Abbey Road readings, part two

Last time we did just five songs from Abbey Road. Let’s try to get further in!

06: I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Is this the best song on the album? I forget. Did I say that already. We’re back to romantic longing. The most remarkable thing, maybe, is when “she’s so…” is interrupted by great blaring guitar and drum sounds, as though the speaker can’t quite articulate what he’s saying. Then, as in the title, we learn she’s “heavy.” That could mean anything from smart to sexy, and therefore it means both here. This woman is a gravitational force, drawing the speaker in closer. So far, the album really seems to be about all the different kinds of man/woman attraction, healthy and dangerous. Apparently Lennon said he was sick of witticisms and wanted something simple. Nailed it. Lyrically, anyway. The sounds of this song are not fucking around.

Queen of Wands

queen_of_wands

This would be the woman who is so heavy. The queen of wands has a throne as well as the king, but here you can see flowers and lions all around. She has a cat at her feet and pyramids at her back. She has the weight of her powers, her will, and her history in her. I’m inclined to think of something Egyptian, like Bastet (who has a weird, complicated history — in short, she was a warrior sun goddess, then the Greeks made her the cat goddess of the moon instead). The sunflowers call to mind the power of the sun itself, which draws things in, nourishes life, and can burn you to death in an instant. The woman spoken of here is an ur-figure, an archetype of powerful attraction (yes I know it’s about Yoko Ono). Real attraction — weight, after all, the attraction of gravity — isn’t about features but about something inside, that mysterious something from earlier. The wands are the cards that signify that something inside.

07: Here Comes the Sun

The gentle song of hope we all need, sometimes. Did you know there’s a gland in the brain that reacts directly to George Harrison guitar? No? Look it up. It’s true. The song is not about hardship or good times, which may be why I like it so much. It’s about the liminal time between. Have you ever been very sad, and you started to feel something else? You could feel that your mood was changing, but you weren’t in either space yet? This song is about that time. It uses the perfectly natural and traditional image of the rising sun to do this.

The Sun

the_sun

Yuuuuup. That happened. Well, ok then. We’re just adding on here, I suppose. The Sun, as a card, is about the birth of something new (hence the baby). It’s pure and new and golden, hence the white horse and golden flowers. The sunflowers are, uh, obvious. They do link us back to the Queen of Wands. The “something” is still there, burning, but making something new now. After the painful Limbo of not knowing, the sun is here. After weight comes a new rise. That’ll do, won’t it? The big, red cloth waving around is a kind of kingly symbol, so this is the sun king (not the French one, the mythic one). Born again, he will die again and be born yet again. The song, then, is about that natural rhythm in life. Bad things happen, good things happen. This whole album is turning into a paean to the natural forces at work in our lives and relationships (or the perversion of same).

08: Because

“Because the world is round…” I didn’t remember that was in here when I wrote the above. Dang. This song seems to be getting at the “causes” of things. Because the world is the way it is, the speaker is amazed, emotionally impacted. There’s the drug jokes too.

Four of Pentacles

4_of_pentacles

Our first pentacle comes with the song about the world itself and how remarkable it is. That makes sense. Pentacles are the symbols of earth, of all the earthly pleasures and the solid foundation of more rarefied things. The album so far has been about swift-moving things — air and water and fire — but this song is slow and reflective and has a dang harpsichord. The man on the card is a little shut in, a little trapped by what we could see as his greed. But on the other hand, he’s thoroughly enjoying his contact with the pentacles. Is this card the best example of a city in the deck? Maybe. I’d never noticed before that there’s a whole city back there. He’s away from that, on a stone seat. He’s retreated from everything to get in touch with these earthly things, with the “because” of everything he experiences. Good times.

09: You Never Give Me Your Money

I did not know, until now, that all these odd songs are considered one medley. I’ve only listened to the CD release, so each track was separate. Huh. Well, we’ll do them individually, but maybe we’ll move a little faster? Or maybe there’ll be a third post, who knows? So, right. This song is soft and then jaunty, talking about some bad times, the need for money. That segues right out of the previous song, doesn’t it? At least according to the card reading. Of course, we still need to draw this card…

Page of Swords

page_of_swords

Pages are the least stable. They don’t have horses or seats. They stand. They can also be considered the youngest. Depending on the suit, though, the pages could be powerful or lost in their own element. Here, the page of swords stands on a low hill, with a partly clear, partly cloudy sky. There are also birds. The page could, with her mind, rise up out of the earth and into the heavens. The song is about hardship and getting away from it all. It’s happening in the mind, not the physical world. Maybe this suggests the speaker isn’t really asking for money or saying they should run away. Where would they go, after all?

10: Sun King

Guess what else I forgot about being on this album when I wrote the above entries? This song. “Here comes the sun king.” Yeah, all right then. The album has circled back around. “Everybody’s laughing, everybody’s happy.” The sadness is gone entirely, apparently. The song doesn’t quite sound that way, right? It’s weird.

King of Cups

king_of_cups

We might have expected another solar card, but this king is reigning over the emotions. He’s happy and calm. There are water and fishes around, and he’s stable and solid atop a throne right out there in the water. Is he floating? That looks like a stone seat, honestly. He’s unflappable, out on some rock or pillar in the sea. There’s a ship back there, too. There’s a lot of power here. It could turn bad, if the weather turns. But right now everything’s great.

11: Mean Mr. Mustard

What do you say about this track, and the next handful? They seem to be almost Tull-esque portraits of a neighborhood and its weirdos. Mr. Mustard is a stingy, mean jerk. But half the song is about his sister! Note the queen showing up, with Mustard yelling at her — more of that post-war strange humor working at undermining those cultural norms. Wee!

Four of Wands

4_of_wands

The Four of Wands is usually pretty positive. It’s a party. The wands hold up some decorations and people in the background hold up bouquets. It actually seems to show that parade Pam takes Mustard to. Huh. The book I’m checking every so often seriously says, of this card, that it can show “harmony between people in a family… There may be something specific to celebrate.” No matter how much the speaker complains about Mustard, his nice sister Pam never gives up on him.

12: Polythene Pam

This song picks up and gets moving, doesn’t it? It’s catchy, and it messes with you immediately — she’s attractive but looks like a man. The whole album has seemed to be about that sexual binary, and now Pam, a really positive figure, is blurring that line together. It is worth pointing out that “polythene” is a kind of plastic. So maybe she’s a little fake? She’s also “built,” which does remind us of a kind of artificiality even as it says outright that she’s attractive.

The Hanged Man

the_hanged_man

That’ll do. Dang. The Hanged Man is balanced between forces, calmly waiting in a situation that would drive others crazy. He often recommends a kind of active waiting — as opposed to passivity. Doing nothing is not the same as sitting around and doing something else. The Hanged Man is comfortable up there, even though he could fall down or be hauled up any time. Pam seems to be making the best of a bad situation, maybe, plastic because that helps her be durable.

~~~

There’s not a lot left, but let’s stop here! That’ll let us take our time as we approach The End.

Next Post ->

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2 thoughts on “Abbey Road readings, part two

  1. Pingback: Abbey Road: The End – Better Living through Symbolism

  2. Pingback: A Reading Down Abbey Road – Better Living through Symbolism

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