Chapter 29: Picnics, Naps, Walks, and Regret

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"Dear Prudence"—but not the version on the White Album. It's the bootleg unplugged version one stumbles upon on YouTube. This version has small differences that play a huge role in the overall sound—the guitar is tuned a half step below the original key, making the song in D flat instead of D, which is a little unsettling, but in a nostalgic way, and it's startling when you notice the different tunings compared to the official version. Aside to the tunings, this particular version of the song is mainly different because it is a demo tape. It is non produced and recorded on a crappy piece of recording, it is a piece that doesn't have to be perfect. Its purpose is simply to show the other musicians what the song is supposed to sound like. It's not being released on an album.

    To me, it's beautiful for that exact reason. The song was produced in '68, after the Summer of Love, and the whole thing emulates the sixties, from the chord progression (I-I7-IV-IVm) to the words ("the sun is up / the sky is blue / it's beautiful / and so are you"). The Beatles were looking for a specific sound for the White Album—they wanted to encapsulate the magic of producing a song at the stage when it's still being created, still being gently tugged from the mind. This, of course, makes listening to the song very personal, as if you're hearing something not quite completed and not ready. One can almost imagine Lennon sitting in his hut alone in Rishikesh, India, playing and singing without the need to do a perfect take so it can go straight to the album.

    "Dear Prudence" reminds me of an endless late afternoon, sitting in a wheat field. It reminds me of the '60s and '70s and old yellowing photos, a time that I have never lived through and I kind of wish I had...

    "I like that," I heard someone over my shoulder.

    "Huh?" I looked up to see Ryan, a tall shadow standing over where I was sitting at my desk. I instinctively covered up the paper I was working on, the sounds of the real world gradually coming back into play.

    "Oh, sorry if I was intruding, I just really think what you wrote was beautiful," he said, standing awkwardly, hands in his pockets.

    "Please, sit," I told him, and he did, and asked "Is Lennon your favorite beatle?"

    "Ha, no, Paul is," I had told him, taking my arm off my book, removing my armor one inch at a time. "He's hilarious and he's an amazing bass player. John is too... mean for my taste. And what about you?"

    "I've always liked Lennon," Ryan had mused. "You know, if you look under his hard exterior, I feel like there's something beneath it. Something softer." I had remembered the story of Julia and Alf and Mimi, but vaguely. "Paul lost his mum too," I told Ryan, feeling an irrational need to defend my favorite bass player.

    "He didn't lose both of his parents, though," Ryan commented. "Anyways. Not trying to turn this into a Lennon/McCartney contest. I'm Ryan, what's your name?"

***

    "This is bad," I told George, who was pouring a cup of punch from the pitcher.

    "What's up?" Paul told me.

    "I honestly have no idea how many days it's been since I've got to Germany."

    Everyone exploded into laughter. "Anyone got an answer?" George finally said, setting his glass on the dirt. It was an unusually sunny October day in Hamburg; the temperature had soared to a magnificent 22 degrees, and we thought it was an excellent idea to go for a picnic before winter arrived. The regular boys were there, John, Paul, George, Pete, and their girlfriends: Juliet, me, Anna, and a tall blonde girl called Maddalyn, along with Stu and Astrid. A photo flashed in my mind: the boys and their women in 1964, and the same in 1974, Cynthia, Jane, Patti, and then Yoko, Linda, Olivia. Here they were with completely different women.

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