I’m someone who has always loved hearing and learning stories, and ever since I was young, many of my favorite songs have been those with distinct, unique stories embedded in them. For me, the depth and coherence of a narrative structure can combine beautifully with the emotional and aesthetic intensity of music to create masterpieces of art. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that one of my favorite bands, Twiddle, has many songs that tell vivid stories to the listeners and feature a wide cast of iconic characters.
“Beethoven and Greene,” however, doesn’t have characters of its own, but instead is about stories in general and about how we are each the protagonists of our own life stories. As the song progresses, the lyrics bring the listener through the archetypal hero’s journey, while the structure mirrors a traditionally told story, repeated through generations.
Instead of creating a character of their own for “Beethoven and Greene,” Twiddle instead tells a story about “you.” In doing so, they make the hero’s journey more real and universal for listeners, as something that everyone can experience. This universality is also noticeable in the rather general, almost cliche aspects of adventure laid out in the song: leaving home on a train, a magic incantation, a gate that must be opened, and most centrally, the potion that grants the drinker their true self and best life. The potion, as the central focus of the song, represents everything that we hope to gain from the adventures of our lives: happiness, wisdom, purity, confidence, etc.
Aside from the hero’s journey nature of the lyrics, other elements of “Beethoven and Greene” suggest to me a story being told time and time again, undergoing changes but still suggesting the same universal truth of a quest towards betterment. Listening to the song for the first time, it’s unlikely that the listener will catch all of the details and specifics of the story, but will still be able to recognize its main theme and plot. This is especially true in for the first chorus. It’s dense and complex, and not easily sung along to, but in the first few listens I was still able to pick out “….all your past doubts….wake up and hope….a little sunshine….pick up and go,” where the pace slows down at the end of each line. This is just like when you’re being told a story by someone: many of the details are lost, but certain words, phrases, punchlines are remembered, along with the general theme and message of the story. When you then tell the story to someone else, you’ll likely add your own flair and details of your own, changing the story while keeping some core constant.
The second chorus comes into play here. It’s the easiest part of the lyrics to understand and learn, and thus takes the role of the core of the story. Even it is not immune to being changed, since the melody of the chorus is changed after it is sung once and this original melody is never repeated, but after the lengthy instrumental section, which I take to be a jump forward through time, it is all that remains of the lyrics, as the core of the story is carried into the future.
I could go on, there’s so much to this song, but this post has become a behemoth as is, so I’ll leave the rest for you to discover as you enter Beethoven and Greene!