Latest posts by Ed Park (see all)
- Bring on the Lucie by Hallelujah the Hills - October 9, 2015
- Experiment: Two Words - July 27, 2013
- POV - July 19, 2013
ED PARK • We’ve discussed in these virtual pages the dire quality of that couplet in “She’s a Woman” (you know the one), and the let’s-sneak-this-in-and-move-on line in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (“I look at my floor and I see it needs…sweeping”)…
This morning, I was enjoying “Baby’s in Black” and was struck by:
I think of her but she thinks only of him,
and though it’s only a whim,
she thinks of him.
and though it’s only a whim,
she thinks of him.
It’s only a whim! A whim!!!
I’ve always wondered if “Baby’s in Black” could have been inspired by Astrid Kirchherr’s continuing love for Stuart Sutcliffe. (No book I’ve ever read has brought up this possibility.)
Ha ha, I’ve always wondered about that line too! ‘It’s only a whim’? Really? Talk about not being able to think of a better rhyme! It sounds so awkward. You can always spot when they couldn’t think of anything to rhyme or scan with the rest of the song, because it always sounds forced like this.
And I agree that ’till the cows come home’ is hysterically funny when you think about it. Honestly what was he thinking?? At least ‘she’s no peasant’ as awkward as it it sounds, has a little something to do with the fact that the listener might be thinking, “Oh no, she doesn’t give him presents?! Well she has no class then.” “It’s only a whim” gives the main character of the song “she”, an air of shallowness. As if Lennon and McCartney are saying, “Isn’t she silly? She doesn’t really miss him. She just thinks she does because that’s how she feels in the moment.” So I guess a case can be made for the word fitting the song. It’s such a whimsical song anyway…one of my favorites.
As for George’s line about the floor needing sweeping, the Beatles often worked this way, by looking around the room or at whatever was on TV and putting it in the song. So this line is a lot like Lennon’s “sitting on a cornflake”, or “1000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire” etc etc. George happened to be sitting in his mom’s kitchen, looked down at the floor and noticed that it needed to be swept, so he put the line in his song. But, ‘Love her til the cows come home’….hmmmm perhaps he got the line from some western he was watching on TV. I think it’s the dumbest line in a Beatles song. It can’t be explained like the others.
I love you (woo woo woo woo)
‘cos you tell me things I want to know
And it’s true (woo woo woo woo)
That it really only goes to show that I know
That I (I I I I) should never never never be blue!
Now you’re mine and my happiness still makes me cry
And in time, you’ll understand the reason why if I cry
It’s not because I’m sad but you’re the only love that I’ve ever had.
The only suitable response is a shudder, and then the skip button.
There is this!
I enjoy this song, admittedly goofy lyrics and all, because it sounds like the band having a great time playing with pop songwriting and performance conventions. The whole thing just feels like a lark — I mean, “Oh dear, what can I do? / Baby’s in black so I’m feeling blue”? The delivery definitely doesn’t sound blue. I think they pull off “whim” because it’s clear they’re singing it with tongue in cheek. It fits the tone of the song.
On the other hand, George’s seeing that the floor needs sweeping in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” doesn’t work for me. Reminds me of parodies of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” — every leaf you rake, every cake you bake, etc. Too much rhyming for rhyming’s sake, in a song that’s taking itself too seriously for that.
I dearly love the Beatles but in the interests of balance I had to include a Lyrical Hall Of Shame on my Beatles Songwriting Academy blog. As I’m working album by album I haven’t even gotten to some of the worst offenders yet…
My nominee for terrible lyric is this line from Something: “I don’t want to leave her now; you know I believe and how.”
George, do you really love her? “And how!!” It’s just so incredibly cheesy in an otherwise moving song. And yes, that line about “sweeping” has always stuck out like a sore thumb in WMGGW.
I feel like George often got away with weak lyrics a lot because people were so busy feeling sorry for him and cheering on the underdog. Take My Sweet Lord, his biggest solo hit. It’s basically just a repeat of 4 lines: My Sweet Lord, I really wanna know you (show you, yada yada), Hallelujah and Hari Krishna. There’s beauty in simple lyrics, I know. But George relies on that too often. There’s no Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields Forever in George’s catalog.
Heeeee! I LOATHE the “peasant” line, though usually I can look past it because Paul’s voice is so awesome.
I don’t mind “sweeping”; I’m okay with a mix of grandiose and commonplace imagery.
Sorry if this is heretical, but I’ve always rather despised most of the lyrics to “Across the Universe.” It kinda reads like self-important, trying-too-hard tenth grade poetry, to me.
I mean, “LIMITLESS UNDYING LOVE WHICH SHINES AROUND ME LIKE A MILLION SUNS“??? Sooooo purple. ;P
I actually like *both* “and though it’s only a whim” and “I see it needs sweeping.” (Isn’t the latter a pithy metaphor?)
But my favorite truly dopey (but endearing) set of lines is:
“…That when I tell you that I love you, oh
You’re gonna say you love me too
And when I ask you to be mine
You’re gonna say you love me too…”
Since we’re getting into general criticism of lyrics (rather than specific examples of awkward lines), can I say my least favorite song in the whole catalog is “Lady Madonna.” Is it a serious statement about poverty, or sadistically poking fun at poor people (particularly unwed mothers)? The words and music (with the turkey-gobble backup vocals) are both mocking. The song’s tone is similar to Neil Young’s “Welfare Mothers,” but that song works because it’s written from the point of view of a lecherous sleazebag and is overtly, admittedly cynical. Lady Madonna is just kind of…smug.
I have to step in here to defend Harrison’s line about the floor needing sweeping. I like the relationship of that quotidian thought to the lyric about the world turning. It’s all so weary, and for me it adds to the melancholic atmosphere. However, I fully admit Harrison might have thrown in the line about sweeping for the sake of an easy rhyme. But the beauty of song lyrics is they can sometimes reflect the listener’s perspective and search for meaning more than the song writer’s intent.
Gotta say, I don’t see anything mocking about poor people or unwed mothers in Lady Madonna. Not sure where you’re hearing that. Great track, great lyrics, IMO.
The “sweeping” line doesn’t bother me that much, truly. @ Joe, I can see your point about mixing the everyday with the philosophical.
So much depends on delivery. Lyrics can sometimes be appreciated as poetry, without music, but only sometimes. @ Mudarra, those lines from “I Should Have Known Better” are transformed, for me, by Lennon’s singing. That “oh” and the way he goes up on “mine” — that’s amazing, and conveys emotion far beyond the words by themselves could ever do.
And I don’t hear “Lady Madonna” as smug or mocking, so much. To me the galloping music mirrors the pace of the mother’s days. The song feels like an observation, if not an overtly sympathetic one a la “Eleanor Rigby.”
My least favorite Beatles song is “Piggies,” which I hear as pretty pure misanthropy.
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@Annie McNeil – “Limitless undying love that shines around me like a million suns and calls me on and on across the universe” is probably my favourite Beatles lyric of all. I’d like it on my headstone. But it takes all sorts 😉
@Nancy Carr – I’ve never really understood why ‘Piggies’ causes so much offence. I don’t think it’s misanthropic as such – I think it’s targeted quite selectively. It uses grotesque caricature but that’s part of the fun. My reading of it is that George is poking fun at ignorance and privilege in the upper echelons of British (and possibly American) society. I could be wrong but I see it as more anti-elitist than misanthropic.
For me, a highlight of Piggies is “Clutching forks and knives
To eat their bacon…”
They’re not only pigs, but…cannibals!
Since a lot of you say you don’t hear Lady Madonna as mocking, I’ll try as hard as I can to hear it as you do. Honest, I will!
Lennon was supposedly amused by Paul’s lyric “Please lock me away,” yet John wrote the lyric “I’ll (or I’d) get myself locked up today”.
Here’s one from each of them –
John – “And curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get”
(‘Get’ or ‘git’ is northern English slang for jerk/asshole)
Paul – “She could steal, but she could not rob”
Anyone know the difference?
George – “It doesn’t really matter what clothes I wear, or how I fare, or if my hair is brown”
George had a weakness for triple rhymes that don’t really come off
Ringo – “I’m sorry that i doubted you, I was so unfair, you were in a car crash and you lost your hair”
Surely the worst of them all?
@Mudarra, differences of opinion welcome here! Your comment intrigued me, so I looked up what Tim Riley says about the song in “Tell Me Why.” Here’s part of his commentary, which touches on the possibly mocking/sarcastic elements of the song:
“The title is an oxymoron: she’s a ‘lady,’ but she’s also a virgin with a ‘baby at [her] breast.’ It’s a smart play on how chaste spiritual doctrine doesn’t account for desires of the flesh, on the hypocrisy of pretending that it does . . . . The stately conclusion of ‘See how they run!’ is sung with giddy irreverence — it implicates the run in her stockings (large enough for intercourse) as it exculpates the kids she’s forced to feed as a result. The groove dances all over the contradiction.
Paul’s cryptic tone makes the stylized nostalgia hip. A growling sax solo exonerates guilty pleasures backed by the vocals’ sarcastic ‘up-bab-bah-bahs.’ With kids running about in the verses and the farcical nursery-rhyme bridge, prolonged innocence is hooted at as unnatural; sex is congenital.”
So in Riley’s reading the mocking is directed at conventional morality, not at Lady Madonna herself.
And yeah, good point about the “Piggies” being cannibals. @ Peter, I think I might be better able to hear this song as the anti-elitist statement George probably intended it to be if the Manson murders hadn’t used this song (among others on the White Album) so atrociously. I can’t un-know that, so it’s hard to hear the song without that overlay.
I like the relationship of that quotidian thought to the lyric about the world turning. It’s all so weary, and for me it adds to the melancholic atmosphere.
@Peter Deville: Eek, I knew I’d be stomping on somebody’s near-and-dear lyrics! Yes, you’re right; it does take all sorts. 🙂 “Universe” is just very much double-plus NOT my cuppa.
Speaking of purple, though, how about “The wild and windy night that the rain washed away has left a pool of tears crying for the day”? Also, erm, an un-favorite of mine.
Re: “Lady Madonna”: I think that there’s a slightly critical tone in what is otherwise a sympathetic observation. “Mocking” is too strong; I think the absurdity echoes Lady’s own thoughts, the “music in her head”, as she contemplates her own ambivalence toward motherhood.
@Nancy: Thanks for posting that analysis; very interesting! I agree about the sexual innuendo in the running stockings, and elsewhere in the song I think “see how they run” refers to the children running away from the less than ideally maternal Lady.
I’ve always wondered if Julia Lennon wasn’t something of an inspiration for the song. Paul liked her, but he must have seen how her shortcomings hurt John, so that would fit the sympathetic/critical nature of the song. And Paul clearly had sympathy for John’s struggles with parenthood…
@Dan: I like the Walter Raleigh line; its randomness is amusing, and suggests the scatter-brained irritability of the chronic insomniac; it’s well-delivered by John, and I’m sure a little research would unearth a passably relevant “symbolic” meaning.
“Steal” vs. “rob”: you steal an object, but you rob a person, so I think the idea is that when faced with the personal implications of theft, She couldn’t go through with it. I like the lyric. 🙂
I always thought the “Raleigh” line was about smoking (tobacco), fwiw.
@Nancy Carr – good point about Manson. That unfortunate connection probably has a lot to do with the song missing the mark for many.
@J.R. Clark – I think ‘If I could get my way, I’d get myself locked up today’ means the thing he’d like to do would be liable to put him in prison.
@Michael Gerber – yes, I’m pretty sure that’s it – he’s lighting up a cigarette and cursing the man credited with popularising tobacco in England, blaming him for his addiction. The Raleigh-tobacco thing is something that every school kid gets taught in history in the UK. Or at least it used to be.
Paul – “She could steal, but she could not rob”
Anyone know the difference?
To rob someone is more of a transgressive act. More violent. To steal from someone requires a degree of cooperation on the part of the victim (as in “you stole my heart”).
At least, that’s how I always interpreted it, while stoned with headphones.
– Hologram Sam
I think maybe some lyrics like ‘you were in a car crash and you lost your hair’ and ‘I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping’ were for the amusement of themselves and the other Beatles. John, and probably all of them, had a habit of replacing song lyrics for silly, humorous ones, like ‘sweet Loretta Fart, she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan’. It wouldn’t surprise me if sometimes silly lyrics were thrown into a song, maybe in jest or in place of a more serious lyric as yet unwritten, and then left in because it amused them.
What? That line about Sir Walter Raleigh is hilarious!!! Funniest, cleverest line in any Beatles song! He’s cursing Sir Walter Raleigh as a stupid git for popularizing tobacco in Britain.
Makes me laugh still when I hear it. 🙂 Especially the way John sings it.
I do wish I knew what Paul meant by “she could steal but she could not rob.” Here’s all I can figure: “Steal,” according to my Webster’s New World Dictionary, involves stealing something in a secretive, surreptitious way. To “rob,” on the other hand, involves taking something openly, often using force or violence.
I don’t who Paul is referring to here — who the “she” is. But it seems to me he’s talking about someone who is capable of being a sneaky thief but won’t be upfront about what they’re trying to take.
Just a guess.
According to Tony Bramwell in Magical Mystery Tours, Lady Madonna was supposedly about Paul’s mother, not John’s. But I don’t know where Tony actually got that info. From Paul himself? Paul never said as much in public, and to me the song doesn’t bring to mind Mary much. But neither does it bring to mind Julia either, at least not to me personally. But I guess anyone can have any interpretation, especially if the author never really said what the song is about. My personal feeling is, it’s about no one in particular. It sounds to my mind, like one of those songs that found it’s origin from a newspaper article that Paul may have read. I also agree with others here, I don’t hear any smugness in the song. I don’t hear anything except just a straightforward rock and roll number with no deep meaning to it and no grand intentions.
I do agree with Annie about Across the Universe. Never liked it much either. I find the lyrics too fussy and precious. Although lately it’s beginning to grow on me. At least I no longer skip it.
I used to like Piggies when I was young, but now I see it as rather mean spirited, and I find the music awkward and forced. However I don’t mind in the least, George’s “and how” lyric in Something. I’m thinking what the heck, it scanned, the rest of the song is beautiful, so I’ll give him a pass.
I think this discussion and others like it, has brought home the fact that it seems all of the Beatles had some trouble with lyrics from time to time. Of course once again it seems Paul is the only one who has been called out on it by authors, but John was guilty even more often IMO. So was George. What they were never guilty of though IMO, was great music i.e. wonderful arrangements, melodies, and musicianship. They all shined more in that area than in lyric writing. But to me, lyrics aren’t important, only the music is.
In case I wasn’t clear: In that line from I’m so Tired, John is blaming his own bad smoking habit on Sir Walter Raleigh. That’s what so funny about it. Like it’s not at all John’s own fault, it’s that pesky Sir Walter’s fault.
By far the best version of Across the Universe, I think, is the one on Let it Be… Naked. In fact, I think it’s the only version where the song really works. Sorry, a bit off topic. Back to lyrics…
I remember reading (maybe in Revolution in the Head?) that She Came in Through the Bathroom Window was about a young woman who somehow got into Paul’s house in Cavendish Avenue and stole a treasured picture of his dad. He managed to get it back so maybe the nuance of ‘steal’ and ‘rob’ in ‘she could steal but she could not rob’ isn’t so important – it’s just a way of him saying she stole it but she didn’t get to keep it.
“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window was about a young woman who somehow got into Paul’s house in Cavendish Avenue”
…as referenced in the earlier thread, re: Norman and Paul and Norman. I did not know about the photo part–just goes to show how these guys were/are besieged by fans.
FWIW, I’ve always thought that “Lady Madonna” was about an unwed mother in desperate financial straits, having sex with men to support her children. The song describes the endless men who come through–one without a suitcase, one with holey socks, one embarrassed (“creeping like a nun”), and so forth. Men who never stay, “see how they run.” And finally we hear her described as “lying on the bed/listen to the music playing in your head”–totally numbed by the experience, there but not there, doing what she’s got to do to “feed the rest.”
To me, it’s always been another of Paul’s songs of empathy towards people (esp women, esp poor). Maybe I heard this theory somewhere; if not, I claim it in the name of Hey Dullblog.
Michael, I put “Lady Madonna” in my McCartney songs of empathy catalog (#2, chronologically), so maybe you heard it from me! In any case, Hey Dullblog is all over it.
Why are Paul’s songs expressing empathy disproportionately by and about women? Now that’s an interesting question to me.
On the subject of bad lyrics, I have to say that none of the Beatles examples here gets to the level of truly awful for me. For that you have to go to McCartney’s solo work, I’m afraid. He has some serious clunkers, even if the ratio of clunkers to good lines isn’t nearly as high as his detractors make out. The clunkers are really, really bad, though.
From “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”: “You can take a pound of love and cook it in the stew.” Ewwwww. How profoundly unappetizing and unerotic.
From “Hi, Hi, Hi”: “Get you ready for my polygon.” Have to say, on the list of of all the spatial forms that could suggest the relevant portion of the male anatomy, the polygon isn’t making it.
From “The Other Me”: “I acted like a dustbin lid.” No, this entire set of lyrics belongs in the dustbin.
From “The Girl is Mine”: “The doggone girl is mine.” Who ARE you, Andy Griffith??
My runner-up Trophy of Dubious Distinction is hereby awarded to Ritchie for the car crash line, which I suspect he didn’t just write for a larf, as someone above suggested. I read somewhere that “losing one’s hair” is allegedly an erstwhile British expression meaning to get anxious or upset about something. (Have never seen/heard that officially corroborated, though.) Even in light of that possible bit of sense, however, it’s still a terrible line. But, then again, I’ll let Ringo off the hook (as we all must do), because I have another very shudder-inducing contender from someone who should have known better, especially by 1967. (The occasional lyrical clunker pre-’65 is completely excusable, imho. Cows and peasants are okay by me.)
The line that truly “gets on me wick” and I never hear referenced for its blatant lyrical poverty is “fun is the one thing that money can’t buy.” Pardon me if I err, but isn’t f-u-n one of the things money really DOES buy? And even if you want to argue with me that there’s some truth to the line (though why would you?), at least admit that it’s more than a tad hyperbolic… not to mention painfully corny. The “one” thing money can’t buy? Sorry, Paulie, but you contradict yourself, darling. Go back to ’64… you had it right the first time. 😉
Nancy: Paul didn’t write The Girl is Mine. That gem was all Michael Jackson’s. Paul’s written his share of clunkers but don’t blame that one on him!
And my British friends tell me the dustbin line works for them. Because “dustbin lid” is British slang for “kid.” It doesn’t sound strange to them at all. He’s saying he acted like a kid.
Back in the day, many of us believed the “Hi Hi Hi” line went, “Get you ready for my body gun.” Which was a most appropriate and tumescent metaphor for what G. B. Shaw called the “manroot.”
Peter I don’t know if others said this already yet, but maybe the line “she could steal but she could not rob” means she could steal the physical object (and other possessions besides the photo) but she couldn’t rob him of his feelings, beliefs and the love he felt for his father/his song manuscripts, and other things that were stolen from him that had deep meaning to him. Also your interpretation, that she brought the photo back so she didn’t really rob it, makes sense too. Anyway that is an excellent line in an excellent song. I think Paul was a wonderful lyricist, very underrated. His talent was over shadowed by the John hyperbole.
Nancy I have to agree however that some of his solo lyrics were ridiculous. “The Doggone girl is mine” is a lot worse IMO than George’s “and how” lyric. Perhaps because the entire song is so horrible it shouldn’t have been recorded. And the polygon line doesn’t even make sense. Makes me wonder if he was high as a kite himself when he wrote Hi Hi Hi. I find that song downright embarrassing.
As for his empathy toward women and the poor, yes it is so obvious, and not just on Dullblog. I’ve seen it written elsewhere. He also wrote a lot of songs about time, or that referenced time, which I find interesting. None of this has been explored in any bios, while it should be. But of course his authors to date have been too interested in how much money he owed his band, how many women he slept with and inpregnated, and digging with a magnifying glass to find examples of bad attitude. And reporting all the times when he had a wonderful attitude, as examples of his “phoniness”.
CS, the line “fun is the one thing money can’t buy” has always struck me as a bit of a throwaway, too. But since we are all probing and overturning words looking for answers, if you take the perspective of the runaway girl, fun would be something money wouldn’t necessarily buy. The “speaker” is a teenager (I assume) so the parental trip about responsibility and getting a job – making money – would seem a huge bore and drag. Fun is hanging out with your friends, having a laugh, sneaking a smoke, a kiss and a grope at the cinema. That sort of fun involves loose change, not “money”. So the more I think about it, the more the line is appropriate. It’s not a clever line. But it’s spoken like a 15 year old would speak it in a song in which Paul is channeling more than one perspective.
@Drew, thank you for the info Drew. I did not know that Jackson was the sole composer. So the booby prize goes to him and not Paul. As for the “dustbin” line I was going to write the same thing but I deleted it for some reason. Yes I’ve heard that expression before in other songs, and yes it is a British expression.
@Girl – Your ‘steal/rob’ analysis sounds very plausible to me.
Re: ‘dustbin lid’. From a British perspective, well, it’s true that it is rhyming slang for kid, and I don’t doubt that Paul used it in that context, but I have to say it’s not really in common usage these days so you’re liable to get some confused looks if you try to drop it into conversation on this side of the pond as people will most likely think you’re referring to actual dustbin lids rather than children!
On the subject of phrases and lyrics, I was once informed by someone of an older generation that a more common version of the phrase ‘shaves in the dark trying to save paper’ in Mean Mr Mustard is ‘SHITS in the dark…’ As in ‘he’s so tight, he shits in the dark to save (toilet) paper’. Although I’ve never heard anyone say it myself, I’d like to think it’s true and John performed a bit of self-censorship with a wink to the knowing.
Oh, by the way, on the subject of British phrases, you’d say ‘keep your hair on’, as in don’t lose your cool, but you’d never say ‘you lost your hair’ to describe someone getting upset. You’d say ‘you lost your rag’ or just ‘lost it’, or ‘blew your top’, maybe. So I don’t think that’s what Ringo meant.
Here are my nominations for the worst McCartney lyrics from the Beatles years:
“Where the winds don’t blow and golden rivers flow…” (From a song I otherwise rather like called “I’ll Be On My Way”)…
“Birds sing out of tune/And rain clouds hide the moon” (“World Without Love”)
Or, from “Love of the Loved”…and McCartney’s usually excellent melodic sense seemed to be sleeping in that day, as well…
“Each time I look into your eyes/I see that there a heaven lies
And as I look/I see the love of the loved.”
After a few of those, you can’t blame George Martin for wanting them to record “How Do You Do It?” as awful as that song is.
Not that Lennon always fares much better…take “Hello Little Girl”…
“I send you flowers but you don’t care.
You never seem to see me standing there
I often wonder what you’re thinking of
I hope it’s me and love, love, love.”
No, honestly, if she doesn’t care, I doubt she’s thinking about love love love…
Or from a song I otherwise like called “I’ll Get You”. John follows a rather clever first verse with an incredibly lazy one…
“I think about you night and day, I need you and it’s true.
When I think about you, I can say, I’m never, never, never, never blue.”
“Never” four times?
Not to leave out Mr. Harrison: Here are some George lines that makes you want to take those Dylan records away from him (“Think for Yourself”)
“Although your minds opaque/Try thinking more if just for your own sake
The future still looks good/ And you’ve got time to rectify
All the things that you should”
As to “Baby’s in Black”, sometimes I’m struck by its almost nursery rhyme structure, both in terms of words and tune. Sometimes I think it’s just a remake of “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? Johnny’s So Long at The Fair” in terms of melody and even the first couple of words.
“but in this ever changing world in which we live in” (Live & Let Die) gets the prize for worst lyric EVER from me…
Surely it’s “but if this ever-changing world in which we’re living”?
@Trawicki, I’ve always heard that line as “In this ever-changin’ world in which we’re livin’.” My ears are kind when it comes to ex-Beatles.
Pre-’65 lyrics aren’t fair game, to me. In a world of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (not to mention “moon and June”) allowances must be made.
@Peter, I LOVE that phrase, thanks for introducing me to it! I’m going to try to use it at least once a day.
I don’t care about proper grammar in a rock song. I’m sure some English teachers would say, Ain’t that a shame? But when I’m listening to music, I can’t get no satisfaction when the grammar police are around.
@Joe ~ I get your perspective, but don’t necessarily agree. When I was 15, I had plenty of fun with not much money, but I can think of a ton of more fun money would have bought me and my friends. Besides, it’s just such a corny hyperbole… and, I must admit, it’s one of my least favorite songs anyway. I find the whole thing a bit much and rather cloying, but I’ll spare you the digression…
Since y’all are dishing up some solo Macca lyrics, I’ll toss in the Jailer Man and Sailor Sam, which probably annoy me the most because the song is so friggin’ awesome otherwise. Just a huge flaw on a 20-carat diamond.
Oh, and which one of you can explain to me “my salamander”?? A quirky term of endearment, I assume. Or am I missing some naughty hidden meaning? Unless it’s the latter, it’s just too silly to be cool.
I’ve only just realised that ‘I’m sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair, you were in a car crash, and you lost your hair’ is meant to sound ridiculous – the singer of the song is getting the brush-off from the object of his affection, who is offering wild, implausible excuses and he’s being naive, or faux-naif, about it. It’s actually quite a nice, clever lyric in that context.
Sorry that I doubted you, Ringo 😉
Paul – “In her cap she looked much older
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a…”
Me – “Soldier?”
Paul – “… military man”
Me – oh… OK”
George – “We all know what you eat you are”
Me – “Yeah, the old ‘you are what you eat’ thing. Very true.”
George – “But what is sweet now turns so sour”
Me – “Yeah, karma’s a bitch.”
George – “We all know obla-di-bla-da”
Me – “oh… OK”
Before Bob Dylan, John Paul and George were content with simple love song lyrics. It wasn’t until after their discovery of Bob they realized they could take absurdist wordplay poetry and wed them to their pop tunes.
But here is alot to be said for simple love song lyrics. Buddy Holly didn’t live long enough to be inspired by Dylan, so his simple love lyrics are all we are left with.
– hologram sam
Here’s my nomination for the wittiest line in a Beatle song:
Time after time, you refuse to even listen
I wouldn’t mind, if I knew what I was missing.
Not a great rhyme, but clever as hell anyway.
Reading some of these back comments reinforces how opinions and interpretations are still alive and well ten or so years later!
The ‘and how’ line from Something doesn’t bother me at all, but that ‘stick around’ part must be one of most unromantic lines ever written in a love song. I don’t really enjoy Across the Universe; it’s lyrics are too New Age late sixties hippy dippy for me.
The couplet in She’s A Woman, presents/peasant, has gone around the block a few times. It must be one of the most misunderstood ever. Use of the word ‘peasant’ as a pejorative wasn’t at all unknown in the North of England at the time the Beatles were growing up, and probably something most non-Britons are aware of. If the word really was that dire I suspect John would have culled it immediately at the time.
Similarly the oft criticism of Jailor Man/Sailor Sam from Band on the Run misses the play on references to the British comic book culture Paul grew up with in the fifties. Sailor Sam, Desperate Dan, Harris Tweed. They’re as valid as anything from American popular culture with which the song shares its lyrics.
The dustbin lid phrase is another one that has been explained and reexplained constantly over in the Steve Hoffman forums. I think Paul’s biggest downfall was sometimes drawing from a personal world of memories too obscure for most people to understand. An exercise in pointlessness from him in inviting ridicule. In 1965, fine; 1975 pretty ok; 1985, just out of touch.
Some of Paul’s solo lyrics are awful, agreed, but I think he is also a target for lazy criticism as someone pointed out earlier. Many post 1970 rock lyrics in general are pretty awful in my opinion and far too many are given weight they don’t deserve. From faux philosophizing to self-conscious posturing, some of the lyrics from rock star pencil chewers sound like they’ve just walked out of one of those clunky creative writing courses popularized in the seventies.
Perhaps the Beatles solo or otherwise were sometimes guilty too, but in their favour they at least kept them mercifully short.
I have no problem with the “whim” lyric.
The song seems to be from the point of view of a guy who is frantic because the girl he likes is only thinking of some other dude, who seems to be ghosting her.
The girl is most likely deeply in love with the other dude, but the frantic guy is insisting “it’s only a whim!” because he can’t accept the truth.
A little two-minute soap opera, that song is.