June 14, 2009

NT's greatest hits, No. 14 (of 34)

Back again, continuing the series of posts about your quizmaster's favorite songs…"Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles

Want to get a quick, superficial idea of someone's personality? Ask them these three questions:
1. What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
2. Whom do you identify with more: Superman or Batman?
3. What's your favorite Beatles song?

All can be determined from an individuals answers. Mine are (1) mint chocolate chip; (2) Batman (I'm a little dark); (3) "Strawberry Fields Forever." There, now you know me. You can stop reading this blog now.

One of the things that made the Beatles so very, very great—the best rock band ever, an unbiased observer has to admit—was how they fully embraced the "experimental" side of rock music, during its first mainstream flowering, without losing sight of the melodies, rhythm and colorful lyrics that make so much rock & roll so much fun. "Strawberry Fields Forever" is a hella weird song—the title refers to a mental institution—but the playful, lilting tune can keep any listener engaged. As I've mentioned many times in this series, I love the weird, so long as the weird is in service to something that can enjoyed without the use of a slide rule and a Nietzche text.

I think of rock acts that spiraled too far down the weirdness road—Captain Beefheart is a handy icon of that. Interesting, sure, but I can't feel any of that in my soul. On the other end of the spectrum, take the Rolling Stones, whom I've loved at various points, but who have spent way too much of their career flogging the same decomposed blues-rock-decadence horse. The Beatles found the sweet spot in the center, and applied a ridiculous amount of talent to creating something of value in that place. Many things of value; "Strawberry Fields" may be my favorite Beatles song, but there's a long and lovely list of runners-up.

And yes, check out the creepy musical reprise at the end of "Strawberry Fields." Used to scare the crap out of me, especially the "Cranberry sauce"/"I buried Paul part" at the end. In my more susceptible moments, I still wonder if Paul really is dead, if Billy Shears formed Wings, and if the Beatles were really Satanic lunatics bent on destroying the youth of the Western world. Those are the days I should really leave the apartment more.