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“Dolby’s Rupees: Beatles – ‘Mother Nature’s Son’”

I dunno if it’s just the fact that we’re having a record high temperature today and I just drove past the parking lot at Notre Dame where I used to smoke, listening to music in my Beatles phase after high school, but something put me in the mood for this song.

Now, I think there was a time when EVERYBODY on the planet liked the Beatles (besides perhaps maybe certain individuals like David Gilmour and Keith Moon out of pure jealousy), but lo and behold, in these recent, sophisticated times of Donald Trump and yoga pants, the Beatles detractors are popping up like wild flowers, or wild nuclear rods, or something along those lines. One critique I’ve heard of them is that their drum beats are too simple. Another is that they’re a “boy band,” which you’ve gotta admit takes the cake. 

Along these lines, anyway, I don’t think there’s any question that their catalogue is multifarious. That is, the Beatles that lined up straight-laced and smirking on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are the same band that slouched, stoned, through “Get back,” in corpus, and in corpus only. In every other way, they’re completely different musicians, albeit by this point having come full circle to making music catered to classic rock, rather than mainstream pop, which as anyone who follows this site should know I demarcate as two different things, as shaky as that division might seem at some point. 

“Mother Nature’s Son” comes lodged at track three on disc two of 1968’s The Beatles, also known as “The White Album.” Just to provide a little historical context, the world in ’68, aside from mythology, was actually far from a paradigm of “peace and love” — the U.S. had just seen the assassination of the two key political figures, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. With this being the case, the true DNA of any pertinent musical figures was bound to surface around this time and so we got the mighty, sprawling “Sympathy for the Devil” from the Stones and from the Beatles a bulbous double album, in conjunction with, therein, an incredibly eclectic array of styles not exclusive of what I consider their “protest song,” the defiantly humorous “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

Now, I mention this to illustrate just how heterogeneous the Beatles really are and were as an entity and how absurd it is to try to define them within one malady, whether it’s simplism, or diluted and aesthetically geared within the mainstream, or what have you. [Granted, I’ve also heard them described as “bit**” (sic), so maybe I’m not allowing for an assessment of music as reversion to being a cave man]. The truth is, that is, that “Mother Nature’s Son” is nothing like “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” which I otherwise, for political reasons, furnish as the album’s flagship track. In fact, it’s almost like the opposite — the images are full of stasis instead of motion, even championing the act of “Sing(ing) a lazy song beneath the sun”. And if you have to wonder why “laziness” would be something people would embrace, would be something people would value, or strive for, then you’re missing the point. Music, toward this end, as it always has been and always will be, is predicated on surrender on the part of the listener. It’s an active act in terms of having a responsive and understanding brain for its tenure, but it also in a certain way requires the abandonment of ambition. In other words, music is not something that’s going to HELP you accomplish your goals, in the sense of personal gain, politics, position in society and the rest of these “American dream” values on which our concentrated minds are supposed to be fixed. 

But what are your goals on a particular day that’s 76 degrees and sunny in early November? Your goal is to enjoy this exact day as much as you possibly can and that’s exactly the type of song “Mother Nature’s Son” is. Paul McCartney’s lyricism lends itself to an ease of embracing the supernatural and the infinite — he proclaims himself “mother nature’s son” as a way of making his domain limitless and assures you he sings songs for everyone “all day long”, perhaps making some concession of ambiguity of this exact time frame but still toting the musical charm against such details wouldn’t really matter, succumbing to the melodic atmosphere.

It’s a supremely enjoyable listen in every way I can dissertate off the top of my head, perhaps more similar than any of their other tunes to “Sun King” for reasons which of course transcend the titular subject matter. Still, one of my favorite things about “Mother Nature’s Son” is that it belongs to an entirely orphaned zeitgeist within the Beatles’ framework. That is, they’re generally a band that’s considered to have evolved from disposable pop (“Eight Days a Week”) to psychedelia (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”) to classic rock (“Get back”), and so the only real movement in music they’re given any credit as having spearheaded in any way tends to be the psychedelic, in the vein of the Beach Boys and Pet Sounds and the eventual “summer of love” germination. But “Mother Nature’s Son” is something entirely different — actually it reminds me more than anything of indie rock, the way it completely lacks instrumental virtuosity (there’s no lengthy, showy guitar solo, lyrical machismo or bombast or even significant, ostentatious tweaking of sound), yet it also makes essentially no study in pop ubiquity, the way, say, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love away” and “Penny Lane” [1] might have. It’s a song with no agenda other than living in complete comfort in its own skin and even though Paul McCartney (who the way I understand it essentially performed this entire song himself in the studio and I don’t think the band was touring at this time so they didn’t have to worry about translating it to a live setting) utilizes unorthodox means like boisterous horn against innocuous acoustic guitar and some ingeniously creative percussion rubric of, roughly, bass drums and wood blocks, alone. And if American indie rock doesn’t sound like this then maybe it’s time we start giving mystical country boys a bigger studio budget. 

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[1] Of course, the latter represents that complicated later phase when some of their “psychedelic” recording aspects like overdubs and metaphorical lyrics were temporarily marrying themselves with some undeniable pop catchiness and radio readiness.  

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