(Dark Horse, 1988)
The second single from Cloud Nine is a charming, wink-filled pastiche of the Beatles’ psychedelic years, stuffed with cellos and swooping backing vocals. Jeff Lynne really goes to town on this one, and, based on much of his work with the Electric Light Orchestra, it’s the song he was born to (over-) produce; he handles his duties well by providing the unsettling ambiance of the creepier Magical Mystery Tour tracks. Given the many stories of George’s outward hostility towards his Beatle days, it’s interesting to hear him write and sing about the period with such casual affection, tossing off one-liners and non-sequiturs among the heavier lyrical content. Also interesting is the fact that this song was recorded around the same time Paul McCartney was trying to plunder his own past for studio projects, with “Return to Pepperland” and the subsequent Beatle-isms of Flowers in the Dirt. Coincidence, or evidence of a mutual panic as both recognized creeping old-fogey status in the face of plummeting sales? Dunno, but if anything’s going to force an ex-Beatle to come to terms with his musical past, it might well be the looming specter of commercial oblivion.
Some additional notes: The B-side, “Zig Zag,” is a smoky, trumpet-laced nightclub jazzer whose lyrics don’t go beyond the title. It has since been added as a bonus track on the remastered Cloud Nine. Slightly more intriguing is the “Reverse End” version of “When We Was Fab” – found on the 12” and CD single – which tacks on a backwards, psychedelic coda that extends the song by another minute. For the true believer (me, unfortunately), there’s also a boxed edition of the 7” that includes a Pepper-esque cutout and a poster. Sigh.