Friday, 10 December 2010

12:11 Polythene Pam

I'm Looking Through You

John Lennon wrote this song in Rishikesh. Which is significant because it wasn't recorded for The White Album. Then it was passed over again for Let It Be before finally making the cut on Abbey Road. Not surprising then that it is such a weak song.

Like many 'Long One' tracks it was recorded as a pair (in this case with She Came Through The Bathroom Window) though it was always a completely separate song.

Though the Beatles were influenced by (not to say ripped off!) many bands they almost always avoided sounding derivative (Dylan & The Byrds notwithstanding). But this song comes over as a pastiche of The Who particularly Magic Bus. Consider the Bo Diddley tom tom beat, percussion, chunky 12 String rhythm guitar and odd characters. Even Lennon's 'fake' scouse accent (his real speaking voice was much posher) seems like an attempt to distance himself from Ealing boy Roger Daltrey.

Melodically this is one of the most limited Beatles songs I've come across. Almost all chord tones, very stepwise & a tiny range - only a 4th !(from a B up to an E).

See anything good?

The “Yeah Yeah Yeah” is a sly self reference to She Loves You and gives us a bit of contrary motion (Ticket 12) as the melody descends while the chords ascend.

Speaking of chords the progression C D E (bVI bVII I) on the yeah yeah section is the “Billy Shears” chord progression from the beginning of With A Little Help From My Friends (see Ticket 1). Interestingly the original progression (as heard on Anthology) was C B E)

The coolest part by far are the b.v.s in bars 5-8, reminiscent of the quasi-classical b.v.s in Because. A little out of place here maybe, but cool all the same.

It does stand up as a song in it's own right, short & humorous, though a third verse and a better guitar solo wouldn't have done it any harm. But ultimately it fails on being so simple and derivative.


  1. I don't know... I can't really buy into your leveling of the Beatles quirkier songs. They're obviously not meant to be taken seriously and they're more like songettes (new term) little ideas too small for a full blown song but that they didn't want to throw away. They always seem to work within the album, as well. While the Beatles didn't do concept albums, there is a definite design to them. Probably Martin's influence.

  2. Well Jeff, I'd say that I don't think I have an issue with quirky/jokey songs or songettes( nice term btw) - it's probably just the ones I've gotten to first. I would say that even with a quirky song it's possible to be good, average or bad - just saying it's humourous doesn't give it a free pass. For the record I like Yellow Sub, You Know My Name, Her Maj....I Am The Walrus.

    I also think (as I've written about here - that though The Long One is a great recording, it doesn't really stand up as a unified 'song' and most of the parts don't stand up as songs in themselves either. If I was analysing the Beatles RECORDS as records rather than songs - I'd rate the medley and the whole of Abbey Road much more highly than I am here. - As always - you're free to disagree!