This is the second installment of a three- or four-part series of the FBO ‘celebrating global warming’ by listening to the Beatles and Wings...
THE MOST FLAWED POP SONG OF ALL TIME?
To casual listeners of the John Lennon song 'No Reply' from the 1964 album Beatles for Sale may tap their toe to a seemingly unoffensive melody that peppers the verses with suddenly fierce cries of rage in the choruses. That soft/tuff mix-match is a fine formula for pop music, something that's been turned to again and again successfully. The problem is solely with the lyrics.
To careless listeners the song is about a girl who won't answer the door or phone, and is dating another guy, and the protagonist gets mad about it. That's logical. But 'No Reply' isn't. Let's take a look at the lyrics, taking careful attention to exactly what the enraged protagonist is most upset over.
The first verse:
This happened once before, when I came to your door
They said it wasn't you, I saw you peep through
I SAW THE LIGHT! I SAW THE LIGHT!
I know you saw me, as I looked up to see
The protagonist is not mad that the girl is home when the mysterious 'they' said she wasn't. He's mad -- as deemed by the timing of his explosive revelation -- that the LIGHT IS ON. Yes 'seeing the light' has the double meaning of a realization, but in his case 'this happened once before' (a fascinating confession obliquely referred to at best), so he's not getting the truth.
And on to the next verse:
I tried to telephone, they said you were not home
That's a lie
Cause I know where you've been, and I saw you walk in
I NEARLY DIED! I NEARLY DIED!
Cause you walked hand in hand, with another man
In my place
It is unsure why the protagonist nearly lost his life. The timing of his outburst again is odd. At first listen it suggests it's because the girl walked into her home, or that the 'they' lied about her being home. It is unknown whether this verse is a prequel to the first verse or not. Or if this is the previous encounter mentioned before or an unmentioned third encounter. Something doesn't stack up here, and the protagonist is losing compassion from the careful listener.
And here's how the song ends:
If I were you I'd realize that I
Love you more than any other guy
And I forgive the lies that I
Heard before when you gave me no reply...
...Cause you walked hand in hand, with another man
In my place
NO REPLY! NO REPLY!
This is fascinating. He reflects on the situation and rails out at 'the lies' the girl has told. What lies? The 'they' purportedly covered for her when she wasn't home, but technically that's their lie. His yelling of 'if I were you' sounds like a threat, worrisome enough to get the bobbies involved. But what's more curious is how, as 137-second pop song wraps up, the protagonist lashes out -- in a stunning non-sequitur -- at the one thing that angers him the most: that she's seeing another guy? That 'they' lie? That she doesn't love him? That he nearly died because of a light bulb? No. That there was no reply.
One wonders if she'd just have a two-minute chat with the sap the whole thing would be over with.
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