Cue the music. Bring on the noise. Fanfare. Hoopla. Hurrahs all around. Shouts and screams and shiny things. Reverberations. Feedback. Busted drums beating like mad. Tambourines shaking like a nervous night. What does it mean? Everything and nothing. Who will hear it? No one and everywhere and all the time.
The “Carnival of Light” was an avant-garde studio piece by the Beatles. Or perhaps it was a moment in time that lingers in the mind that never actually took shape or form but might have or should have. You can catch little tantalizing glimpses of the experimental piece here and there on the nifty thing they call the Internet. Click on a site that purports to play the song, only it won’t. You can do that as many times as you like until you tire of it. You can see an interview with Paul McCartney describing it in detail as if it actually exists. But then if it exists, how come we can’t hear it? Will we ever? Who knows? Does it matter? Maybe. Probably not.
New York City is similar to the Carnival of Light sometimes from my small-town southern perspective. Bizarre. Loud. Nonsensical. Although it definitely exists, it is often way out there. Sometimes way, way out there. Walk along the Hudson River Esplanade, a tree-lined path I love to traverse, until you come to the very tip of it where you can see the Statue of Liberty. Now look in the complete opposite direction of the Statue of Liberty and you will see some great public art. What is that? You tell me.
It’s a piece of public art called “Eyes.” That’s what it is. But it’s not. It’s a big pair of boobs with nipples on them. That’s also what it is. That’s mainly what it is. If you came to New York to see a big pair of boobs with nipples, this is your spot. One of many, I suppose. But maybe the only one you can enjoy in public every day of your stay here.
When you begin to feel slightly perverted staring at the boobs, move away from them and walk over to the famous Wall Street Bull, a hard-charging symbol of capitalism. There you can find tourists taking picture of the bull. Nothing wrong with that, right? No. That’s fine. Except for this one little myth that rubbing the bull’s balls will make you wealthy. Apparently everyone knows this myth. For fun one day I stood there taking pictures of tourists rubbing the bull’s balls. I sat there watching that happen for far too long. They got really inventive in their poses rubbing the bull’s balls. One lady got underneath the bull and stuck out her tongue like she was about to lick the bull’s balls. Many of the tourists were from other countries, but I never heard her say anything. So, I was just left hoping she wasn’t from Des Moines, Iowa and was from a tiny repressed Eastern European country with an active monarchy.
You have seen boobs and balls. What more do you want? I have a suggestion.
Go to Nelson A. Rockefeller Park where a sculpture garden will absolutely blow your mind. It’s an indictment of capitalism in a city that seems dedicated to the almighty dollar. Faceless figurines in all kinds of poses with animals. It’s complex and beautiful and bewildering. That’s with the art historian laying it all out. Without her, even more so. At the end of the tour, she drops a bombshell in response to a question. The artist killed a dog once as part of a performance piece. It was a very old sick dog that was taken from a shelter where he was going to die anyway. So he played his final part in some strange piece. An unwilling victim in the Carnival of Light.
It’s probably better to never hear the Beatles “Carnival of Light.” The descriptions of it are so evocative “distorted, hypnotic drum sounds” and Lennon and McCarthy shouting native American war cries and randomly screaming “Barcelona.” The fact that it was attempted is everything. In one interview Paul McCartney said George Harrison had vetoed it’s inclusion on Anthology. It’s time hadn’t come. Maybe it never will. It’s like the music on the lost track from the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers” that was destroyed or perhaps wasn’t by Eddie who is dead or maybe isn’t. He was trying to make music that was so far ahead of its time no one appreciated it. Not even those making it.
The Beatles released some amazing music. But maybe this one should remain forever unplayed. Harrison said “Carnival of Light” was “avant-garde a clue.” It’s the mythical holy grail of Beatles songs that flirts on the edge of consciousness. I would love to hate to hear it. I’m pretty sure of that.