Saturday 7 October 2006

Strawberry Fields Forever

Let me take you down, cause Im going to

Strawberry fields

Nothing is real

And nothing to get hung about

Strawberry fields forever

Strawberry fields forever

Strawberry fields forever

The song, titled “Strawberry Fields Forever”, is one among three famous Beatles songs allegedly influenced by hallucinogen LSD experiences. The two others are “Across the Universe” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. The thing that matters most is that these three songs are all masterpiece of pop; they are listed in the group’s best recordings, and they are defining works of the psychedelic rock genre. To me personally, they are the climax of creative imagination, and to some extent they are associated with memories of a summer I had so long ago.

I remember that summer of 1996, when I had passed the university entrance examination. That was a bad experience as I always hated examinations. While relaxing after the harsh examination, I would stay at home, lying on the floor, and listen with neglect to some Beatles songs coming from a small radio at the corner. I was often asleep on summer days, feeling a bit tired with the hot atmosphere all around me. It seems very few Hanoians love the hotness and wetness of summer in Hanoi, especially when they are suffering from a heat-wave. But I remember how I was awaken and shocked by the slow introdution of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. A sad voice, accompanied on slow guitar, formed the sensation that it was not the notes nor the lyrics, it was drops of music falling down slowly, one by one.

“Pic-ture your-self in a boat on a river

with tang-erine trees, and marmalade skies

Some-bo-dy calls you, you ans-wer quite slowly -

a girl with kaleidos-cope eyes.

Cello-phane flowers of yellow and green

tower-ing over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

and she’s gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah….”

Clouds were drifting in the sky, and your small boat is bobbing in the river of myths. Nothing could be that romantic on such a hot summer day. I'm not a drug user, and I have not experienced hallucinogen. But I believe that the psychedelic sensation could be just like that. The melody, the style and tone and oblique lyrics seemingly opened to us a whole world of colours and myths, a stream of psychedelic music, a stream of consciousness.

The experience of enjoying "Across the Universe" is a similar one.

"Images of broken light

which dance before me like a million eyes

That call me on and on across the universe.

Thoughts meander

like a restless wind inside a letter box

They tumble blindly

as they made their way across the universe.

Jai Guru Deva om..." (Indian language for "O God the Great")

Some Vietnamese musical critics showed more responsibilities than needed when they strongly attacked these psychdelic songs, calling them "poisons for youth". I recall a famous music composer, To Hai, who wrote a long article saying, "Beatles, and some other fab four, fab five, fab six... All of them, without any qualifications on music as they don't graduate from any kind of music conservatory, have ruined music in a lot of different ways. The ways they ruin music are alike in that they deliberately ruin beauty with ugliness. They travel around the world, poisoning music audiences by distributing rotten ideas in their rotton songs."

These critics also called on young audiences to be watchful over toxic Western thinking hidden inside songs like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Across the Universe", or "Strawberry Fields Forever". I doubted, however, that they had spent time listening to Beatles music. An album title like "rubber soul", in reality, can possibly cause them to think of "rotten soul", I guess.