*2.08-WHAT'S HAPPENING?!?! (Byrds)



I don't know
Who you think you are.
I don't know
What you're doing here.


I don't know
What's going on here.
I don't know
How it's supposed to be.


I, I don't have
The vaguest notion
Whose it is
Or what it's all for.


I don't know.
I'm not cryin',
Laughin' mostly
As you can see.


[Coda & Fade]

Fifth DimensionThe album cover of Fifth Dimension, with its magic carpet and paisley lettering, an early logo for a group in rock music, signals a new era with Indian or Far Eastern overtones. At the time of its release, just prior to Revolver, it was the closest to raga that Western pop could offer. [The album also preceded the Beatles'Yellow Submarine in the use of mechanical sounds for 2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song), a further development from Brian Wilson's use of sound effects in Caroline No. However, The Lear Jet Song is not included here, for despite its place in the development of "special effects" in psychedelic music, the tune is merely a novelty that cannot bear repeated listening. Summer in the City by the Lovin' Spoonful, and Yellow Submarine, both released within a month of The Lear Jet Song would use sound effects more effectively and achieve hit records. In fairness, however, I must note that The Lear Jet Song's "outer space" metaphor, already in place through Eight Miles High, is certainly one of the most effective of the psychedelic era, and would be picked up later and developed further by Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones to great effect.]

Driven by a rhythm guitar similar to Eight Miles High, every verse of What's Happening?!?! is separated by a dual lead guitars playing raga improvisations, carrying further the sound developed earlier in Why. The lyrical structure, too, is like Why, alternating lines with "I don't know", yet the slot opens up toward the end to carry other words. Unlike Why, which jolts to a definite ending, What's Happening?!?! fades out into further raga, with a charming new melody thrown in at the very end, a throwaway gesture of melody similar to what Paul McCartney was experimenting with at the same time in such songs as the Revolver album's Got To Get You Into My Life. The song is addressed to the listener, commenting that whatever the present situation, the listener and the singer are sharing time together, although the meaning of this simultaneity escapes him. Rather than seeking the meaning of life, the singer is content to take life as it comes. It should be noted that What's Happening?!?! is the first song written solely by David Crosby to appear on record.

The simple, sparse lyrics evoke Socrates' wisdom that a wise man knows that he doesn't know. It was a notion that hippies embraced, and also a stoner's point of view; uncertainty doesn't faze the singer. He finds reality more absurd than puzzling. The phrase "What's Happeining?" as a greeting and conversation starter, a hip alternative to the square "How are you?", was already ubiquitous by the time of the song's release, so the title reveals that the song means to pierce deeper than an informal triviality and question if anyone really knows what's happening at any given time. The raga music suggests, life is much weirder, and perhaps more amusing, than it seems on the surface. Crosby in this song shares John Lennon's philosophical bent of expressing himself with simple concepts, already evident in Lennon's Rain, though Crosby is careful to avoid claims of "knowledge" and Lennon's Messianic bent.