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6.02-FOOL ON THE HILL (Beatles)

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney

LISTEN

Day after day,
alone on a hill,
the man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
but nobody wants to know him,
they can see that he's just a fool,
and he never gives an answer.

     But the fool on the hill
     Sees the sun going down
     And the eyes in his head
     See the world spinning 'round.

Well on the way,
head in a cloud,
the man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
but nobody ever hears him,
or the sound he appears to make,
and he never seems to notice.

     [Chorus]

          [Break]

And nobody seems to like him.
They can tell what he wants to do.
And he never shows his feelings.

     [Chorus]

          Round and round and round.

And he never listens to them.
He knows that they're the fools.
They don't like him.

     [Chorus]

          Round and round and round


Fool on the Hill vaguely suggests Christ on Mount Calvary to me. I've always considered it a Good Friday song. The song marks the beginning of a several McCartney works that would take on vague religious imagery, often with a Catholic tinge, such as Lady Madonna and Let It Be. It is the first evidence of a new trend in lyrics of semi-Biblical overtones that would soon be popularized further through the Bob Dylan's album John Wesley Harding and the Band's Music From the Big Pink. McCartney's song marks the beginning of a new subject matter for pop songs in the next couple of years to come: the seeking of wisdom through a guru. McCartney in the Beatles Bible is quoted as saying he was thinking of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when he wrote the Fool on the Hill. Its round and round trope caught on with John Lennon, who would use it for another song written while still in the aura of the Maharishi, titled Dear Prudence. Late in his career, Lennon's Watching the Wheels would seem to continue the spirit of Fool on the Hill, the metaphor applied to the poet himself, rather than projected out to a third person pronoun.

The flute, recorder and pennywhistle accompaniment remind me of one of the earliest examples of pop world music, Simon & Garfunkel's El Condor Pasa, released in 1970. Perhaps it's because they share the same high mountain space. If I could be persuaded that the Mystery Tour first encounters the Fool on the Hill on a sort of Pilgrim's Progress, I would excuse the introductory song's gross commercialism. But if that was McCartney's idea, it soon falls apart. The instrumental after the Fool on the Hill, titled Flying, continues the mood but then the rest of the songs go their own way without further reference to a mystery trip. Harrison warns his audience not to belong in Blue Jay Way; McCartney plays the nostalgic ditty Your Mother Should Know; and then things just get weird with I Am the Walrus, as if the trip has gone much too far and one's sanity is in doubt.

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