Redrum Road: The Sgt. Pepper Connection



This next part will take a little more explanation, but hopefully your socks are about to get thoroughly sucked into a black hole of offness.

So we’ll start with a pattern of coincidences I noticed while tracking Danny’s trike rides and his maze runs. First off, what do you see here?

Danny’s first four turns with his trike, and his last four escapes from the maze are left turns. That’s odd.

And what’s this?

Danny’s first maze walk with Wendy and his first escape series from Jack follow a similar pattern, only these are mirror images of each other.

1st Maze Walk goes: RRL LRL LRL
The 1st Escape goes: LRL LRL LRR

Up next, a parallel.

Danny’s 2nd trike ride and his 2nd maze run go LRRR (trike) and LRRR (maze).

And his 3rd ride and 3rd maze run go RL and LR, another mirrorform.

But what’s interesting there is that Danny’s backward walk comes between those LR turns, so I wonder if that has something to do with this:

This is a fairly dispensable observation, but it is notable that both Danny and Jack do a major backward walk (as you can see below, Wendy does a bunch of little ones and the more major lounge fight, but I don’t know if they’re related to this). And Jack’s happens in 237, which will get real important in a second.

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But first, let’s recap.

  • The first “lesson” and the last “escape” are both LLLL.
  • The second lesson and the first escape are RRL LRL LRL and LRL LRL LRR, perfect reflections.
  • The third lesson and the second escape are the same again, LRRR.
  • And the fourth lesson and the third escape are mirrors again, with the escape split somewhat by Danny’s backward walk, RL and L*R.

So, if we assign the lessons the numbers 1234, then the order they apply to the escapes is 2341.

1 234/234 1 — Got that? Okay. Now check this out.

This is the same pattern as we among the four bird paintings in room 237, and the four (technically five) bird stickers on Danny’s door in Boulder. Right down to the first and last being two different blue-headed, brown-winged, white-bodied birds.

1 234 234 1

I call these bird arrangements the two “keys”. What’s interesting is the first key we see (on Danny’s door) correlates to the last series of escapes, while the second key correlates to the order of the first series of lessons. So, chronologically, it goes: second key–lessons–first key–escapes. So, when Danny sees the final key in 237, he now knows everything he needs to know in order to survive the movie. In fact, what’s going on in the mirrorform when he’s receiving the final key?

Those who’ve read my section on symmetries and cycles will realize that I’m omitting some connections, but I only have one more thing to show you for Sgt. Pepper purposes.

What do you see now? Do you see: George-John-Ringo-Paul-John-Ringo-Paul-George?

Or 1 234 234 1?

Yep. Sgt. Pepper, widely regarded as the pinnacle achievement in 20th century music, is Danny’s two keys. Sgt. Pepper is why Danny survives Jack.

And while that would be a lovely mic drop moment, there’s a few other things to note.

The lessons that correspond to George (Watson) and Ringo (Wendy) are the ones that twin their escapes (LLLL and LRRR, respectively), while the John (Ullman) and Paul (Jack) lesson-escapes are both the most intricate (John = RRL LRL LRL/LRL LRL LRR) and the most basic (Paul = RL/LR) of mirrorform left-rights (Note, though, that the very centre of John’s is the same as Paul’s (RLLR)), and are symmetrical within themselves.

This might imply that Ringo and George are twins by virtue of contributing the least to the band compositionally, or by virtue of both having tried to leave the band after Sgt. Pepper. While John and Paul are mirrors of each other by virtue of working so closely as songwriters, and by both being such hotheads that the band couldn’t survive their egos. John’s complexity and Paul’s simplicity could be comments on their songwriting prowess. And what would it mean that George is paired with the lounge, John with the labyrinth, Ringo with 237, and Paul with the Grady twins?

I’m not really sure how to read all this; I think it’s open to interpretation. The unshakable core (if you accept the Sgt. Pepper Connection premise) is that Danny’s self-saviourdom has a stylistic link to the greatest music of the 20th century. Perhaps these are the better wings Kubrick envisioned for Icarus…

Oh, there’s one other thing I recently discovered which supports this theory (if we need more proof). In my phi grid vs. rule of thirds analysis, I discovered that there are only three parts of the Abbey Road Tour where the whole band appears in the middle column of the sequence’s composition: the lounge, the maze, and the lobby back hall.

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Otherwise known as the three places where Danny’s lessons occur. So Kubrick used phi grid composition to imprint a complete-bandness onto these three areas, which might be a wink at the fact that Sgt. Pepper was the band’s greatest, most unified achievement, but definitely connects to Danny’s great achievement.

As for a more general overview of how the album’s many cultural references connect to The Shining‘s subtext:

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  • Top row: 6th from the left: WC Fields — Fields was the star of one of Kubrick’s top ten films, The Bank Dick. This isn’t a substantial one, I just wanted to point it out.
  • Top row: First red circle: Carl Jung — Freud’s student and later rival is famous for his work on the notion of archetypes (which seems to inform The Shining‘s understanding of a multitude), but I’ve noticed others wondering if the RED BOOK on Ullman’s desk is a reference to a collection of notes Jung kept to chronicle a series of psychotic hallucinations he started having in his late 30s, called The Red Book. It isn’t. But it was enough to make people think it was.
  • Top row: Second red circle: Edgar Allan Poe — Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death inspired King’s novel. Additionally, Poe was a master of burying clues in his work. Also, Poe’s work is discussed in Kubrick’s 6th feature film, Lolita.
  • Second row: First red circle: Aldous Huxley — Wrote The Doors of Perception inspired by his use of drugs to achieve transcendence, at which point he concluded better “doors” were needed than alcohol and tobacco. These are fixations of Jack and Wendy. I admit that’s a weak one; but it’s something.
  • Second row: two right of Huxley: Terry Southern — Hired by Kubrick on Sellers’ prompting to revise Dr. Strangelove. Went on to write Easy Rider (referenced in the lobby), and The Magic Christian (starring Sellers and Ringo).
  • Second row: First orange circle: Tony Curtis — Co-starred as Antoninus in Kubrick’s Spartacus. That’s a dual-Tony.
  • Second row: Second red circle: William S. Burroughs — Famously killed his wife Joan Vollmer in 1951 during a drunken “William Tell” stunt (though he altered this story later).
  • Second row: Between Burroughs and Marx: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy — used “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in their 1933 film Sons of the Desert.
  • Second row: Third red circle: Karl Marx — Famously used the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in chapter 10 of his famous Capital: Critique of Political Economy (Volume One) (1867).
  • Second row: Fourth red circle: HG Wells — Wrote the screenplay for Things to Come (1936), which Arthur C. Clarke had Kubrick watch as an example of a good sci-fi film, when they were preparing to make 2001. Kubrick didn’t like it.
  • Second row: Fifth red circle: James Joyce — Liked to bury clues in his work. Also, used “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in his 1914 novel Araby.
  • Second row: First blue circle: Anonymous wax dummy — I’m including this because I’m wondering if intense scrutiny could reveal who this actually is. Even if not, this kind of unanswerable riddle is just the sort of thing The Shining is chock full of. Ditto about the third row’s second blue circle. I will say that from all the intense scrutiny the cover has already received over the past 50 years, if someone was gonna get, it probably would’ve been got. Also, there’s only two of these wax dummies, like twins.
  • Third row: first and third blue circles: George Petty’s Petty Girls. Another instance of dual female figures with an anonymous quality.
  • Third row: first orange circle: Marlon Brando — Brando directed One-Eyed Jacks in 1961, which was originally slated to be Kubrick’s next film.
  • Third row: First yellow circle: Oscar Wilde — Wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, a Faustian bargain story, like Jack’s.
  • Third row: First red circle (between Lennon and Burroughs): David Livingston — This one is more of a spiritual inclusion. Livingston was a missionary and explorer, he was anti-slavery but pro-colonialism. He might be one of the most prominent icons of colonialism next to Christopher Columbus. You decide.
  • Third row: Second red circle (wrongly placed; should be on the other side of Lewis Carroll): TE Lawrence — Known famously as Lawrence of Arabia. Another Livingston-type figure.
  • Third row: Third red circle: Lewis Carroll — Author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the inspiration for Lolita, and possibly the inventor of the mirrorform.
  • Fourth row: Three blue circles: Shirley Temple — There’s really only two Temples visible on the cover, the rightmost ones. So, that’s another set of twin little girls. But there is a third one tucked in the middle of the wax Beatles, which speaks to the multidimensionality of interpretations of The Shining. Every time you think you understand something, a new network of clues present themselves, thanks to some microscopic sliver of detail, or some elusive morsel of context.
  • Fourth row: First orange circle on Harrison’s shoulder: Bette Davis — Most obscured. Davis would costar in Burnt Offerings (1976), a film which almost feels like The Shining‘s older sibling in many ways if not nearly as dense with Kubrickian technique. It concerns a very similar story of a family living for a determinately short period in a remote manor, which, it’s suggested early on, will turn out badly for them.
  • Right side of the group: green circle: large palm with fronds: similar to the display during the ghost ball by the bathrooms (see below).
  • Below the group: White box: Snow White — A set of Snow White stickers is visible of Danny’s bedroom shelf, but also there’s the Dopey sticker on his door.
  • Below the group: First white circle: Garden gnome — There’s a garden gnome visible on the Suite 3 make-up table in the first shot of Jack waking up, wrapped in plastic (see below; I’m not 100% on this, but even if it’s something else in the bag, it still looks like a garden gnome).
  • Below the group: Second white circle: statuette of Lakshmi — When Jack enters Susie’s office, there’s a little toy elephant on the filing cabinet. I generally take this to be a Ganesha reference, but it could somehow be a Lakshmi reference I’m not getting. Elephants were one of her “mounts”.
  • Below the group: Third white circle: A Mexican Tree of Life — These are religious icons, with infinite ways of designing them, but which usually display a Biblical narrative. More recently they’re being designed without religious context. But the idea is to show the way things connect, and I just find them to be symbolic of what I call up the down staircase and eye scream. There’s not a discernible Tree of Life in The Shining. But the film almost…is one.
  • Below the group: There’s a tiny TV by the Tree of Life which looks like the one Wendy and Durkin have. It’s not the same, but it’s a similar concept.
  • There were also people omitted from the album cover, like Jesus and Hitler, both for offensiveness and commercial issues. Otherwise, the Beatles would’ve seemingly used them, and the “greatest album of all time” would’ve (and technically still does) contain a reference to one of history’s great mass murderers. I don’t think I need to describe why those omissions are significant. I was just reading that Hitler was obscured by the Beatles themselves in the final version, and according to Wikipedia would’ve appeared between the more colourful Ringo and Paul, who correspond to Wendy and Jack. If, in fact, Paul covers up more of Hitler, that would make for a very interesting correlation to Jack’s Hitler imagery.

Click here to read about even more Beatles connections I noticed

Or here to begin the Redrum Road analysis