Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Day In The Life

A Day In the Life is considered by many to be the greatest Beatles track. It ends Sgt. Pepper which was the first album to be called "art" in rock history (weather or not that's true is debatable). I have my problems with Pepper, but A Day in the Life is an enduring work of art and will always be a chief justification for the lavish praise of Lennon/McCartney, hereafter names uttered in the same breath as Beethoven, Bach, Armstrong, and Johnson.

"A Day in the Life" is a reflection on modernity.

Lennon's voice, at once sad and disaffected, reads the newspaper- real headlines from the London Telegraph. He is ambivalent, even desensitized to the tragedies and absurdities of the news-- alienated by the self-referential medias: the newspaper, the photograph, the film, the book, all conspire to numb Lennon with their mindless saturation of suicide and war.

He sings "I'd love to turn you on"-- at first a musing just as blase as the news, it is carried away by the culminating sounds of symphonic chaos. The symphony, a symbol of sonic order, "high art", and refined beauty is violently dissonant. The trajectory of their sounds rise only toward some ominous end-point, the tension of the crashing sounds is hideous, leading somewhere mysterious and frightening.

McCartney wakes up. Thank god! It was all just a horrible dream! Impish and whimsical, McCartney rushes through his morning routine, forgetting his modernist nightmare.

"And somebody spoke and I went into a dream..."

Lennon's voice descends from above. No, McCartney hadn't awaken at all. McCartney's nonchalant consumer capitalist routine was the dream, the falsity-- Lennon's nightmare is reality.

Lennon is reading the news again, though this time it is even more nonsensical than before. The war and death of the first stanza is now replaced with aimless counting of holes- just numbering absences, quantifying nothingness.

"I'd love to turn you on..."
The dooming symphony returns, more emphatic and wild than before, crashing like waves, storming toward the future, what does it hold? Lennon's counting is lost behind the tense, mindless noise. Rising, rising, rising, rising, rising--

---It reaches the peak---

---and there is harmony on the other side: Lennon's elegant hope.

or, after the long silence, the unexpected ugly loops of nonsense cause one to wonder, is his hope an insanity?


Cara said...

I'd also like to add that A Day in the Life is one of Lennon's all-time best vocal tracks. I've never been quite able to put my finger on it, but there's something heartbreaking in it.

I remember watching the Anthology, and George Martin was playing one of the earliest (the earliest? not sure) demos of the song, and took out the guitar and just left the vocals. He also noted the exceedingly sad and beautiful nature of John's voice on that song, talking about how it was there even from the very first takes, and he sat back and kind of stared off into the distance as it played, and you could see that he was moved. That's how I feel when I listen to the song, too.

Rachel said...

It never gets old.

miles Jackson said...

I always felt like this about A Day In A life I am glad there are others that share my train of thought