Not only were they musicians, they were global trendsetters and cultural icons. They are the best selling band in history, with an estimated one billion records sold, and were each individually named in Time Magazine’s 20 most influential people of the 20th century. They weren’t just a band, they were a movement. From kids on the street to school sweethearts and military recruits, everybody could take part in that movement. Throughout the generations, the music of The Beatles has retained its ability to touch people. Those records are still as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.
But what of the actual music? For a band that captured the world’s attention, The Beatles really did have some very odd lyrics. They were musical geniuses, but they also had a sense of humour and poked fun at themselves, their fans, and the music industry as a whole. Add to this some Indian meditation and recreational drug use and the result is some very interesting lyrics.
“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man”
Run For Your Life
The closing track on Rubber Soul was described by George Harrison as his favourite song on the album, even though it was yet another John Lennon composition. The song is inspired by Elvis’s ‘Baby, Let’s Play House’ and is a simple acoustic blues shuffle with some controversial lyrics. Lennon sings a series of threats to his girlfriend (the “little girl”) of what might happen should he catch her with another man. The song includes such gems as “Baby, I’m determined and I’d rather see you dead”. For me, Rubber Soul definitely marks a transition in The Beatles’ song writing.
“He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker”
It has been suggested that each verse of this song cryptically depicts each one of The Beatles. “He’s one holy roller” describes the spiritual George. “He got monkey finger” refers to Ringo Starr. “Ono sideboard” is John and, of course, Paul McCartney is “So good looking cause he’s so hard to see”. However, this song is more than likely just Lennon writing about nothing whatsoever, although he does sing, “Shoot me” at the beginning. Ominous, perhaps? Maybe not.
“Sitting on a cornflake, waiting on the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday”
I Am The Walrus
Magical Mystery Tour
What can we say about this song? Well, it was the first Beatles track to include the word “knickers”.
This song is an explosion of nonsense lyrics. Lennon was frustrated with people reading too much into his band’s songs and insisting there was always a hidden meaning. Ever the joker, he wrote a song with no meaning that was just a string of words. I believe the actual quote was “If Bob Dylan can write this crap, so can I”.
Interestingly, the edit of the song contains a quote from King Lear (Act Four, Scene 6, lines 249-259 for anyone interested) and also references the poem ‘The Walrus and The Carpenter’ by Lewis Carroll. Oh, and it was written under the influence of LSD. What more explanation do you need?
Leaving aside John Lennon’s wacky lyrics, the Fab Four did some other very strange things in their recordings. The fade out of ‘Strawberry Fields’ features John moaning “cranberry sauce” over and over. ‘A Day in the Life’ plays a high pitched kilocycle tone 15 seconds after the song fades out, with the intention of driving dogs crazy.
All in all, The Beatles liked being as weird as they could be. They pushed themselves to be interesting and do something a bit quirky and by doing so have earned themselves a place in music history forever. When you actually look at lyrics like these, though, you realise they weren’t only about the peace and love to be found in ‘Love Me Do’.