Sgt. Pepper Mashup
Made passively tolerant by LSD, he was happy to sit back
endlessly recombining like some insoluble chemical compound
all he really wanted was the cyclic cloud drift of his verse.
The song never relinquishes this staccato dominant
played by Harrison on his Stratocaster with treble-heavy settings
making the most of McCartney’s rich ninth’s and elevenths –
a brilliantly whimsical expression of period burlesque.
It is impossible to conduct a revolution without picking a side
like a comic brass fob watch suspended from a floral waistcoat
objectivity is illusory and all creativity inescapably self –referential.
The track is whipped to a climax by a coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo.
Lennon grinned sardonically, as he walked past Aspinall,
requesting from Martin a sound like the end of the world.
I have always felt that found poetry is a form of theft. Yet, here I am with my first found poem. It all started with listening to the remastered copy of Sgt.Pepper, (issued last year, and a vast improvement on the snap, crackle and pop of my old vinyl version) and in particular, the guitar solo in “Fixing a Hole”. Paul McCartney played lead guitar on a number of tracks on the album, but the style of playing on the solo sounded more like George Harrison. So, I consulted the bible – “Revolution in the Head”, by Ian MacDonald, a track by track analysis of 241 Beatle tracks and essential to any Beatles nerd. The solo was Harrison’s.
I read a couple of other track analyses and found myself enjoying MacDonald’s writing style, a number of phrases jumped out from the page and the idea of a found poem formed. The result is the above poem. It has, believe it or not, a structure: each line is a direct quote from an analysis of an individual Sgt. Pepper track, and the lines are sequenced in the same order as the tracks appear on the album.
Buy Ian MacDonald’s book, you won’t be disappointed and I will feel better about stealing his stuff.
On a strange day
in a life that’s becoming stranger
Myron is driving north of Kona
on a road bisecting the black lava landscape
when Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
comes on the radio,
and in no time at all
he’s picturing himself
on a boat on a river
and marveling for the first time
at that rhyme between
marmalade skies and kaleidoscope eyes
not the skies and eyes
but the lade and leid
and just when his head
is filling with technicolor
the black cloud that’s sitting
on the mountains to the right
moves across the sun
on the blue ocean to the left,
and the black asphalt road
and the jumbled chunks
of frozen black lava
that cover the landscape
suck the remaining light
from the air
a dull monochrome.
This poem was published in The Galway Review a little while back but I thought it was worth bringing out again because of the recent anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper. The photos above are of the Beatles’ single featuring Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. My family got it’s first record player in the early sixties just when the Beatles and the rest of the British groups that formed the British Invasion were emerging. The first single we bought was “Needles and Pins” by The Searchers, a remake of a Jackie De Shannon song. My mom, older sister, older brother and myself would take turns every week to buy a record to build our collection. When I was back in Dublin a few years back for my dad’s funeral, I picked out the record shown above and a few others from our collection. The sleeve has a picture on the front and on the back which was not typical at that time. Both songs were originally intended for the Sgt. Pepper album but were released early because they needed a single.
I can still remember hearing Strawberry Fields for the first time on the radio. The Beatles were busy spawning genres at the time but this was the strangest piece of music I had ever heard. It was and still is undefinable. Penny Lane wasn’t bad either.