Once upon a time – for a short period of time in the overall scheme of things – context mattered. Where a song was on an album actually made a difference in how you enjoyed that song. Think of how “Behind Blue Eyes” set up “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” or how perfectly sequenced the first few songs on The Joshua Tree or The Velvet Underground were.
And of course, perhaps the best object lesson ever in song sequencing is the group of songs that make up the bulk of side two of Abbey Road. When I first fell in love with this as a teenager, I didn’t even realize that it was basically bookended by two pretty great McCartney songs, in between were sandwitched a Lennon mood piece (which I hated for years) and three half-finished rock songs, and concluded by a jam session.
And yes, it’s responsible for some terrible things in the name of “art rock” as bands attempted to stitch songs together into “suites” or songs with “movements” or even make an entire album of a single song. (Of course, it’s responsible for some great things: “Close to the Edge,” “Supper’s Ready” & “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, among others)
However, after 35 years of listening to these songs all together, I would argue that none of these songs really work well as standalones (even "You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight” are basically pastiches), but as a whole, it’s a glorious monstrosity that somehow maintains consistency while continually changing mood.
Which is why the first thing I did when I started listening to the entire universe on eternal shuffle is get some audio editing equipment and create a single file so that I listen to these songs together, or not at all. (I also did that with side one of The Who Sell Out, which is a whole other thing.)
So I do wonder what future generations are going to make of this, as these songs come at them completely without context? I guess if anything is ever going to be experienced as a whole album, it’s going to be something by The Beatles.
So first off, of course I’m aware that Let it Be didn’t come out until 1970, but this performance of this song was from 1969, and I’m trying to go with performance dates over release dates if things were shelved for any time.
Anyways, I first saw the film of Let it Be way back in either the late 1970s or early 1980s on HBO at my grandparents house in Bakersfield. It was weird and depressing – at that time, I was still trying to sort out The Beatles as a story with a beginning, middle and end as opposed to the overwhelming cultural presence with which I’d grown up – but two things stuck out in the middle of all of the fighting and anger: the snippet of “Dig it” and the entire rooftop performance of this song.
“I’ve Got a Feeling” is majestic and melancholy at the same time, and it has always struck me as more honest and real than anything else going on in their “Get Back” project. After all, in a weird way, Paul & John are formally showing just how much their paths have diverged by singing completely different songs at the same time.
BTW, it’s goddamn shame that the film of Let it Be isn’t commercially available in any way, shape and form 45 years after it was filmed. It might not be as uplifting as A Hard Day’s Night, but it’s equally as important as a way to understand The Beatles. Maybe more so.
It’s almost as if the gatekeepers of The Beatles legend would prefer to keep them as overwhelming cultural presence as opposed to a story with a beginning, middle and end. Which is a shame, and extends – of course – to not being able to embed a proper clip of this song.
INT – MAUREEN O’ SULLIVAN’S APARTMENT – THANKSGIVING 1986
Two sisters are having a heated discussion at the dinner table.
MIA FARROW (excitedly)
… and I really think that if I get an Oscar nomination for Hannah, it might be the best thing that’s happened to any of us.
John Lennon wrote a song for me.
Oh sure, and I was married to Frank Sinatra, but you don’t see me bringing that up.
John Lennon wrote a song for me, and I didn’t even have to sleep with him. How many songs did Frank write for you?
Well, Woody’s written plenty of roles for me. (Yells offscreen) How many roles have you written for me, Woody?
WOODY ALLEN is watching a Knicks game in the living room, not even paying attention. He doesn’t respond.
John Lennon wrote a song for me. Woody Allen wrote some parts for you. John Lennon. Woody Allen. John Lennon. Woody Allen. I don’t see the comparison. (Yells offscreen) No offense, Woody!!
No response from Woody Allen
I mean, that song come out the same year as Rosemary’s Baby, almost 20 years ago!
John Lennon wrote a song for me. And not just any song. On the same album where he’s singing about how tired and suicidal he his, he also takes the time to write me a beautiful, hypnotic and ultimately cheerful song, full of endlessly swirling guitars, evoking the beautiful day that John Lennon wants me to come out and experience.
Even that Gothic punk chick from England with the Indian – I’m sorry, I mean Native American – name couldn’t make it sound dark when she did that cover version a couple of years ago.
John Lennon wrote me a song, and he even used my real name. It’s one of the best things that could possibly happen to anybody
Immediately and forever dismissed as a trifle – I mean it was overshadowed by its own b-side! – when compared to the titanic accomplishments of The Beatles in 1967, “Hello Goodbye” is a song for which I have no good defense loving as much as I do.
I say hello
Therefore, I blame Sir Paul McCartney’s impeccable popcraft for winnowing this song insidiously into my head, and would like to point out that while the 1966 Beatles is clearly one of my favorite things ever, my heart has never been deep into their 1967 music.
You say goodbye
And I also blame Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts ClubBand. Well, not the album, which, you know is Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts ClubBand, but rather the fact that it has been lionized as THE GREATEST MUSIC THAT ANYBODY HAS EVER DONE OR WILL EVER DO WORLD WITHOUT END AMEN for my entire life and I’ve never once agreed with that sentiment. I mean, I’ve never even thought it was the best Beatles album, for fuck’s sake.
I say hello
So that means while I’ve enjoyed and acknowledged the greatness of songs like “A Day in The Life” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “I Am The Walrus,” etc. maybe I’m subconsciously punishing them by being contrary and not loving them as much as conventional wisdom says I should.
You say goodbye
On the other hand, free of dealing with “Hello Goodbye” on anything but the level of just a pop song – my default preference – it turns out that I can listen to it endlessly hello goodbye hello goodbye hello goodbye hello goodbye.
I say hello
So in other words, the reason this has always been slagged – it’s lightweight, just wordplay, and nothing more than a great hook, but certainly NOT ART – is the reason I love it.
There is an entire lifetime between the initial “She said” … “I know what it’s like to be dead.” Or an entire deathtime, I guess. It’s one of the most beautiful uses of negative space in all of popular music.
I know that “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the more formal experiment on Revolver, the song on which Mad Men spent a zillion dollars to once and for all to show us the audience that former King of the World Don Draper was now old and out of it. And no doubt it – and all of Revolver – is a major achievement.
But I said …
… "She Said She Said" is pretty damn close to my most favorite song in the universe, combining the trippy drums of “Rain,” the tough guitar of “Paperback,” that infinite edge-of-consciousness organ, and maybe the best lyrics John Lennon ever put on paper.
What it’s like to be dead, what it is to be sad, and making no distinction, so that sadness is the same as death. And death is like having never been born.
Of course, it could just be the drugs, because when I was a boy, I never even thought about this shit. Or maybe I’m just lying to myself.