Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Revolution 4.5: The Beatles' Vanishing Mediator

The Guardian on the recent discovery of what purports to be take twenty in the recording of the track 'Revolution One' from The White Album, which, bearing both the lyrics and chords of 'Revolution 1' and the so-called 'experimentalism' of 'Revolution 9', acts as a kind of "missing-link" between the two. "Interesting," claims The Guardian's Tim Jonze, "until we find out it's all an elaborate hoax tomorrow." So, is it a hoax or is it for real? Well, the answer is, of course, both. To adopt a favourite trope of Slavoj Zizek's (in, for example, The Plague of Fantasies), it is, rather like the middle stage elaborated by Freud in 'A Child is Being Beaten' ("I am being beaten by my father"), a "construction of analysis" never actually assumed by the subject in question, lacking any positive existence in reality, and precisely as such, identical to the Lacanian Real  - the subject's fundamental fantasy, "the very kernel of the subject's being" (Zizek). This explanation is totally consistent with George Martin's claim, at the time of the release of his son's Love mash-up for Cirque Du Soleil, that there was no more Beatles material to be found in the archive, since, as Freud says quite clearly, this middle stage is "never remembered" by the subject in question. And so, as 'the Real' of The Beatles that must inevitably disappear from sight, what does this track tell us about their oeuvre? Well, the dull, plodding rhythm, the pedestrian I-IV-V chord sequence, the asinine lyrics trumpeting "revolution" but shirking at the possibility of any "destruction" taking place (truly, Robespierre's "revolution without the revolution") - all this we knew already from the version ('Revolution 1') on The White Album - but what is laid particularly bare on this 'new' version is just how little the famed 'experimentalism' of The Fab Four rises above the level of a bunch of stoned frat' boys horsing around with kazoos, 'funny' voices, and tape-reversed standard electric blues riffs. Whereas 'Revolution 9' sounds at times, at least superficially, a little like some of John Cage's tape experiments (such as 'Fontana Mix' from 1958), we can now say, almost for certain, that its constructions lacked any of the rigour and precision of Cage's work. A timely reminder, in the wake of McCartney's recent check-me-out-I'm-so-damn-out-there-man press junket for his latest Fireman album.