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*4.01-FIXING A HOLE (Beatles)

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney

LISTEN

[Intro]

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go.

I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go.

         And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong I'm right.
         Where I belong I'm right
         Where I belong.

                   See the people standing there who disagree and never win
                   And wonder why they don't get in my door.

I'm painting the room in a colorful way
And when my mind is wandering
There I will go.

[Break]

         [Chorus]

                   Silly people run around they worry me
                   And never ask me why they don’t get past my door.

I'm taking the time for a number of things
That weren't important yesterday
And I still go.

[Repeat 1st verse (2x) and fade]


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandOf all the albums created by the psychedelic movement, surely Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the best known, the one that most people will think of as the flower of psychedelia. Part of the reason for the distinction of Sgt. Pepper was its elaborate packaging, taking full advantage of the album format to design an elaborate colorful cover and, for the first time in pop music, to publish the lyrics to the songs included. Part of the distinction too is the use of several technical advances for the first time, such as the spatial opportunities allowed with the development of stereo, recording the direct input of the bass guitar into an amplifier, and the ability to blend one track into another. It was the fading from one song into another that created the illusion of wholeness in the album more than an overarching concept, for the album was a variety show more than development of a theme. The explosion of technical possibilities for recordings, which began only about a year before with the extensive use of four track recording, had developed extraordinarily fast to reach this point in June 1967. The album would set the standard against which most every psychedelic album would compete for the rest of the psychedelic era. Primarily, though, Sgt. Pepper deserves the archetypal psychedelic status because it came out at exactly the right time to be most effective, and most broadly captured the spirit of the moment and the ethos of the Summer of Love.

The spirit of the time is reflected in the album Sgt. Pepper by (1) the sense that the old Beatles were “dead”; that the experience of hallucinogens had been so momentous that the four group members were now free to be someone else of their own creation; (2) the lack of ego, moving away from self-expression to expression of the universe, (3) the ballooning sense that these were extraordinary times unique in history, and (4) the recovery of childhood innocence: the first impulses toward the Sgt. Pepper album, which were not included in the lineup, but released as the double-sided single Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane, were English Romantic recollections of childhood that found the marvelous in the ordinary.

Sgt. Pepper was the Beatle’s first album to have a definite playlist that was identical in the U.S. and the UK. The group’s long battle with the record companies, who had treated album cuts as individual tracks to be moved around arbitrarily, had finally been resolved for the group and for their contemporaries. After losing the battle with the release of Yesterday and Today in the U.S., the Beatles won the war for generations to come by making much of the sequencing of Sgt. Pepper difficult to mess with, as several songs transitioned directly into the ones that followed. This aesthetic helped make the perception of albums as entire works to be played in the order that the artist had chosen. It is a perception that has been dismantled in the 21st century with the use of MP3 playlists in which the listener decides the order in which he or she wants to hear the music. Presently a song is often further mixed with other album cuts or songs by other artists.

During the psychedelic era, artists were further encouraged to take a holistic approach to making an album. This first thing that developed in the holistic creation of an album was the consciousness of opening and closing songs. For this reason, I believe Pet Sounds, Revolver, and The Doors albums to have preceded Sgt. Pepper in creating a whole art object. Sgt. Pepper added to the structure of the albums that preceded it, with the conceit of a live show, with links (sometimes) between songs, and with the idea of a Reprise which didn’t serve as the end so much as emphasize the “encore”, in this case, A Day in The Life.

Though there had been some rock music criticism before Sgt. Pepper, the profession really took off after the album’s release. For the first time, people in general, even music critics who had previously limited their opinion to classical and jazz records, began to feel the rock was an art form worthy of intellectual discussion. I still remember when Leonard Bernstein, conductor at the time of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, claimed in writing that She’s Leaving Home, included on the Sgt. Pepper album, was as good as the lieder of Franz Schubert. It helped that Rolling Stone magazine (which began publication with a front page story of John Lennon in November 1967) provided a stable venue for music criticism, and helped move writing about rock music from the hands of fan magazines. It also helped that Sgt. Pepper was picked up by the pop art aesthetic which visual artists had previously championed through the work of such artists as Andy Warhol. Sgt. Pepper was the first rock album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

With the exception of When I’m 64, which was already in the can, the first sessions toward Sgt. Pepper after the release of the single Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane, were for the recording of Day in the Life, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Intro), Good Morning Good Morning, and Fixing a Hole, all recorded in February 1967. Fixing a Hole was the first to be finished, although Day in the Life was completed the day afterward. It seems the two songs were worked on concurrently, so much so that the metaphor of the “hole” appears in both songs. It was reported in a 1980 Playboy interview with David Sheff that John Lennon wrote the final verse of Day in the Life from an article in the Daily Mail that stated that there were an inordinate amount of potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. That these were “pot” holes is probably the link to McCartney’s Fixing a Hole. McCartney admitted in an interview (found in Many Years From Now by Barry Miles) that the song was “another ode to pot.”

The August 27, 1987 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, upon the 20th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s release, wrote that the “fun loving experimentalism” of the album was "born of the optimistic determination to blow away anything that 'stops my mind from wandering where it will go' [quoting Fixing a Hole]”, which "is Sgt. Pepper’s best legacy for our time." Though the lyric is sometimes irrational (as it would seem to me that the singer wouldn’t want to fill the cracks or fix a hole if it was open range that was needed), the protest that the poet has the right to his own wandering (creative) thoughts without moral judgment shines through. I believe that the closing thought of taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday reflects the change of perspective on one’s life that occurs after an LSD experience. Similar to a near death experience, LSD often heightened one’s sense of what one really values in life.

Musically, Fixing a Hole, like She’s Leaving Home, the song that follows it on the album, is of the baroque rock contingent of the psychedelic genre, alluding to Western classical music. The A section has a harpsichord played by chord with falling electric guitar chords at the end of each verse, a rock B section, and a rock rant for the C section with guitar chords ascending at the end. The song also includes a hard electric guitar rock break (also tending to fall through the scale), and an extended improvisation on the last verse through the fade out, accompanied by falling electric guitar chords again. In its closing vocal improvisation on the melody, Fixing a Hole resembles McCartney’s Got to Get You Into My Life on the album Revolver.

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