Friday, January 13, 2012

"We shall scrimp and save"

Small moments can make a song. Short of that, they can memorably elevate their surroundings. From The Beatles' body of work, I'm thinking of, say, on "Baby It's You" when Paul and George sharply - but with an obvious grin - chirp, "Cheat, cheat," as part of their backup vocal. Or how about on "No Reply" when John issues the accusation, "That's a lie": it's the most sinisterly calm expression of jealous anger you'll ever hear. A third example - one that I've highlighted before - arrives at roughly the 2:40 mark of "Hey Jude," when John and George perform a lovely spot-harmony on the line, "Don't make it bad."

I mention all of this because I recently discovered the power of another "small moment" from the Fabs' catalog. It's courtesy of Paul and his comic homage to old age and domesticity, "When I'm Sixty-Four." Often derided as typical Macca fluff, "Sixty-Four" nevertheless always finds me a willing and satisfied listener. I enjoy the music-hall melody, Paul's altered vocal, the fetching sentiments (especially what's captured with the line, "Doing the garden/ Digging the weeds/ Who could ask for more?"), and the "small moment" of Paul singing, "We shall scrimp and save." For me, this part adds an unexpected dimension to "Sixty-Four" and almost entirely changes the song. Notice its tone. In contrast to the rest of the song, which is all talk of sending valentines, mending fuses, and knitting sweaters, it's somber, and Paul's voice carries a measure of pain. Having to "scrimp and save" for something obviously suggests struggling to overcome a lack of means. A lack of means often translates into hardship.

By including this part and delivering it as he did, Paul let the quaint and pleasant tedium of his imagined future be interrupted - if only briefly - by the cold shadow of reality, giving the song deeper meaning. "We shall scrimp and save" pushes "When I'm Sixty-Four" to a place where happiness is hard-won and lives side-by-side with sadness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great observation. He does sound like he's not looking forward to that little pension. But who are "Vera, Chuck and Dave"?