In the movie "Poltergeist,"
a child sneaks out of bed to sit on the floor,
rapt, before the TV, listening to static
and watching the radiant snow
of channels that have gone off the air
for the night. We listen, too, begin to hear
a fine broth of witchy, whispery, just-barely-
incomprehensible voices. Later the girl
is drawn into and through the TV screen,
lost in a world of dislocated spirits.
Her parents strain to hear her voice there.
We all know that fascination with static
trying to become voice, meaning fading
in and out of gibberish. Who has not
repeated a word over and over until it
begins to lose, regain, lose, change, lose, regain
meaning as rapidly as sea changes beneath
a sky dappled with swift-blown clouds?
Who has not tried to decipher the secrets
hidden in songs like "I Am a Walrus",
that dip in and out of verbal chaos,
or Louie Loueye, with its blurred lyrics?
Number nine, number nine, number nine....
(With what glee some discovered a secret Beatle message --
send in for YOUR code ring TODAY, Video Rangers! --
"Paul is dead," they announced. It must have been
true, because it was concealed in gibberish.
It still is.)
Note: I feel better about the future if I assume (foolishly)
that no one will ever need a footnote to understand the references
to the Beatles and their work. In case some have forgotten, the
"Number nine" line comes from one of their least impressive
experiments, so I don't mind referring you to the long version of
"Revolution" on the White Album. "Louie Loueye"
is not Beatles, of course (people who say "of course"
in such contexts are pompous asses), but from earlier rock. (I don't
recall the name of the group, sorry. Ask Google.)
I did know people who, in 1968, were certain, from various signs
and symbols in the Beatles albums (particularly Abbey Road) that
Paul had died, and that this was being covered up. They entertained
themselves greatly with decoding the signs. In 1980, John died,
and that wasn't entertaining at all. (Actually, it filled the news
for weeks, so I suppose some found it entertaining. If it doesn't
entertain, it never makes the news.) Now George has moved on as
well, only Paul and Ringo remaining. And lots of great songs, for
those who can value anything NOT concealed in gibberish.