2009-02-17

A critical analysis of Beatles lyrics

Fun is the one thing that money can't buy - She's leaving home.

Considered one the Beatles' more "mature" songs, "She's Leaving Home" outlines the story of a young woman moving out of home without her parents' knowledge. There's certainly an interesting juxtaposition between the eager resolve of the young woman and the grief and pain of her parents. Yet all this is undone by this inane line in the final stanza. Has the young woman learned self respect? Has she learned the importance of controlling her own life? No. She's having fun and, despite empirical evidence suggesting that currency can be utilized to procure fun inducing goods and services, it is not because of money.

And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me. - Let it Be.

People have tried to interpret this song theologically, assuming that McCartney is a closet Catholic who has visions of the Virgin Mary. ("She" in this line being "Mother Mary") The reality is that Paul McCartney was speaking about his mother, who is named Mary and was in the habit of appearing in front of McCartney in the darkness. The problem is, of course, how does McCartney see his dead Mum standing in front of him when everything is dark? I suppose she could be glowing, but then it wouldn't be dark any more would it? Didn't think of that did you Paul? That's why Wings folded (ha ha.... wings folded... sorry).

You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo
. - Baby You're a Rich Man.

There's all sorts of things wrong with this song. Who are Lennon/McCartney talking to? A literal baby? Yet if it was a literal baby then why call it a "rich man"? And if not a literal baby, why not a symbolic baby - a babe, woman? Yet why call the woman a "rich man"? And if not a woman then why not a man? And why would you call a man "baby?" And why does writing this remind me of Phil Spector and firearms? All terribly confusing. Yet this rich genderless and ageless person keeps his/her money where? In a big brown bag, and not just any brown bag, a BIG brown bag, and not just any coloured big bag, a big BROWN bag to boot. And yet despite the fact that inflation in Britain during the sixties was getting out of control, this genderless and ageless person keeps the money not under the bed, but in a zoo. Is this a metaphor for the city... the high world of finance existing in a concrete jungle that is totally unlike a zoo? Either that or he/she/it thinks he can hide his cash in the elephant enclosure.

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 U.S.S.R. - Back in the U.S.S.R.

For the record, the British Overseas Airways Corporation never had direct flights from Miami to anywhere in the Soviet Union. And what about Georgia? Is this some veiled referential support for Stalin? Or was it a secret desire to escape the shackles of godless communism and return to the deep south of the USA? Too confusing Paul. That's why Wings folded (ha h... oh).

You say it's your birthday. It's my birthday too, yeah. - Birthday.

The chances of randomly discovering that a stranger you met has the same birthday as you do is somewhere in the region of 4 in 1461. I can imagine the sheer oddity of this occurrence being memorable to some. But to write a song about it?

She's a prick teaser, she took me half the way there
. - Day Tripper.

This is about as Spinal Tap as you get with Beatles Lyrics. "Sex farm woman...".

Hope you need my love babe, Just like I need you. - Eight Days a Week.

Surprise surprise, we might think that Robert Plant was the first to substitute "Love" for something a little bit more base but, as usual, the Beatles got there first. Maybe McCartney could sue Zeppelin for publishing rights?

And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong, I'm right. Where I belong I'm right
. - Fixing a Hole.

I can't understand why so many redneck Americans got so uptight and angry over the Beatles back in the sixties. The idea that one can have a strong opinion about something they know little about should've made them and The Beatles get along fine. After all, the mass of the four human beings who made up The Beatles would've been larger than the mass of the physical body of Jesus.

And when I feel my finger on your trigger I know nobody can do me no harm. Because happiness is a warm gun, momma. - Happiness is a Warm Gun.

Momma? The addition of that final word turns the line from being sleazy into being rather disturbing. But just as the Beatles pre-empted Zeppelin's redefinition of "love", so too do they delve into the deep and dark morass of Freudian interpretations of Oedipus and thus pre-empt The Doors. Jim Morrison wasn't so original after all was he?

Tell me, tell me, tell me your answer, You may be a lover but you ain't no dancer
. - Helter Skelter.

The addition of the double negative "You ain't no" ensures that the line fits rhythmically but not grammatically. He's literally saying "You may be a lover but are not no dancer", meaning the woman (I assume it is a woman) may be a lover but is also a dancer. The most logical explanation of these lines is that one of the Beatles had a sexual relationship with one skilled in the arts of choreography in an amusement park somewhere. Either that or it was a secret code ordering us to follow Charles Manson.

There are places I remember all my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better, Some have gone and some remain. - In My Life.

The key to understanding this line (and thus the whole song) is not that the places have changed, but his memory of them have! Hence "There are places I remember all my life, though some (memories) have changed." Early onset dementia is a terrible thing to experience and John Lennon's experience of it (which resulted in him being permanently beer-goggled, hence Yoko) is a lesson for us all to remember. If we can.

When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now, Will you still be sending me a valentine, Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
- When I'm Sixty Four.

Sadly the odds are that either the love of your life has died, or else is taking legal action against you. Or maybe both.

2 comments:

Noni Mausa said...

"She's leaving home..." Yes, the "fun" line always bothered me too. Mostly because fun is too trivial of thing, although fine in its place of course.

A couple of years ago I was struck by the widespread use of the word fun. If you were going somewhere, your friends would say "have fun!" If you just came back from somewhere they would say, "did you have fun?" If you did something, unless it was obviously something of greater importance like a funeral or an economics conference (grin) people would ask you "was it fun?"

But fun is far from being an ultimate good. Nobody ever asks "was it joyful?" "was it dreadful?" "was it disquieting?" But these are the qualities that last.

I mentioned this to my classmates in school,* trying to raise this topic for discussion, however they seem to think that I was trying to be a spoilsport. Sigh.

Noni

* three-four years ago. I was semi-retired, they were mostly college age. Maybe that was the problem.

BBuck said...

That was a waste of my time, thanks.