Beatles – Back In The U.S.S.R.

I always liked this rocking song by the Beatles. They threw a little Beach Boy feel in it also.

The song was written during the band’s visit to Rishikesh, India is early 1968, the intention being to study and practice Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi.

In early 1968, the British government launched the “I’m Backing Britain” campaign to rally enthusiasm and boost their economy. McCartney was inspired by this and Chuck Berry’s Back In The U.S.A. The working title was I’m Backing the UK.

This song was on the double White Album released in 1968. The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Chart, Canada, and the UK. There was tension between the members on this album.

Following an argument with McCartney over the drum part for this song, Ringo walked out on The Beatles. He flew to Sardinia for a holiday to consider his future. While there he received a telegram from his bandmates saying, ‘You’re the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer in the world. Come on home, we love you.’ On his return, he found his drum kit covered with flowers. A banner above read, ‘Welcome Back.’

Paul did end up playing drums on the track. It is credited to Lennon/McCartney but it is a McCartney written song.

This song caused some controversy with conservative America, because it came out during Vietnam and the Cold War and it appeared to be celebrating the enemy. The John Birch Society accused The Beatles with promoting communism.

Paul McCartney: “Chuck Berry once did a song called ‘Back In The U.S.A,’ which is very American, very Chuck Berry, you know. He was ‘serving in the army and, when I get back home, I’m gonna kiss the ground,’ you know, ‘can’t wait to get back to the States.’ It’s very much an American thing, I always thought. So, this one, ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’ was about, in my mind, a spy who has been in America for a long, long time. Some fellow who’s been in America for a long time and he’s picked up and he’s very American, but he gets back to the U.S.S.R., and he’s, sort of, saying ‘Leave it till tomorrow, honey to disconnect the phone,’ and ‘come here, honey,’ with Russian women, and all that.”

From Songfacts

The story of this song begins in Hrishikesh, India, where The Beatles were on a retreat learning Transcendental Meditation from their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Also on the retreat was Mike Love of The Beach Boys, who told us: “Paul (McCartney) came down to the breakfast table one morning saying, ‘Hey, Mike, listen to this.’ And he starts strumming and singing, ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.,’ the verses. And I said, ‘Well, Paul, what you ought to do is talk about the girls around Russia, Ukraine girls and then Georgia on my mind, and that kind of thing.’ Which he did.

So I think it was the fact I was there, which caused Paul to think in terms of Beach Boys, and then my suggestion for what to do on the bridge, he took that suggestion and crafted, like only Sir Paul can, a really great song.”

McCartney was impressed with the idea and used some Beach Boys’ elements in this song: Instead of “California Girls” it was “Moscow Girls.” Plus, the definitive Beach Boy “Oooeeeeoooo” in the background harmonies.

The title was inspired by Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.” The Beach Boys had been influenced by that song and also “Sweet Little Sixteen” to come up with “California Girls” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Things were tense when they were working on this album, and Ringo walked out during recording, briefly quitting the band. Paul McCartney played drums in his place.

The line “Georgia’s always on my mind” in a play on the Ray Charles song “Georgia On My Mind.” It has a double meaning, since Georgia was part of the U.S.S.R.

Elton John performed this song when he toured Russia in 1979, and he got a huge response. This was the year before Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics, which the United States boycotted. Elton told Q magazine: “The first night as an encore I did ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’ And they went apes–t. It was like playing ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ in Philadelphia. You just noticed that the people there were as ordinary and as good as the people you’d notice anywhere else.”

Billy Joel got a similar reaction when he played the song in Moscow in 1987.

This opens with the sound of an airplane flying from left to right across the speakers. Stereo was relatively new, so this was very innovative for the time.

Paul McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008 that the song’s middle-eight was a spoof of the Beach Boys leading up to Pet Sounds. He added: “The rest is (sings first bars of the melody line of the opening verse) more Jerry Lee (Lewis). And the title is Chuck Berry, Back In The U.S.A., and the song itself is more a take on Chuck. You’d get these soldiers back from Korea or Vietnam, wherever the hell, and Chuck was picking up on that. I thought it was a funny idea to spoof that with the most unlikely thing of way back in Siberia.”

There was a rumor in the Soviet Union that The Beatles had secretly visited the U.S.S.R. and given a private concert for the children of top Communist party members. They believed the song was written because of the concert. Actually, some fans still believe so. 

The wafer-thin actress and model Twiggy claimed that this song was written for her to sing on a tour of Russia that didn’t materialize. She and McCartney had met to discuss a film project, but it’s unlikely this song was written for her.

Paul McCartney used this as the title to an album he released only in Russia in 1989. In 2002, McCartney called his US tour the “Back In The US” tour.

In Stephen King’s 1979 novel The Dead Zone, a serial killer hums this tune as he contemplates his first murder.

Back In The U.S.S.R

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR, yeah

Been away so long I early knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind
Oh, come on
Hu hey hu, hey, ah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boys
Back in the USSR

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind

Oh, show me round your snow peaked
Mountain way down south
Take me to your daddy’s farm
Let me hear your balalaika’s ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm
I’m back in the USSR
Hey, you don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR
Oh, let me tell you, honey

Beatles – If I Needed Someone

This has that Rickenbacker sound. This song was written by George Harrison, who was influenced by The Byrds song “The Bells of Rhymney.” This one has always been a favorite of mine by George.

If I Needed Someone was one of four songs Capitol Records held off of the American release of Rubber Soul. US audiences hadn’t heard the song until June 20th, 1966, which was the date of release for the American album Yesterday…And Today.

If I Needed Someone was the only George Harrison composition to have been performed live by The Beatles. The other songs that featured George on vocals were covers but this was the only original song before they stopped touring.

The Hollies received an early recording of “If I Needed Someone.” They proceeded to quickly record their own rendition of the song and release it as their next British single on December 3rd, 1965, the exact day that The Beatles’ released Rubber Soul.

The Hollies took the song to #20 on the British charts, and it became the first George Harrison composition to make the charts.

Roger McGuinn: “George Harrison wrote that song after hearing the Byrds’ recording of “Bells of Rhymney.” He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes the Beatles.”

From Songfacts

 It was not Ravi Shankar that introduced George to the wonderment of sitar, but Byrd traveler David Crosby shortly after Shawn Phillips had shown him the basic steps. In 1965 The Beatles toured the US and visited Ravi at World Pacific Studios where The Byrds had permanent residency. It was also here that Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker jingle jangle influenced Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” In turn, The Byrds were influenced by Harrison’s 12-string guitar work. 

If I Needed Someone

If I needed someone to love
You’re the one that I’d be thinking of
If I needed someone

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah, ah, ah

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah

Beatles – I Feel Fine

One of the great guitar riffs in rock…very melodic and sounds great on a guitar.

John Lennon said he borrowed from the song “Watch Your Step” by the American blues musician Bobby Parker. I Feel Fine was released in late 1964. It was the A side of the single with She’s A Woman on the B side.

The first note of this song marked the first time feedback was used on a major release. It was created when John Lennon leaned his electric guitar against an amplifier and Paul McCartney played a note on his bass, creating a strangely appealing feedback loop.

The band thought it sounded great, but in this pre-Hendrix era, feedback was considered a technical malfunction and not an artistic enhancement.Producer George Martin was always open to new ideas and agreed to insert it at the beginning of the song. Paul would say that he let them experiment.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, Canada, UK, and New Zealand in 1965.

From Songfacts

An early Beatles track, “I Feel Fine” lyrically is a simple love song about a guy who is crazy about his girl. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s effective:

She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world
That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know

The refrain is typical of Lennon’s songwriting, with the three long notes: “I’m so glad.” The sudden explosive refrain in harmonies is similar to Giovanni Gabrieli’s grand concerto “In ecclesiis,” an early baroque-music-piece. 

There is a very faint sound at the end of the song that was rumored to be barking dogs. It’s actually just McCartney goofing around.

The Beatles included this in their setlist when they toured the US in August 1965. Prior to their famous Shea Stadium appearance on August 15, they taped a performance of this song and five others for an Ed Sullivan Show episode that aired September 12.

The group made two music videos for this song as part of a one-day shoot where they banged out takes for four others as well. These were not high-concept films: just the band having some fun while lip-synching the tracks. The first “I Feel Fine” video got pretty goofy, with Ringo riding a stationary bike. For the second, the band simply sits down and eats lunch. This later version wasn’t released until 2015 when it was included on the 1+ collection.

The Ventures incorporated the riff into their surf rock instrumental version of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” on their 1965 Christmas album.

In America, this knocked “Come See About Me” by The Supremes from the top spot. “I Feel Fine” stayed for three weeks, at which point “Come See About Me” returned to bump it off.

I Feel Fine

Baby’s good to me, you know
She’s happy as can be, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world
That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world
That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine
She’s in love with me and I feel fine, mmm

Beatles – Hey Jude

This is one of McCartney’s best written songs. Like a lot of other great songs it builds… from McCartney’s lone voice and piano to a giant sing a long at the end. Hey Jude is one of the most famous songs in rock history.

This was their debut single for their new record company Apple. The A side was Hey Jude and the B side was Revolution. That is a great way to start. This was one of the best double A side singles ever.

The song was not on an album at the time. Hey Jude peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, UK, Canada, and New Zealand in 1968.

Paul McCartney wrote this as “Hey Jules,” a song meant to comfort John Lennon’s 5-year-old son Julian as John and Cynthia were getting a divorce. The change to “Jude” was inspired by the character “Jud” in the musical Oklahoma! Paul went to visit Cynthia and Julian when the divorce was happening and he composed most of it then.

John wanted Revolution released as a single right away but when he heard this song he agreed to have Revolution as the B side.

It was the Beatles longest single, running 7:11. George Martin was afraid radio stations would not play it but John said ‘They will if it’s us.” When this became a hit, stations learned that listeners would stick around if they liked the song, which paved the way for long songs like “American Pie” and “Layla.”Disc jockeys loved it…they got a break.

The Beatles filmed a promotional video for this song, which was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who directed Let It Be. He had the Beatles sing the song (the music was on a backing track) in front of an audience of about 100 people, who sang it with them. This was the closest the Beatles had come to a live performance since they had stopped touring two years earlier.

The clip first aired on the UK program The David Frost Show in 1968, and was quickly picked up by other shows, giving the song a big promotional push.

Paul McCartney: “I thought, as a friend of the family, I would motor out to Weybridge (John’s former home with Cynthia) and tell them that everything was all right: to try and cheer them up, basically, and see how they were. I had about an hour’s drive. I would always turn the radio off and try and make up songs, just in case…I starting singing: ‘Hey Jules – don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better…’ It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be OK.’ I eventually changed ‘Jules’ to ‘Jude.’ One of the characters in ‘Oklahoma’ is called Jude, and I like the name.” 

Cynthia Lennon: “During the divorce proceedings, I was truly surprised when, one afternoon, Paul arrived on his own. I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare and even more moved when he presented me with a single red rose accompanied by a jokey remark about our future. ‘How about it, Cyn?  How about you and me getting married?’ We both laughed at the thought of the world’s reaction to an announcement like that being let loose. On his journey down to visit Julian and I, Paul composed the beautiful song ‘Hey Jude.’ He said it was for Julian. I will never forget Paul’s gesture of care and concern in coming to see us. It made me feel important and loved, as opposed to feeling discarded and obsolete.”

Paul McCartney: “I finished it all up in Cavendish (Paul’s home) and I was in the music room upstairs when John and Yoko came to visit and they were right behind me over my right shoulder, standing up, listening to it as I played it to them, and when I got to the line ‘The movement you need is on your shoulder,’ I looked over my shoulder and I said, ‘I’ll change that, it’s a bit crummy. I was just blocking it out,’ and John said, ‘You won’t, you know. That’s the best line in it!’ That’s collaboration. When someone’s that firm about a line that you’re going to junk, and he says, ‘No, keep it in.’

John Lennon: “He said it was written about Julian…but I always heard it as a song to me. If you think about it, Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying: ‘Hey, Jude – hey, John.’ I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me. The words ‘go out and get her’ – subconsciously he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ But on a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel inside him was saying, ‘Bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all, because he didn’t want to lose his partner.”

John Lennon: “Well, when Paul first played ‘Hey Jude’ to me…I took it very personally. ‘Ah, it’s me,’ I said, ‘it’s me.” He said, ‘No, it’s me!’ I said, ‘Check, we’re going through the same bit.’ So we all are. Whoever is going through a bit with us is going through it. That’s the groove.”

From Songfacts

This was named as the song most often referred to in literature in a list compiled by culture interpretation website Small Demons. Amongst the 55 books the site says it’s mentioned in are Stephen King’s Wolves of the Calla (“Why do people over here sing Hey Jude? I don’t know”) and Toni Morrison’s Paradise (“Soane had been horrified – and he drove off accompanying Hey Jude on his radio”).

Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” was runner-up on the list and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” came in third place

In 1987 Julian ran into Paul in New York City when they were staying at the same hotel and he finally heard Paul tell him the story of the song firsthand. He admitted to Paul that growing up, he’d always felt closer to him than to his own father. In Steve Turner’s book The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, Julian said: “Paul told me he’d been thinking about my circumstances, about what I was going through and what I’d have to go through. Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit – more than Dad and I did… There seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing at that age than me and Dad. I’ve never really wanted to know the truth of how Dad was and how he was with me. There was some very negative stuff – like when he said that I’d come out of a whisky bottle on a Saturday night. That’s tough to deal with. You think, where’s the love in that? It surprises me whenever I hear the song. It’s strange to think someone has written a song about you. It still touches me.”

The Beatles inner circle was shifting when Paul McCartney wrote this song. John Lennon had recently taken up with Yoko and cast off his first wife, Cynthia; McCartney had broken off his engagement with his longtime girlfriend Jane Asher. He was the only Beatle to reach out to Cynthia and Julian at this time.

The drive to the Lennon home in Surrey was one of reflection for McCartney, who thought about Julian and how difficult life could be as a child of divorce. He wrote the line, “Don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better” thinking about how he could encourage the boy.

Paul was conditioned to think up songs on this trip, as he used to drive to the home for songwriting sessions with John – there were instruments and recording equipment in the attic.

In a 2018 interview with GQ, Paul McCartney talked about how he came up with the idea for this song: “John and his wife Cynthia had divorced, and I felt a bit sorry for their son, who was now a child of a divorce. I was driving out to see the son and Cynthia one day and I was thinking about the boy whose name was Julian – Julian Lennon, and I started this idea, ‘Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, it’s gonna be OK.’ It was like a reassurance song.

So that was the idea that I got driving out to see them. I saw them and then I came back and worked on the song some more. But I like that name, Jude.”

This was the first song released on Apple Records, the record label owned by The Beatles. It was recorded at Trident Studios, London, on July 31 and August 1, 1968 with a 36 piece orchestra. Orchestra members clapped and sang on the fadeout – they earned double their normal rate for their efforts.

Paul McCartney on his songwriting partnership with John Lennon in Observer Music Monthly October 2007: “I have fond flashbacks of John writing – he’d scribble it down real quick, desperate to get back to the guitar. But I knew at that moment that this was going to be a good collaboration. Like when I did ‘Hey Jude.’ I was going through it for him and Yoko when I was living in London. I had a music room at the top of the house and I was playing ‘Hey Jude’ when I got to the line ‘The movement you need is on your shoulder’ and I turned round to John and said: ‘I’ll fix that if you want.’ And he said: ‘You won’t, you know, that’s a great line, that’s the best line in it.’ Now that’s the other side of a great collaborator – don’t touch it, man, that’s OK.”

This song hit #1 in at least 12 countries and by the end of 1968 had sold more than 5 million copies. It eventually sold over 10 million copies in the United States, becoming the fourth-biggest selling Beatles single there. Factoring in the price of records in 1968 vs. 1964, when the top-seller “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released, “Hey Jude” might be the biggest earner.

When McCartney played this song for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John interpreted it as being about him; he heard the line “You were made to go out and get her” as Paul imploring him to leave his first wife and go after Yoko (“I always heard it as a song to me,” said Lennon). This was one of Lennon’s more narcissistic moments, as he failed to grasp that the song was written for his son.

This was going to be the B-side to “Revolution,” but it ended up the other way around. It is a testament to this song that it pushed “Revolution” to the other side of the record.

George Harrison wanted to play a guitar riff after the vocal phrases, but Paul wouldn’t let him. Things got tense between them around this time as McCartney got very particular about how Harrison played on songs he wrote.

Julian Lennon didn’t find out that this song was written for him until he was a teenager. It was around this time that he reconnected with his dad, whom he would visit in New York from time to time until his death.

In terms of songcraft, this is one of the most studied Beatles songs. It starts with a vocal – Paul’s voice singing “Hey” – then the piano comes in (an F chord). The song gradually builds, with McCartney alone playing on the first verse, then the sounds of George Harrison’s guitar, Ringo’s tambourine, and harmony vocals by George and John. The drums enter about 50 seconds in, and the song builds from there, reaching a peak of intensity with McCartney delivering the “better… better… better” line punctuated by a Little Richard-style scream, then the famous singalong resolution.

The “na na na” fadeout takes four minutes. The chorus is repeated 19 times.

“Jude” is the German word for “Jew,” but nobody in the Beatles camp knew that. In 1967 and 1968, the group owned a retail store on Baker Street in London called the Apple Boutique, which they closed around the time this song was released. On the shuttered building, an employee scrawled the words “Revolution” and “Hey Jude” to promote the new Beatles single. Without proper context, this proved offensive to Jewish residents, who read it as hateful graffiti.

Wilson Pickett recorded this shortly after The Beatles did. His version hit #16 UK and #23 US and provided the name for his album. Duane Allman played on it and got a huge career boost when the song became a hit. He spent the next year as a session guitarist for many famous singers and then formed The Allman Brothers, who are considered the greatest Southern Rock band of all time.

Thanks to the communal nature of this song, it is sometimes used to pay tribute to those who have passed. When Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appeared on the 2014 CBS special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, Paul dedicated the song John Lennon and George Harrison. Musicians who performed earlier in the show joined on stage for the ending, which closed the telecast.

In America, an album called Hey Jude (originally titled “The Beatles Again”) was released in 1970 containing this and several other Beatles songs that were released as singles or B-sides. The album has not appeared as a CD because Apple Records made the decision to copy only the British LP releases onto CD. In the ’60s the American record company managed to get extra LPs off the British releases by cutting down the number of tracks, then putting them out with singles and B-sides as additional albums. 

As discussed in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook, while Paul wrote this song for Julian, in a lot of ways McCartney wrote this song about his brand-new relationship with Linda Eastman.

After the “Oh” in the crescendo, McCartney sings “YEAH!” in a non-falsetto voice. The note he hits is F Natural above male High C, a very difficult note for a male to hit in a non-falsetto voice.

The original 1968 version was recorded in mono, and many listeners find it far superior to the stereo remake from 1970, which is much more heavily produced.

On The Beatles Anthology 3, there is a version of this song with an introduction spoken by John and Paul: “From the heart of the black country: When I was a robber in Boston place You gathered round me with your fine embrace.”

“Boston place” (mentioned by Paul) is a small London street where The Beatles’ company Apple had just installed an electronics laboratory. In a more familiar scene, Boston Street was that street in which The Beatles ran for the title sequence of their film A Hard Day’s Night. John spoke of the “Black Country,” which was the name of the old smokestack industrial region in the middle of England.

Richie Havens played this at Woodstock when he opened the festival in 1969.

If you listen at about 2:55, you hear a sound from John Lennon while Paul keeps singing. It sounds like “Ohh!” at first, but it is really him saying “…chord!” You can barely hear it, but if you listen really closely, you can hear him say “Got the wrong CHORD.” He says “chord” much louder than the other words. And about two or three counts later, you can hear McCartney say “F**king hell.” 

The song debuted at #10 in the Hot 100, and in doing so it made history by becoming the first ever single to reach the top 10 in its first week on the chart.

When the Beatles music was made available for download for the first time – on iTunes November 16, 2010 – “Hey Jude” was the most downloaded Beatles song that day.

McCartney played this at the 2005 Live8 concert in London. He started with “The Long and Winding Road” and flowed it into the end of “Hey Jude,” which closed out the Live8 concert. 

Paul McCartney played this at the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show. He performed the year after Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on stage, causing an uproar. McCartney was deemed a safe and reliable choice for a nudity-free performance.

Sesame Street did a parody of this (and tribute to healthy eating) called “Hey Food.”

With hundreds of crowd favorites to choose from in his catalog, Paul McCartney mixes up his setlists when he plays live, but this one always seems to stick. “I’ll switch up the songs, but I’ve got to do ‘Hey Jude’ because it is such fun and it’s great handing that over to the audience,” he told GQ. The greatest thing is, you feel this sense of community, and in these times when it’s a little dark and people are separated by politics and stuff, it’s so fantastic to see them all come together singing the end of ‘Hey Jude.’ I’m very happy about that, so I keep it in the show.”

This appears frequently throughout Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, including the first installment, The Gunslinger (1982). The fantasy western is set in a parallel universe where a lone gunslinger is on a quest for revenge. King explained the significance of the song in a 1988 interview with The Guardian: “I see the gunslinger’s world as sort of a post-radiation world where everybody’s history has gotten clobbered and about the only thing anybody remembers anymore is the chorus to ‘Hey, Jude.'”

Hey Jude

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better

And anytime you feel the pain
Hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool
Who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her (let it out and let it in)
Remember to let her into your heart (hey Jude)
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in
Hey Jude, begin
You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you
Hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na, yeah

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her under your skin
Then you’ll begin to make it better
Better better better better better, ah!

Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude Jude, Judy Judy Judy Judy, ow wow!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (my, my, my)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah, you know you can make it, Jude, Jude, you’re not gonna break it)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (don’t make it bad, Jude, take a sad song and make it better)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (oh Jude, Jude, hey Jude, wa!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (oh Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (hey, hey, hey, hey)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (hey, hey)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (now, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (Jude, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, make it, Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah yeah, yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude

Beatles – A Day In The Life…Epic Rock Songs Week

There is one thing I can say about every song this week… I can safely use the word masterpiece to describe all of them.

I posted this song a while back but I had to include it in this week’s group of songs… When John Lennon starts to sing with that echo on his voice… Chills go down my spine. It’s like a voice out of the fog and it’s haunting. It is without a doubt my favorite vocal of all time.

When asked what my favorite Beatles song is…It usually depends on what Beatle mood I’m in…early, middle or late…but this one is always near the top.

A Day In The Life came to life by John and Paul by melding two songs together. It’s working title was  “In The Life Of….”

Parts of this song was based on two stories John Lennon read about in the Daily Mail newspaper. Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his Lotus into a parked van. Also an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall.

The lyrics I saw a film today oh boy, the English army had just won the war was about a film that John had appeared in called How I Won The War.

The middle “woke up got out of bed…” was a song Paul was writing and it fit perfectly in this puzzle. McCartney contributed the line “I’d love to turn you on.” This was considered a drug reference and the BBC quickly banned it…that guaranteed the song would be huge.

The still had 24 bars at the end of song they needed to be filled. Producer George Martin asked John Lennon what he wanted… John answered that question with this:

“I want it to be like a musical orgasm…What I’d like to hear is a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world. I’d like it to be from extreme quietness to extreme loudness, not only in volume, but also for the sound to expand as well. I’d like to use a symphony orchestra for it. Tell you what, George, you book a symphony orchestra, and we’ll get them in a studio and tell them what to do.”

An orchestra was needed to achieve that but George Martin could not see charging EMI for a full 90 piece orchestra for just 24 bars of music. So Ringo…Ringo said well why not hire half the orchestra and have them play it twice? Everyone turned around  stunned by the simplicity of it. John then said do it.

Then the orchestra kicks in and it sounds like the end of the earth until a long piano chord shuts the door on the song.

A 41-piece orchestra played on this song. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest. 

After that they all played the last piano chord at the same time. Engineers turned the faders up so high that you can hear the Abbey Road air conditioner.

In 2005 Q magazine ranked A Day In The Life as the number 1 British song of all time.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4235010.stm

1. A Day In The Life – The Beatles
2. Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
3. Wonderwall – Oasis
4. God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols
5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
6. My Generation – The Who
7. Angels – Robbie Williams
8. Life on Mars? – David Bowie
9. Sympathy For The Devil – Rolling Stones
10. Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack
 

Paul McCartney: “‘A Day In The Life’ was a song that John had started. He had the first verse, and this often happened: one of us would have a little bit of an idea and instead of sitting down and sweating it, we’d just bring it to the other one and kind of finish it together, because you could ping-pong – you’d get an idea. So he had the first verse: ‘I read the news today oh boy,’ and we sat in my music room in London and just started playing around with it, got a second verse, and then we got to what was going to lead into the middle. We kind of looked at each other and knew we were being a little bit edgy where we ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ We knew that would have an effect.

It worked. And then we put on another section I had: ‘Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.’ Then we finished the song up and did a big sort of epic recording of it with a big full orchestra and everything. And then did that crescendo thing in the middle of it with the orchestra, which was an idea I’d had because I’d been talking to people and reading about avant-garde music, tonal stuff and crazy ideas. I came up with this idea. I said to the orchestra, ‘You should start, all of you.’ And they sat all looking at me puzzled. We’ve got a real symphony orchestra in London who are used to playing Beethoven, and here’s me, this crazy guy out of a group and I’m saying, ‘Everyone start on the lowest note your instrument can play and work your way up to the highest at your own pace.’ That was too puzzling for them, and orchestras don’t like that kind of thing. They like it written down and they like to know exactly what they’re supposed to do. So George Martin, the producer, said to the people, ‘You should leave this note and this point in the song, and then you should go to this note and this note,’ and he left the random thing, so that’s why it sounds like a chaotic sort of swirl. That was an idea based on the avant-garde stuff I was into at the time.”

 

From Songfacts

This was recorded in three sessions: First the basic track, then the orchestra, then the last note was dubbed in.

Regarding the article about Tara Browne, John Lennon stated: “I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.” At the time, Paul didn’t realize the reference was to Tara. He thought it was about a “stoned politician.” The article regarding the “4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” was taken from the UK Daily Express, January 17, 1967 in a column called “Far And Near.”

John’s friend Terry Doran was the one who completed John’s line, “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill…” Terry told him “fill the Albert Hall, John.”

The ban was finally lifted when author David Storey picked it as one of his Desert Island Discs.

The final chord was produced by all four Beatles and George Martin banging on three pianos simultaneously. As the sound diminished, the engineer boosted to faders. The resulting note lasts 42 seconds; the studio air conditioners can be heard toward the end as the faders were pushed to the limit to record it.

The rising orchestra-glissando and the thundering sound are reminiscent of “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Das Rheingold,” where after the rising glissando, Thor beats with his hammer. George Martin said in his 1979 book All You Need is Ears that the glissando was Lennon’s idea. After Lennon’s death, Martin seems to have changed his mind. In his 1995 book Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper, he states that the rising orchestra-glissando was McCartney’s idea. 

This being the last song on the album, The Beatles found an interesting way to close it out. After the final note, Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. This was followed by a loop of incomprehensible studio noise, along with Paul McCartney saying, “Never could see any other way,” all spliced together. It was put there so vinyl copies would play this continuously in the run-out groove, sounding like something went horribly wrong with the record. Another good reason to own vinyl.

In 2004, McCartney did an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper where he said he was doing cocaine around this time along with marijuana. “I’d been introduced to it, and at first it seemed OK, like anything that’s new and stimulating,” he said. “When you start working your way through it, you start thinking, ‘This is not so cool and idea,’ especially when you start getting those terrible comedowns.”

The movie reference in the lyrics (“I saw a film today, oh boy. The English Army had just won the war”) is to a film John Lennon acted in called How I Won The War.

McCartney’s middle section (woke up, got out of bed…) was intended for another song.

The Beatles started this with the working title “In The Life of…”

This is a rare Beatles song with a title that is not part of the lyrics. Another one is “Yer Blues.” 

That’s Mal Evans doing the counting during the first transition from John to Paul. He set the alarm clock (heard on the recording) to go off at the end of his 24-bar count. Evans also helped with the composition of a couple of songs on the Sgt. Pepper album. Although he never received composer’s credit, the Beatles did pay his estate a lump sum in the 1990s for his contributions. Evans died January 5, 1976 after a misunderstanding with the police. 

George Martin (from Q Magazine, July 2007): “John’s voice – which he hated – was the kind of thing that would send shivers down your spine. If you hear those opening chords with the guitar and piano, and then his voice comes in, ‘I heard the news today, oh boy’ It’s just so evocative of that time. He always played his songs to me on the guitar and I would sit on a stool as he strummed. The orchestral section was Paul’s idea. We put two pieces of songs together that weren’t connected in any way. Then we had that 24-bars-of-nothing in between. I had to write a score, but in the climax, I gave each instrument different little waypoints at each bar, so they would know roughly where they should be when they were sliding up. Just so they didn’t reach the climax too quickly. With ‘A Day In The Life,’ I wondered whether we were losing our audience and I was scared. But I stopped being scared when I played it to the head of Capitol Records in America and he was gob smacked. He said, That’s fantastic. And of course, it was.” 

David Crosby was at Abbey Road studios when The Beatles were recording this. In an interview with Filter magazine, he said: “I was, as near as I know, the first human being besides them and George Martin and the engineers to hear ‘A Day In The Life.’ I was high as a kite – so high I was hunting geese with a rake. They sat me down; they had huge speakers like coffins with wheels on that they rolled up on either side of the stool. By the time it got the end of that piano chord, man my brains were on the floor.” 

When asked by Rolling Stone magazine what songs of his dad’s constantly surprise him, Sean Lennon said: “I’ve listened so much to that stuff that there are very few surprises. But I do think ‘A Day In The Life’ is always inspiring.”

On June 18, 2010 John Lennon’s handwritten lyric sheet for this song featuring corrections and alternate crossed-out lines was auctioned at New York Sotheby’s. It was sold for $1.2 million to an anonymous American buyer.

This was rated the greatest ever Beatles song in a special collector’s edition issue by The Beatles: 100 Greatest Songs. The list was compiled to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Fab Four’s final studio album, Let It Be.

There is term for the techniques The Beatles used in arranging the final chords of this song: Deceptive Cadence. Glen Burtnik, who was a member of Styx and was also in a popular Beatles tribute band, told us: “It’s an instance where the listener assumes the next chord, or melody note, will go somewhere it doesn’t. Even though all the indications lead you to expecting a certain outcome, the writer/arranger intentionally surprises you by going someplace else musically. Not sure it’s simple to understand, as you’re conditioned to being used to the outcome.”

Peter Asher, who worked for The Beatles at Apple Records and produced the biggest hits of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, considers this the greatest Beatles song from a production standpoint. “‘A Day In The Life’ certainly combined Beatle ideas and George Martin ideas very effectively,” he told Songfacts.

Keith Richards named his second son Tara after Tara Brown, the Guinness heir who smashes his car in Lennon’s first verse. Richard’s son was premature and died soon after birth.

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh

I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

I saw a film today oh boy
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on

Beatles – I Saw Her Standing There

(One, two, three, four)

Well, she was just seventeen
You know what I mean

One of the most famous count offs in history. It’s a great rocker by the early Beatles. This wasn’t released as a single in England. In the US, it was released as the flip side of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which was their first hit in the America.

The title was original “Seventeen” until it was changed for the album. There have been many covers of this song…some very good but I’ll take the original every time.

This was one of 10 songs The Beatles recorded in one day (February 11, 1963) for their UK debut album, Please Please Me. It was the first song on the tracklist. Can you imagine that happening today?

I Saw Her Standing There peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100, #1 in New Zealand, and #1 (I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There) in Canada in 1964.

This was the last song John Lennon performed for a paid audience. He played it at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974 when he took the stage at an Elton John concert. Elton released this version as the B-side of “Philadelphia Freedom” the following year.

Paul McCartney: “Those early days were really cool, just sussing each other out, and realizing that we were good. You just realize from what he was feeding back. Often it was your song or his song, it didn’t always just start from nothing. Someone would always have a little germ of an idea. So I’d start off with [singing] ‘She was just 17, she’d never been a beauty queen’ and he’d be like, ‘Oh no, that’s useless’ and ‘You’re right, that’s bad, we’ve got to change that.’ Then changing it into a really cool line: ‘You know what I mean.’ ‘Yeah, that works.'”

From Songfacts

John Lennon and Paul McCartney started writing this in McCartney’s living room after they skipped school one day, with Paul writing the majority of this song in September of 1962.

The Beatles frequently played this at the Cavern Club, where they often played between 1961-1963. In fact, it was because of the crowd reaction to their live shows that George Martin decided to have them simply record their live show in the studio for their first album. That’s why he kept Paul’s “1, 2, 3, 4” count at the beginning, which was taken from the 9th take and edited on to the first. 

The Beatles performed this on their first two Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place a week apart in February 1964. Getting on the show was a really big deal because it had a huge audience. About 73 million people watched the first show, which made The Beatles household names.

This became the first Beatles song performed on the TV series American Idol when Jordin Sparks won in 2007 and sang it on the finale with runner-up Blake Lewis. The first line of the song – “She was just 17” – was fitting, as that was Sparks’ age.

Chuck Berry was a big influence on The Beatles, and the bass line of this song borrows from Berry’s track “I’m Talking About You.” 

At the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, McCartney went to one of the games at Yankee Stadium and was shown between innings singing along as this played in the stadium. It was McCartney’s second visit to Yankee Stadium, and he saw The Yankees win that day, although they eventually lost the World Series.

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman sing this song during a very powerful scene in the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man. 

The Who, Daniel Johnston, Santo & Johnny, and The Tubes all covered this song. 

With Dave Grohl playing drums, Paul McCartney played this at the Grammy Awards in 2009.

I Saw Her Standing There

(One, two, three, four)

Well, she was just seventeen
You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare
So how could I dance with another
Ooh, when I saw her standing there?

Well, she looked at me
And I, I could see
That before too long
I’d fall in love with her
She wouldn’t dance with another
Ooh, when I saw her standing there

Well, my heart went “boom”
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine

Oh we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long
I fell in love with her
Now I’ll never dance with another
Ooh, since I saw her standing there

Well, my heart went, “Boom”
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine

Oh, we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long
I fell in love with her
Now I’ll never dance with another
Oh, since I saw her standing there
Oh, since I saw her standing there
Yeah, well since I saw her standing there

Beatles – Taxman

George steps up to the plate on Revolver and knocks it out of the park. If you think you pay too much tax…The Beatles were in a 95% tax bracket.

At the time, high earners paid exorbitant taxes in England. Many successful entertainers left the country so they could keep more of their money. As a result, The Beatles, as well as The Who and The Rolling Stones, spent a lot of time in America and other parts of Europe as tax exiles.

This is a strong one by George and it was the opener for the album. On the song, it wasn’t George that played the solo…it was Paul. It’s a brilliant small solo and adds a lot to the song. Paul played it with an Indian feel for George.

Revolver is the only album on which Harrison has three songs. On all the others he only has two or fewer. On The White Album he had four, but it was a double album so he was only allotted his usual one track per side.

 George Harrison: “You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax. In those days we paid nineteen shillings and sixpence out of every pound (there were twenty shillings in the pound), and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money…It was, and still is, typical. Why should this be so? Are we being punished for something we have forgotten to do?…That was the big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”

George Harrison: “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes.”

 

From Songfacts

George Harrison wrote this song. The music was inspired by the theme song for the popular 1960s TV series Batman, which was written and originally recorded by the conductor/trumpeter Neal Hefti, and covered by the surf rock group The Marketts early in 1966 in a version that hit #17 in the US. Harrison was a big fan of the show.

This was the first track on the Revolver album. It was the first song Harrison wrote that was given such prominent position, indicating that he was capable of writing songs as good as Lennon and McCartney’s.

“Mr. Wilson” and “Mr. Heath” are mentioned in the lyrics. They are British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, who were being scorned in the song for contributing to English tax laws. Before this song was released, Wilson had presented The Beatles with the award for England’s Show Business Personalities of 1963 at the Variety Club of Great Britain Annual Show Business Awards held on March 19, 1964 in London. 

Over the next few years, George Harrison came to realize that money, when you have lots of it, is a rather ephemeral concept and does not translate to happiness. This played into his spiritual awakening. In 1969, he told BBC Radio: “No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t be happy anyway. So you have to find your happiness with the problems you have and you have to not worry too much about them.”

The fade-out ending is a reprise of the guitar solo as all completed takes of the song ended with John and Paul singing “Taxman!”

There’s been a lot of confusion over who played lead guitar on this track. Harrison said in his 1977 Crawdaddy interview: “I helped out such a lot in all the arrangements. There were a lot of tracks though where I played bass. Paul played lead guitar on ‘Taxman,’ and he played guitar – a good part – on ‘Drive My Car.”

Jeff Emerick said in his book on recording the Beatles that Harrison just couldn’t get the solo right, so Paul played most of the guitar parts, including the solo. The repeat of the solo at the end of the song was the same “exact” solo by Paul, which Jeff dubbed from the middle of the song to another piece of tape and cut into the fade at the end.

Seth Swirsky, who worked as a staff songwriter before producing the Beatles documentary Beatles Stories, told Songfacts: “I think Paul McCartney was one of the greatest guitar players of the ’60s. Nobody really recognized him as an electric guitar player, or an acoustic guitar player, but his leads on ‘Taxman’ and on different songs that you think George played, they ripped. I think George is great, but when Paul played lead on some songs, they tore. They were just very unique. There’s no one like Paul McCartney in the history of the world.”

The guitar solo at the end is a straight copy of the middle-eight. This same solo was later reused as a tape spool on “Tomorrow Never Knows.” >>

“Weird Al” Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called “Pac-Man” in 1981. It was never officially released on any of his albums (possibly because Pac-Man Fever got there first), but a demo version can be found on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes No. 4. The song is very faithful to the Beatles’ original, plus some musical and well-placed Pac-Man sound effects. Sample lyrics:

I used to be a pinball freak
That’s where you’d find me every week
But now it’s Pacman
Yeah it’s the Pacman >>

This wasn’t the last Beatles song to question who else is getting their cash. On their 1969 Abbey Road album, Paul McCartney contributed “You Never Give Me Your Money,” where he takes aim at their unscrupulous business partners.

Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan covered this song. His version sounds very different, but the lyrics are identical. 

Harrison put some math into the lyrics. In the beginning of the song, he sings, “There’s one for you, 19 for me” before “If 5 percent appears too small.” One of 19 is 5 percent. 

In his 1987 reminiscence “When We Was Fab,” it was clear that the taxation of long ago was still on George Harrison’s mind, as he sang, “Income tax was all we had.”

In 2002, H&R Block used this in commercials for their tax preparation service. The ads aired shortly after Harrison died.

Taxman

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

Beatles – Revolution

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head

This song was the B side to Hey Jude…a heck of a B side. John Lennon wanted it to be the first A-side released on Apple Records, the label The Beatles started, but Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” got the honor.

This was the first overtly political Beatles song. It was John Lennon’s response to the Vietnam War.

The “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” videos were shot in a studio setting and meant to look like the band was performing it live. They both aired September 8 on Frost On Sunday, a popular UK show hosted by David Frost, who was at the Twickenham shoot to introduce the clip for the segment on his show, making it appear that the band was really there.

*** A little fun here… I always wondered about the Revolution video. Between 10-13 seconds on the video below you see George say something to Paul. It’s either “John’s mic is sh*t” or something else …what do you think? Any lip readers?

The dirty guitar sound was created by plugging the guitars directly into the audio board and overloading it. The guitar sounded so scratchy that many who bought the 45 RPM single tried to return it, thinking it was defective.

There are two very different versions of this song… a slow version that appears on The White Album, and a fast, loud version was released as a single. In the slow version, Lennon says “count me in” as well as “count me out” when referring to violence. This gives the song a dual meaning.

The song peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100 and #1 in Canada

John Lennon: “I wanted to put out what I felt about revolution,”  “I thought it was about time we spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war when we were on tour with Brian Epstein and had to tell him, ‘We’re going to talk about the war this time and we’re not going to just waffle’…That’s why I did it: I wanted to talk. I wanted to say my piece about revolutions. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say, ‘What do you say? This is what I say.'”

Paul McCartney:  “It was a great song, basically John’s…it was an overtly political song about revolution and a great one. I think John later ascribed more political intent to it than he actually felt when he wrote it.”

Continuing, Paul writes: “They were very political times, obviously, with the Vietnam war going on, Chairman Mao and the Little Red Book, and all the demonstrations with people going through the streets shouting ‘Ho, Ho Ho Chi Minh!’ I think he wanted to say you can count me in for a revolution, but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao ‘you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.’ By saying that I think he meant we all want to change the world Maharishi-style, because ‘Across The Universe’ also had the change-the-world theme.”

 

From Songfacts

John Lennon wrote this in India while The Beatles were at a transcendental meditation camp with The Maharishi. Lennon told Rolling Stone: “I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it, that it’s going to be all right (even now I’m saying ‘Hold on, John, it’s going to be all right,’ otherwise, I won’t hold on) but that’s why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say ‘What do you say? This is what I say.'”

Revolutionaries take different approaches to reach their goals. In a 1998 interview with Uncut, Yoko One gave her thoughts on Lennon’s approach and how he expressed it in this song: “John’s idea of revolution was that he did not want to create the situation where when you destroy statues, you become a statue. And also what he means is that there’s too much repercussion in the usual form of revolution. He preferred evolution. So you have to take a peaceful method to get peace rather than you don’t care what method you take to get peace, and he was very, very adamant about that.”

The fast version was released as the B-side of “Hey Jude” in August 1968, three months before the slow version appeared on The White Album.

There are so many versions of this song because Paul McCartney didn’t like it. Lennon really wanted this song to be the “A” side of the single instead of “Hey Jude,” and kept changing it around to come up with something that would make Paul see it his way. He basically wrote the song because he felt like he was being pulled in so many directions by different people, all of whom wanted his backing, politically. It was also him questioning his own belief in the revolution that was going on… whether he was “out” or “in.” In truth, he was writing about a revolution of the mind rather than a physical “in the streets” revolution. He truly believed that revolution comes from inner change rather than social violence. (This is discussed in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook)

Nike used this for commercials in 1987. Capitol Records, who owned the performance rights, meaning The Beatles version of the song, was paid $250,000. Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights, meaning use of the words and music, also had to agree and was paid for the song (Jackson acquired the rights to 251 Beatles songs in 1985 when he outbid Paul McCartney for them, fracturing their friendship in the process).

The commercials caused a huge backlash from Beatles fans who felt that Nike was disrespecting the legacy of John Lennon, who likely would have objected to its use, but the ad campaign, called “Revolution in Motion,” was successful, helping Nike expand their market by featuring ordinary joggers, gym rats and cyclists. “We’re trying to promote the concept of revolutionary changes in the fitness movement and show how Nike parallels those changes with product development,” the company stated. “Because of this ‘revolution,’ we were able to draw a strong correlation with the music and the lyrics in the Beatles song.”

It wasn’t just fans who had beef with the ads: the surviving Beatles, along with Yoko Ono (representing Lennon’s estate), sued Nike, bringing even more publicity to the campaign. The ads ran for about a year, and eventually a settlement was reached in the lawsuit. As years went by, it became more acceptable to use songs in commercials, but Beatles songs remained off-limits, as any use would result in a lawsuit and hostile reaction by fans. What was “revolutionary” about the Nike commercials were that they were the first to do it.

In 2002, “When I’m 64” was used in a commercial for Allstate insurance. Many Beatles fans were not pleased, but it didn’t get nearly the reaction of the Nike commercials, partly because it was not a political song, but also because it was sung by Julian Lennon, which implied endorsement by his father.

On September 4, 1968, The Beatles made a promotional film for this song and “Hey Jude” at Twickenham Studios in London. These were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who did the previous Beatles videos: “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”

Unlike those clips, which were shot outdoors, the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” videos were shot in a studio setting and meant to look like the band was performing it live. They both aired September 8 on Frost On Sunday, a popular UK show hosted by David Frost, who was at the Twickenham shoot to introduce the clip for the segment on his show, making it appear that the band was really there.

Another edit of the footage was later broadcast on Top Of The Pops, and yet another was shown in America on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. When the Beatles compilation 1+ was released in 2015, a restored version of the video was included in the set.

Before this song was used to shill for Nike, Yoko Ono was fine with using John Lennon’s music in commercials; she authorized “Imagine” for a Japanese ad and said it was “making John’s music accessible to a new generation.” Nike bypassed the living Beatles, but went to her for approval, since the lead vocalist (the “principal performer”) of a song needs to grant permission under certain statutes. Also, as the keeper of Lennon’s legacy, it helped to have her consent for publicity purposes. Nike claimed the song was used “with the active support of Yoko Ono Lennon.”

This is one of the Beatles songs (“Help!” and “In My Life” are other examples) where John Lennon’s falsetto makes an appearance. He takes it up high for the word “be” in the line, “You know it’s gonna be all right.”

Nicky Hopkins played the piano. When The Beatles needed keyboards, they usually used Hopkins, Billy Preston, or their producer, George Martin.

 The word “Revolution” is mentioned just once, in the first line.

John Lennon wanted his vocals to have an unusual sound, so he recorded most of them lying on his back in the studio. The famous scream at the beginning is a double-tracked recording of Lennon. >>

The version on the Hey Jude compilation, released in February 1970 in the US, was the B-side of the “Hey Jude” single. The Hey Jude compilation album peaked at #2 in the US and consists of a collection of singles and B-sides that had not previously appeared on US non-soundtrack album releases. The album cover was taken at the final Beatles photo session, at Lennon’s (later Starr’s) country estate in Ascot, England. >>

Thompson Twins performed this song at the Philadelphia stage of Live Aid on July 13, 1985. The concert, which raised money for famine relief in Africa, had a global audience of at least 1.5 billion. Thompson Twins were joined on stage for the performance by Madonna (who contributed backing vocals and tambourine), Steve Stevens (best known as Billy Idol’s guitarist) and Nile Rodgers, who was also on guitar.

Thompson Twins included the song on their album Here’s to Future Days, which was released a few months later and produced by Rodgers.

The Stone Temple Pilots performed this at Madison Square Garden as part of the 2001 special, Come Together: A Night For John Lennon’s Words And Music. Their version was released as a single, with proceeds going to charity.

Revolution

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

Big Star – #1 Record…Desert Island Albums

This is my third round choice from Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days.
2020 ALBUM DRAFT-ROUND 3 PICK 6- BADFINGER20 SELECTS- BIG STAR- #1 RECORD

“Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1971 but didn’t arrive until 1985.”
Musician Robyn Hitchcock 

I never travel far, without a little Big Star
The Replacements

“We’ve sort of flirted with greatness, but we’ve yet to make a record as good as Revolver or Highway 61 Revisited or Exile on Main Street or Big Star’s Third.”
Peter Buck

The band didn’t chart a record when they were active. I still hold their music up along with The Who, Beatles. and Kinks…they never had the sales but they did have a giant influence. They released this album as their debut in August of 1972.  I had to stop myself from writing an open love letter (I may have failed) about this band. Was it the mystique of them? Was it the coolness factor of liking a band that not many people knew? No and no. It’s about the music. Mystique and coolness wear off and all you are left with is the music…We are fortunate to have 3 albums by Big Star to enjoy.

In the early eighties, I heard stories from an older brother of a friend about Big Star out of Memphis…but their records were hard to come by.  I loved what little I heard and it got lost in the shuffle but it planted a seed for later. 

By the mid-80s I heard more of their songs. In 1986 The Bangles released “September Gurls” and I knew it sounded familiar…and the DJ said it was a Big Star song…then came the song, Alex Chilton, by The Replacements and  I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t until the early nineties, I finally had Big Star’s music along with the Raspberries and Badfinger. My power-pop fandom kicked into high gear and I have never left that genre.

Big Star was the best band never heard. Such a great band but a long frustrating story. They made three albums that were among the best of the decade that were not heard until much later. They signed with Ardent which was a subsidiary of Stax Records.

A power-pop band on the soul Stax label doesn’t sound like a good idea now and it wasn’t then. Stax was failing at that time and could not distribute the records to the stores. Kids loved the music on the radio only to go to a record store with no Big Star records. Rolling Stone gave them rave reviews…but that doesn’t help if the album is not out there to purchase. They were through by 1974 after recording their 3rd album.

When their albums were finally discovered by eighties bands, they influenced many artists such as REM, The Replacements, Cars, Cheap Trick, Sloan, Matthew Sweet, KISS, Wilco, Gin Blossoms, and many more. They influenced alternative rock of the 80s and 90s and continue to this day.

Listening to this album with each song you think…Oh, that could have been a single. Alex Chilton and Chris Bell wrote most of the songs and wanted to emulate Lennon/McCartney and they did a great job but with an obvious American slant to make it their own. After the commercial failure of this album, Chris Bell quit but the other three continued for one more album and then bass player Andy Hummel quit after the second album, and Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens recorded the third.

I could have gone with ANY three of their albums. I picked this one because of Chris Bell. The songs are a bit more polished on this one than the other two but it fits the songs they present. Chris Bell added a lot to Big Star and after hearing his solo song I Am The Cosmos you see how much. Radio City, their second album, with Chilton in charge many consider their best and their third album, Third/Sister Lovers is not as commercially accessible but I still love it. All three are in Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time.

I’ll go over four songs.

The Ballad Of El Goodo  A song about Vietnam conscientious objector…but it is much more than that. It is one of the most perfect pop/rock songs recorded to my ears. This would make it in my own top 10 songs of all time. The tone of the guitars, harmonies and the perfectly constructed chorus keeps calling me back listen after listen. This is when pop music becomes more.

In The Street is a song that everyone will know. It was used as the theme of That Seventies Show. Cheap Trick covered it for the show. I was not a teenager in the early seventies but with this song, I am there front and center. Steal your car and bring it down, Pick me up, we’ll drive around, Wish we had, A joint so bad.

Thirteen is a song that Chilton finds that spot between the innocence of childhood and the first teenage year where they meet and intertwine with confusion. Won’t you tell your dad, “get off my back” Tell him what we said ’bout “Paint It Black”

When My Baby’s Beside Me has a great guitar riff to open it up. This is power pop at it’s best. A nice rocker that should have been blaring out of AM radios in the 70’s.

I’m not going over every song (but I could easily) because reading this won’t do it…you have to listen if you haven’t already. You will not regret it. Not just these songs but the complete album.

It’s a mixture of songs on the album…rockers, mid-tempo songs, and ballads. Even the weaker song called The India Song is very listenable. My favorites besides the ones I listed are  Watch the Sunrise, Don’t Lie To Me, Feel, and Give Me Another Chance.

I now have rounded out my albums on my island. The variety of The White Album, The rock of Who’s Next, and the ringing power-pop beauty of Big Star…swim or use a boat and come over to my island and we will listen…the Pina Coladas and High Tides (hey it’s an island) are flowing… let’s drink to BIG STAR.

On a side note. If you want to learn more there is a good documentary out about them called: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.

Feel
The Ballad Of El Goodo
In The Street
Thirteen
Don’t Lie To Me
The India Song
When My Baby’s Beside Me
My Life Is Right
Give Me Another Chance
Try Again
Watch The Sunrise
ST 100/6

  • Chris Bell – guitar, vocals
  • Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals
  • Andy Hummel – bass guitar, vocals
  • Jody Stephens – drums

 

 

 

Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

This is one of the best songs from the White Album. George stated that the song was written at his mother’s home in Warrington in the north of England.

Harrison was reading I Ching, the Chinese book of changes, and decided to write a song about the first words he saw, which were “Gently Weeps.”

George wanted a sound he wasn’t getting so he called his friend Eric Clapton to play on the song. It also served another purpose. Much like bringing in Billy Preston on Let It Be…John and Paul behaved much better when a visitor came into the picture. Eric declined at first because he said that no one plays on Beatle records and the others wouldn’t like it. George told him it was his song and he wanted him on it. According to George, the atmosphere changed and the song took off from there.

After hearing the playback Eric said that there was a problem…his guitar wasn’t Beatley enough.’ So it was put through the ADT (Artificial Double Tracking) to wobble it up a bit.

George Harrsion:  ‘Eric’s going to play on this one,’ and it was good because that then made everyone act better…It’s interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in, because they don’t really want everybody to know that they’re so bitchy…Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro and they all took it more seriously…Also it left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal…It was a similar situation when Billy Preston came later to play on ‘Let It Be’ and everybody was arguing. Just bringing a stranger in amongst us made everybody cool out.”

Mick Jagger: “It’s lovely, plaintive. Only a guitar player could write that. I love that song.”

George Harrison: “‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was just a simple study based on the theory that everything has some purpose for being there at that given moment…So I open this book and I saw ‘gently weeps.’ I shut the book and then I started the tune.”

 

From Songfacts

Harrison often had to fight to get his songs on the albums. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were not interested in this song at first, but came around when Harrison brought Clapton to the studio.

This was the first song Ringo played on after leaving the band in frustration a few weeks earlier. He returned to find flowers on his drums to welcome him back.

Clapton used a Les Paul guitar on this track. Later in his career, he switched to a Fender Stratocaster.

Even though this was not a hit, it is one of the most enduring Beatles songs. It remains popular on classic rock radio.

When George Harrison arranged a trip to India for The Beatles to study Transcendental Meditation, they were joined by their good friend Donovan, a singer-songwriter who had hits with “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow.” They shared a lot of ideas on this trip, many of which influenced The White Album. In our interview with Donovan, he said that John Lennon wanted to learn the clawhammer guitar style, while Harrison was interested in Donovan’s chord structures. The A minor descents Donovan showed him ended up in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

After working on this song, Eric Clapton became good friends with John Lennon, and played with him on some of his solo work. When George Harrison threatened to leave The Beatles in 1969, Lennon was ready to replace him with Clapton.

This was originally recorded as an acoustic ballad with just Harrison on acoustic guitar and Paul McCartney on organ. This version can be found on some bootlegs and on The Beatles Anthology 3

The Demo Version

The Studio Version

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don’t know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you

I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps

Beatles – Bad Boy

Well, this rock and roll has got to stop
Junior’s head is hard as rock
Now junior, behave yourself

This song was written and originally recorded by Larry Williams, a black rock singer admired by John Lennon. The song is about a rebellious kid who loves rock and roll. The Beatles chose cover songs that fit them very well.

I really like Larry’s version of this also. His version is rooted in the fifties with rhythm and blues… With Lennon’s voice, the Beatles version makes it sound like an early garage rock/punk record.

This Larry Williams song didn’t get much traction in the charts when it was released in 1959 but the British bands were listening and covering this song. The Beatles covered three of his songs on albums… Slow Down, Bad Boy, and Dizzy Miss Lizzy.

One of the very good covers The Beatles did early on. Nice guitar and Lennon’s voice comes right at you. The song was included on the American Beatles album The Beatles VI. In the UK it wasn’t on an album until the release of A Collection of Beatles Oldies in 1966. It was released in December just as the Beatles were starting on Sgt Peppers. Having an Oldies album released only 4 years after you start recording is odd but it was perfect timing because they would never sound the same again.

 

Bad Boy

A bad little kid moved into my neighborhood
He won’t do nothing right just sitting down and look so good
He don’t want to go to school and learn to read and write
Just sits around the house and plays the rock and roll music all night
Well, he put some tacks on teachers chair
Puts chewing gum in little girl’s hair
Man, junior, behave yourself

Buy every rock and roll book on the magazine stand
Every dime that he get is lost to the jukebox man
Well, he worries his teacher till at night she’s ready to poop
From rocking and a-rolling spinning in a hula hoop
Well, this rock and roll has got to stop
Junior’s head is hard as rock
Now junior, behave yourself

Going tell your mama you better do what she said
Get to the barber shop and get that hair cut off your head
He took your canary and he fed it to the neighbors cat
He gave the cocker spaniel a bath in mother’s laundromat
Well, mama’s head has got to stop
Junior’s head is hard as rock
Now junior, behave yourself

 

 

Beatles – You Never Give Me Your Money—- Songs That Reference Money

This was part of the famous Abbey Road medley that featured parts of songs by the Beatles.

John Lennon usually wrote about what he knew best…himself and and his personal views. Paul would many times write about fantasy…he would write about his significant other at any given time also but this is one of the few songs that he was living through. Unlike John he usually would mask things more.

Allen Klein’s time as manager built-up tensions within the band. Paul wanted Lee Eastman his in-law at the helm but John, George, and Ringo wanted the notrious Allen Klein. Klein managed the Stones for years and at the end Mick and company found out that they inadvertently signed away their songs up until 1969 to him. Paul was right in this case…they should have never gone with Klein but Paul should have picked someone else but his in-laws as a choice. No way were the others going to go with that decision.

The song was about Klein and his attitude. Always telling them how much they were worth but never handing over cash…just money figures on “funny paper.”

This song was the first song in the medley. It is actually 3 short songs into one. “You Never Give Me Your Money, ” “Out of College section,” and the “One Sweet Dream section”

I’ve been asked, what’s so special about the Beatles? The medley on side 2 of Abbey Road is just one of many things.

Paul McCartney: “This was me directly lambasting Allen Klein’s attitude to us,” “no money, just funny paper, all promises and it never works out. It’s basically a song about no faith in the person, that found its way into the medley on ‘Abbey Road.’ John saw the humor in it.”

George Harrison: “We get bits of paper, saying how much is earned and what this and that is, but we never actually get it in pounds, shillings and pence. We’ve all got a big house and a car and an office, but to actually get the money we’ve earned seems impossible.”

 

From Songfacts

This song is about The Beatles’ business problems. When their manager Brian Epstein died in 1967, they were burdened with handling their own finances, which became a source of tension in the band.

This is the first of a medley of songs on Abbey Road, which goes another 15 minutes to “The End.”

By 1969, members of The Beatles had a lot of unfinished song ideas, which they sometimes combined. This contains fragments of four songs put into one.

Regarding the lines, “You never give me your money, you only give me your funny paper,” “Funny Paper” is how The Beatles felt they were paid. They got frustrated when their accountants would tell them how much they were worth “on paper,” without actually telling them how much money they had.

Paul McCartney played this combined with “Carry That Weight” on his 2002 “Back In The US” tour.

You Never Give Me Your Money

You never give me your money
You only give me your funny paper
And in the middle of negotiations
You break down

I never give you my number
I only give you my situation
And in the middle of investigation
I break down

Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money’s gone, nowhere to go
Any jobber got the sack
Monday morning, turning back
Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go
But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go
Oh, that magic feeling
Nowhere to go, nowhere to go

One sweet dream
Pick up the bags and get in the limousine
Soon we’ll be away from here
Step on the gas and wipe that tear away
One sweet dream came true today
Came true today
Came true today (yes, it did)

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven

 

 

Beatles – Yer Blues

Great hard bluesy song on one of my favorite Beatle albums…The White Album. This is one reason I like the White Album so much. The variety it gives you is off the charts…but there is no mistaking who the band is in every song. The Beatles kept their style through the lush soft songs to the hard ones.

What I like about it is the rawness. This song and Helter Skelter have enough to spare.

The room they recorded this in was called Room 2A, which was next to the control room of EMI Studio Two and was a mere 8 ft. by 15.5 ft. The room had been used for storing four-track machines before it was emptied. It was very tight quarters for The Beatles once they set everything up. That added to the sound. They jammed together from 7pm to 5am and after 14 takes produced this song.

John Lennon wrote this in India while The Beatles were on a retreat learning meditation with the Maharishi.

Lennon was self-conscious about singing the blues.

John Lennon: “There was a self-consciousness about suddenly singing blues,” John continues. “Like everybody else, we were all listening to Sleepy John Estes and all that in art school (in the late ’50’s).  But to sing it, was something else. I was self-conscious about doing it.”

Ringo Starr: “We were just in an 8 foot room, with no separation, just doing what we do best: playing.”

A 9 minute version with Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell was performed on the Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. They called themselves the Dirty Mac.

Yer Blues

Yes, I’m lonely
Want to die
Yes, I’m lonely
Want to die
If I ain’t dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

In the morning
Want to die
In the evening
Want to die
If I ain’t dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

My mother was of the sky
My father was of the earth
But I am of the universe
And you know what it’s worth

I’m lonely
Want to die
If I ain’t dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bone
I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones

Lonely
Want to die
If I ain’t dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

Black cloud crossed my mind
Blue mist round my soul
Feel so suicidal
Even hate my rock and roll

Want to die
Yeah, want to die
If I ain’t dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

 

Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

My favorite psychedelic song and it was on Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The “Lucy” who inspired this song was Lucy O’Donnell (later Lucy Vodden), who was a classmate of John’s son Julian Lennon when he was enrolled at the private Heath House School, in Weybridge, Surrey. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds — Lupus Trust UK

It was in a 1975 interview that Lennon said, “Julian came in one day with a picture about a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Many thought Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was about LSD because of the initials but John denied it all of his life. I believe John because he was honest about much worse than this…John went to great lengths to deny any drug connotations involved in this song.

John did say he was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. He wrote the song with help from Paul. One of the highlights of this song is Paul’s bass playing. His walking bass line builds suspense through the song and then kicks in with the chorus.

This was banned by the BBC for what they thought were drug references. A Day In The Life was also banned off of the same album.

John Lennon: “I didn’t even see it on the label. I didn’t look at the initials. I don’t look – I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It’s like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don’t know what they are. Every time after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything.”

From Songfacts

The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus. Lennon re-connected with her after she appeared on a BBC broadcast where she stated: “I remember Julian and I both doing pictures on a double-sided easel, throwing paint at each other, much to the horror of the classroom attendant… Julian had painted a picture and on that particular day his father turned up with the chauffeur to pick him up from school.”

Confusion over who was the real Lucy was fueled by a June 15, 2005 Daily Mail article that claimed the “Lucy” was Lucy Richardson, who grew up to become a successful movie art director on films such as 2000’s Chocolat and 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers. Richardson died in June 2005 at the age of 47 of breast cancer.

Lennon affirmed this on the Dick Cavett Show, telling the host, “My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote the song about it.”

It’s not just fans that didn’t believe him: Paul McCartney said it was “pretty obvious” that this song was inspired by LSD.

In our interview with Donovan, who was good friends with John Lennon and joined The Beatles on their 1968 retreat to India, he made the point that Lennon often thought in terms of artwork, and like Donovan did on this song “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Lennon painted images in his head that became the lyrics for this song. “When we put the painter’s brush down and we picked up the guitar, a lot of the songwriters started ‘painting’ songs,” he said. “You’d just have to think of John’s ‘Picture yourself on a boat on a river’ – you’re actually in a movie or you’re in a painting. ‘Tangerine trees and marmalade skies’ – he’s painting.

The images Lennon used in the song were inspired by the imagery in Through The Looking-Glass, the sequel to the book Alice In Wonderland. “It was Alice in the boat,” Lennon explained in a Playboy interview. “She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualizing that.”

George Harrison played a tambura on this track. It’s an Indian instrument similar to a sitar that makes a droning noise. He had been studying with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who is the father of Norah Jones.

Elton John released a cover version of this song in 1974 that hit #1 in the US the first week of 1975. Elton is the only artist to top the tally with a Beatles cover, although Peter & Gordon took “A World Without Love,” which was written by Lennon and McCartney, to #1 in 1964.

John Lennon sang and played guitar on Elton’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” but reportedly forgot some of the chords and needed Davey Johnston, Elton John’s guitarist, to help him out. Lennon made a surprise appearance in Elton’s Thanksgiving concert in New York and performed three songs, which proved to be his last public performance.

Actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, covered this in his dramatic, spoken-word style. In at least one poll, this version was voted the worst Beatles cover of all time.

In 1974, Johanson and Gray named the 3 million-year-old Australopithecus fossil skeleton they discovered (the oldest ever found) Lucy, after this song because it was playing on the radio when Johanson and his team were celebrating the discovery back at camp. >>

Lennon said “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” turned out to be Yoko: “There was also the image of the female who would someday come save me… a ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko, though I hadn’t met Yoko yet. So maybe it should be ‘Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds.'”

During the media controversy over this song in June of 1967, Paul McCartney admitted to a reporter that the band did experiment with LSD. 

In 2004, McCartney addressed the issue of drugs in an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper: “‘Day Tripper,’ that’s one about acid. ‘Lucy In The Sky,’ that’s pretty obvious. There are others that make subtle hints about drugs, but it’s easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on The Beatles’ music. Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another, and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time.”

A group called John Fred and his Playboy Band had a #1 hit in 1968 with “Judy In Disguise (with Glasses),” a song that is a parody of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

In the Anthology one of the Beatles referred to being on LSD as like seeing through a kaleidoscope. Although Lennon denied this is about drugs, it does refer to “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” 

This song is very distinctive musically: It’s in three different keys and uses two different beats. 

Lennon admitted to British journalist Ray Connolly in an interview around the time of the break-up of the Beatles that he didn’t think he sang this song very well. “I was so nervous I couldn’t sing,” he said, “but I like the lyrics.”

In 2004 the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the universe’s largest known diamond, white dwarf star BPM 37093. Astronomers gave the star the catchier name of “Lucy” from this song.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile
The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Beatles – Blackbird

The acoustic guitar part that Paul wrote to this song is iconic now. The first few bars and you know what it is without hearing anything else. This song added to the texture of The White Album. On the same album you had the bone-crunching Helter Skelter, the rock and roll of Back in the USSR, the great pop of Sexy Sadie, the hard blues of Yer Blues, and then you have this song. It was credited to Lennon and McCartney but Paul wrote this one alone. The White Album was released in 1968 and it peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, and #1 in Canada.

Paul McCartney wrote this about the civil rights struggle for African Americans after reading about race riots in the US. He penned it in his kitchen in Scotland after he heard about an incident in Little Rock when the federal courts forced the racial desegregation of the Arkansas capital’s school system.

Paul McCartney met two of the women who inspired the song in 2016.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/paul-mccartney-meets-women-who-inspired-beatles-blackbird-57076/

Paul McCartney: “I was sitting around with my acoustic guitar and I’d heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the ’60s in Alabama, Mississippi, Little Rock in particular,” “I just thought it would be really good if I could write something that if it ever reached any of the people going through those problems, it might give them a little bit of hope. So, I wrote ‘Blackbird.'”

Dave Grohl: “It’s such a beautiful piece of music, perfect in composition and performance, and in its lyrics and in the range of his voice. Just learning that song made me a better guitar player and gave me a better appreciation of songwriting. To me it’s just musical bliss.”

 

From Songfacts

Only three sounds were recorded: Paul’s voice, his Martin D-28 acoustic guitar, and a tapping that keeps time on the left channel.

This tapping sound is a bit of a mystery, although in the Beatles Anthology video McCartney appears to be making the sound with his foot. Some sources have claimed it is a metronome.

The birds were dubbed in later using sound effects from the collection at Abbey Road, where the song was recorded.

McCartney did not have ornithological intentions when he wrote this song. In England, “bird” is a term meaning “girl,” so the song is a message to a black girl, telling her it’s her time to fly:

All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

The guitar accompaniment for this song was inspired by Bach’s Bourrée in E minor for lute. This is often played on classical guitar, an instrument Paul McCartney and George Harrison had tried to learn when they were kids. McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008: “We had the first four bars (of the Bourrée in E minor) and that was as far as my imagination went. I think George had it down for a few more bars and then he crapped out. So I made up the next few bars, and (sings his four-note variation Bach’s theme) it became the basis of ‘Blackbird.'”

This is one of the songs novice guitar players often try to learn, as it’s one of the most famous finger-style tunes. The singer Donovan claims some credit for teaching The Beatles a technique similar to the one McCartney used here when they were on a retreat to India in early 1968.

The word “bird” had been floating around Paul McCartney’s musical lexicon since 1958 when the Everly Brothers had a hit with “Bird Dog,” a song about a guy trying to steal another dude’s girl. McCartney was a huge fan of the Everly Brothers.

There have been hundreds of covers of this song. Perhaps the most enduring is Brad Mehldau’s instrumental jazz version, released in 1997. The only charting version of the song was by the Cast of Glee, which took it to #37 in 2011. Other notable covers include renditions by José Feliciano, Billy Preston, Sarah Vaughan, Jaco Pastorius, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bobby McFerrin and Dwight Twilley. The Doves did a cover in 2002 for the soundtrack to the TV series Roswell.

The singer-guitarist Kenny Rankin recorded it for his 1974 album Silver Morning. McCartney was a big fan of Rankin’s rendition: when the Songwriters Hall of Fame induced Lennon and McCartney in 1987, McCartney skipped the ceremony but had Rankin accept the award on his behalf and perform “Blackbird.”

The “broken wings” concept had been fluttering about for a while, notably in Kahlil Gibran’s 1912 story The Broken Wings. (The Beatles song “Julia” uses lines from one of Gibran’s poems, but McCartney has never cited him as an influence on “Blackbird.”) In 1985, the American group Mr. Mister released their #1 hit “Broken Wings,” which was directly inspired by The Broken Wings and like “Blackbird,” used the line, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

At the Academy Awards ceremony in 2016, Dave Grohl performed this song to accompany the “in memoriam” segment, recognizing those in the movie industry who died the previous year.

Blackbird Singing is the title of a book of poems McCartney wrote.

This is one of about 12 Beatles songs that McCartney often played in his live shows throughout his career. It lends itself to live performance because it is rather compact (it runs just 2:18) and can be played with just a guitar.

Blackbird

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise