“Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly, he got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller; he got hair down to his knee; got to be a joker; he just do what he please ...”
Boy, ain’t that the truth? Anyone from my simpler days of the late 60s/70s knows exactly what that meant. It meant the Beatles could throw together any sort of nonsensical words put to music and generate a jaunty tune one can’t get out of one’s head. The young girls – and truthfully, sometimes myself – would swoon, scream and occasionally throw their underwear onto the stage (my gutchies stayed put, though).
They weren’t the only ones that could take your breath away with a puzzling phrase, sometimes in a bittersweet way. There was a time when “MacArthur Park was melting in the dark; all the sweet green icing flowing down. Someone left the cake out in the rain; I don’t think that I can take it, ’cause it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again ...”
I’m told this was based on a true story of a portly fellow at an ill-fated picnic ruined by a sudden downpour. Distraught he couldn’t have his cake and eat it too, he subsequently took his own life. Perhaps an overreaction, but desserts were tastier in those days. A neighbor’s cow once stepped on Mom’s peach pie it had knocked off the windowsill and I didn’t leave my room for a week.
Getting back to ol’ Flattop, “He wear no shoeshine, he got toe jam football, he got monkey finger, he shoot Coca Cola; he say: I got you, you got me; one thing I can tell you is we got to be free.” And isn’t that what we all seek? If you ain’t got freedom, you ain’t got nothing but a soggy cake dripping green icing.
The Fab Four further challenged us with “Picture yourself in a boat on the river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly: ‘A girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ ...” Then “Follow her down to a bridge by the fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. Everyone smiles as you drift by the flowers, that grow so incredible high ...”
In their defense, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” merely describes a particular LSD experience, which I’m unfamiliar with. I did, however, literally see cartoon characters – Flo was chasing Andy Capp with a rolling pin – my first time high on what we called “wicky-wacky-tobacky”back then.
You see, we didn’t need words making sense in those innocent times. Consider the bloke who “... went to the desert on a horse with no name; it felt good to be out of the rain ...” Had that cake been left in the arid dessert, a life might have been saved.
In closing, all the Beatles urged us with “He bag production, he got walrus gumboot, he got Ono sideboard, he got spinal cracker…” and “hold you in his armchair, you can feel his disease,” was to “Come Together.” And isn’t it high time we all did?