Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Fixing a Hole" (fifth in a series)

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Concept Album that Never Was -- or Was It?

The fifth in a series by John Atwood, a thinker and guitarist who was inspired as an 11 year-old to learn the instrument after seeing the Beatles perform in 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show and who followed their career assiduously through his high school years when he formed a garage band just so he could play their songs within a group. He's had a few decades to ponder the import of the Fab Four's music.

This is another favorite song from the guitarist point of view.  What George does with the lead work on this always intrigued me.  I wondered how he got the tone he got, how he came up with the idea for the descending chords, and that solo in the middle is just perfection. 

The words on this one didn’t bother me too much at the time, I suppose.  It seemed a song about needing to get away from people, which is something we all have to do from time to time.  There certainly are times when other people’s egregious exertions toward us can bend us around ourselves, and we need time to unwind. 

But listening to it now, I realize this isn’t just about someone taking a retreat.  The singer is building a fortress against other human contact, both physically and mentally. 

The verses themselves are not quite clear on this. The holes are being fixed and the cracks are being filled because “the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering, where it will go.”  But the middle section makes it plain what is going on.
And it really doesn’t matter, if I’m wrong I’m right,
Where I belong I’m right, where I belong.
See the people standing there who disagree and never win
And wonder why they don’t get in my door.

The second time around, they are called ‘Silly People’.  Paul was quoted as saying this expressed his reaction to carried-away fans who hung around outside his house.  I do not fault him for his feeling on this point, since it is evident that well meaning but terribly foolish fans caused them all a lot of personal grief.  But without knowing that background, it strikes one that here is a fellow with the means to establish life on his own terms.  He need never subject his opinions to open discussion and can shut out everyone else who won’t see it his way. 

In other words, this is the song of the hermit or the social recluse.  And as it is presented in the form of a dreamy reverie, the unreality of such an approach to life is reinforced.   It is something we all have probably thought about from time to time, and maybe would do, if we didn’t have to go to work, didn’t have to work together with a spouse, didn’t have to deal with people in order to accomplish necessary things for living. 

Is this what Paul was intending this song to say and represent?  Probably not. While the song would have resonated well with someone like Howard Hughes, it doesn’t seem to fit what I know of the life of Paul McCartney.  So in a sense, it probably represents more a secret wish or passing fancy than it does an actual determination to do something.  And certainly Paul is not the only person to have entertained this idea.

However, one senses that it is possible to act out this idea more in concept than in actual construction projects.  So the “space between us all” can get larger not so much in a physical and geographical sense, but in a psychological and conceptual one.  It is regrettable that our often thoughtless actions to one another can create the tendency to respond in this fashion.  And maybe we don’t always realize that we are constructing such retreats in our head.  But perhaps a song like this—another example of unconscious negative narration—can help us to appreciate that, tempting as either a physical or psychological hermitage might be, in the end all it amounts to is a self-imposed form of loneliness.  

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