Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spinal Cracker

The Beatles (Rock)
iPod choice: Come Together (Apple, 1969)

Part 1: Manifesto

If it now seems dangerous - or even quaint - to imagine that getting stoned and screwing your brains out could free your mind, relatively few hippie intellectuals doubted the fact in 1969.

Rejection of the traditional mores underpinning western culture was a prerequisite for membership of the counter-cultural elite. And though the victories of feminism and social egalitarianism were necessary and crucial, the downside of bohemian radicalism was the relativistic "me first" attitude which continues to permeate western society.

The Beatles, above all other artists, reflected and signposted such changes, and John Lennon's spacey, stoned Come Together - the celebrated opener on The Fabs' swansong, Abbey Road - marks the point where the druggy idealism of the sixties gave way to the radicalism of the following decade.

The sound palette of Come Together is one of the most fantastic in The Beatles canon: the hypnotic, almost analgesic rhythm of Ringo's drums, McCartney's brilliantly evocative bass and piano, Lennon's urgent vocal and narcotic double-tracked guitar solo. All in all, it's a stupefying concoction.

The apparent nonsense of the song's free association lyric is anything but. Rather it's an oblique, ambivalent ode to sexual politics, hipsterism and self-mythology.

The song isn't entirely successful in challenging its audience to unchain their imaginations through the liberation of language. Lennon had already achieved this to more stunning effect in his classic I Am the Walrus.

The clincher comes when Lennon concludes: "One thing I can tell you is you got to be free."

A summation of sixties pop libertarianism, that's the only manifesto you're ever gonna need.

Part 2: Pain and Pleasure
Dynasty Barber Shop and Massage, Taipei, Taiwan

One of the most intriguing lines in Come Together is its famous "spinal cracker" lyric. It supposedly refers to the traditional practice of Japanese women walking on their husbands' backs to loosen their spines.

I had the opportunity to experience this technique on a recent visit to Taipei. As I lay prone I was pummelled and stretched by a gifted and by no means diminutive Taiwanese masseuse.

Over the next 60 minutes I discovered muscles I didn't know I had and my friends were greatly amused by the groans emanating from my pulverized frame. If you ever find yourself in Taipei, allow me to recommend Dynasty Barber Shop and Massage for a heady combination of pain and pleasure.


Anonymous said...

...and would you like something for the weekend, sir??

Anonymous said...

This is the weekend, madam.

Shiffi Le Soy said...

yes pleeez, though im in the uk at the moment!!

Cushion Meg said...

Hi shiffi,  The lyrics of “Come Together" sound like a series of free-associative words for me!! Hard to unlock the real meanings! As for “spinal cracker“, I’ve read a different take : “spinal cracker” supposedly referred to John Lennon himself. Shortly before the release of the song, Lennon caused a car accident while his driving, by which his family got injured. Yoko got hurt more than Lennon. She wasn’t able to get out of bed for a long time probably because of pain in the back. He blamed himself for that.
Of course I’m not sure about the credibility but the car accident is a true story.

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Hi Meg,
That's an interesting take on the 'spinal cracker' reference. I'm familiar with John and Yoko's car accident in Scotland, but your account is new to me.

As always, thanks for checking my blog!!