Powerful Song, Man

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Someone just emailed me to ask about my article on “Eleanor Rigby,” that Beatles song from long ago. I hadn’t remember writing anything on it at all! But in doing a hard drive search, I did indeed turn this up, but still don’t have any idea where it appeared. In any case, now it appears:

Powerful Song, Man
by Jeffrey Tucker

A documentary showing on VH1 channels is “Bill Clinton: Rock
‘n’ Roll President,” hailed by baby-boomer columnist Christopher
Matthews as “an extraordinary look at a man and his generation.”
The documentary quotes Clinton as saying that “Eleanor Rigby,” a
famed Beatles chart dripping with psuedo-profundity, “may be the
most powerful song I ever heard.” Matthews agrees “entirely.”

Indeed, Matthews even goes further. “Of all the speeches
written since 1776, none conveys the American spirit of freedom
so well as the song and rhythms transmitted from these shores in
the 1960s.” Move over Patrick Henry; Ringo Starr is what
freedom’s all about. What is it about rock that causes its fans
to believe such idiocies, e.g. that John Lennon is a great

Well, let’s a have a look at this beloved “Eleanor Rigby.”
It’s from a 1966 Beatles album called “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely
Hearts Club Band,” which also contains such gems as “We All Live
in a Yellow Submarine.” For those who believe that the history of
rock is an important subject (and I don’t), this album is a
milestone. [Several readers wrote to say that this is wrong; it was on an album called Revolver] Musically speaking, there are worst collection of songs to
come out of the sixties. By 1966, the Beatles had a large
following and money enough to buy actual musicians to arrange
their “compositions,” complete with real instruments like cellos
and trumpets. These arrangements allowed Beatles fans to believe
that they were listening to high-brow music–which was far from
the case. No Beatles member could write a note of music, for
example, much less arrange it for strings and winds.

That experiment prefigured today’s rap “artists,” who are
entirely dependent on promoters, arrangers, and sound
technicians, and create no music themselves. So too was the
Beatles legendary “genius” a function of the greed of their
handlers. Paul McCartney wrote a few period-piece tunes, of
course, but what matters in this case is the words, which were
written by John Lennon.

And what is Lennon’s message in our president’s “powerful”
song? Atheism, nihilism, alienation. Eleanor Rigby is a woman
whose life is spent serving her local church in various ways. For
instance, she “picks up rice in the church where a wedding has
been.” Ipso facto, she “lives in a dream” and thus is “lonely.”
Like any nice religious person, she wears “a face that she keeps
in a jar by the door.”

The song’s narrator then has this Deep Thought: “All the
lonely people, where do they all come from?” This Deep Thought is
intended to suggest that we are not by nature intended to serve
God. Why do people insist on doing it? The narrator asks, “where
do they all belong?” Certainly not in church, according to
Lennon. They are better off dead.

But, hey, Ms. Rigby comes off well compared to the real
bone-headed villain of the song, the Lonely Man “Father
MacKenzie,” an Irish Catholic priest. He spends his days “writing
the words of a sermon that no one will hear” because “no one
comes near.” What a pariah this priest is! He even darns his
“socks in the night.” Why should he care, asks slob Lennon,
whether his socks have holes “when nobody’s there”?

In due course, Ms. Rigby the Lonely dies “in the church and
was buried along with her name.” What’s more, “nobody came” to
her funeral. So Father McKenzie is “wiping the dirt from his
hands as he walks from the grave.” And then the Beatle/narrator
announces he knows all about Rigby’s soul, Fr. McKenzie’s soul,
and the afterlife in general. “No one is saved.”

And that’s it: Bill Clinton oh-so-powerful song. True to
form, it’s wreaks with hatred of Christianity (the church
setting), bourgeois society (darning socks), the family (rice at
weddings) and, above all, people who pretend to serve God
(hypocrites, all).

And since “no one is saved,” and pretending otherwise only
makes people live lonely and pointless lives, God must be
supplanted by rock’s nihilism. All this became more explicit two
decades latter, when Lennon’s was openly advocating full-scale
global atheistic communism in songs like “Imagine.”

“Eleanor Rigby” is typical of rock’s degeneracy. But instead
of recognizing the song for what it is, we are supposed to think
of it as high art (it has a cello!) and its creators as great
geniuses. But even more absurd, we are supposed to think well of
Clinton for calling it “powerful.”

Clinton likes rock for the same reason everyone else of his
generation does. It reminds him of how long he managed to
prolonge his adolescence, and, most of all, of the fast times and
loose living in the 1960s. For a whole generation, the tunes call
up images of the sex they had and the drugs they ingested. Really
powerful, man.

Life was so much easier then. So why not mediate on drug
songs popular a third a century ago? It’s more pleasant than
present realities, in which pitiful Eleanor Rigby has been
replaced by menacing Paula Jones. If the Beatles scoffed at
natural law, and as Ettiene Gilson might say, Ms. Jones is their
undertaker. Now it’s Clinton who wears the face he keeps in a jar
by the door.

9:10 am on March 16, 2006