20 November, 2005

Penny dropped

Off the back of seeing the Concert for George again the other week, I've finally got round to buying the re-issue of All Things Must Pass. For years I've only had a poor cassette copy of the thing, taped from a CD I borrowed from the library about a decade ago, which conveniently had no insert or information other than the names of the songs. Now, at last, I've been able to find out who played on what track, and more importantly what George is actually going on about in the songs themselves (the one big drawback about the album being its hamfisted production, Phil Spector joyfully burying the vocals underneath a ton of squawking strings and duelling drummers).

I say that original library copy "conveniently" had no proper blurb in it, but now it seems that was probably a genuinely positive, indeed wholly non-ironic state of affairs. For the lyrics to my favourite song, 'Let It Roll', are completely different (and a whole lot worse) than I'd previously reckoned.

For starters I'd always thought it was called 'Let It Rot', and as such was a dig at 'Let It Be' and how George was pissed off with Paul and how Apple was fucked and so on. Wrong! Secondly, I'd totally misconstrued the words, hearing the intriguing line "The penny rolled across the floor" whereas in reality it's the boring "Let it roll across the floor." But I'd also applied this reasoning throughout the entire song, turning it into a satirical yet strangely poetic statement about the titular coin (i.e. The Beatles' finances) travelling down halls, through doors, caves and mazes, before "rolling into the night". Wrong again! The lyrics are just a load of nonsense about how we should "Let it roll among the weeds" and - erk! - "Find me where ye echo lays".

Suffice to say I've been pissed off by this discovery, and have felt more than a bit cheated. How could the song turn out to be so lame, and after all these years?

It's happened to me before. I used to think 'Listening Wind' by Talking Heads was an eerie tale about American colonialism, with its subject resisting occupation by summoning the power of the eponymous breeze to hasten him and his people to freedom. Then a few months back I read it's about a bloke trying to plant a bomb in an American town, and as such has been "claimed" by US neo-conservatives as an ode to the self-dubbed "war on terror". Bollocks.

I also used to think 'Two Of Us' by The Beatles was written by Macca about him and John. Then I read it was "officially" a love song about him and Linda, which is just preposterous. How does the middle bit about "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead" refer to a woman he's only known for 18 months or so?

Worse of all, I completely misunderstood the fantastic Ben Folds Five song 'Missing The War'. For a long time I had concluded - not having listened to the words properly - that it was on the insightful topic of people who, having lived through periods of protracted military conflict which have come to totally dominate their world and their every waking moment, now miss the bonds and relationships and customs (both good or ill) such dark days cultivate. I know, I clearly have too much time on my hands. Anyway, then I read the lyrics and saw it was just about a man and a woman pining for the days they used to have rows over the kitchen sink.

I wish the penny hadn't dropped.


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