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Headscratchers / The Beatles

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See also: Headscratchers.John Lennon.

  • Why do The Beatles spend a good 4 minutes at the end of "Hey Jude" singing "Nah, nah-nah, na-na-na-nah, na-na-na-nah, heyyy Juuuuuuuude" over and over? (And over and over and over and over...)
    • Reportedly it wasn't supposed to last that long, but they just kind of got into a thing and kept going.
    • Also, they wanted to steal the "longest charting single" status from Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park."
    • It's not literally about Julian; it's inspired by a song that Paul improvised for Julian, trying to cheer him up about his parents' divorce. Later it was reworked into a love song addressed to a generic male listener (hence the change of the addressee from "Jules" to "Jude"), but which is also a sort of auto-address. At least in anecdote, when Paul unveiled it John thought it was about him, about his new love for Yoko, and Paul replied, "No, it's about me."
  • Why does it say, on at least two different pages of this wiki, that "Please Please Me is about oral sex"? According to one poster on the InkTank forums, this decidedly non-canonical idea comes from one music critic who's notoriously filthy-minded (not just for this idea alone, either), hence is not the best of sources.
    • Namely Robert Christgau of the Village Voice. If there was some evidence that "please" had some special connotation related to oral sex — the song, at least, seems to be soliciting some kind of reciprocal sexual favour — that might be convincing, but nothing seems to present itself.
    • Well, it's hard to deny that they intended sexual overtones to be read into the song—at the very least as double entendre—but nothing as specific as oral sex. Remember: the thing about Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory is that it makes people feel smart about themselves, and since most people are dumb and perhaps recognize it on some level, that's a common need.
      • This is one of those cases where a little Lit-crit experience helps. The song isn't explicitly about oral sex (i.e. it makes no mention of genitalia, penises, mouths, cunnilingus etc.) but you could interpret it as being about oral sex, as long as you acknowledge that it could also be interpreted as being about the need for more reciprocity in a relationship. But the oral sex interpretation is certainly spicier. (After all, what exactly can he mean by "please please me [...] like I please you"?)
      • Sure, one could do so, but literary criticism still leaves space to say "I think this interpretation is made on too little evidence and thus is unconvincing." It's not hard to see this as being a song about sex (sufficiently spicy, no?), but insisting that it is specifically about oral sex without evidence of specifically coded vocabulary that points in that direction is just a weak interpretation.
  • This is more of a "it makes one curious" than something that's annoyibg, but to wonder what Yoko Ono, being Japanese, thought of Ringo's stage name, especially given that the Beatles are connected to Apple Corps. Ringo means apple in Japanese, and while Ringo's name came from wearing rings, it's just an interesting coincidence, especially considering there was someone at least of Japanese descent involved with the band.
    • It is worthy to remember that by the time she and John first met, she had already spent many years living in the US and was a fluent English speaker (which might have made her aware of the 'ring', not 'apple' origin), plus the Beatles were already famous, by then Yoko must have already been aware that Ringo was not one of the creatives in the band and finally, that was in 1966, long before Apple Corps was started (thus there was no reason to think apples were important for the Beatles back then) she may have thought the same as you: "it's just a curious coincidence".
  • The entire point of Michelle is that the singer has "fallen in love" with a French girl, and can't tell her because he doesn't speak much French. If you can't carry on a conversation with the object of your affections, it's probably not real love.
    • According to That Other Wiki the song is meant to be a parody of the French style of music. It's not serious.
    • And if it was serious, it could get handwaved as Love at First Sight or something similar.
    • One of the beautiful things about Paul's songwriting is that lyrics were often an afterthought. (John usually did just the opposite, explaining his sometimes musically underwhelming songs with deep, emotional lyrics vs. Paul's beautifully melodic Silly Love Songs.) This was just the case with "Michelle": it started out as an instrumental done In the Style of... Chet Atkins and the Love at First Sight lyrics came later. So the lyrics aren't really even that relevant; they just served to turn a wordless Chet Atkins parody into a lovely imitation of the French ballad. It is a pop song after all.
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    • That is sort of the joke of the song. It's just not a particularly laugh-out-loud joke, and the production doesn't suggest a comedy number.
  • The song Day Tripper. Okay, so she's a day tripper, right? That means she goes somewhere for the day and then comes back... so what on earth is she doing with a ONE WAY TICKET?
    • A "day tripper", in slang, is a person who uses hallucinogens constantly, so that it is more or less an all-day-every-day thing.
      • it's also someone who uses drugs occasionally but isn't a real hippie, just a poser.
      • "Sunday driver" is a colloquial term for sluggish drivers, implying that they treat all of their drives like leisurely weekend sightseeing excursions.
      • "She only played one-night stands"—that's clear enough. Listen to Mae West's cover, if you still don't get it.
      • What about the "easy Way Out" part?
      • Not mention "She's a big teaser," which stands in for "prick teaser."
  • To just do a quick breakdown of some of the lyrics of "Got toGet You Into my Life" : "I was alone/I took a ride/I didn't know what I would find there" ~ The singer first experiments with drugs. "Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there" ~ It's common after drug experiences to feel like you're no longer the same person you were before taking drugs. "Then I suddenly see you/did I tell you I need you/Every single day of my life?" ~ The singer does drugs, enjoys the high, develops a craving for it. And so on.
    • It could just as easily be about going to new places and meeting someone unexpectedly, then typical silly love at first sight. There's no overt drug references.
    • This is what has been called double-coding; it is open to multiple readings and serves different audiences in different ways. Plenty of drug-influenced Beatles songs play this way: "Lucy in the Sky" perhaps most obviously (initials aside, it was conceived as an articulation of psychedelic mind expansion), "Yellow Submarine," etc. Even the phrase "turn me on" turns up in several Beatles songs like "A Day in the Life" and "She's a Woman" — to the uninitiated it would seem pretty benign, but to those hip to it, it was a winking reference to drug lingo.
    • Lucy in the sky with diamonds wasn't made on drugs.
    • Maybe not literally on drugs (or at least not on acid — pot is another matter!), but it slots into the paradigm of psychedelic rock. Or put differently, even if Lennon was entirely being honest about the initials not being inspired by LSD (not sure why he'd lie about that as late as 1980), it is certainly reflective of saturation in the psychedelic milieu.
    • Plus, it was the 1960s — people were a lot less open about drugs than they are now, so the only way you could write a song about drugs and still get it recorded and played on the radio was to be subtle about it. Just because the references are veiled doesn't mean they're not there.
  • Before John's murder, he, Paul, and George occasionally joked in interviews about a reunion. Even given that they were joking, would a genuine reunion have been likely if John hadn't been killed?
    • To be honest, one gets the feeling that a Beatles reunion would have always been a long-shot even if Mark David Chapman hadn't decided to intervene. They may have 'teased and made jokes' about it, but Lennon at least always seemed to be fairly clear that he had little interest in it. Maybe something along the lines of the Anthology, but that would have been it.
      • John, George, and Paul had patched up their differences by that time. There was ample evidence to show the Beatles were on the way to reunion before yet another huge fan of Catcher in the Rye decided to murder someone.
      • Maybe—but even at best, there's a huge gap from "on speaking terms again" to "getting the old band back together and touring." Considering how quick the ex-Beatles all were to describe the chances of a reunion as slim to nil, the evidence doesn't seem that ample''.
      • Peter Doggett's You Never Give Me Your Money makes it clear that in 1980, discussions about a reunion concert were ongoing ... possibly in Central Park.
      • If they had gotten back together, expect that it would have been for a one-shot deal, likely for charity. They would have gotten together for Live Aid, which seems a reasonable thought.
      • For what it's worth, when Lorne Michaels offered a Comically Small Bribe on Saturday Night Live for the Beatles to come down to the studio and play, John and Paul (who were both in New York) got on the phone with each other about going to get it. They ultimately didn't, but were legitimately willing to do it.
      • It's actually even more frustrating than that. Both of them were sitting in John's apartment not far away, watching the show. They only reason they didn't go is that they were both too tired.
      • There's a short story on the Internet somewhere about an alternate timeline caused by Ringo, who goes back in time and buys them coffee.
      • "You can divide it up any way you want—if you want to give Ringo less, that's up to you."
    • One possible interpretation might be that Lennon was simply uninterested in anything too similar to living life as a jetsetting rock star. Perhaps he felt he didn't want to go through "the lost weekend" again, and wanted a stable, normal-ish family life and to be there for Yoko or Sean. He felt bad about his mistakes and didn't want to go back. He might have enjoyed his freedom in not surrendering to a group vote, too.
  • Why were the Beatles so family-friendly compared to their contemporaries? The rest of the Big Four were singing tons of songs with dirty, nasty subjects, while the Fabs almost never went out of family friendly territory. They did every so often (See: "Please Please Me", "I've Got A Feeling", "Piggies", "Getting Better") but still, it's strange.
    • The same reason why once they became visible, Brian Epstein had them dress in suits rather than the leather jackets they wore in Germany — a branding that positioned them as wholesome and upright. The Rolling Stones, etc., came later and went with raunchier material in part to distinguish themselves from the Beatles. That being said, some of the Beatles' material is less than family friendly: "I Am the Walrus," "A Day in the Life," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Back in the USSR," "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "Run for Your Life" and "The Ballad of John and Yoko" were all banned from the radio in either the US or the UK for one reason or another (but usually to do with drugs or politics, rather than sex).
    • It's what made them stand out, compared to their peers. Other rock & rollers only appealed to teenagers but the Beatles appealed to everyone: they were sexy and cool enough to drive girls wild (Lennon deliberately left his tie half-undone for that reason) but they were also funny and smart enough to intrigue adults and make them laugh. The Stones just repeated the usual rock & roll rebel pose; the Beatles lampshaded their own celebrity and that's why the media, and adults in general, found them so fascinating. And little kids liked them because they smiled a lot. (Until 1966, anyway.) Also, they didn't seem quite so family-friendly at the time; many adults found them threatening, until other bands came along who seemed even more so. Finally, remember that the Beatles' image was at odds with the reality. When American journalist Michael Braun published a 1964 book ("Love Me, Do!": The Beatles' Progress) in which he truthfully reported them as swearing (Paul, of all people, drops a Precision F-Strike) and guzzling scotch and chatting up girls, many fans refused to believe it could be true.
    • A lot of the songs were less family-friendly than you might think; The Beatles were also quite fond of Double Entendre. Sometimes having a wholesome and family-friendly image means you can be very sneaky in getting people to listen to stuff they'd automatically reject from someone who's a bit more upfront in being raunchy. Plus, let's be fair — the fact that a lot of their songs are a bit more accessible and family friendly doesn't stop them from being amazing songs regardless. In fact, one could reasonably make the argument that this is, in part, why they're so amazing; it's surprisingly easy to write a 'great' song when only a handful of people need to think it's great in order to qualify. There can be a lot of pretentiousness and snobbery circulating in rock music circles about being 'authentic' (somewhat ironically).
  • Does anyone else not get why people say they sing with American accents?
    • There's a few reasons for this:
      • They sang in transatlantic accents for maximum appeal. Since their natural accents were English, this means they were falsely "Americanising" the accents they sang in - just that they only falsely Americanised it 50%, not 100%.
      • And on top of that, many of their musical influences were American or American-influenced (skiffle, the musical form in which they started, was a sort of British reworking of a southern blues tradition). Yes, they had British influences too (notably music hall, in Paul's case) but it's simply the case that the sort of rock and pop they were creating seemed in the first place to demand American enunciations.
      • They'll sound English to American listeners who're used to hearing American accents, & therefore more likely to hear what's different about their accents than what's the same, because it sounds off compared to authentic Americans: it's a similar idea to the Uncanny Valley.
      • Follow The Leader - the British, & American, rock groups who came after The Beatles were influenced by many aspects of their songwriting, delivery, &c.; it's hard to believe now, but "yeah" was considered an Americanism when The Beatles started out. Due to its incredibly heavy usage in their early songs especially, it's now the most used word in rock, & used in conversation by Brits just as much as Americans.
      • They slowly faded into singing in their natural accents as their career went on (there's no way you could describe, say, "Glass Onion" as sounding American), & those albums are usually better regarded today by rock fans & music critics, but Beatlemania was when they were at the height of their sales & influence, & that was when their singing voices were most American.note 
      • Their families and friends noticed that when the band first started giving interviews on radio and TV, they played up their Liverpool accents a lot, especially Lennon and McCartney, who were much more middle-class than Harrison and Starkey and whose natural voices sounded relatively posh by comparison. They were Genre Savvy enough to realise that sounding like they were tough Liverpool boys was useful, especially as it made for a contrast with their relatively smart 1962/63 look of matching suits and ties.
  • The last few lines of "Sun King" are just Italian/Portuguese/Spanish-sounding gibberish, but the Sun King himself was French; why not French-sounding gibberish?
    • The mumbled gibberish at the end of You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) is described as "imitation French" in the Compleat Beatles.
    • Also, because it's just a pop song, not an actual history lesson on the French monarchy. Presumably Lennon simply thought that the "gibberish" made for a cooler aural effect and served his purposes better than actual French would.