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The story in "Norwegian Wood"
22 January 2013
6.52pm
RunForYourLife
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Does the narrator... get physical with "the bird" or not? There are two interpretations I can see...

 

1) They don't. They get drunk, she shows him the room, but instead of doing the nasty, she tells him that she has work in the morning, and he goes to sleep alone in the bath.

 

2) They do. She brings him to the room, the instrumental break represents their engaging in "relations" but when he wants to go for another round, she tells him she has work in the morning and he goes to sleep alone in the bath.

 

However, I have problems with both interpretations. In the case of the former, it seems like he would just get out of there if he wasn't going to get any. In the case of the latter, it doesn't seem like that'd be reason enough to set her house on fire.

 

Thoughts?

22 January 2013
8.05pm
CremeTangerine13
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My interpretation was that he was unsure if he wanted to sleep with her or not, or him wanting to end the affair. 

For example, the line "she told me to sit anywhere, so I looked around and noticed there wasn't a chair", I always imagined there was maybe just a bed in the the room, so instead of sitting on the bed and inviting a sexual encounter, he sits on the rug.  

Then he's biding his time by talking, then when she says she has to work in the morning, she's kind of saying "are you coming to bed or not, I don't have all night". So he basically says "I don't have to work, so I can stay up all night if I want", so crawls in the bathtub instead to sleep. 

He then decides to burn down the place because, maybe it holds to many memories, or it signifies the affair finally being over("this bird has flown"). She "once had' him, but no longer does.

So, in my opinion they never become physical. 

 

 

 

22 January 2013
8.18pm
DrBeatle
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I always saw it as the guy trying to seduce the woman, who shoots him down by saying she had to work, so he sleeps in the bath dejected and in the morning when she leaves, he gets revenge by torching the place.

"I know you, you know me; one thing I can tell you is you got to be free!"

 

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22 January 2013
9.03pm
parlance
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This has been my all-time favorite Beatle song for years, but I didn't hear about the torching twist until a couple of months ago. So, I thought the song could be interpreted two ways, and I liked the ambiguity:

1) He sleeps with her (sharing RunforYourLife's interpretation of the music interlude) then she banishes him to the bathtub. I just figured she didn't want him hanging around expecting breakfast. She leaves for work and he lights a fire in the fireplace, hanging out, maybe waiting for her to come back, hoping for another go. 'Cause he's a loser like that.

2) He doesn't sleep with her, he gets banished to the bathtub. She leaves for work and he lights a fire in the fireplace, hanging out, maybe waiting for her to come back, hoping for a second chance. 'Cause he's a loser like that.

I'm wasn't happy about the crazypants twist, so I don't acknowledge it. :-> But Paul said in MYFN that the guy's been led on ("being had") and he seeks revenge, so I would take that to mean he didn't sleep with her.

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

22 January 2013
9.16pm
meanmistermustard
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In my head they never get it on. Looking at the lyrics i would say she was keen at the beginning, inviting him back to her room. They spent time talking before she made the move, he and/or she was nervous and needed a drink or two, until she made the big move of saying "its two o'clock its now or never and i need to get up in the morning". He backs out and slinks off to sleep in the bath (maybe he had nowhere else to go since it was an affair). In the morning the girl has gone and in the singers frustration he burns the place down.

I know that Paul came up with the setting the place on fire line but considering No Reply, You Cant Do That, Run For Your Life and a few others this fits in to my theory of a mad nutter who you dont piss off EVER. For it not happening that night the outcome is torching the place, regardless of the details its what you get for a fruitless evening. This would be normal for a guy who stalks an ex who ditched him, befriends and dates her sister, drives her into an insane and paranoia ravaged being, and boils her pet rabbit.

 

He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief and whatever thoughts we have... to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is. (John Lennon - 27/8/67)
22 January 2013
9.34pm
Zig
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My interpretation says they never bumped uglies.two-virgins

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22 January 2013
9.38pm
parlance
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I forgot about the "affair" angle - another twist I previously didn't know. I figured it was a one-night stand in which she lost interest.

Interesting theory, mmm, tying all those together.

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

22 January 2013
9.42pm
Funny Paper
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This came up in another post a while ago.

I disagreed with the "Pauline" exegesis:

http://www.beatlesbible.com/fo.....-2/#p61323

Another commenter, Ben Ramon, agreed with me:

http://www.beatlesbible.com/fo.....-2/#p61372

And I added another afterthought:

http://www.beatlesbible.com/fo.....-2/#p61396

 

 

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
23 January 2013
12.47am
parlance
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Note that the song doesn't state whether the guy was told to sleep in the tub or he volunteered. I would think if she liked the guy, she'd let him sleep somewhere comfortable.

Depending on the mood I'm in, I can go with the contemplative Lennon as he sits in the tub or stares at the fire image. Right now I feel feisty, so I'm more into the idea the woman was like, "cripes, just leave already." ;->

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

23 January 2013
5.15am
Funny Paper
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parlance said
Note that the song doesn't state whether the guy was told to sleep in the tub or he volunteered. I would think if she liked the guy, she'd let him sleep somewhere comfortable.

The lyrics imply -- in I think a clever subtle way -- that her "pad" was so spartan she literally didn't have a place for him to sleep ("I noticed there wasn't a chair") -- and given the newness of their relationship (and apparently the chemistry wasn't quite clicking enough for her -- you know how "women are", got to have everything right, lol), she wasn't ready to have him sleep with her.  To me, the detail about sleeping in the bath nicely conveys that he was holding out hope; but who knows, maybe it was also a matter of him being tired (it was 2:00 am at that point) and he didn't feel like the long drive home (or maybe they hadn't come there by car at all, and he'd have to take a bus home or walk, and maybe he lived too far to make that a comfortable prospect).

I mean, there are all sorts of subtle circumstances that occur in real life that don't need to be stipulated in a poem or song that can just be implied.  The sleeping in the bath (and leaving out the "torching the place" angle) to me simultaneously conveys disappointment, and a lingering of hope.  So while she's at work, he lingers at her place, makes a fire in the fireplace, and broods.  Maybe he'll stay long enough to wait for her to return home again.  After all, she let him stay in her apartment alone while she went off; maybe they can try what sputtered the first time around, and things will... *rekindle*...

To me, this is a much more satisfying scenario -- and truer to the spirit of the mood of the song -- than the "torching" ending, which strikes me as rather gauche and un-literary.  Sort of like taking a story of wit and realism and letting Stephen King butcher the ending.

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23 January 2013
3.02pm
DrBeatle
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Zig said
My interpretation says they never bumped uglies.two-virgins

 

Mine, too (see above). Although interestingly enough, it's almost certainly about Robert Freeman's wife (who John and Cynthia lived above in London before they moved to Kenwood), and they most certainly *did* bump uglies! (as noted in both Cynthia's book and Philip Norman's Lennon bio).

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23 January 2013
4.10pm
Sky999
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CremeTangerine13 said
My interpretation was that he was unsure if he wanted to sleep with her or not, or him wanting to end the affair. 

For example, the line "she told me to sit anywhere, so I looked around and noticed there wasn't a chair", I always imagined there was maybe just a bed in the the room, so instead of sitting on the bed and inviting a sexual encounter, he sits on the rug.  

Then he's biding his time by talking, then when she says she has to work in the morning, she's kind of saying "are you coming to bed or not, I don't have all night". So he basically says "I don't have to work, so I can stay up all night if I want", so crawls in the bathtub instead to sleep. 

He then decides to burn down the place because, maybe it holds to many memories, or it signifies the affair finally being over("this bird has flown"). She "once had' him, but no longer does.

So, in my opinion they never become physical. 

Or I could be reading into the song too much. 

(Hope this makes sense)

 

a-hard-days-night-ringo-8Thats sort of I've interpreted too. That or maybe there was mix signaling, but either way I don't think anything happened.  

 

23 January 2013
4.40pm
Zig
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DrBeatle said

Zig said
My interpretation says they never bumped uglies.two-virgins

 

Mine, too (see above).

Yeah, your interpretation matches mine except for the 'he gets revenge by torching the place' part.

But don't think I had not considered that as a possibility, DrB.

To the fountain of perpetual mirth, Let it roll for all its worth.

Every Little Thing you buy from Amazon or iTunes will help the Beatles Bible if you use these links: Amazon | iTunes

23 January 2013
4.45pm
vonbontee
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My initial interpretation was: They sleep together (that instrumental break again being the soundtrack); afterward, she wants to talk or be "intimate"; he doesn't, and abandons her for the bathtub. Next morning, finding himself alone, he either lights a nice fire in the fireplace, or maybe smokes a contemplative joint. But I first heard the song when I was a typical sex-obsessed teen, which affected my interpretation: It seemed inconceivable to me, at the time, that a woman could ply a man with drinks until 2am, then say "It's time for bed" and NOT mean sex! (As opposed to "I'm going to sleep now, let yourself out" or whatever.)

And the notion of arson never, ever came up.

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23 January 2013
5.01pm
DrBeatle
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I've always taken that last line as purposely ambiguous on John's part...he could be just lighting a fire, or he could burn the place down (either literally or metaphorically). The reason I always took it as arson is because of the popularity (at that time in the 60s) of Norwegian Wood paneling in many homes. *shrug* That's the beauty of the lyrics, they can be interpreted in oh so many ways...

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23 January 2013
5.15pm
vonbontee
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Exactly! It doesn't say where he lit a fire - I always either assumed it was either in the fireplace or a hash pipe.

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24 January 2013
10.31pm
Linde
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I thought one of them actually said the ''I lit a fire'' part was about burning the house down as some kind of revenge?

DrBeatle pretty much described what I thought the song was about.

25 January 2013
5.08am
Egroeg Evoli
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I always thought that the first time he says "Isn't it good Norwegian Wood," he was referring to the paneling, and just commenting on the girl's house, and then the next time he says it, it's sorta sarcastic, like "Oh yeah, isn't it good Norwegian Wood that I burned down?"

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25 January 2013
6.18am
frankdialogue
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The Beatles put a lot of little twists in their songs, and this song has a few.

Paul talks about how the song was written in his biography; John had the basic chords, basic melody and the first lines: 'I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me'.

That was it, and they finished it together...Paul might have put in the bridge, and he wrote some of the words, especially the last verse, which he described as 'the guy getting his revenge by burning her place down'.

So, the exact relationship between the protagonist and the girl was left to the imagination, including 'who had who'...Paul said that John had a specific affair in mind when he got the initial idea.

John and Paul combined on much of the 'Rubber Soul' material.

25 January 2013
9.05am
Funny Paper
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Well, I'm sticking to my story.  Sometimes a strange thing occurs -- the artist may be wrong about his own work!  I think Paul and John missed out on a wonderfully subtle interpretation to this song.  But it doesn't matter: the song speaks for itself with a marvelous ambiguity; and the Pauline/Johannine exegesis has to be read into it: it's not just plainly indisputably there.

 

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