Monday, November 16, 2015

Perfect Songs - Tomorrow Never Knows

revolver

I could probably pick any Beatles song at random, label it perfect, write it up and few people would question it. Likely because few people would read it, but that's neither here, nor there nor everywhere (see what I did there?). But there's one Beatles song that I can say without a doubt has had the most lasting, evolving power over me. It's somehow a little scary and inviting, confusing and comforting. It's perfect and Don Draper knows it, no matter how dismissively he stops it (its effect on him is clear in the finale).


I remember when that episode aired, and he was placing the needle, I knew from the location of it what was coming. I have a long history with this song. I think I was always aware of The Beatles as a kid because I listened to the local oldies station, Magic 102.7, a lot, but they never played this. So I was familiar with the mop top, boy band era, really. This song came into my consciousness when I was around 11 or 12 watching PBS one night when they played the documentary The Compleat Beatles. I only vaguely remember specific details that have since sort of just congealed in my mind into a mass of gelatin Beatles facts that I somehow just know now, but I do remember vividly hearing this beat and seagull squawking and being a little bit shocked by it.

beatles
Like any healthy 12 year old, I was pretty naive about drugs so talk of the Fab Four getting high, on acid of all things, was eye opening and held a certain darkness that I couldn't deny was attractive. Sure, there was talk of meditation and India and all that, but drugs, man. Let's not kid ourselves. If I remembered anything from that film, I never forgot that song or the album it came from, Revolver. And a few years later, when I was 14, I bought my first Beatles album and second ever CD and it was that very album.

The thing is, by that time I had gotten confused and thought this song was called "Doctor Robert" so I was momentarily disappointed while playing the album the first time. I remember going right to "Doctor Robert" and expecting that beat and saying "damn it." So I said fuck it, and just played the album from the start instead. And I loved every song, but it wasn't that droning voice and those sounds that seemed to be coming from space. It wasn't that dark thing that called to me, which only now do I really understand as the call of Rock n Roll and humanity and the universe. Each song was just a song in comparison. And then. . .



Could it be? YES. YES IT WAS! THE SONG! It was wrapping itself around me in my room and I did just as it asked: turned off my mind, relaxed and floated on this wave of I wasn't even sure what. On some level I was afraid my parents would come in and angrily take this drug music away from me. But how could you not play this loud? Or on headphones? That day and over the years I played the hell out of this album, and particularly this song . . . sober.  I'm positive it's engraved in my synapses. And then. . .

It would be impossible to write about this song without at least touching on my psychedelic experiences. Let's just say I had many. And I guess because in the mid 90s acid made some kind of comeback, there was much music that was supposed to cater to tripping. There was the whole neo- hippie thing going at the time, but I wasn't into Phish or that kind of stuff. I was more drawn to the electronic noises that seemed to capture the same sort of thing The Beatles were doing in this song. Whenever I was tripping, every noise, or silence, or the rushing wind, or the white noise in a room, would somehow morph into a beat, a pattern, a series of transitions into each other like some hallucinatory DJ was mixing reality for me and at the same time, the DJ was me. It was glorious and it always took me back to "Tomorrow Never Knows." While tripping, this song opened up new layers and meaning and colors and sensations that to this day I remember and feel, fondly, every time I hear the song.

recording revolver
It's ultimately about the music.
Anyone that's ever tripped will tell you that there really is no accurate way to describe it and that's because your brain just sort of folds and unfolds everything from time and space to sound and vision so language just fails. But this song, it doesn't fail. It gets it. And maybe John was writing about meditation and the sounds and the feeling are meant to be spiritual not psychedelically influenced. At the end of the day, I say it's the same thing. I say it's all about an alternative mind state and opening those doors. Mine were already opening thanks to this song, it's just the acid sort of blew the door off the hinge. But it was four dudes from Liverpool that started my trip in a perfect way, with a perfect song.

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