Shortly after the beginning of 2012, I discovered that I am either an obsessive Beatles fan, or I am not an obsessive Beatles fan.
Let me explain. I went to a party on New Year’s Eve which was hosted by a friend of mine. Because it had been decided in advance that guests were to dress “appropriately” at this party, my friend (the host) was wearing a seersucker suit with a shirt and tie, but no shoes or socks. This, I thought, was an excellent choice. For a variety of reasons.
First of all, what better way to say, “Welcome to my house, motherfuckers!” than to combine formal dress and bare feet? It’s like, “Sure, look sharp—just don’t forget to take off your shoes!” Were I comfortable with not wearing shoes and socks for extended periods of time (which I am not) and in the habit of inviting numerous people into my home at the same time (which I am not), I would definitely adopt this technique in order to express genuine hospitality while simultaneously exercising soft power.
Second reason: my friend used to play drums in a metal band, a fact I was reminded of while engaged in a conversation—still at the party—about the various merits of seersucker, as a fabric. It was agreed upon that the seersucker suit sans footwear would be the appropriate costume for members of a heavy metal band made up of Southern Gentlemen. “But what ought such a formation to be called?” wondered my audience, to which I answered (not missing a beat), “As I Lay Daying,” implicitly acknowledging William Faulkner's noted admiration of seersucker. I have since learned that there is in existence, in fact, a heavy metal band (from San Diego, my hometown, of all places) with this name. Unfortunately, they do not appear to be in the habit of wearing seersucker suits while barefoot.
Finally and by far most significantly, at some point in the evening, I remarked that my friend resembled Paul McCartney in 1969, referencing (of course) the hugely famous cover of the Beatles’ hugely famous album, Abbey Road (first row, left).* Semi-drunkenly, I retrieved my iPhone from my pocket for photographic evidence of the stated comparison. Little did I know, pulling up Abbey Road in the music library, that my mind would be fucking blown.
You see, believing Phil Spector to be slightly more insane than he is genius/messianic,** I have the 2009 stereo remasters of the Beatles’ catalogue on my iPhone, and until New Year’s Eve, I had never noticed that with the remastered record comes a “remastered” album cover (first row, right). A number of minor elements of the two photographs are different: the automobile in the background, the position of the frame and the color of the sky (these may simply be due to the digital-ness of the photos), and the directions John and Paul are facing, especially. There is one enormous difference, however, which you can see me discovering—and pointing out to my friend—in the above photo (second row): Paul is not barefoot. He is wearing sandals. Flip-flops. Mandals. Fucking mandals.
Upon recognizing this phenomenon, I initially let the astonishment subside, not allowing it to ruin my evening, driving me into existential confusion. Yet, in the days since, I have not been able to stop thinking about this, or adequately answer the torrent of questions this discovery has unleashed in my mind. Photoshop? Was the photographer (or Paul) undecided as to whether sandals or bare feet would produce a better “look” for the photograph? Were the bare feet an improvisation? Why change the photograph? Is this some sort of subliminal dissuasion from going barefoot in public? Or is this merely a cheeky joke (see “remaster” above) intended for the most diehard of Beatles fans, overlooked by the more casual listener/viewer? Which of these am I? Does any of this really matter?
The answer to these questions—of course, and as always—is that I’m not really sure. I will continue thinking about this until either (a) I come up with answers, in which case I will post them here, or (b) I dismiss all of this as nonsense and promptly forget about it.
*See also Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (2007): obvious homage to Sir McCartney.
**I know, of course, that Phil Spector did not produce Abbey Road. This is clearly a “Back to Mono” reference—i.e., I am not a fucking idiot.