Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Sky Pilot" (1968)

67. Eric Burdon & the Animals, "Sky Pilot" (June 22, 1968, #14)

Back in the day, I probably would have named the Animals as my favorite British Invasion act, not that I didn't appreciate the Kinks or the Stones or the good old Beatles, but just because I liked the Animals radio songs of 1964 and 1965 the best overall. But that was mostly over by the time of this, which more or less represented their take on (or rip-off of) the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," which in turn goes to show not only how desperate they were by that point, but also how fortunate in managing to get it onto the charts at all. Still, it's somehow endlessly fascinating for me. It finds its vaguely anti-war stance—in some ways, from certain frames of mind, it could arguably be taken as pro-war by dint of the kind of "support our troops" mentality that so thoroughly suffuses the issue nowadays—by locating its focus in Europe's war to end all wars (for those keeping track historically), World War I, with a perhaps entirely coincidental nod to the comic strip "Peanuts," then at the height of its commercial popularity (thinking of Snoopy and the Red Baron, which the Royal Guardsmen had made into a pop song franchise a year or two earlier, but I know I could be reaching here). The psychedelic breaks in the Beatles song, triggered by the straightforward message of "I'd love to turn you on," are here set in motion by "How high can you fly?" and apparent memories of a battle scene, airplanes droning and machine-gun fire, originating by implication from the fevered brain of a battle-fatigued veteran, which might anyway explain the bagpipes as something remembered from funerals. I don't know. It works pretty well in spite of itself, wielding a certain mysterious power, even if the Animals by this point were flaming out as surely as the airplanes heard in this song.

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