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“Keeping An Eye On the World Going By My Window”

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Mid-March and we’re finally seeing some Springy-ness – temperatures in the fifties/sixties; lots of bright sunshine; mud prints on the living room carpet – which can only mean one thing: time to open the windows and crank up the stereo!
Yeah, some records just cry to be pulled out now, especially when you’re feeling stuck inside. May not have thought about these discs for months, but with the new season, they suddenly seem indispensible. I’m not sure what makes a particular album part of one’s individual Rites of Spring – my suspicion is this association varies from listener to listener and may’ve been born in adolescence. I do know that the first disc I associate with the season comes from my high school years, though others would come along later.
But let’s consider my initial disc today: The Beatles’ Revolver (Parlorphone).
I first heard this ’66 album as a young bookish sixteen-year-old boy. It had plenty to hook me then: obvious satire, surreal children’s lit whimsy, anecdotal snapshots about life’s losers, mystical/philosophical foofaraw alongside plaints about being misunderstood by women – all delivered by the Fab Four with the deft energy of creative guys still stretching the bounds of their fecund pop inventiveness.

The album opens with one of George Harrison’s earliest statement songs: a heavy-pawed swipe at tax collectors (pity the poor British tax exile!) then moves into the mournful Lennon-McCartney ballad “Eleanor Rigby.” This revolving shift in focus characterizes the entire album, which doesn’t contain a duff cut (even the Eastern-inflected “Love You To” contains more simple tunefulness than Harrison’s later tabla beatwork). For all the iconographic attention paid to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to my ears this disc better represents all that could be encompassed in a great sixties pop album.

Aside from “Rigby,” the overplayed radio cuts are “Yellow Submarine” and “Got To Get You Into My Life.” But the tracks that bring me up every time are John Lennon’s “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “She Said She Said” – the first for its airy pauses and loping beat, the other two for the way their notoriously cantankerous songwriter existentially argues with pretentious girlfriends. Also worth singling out: the French horn on Paul McCartney’s succinct broken romance song, “For No One,” and the discordant pianowork on Harrison’s “I Want To Tell You.” Hell, just looking at the track listing, I find myself going, “But what about that cut? – or that cut?”
I loved listening to this album as a teenager, and I continue to love listening to it today. Took the storm out of my study window today and replaced it with a screen just so I could Play It Loud this very sunny afternoon. Good Day, Sunshine, indeed. . .

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • Eric Olsen

    Pretty cool for an old guy.

  • Yup, I turn my hearing aid all way up to ELEVEN!

  • Jim C.

    Just the other day I ripped “Revolver” and “Rubber Soul” (my other favorite Fab Four record) and took them to work. You forget how great these guys were when you don’t listen to them for a while.

  • But how can you talk about Revolver and not even mention “Tomorrow Never Knows”? I’d read about the song in books about the band before I ever heard it, but when I did first hear it on radio about eleven years ago, I couldn’t believe it was recorded in 1966. I was sure somebody had to have done a new cover of it. But by God, no, it was in fact the Beatles’ own version, still sounding as remarkably fresh and out-there as it must’ve done in 1966. Still does, too.