Authors: Steve Turner
THIS IS A CARLTON BOOK
First published by Carlton Books Limited 1994
This edition published by
Carlton Books Limited 2009
Text copyright © Steve Turner 1994, 1999, 2005, 2009
Design copyright © Carlton Books Limited 1994, 1999, 2005, 2009
All rights reserved.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher‘s prior written consent in any form of cover or binding other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed upon the subsequent purchaser.
This book is dedicated to the memory of T-Bone Burnett and Larry Norman in memory of many hours of Beatle-talk over the years.
SGT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
Penny Lane; Strawberry Fields Forever; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; With A Little Help From My Friends; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Getting Better; Fixing A Hole; She’s Leaving Home; Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite!; Within You Without You; When I’m Sixty-Four; Lovely Rita; Good Morning, Good Morning; A Day In The Life
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR / YELLOW SUBMARINE
All You Need Is Love; Baby, You’re A Rich Man; Hello Goodbye; Only A Northern Song; All Together Now; Hey Bulldog; It’s All Too Much; Magical Mystery Tour; The Fool On The Hill; Flying; Blue Jay Way; Your Mother Should Know; I Am the Walrus; Lady Madonna; The Inner Light; Hey Jude
Back In The USSR; Dear Prudence; Glass Onion; Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da; Wild Honey Pie; The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill; While My Guitar Gently Weeps; Happiness Is A Warm Gun; Martha My Dear; I’m So Tired; Blackbird; Piggies; Rocky Raccoon; Don’t Pass Me By; Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?; I Will; Julia; Birthday; Yer Blues; Mother Nature’s Son; Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey; Sexy Sadie; Helter Skelter; Long Long Long; Revolution; Honey Pie; Savoy Truffle; Cry Baby Cry; Revolution 9; Good Night; Don’t Let Me Down
Two Of Us; Dig A Pony; Across The Universe; I Me Mine; Dig It; Let It Be; I’ve Got A Feeling; One After 909; For You Blue; The Long And Winding Road; Get Back; The Ballad of John and Yoko; Old Brown Shoe; You Know My Name
Come Together; Something; Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; Oh Darling; Octopus’s Garden; I Want You; Here Comes The Sun; Because; You Never Give Me Your Money; Sun King; Mean Mr Mustard; Polythene Pam; She Came In Through The Bathroom Window; Golden Slumbers; Her Majesty; Carry That Weight; The End
I’ll Be On My Way
Free as a Bird; Real Love; Christmas Time (Is Here Again); In Spite of All the Danger; You’ll Be Mine; Cayenne; Cry for a Shadow; Like Dreamers Do; Hello Little Girl; You Know What To Do; If You’ve Got Trouble; That Means a Lot; 12-Bar Original; Junk; Not Guilty; What’s the New Mary Jane; Step Inside Love; Los Paranoias; Teddy Boy; All Things Must Pass; Come and Get It.
This book tells the stories behind the Beatles’ songs, which I’ve defined as songs written and recorded by the Beatles. It looks at the how, why and where of the songwriting and traces the inspiration back to source.
Having said that, this is not a book about how the Beatles recorded the songs, nor about who played what on which sessions. Mark Lewisohn has done that job definitively in
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.
Neither is it a book of in-depth musical analysis. For this approach, see
Twilight Of The Gods
by Professor Wilfrid Mellers (Schirmer Books, 1973) or
The Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles
by Dominic Pedler (Omnibus Press, 2003).
Also exemplary is
Revolution in the Head
by Ian MacDonald (Fourth Estate, 1994). MacDonald takes the same song-by-song approach that this book takes and his insights and depth of knowledge about popular music of the sixties are unparalleled.
This is also not a book that explains what the Beatles ‘were really trying to say’. Although I’ve given outlines of many songs and have referred to psychological factors that I believe influenced the standpoint of the writing, I’ve left the task of interpretation to others. If you do want to know what Paul was saying, read a book like
Paul McCartney: From Liverpool To Let It Be
by Howard DeWitt (Horizon Books, 1992) or, if you want to catch the drift of John’s intellectual development, read
The Art and Music of John Lennon
by John Robertson (Omnibus, 1990) or
John Lennon’s Secret
by David Stuart Ryan (Kozmik Press, 1982).
What I have tried to do is simply to tell the story of how each song came into being. It could have been a musical inspiration, such as trying to write in the style of Smokey Robinson. It could have been a phrase that just wouldn’t go away, like the ‘waves of sorrow, pools of joy’ line that compelled John to write ‘Across The Universe’. Or it could have been an incident like the death of socialite Tara Browne which led to the writing of a section of ‘A Day In The Life’.
My primary source has been the words of the Beatles themselves. I was fortunate enough to meet John, interviewing him and Yoko at the Apple office in Savile Row in the summer of 1971, shortly before
was released. I remember complimenting him on the personal nature of his new songs that had come after an intense period of therapy. “My songs have always been personal,” he responded. “‘Help!’
was personal. ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ was personal. ‘I’m A Loser’ was personal. I’ve always been on that kick.”
I didn’t meet Paul until 1992 when I was asked to help Linda in the writing of the text for her photographic book
Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait Of An Era.
I had hoped that Paul would contribute his own memories but he decided that he couldn’t just dip into a project like this and yet didn’t have the time to make a full commitment. He did, however, point out some discrepancies in the stories I had collected so far which I was then able to change.
The most reliable comments on the songs being those made by the Beatles themselves, I’ve drawn extensively on the published interviews I have personally collected since beginning my first Beatles’ scrapbook in 1963. Those that I had missed, I searched out at the National Newspaper Library and the National Sound Archives in London. There were seven invaluable written accounts which I found myself coming back to repeatedly and without which I wouldn’t have known where to start. In order of publication these were: Alan Aldridge’s interview with Paul McCartney published as
A Good Guru’s Guide To The Beatles’ Sinister Songbook
magazine, London, on November 26, 1967;
by Hunter Davies, 1968;
Lennon: The Greatest Natural Songwriter of our Time
by Mike Hennessey in Record Mirror, October 2, 1971 (reprinted in Hit Parade, April 1972);
by Jann Wenner, 1971;
I Me Mine
by George Harrison, 1980,
The Playboy Interviews
with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1981 and
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now
by Barry Miles (1997). There were also two radio series which shed light on the songwriting: Mike Read’s
McCartney On McCartney,
broadcast on BBC Radio 1 during 1989, and
The Lost Lennon Tapes,
an American production featuring demo tapes from John’s private collection which Yoko had allowed to be broadcast for the first time.
As informative as all these were, they didn’t tell me the whole story. Many of the anecdotes are already well known. I wanted to interview the people who were around when the songs were written, or who had even been the subject of songs. I also wanted to track down the newspaper stories which had provided ideas, the books from which they’d taken lines and the places which had inspired them. I wanted to surprise even the remaining Beatles themselves because I knew that they didn’t know who Mr Kite really was or what happened to the girl whose story inspired ‘She’s Leaving Home’.
The definitive book on this subject won’t be written until John’s and George’s journals, letters and work books are made public and Paul and Ringo sit down in front of a microphone and share everything they remember about the 208 songs which the Beatles recorded. The chances are, though, that John’s material will remain locked in vaults for the foreseeable future because much of it refers to people still living and Yoko believes that it is too sensitive to release. The six-part television series
The Beatles Anthology
and the accompanying ‘biography’ of the Beatles was disappointing to anyone expecting the remaining members of the Beatles to tell hitherto-untold stories.
That’s why it was worth compiling this book. It may be the closest we’ll ever get to understanding how the Beatles conjured up their songwriting magic.
London, November 1998 and March 2005
The second half of the Beatles’ career saw them pushing the popular song form as far as they could then imagine it going. I can still remember my surprise on first hearing ‘Paperback Writer’ because the words of the title were so unlike anything I’d heard in a chart song before. Pop songs were about girls and cars and dancing, not about paperback books or prospective authors.
From 1966 onwards the Beatles didn’t seem to consider any subject as inappropriate. At least half the songs on
were nothing to do with love and their primary inspiration was no longer the work of other artists. They grabbed song ideas from overheard conversations, anecdotes, newspaper headlines, esoteric books, posters, dreams, TV commercials, paintings and everyday occurrences. They were equally voracious musically, listening to Asian music, avant-garde jazz, musique concrete and experimenting with the possibilities of tampering with magnetic tape.
Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and the soundtracks for
Magical Mystery Tour
all developed from the pursuit of altered states of consciousness.
The Beatles (The White Album),
although mostly written during a meditation course in India, marked a return to basics – comic book stories, guttural blues, folk style guitar – and a break with their recent psychedelic past.
Let It Be,
another film soundtrack, was an attempted return to the music that had first inspired them.
reprised their good points while showing that they were still capable of surprise.
This period of their career saw George Harrison emerging as a composer and John playing less of a central role in the Beatles as Yoko Ono loomed larger in his life. In 1964 and 1965 John had been
a major contributor to the group’s hit singles. After
Paul came to dominate. ‘Hello Goodbye,’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ ‘Lady Madonna,’ ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Get Back’ and ‘Let It Be;’ were all written by Paul. The partnership that produced ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was over.