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Nietzsche on Tragedy

Reblogging on the occasion of Freddie’s birthday.

conradbrunstrom

Nietszche

I’ve long been looking for an opportunity to teach Nietzsche.  Whenever a new module is proposed I throw his name into the hat.  The trouble is, the exigencies of module descriptors demand team players.  Pedagogic streamlining calls for things that can be grouped together with other things.   And here is Nietzsche’s trouble.  He does not play well with others.

Perhaps a way forward would be to take all the other people who do not play well with others and put them together in on module.  William Blake, the Marquis de Sade and Friedrich Nietzsche – together at last.   “Put all our rotten eggs in one basket” as the camp commandant in The Great Escape so memorably put it.  I wonder how long it would take for them to escape the module?  You could call it The League of Inappropriate Gentlemen.

But this week, I’m to teach a seminar…

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“Caligula darling, what are you doing out of bed?” I Claudius, Episode 6, reviewed.

As the Young Caligula, I Claudius BBC 1976 | Acting career, Acting, Young

Just as every previous episode can be imagined as a “fall of” story (Marcellus, Drusus, Julia, Posthumus, Augustus), so this episode deals with the fall of Germanicus.

However, this episode is “about” Germanicus in much the same way that Oliver Stone’s JFK is about John Kennedy. Germanicus is killed at the start and the rest of the narrative is about the implications of the killing. Jack Pullman, following Robert Graves, offers an elaborate conspiracy – though nowhere near such a paranoid and ludicrous plot as Oliver Stone serves up.

It is instructive to compare the Graves-Pulman account of the trial of Piso and his wife Plancina for the murder of Germanicus with the version offered by Philip Mackie in The Caesars (1968). In Mackie’s version, a conscientious Tiberius is wrestling with what may be a central dilemma of the entire Roman imperial project. How can you respond to remote border conflicts in a timely fashion without giving regional governors and generals a dangerous amount of autonomy? Mackie’s Tiberius (Andre Morell) responds by effectively dividing authority in the East, ensuring that the subordinate Piso corresponds directly with the Emperor so as to act as a check on Germanicus’ ambitions. Nowhere in I Claudius is this fundamental structural problem so much as acknowledged. In Mackie’s version, incidentally, Germanicus is a bit of an idiot and his wife Agrippina is a schemer.

As it happens, the whole of this episode of I Claudius is told as a fraught recollection while sitting on the lavatory. It’s basically elongated musings in the course of one particularly difficult bowel movement.

Stratford Johns, stalwart of so much 1970s TV drama is Piso. He’s a wonderfully pompous figure, most effective when most self righteous. He can’t even commit suicide properly.

Patsy Byrne, best known as “Nursie” from Blackadder II, has a wonderful cameo role as Martina the poisoner. She has just one delicious scene with Siân Phillips where they compare notes on poisoning techniques. When Marina praises Livia’s wealth of knowledge as says it’s a shame Livia never practiced (and the TV audience’s collective jaw plummets with irony overload), Livia seems to be profoundly and sincerely moved by the compliment. Martina’s accent has long bothered me, and I think it would have tried the diagnostic talents of a Henry Higgins. I am provisionally filing it under “Welsh-Transylvanian”.

Patrick Stewart’s suave Sejanus has a wonderful smile. Whatever that stuff is that seems to sort of sprout from the top of his head, he is without doubt the sexiest alpha male of the central portion of the series. At present he appears to be content to act as the functionary of Tiberius, but the fact that Sejanus is so calm and collected under pressure (in contrast with Tiberius) is a portent of the danger her represents.

Note George Pravda as the Jewish landlord Gershom. Pravda was very prolific on TV in the seventies and appeared prominently in my favourite Doctor Who adventure.

At the very beginning we are introduced to a very creepy looking child with golden curls. Yes – it’s who you think it is. When Agrippina (the almost suffocatingly upright and principled Fiona Walker) suggests that no-one could have squeezed into the rooms where grim portents had been deposited so as to help scare Germanicus to death, then the boy coughs very significantly. We notice this. Nobody else does.

A spoilt little brat with a taste for sleeping with this sister and calling everything west of Thrace “German”, Caligula concludes the episode by burning the house down.

I have thoughts about other episodes of I Claudius.

See below.

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/10/01/waiting-in-the-wings-i-claudius-part-3-reviewed/

Episode 4:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/what-shall-we-do-about-claudius-i-claudius-episode-4/

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Episode 5:

Penguin Monarchs: Edward VI

Reposting on the occasion of Edward’s birthday.

conradbrunstrom

Edward VI (r.1547-1553) | The Royal Family

This is one of the more successful of these volumes. Short reign, short life, short book. There’s a lively impressionistic style employed here, which well suits a biography which must necessarily depend on a deal of imaginative extrapolation.

I like the fact that Stephen Alford’s book begins with a childhood recollection of an illustration from the Ladybird book of kings and queens. How beautifully illustrated those books were. In this picture, Edward shrinks into the background while Somerset comes close to physical conflict with another Privy Council member. And this is warm and thoughtful book about this condition of being in the background.

Edward’s own words are never anything other than what he was educated to say. He sounds, therefore, rather priggish and annoying. But of course, these are merely the words of someone who has never regarded writing as the vehicle of authentic personal expression. Edward may not have…

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“Don’t touch the figs”. I Claudius – Episode 5, reviewed.

Archivetvmusings on Twitter: "I Claudius - Poison Is Queen (11th October  1976). Augustus' death scene is an extraordinary television moment.… "

And so, farewell to Brian Blessed’s Augustus – and the world is a sadder and a quieter place.

In this episode, Livia discovers (by sort of bribing the chief Vestal Virgin), that Augustus has changed his will to favour his exiled grandson Posthumus and so finally has to dispatch her husband.

She gives him a long speech during his final minutes, during which the precise moment of his passing is hard to determine. I’ve watched this scene many times and I’m still not sure when I’m starting to look at a dead man. The camera remains trained on Augustus’ dying speech throughout so Livia words are effectively a voice over. We seem to be dying with him. The gist of the speech is “I was right and you were wrong”.

Earlier, Livia’s initial suspicions regarding the changes in the will are provoked by the fact that Augustus is in a strangely good mood and has developed an irritating whistle. It becomes clear that she has left Claudius out of her calculations. Augustus revises his will in favour of Posthumus because Posthumus told Claudius what he knew, and Claudius told Germanicus so that Germanicus could tell Augustus. Claudius was the link in the chain that Livia hadn’t counted on.

Claudius loses his stutter when describing Posthumus’ Livia-centric theory of recent history to Germanicus, although of course Germanicus is one of the few people he doesn’t have to perform his idiocy in front of. Beforehand, they’ve been still laughing about how tall Claudius’s wife is – a circumstance which somehow never stops being hilarious.

Claudius is later granted one extended affectionate conversation with Augustus – the only such conversation that we’re led to believe the pair of them ever enjoyed. Claudius is promised many such friendly conversations…

There is a bitter and poignant meeting of Augustus and Posthumus on Posthumus’ tiny island as the last son of Agrippa bitterly reproaches the emperor on his ruinous credulity and the emperor collapses in tears. Apparently, Augustus can’t just take him back with him because, despite what we thought was his absolute control of the senate, there is political work to be done before the official banishment can be properly rescinded. Augustus can’t even move him to a nicer island it seems.

Livia is slightly tipsy throughout this episode as she gathers sufficient Dutch courage to somehow dispatch her husband of fifty years.

Augustus is canny enough to avoid eating or drinking anything he hasn’t picked himself. He milks the goat himself and he picks figs for himself. The only solution for Livia is to smear poison on the figs while they’re still on the fig tree.

About the last thing Augustus does, incidentally, is have a dice party. The Romans did not have playing cards and so indoor gambling largely consisted of dicing. I’m not a gambler myself, but throwing dice sounds to me like the dullest way of losing money imaginable.

Tiberius has another near nervous breakdown. George Baker was of course older than Brian Blessed and all the make up in the world sometimes has trouble disguising this reality. The fact that John Castle (Posthumus) looks far too old to be Augustus’ grandson is also an issue.

With Augustus gone, Posthumus must swiftly follow and the revised will suppressed.

Towards the end of this episode instructions are given to a familiar looking praetorian guard, a steely faced determined character with familiar eyes and unfamiliar hair – who is just told to “make it so”.

Thoughts about other episodes in this series…

See below.

Episode 1:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/09/25/a-touch-of-murder-rewatching-i-claudius-episode-one/

Episode 2:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/09/28/family-affairs-i-claudius-part-1b/

Episode 3:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/10/01/waiting-in-the-wings-i-claudius-part-3-reviewed/

Episode 4:

His hands were made for making. RIP Rick Jones.

Rick Jones dead: Fingerbobs presenter from 70s TV show dies, aged 84 -  Mirror Online

I’ve just discovered that the benign old hippy who used to present “Fingerbobs” – Rick Jones – has just passed aged 84.

In hindsight, I was televisually educated by hippies, in many ways. I certainly was certainly not educated by hippies in any physical classroom. My actual teachers were stern WW2 generation types who would have probably phoned the police had anyone resembling Rick Jones come within a hundred yards of our school. But at home, with the TV on, I was in the hands of people like Floella Benjamin and Toni Arthur – brightly clad romping characters who looked as though they had been scooped from the chorus of Godspell.

From my earliest years I recognised Rick Jones (or rather “Yoffy”) as a hippy. In fact the twin defining hippy archetypes of my generation were Rick Jones and Dylan the rabbit from Magic Roundabout. I associated these hippies with sense of generous calm as well as a sense that the world was not necessarily the world that my parents thought it was. Rick Jones struck me as someone I might be able to confide in if I ever met him. He projected a sense of being the sort of person who would listen to anything you might want to say without judgement.

“Yoffy” also projected a sense of relaxed ease when it came to improvised puppetry. Everyone should create puppets out of scraps from time to time. The cruder the puppets the better in a way, because their very crudity suggests that the possibility of animate consciousness lurks everywhere – a few crafting minutes from realisation. Despite being the consummate hippy, this lo-tech ethos is essentially skiffle – even punk in sensibility.

Creating a sense of life and animation out of bits and pieces is central not just to parenthood but to any cherishing of the child within. And if you’re an old hippy, then cherishing the child within is a lifetime Wordsworthian endeavour.

Fingermouse, Scampi, Gulliver and Flash probably collectively only enjoyed about two hours of existence but as short films they were repeated in an endless cycle.

Famously of course it was Rick Jones who revealed the ubiquity of marijuana use in the BBC in the early 70s. David Attenborough, then in charge of BBC2, records sending frantic circulars round whenever visiting dignitaries were about to arrive begging people to try to keep the overpowering whiff of ganja away from the main corridors. In any case Rick Jones’ revelations came as a huge surprise to absolutely nobody who remembered watching children’s TV in the early 70s.

Hippies will never be allowed to present children’s TV ever again – nor will that kind of alternative counter-cultural ethos be allowed free rein. A generation of people who came of age in the 60s and who spent the 70s trying to redefine what “proper job” actually meant were allowed to suggest to the very young and the very impressionable, that a playful imagination was to be indulged rather than disciplined and that the future should be peaceful and benevolent.

Liking John Lennon. Paul talks to John for the last time OTD in 1980. Yes, he would have been 80 today.

Published this a year ago today. Nothing has changed.

conradbrunstrom

Retro Top Ten: This week in 1981 - Independent.ie

Indeed. John Lennon was born OTD in 1940. And so we’re all invited to wish him a happy birthday and ponder the inexorable March of Time. By the end of February 2021, John Winston Ono Lennon will have been dead for longer than he was alive.

On his final birthday, Paul McCartney talked to John Lennon on the phone and they communicated for the last time. We have, of course, only one account of this phone call, but it seems to have been a relaxed and happy exchange, focusing on cats, child-rearing, and John’s excitement about making music again. The friendliness of this final call has been of great comfort to Paul McCartney over the years.

Long-term, John Lennon’s martyrdom has been terrible for his reputation. Nobody bothers to knock people off medium-sized pedestals. The hyperbole attached to Lennon’s 1980s reputation has merely made him a conspicuous and obvious target…

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October 22 feels increasingly ominous…

Hundreds crowd together in Temple Bar, Dublin despite Covid restrictions -  Irish Mirror Online

We’re not going to obliterate Covid as a matter of feasible medium term policy. Very few such diseases have ever been completely obliterated. The horrible line that I’m hearing is “reducing Covid to a level that we can live with”. I have major problems with the word “we” as well as the word “live” in this phrase. It reminds me of when people refer to some wartime race memory using the first person plural… “We survived World War II” – bizarrely forgetting the tens of millions who didn’t. It’s an oxymoronic collective affirmation that creates a spurious “we” out of exclusions.

All over the world, political decisions are being made about how much people are prepared to put up with in order to save how many lives. On October 22, we in Ireland will have decided that a certain number of casualties have become tolerable. And damn it, the decision will have to be made.

Of course, in practice, a world in which all risk is eliminated in order to protect every single life is unthinkable. As High School Homer Simpson declared when he heard of a formal debate in consideration of lowering the speed limit – “Sure, lives would be saved but millions would be late!”

Furthermore, the impact of Covid has to be weighed in the balance against other life-crippling phenomena such as unemployment and bankruptcy. Part of life is the preservation of the will to live. For a while, the will to live can be sustained by the thrill of the responsibility of an authentic emergency. But not indefinitely. On October 22nd, we give up pretending that fighting Covid is the most important thing that we’re collectively doing. Lives will be sacrificed. We should perhaps grieve for them ahead of time, or at least ready ourselves for grief.

Ireland has been celebrated for its “Covid Resilience”. We’re a nation that is policed by consent and An Garda Síochána are armed, for the most part, with a notebook and a stern expression. If the rules have been kept, for the most part, then it’s because most people have been determined to keep the rules. But October 22 will mark a kind of surrender. It will mark the moment when the national campaign to contain Covid no longer defines us, no longer provides a grand national imperative. We’ve been governed by flawed human beings who aren’t much better or worse than ourselves. We have not been governed by populist demagogues bereft of any concept of integrity or empathy. Our death toll has therefore been much lower. But we have lost 5000 of our fellow citizens and we knew how to save at least some of them.

Even after the political and economic context has been explained to them, I suspect that our grandchildren will be angry with us for not holding out longer, not being a bit more patient, and not having the collective will to save more lives. They will be angry with us because they will be better people than us and they will be better people than us because they will have to be better people than us.

What shall we do about Claudius? I Claudius, Episode 4.

I, Claudius (1976) - Episode 03 - What Shall We Do About Claudius? –  VideoKiwi & Gif

It occurs to me that most episodes of this drama count as “fall of…” episodes. As soon as you start to develop any kind of rapport with a given character – they’re toast.

Episode One: Fall of Marcellus

Episode Two: Fall of Drusus

Episode Three: Fall of Julia

Episode Four: Fall of Posthumus

Episode Five: Fall of Augustus

Episode Six: Fall of Germanicus

Episode Seven: Fall of Livia

Episode Eight: Fall of Sejanus

The model sort of collapses after this. Episode Four shows young Claudius as the family embarrassment. He meets the prickly duo of historians Pollio and Livy. According to Seutonius it was Livy rather than Pollio who befriended Claudius, but Robert Graves and Jack Pullman have Pollio be the one who advises Claudius to play up his reputed idiocy as a survival strategy. Graves does this because Pollio was the more upright republican of the two.

For the rest of the episode – indeed for much of the series up until his accession – we are never quite sure how many of Claudius’s bits of clumsy business are consciously performed or not.

Claudius passes out when he witnesses his first games. Historical accounts of Claudius suggest that as an emperor he was inordinately fond of bloodthirsty spectacles and couldn’t get enough of violent gladiatorial contests. Yet when Derek Jacobi’s Claudius turns to jelly once the swords start to clash it does not feel like he’s following Pollio’s advice. His sister Livilla (Patricia Quinn), meanwhile, gets a sexual rush of excitement watching lives on the line to the extent that Augustus himself looks a bit troubled.

It’s hardly worth noting that the inability of the BBC to stage actual gladiatorial contests only adds to the drama of the scene as everything has to be conjured from the reactions of spectators. There’s also a delicious little scene where Livia condescends to visit the gladiators back-stage so as to insult them and bully them into stop trying to stay alive.

At the beginning of the episode we learn of the disaster of the Teutoburg Forest, also described as the Varian Disaster. The legions of Varus were ambushed and massacred and Augustus did not take the news well. “Quintili Vare, legiones redde!” Accordingly, Brian Blessed gets to shout a lot. Which, it turns out, he’s good at. The loss of a hefty chunk of the imperial war machine plays second fiddle to the main plot which involves Livia’s plot to remove Posthumus from the succession with the help of Livilla.

It’s at this point that we need to confront the fact that I Claudius, while offering great roles for female actors, also sponsors a fair amount of paranoid misogyny. Livia, Livilla, Messalina, Agrippina the Younger… etc. etc. There’s a good scene with Livia and Livilla. They are both utterly ruthless, but Livia was always able to subordinate the sexual to the political – unlike her grand-daughter. In this scene also, Livia starts to explain the ultimate rationale for her actions – the avoidance of civil war. It’s not that she’s especially fond of Tiberius for his own sake (who is?) but she’s pledged to an unambiguous hereditary principle that seems to her the only antidote to ruinous civil broils? What are a few aristocratic poisonings weighed in the scale against Pharsalus, Philippi, or Actium?

John Castle plays the ominously named Posthumus – so called because he was born shortly after his father Agrippa died. It’s a thoughtful and sympathetic performance, but one which has little to do with the rakish ne’er do well that both the historical record and the logic of the drama demands that he be. He is one of Claudius’ few friends, of course, and one of Claudius’ few early interventions into decisive history occurs when Postumus the temporary escapee makes time to inform Claudius of his suspicions regarding Livia.

It is difficult to watch this episode now (which means that it was difficult for many to watch it in 1976 but the difficulty went unacknowledged). Everything we know about the large scale discrediting of rape testimony makes the Livilla set up all the more deplorable.

At the end of the episode Claudius gets married for the first time, to Plautia Urgulanilla. All his four marriages were disastrous. It is revealed when they are both asked to stand up for the ceremony that Plautia is much taller than him. Everybody finds this hilarious.

Thoughts on other episodes:

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/10/01/waiting-in-the-wings-i-claudius-part-3-reviewed/

“Pain comes from always wanting things.” The Many Saints of New Jersey, reviewed.

The Many Saints of Newark review – the making of Tony Soprano | Drama films  | The Guardian

Saw this last night, in an actual cinema, with actual grotesquely over-priced popcorn.

In order for this film to succeed in a fashion that felt “proportionate” to The Sopranos, The Many Saints of New Jersey would have to be the greatest film ever made. This is setting the bar of expectations ludicrously high – so ludicrously high that in a strange way expectations are actually comparatively low going in.

The Many Saints of New Jersey is not the greatest film ever made. It is merely a very very good film. It is stylish and funny and frightening and exciting and helps to flesh out and expand that horribly seductive place known as the Sopranos Universe.

I could say that it is the best film I have seen in a cinema in years. But that would be setting the bar ludicrously low.

The David Chase crew has a long record of poaching made guys from the Martin Scorsese outfit. Having bagged Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent and others from the cast of Goodfellas, this film goes one further and bags Ray Liotta himself. Don’t take it personally Marty. It’s just business.

Ray Liotta plays two roles in the film, and one of them is just about the most repulsive character he’s ever played (and his CV provides stiff competition). Liotta’s face is quite the canvas these days – its terrain is pitted with decades of terrible decisions.

There’s an issue with Silvio Dante’s age. In The Sopranos, it’s generally implied I think that Silvio is close to Tony in age. In this film, he seems to be of the same generation as Paulie Wallnuts – at least ten years older than a teenage Tony, and in a position to offer strategic advice to Dickie Moltisanti.

The film is initially narrated by Christopher Moltisanti from beyond the grave in a fashion which provides reasonably elegant gallows humour. Christopher appears only as an infant, though an infant with a prescient aversion to teenage Tony that provokes superstitious comment. The film is about his dad Dickie, as played by Alessandro Nivola. Nivola’s character developes the central strength of the film, which is also one of the central strengths of The Sopranos – the peculiar theology of wiseguydom. Dickie becomes a prison visitor to his hitherto neglected Uncle Sal. He doesn’t want to be a “bad guy” and is obsessed with whatever “good deeds” might tip the scale weighed against the enormity of his crimes – to the point where he starts to coach a baseball team for blind kids. Nobody, it seems wants to be regarded as a bad person. Dickie Moltisanti, meanwhile, never yet grasps that there can be no redemption for him while he continues to “live the life”, that damnation (however defined) is the inevitable predicate of a successful mobster identity.

In 1967, Newark burns, and amid the flames we grasp a new kind of black power narrative which goes hand in hand with a “white flight” out of New Jersey’s biggest city. Alongside the story of Dickie Moltisanti we get the story of Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jn) which demonstrates how the Black Power movement impacts upon the gangster community and its alliances and chains of command and influence. No longer are the likes of Harold to be patronised by the likes of Dickie.

Vera Farmiga excels as Livia. Everything about her feels true to the character we feel we already know. And yet the very accuracy of the performance draws attention to the defining tension of the film. Is this a stand-alone narrative or is this fan service? There are things we expect to see and hints we expect to see expanded on, and of course characters we expect to see “in character”. In some ways, watching such a film you find yourself moving back and forth between the two incompatible roles of fully immersed movie goer and Soprano’s aficionado. Part of you is gripped by the narrative and the other half is box-ticking. this feels uncomfortable at times.

Michael Gandolfini, understandably, fits one’s perception of a teenage Tony to a tee. He is, as his school psych report notes – a “leader” and with his pals Jackie Aprile and Artie Bucco he initiates inventive forms of delinquency. From the outset there is a sense that Tony is someone to be owned – someone to be steered, fed, nurtured and cultivated and he emerges very young as the biggest imponderable in New Jersey underworld. From the moment we see him, he seems to be a factor in every adult calculation. He’s a young man of destiny.

The ending of the film involves a “WHOOAH!” reveal which will change the way you rewatch The Sopranos for ever.

Because you are going to rewatch The Sopranos aren’t you? I know we are.

The Perverse Grammar of “Good Morning, Good Morning”.

Good morning, good morning
One, two, three, four

Nothing to do to save his life, call his wife in
Nothing to say but what a day, how’s your boy been
Nothing to do it’s up to you,
I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK

Going to work don’t want to go feeling low down
Heading for home you start to roam then you’re in town
Everybody knows there’s nothing doing
Everything is closed it’s like a ruin
Everyone you see is half asleep
And you’re on your own, you’re in the street

After a while you start to smile, now you feel cool
Then you decide to take a walk by the old school
Nothing has changed, it’s still the same
I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK

People running round it’s five o’clock,
Everywhere in town it’s getting dark,
Everyone you see is full of life,
It’s time for tea and meet the wife

Somebody needs to know the time, glad that I’m here
Watching the skirts you start to flirt now you’re in gear
Go to a show you hope she goes
I’ve got nothing to say, but it’s OK

Good morning, good morning

Geoff Lloyd, a witty and perceptive contributor to the superlative “I am the EggPod” series hosted by Chris Shaw, noted with some irritation the confusion of pronouns employed in this song. His irritation became my fascination.

Perhaps an obvious thing to be said is that gargantuan LSD intake is going to play havoc with your pronouns. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” For much of 1966 and 1967, Lennon was well placed to describe what it feels to look down on himself, call down to himself, and describe himself with something resembling ethereal detachment. What seems to have happened with this song, however, is that Lennon’s chemically enhanced pronoun flexibility has somehow been adapted to describe the mundane and the repetitive.

The dominant pronoun employed in the central section of this song is what you might call the “Observational Comedian’s Second Person”. Imagine someone in a shiny suit, spotlit in a darkened club who begins a monologue with “…you know how it is when you’re sitting on the bus minding you’re own business when suddenly…” The comic is actually saying “I”, “You” and “We” simultaneously, with the “you” providing a cajoling pronoun – a pronoun of recruitment. “This is my experience – isn’t it yours too? Aren’t we together?”

Lennon starts the song by looking down rather sneeringly, using the third person, while quickly dropping in a first person so as to make it clear that the frustrated central character and the narrator are one. The observational comedian’s second person then becomes a plea for empathy which may go unanswered as the more bare and honest first person returns at the end.

Lennon in subsequent interviews described this song as a throwaway piece of garbage – written only out of pressure to contribute something to Pepper. Yet in some ways the pressure of workaday obligation is very much the subject of the song. Boredom is not a dishonest emotion and a genius can make boredom exhilarating.

Of course it’s an astonishing team performance, accommodating one of Paul’s most arresting and powerful guitar solos and showcasing some of Ringo’s best drumming – which binds together a song so rhythmically unorthodox it otherwise threatens to fall apart at any moment. And then there’s John’s vocal delivery. Only John could manage to sound threatening and hilarious at the same time quite like this.

Despite being repudiated by its author as a song without personal investment, it actually looks very autobiographical. It’s a Reggie Perrin song, written from the perspective of someone who feels prematurely middle aged. Lennon at this time was unhappily married and living in the stockbroker belt. He felt he was “going through the motions” of adult existence. And like Reggie Perrin a decade later, he felt very disassociated from the person other people expected him to be. Neglectful of his wife, his son, and himself – he started to think of himself as a passenger rather than a driver (although he was a terrible driver) and the jagged brass-enforced bounciness of the song reinforces this sense of lack of control.

Lennon complained about McCartney writing boring songs about boring people doing boring things. Lennon was always within a hemi-demi-semi quaver of turning an unfair accusation against Macca into a plausible self accusation and in this song the boring person doing boring things is Lennon himself – and yet with the dubious help of LSD, Lennon can throw pronouns to the wind and accuse himself of being boring in the most entertaining way, With this rather wonderful song, the mundane and the trippy become one.

The dominant personality in this song is about to head down to Dorset and leave all his (my/your) clothes on the beach.