Revolver usually gets the critical nod, but for my money Abbey Road is the superior album.
The A-side is a discontinuous mélange of styles, a sampler of everything the Beatles had to offer at the peak of their powers. The pressing rock beat of Come Together, John’s apparent anti-Reagan theme song. Something, the second best love song of the 1960s, after the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, which remains the best love song yet written. After that, it’s a granny song, screaming doo-wop, octopuses and a dragging blues riff that washes out into white noise and then abrupt silence. The A-side of Abbey Road alone would still be in the top 50 rock albums of all time.
The B-side couldn’t be more different. Instead of experimenting with the juxtaposition of a silly Ringo song with a sonically and nominatively heavy bit of John and Yoko-style philosophy, the B-side is a medley of interconnected musical and lyrical vignettes. After the interlude of one of the Beatles’ most richly harmonized and probably most polarizing songs (Because), the rest is a single piece in eight parts. It starts with an overture and carries through various obviously and sometimes less obviously linked little stories, ending with the famous closing karmic line: ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.’ Perfect.
After a brief period of thinking my wife (named Pam) would get a kick out of Polythene Pam that ended when I remembered the rest of the lyrics, I settled on my favorite number in the medley: She Came In Through The Bathroom Window. The reason I was always fascinated by the song, I think, is that of all the stories told on the album, its story was the one that sounded like it had to be true. Like something that really happened.
And it did happen. Sort of. You see, there are all sorts of different claims to being the inspiration for the song.
The Apple Scruff
The most popular version of the story goes that a fan named Diane Ashley – one of the Apple Scruffs who waited around the studio all day for a glimpse of one of the Beatles – found a ladder from the garden up to the bathroom in Paul’s home. Once when he was away from he house, Diane claims to have entered the house and stolen a few things, including a framed picture of Paul’s father that was later returned. This, so Diane’s widely accepted story goes, is the inspiration behind the brilliant line: ‘She could steal, but she could not rob.’
The Moody Blues
Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder says something different. He claims that he, fellow bandmember Ray Thomas, and Paul McCartney were hanging out one day, regaling Paul with the story of a young woman and fan who, ahem, found her way into Thomas’s room through – you guessed it – a bathroom window. Mike says Paul picked up a guitar, started strumming and sang the words, ‘She came in through the bathroom window…’
More recently, a third story has emerged on the internet. A dancer named Susie Landis – who now goes by Landis Kearnon – claims to have been paid $1,500 to steal the master of A Day in the Life from David Crosby’s house. They climbed through a muddy backyard to (yup) a bathroom window that gave them access. They found the master and drove it across town to their employer, who copied it and engaged them once again to return it. Why did he want the copy? As the story goes, a local radio station (KHJ) paid to be able to air the song, which had been previewed for a number of artists and had developed quite a reputation before its first public airing. Apparently the early airing infuriated Paul, giving him ample cause to pen a song about it.
The story is a bit suspect, perhaps, given the number of dimensions on which the storyteller fits her story to the song. For example, she claims that her father had blackmail material on Crosby, which apparently motivated the ‘protected by her silver spoon’ line. And of course this thief was usually a dancer (‘she said she’d always been a dancer’), and knew a Detective Monday, who called producer Billy Monday, who called Tuesday Weld, who called Paul, about the incident (‘Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s on the phone to me’). A bit too on-the-nose, but true-sounding details around events that did happen are always enticing.
Of course, when it comes to any Paul rumor, you could always count on John to lob in an off-hand comment that confused the whole matter. In a 1980 interview included in David Sheff’s All We Are Saying, Lennon said the following:
That’s Paul’s song. He wrote that when we were in New York announcing Apple, and we first met Linda. Maybe she’s the one that came in the window. I don’t know; somebody came in the window.
While not nearly as popular as the Dark Side of the Moon / Wizard of Oz urban legend, some Beatles fans claim that between five and six seconds into the track, after “Oh, Look Out!”, you can hear someone quickly saying “Linda Eastman.” I…don’t hear it. But someone is definitely muttering something, and OK, maybe it sounds a little bit like ‘Eastman.’
Stories like this are interesting enough. They’re more interesting when they tell us about the relationship between narratives and facts. One of the reasons that “but, because, therefore” are such good tells for abstracted, fiat news is that direct strings of causality are extraordinarily hard to identify. When we read a story that seeks to attach facts to an explanation, or which seeks to tell us what those facts mean, or which seeks to tell us why the market or a stock is doing this or that today, we not only subject ourselves to the judgments of the author. We also subject ourselves to the fact that most realities are heavily overdetermined. That’s a $10 word for the kind of thing that is so related to so many different drivers that we could easily use those drivers to explain more than 100% of the thing. And if you’re not careful, you’ll buy into explanations that try to do exactly that.
I would be shocked if at least two of the Bathroom Window theories weren’t at least partially true. I would be shocked if there weren’t several other experiences that influenced the lyrics, too. I would be shocked if half the lyrics weren’t simply the fanciful output of a generation’s best songwriter.
But the lesson adds a bit to our rules for reading financial news:
- Ask “Why am I reading this now?”
- Look for the tells of fiat news: “but, therefore, because”
- Be on guard for overdetermination. Confident attribution of causality is another tell of narrative, and of fiat news.