July 19, 2019 — My good friend could tell you a story about driving with me one stormy night in a worn-out car that couldn’t handle the windshield wipers and the radio on at the same time. Something had to go, and to her horror, I turned off the wipers.
Does that indicate the impact music has on me? I think so. I love how it brings out my emotions, takes me back in time to good and not so good memories and makes me tap my foot, shake my shoulders, dance, cry—or all of the above.
As a writer, it may not be surprising that lyrics are equally important to me. However, it is surprising how wrong I can be when I interpret the message behind the lyrics. In this series, I’ll highlight “the meaning behind” what the songwriter wanted to declare when he or she put pen to paper.
Norwegian Wood (The Beatles)
Norwegian Wood is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, and it appears on one of my favorite Beatles’ albums, Rubber Soul. The John Lennon ballad was a huge milestone for the band, taking them from the pop sound of the early sixties to the first song to feature George on the sitar, which led the way to an entirely different sound.
To me, the song was about a man who met a woman (maybe at a bar), and after she decided not to sleep with him when they got back to her house, he slept in the bathtub. The next morning, she was gone, so he lit a fire to keep warm. Or, possibly he fired up a joint to ponder the events of the night before. Naïve, yes, but the music and the lyrics were so beautiful, and although you could detect frustration in the lyrics, how could it mean anything else?
Several years ago, my cousin told me he actually burned down the house at the end of the song. I didn’t want to believe that, but she reminded me of Lennon’s sarcastic wit, and after I did a bit of research, it turns out she was right.
The song was inspired by an extramarital affair Lennon had and the lyrics did mean that he burned down the house out of revenge. John and Paul both agreed it was a quirky song, sort of like an Irish folk song. And while the song and music belonged to John, Paul claims that he lyrically had the idea to burn down the house and takes some of the credit. Why does that last part surprise me?
After Norwegian Wood introduced pop music to the sitar, the rest of the world seemed to latch on to the craze, equating it with “flower power” and “free love” and the rest is history.
I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair
I sat on a rug biding my time
drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked
in the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
and crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?