Joy: The Beatles, “Here Comes The Sun” (1969)

Tarzan & his mate 3

Easter 2018

This is a movie hook post that wants to become a music hook post.

I’m starting with an image from Tarzan and His Mate (1934), one of a number of production stills in which Maureen O’Sullivan looks very happy indeed to be with Tarzan. This image is my favorite because her happiness is so brilliant and pure, undistorted by Hollywood calculations. It doesn’t ask you to ogle; or rather what it asks you to ogle is something more stimulating than an unclad movie star in a sexually suggestive position, namely, the possibility of utterly triumphant happiness. We see the happiness in a specific relationship at a specific moment, but it seems to be shooting out like a gusher from a vast human reservoir of joy.

Disclosure: I have this taped up on the shade behind my computer. Maureen O’Sullivan is my pin-up! Not because I have reveries about her as my playmate, but because her eyes are lined up with Tarzan’s in an affirmation that goes beyond anything on the plane of “kiss me, hold me.” For her, the universe with Tarzan is just the coolest thing.

I get the feeling also that Tarzan is her delightful surprise. Not a jolt at all, but a very friendly surprise prompting a new surge of wellness, a positive “Oh really!” Really, he’s here, and–surprise in herself–she has that much energy to radiate.

Now I can make the turn to music. When I think of where the most notable surges of happiness come in pop music, I usually find an element of friendly surprise, a joltless being snuck up upon. “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles, 1969) is the unavoidable example and a good opportunity to give George Harrison some Hooks love.

The whole idea of it is the sun sneaking up on us, dearly familiar despite what seems a long absence. There is a musical sneaking up too. Once the refrain and “Little darling” verses have set an amiable tone, the simple but unusually long and ever more insistent “Sun, sun, sun” bridge takes us from gentle to tremendous, its nifty triplets becoming celestial orbits.

Contrast this with a ragingly joyful anthem like “Lazy Day” by Spanky and Our Gang (1967):

No sneaking up or surprise about this one. It’s celebration wall to wall.

I’m more encouraged by sneaky beauty because it comes to me as though from the great Unknown, the great Chance that something not so great could always hit me next and I might not have enough to meet it. It boosts me where I’m vulnerable. George’s understatement, “Here comes the sun, it’s all right”–so pure and so bravely strategic–sneaks into us, as the bridge does even moreso when the bridge carries the ball.

And every person sneaks into us. How could Tarzan have been foreseen or guaranteed? Or George? Or myself rising to greet him? Sun, sun, sun of man!

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About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Passions & Attitudes, Rock, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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