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2.07-TURN INTO EARTH (Yardbirds)

Yardbirds

LISTEN

[Chant]

How your restless hungry eyes
Speak of cloudy Summer skies!
The morning dew
Turns into rain.
Lonely winds will call my name.

Dying leaves of seasons brown
Losing life as they drift down.
Too soon their lives
Return to earth.
Only they can know their worth.

Distant dreams of things to be
Wandering thoughts that can't be free.
I feel my mind
Turning away
To the nightmare of my day.

[Chant]


Having made a Gregorian chant-like single, Still I'm Sad, that made it to the Top 20 as the B side of I'm A Man in October 1965, the Yardbirds added a similar song to their Roger the Engineer album, titled Turn Into Earth. The lyrics have a similar theme to Paul Simon's Leaves That Are Green (Turn to Brown) released in December 1965, as well as having significant lyrical as well as sonic ties to Still I'm Sad. Again the lyric, which begins by losing the love of someone dear, is generalized to natural and thus universalized themes. Loss is expressed again through rain as tears, but pressed further into a metaphor of death. The singer's thoughts must turn away from the dreams he had for their love; once so important, he now doubts its worth. Whereas in Still I'm Sad, the lost one is blameless, in Turn Into Earth, the lover has fallen out of love with the beloved and moved on.

The melody proceeds on a heavy 3/4 time, accentuated by a tambourine, that seems to make a grotesque waltz swinging between two tones of a piano. Jeff Beck's fluid high-pitched guitar is mixed, thanks to Roger Cameron, very lightly, fading in and out through brief segments. Whereas Still I'm Sad had a refrain, Turn Into Earth has no such break, but rather uses the same chant from start to finish without fade.

Though Gregorian-like chants were not a particularly popular theme of psychedelia, they are one of the distinctive modalities of the movement. As far as I know, the Yardbirds were the only group to produce two such songs. The BeeGees would later produce Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You and the group United States of America would perform Where Is Yesterday in a similar style. A Kate Silver interview with USA's singer, Dorothy Moscowitz, reported on the web that, had the group continued to record, they would have moved in the direction of Gregorian chant. But, of course, it didn’t turn out that way. Other than the exceptions noted here, Gregorian and plainsong after Turn Into Earth would serve more often as a coloring than as form in psychedelic music. Gone too, after Turn Into Earth, would be early psychedelic music’s somewhat frequent lugubrious tone of grief and mourning.

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