"And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a POLITICAL purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally."
I tried to avoid character names which would be very obvious and key title words that didn't exist within the texts. I've also tried to go for the most generic words I could find that the authors "made their own"... well, maybe except for "fardles". Feel free to add your own in the comments.
An early surface interpretation might suggest McCartney evoking the obvious late 60's "Summer of Love" mentality of free love, anywhere, any time. His push toward the public expression of sexual gratification in the middle of a city street hearkens to a time period of rebellion against taboos around the world. He devolves us to the apes rushing to copulate "helter skelter" on the asphalt thumbing their nose at older generations who strut around like roosters in tuxedos... with bow ties... drinking single malt.
Why don't we do it in the road?
By repeating the earlier sentiment, one could think McCartney is making us really question the element of the pronoun "we". We assume that McCartney means himself and a lover, but considering the social unrest occurring throughout the western world during this time period, it's highly likely that, in fact, the "we" refers to the group of disenfranchised youth that exercised civil liberties by hitting the streets with placards and chants. It is a call to arms against the military-industrial complex that funded the Vietnam war and sent young people to their deaths while profiteering on death.
Why don't we do it in the road?
In the third proclamation of the title line, the walrus recalls the focus on the word "it" as we realize that perhaps our assumption of the copulation expected in line one was perhaps a bit simplistic in interpretation. We realize that it could be anything. The operative part of the sentence comes later in the revelation that no matter what "it" is, "it" should be done in plain sight. The conveyance of the action (2it) to the road reveals a relatively simple mathematic formula that helps to define the logic of the lyric. To put it simply (Y - [I + U] + 2it) / C200H246N2S7O4.
Why don't we do it in the road?
Only by the fourth repetition do we realize the true pain and suffering behind the artist's vision. Echoing the repetition of Eliot at the end of Hollow Men, McCartney goes to a fourth step that reveals his intention.
The final question in the WDWDIITR puzzle lies in the "in". The preposition has been a long time misnomer. Does McCartney mean "in" or "on". We normally say phrases like "out in the street", but does this mean we are consumed or buried in the asphalt? Does Sir Paul indicate that we are up to our necks in road and can only rise up by doing it? Are we drowning in the road? It would be easy for McCartney to say "on" the road, but would that really convey the true sentiment of his tortured soul that, at this point, was being swallowed by the Beatles to the point that he essentially recorded this song entirely by himself overnight on October 9th, 1968. McCartney feels dragged down by the rest of the band and stuck in the gooey asphalt that is restricting his creativity. The line is meant to be ironic. Instead of saying "Why don't we just all restrict our creativity and bog each other down?", he instead asks the title line.
No one will be watching us.
McCartney develops the continuing theme of the popular juggernaut that was The Beatles by waxing satiric on the legions of the band's followers. They buried themselves in studios, tried to run to India, ran off in different directions, but still remained more popular than ever. Gaggles of girls waited outside of every door. Television and newspaper reporters waited around every turn. There is no small sadness in the fact that McCartney only feels that his only chance of escaping prying eyes would be in blatant public view. Unfortunately, even an attempt at this strategy didn't work a scant year or so later when The Beatles climbed up on a roof top and the cameras still followed.
Why don't we do it in the road?
Resigned to his fate of never being able to escape the pressures of being in the most popular band in the world, McCartney presages the angst-ridden singer-songwriters of the 1990s and 2000s by contemplating suicide. He wants the entire band and all their fans to join him in a suicide pact while awaiting an oncoming vehicle to run them all over. I know that some of you may think this a bit far-fetched, but I call your attention to the Abbey Road album cover from less than a year later. The fab four lined up like carnival game targets just waiting for a speeding lorry to end "it" all.
Just because a song has a repetitive banal dance beat, and an autotuned vocal track to boot, doesn't mean the lyrics can't by high literature. I offer up the current Number One Billboard Radio Song as an example of a lyric that contains all of the thematic complexity of Shakespeare and Siddhartha. Why can't you people bow down and acknowledge lyrical genius when you read it? I heard that on his next album there will be a song trilogy that sums up the key elements of Camus, Proust, and Ezra Pound.
by Jay Sean
Baby are you down down down down down,
Obviously calling upon his Marxist teachings of class warfare, Jay Sean calls to mind how struggling lower class infants not only are trapped by their predicament within a modern capitalist society, but that the slippery slope becomes inescapable as echoed by the persistent repetition of the title.
Even if the sky is falling down,
Calling upon the children's literary reference "Chicken Little" Sean expresses the deep-seeded fear felt by young children confronted a society where everything seems crumbling around. A clever allusion is also apparent whereby Roots' protagonist Chicken George is melded with Canadian elder statesman impressionist Rich Little in illustrating the hypocrisy involved in the illusion of rising up without action to back it up.
You oughta know, tonight is the night to let it go,
Put on a show, i wanna see how you lose control,
A cry for a needed self-examination of the internal walls put up around the empowerment of the lower class. Sean sits back as the provoker/reporter who recalls many a standard Shakespearean metaphor about the deconstruction of life as play. Here he asks the everyman youth to abandon class-based expectations and act outside of themselves in an effort to assess the potential for an eventual revolution against the upper class.
So leave it behind ‘cause we, have a night to get away,
So come on and fly with me, as we make our great escape.
In an obvious homage to bleak outlook of life under a capitalist oligarchy, Sean encourages hallucinogenic experimentation as a means of escape and empowerment. As the sky falls down around the disenfranchised, only by letting go inhibitions will they be able to exceed the social parameters they've been forced into.
So baby don’t worry, you are my only,
You won’t be lonely, even if the sky is falling down,
You’ll be my only, no need to worry,
In recalling the struggle of the underclass, Sean asserts a subtle, yet meaningful appreciation for the formation and galvanizing effort of urban guerrilla squads where affected youth can gather under shared roofs of poverty and fear while relying on each other for support. Within these impromptu families, those who have been abandoned by society or their families can gain strength under a unified cause while not having to constantly worry.
Just let it be, come on and bring your body next to me,
I’ll take you away, hey, turn this place into our private getaway,
In evoking the pastoral tones of McCartney's Let it Be, Sean seeks to share his strength in a effort to not only respond to the insurgent threat that seeks to shatter his domain, but also turn revolution into assimilation. By turning the place into a private getaway, Sean admits the temptation embodied in a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous attitude of co-opting that which is depressed and omnipresent around him into a place of exclusion and privilege.
So leave it behind ‘cause we, have a night to get away,
So come on and fly with me, as we make our great escape,
(So why don’t we run away)
While recalling the sense of chemical escapism from earlier, Sean, in a clever turn, brings the fantasy back down to reality by acknowledging the folly of flying to make an escape. His acceptance of the crushing world coming down upon him will not allow him to fly. Flying to him has been the refuge of fantasies and the dreams of a perceived move to a state in which he would become "hyperhuman". Instead Sean's realization that flight is folly, leads him to the conclusion that sometimes the most prudent escape is just to run away. The dreams of flying will have to remain just that.
Even if the sky is falling down like she supposed to be,
She gets down low for me,
Down like her temperature, ‘cause to me she too raw degree,
She crawl all over things,
In taking us on a cycle of flight to walking to crawling, Sean encompasses the entire pattern of the evolution of life. His personification of the sky lends credence to the parallel he draws between the struggle of one's relationship with society as being analogous to one's struggle in a relationship. His evocation of the classic madonna/whore paradigm from the angelic woman in the clouds to one crawling at his feet reveals his confusion at the complexity of interpersonal dynamics in a world where class presupposes humanity.
I got that girl from overseas,
Now she my miss America,
I can’t help be her souljah pleaser,
I’m fighting for this girl,
In an effort to overcome the confusion over his role in relationships with the opposite sex, Sean redefines the archetype by narrowing the field. The allusion to the soldier away at war who, by the symbolism of uniform and mission, can become a de facto hero to the citizens he's trying to liberate becomes a dark irony when recalling the same types of downtrodden attitudes felt by the same people back home. An obvious moment of Sean shining the light on the hypocrisy of military recruitment in lower class communities where the mission becomes escapism as a uniform and gun becomes equated with power, only to evaporate upon the return home.
I’m in battlefield love,
Don’t it look like baby cupid sent his arrows from above,
Don’t you ever leave the side of me,
Indefinitely, now probably, and honestly get down like that, be proud of me,
Sean surrenders to this role of leaving home to become imbued with a sense of power by a rifle and a rank. Where, back home, the sky was falling down,while serving overseas there is now arrows of love showering down from the skies. We begin to realize very quickly that the woman in the song was really just a foil for his own sense of diffused empowerment. While he surely may have found a way out of the circumstances that he found himself in under the class struggles of a constricting economic system back home, the defined militaristic life has replaced that crutch with a new one: dependency. The duality of powerlessness rings true as the protagonist has substituted social dependency for personal dependency.
The supposed escape has failed. Sean moves the protagonist from one failed system to another. It's at this point we realize the eloquent refrain of the title throughout this song in spurring a reminiscence of the old wisdom which acknowledges that while you can climb out of a hole, you cannot dig out of one. In so doing, Sean completes this tragic tale with a faint recollection that seems more Beckett than Biggie.
If you are a regular reader of lovehatethings, the blog, or the lovehate podcasts, you know that eclectic nostalgia is often the order of the day. Sometime in the late 80s I got hooked on a series of pulp espionage books called the Killmaster series, all written under the pseudonym of Nick Carter who was also the main character and, thus, also the Killmaster. Nick Carter (not the Backstreet Boy) actually evolved from a serial detective character starting in the late 19th century.
"Nick Carter first appeared in a dime novel entitled The Old Detective's Pupil; or, The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square on September 18, 1886. This novel was written by John R. Coryell from a story by Ormond G. Smith, the son of one of the founders of Street & Smith. In 1915, Nick Carter Weekly became Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine. In the 1930s, due to the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage, Street & Smith revised Nick Carter as a hero pulp that ran from 1933 to 1936. Novels featuring Carter continued to appear through the 1950s, by which time there was also a popular radio show, Nick Carter, Master Detective, which aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System network from 1943 to 1955."
I, however, was not a fan of Nick Carter the Detective. Instead, I became a fan of Nick Carter, secret agent N3 of AXE (not the body spray, but an underground US government agency). Reborn through the explosion of Fleming's Bond books and films in the 60s, the 261 Killmaster novels ran from Run Spy Run in 1964 to Dragon Slay in 1990. With most plots inspired by Cold War paranoia, Carter took on the Soviets, the Chinese, and any other maniacal mastermind who was a threat to the United States. The stories always involved plenty of violence, mostly perpetrated by Carter himself, using his three main weapons: "Wilhelmina, is a stripped down German Luger. The knife, Hugo, is a pearl handled stiletto. The blade retracts into the handle, and the whole thing is worn on a special sheath on the wrist, designed to release the knife into the user's hand with a simple muscle contraction. The third member of the triad, Pierre, the poison gas bomb, is a small egg shaped device, normally carried as a "third testicle" at his scrotum. Activated with a simple twist, it would, within seconds, kill anybody, or anything, that breathed its odorless and colourless gas." Oh yeah! Good times! Testicular gas bomb!
Oh, and by the way, there was also plenty of gratuitous sex with foreign and friendly agents alike, that was all characterized by writing better suited for Penthouse Forum than a fine piece of literature like Killmaster.
I happened upon a few of the books by accident in used book stores because, as the cover price was so cheap due to quality and age, and used book stores often based prices on a small percentage of the cover price for pulp fiction, I could buy scads of them each month for only a few dollars. They were a hell of a lot cheaper than comic books once The Dark Knight blew the lid off that era and everything went "arty". Almost as soon as I'd given up ever finding more of them in my local bookstores, eBay came on the scene, and I could buy boxes of 50 titles for $20. That's some low-budget entertainment! Considering it only takes a few hours to get through a Killmaster offering, I found myself bringing them on planes and for short hotel stays. I could get through an entire novel with time to spare during a flight to Vegas.
I'm certainly not claiming that the Killmaster series should be placed in Eliot's Canon, but there is something to be said for the guilty pleasure read. It's why, as much as might like to snicker and look down on adults who read Harry Potter or Twilight novels, I do have to pull back and admit some perspective is necessary. The Reader Response theory approach to writing was never so evident with a revisiting of retro pulp novels. Why should I like them? Why do I like them? What do I bring to the reading experience that allows me to generate meaning from the hackneyed plotlines and one-dimensional characters? I suppose once cheap, available, action-spy-sex romp is put to the side and all you're left with is the text - who could pass up a testicular gas bomb named Pierre? Wait a sec! Pee... Air... Oh Killmaster, you slay me.