31
Oct 09

The Most Important Game Ever Made #18: F.A.B.

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Well, after a week of hard conventioneering, I’m back in the saddle to talk about ‘Drive My Car’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36GHY9nLrhU

Soothing stuff and fun to play, as I remember. I bashed this one out before I left, in the hope that I’d have time to write a column on it while I was away, but even after I got back on Wednesday I was still too dead to do more than gaze listlessly at it. Even now, I’m just going to cobble together some random thoughts and hope I can pull myself together enough to keep the momentum up until Budokan ends, the sessions start and things really get crazy. Anyway, a few spoilers:

SPOILER: There is no car.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeFSu7NWXBs

SPOILER II: When you win yourself one of the special in-game factoids for this level, it’s revealed to you that when McCartney came up with the song, the chorus was along the lines of ‘baby you can buy me golden rings’. What’s with the rings? McCartney can’t seem to get through any song without an expensive ring transaction getting involved. The man’s got rings on the brain. Anyway, Lennon stepped in and changed it to driving a car and the song went a lot more smoothly after that.

SPOILER III: ‘Baby, you can drive my car’ is what the girl in the song says, not the guy. It’s a really masculine song – musically, it’s a growling, roaring engine, with the main riff kind of leaning back in the driving seat with shades on and a toothpick in its mouth. It’s practically a song by ZZ Top. I must have half-listened to this song a hundred times, and every single time until I picked up that plastic guitar and actually listened to it, I assumed that it was the guy telling the girl she could drive his car. You can’t blame me – it’s McCartney doing the singing, after all, and as we’ve discovered, the man’s a Pimp Daddy. He was going to make this song all about rings, for God’s sake. Golden rings. Anyway, this is a very sexy, macho song about someone being co-opted as a lifestyle accessory in a highly sexualised way, and it’s a woman co-opting a man, which feels very rare in the sixties. Seriously, is there a single British pop cultural figure who a) is a woman, b) has a sexy relationship with their servant/chauffeur and c) is primarily remembered for their car? I can’t think of one.

SPOILER IV: Lady Penelope made her debut on UK television about a month before this song was recorded.

SPOILER V: This is a song all about fame. Does that even need a spoiler? They all are at this point. The whole of the Budokan set is about being a celebrity. The Budokan set itself is about being a celebrity – if they wanted to do the historic last ever Beatles tour gig, it wasn’t in Japan. (San Francisco, I think. Probably maybe.) But Japan is, stereotypically, where bands are Famous. If you want to talk about What Fame Is, this is a good backdrop for talking about it. And in this case, Being A Star and Having A Car – a big pink limo that needs a willing slavegoon to drive it – are the same thing. Yeah, kid, you’ve got good ‘prospects’, whatever that means, you can work for peanuts, that’s fine – or you could become part of The Fame Thing, you can Drive The Car, you can be Parker to someone else’s Penelope, Epstein to someone else’s Beatles – either way you’re not in the limelight, but realistically you never would have been. This way you get to bask in the glow. Can you resist that?

The Car is waiting for you. Except:

SPOILER VI: There is no car. Celebrity is an invention, and from the inside – and the Beatles are very far inside by now in only about five years – it looks pretty easy to build from nothing at all. Yeah, it’s a comedy song, and a real hoot and a holler back in the sixties, but here and now, inside the spectacle, that’s how we operate. You want to be famous? The quickest way is just to make everybody believe it.

If you want the car, the first step is getting some sucker to drive for you.

NEXT: George takes on Harold Wilson.

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