Blue Jay Way - The Beatles

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"Blue Jay Way" - The Beatles (1967)

The origins of “Blue Jay Way” was when George Harrison was waiting for Beatles publicist Derek Taylor and friends in a Los Angeles home he was saying in. Harrison wrote the song as he waited for them. They never arrived.

The vocals, organ, and drums were played on two tape machines slightly out of sync to get the phasing effect. The organ at the start of the song sets the setting with an eerie, foggy mood. The line “Don’t Be Long” is repeated 29 times.

“Blue Jay Way” is yet another Indian raving by George Harrison that you either love or hate depending on your particular mood. It’s very slow, moody and lethargic with a very dangerous-sounding edge to it.

Russian music critic George Starostin pointed out how the track’s lyrics, perfectly match this mood - close your eyes and you’ll find yourself floating in the same fog as well.

Nicholas Schaffner writes in The Beatles Forever, that in this song Harrison retains his mystical drone, supplied here by his Hammond organ instead of the customary tampuras. This helps evoke both the fog and the monotony of waiting all night for people to arrive.

“Blue Jay Way” is dominated by two brief musical ideas, both of which unfold over a sustained tone provided by an organ. Terence O’Grady says that while the instruments used are exclusively western- including a cello which provides prominent countermelodies- the piece achieves an unusually exotic- if not exactly Indian- effect by its use of unusual interval patterns and sharp dissonances sustained against the pedal.

The arrangement, according to Beatle scholar Alan Pollack, is:

“a veritable kitchen-sink mix of various special recording and mixing effects used by the Beatles over the course of the ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ albums, with the texture generally increasing in thickness and intensity over the course of the piece.”

He adds that the verses are all one beat shy of a full, even eight measures; a gesture which subtly conveys the impatience of waiting longer than you think you should have to:

“I find this compositionally very impressive to the extent that it all ‘sounds’ improvised, yet anyone who has played in a group knows that you can’t just make this kind of thing up as you go along; it takes careful planning.”

The deeper meaning of the composition is that it may be a metaphor of those people who “lose their souls” in the fog of materialism.

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