul of the Beatles. A bona fide rock’n’roll poet. You’re passion and intelligence elevates these songs into the realm of the sublime. Yoko’s right—you’re truly an Artist in every sense of the word.

“Ringo . . . you’re the drummer.

Like many people, my favorite Beatle was John. His output tapered off at the end there, but man! Wonderful tunes.

As we all know, being in the Beatles began chafing John’s ass. A lot of his latter-day songs got pretty, well, famously negative. You know, “Yer Blues,” “Another Day in the Life,” stuff like that. But I always thought the most negative Lennon song was “She Said She Said.”

The first lines of the song are:

She said ‘I know what it’s like to be dead
‘I know what it’s is to be sad’
and she’s making me feel like I’ve never been born

Whoa! Pretty heavy, no?

According to legend, the song’s genesis lies in a brief interaction between Lennon and Peter Fonda. They were at a party, on acid, and a glassy-eyed Fonda turned to Lennon and casually mentioned “Hey, I know what it’s like to be dead.”

My first question is: was he telling the truth, or just trying to freak out a Beatle?

My second question is: Was this trip the influence for Easy Rider’s LSD premonition scene in the New Orleans mausoleum? You now, when Dennis Hopper is talking to the statue, and then there’s this tricky montage, and Peter Fonda forsees his own death?

I’ve been to that mausoleum, and the statue Hopper talks to is missing its head. According to the mausoleum people, who are still angered by the incident, Dennis Hopper stole it. Personally, I think it’s far more likely that some random hooligans took it, but I like to imagine Dennis Hopper displaying the head in his Hollywood home, or cradling it in his arms when feeling blue.

My third question is: What did Gentle George Harrison think of this song? He adds this cool spray of paisley guitar squiggle, which does a call and response with Lennon’s vocal, and I just can’t imagine—I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have deep-seated hippie objections to the subject matter. “This song is a sad trip, man. It’s shrinking my ego,” or something. He’d be right. “She Said She Said” will shrink your ego into a bitter black jellybean of fear unless the proper precautions are taken.

All questions aside, it’s probably the most overlooked song on Revolver, but Revolver is a pretty fucking good album, so all right. I listened to the album hundreds of times before I noticed it.

Once Lennon started with his solo stuff, it was all primal screaming and dippy, insincere, sanctimonious bullshit like “Imagine.” Emotionally, 1970–1980 were John Lennon’s fat Elvis years. For whatever it’s worth, I love fat Elvis, but you know . . . honesty does count for something.


Garth said...

Leaving aside how pleasantly surprised I am that you seem to have recanted your past dismissal of the Beatles, I would like to suggest that you are not giving George credit for the negativity and bitterness of which he was capable. After all, the guy wrote "Piggies" and "Tax Man", which perhaps do not express the same Morrissey-like existential angst that we find in "She Said", but are bitter songs nonetheless.

I think it's a myth that hippies and people who go in "Eastern" religions or other "woo-woo" practices are more at peace and spiritually enlightened than the rest of us. In fact, people who are into Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, etc. are often drawn to these practices precisely because they are more miserable than the rest of us, and in desperate need of some kind of spiritual grounding.

Michael said...

What about Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth"? That song is mighty.

Rebecca said...

I was inspired to listen to my copy of Revolver tonight (on vinyl, of course).

Garth said...

I just want to say for the record that I am duly embarassed to have been commenting on the personalities of the Beatles on an blog.

Rick said...

Ha ha, Garth. Better blow the dust off The Collected John Donne, or else . . . you know.

barmaljova said...

sweet dreams.... this reminded me of my beatlemania days... i think that's how i learned my English (the Beatles and volumes of "Babysitters Club")