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

October 3, 2021

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.

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