Singing Long with the Beatles
Posted by Neal on April 7, 2009
As I was driving to the SALT conference last weekend, a song by the Beatles came up on my iPod. It was “I’ll Follow the Sun,” and as always, I found it disconcerting how Paul McCartney tries to sing gone to rhyme with sun in the line:
One day, you’ll look and find I’ve gone.
But tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun.
He doesn’t sing it as [gɔn] (i.e. “gawn”) and forget about trying to rhyme it. Nor does he sing it as [gʌn] (“gun”) to rhyme with sun and forget about trying to be faithful to its pronunciation. He sings it somewhere in between, with a vowel that doesn’t sound quite like English. That disconcertion (disconcertation? disconcert?) is quickly pushed aside by the one that follows in For tomorrow may rain. “Tomorrow may rain”? Can you do that? The only subject I can have with rain is the dummy subject it, unless you’re saying something like “I’ll rain destruction on you!” Checking the CoCA, I see that occasionally the precipitation itself is the subject, as in “I don’t got enough problems dealing with the day-to-day shit that rains from the sky in Manhattan.” Usually it’s precipitation other than rainwater; the examples I saw also included blood and mirror shards. But no tomorrow will rain, yesterday rained or today’s raining. So when I hear the song, I keep trying to hear a very short it squeezed in there that maybe I just didn’t hear all the other times. This time, though, I just didn’t feeling up to doing that, so I jumped to the next song.
What do you know? It was another one by the Beatles. This time it was “From Me to You.” If you haven’t heard it (and even if you have, of course), it goes like this:
Whenever I hear this song, I think about the line
I’ve got arms that long to hold you, and keep you by my side.
Is that arms which have a need to hold you, like on the left? Or is it arms that are that long in order to hold you, like on the right? Maybe I can find a better illustration…
Luckily, there’s the next line to give us a hint. It goes:
I’ve got lips that long to kiss you, and keep you satisfied.
If Lennon and McCartney were aiming for parallel structures here, then we’re clearly talking about arms and lips that long to hold you and kiss you, respectively. And keep you by my side and satisfied, respectively. Unless….