In an intimate and revealing session, John Lennon delves into the heart and soul of The Beatles' music, offering unprecedented insights into their most iconic songs. Just a week before his tragic passing, Lennon sat down with Playboy to articulate the essence, origins, and lasting impact of the band's work, marking a rare exploration into the musical journey that defined a generation.
HIS FINAL WORDS ON I THE BEATLES' MUSIC
The Beatles songs defined a generation, and one week before he died, John Lennon was in the process of defining those songs for PLAYBOY. It was a project that grew out of conversations for the January 1981 "Playboy Interview." Enthusiastically, Lennon agreed for the first time in years to go over their songs, one by one, and comment on their origin and impact-and the memories associated with them.
"You're asking about my work, about my life's work," he told interviewer David Sheff and PLAYBOY Executive Editor G.
Barry Golson. "I'm proud of it. Let's get it on the record."
What follows is Lennon talking about much of his major work. We think it's a fitting tribute to the man and his music.
Across the Universe: It was one that drove me out of bed. I didn't want to write it. I was just slightly irritable and I went downstairs and I couldn't get to sleep until 1 put it on paper, and then I was able to go to sleep. It is a lousy track of a great song. I was so disappointed by it. The guitar is out of tune and I'm singing out of tune because I was psychologically destroyed. Nobody was supporting me or helping me with it, but we would spend hours doing little detail cleaning on Paul's. When it came to mine, somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness - "Let's try a few experiments" - would come over. It was subconscious sabotage, yeah. He will say this doesn't exist, that I'm paranoid, but I'm not paranoid. It's the absolute truth. So I just gave the song to the World Wildlife Fund with no plans to do anything else with it, but then Phil Spector dug it up for Let It Be.
All My Loving: All My Loving is Paul, I regret to say [laughing). Put that laughter in brackets, right? It is a damn good piece. [Singing] "All my loving, I will send to you. . ." But I do play a pretty mean guitar in back.
And I Love Her: And I Love Her is Paul again. That was his first Yesterday. You know, the big ballad. I believe I put something in the middle eight.
Any Time at All: An effort at writing It Won't Be Long. The old C to A minor, like Michelle.
Baby You're a Rich Man: That is a combination of two separate pieces. Paul's and mine, put together and forced into a song. One half was all mine [singing]: "How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are, da da da da...." And then Paul comes in with [singing]: "Baby you're a rich man...." Because he just had this "Baby you're a rich man" around.
Back in the U.S.S.R.: Paul completely. I play the six-string bass on that-the [singing while mock bass playing] "Da da da da...." Try to write that with your typewriter.
Ballad of John and Yoko: Guess who wrote that one. There is only me and Paul playing on the record. George and Ringo weren't there. I wrote it in Paris on our honeymoon. We had it before we were married. It's a piece of jour-nalism, a folk song. It's like a traditional folk ballad.
Beautiful Boy: Well, what can I say? It's about Sean. The music and lyrics came at the same time.
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite: The whole song is from a Victorian poster, which I bought in a junk shop. It is so cosmically beautiful. It's a poster for Pablo Fanques Fair, which is a genuine thing that must have happened in the 1800s. Everything in the song is from that poster, except the horse wasn't called Henry. Now, there were all kinds of stories about Henry the Horse being heroin. I had never seen heroin in that period. No, it's all just from that poster, Birthday: That, like all the Beatles [White] album, was written in India. Once we had our mantra, we sat in the mountains eating lousy vegetarian food with a lot of time to write all those songs. Paul wanted to write a song about birthdays, so he did that one. It's a piece of garbage, but there is one interesting sound in it: We put the piano through a guitar amplifier and put the tremolo in, which may have been the first time that happened.
Blackbird: I gave Paul a line on that one, an important line, but it's really all him. Paul is good at that kind of guitar thing. So is John Denver.
(The Continuing Story of) Bungalow Bill: At the Maharishi's meditation camp. there was a guy who took a short break to go away and shoot a few poor tigers and then came back to commune with God. I combined two characters for the name-Jungle Jim and Buffalo Bill. It's a sort of teenage social-comment song. It's a bit of a joke. Yoko's on that one, singing along with me.
Can't Buy Me Love: That is Paul completely. There is a middle eight 1 probably helped on. Let's see. [Singing] "Can't buy me love, can't buy me love, love... money can't buy me love. Money can't da da da.... I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love. Can't buy me love. ... Maybe 1 had something to do with the chorus. I don't know. Always considered it his song.
Carry That Weight: That's Paul. I think he was under strain in that period.
Cleanup Time: It's a piano lick with words added. It's pretty straightforward if you read the lyrics. I was talking to [producer] Jack Douglas on the phone from Bermuda. We were talking about the Seventies and about people getting out of drugs and alcohol and those kinds of things. And he said, "Well, it's cleanup time, right?" and I said, "It sure is." That was the end of the conversation. I went straight to the piano and just started boogieing and Cleanup Time came out. Then I had the music and thought, What is this about? I only had the title. So then I wrote the story on top of the music. It's sort of a description of John and Yoko in their palace, the Palace of Versailles, the Dakota. [Singing] "The queen is in the counting house, counting up the money; the king is in the kitchen..."
Come Together: It's me, writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. Though it's nothing like the Chuck Berry song, they took me to court because I admitted this once years ago. I left in one line, which is not just Berry's: "Here comes the old flat top." I could have changed it to "Here comes the old iron face." The song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on this earth. The thing was created in the studio. The lyrics are gobbledygook and Come Together was an expression that [Timothy] Leary had come up with when he was running for President. They'd asked me to write them a campaign song. I tried and tried and tried and couldn't come up with it. But I came up with this Come Together, which would have been no good for them. They couldn't have had a campaign song like that, right? But Leary attacked me years later, saying I ripped him off. Well, I had written another little thing called singing] "Come together and join the party...It never got further than that. And they never came back to ask for the song. I didn't rip him off. I had the song there waiting for him. It's a funky record. It's one of my favorite Beatle tracks or one of my favorite Lennon tracks, I'd say. It's funky, it's bluesy and I'm singing pretty well. I like the sound of the record. You can dance to it. I'd buy it. A Day in the Life: Just as it sounds. I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guin. ness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash. On the next page was a story about 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. In the streets, that is. They were going to fill them all. Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song "I'd love to turn you on."
Day Tripper: Mine. Clearly. The lick, the guitar break and the whole bit. It's just a rock-n'-roll song. Day trippers are people who go on day trips, right? It was kind of. You are just a weekend hippie, get it? Dear Prudence: Me. Written in India. It's a song for Mia Farrow's sister, who went slightly balmy, meditating too long, who wouldn't come out of the little hut that we were living in. [Singing) "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play.... They selected me and George to try and bring her out because she would trust us. We got her out of the house she'd been locked in for three weeks and wouldn't come out. She was trying to find God quicker than anyone else. That was the competition in Maharishi's camp: who was going to get cosmic first. What I didn't know was that was arcade cosmic Languish)
Dear Yoko: Ah, what can I say? [Singing] "Even after all these years...." It says it all. The track's a nice track and it happens to be about my wife, instead of Dear Sandra or some other person that another singer would sing about who may or may not exist.
Dr. Robert: Another of mine. It's mainly about drugs and pills, you know. It was about myself. I was the one who carried all the pills when we were on tour in the early days. Later, the roadies did it.
Drive My Car: Paul's song. It has a Motown bass line. He got this "drive my car" thing and the "beep beep beep" in the studio. I think we just threw it in.
Eight Days a Week: Eight Days a Week was the running title for Help! before they came up with Help! And it was Paul's effort, though I helped on a lot of it. It was his effort at getting a single for the movie, which luckily turned out to be Help!, which I wrote like bam bam, like that, and got the single. They gave us the title and Paul wrote the song, but it was never a good song. They changed the movie's name because Help! was a better title.
Eleanor Rigby: Paul's first verse, and the rest of the verses are basically mine. Paul had the theme, the whole bit about Eleanor Rigby in the church where a wedding had been. He knew he had this song and he needed help, but rather than ask me to do the lyrics, he said, "Hey, you guys, finish up the lyrics," while he sort of fiddled around with the track or the arranging or something at another part of the giant studio at EMI. I sat there with Mal Evans, a road manager who was a telephone installer, and Neil Aspinall, a student accountant who became a road manager, and it was the three of us he was talking to. I was insulted and hurt that he had thrown it out in the air that way. Actually, he meant for me to do it, but he wouldn't ask. That was the kind of insensitivity he had, which made me upset in the later years. It's just the kind of person he is. It meant nothing to him. I wanted to grab a piece of the song, so I wrote it with them sitting at that table, thinking, How dare he throw it out in the air like that?
Part of it we worked out together: Paul didn't have the middle-"Ahh, look at all the lonely people." He and George and I were sort of sitting around the room throwing things around and I left to go to the toilet. I heard someone say that line and I turned around and said, "That's it!" I remember we first put Father McCartney in place of Father McKenzie, but Paul thought his dad would get upset by it. I can't take credit for the violins and the beautiful arrangement. Jane Asher, who Paul was with at that time, turned him on to Vivaldi and he got the arrangement straight out of his work. [Pretending to play violin, sing-ing] "Father McCartney, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear...
The End: Paul's. Another unfinished song for Abbey Road. It had a nice line in it: "The love you take is equal to the love you make." It proves that if Paul wants to, he can think.
The Fool on the Hill: Paul again, proving that he can write lyrics if he's a good boy.
For No One: Paul's. One of my favorite pieces of his, too. That and Here There and Everywhere. A nice piece of work, I think.
From Me to You: We were writing it in a van on an early tour heading for Scotland or Newcastle or somewhere like that. The first line was mine. Then we took it from there. It was far bluesier when we wrote it. That was truly a combination-written song. It was written together singing into each other's noses.
Get Back: Paul's. That's a better version of Lady Madonna. It's a potboiler record. I think there's some underlying thing about Yoko in there. Every time Paul sang the line "Get back to where you once belonged," he'd look at Yoko. Maybe he'll say I'm paranoid.
Getting Better: It is a diary form of writing. All that "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically-any woman. I was a hit-ter. I couldn't express myself and I was hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.
Give Peace a Chance: All we were saying is give peace a chance. I didn't write it with Paul, but he got credit on the song, because I wasn't ready to take his name off yet.
Glass Onion: It's just a throwaway song, à la everything I've written. The "walrus was Paul" line was just to confuse everybody a bit more and, especially, because I felt slightly guilty because I'd got Yoko and he'd got nothing and he was losing me, 'cause I was going to quit. The walrus is really just a bit of poetry that didn't mean anything. It could have been "I am the fox terrier" and then this song would have gone, "Well here's another clue for you all, the fox terrier was Paul."
Good Day Sunshine: Paul's song com-pletely. Maybe I threw in a line or something.
Good Morning, Good Morning: Good Morning is mine. It's a throwaway, a piece of garbage, I always thought. The "Good morning, good morning" was from a Kellogg's commercial. I always had the TV on very low in the background when I was writing and it came over and then I wrote the song.
Good Night: Good Night was written for Julian, the way Beautiful Boy was written for Sean. I gave it to Ringo. It was possibly overlush.
Got to Get You into My Life: Paul's. One of his best songs, I think. The lyrics are good and I didn't write them. When I say that he can write lyrics if he takes the effort, here's an example. The song actually describes his experience taking acid; at least it's a result of that.
Happiness Is a Warm Gun: No, it's not about heroin. A gun magazine was sitting there with a smoking gun on the cover and an article that I never read inside called Happiness Is a Warm Gun. I took it right from there. I took it as the terrible idea of just having shot some animal. It was at the beginning of my relationship with Yoko and I was very sexually oriented then. When we weren't in the studio, we were in bed. I call Yoko Mother or Madam just in an offhand way. The rest doesn't mean anything. It's just images of her.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over): Yoko and I wrote it together. There's nothing more to say about it. It was still the same message: We're just as responsible as the man who pushes the button, you know. The idea that somebody either is going to give us power or has taken our power; that somebody has made us go to war or not made us go to war; that God in the sky is a separate thing. that we're separate nations, religions, what-ever. It's all the same garbage. As long as people imagine that someone is doing something to them and that they have no control, then they have no control.
A Hard Day's Night: It was pure commercial writing. The title came from an off-the-cuff remark of Ringo's; you know, one of those malapropisms, only not a real malapropism. It was a Ringoism. I put it in In His Own Write and Dick Lester saw it and said we were going to use it for the title of the movie and the next morning, I brought in the song. There was a little competition between Paul and I about who got the A side and who got the singles. If you notice the early days, the majority of singles-in the movies and everything-were mine. And then, only when it became self-con-scious and inhibited did Paul start dominating the group a little too much for my liking. But the early period is obviously I dominating the group. I did practically every single with my voice except for Love Me Do. They were either my song or my voice or both. The only reason he sang on A Hard Day's Night was because I couldn't reach the notes. [Singing) "When I'm home, everything seems to be right, when I'm home, feeling. ...."
Hello Little Girl: That was me. That was actually my first song. [Singing] "When I see you every day I say mmm hmmm, hello little girl. ..." It was also a play on the song from the Thirties or Forties that went [singing again] "It's delightful, it's delicious, it's da de da de da... Isn't it a pity that you're such a scatterbrain. . . .* [Laughing] That always fascinated me for some reason or another. It was probably connected to my mother. She used to sing that one. It's all very Freudian. So I made Hello Little Girl out of it. It was supposed to be a Buddy Holly-style song.
Help!: I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out for help. It was my fat Elvis period. You see the movie: He-l—is very fat, very insecure, and he's completely lost himself. And 1 am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was.
Helter Skelter: Paul completely. All that Manson stuff was built around George's Piggies and this song of Paul's about an English fairground. It has nothing to do with anything, and least of all to do with me.
Here There and Everywhere: Paul's song completely, and one of my favorite Beatle songs.
Hey Jude: Paul said it was written about Julian. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then. He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He had been like an uncle. And hercame up with Hey Jude. But I always heard it as a song to me. ... Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying, "Hey, Jude"-"Hey, John." Subconsciously, he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, "Bless you." The Devil in him didn't like it at all, because he didn't want to lose his partner.
How Do You Sleep?: It was like Dylan doing Like a Rolling Stone, one of his nasty songs, venting my anger or frustration or whatever and using Paul as the object of it.
I Am the Walrus: The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko. Part of it was putting down Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about Hare Krish-na, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The reference to "Elementary penguin" is the elementary, naïve attitude of going around chanting, "Hare Krishna," or putting all your faith in any one idol. I was writing obscurely, à la Dylan, in those days. The walrus comes from The Walrus and the Carpenter. Alice in Wonder-land. To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles' work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy.
I Call Your Name: That was my song.The bulk of the "I call your name" part was written around the time Paul was writing Love Me Do, when there were no Beatles and no group. And I just had it around. It was my effort at a kind of blues original, and then I wrote the middle eight just to stick it in the album when it came out years later. It was one of my first attempts at writing a song-I Feel Fine: That's me completely, including the guitar lick and the first feedback on any record anywhere. I defy anybody to find a record-unless it is some old blues record from the Twen-ties-with feedback on it before I Feel Fine. Everybody was doing feedback and far-out stuff, but nobody was putting it on record. It is the first feedback. I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody.
If I Fell: That's my first attempt to write a ballad proper. In My Life was the first one that worked as a ballad. This one has the same chord sequence just around D and D minor and E minor, those kinds of things. It is semi-autobiographical. It is really about this girl-not about Cyn. It has an intro like a Fifties song: "If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true [breaks into song] and help me understand...." Paul may have helped with the middle eight. So that shows I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back then.
FU Be Back: Me completely. My variation on the chords of a Del Shannon song. Paul wrote one, too. Mine was I'll Be Back.I'll Follow the Sun: That's Paul again. It would be a funny tale: "Tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun...." It's another early McCartney, written almost before the Beatles, I think.
I'm Happy Just to Dance with You: That was written for George. I couldn't have sung it.
I'm Losing You: It's a song about the past, but I actually started writing it when I called from Bermuda and I couldn't get through to Yoko. I was just mad as hell, feeling lost and separate. But it's also a description of the separation period in the early Seventies when I physically couldn't get through. So it's not a specific incident referring to any-thing.
I'm So Tired: I wrote it in India. I couldn't sleep. I'd been meditating all day and then I couldn't sleep at night. We were not supposed to leave the room because of this thing about staying in one room for five days. So I was so tired I couldn't get to sleep. That's it. It's one of my favorite tracks.
Imagine: Dick Gregory gave Yoko and me a little kind of prayer book. It is in the Christian idiom, but you can apply it anywhere. It is the concept of positive prayer. If you want to get a car, get the car keys. Get it? Imagine saying that.If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion - not without religion but without this my-God-is-bigger-than-your God thing-then it can be true. The song was originally inspired by Yoko's book Grapefruit. In it are a lot of pieces saying, imagine this, imagine that. Yoko actually helped a lot with the lyrics, but I wasn't man enough to let her have credit for it. I was still selfish enough and unaware enough to sort of take her contribution without acknowledging it. I was still full of wanting my own space after being in a room with the guys all the time, having to share everything. So when Yoko would even wear the same color as me, I used to get madly upset: We are not the Beatles! We are not fucking Sonny and Cher!
In My Life: It was the first song I wrote that was consciously about my life. Before, we were just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly-pop songs with no more thought to them than that. The words were almost irrele-vant. In My Life started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning all the places I could recall. I wrote it all down and it was boring. So I forgot about it and laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped with the middle eight.
Instant Karma: It just came to me. Everybody was going on about karma, especially in the Sixties. But it occurred to me that karma is instant as well as it influences your past life or your future life. There really is a reaction to what you do now. That's what people ought to be concerned about. Also, I'm fascinated by commercials and promotion as an art form. I enjoy them. So the idea of instant karma was like the idea of instant coffee, presenting something in a new form. I just liked it.
I Should Have Known Better: That's me. It's just a song. It doesn't mean a damn thing.
It's Only Love: It's mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics are abysmal. I always hated it.
I Want to Hold Your Hand: We wrote that in the basement of Jane Asher's house.
Julia: Mine. Julia was my mother. The song was actually a combination of an imagery of Yoko and my mother blended into one, you see.
Lady Madonna: Paul. Good piano, but the song never really went anywhere. Maybe I helped him with some of the lyrics, but I'm not proud of them, either.
Let It Be: That's Paul totally. It had nothing to do with the Beatles. It could have been Wings. I think he was inspired by Bridge Over Troubled Water. He wanted to write one.
Like Dreamers Do: That is Paul. That was another one he had written when he was a teenager and sort of resurrected and polished up to give to people later on. That is on the audition tape that we sent to Decca, which has since come out as a bootleg. I sing To Know Her Is to Love Her and Hello Little Girl and Paul sings Like Dreamers Do.
Little Child: That was another effort by Paul and me to write a song for somebody. It probably was Ringo, because I think that's who we gave it to. The better songs, whether they were written together inspirationally like She Loves You and From Me to You or separately like All My Loving, were inspired songs. They came from elsewhere and were delivered to us. The ones we tried to write usually didn't work. They ended up on the B sides or as tracks on records. And they sounded like it.
The Long and Winding Road: That's Paul. He had a little spurt before we finally split up. I think the shock of what was happening between Yoko and me gave him the creative spurt for Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road. That was the last gasp from him.
Lovely Rita: That's Paul writing a pop song. He made up people like Rita, like a novelist. You hear lots of McCartney influence going on now on the radio: these stories about boring people being postmen and writing home. I'm not interested in writing about people like that. I like to write about me, because I know me. I don't know anything about secretaries and postmen and meter maids.
Love Me Do: Paul's song, written when he was a teenager. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn't swear to it. I know he had the song around, even in Hamburg, way, way before we were songwriters.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted of a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched some stars in the sky and called it Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The other images were from Alice in Wonderland. There was also the image of the fe male who would someday come save me a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes," who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko, though I hadn't met Yoko yet. So maybe it should be Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds.
Maxwell's Silver Hammer: That's Paul. I hate it. All I remember is the track. He made us do it a million times. He did everything he could to make it into a single. It never was and it never could have been. We spent much more money and time on that song than on any other song on the whole album.
Mean Mr. Mustard: Me writing another piece of garbage. I'd read somewhere in the paper about this mean guy who was hiding five pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else, and so 1 wrote about him. And no, it has nothing to do with snorting cocaine.
Michelle: Michelle is Paul up until the middle eight, where I suggested this bit from Nina Simone. (Singing] "I love you." That bit. Going French was Paul's idea.
Mind Games: It was originally called Make Love, Not War, but that was such a cliché that you couldn't say it anymore. So I wrote the same message in an obscure way-mind games, mind guerrillas. It's the same as Imagine or anything else. It's a nice track: I've always liked the sound of it. The words are just expressing the same thing we were saying in the Sixties: love and peace, without using the words love and peace. Love and peace became a joke.
New York City: That's mine, a bit of journalese, you know, a ballad. In New York, I could walk around, where I still couldn't walk around in London.
Nobody Loves You when You're Down and Out: Well, that says the whole story. That exactly expresses the whole period I was apart from Yoko. I always imagined Sinatra singing that one. I don't know why. It's kind of Sinatra-esque. He could do a perfect job with it. Are you listening? Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of nothing. Here's one for you. The horn arrangement, everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it.
No Reply: That's my song. That is the one that Dick James, the publisher, came and said was the first song I had ever written that resolved itself. You know, with a story and... . It was my version of Silhouettes. I had that image, you know, of walking down the street and seeing her silhouette in the window and not answering the phone, although I never called a girl on the phone in my life. Phones aren't part of the English child's life like cars are.
Norwegian Wood: Norwegian Wood is my song completely. It's the first pop song that ever had a sitar on it. I asked George to play this guitar lick on the sitar. In the song. I guess I was very careful and paranoid, because 1 didn't want my wife at the time to know that there really was something going on outside the household. I always had some sort of affair going, so, in the song, I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, in such a smokescreen way that you couldn't tell it was real. I can't remember any specific woman that it was to do with. I don't know how the hell I got to Norwegian wood.
Nowhere Man: Me. It just came, the complete melody and the words, after six hours of trying to write a song. [Sing-ing] "Making all his plans for nobody...
Oh! Darling: That's a great song of Paul's that he didn't sing too well, I always thought I could have sung it better. It was more my style than his. But he wrote it, so what the hell, he was going to sing it. If he had any sense, he would have let me sing it. [Laughing] Oh Yoko: I express myself through song and so that's the song. It was a very popular track. Everybody wanted it as a single, but I was sort of shy and embar-rassed, maybe because it didn't represent my image of myself of the tough, hard-biting rock-n'-roller with the acid tongue, you see.
Old Dirt Road: Harry Nilsson and I wrote it together. It's just a song, you know. Well, seeing we're stuck in this bottle of vodka together, we might as well try and do something.
One After 909: I wrote it when I was about 17, either right before or after Hello Little Girl, and it was resurrected for that album, probably for lack of material. Nine has always been around. I'm not sure why. I was born on the ninth of October, I lived at nine Newcastle Road, Revolution 9. Numero-logically, I'm apparently a number three or six, so I'm not sure where the nine comes from.
Paperback Writer: It's sort of Paul's version of Day Tripper, meaning a rock-'n-roll song with a nice guitar lick on it.
Penny Lane: It was Paul's, based on a place I lived. Penny Lane is not only a street but it's a district, like Times Square or Columbus Avenue. Penny Lane is a suburban district where I lived with my mother and father up until the age of four. Well, my father was a sailor, always at sea. My grandfather lived in the house, too. It was one of those row houses like they always picture in the early Beatles' life stories and in Yellow Submarine-you know, drooly versions of the four working-class lads. Anyway, I wrote some of the lyrics. I can't remember which. It was all Paul's melody.
Piggies: That's George's song about pigs. I gave him a line about forks and knives and eating bacon.
Please Please Me: That's me complete-ly. It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song. Would you believe it? I remember the day I wrote it. I remember the pink eyelet down over the bed sitting in one of the bedrooms in my house on Menlove Avenue, my auntie's place. I heard Roy Orbison doing Only the Lonely on the radio. Also, I was always intrigued by the words to a Bing Crosby song that went [singing]: "Please lend a little ear to my pleas. . . ." I was intrigued by the double use of the word please. So it was a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby.
Polythene Pam: That was me, remembering a little event I had with a woman in Jersey, an island off the French coast. A poet, England's answer to Allen Gins-berg, a beatnik that looked like a beatnik who was from Liverpool, took me to this apartment of his in Jersey. This was so long ago. This is all triggering these amazing memories. So this poet took me to his place and asked me if I wanted to meet this girl, Polythene Pam, who dressed up in poly-thene. Which she did. In polythene bags. She didn't wear jack boots and kilts-I just sort of elaborated-and no, she didn't really look like a man. There was nothing much to it. It was kind of perverted sex in a polythene bag. But it provided something to write a song about.
P.S. I Love You: That's Paul's song. He was trying to write a Soldier Boy, like the Shirelles track. I might have contributed something. It was mainly his song.
Rain: Rain is me. It's the first backward tape on any record anywhere. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before any fucker. I'd made the basic track and took a rough mix home. I was so stoned out of my mind that I got back to the house and, as I usually do, listened immediately to what I had done that day. I put it on. Somehow, I got it on back-ward. I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint, just listening. and the whole thing was back-ward! I ran in the next day and said, "I know what to do with it! Listen to this!" and I played them the tape backward and made them all play the song backward. I put that on the fade; the fade is me, singing backward. Singing backward] "Shwarnicnathenearness.. • • That was a gift of God—of Ja-you know, he's the god of marijuana, right, so Ja gets that one. You know, I do confess that maybe one song came out with backward music on it before Rain: They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! but that was a whole other thing.
Revolution: You look at the song and see my feelings about politics, radicalism and everything. I want to see the plan. Waving Chairman Mao badges or being a Marxist or a thisist or a thatist is going to get you shot, locked up. If that's what you want, you subconsciously want to be a martyr. You see, I want to know what you are going to do after you have knocked it all down. Can't we use some of it? If you want to change the system, change the system. Don't go shooting people.
Revolution 9: Well, the slow version of Revolution on the album went on and on and on and I took the fade-out part, which is what they sometimes do with disco records now, and just layered all this stuff over it. It has the basic rhythm of the original Revolution going on with some 20 loops we put on, things from the archives of EMI. We were cutting up classical music and making dif. ferent-size loops, and then I got an engineer tape on which some test engineer was saying. "Number nine, number nine, number nine." All those different bits of sound and noises are all compiled. There were about ten machines with people holding pencils on the loops - some only inches long and some a yard long. I fed them all in and mixed them live. I did a few mixes until I got one I liked. Yoko was there for the whole thing and she made decisions about which loops to use. It was somewhat under her influence, I suppose. Once I heard her stuff-not just the screeching and the howling but her sort of word pieces and talking and breathing and all this strange stuff, I thought, My God, 1 got intrigued, so I wanted to do one. I spent more time on Revolution 9 than I did on half the other songs 1 ever wrote. It was a montage.
Rocky Raccoon: Paul, can't you tell? Would I go through all that trouble about Gideons Bible and that sort of thing? He maybe got stuck on a couple of lines that I helped on, but mainly it's him.
Run for Your Life: One of mine, sort of a throwaway. I've never liked it.It was a favor to George. "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man" is a line from an old blues song that Presley did.
Scared: I was terrified when I wrote it, if you can't tell. It was the whole separation from Yoko, thinking I lost the one thing I knew I needed. You know, I think Mick Jagger took the song and turned it into Miss You. When I was in the studio, the engineer said, "This is a hit song if you just do it faster." He was right, because Miss You is a fast version of my song. I like Mick's record better. I have no ill feelings about it. It could have been subconscious on Mick's part or conscious. Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: Paul wrote it after a trip to America. The whole West Coast long-named-group thing was coming in, you know, when people were no longer called the Beatles or the Crickets, they were suddenly Fred and His Incredible Shrinking Grateful Airplanes. He got influenced by that and came up with this idea of doing us as somebody else. He was trying to put something between the Beatles and the public. It took the "I" out of it some. Like in the early days, saying, "She loves you" instead of "I love you." So that's the song.
Sexy Sadie: It was inspired by the Maharishi. I wrote it when we had our bags packed and we were leaving India. I called him Sexy Sadie. It said, "Maharishi, what have you done, you made a fool of me...." My partings, it seems, are not as nice as I would like them to be.
She Loves You: She Loves You was written right about the. ... Wait, From Me to You was the third single after She Loves You, wasn't it? Or was it the other way around-From Me to You after Please Please Me? Well, She Loves You was written by the two of us together. I remember it was Paul's idea. Instead of singing "I love you" again, Paul decided we would have a third party passing and latch it onto something else. And that little detail is apparently in his work now. I'm more inclined to write about myself. The "woo woo" was taken from The Isley Brothers Twist and Shout. We stuck it in everything-this, From Me to You. I don't know where the "yeah, yeah, yeah" came from. I remember thinking when Elvis did All Shook Up that it was the first time I heard "uh huh," "oh, yeah" and "yeah yeah" all in the same song.
She Said She Said: Mine. It's an interesting track. The guitars are great on it. It was written after an acid trip in L.A., during a break in the Beatles' tour where we were having some fun with a lot of girls. And Peter Fonda came in and kept coming up to me, saying. "I know what it's like to be dead." He was describing an acid trip he'd been on, but we didn't want to hear about it. We were on acid and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties and this guy-I really didn't know who the hell he was; he hadn't made Easy Rider or anything and I knew Henry Fonda vaguely and Jane Fonda hadn't become a sex symbol or a political, you know, I didn't think much of her, either—this guy wearing shades kept coming up and whisper. ing. "I know what it's like to be dead." It was scary. It was like, Don't tell me about it. I don't want to know what it's like to be dead.
She's a Woman: That's Paul, with some contributions on some lines from me. We put the words "turns me on" in the song. We were so excited to say it, you know, about marijuana and all that. This was the first use of the expression on record. Very daring. [Laughs](Just Like) Starting Over: It's what it says. I wrote it when I was in Bermuda with Sean, while Yoko was attending to business. It just came out that way. All the other songs were finished and it and Cleanup Time came out sort of like fun after the work was done. It has the Fifties Ish sound because I have never really written a song that sounded like that period, although that was my period, the music I identified with. So I just thought, Why the hell not? In the Beatle days, that would have been taken as a joke. One avoided clichés. But, of course, now those clichés are not clichés any more. I nearly took out the words ``spread our wings and fly* because I thought, Oh, God, they'll all be saying. "What's that about Wings?* It has nothing to do with Wings.
Strawberry Fields Forever: Strawberry Fields is a real place. After I stopped living at Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie, who lived in the suburbs in a nice semi detached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around—-not the poor slummy kind of image that was projected in all the Beatles stories. Near that home was Strawberry Fields, a house near a boys' reformatory where I used to go to garden parties as a kid with my friends Nigel and Pete. We would go there and hang out and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. We always had fun at Strawberry Fields. I used it as an image. Strawberry Fields forever. "Living is easy with eyes closed. Misunderstanding all you see." It still goes, doesn't it? Aren't I saying exactly the same thing now? The awareness apparently trying to be expressed is—let's say in one way I was always hip. I was hip in kinder-garten. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius-*I mean it must be high or low," the next line. It was scary as a child, because there was nobody to relate to. Neither my auntie nor my friends nor anybody could ever see what I did. It was very, very scary and the only contact I had was reading about an Oscar Wilde or a Dylan Thomas or a Vincent van Gogh-all those books that my auntie had that talked about their suffering because of their visions. Because of what they saw, they were tortured by society for trying to express what they were. I saw lonely ness.
Taxman: My contribution to Taxman, which was one of the first songs George ever wrote, really, was the words "pen-nies on your eyes" and some other lyrics.
There's a Place: There's a Place was my attempt at a sort of Motown black thing, but it says the usual Lennon things: "In my mind there's no sorrow." It's all in your mind.
Things We Said Today: It's Paul's. A good song.
Ticket to Ride: That's me, one of the earliest heavy-metal records. Paul's contribution was the way Ringo played the drums.
Tip of My Tongue: Paul's garbage, not my garbage.
Two Virgins: When I met Yoko, before 1 realized I was going to live with her, I was interested in her as an artist. I was always shy with Yoko. One time, my ex-wife was away somewhere and Yoko and I did acid. We had never made love. Because I was so shy, instead of making love, we went upstairs and made tapes. I had this room full of different tapes and loops where I wrote Beatle stuff. So we made a tape all night. She was doing her funny voices and I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects. Then, as the sun rose, we made love. That was it. That was Two Virgins. We had known each other for two years by then. So that was the record and the album cover of us naked was a way to show purity. Everybody was sort of upset. The fact that two people were naked. We thought it was insane that everybody was so upset about it.
Watching the Wheels: That's a kind of song version of the love letter from John and Yoko [which appeared in The New York Times]. I've been doing this— watching the wheels. People have been saying I'm lazy, dreaming my life away, all my life. Pop stars were getting indignant in the press that I wasn't making records. I couldn't believe it; they were acting like mothers-in-law. I don't know whether it was Mick or who. What's it got to do with them if I never do another record in my life?
We Can Work It Out: Paul's first half, my middle eight. He came to the house with the first bite and I came up with [singing] "Life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friend. ..."
Whatever Gets You Through the Night: As [producer] Jack Douglas put it, that was a novelty record. It's the only one I've done since I left the Beatles to get to number one. We didn't get a good take on the musicians, but I quite like the words. It was more commercial than, say, Imagine, but in my opinion, Imagine should have been number one and Whatever Gets You Through the Night should have been number 39. It just doesn't make sense. Who knows?
Why Don't We Do It on the Road: That's Paul. He even recorded it all by himself in another room. That's how it was in those days. It's him drum-ming. him playing the piano, him sing-ing, just because it was getting to where he wanted to do it like that. Still, he couldn't break from the Beatles. I don't know what it was. I can't speak for George, but I know I was always hurt when Paul knocked off something without involving us in it. It's a fun track, but there's nothing to it.
With a Little Help from My Friends: Paul with a little help from me. I did some of the lyrics and all those little licks going on in the background from the second voice.
Within You Without You: I think that is one of George's best songs, one ol my favorites of fis. I like the arrange-ment, the sound and the words. He is clear on that song. You can hear his mind is clear and his music is clear. It's his innate talent that comes through on that song that brought that song together. George is responsible for Indian music getting over here. That song is a good example.
Woman: [From Double Fantasy] That's to Yoko and to all women, in a way. Because my history of relationships with women is a very poor one-very macho, very stupid, very typical of a certain type of man, I suppose, which is very sensitive and insecure but acting aggressive and macho. You know, trying to cover up the feminine side, which I still have a tendency to do. But I'm learning to acknowledge that it's alright to be soft. Because that side of me is the comfortable side of me. It's like I tend to put my cowboy boots on when I'm insecure, whereas now I'm in sneakers and it's comfy. So Woman is pretty self-explanatory.
Woman Is the Nigger of the World: The statement is something Yoko said in 1968 in a magazine interview. It is such a powerful statement. A few years later, I turned it into a song. It was actually the first women's liberation song that went out. It was before I Am Wom-an. It was banned again, but it was talked about. It got the message across.
The whole story is the title. The lyrics are just fill-in. I felt the lyrics didn't live up to Yoko's title.
World Without Love: McCartney. I think he had the whole song before the Beatles and resurrected it to give to Peter & Gordon. Peter is now the famous Peter Asher. I don't know what became of Gordon. Anyway, Paul never sang it. Not on a record, anyway. We always used to crack up at the lyrics. [Laughing] "Please lock me away…
Ya Ya: It was a contractual obligation to Morris Levy as a result of a court case. It was a humiliation, and I regret having to be in that position, but I did it. That's the way it turned out. Julian was playing the drums and I just left on the piano and sang. "Ya ya."
Yellow Submarine: Paul's baby. Donovan helped with the lyrics. I helped with the lyrics. We virtually made the track come alive in the studio, but it was based on Paul's inspiration, his idea, his title.I count it as his song. It was written for Ringo.
Yer Blues: Written in India. The same thing: up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.
You Know My Name (Look Up My Number): That was a piece of unfinished music that I turned into a comedy record with Paul. Paul was making a phone call and I saw the phone book was on the piano. He said something like, "You know the name, look up the number." I just changed it. It was going to be a Four Tops kind of record. Brian Jones is playing sax on it, I believe.
You Never Give Me Your Money: That's Paul, another unfinished song stuck with the others on Abbey Road.
You're Gonna Lose That Girl: Me.
Your Mother Should Know: Guess who. Paul, of course.
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away: That's me in my Dylan period. I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. The Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.