The Beatles' Carnival of Light

There may be two surviving Beatles left, but there is only one founding member still dwelling amongst us mortals. Think what ye may paul91of Sir Paul McCartney, and say what ye may of his post-Wings portfolio, but the fact is that Macca is what few human beings have dared achieved: Billionaire. Rock singer. Guitarist. Classical composer. Producer. Animal rights activist. Song writer. And, of course, Beatle. His resume may pale next to his immortal partner-in-crime John Lennon, but his longevity is truly a testament to what rock music can mean. (all those young whippersnappers riding high on the coattails of genius would do well to take note of, I hasten to add.)


In case you’ve not noticed, I’m a Beatles fan and, though John is my undying favorite, I am a dedicated McCartney defender. (Anyone who pens a tune like Yesterday is allowed to have misfires like, oh, say, The Frog Chorus.) His judgment may not be what it was (um, Heather Mills, anyone?) but dammit, he’s still Paul McCartney. It’s a carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wants, and he knows it, as evidenced by decades of dabbling in ‘experimental’ endeavors. (John would probably have opted for the word ‘soft.’) And so, with this (well-deserved) carte blanche of his, Macca has recently announced that it is time the world hear a long forgotten 14-minute experimental track recorded in 1967 called Carnival of Light.


According to Time Magazine, “McCartney said during a recording session at Abbey Road studios he asked the other members of the band to ‘just wander all of the stuff and bang it, shout it, play it. It doesn’t need to make any sense. I like it because it’s The Beatles free, going off piste.” Sounds like something the Plastic Ono Band would have masterminded, and while John was the definitive experimental artist, Paul has been somewhat brushed under the rug as the melodically-inclined traditionalist. But Carnival of Light was 1967. The year of the Summer of Love, and the year Paul and the lads were not only privy to pot and LSD, but Macca in particular was a willing experimenter with cocaine.beatles671 (He even beat John to the stuff.) He was a scenseter in London’s arty underworld, being good mates with Barry Miles of London’s famous Avant Garde Indica Gallery, was deeply intrigued with Metaphysics, Nietzsche, Dali and Magritte (the posthumous Apple Records muse) and experimental musicians like Karlheinz Stockhausen.


And this is why Carnival of Light makes me a lot of people nervous.


And while personally I would rather like to hear the Beatles muck about and experiment and simply set themselves free–I understand the unease. Carnival of Light was recorded for an electronic music festival in London (yes, that’s right, electronic music—it’s not just a 21st century phenom) and it does make one inclined to conclude that since it was not included in Sgt. Pepper (or any subsequent album) or was even mentioned in the Beatles Anthology, it probably … well … just isn’t any bloody good. There are a lot of grumbles by even the most passionate Beatles fans that Paul is rather beating a dead horse by releasing this track, and although I disagree with their sentiments, Hecklerspray had the following analysis of the situation:


We’ve decoded that last sentence in the hecklerspray labs, and we’ve figured out that it actually means “Heather Mills took so much of my money that I’m prepared to release anything, even a drug-blattered tuneless dirge from 41 years ago that lasts for half an episode of EastEnders, so long as I can get some of my beautiful, beautiful money back.”

Macca’s recent desire to rename certain Lennon/McCarney songs (ie, Yesterday) as McCartney/Lennon songs surely leads to Hecklerspray’s following conclusion:

“will it be renamed See John Lennon? See? I Came Up With This A Year Before Revolution 9 And You Still Get Called The Arty One! I’m The Arty Beatle! This Is So Arty That Nobody Will Ever Listen To It All The Way Through More Than Once. So Shove That Up Your Arse You Dead Idiot? Nobody can really say for sure.”


Um … perhaps a tad harsh, you guys. But really, Macca, if the reasoning behind your rhyme is down to a need to assert yourself as a serious revolutionary figure in modern music, you needn’t worry my dearie.


You are Paul McCartney. ‘Nuff said.

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

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