Though you may see a zombified John Lennon rocking with Taylor Momsen in the near future, you can't expect the busy, bespectacled Beatle to take the time to explain every little madcap song by the greatest band ever. (Sure, John. You're the walrus.) That's what you have us for! In honor of nothing—simply because we love The Beatles—we've tasked our entire Division of Retro Affairs and Cupcakes (merged for budgetary purposes) to decode some of the stranger verses penned by the most fabulous foursome ever to flout their frocks.
Everyone knows the Beatles got a little…artsy (see: psychotic) toward the end, so we started with tracks from Abbey Road and The White Album. Everything you're about to read is 180 degrees percent TRUE. Without further ado, Goo goo g'joob:
"You Never Give Me Your Money"
Critical listeners often point to the band's latter-day lawsuits when analyzing this Abbey Road ballad. "You never give me your money / You only give me your funny paper" is a reference to court orders and inter-band bickering, right? WRONG—and shame on you for believing it! This song is actually about John, George and Ringo's deliberate disregard for Paul's yearly request that they "just give [him] a few pounds" for his birthday.
Year after year, John and Yoko's unwanted homemade gifts (usually some sort of voodoo doll knit from Yoko's hair and Indian rug fibers) always came wrapped in the comics section of local periodicals—hence the "funny papers" line—but Paul's greatest annoyance was the seeming fact that George and Ringo never coordinated gifts, often getting Paul the exact same thing. Three years in a row (1965-1968), for example, Paul received identical pairs of cruelty-free leopard print undies from his careless comrades.
This tradition also inspired the song "Get Back," originally titled "No Give-Backs."
Not much mystery here—this song is about trying to find a decent Red Lobster franchise in Liverpool, a task which Paul astutely described as, "bloody impossible."
Did you know that Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by the same parent company? It's true! Weird, right? Kind of makes sense though. Like, if you think about it.
Is anyone else hungry for bread sticks?
"Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey"
During post-recording interviews, John claimed this song to be about his relationship with Yoko, while Paul claimed it to be about John's substance abuse. Both of them, of course, were merely covering for the truth about Ringo's participation in the string of so-called "Monkey Man Heists" of 1968.
For several weeks that summer, Ringo Starr and a lovable chimpanzee sidekick named Mick Jagger (no relation) capered around the English countryside, picking flowers, picking up ladies, and occasionally robbing banks or highway vagabonds. They all had a good laugh about it, and eventually wrote this song as a dual confession and soundtrack to the wacky montage that is no doubt playing in your head right now. Similarly, the song "Dig A Pony" was a tribute to the pretty pink stallion George Harrison spent six months teaching to play harmonica/drive the getaway car.
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
John, Paul, George, and Ringo were legendary fans of Frodo, Boromir, Gandalf, and Gimli, respectively. But in 1969 the teen girls of the world were simply not ready for hip-shaking, heartthrob Tolkien geeks to sing them into a sweaty, screamy frenzy. A few years later fellow Britrock heavies Led Zeppelin were explicit in their nerdboy love of Middle Earth, popularizing songs like "Misty Mountain Hop," "Ramble On"—which references "Gollum and The Evil One" at 2:55, real talk—and "Babe I Wish You Were A Halfling," but amid the height of their influence The Beatles were advised to "Hide [Their] Love Away," so to speak.
The band's most direct LOTR refs came in this eight-minute acid blues clunker, featuring both music and lyrics that reflected Frodo's overwhelming desire ("I want you so bad / It's driving me mad") and unbearably hefty burden ("She's so heaavaaayyyy!"). Some accounts report the studio session for this track got so impassioned that at one point Paul actually tried to bite off George's ring finger before leaping giddily into the fireplace, but due to a last-minute dodge only got half of his mustache instead. As was so common with Beatles songwriting, this simple gesture inspired a whole new ballad of its own: "The Day Paul Bit Off Half Of George's Mustache," later retitled, "Let It Be."
What other Beatles songs do you want demystified?