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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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A Club Punnage
When I was a teenager I felt uncool for preferring the Beatles to the Stones. Preferring Paul to John only compounded the offence, but happily coolness was not a consideration for me.

It is universally agreed that Paul and John brought out the best in each other and restrained each other's self-indulgences; but much as I loved John it was Paul who introduced me to the fact that songs could be clever as well as heartfelt, with smart lyrics, internal rhymes and the like. (Kern, Porter, Coward and Berlin were just names to me in those days.) He fuelled my incipient (since chronic) punaholism.

The earliest example I remember is the line "See how they run!" from "Lady Madonna", a record I can still picture as a 45rpm, though I suspect my mother threw it out decades ago. I got more or less right away - though at five I didn't know the term, then itself only 2 years old - that "See how they run!" was an intertextual reference to "Three blind mice". Later I learned that it was, more immediately, a quotation from Lennon's "I am the Walrus", though presumably with the same ultimate source - but in the context of "Lady Madonna" (unlike Lennon's maunderings) it took on real meaning, as a comment on the transience of human life and the inexorability of time.

It was probably a few years before I noticed the wordplay involved in its second iteration:

Thursday night your stockings needed mending -
See how they run!

It took a while for me to realise what was going on here because in my house stockings didn't run, they laddered. When I finally got the joke, perhaps at age 11, it was quite a revelation. The line didn't have just two meanings - it had three! I didn't know you could do that!

And that was how the pennies dropped from my eyes.

I think the one that made me realise the cleverness of some of the lyrics was 'Norwegian wood'.

I do not recall from my own childhood any differential in coolness regarding the Beatles or the Stones, only that after 1970 the Stones were still around and the Beatles weren't, and post-Beatles solo work was definitely considered less cool.

And the idea that John was cool and Paul wasn't definitely, in my perception, dates from John's death and not a moment before.

For my part, I always liked the Beatles, though looking back at childhood favorites my favorites were mostly by Paul, though at that point I couldn't have told you which songs were by whom. Back when the Beatles were new, some excited music critic called Lennon and McCartney the greatest songwriters since Schubert. Some classical critics have been wincing at that ever since, but me? I'd say they're in exactly the same class of greatness, though so are some others. The sophistication of their songwriting, even in the early days, is astonishing to the same degree as Schubert's.

And the idea that John was cool and Paul wasn't definitely, in my perception, dates from John's death and not a moment before.

That made a huge difference, agreed. I was seventeen then, so still plenty of time for post-mortem coolness to set in before my teens were out.

I live in the USA-- and have heard about stockings running all my life. (And how to prevent that with clear nail-polish!) But I never noticed that meaning!

I think I may be slow that way, it was just this year that I figured out why Bottom was the donkey's name. (He's an ass!)

Edited at 2014-03-27 04:24 pm (UTC)

It took me 30 years to notice the awful pun buried in the premise of one of my favorite movies, Time Bandits.

I've still not noticed it! (Unless it's got something to do with Bum Bandits, Turd Burglars and other unlovely names for anal sex that I remember unfondly from around that time?)

I prefer Paul too, but then again when I got into the Beatles it was, um, way past their heyday.