Monday, September 27, 2021

Goo Goo Ga Joob, etc.


On several occasions, recently and in the past, I've fallen victim to the English teacher within me who still rears its head in the moonlight. AM’s last post explored the influence of Shakespeare, rock star that he was, on everyone from Dylan to Thom Yorke. And today, we tackle literature. A few months back it was The Decemberist’s “The Crane Wife” and Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," here, for your consideration, a few others:

I have a love/bored relationship with U2. In 1981, with the release of October, U2 toured the States and I was lucky enough to see them at the Hollywood Palladium, where my little cohort asked The Edge if he’d put us on the guestlist the following night (there’s a connection there that I will relate at another date). In a leap of faith that included a wild road trip in the middle of the night, we headed off to San Francisco. I know the exact date because it was the night Natalie Wood died (November 29, 1981). The Edge came through with backstage passes and we stood at the edge of the proscenium to watch the show, but not until we'd played nerf basketball with Adam and Bono with a waste can on top of a filing cabinet. A big fan of Lord of the Flies, when Bono came to the wings and handed me his flight vest, I said, "Can you do 'Shadows and Tall Trees.'" He shook his head and gave me a look that said, "Nah." They haven't done the song since 1980. The song is based on chapter 7 of the William Golding novel in which Simon, the novel's Christ-figure, assures Ralph and the boys that there is always hope. (The bored part of my U2 relationship: everything after that point.)
I am a great aficionado of the four great Regency-era novels, Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, and that hot mess, Wuthering Heights. Having grown up with the incredible film from 1939, I had no idea that the movie nixed the second half of the book, and in essence, Kate Bush does the same thing with her first worldwide (except in the U.S.) No. 1 smash that established her career. The imagery and focus that comes to my mind is Cathy in chapter three reaching through the broken window, her cold, dead hand grasping Mr. Lockwood (oh, sorry about the spoiler). Heathcliff in all his passion bursts into the room calling after her. Windows as barriers or as portals into other worlds are something that scholars of Bronte have studies these past 200 years, a feature that Kate captures succinctly in her adaptation. At the film's end and throughout the song, it's not Lockwood, of course, but Heathcliff who answers her call – "Heathcliff, it's me, I’m Cathy, I've come home and I'm so cold – Let me in your window!"
The Alan Parsons Project take on Poe remains one of my favorite progressive LPs, but Stevie Nicks tackled "Annabelle Lee" when she was just 17 (circa 1965). "We have a song I wrote when I was 17 that is the words to an Edgar Allan Poem called 'Annabel Lee.' It's just lived in my head since I was 17." Like Wuthering Heights, Poe’s 1839 poem is about love transcending death.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are a common allusion in the songs from a myriad of artists from Jefferson Airplane (of course) to Tom Waits ("Alice.") The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus," pretty much a trip down the rabbit hole in general, doesn’t stop with Alice but tackles James Joyce as well with "Goo goo ga joob" lifted from Finnegan's Wake.

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