Many years ago I was a simple man,
A simple man, no worries me.
I never lied.
Please read me.
Not much conversation ever came from me.
I never saw reality;
I never tried.
Please read me.
Maybe I've been lying on your couch too long.
I'll stay if you
Can see me through,
Please read me. (5x)
In Please Read Me, the group’s contribution to the recording is clear, as the voices mimic rather closely harmonies that had been made by the Beatles and the Beach Boys, while at the same time not producing a copy or a parody. The break is made up entirely of these harmonies, singing a different melody than the lyric. Backup musician Vince Malouney seems to have introduced a sighing guitar tenor sound to the record, a variation on the flattened sound of Red Chair Fade Away.
An oddity of Please Read Me is that the lyric suggests that it is sung from a psychiatrist’s couch. I believe it expresses a fear of hallucinogens--that they may lead to madness. There were a few songs that expressed that fear previously, around the time They’ve Come to Take Me Away Ha! Ha! came out in Fall 1966, but not many. I imagine She Said She Said by the Beatles, Out of My Mind by the Buffalo Springfield, and Bass Strings by Country Joe & the Fish depict a bad trip. Please Read Me isn’t explicitly about drugs, and may simply be an expression of an adolescent identity crisis. But it introduces the claim I never saw reality into an ongoing conversation about the real during the psychedelic period. (Psychedelic reality was a quite different reality than the streetwise hustler reality of the new millennium in the U.S. The psychedelic reality was found by looking at the mundane from higher spiritual plain, often with an Eastern [Buddhist or Beat] orientation in which life is illusion, a play, a dream.)
The singer depicts himself as a simple man who has lost himself in complexity. He never used to lie, and now apparently finds it difficult to know when he is lying and when he’s not. He was a quiet man, a reclusive man who preferred movies and TV to the outside world. He begs for the good doctor to see him through his entire personal narrative and help him figure it out. Some momentous event (drugs? a woman? a death?) changed the singer from the person he thought himself to be. Why the twist in the plot? And how does the singer return to simple innocence again? Evidently psychiatry could be of little help, for psychedelic music wouldn’t seek the advice of a psychiatrist again.