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*7.21-THE MODERN ADVENTURES OF PLATO, DIOGENES, & FREUD (Blood Sweat & Tears)

Blood Sweat & Tears

LISTEN

Father of my morning,
Once my child to the night,
I see that you have minds to cop
And I can only watch with sickened sorrow.

Little do you know
Of the progressions that you teach.
The people that you reach are tired
Of living in a world of elastic towers.

     Dance with them and sing a song of changes
     And talk with them of life and all its dangers;
     Surround yourself with now familiar strangers
     Who kiss and who hug and eventually mug you of your time.

          And the clock on the wall is a bore
          As you wander past the door
          And find him lying on the floor
          As he begs you for some more, you frozen smile.

[Break]

You cannot ever picture me;
You know me by my mind.
A file for your travelogue
Oblivious to the night, the fog around you.

The germs they are ridiculous;
They bother you at night—
The blood that rushes to your brain
The ticket on the plane you're never catching.

     The price you pay exclusive of your taxes
     To chop you up inside with tiny axes.
     The girl looks up to you from floors she waxes
     And speaks to your belt with tears among her eyes.

          [Chorus]

The metaphysic wrinkles
In the face of what you face
Are hidden by the fake-up man
Who lives inside the sterno can beside you.

Now climb ye to the mountains
As the sun is almost gone
Escaping from your utter selves
Your brothers hide among the shelves inside you.

     The games that people play can only bore you
     But only those that know you don't ignore you.
     How many times have I come there to restore you
     And caught you lying on the couch with father time?

          [Chorus]

[Coda]


Arranged as a string quartet, The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes and Freud seems to be an attempt to write something in the tradition of the Western Classical lied, similar to what the Beatles had attempted on Sgt. Pepper with She’s Leaving Home. Not many of the psychedelic musicians had the training to arrange such a work on their own at the time (with the possible of Brian Wilson and Frank Zappa), but 1968 would introduce new talented composers-arrangers, so that one might think of The Modern Adventures as the precursor to some of the 1968 arrangements of Randy Newman and most especially Van Dyke Parks. Here we have an A & B section with a chorus that follows a regular pattern in three repetitions. Only the chorus retains the same words. Across this regular backdrop, the strings offer a variety of tonal accompaniments that do not repeat themselves, providing support to Al Kooper’s emotionally charged voice.

Mastery of the lied however does not make a psychedelic song: She’s Leaving Home, for instance, amid the psychedelic garden of Sgt. Pepper does not share in the “far out” quality of most of the album and maintains its footing in the program through the use of irony, as if the Beatles were mocking the drama expressed by the song. There's a hint of humor in Modern Adventures as well (she speaks to your belt with tears among her eyes) but most of the lyrics seem burdened with a kind of malaise, conveying a protest against the passing of time. I admit that the words don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the general heaviness of the lyric has invited accusations of pretension which the humor in She’s Leaving Home managed to avert. But it is these surrealistic lyrics that put Modern Adventures in the Psychedelic Masterworks, even if the altered consciousness offered by the lyric seems to be little more than a lack of sociability, a lament in “sickened sorrow” , among “now familiar strangers…who mug you of your time”, to whom the singer only can offer “frozen smiles”. I hear Freud much more than Plato or Diogenes in this lyric, and am reminded of another psychedelic ode to psychoanalysis—the Bee Gees’ Please Read Me.

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