Monday, March 26, 2007

This Blog Has Flown

The Beatles "Norwegian Wood", composed by John Lennon, is an acoustic, nice, eminently hummable song. It's got a nice easygoing folky thing goingas well as a distinct sound due to George Harrison's playing the sitar.

But ah, non-web-surfing-Beatlephiles - there's a bit more going on.

In actuality, the song is a little darker. In it, John, goes to some woman's house to sleep with her, they stay up late in her flat (Norwegian wood at the time was apparently a popular but cheap way to decorate one's house - I suppose the equivalent of Ikea furniture) but at the end of the night she isn't going to give him any play and John is forced to sleep in the bathtub. He then wakes up in the morning pissed off about getting played, and burns her apartment down.

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
She showed me her room, isn't it good, norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, norwegian wood.

Sir Paul had this to say, "It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down...."

No one makes misogyny sound quite as pretty as John Lennon.

There's also some trivia about this song you didn't know. At this point in his career John was very influenced by Bob Dylan, his songs often have a Dylanesque sound. Bobby D apparently had had enough of this similarity and actually wrote a song that appears on his album "Blonde on Blonde" called "4th Time Around". If you listen to it the melody is almost exactly the same as "Norwegian Wood". There seems to be some speculation as to whether it was a playful 'homage' or Dylan's way of saying, "get off my shoes, bitch". In the last lineof the song, however, he seems to be saying, I don't steal your shit so don't steal mine.

When she said,
"Don't waste your words, they're just lies,"
I cried she was deaf.
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes,
Then said, "What else you got left?"
It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, "Don't forget,
Everybody must give something back
For something they get."

I stood there and hummed,
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
And she buttoned her boot,
And straightened her suit,
Then she said, "Don't get cute."
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs,
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum.

She threw me outside,
I stood in the dirt where ev'ryone walked.
And after finding I'd
Forgotten my shirt,
I went back and knocked.
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .

Her Jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some.
She said, "No, dear."
I said, "Your words aren't clear,
You'd better spit out your gum."
She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor,
And I covered her up and then
Thought I'd go look through her drawer.

And, when I was through
I filled up my shoe
And brought it to you.
And you, you took me in,
You loved me then
You didn't waste time.
And I, I never took much,
I never asked for your crutch.
Now don't ask for mine.

Lennon and Dylan seemed to have shared a mutual admiration as well as equally large egos, in this pretty rare video you can see them hanging out (Dylan is smashed) in the back of a car and, I think, it kind of shows the interesting dynamic between the two.


ChuckJerry said...

I don't really have a relevant comment, except to say that this is a dope post.

Max said...

Good post, Luke. I have newfound appreciation for that last verse:

"And, when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown..."

I never caught the double meaning of "this bird had flown", as not only a standard colloquialism, but also that guys in England in the 60s called random girls "birds", as in Austin Powers calling Alotta Fagina "that Italian bird".

"So, I lit a fire, isn't is good, Norwegian wood,"

I never read this line as I do now, the way I interpret it with him burning down her apartment, Lennon is playing back the night before in his head where she's walking him around and is like, "Look, hee hee, don't you like my flat, it's Norwegian Wood, isn't it good?" and at the time that night he's playing along like "Yeah, great, wow, it's very nice" because he thinks he's "biding his time" until things get busy.

So, as he's setting fire to her shit, he's like, "isn't it good? Yeah, it's real good because it's flammable. Here's your Norwegian wood." as he lights the match. So it's almost like he's replaying her playing him in his head, talking about her furniture.

Beatles fans who were able to understand the lyrics must have been shocked at the time when this was on the same album as "Run For Your Life", another misogynistic song which is much more overt but still tongue-in-cheek (I think). They put these out on Rubber Soul after they had done a bunch of pop albums.

Max said...

You know, thinking more, is Run For Your Life on Revolver? Ahh, too lazy to check right now.

Regarding the end of Norwegian, I've also heard the interpretation that "So, I lit a fire" is code for lighting a joint. There are people who try to argue that every Beatles song is somehow implicitly about smoking pot.

And if you believe that, the whole song ends with a different feel. As in, John wakes up after all the bullshit the night before and is just like, "Ah well, fuck it, who cares."

The Notorious LJT said...

run for your life is on rubber soul