Things we said

Lyrical and phraseological curios in the Beatles' compositional songbook
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Version 1.1
Last Update: 1 May 1994

Copyright 1994 by saki (saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu)---no unauthorized use
permitted
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Over the years, many of the Beatles' lyrics have passed into the
pantheon of high poetry, and many not...but that doesn't mean that
all lyrics are equally understood.

Grand attempts at explication and analysis of the Boys' compositional
efforts are always welcomed, but this note attempts to clear up, as
simply as possible, the smaller misunderstandings and mishearings
in the songs themselves. If you have a particular line that's
always been troubling you, or that you've always heard one way
and not another, please send your interpretation and I'll include
in this note as warranted.

Alphabetical order is observed. You can use an editor to search for
any word or phrase you like.
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"Across the Universe"
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The line "jai guru deva om" is a mantra of John's designed to help
him concentrate while meditating, something he was into at the time.
It means roughly "Glory to the spiritual master" and has the focusing
sound "omm" at the end. (Translation varies according to particular
level of Sanskrit used for divination. :-)

"Baby You're A Rich Man"
------------------------

Rumor has it that John was poking fun at Brian Epstein with the
subtextual pronunciation "Baby you're a rich fag Jew." Some people
hear this at the very end of the song; others don't.

"Can't Buy Me Love"
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The theme of the song is *not* about a prostitute. :-) This is
simply a song about the worth of love vs. the worth of plain old
money!

"Come Together"
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Many nonsense words are used here by John, most with unintelligible
meaning; consult a relatively definitive lyrics guide like Campbell
and Murphy's "Things We Said Today" for complete lyrics. Most often
misunderstood:

The chorus "shoot me" is often misheard as "shoot"; a guitar lick
obscures the second word.

"wonky finger" heard as "Monkey finger" ("wonky" in British English
means something that's broken or not correct).

"Hold you in his arms till you can feel his disease" is often heard
as "Hold you in his armchair..." Even sensible lyrics books use the
latter! No way to tell what's really being sung, but version 1 makes
better artistic sense.

"Day Tripper"
-------------

"She's a big teaser" is what they sing, not (as some modern-minded
rmb'ers have suggested) "prick teaser", though the latter is possibly
subtextually implied.

"Don't Pass Me By"
------------------

"You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair" is correct; "...head"
is not.

"Girl"
------

In the middle-eight backup chorus, the Beatles *do* sing "tit-tit-tit",
an in-joke.

"A Hard Day's Night"
--------------------

"So why on earth should I moan" is the correct lyric; some hear this
as "So why I love to come home", which makes less sense.

"Hey Bulldog"
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A much-disputed line seems recognizable as "Don't look at me, man,
I only have grandchildren" (follows the barking portion of the song).
Some people hear "...I only have ten grandchildren". No one knows
what it means.

"I Am The Walrus"
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A song composed almost entirely of nonsense/portmanteau imagery
in the tradition of Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books. For an in-depth
analysis, write to dmac@math.ucla.edu and ask for WALRUSMEANING.
Otherwise check a good lyrics book and enjoy the sound rather than
the absolute explication; it's more fun that way. :-)

"I Saw Her Standing There"
--------------------------

The introductory countdown is "one, two, three, four", with the
last number slurred a bit from emphasis. It is *not* an obscenity. :-)

"I Want To Hold Your Hand"
--------------------------

The Beatles sing "It's such a feeling that my love/I can't hide".
A famous story about Bob Dylan has him mistaking this line as
"I get high".

"I'm A Loser"
-------------

John's singing about "a girl in a million", not a "girl named
Miriam". :-)

"I'm So Tired"
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John sings "And curse Sir Walter Raleigh/He was such a stupid get".
Raleigh was the symbol for a popular brand of cigarettes; a "get"
(or "git") in British English is a bastard.

At the end of this song is some near-gibberish which Mark Lewisohn,
Beatles studio-session-tape expert, translates as "Monsieur, monsieur,
how 'bout another one?" When played backwards, some people hear this
as "Paul is dead, miss him, miss him". Others hear "re re nu va nes devna,
esne, missile, missim." Your mileage may vary. :-)

"It's All Too Much"
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The first line of this song is not clear. It's transcribed as "To
your mother!" but doesn't seem to fit into the rest of the lyrics.
No guess as to what it means.

"Norwegian Wood"
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The term has been improperly interpreted as slang for marijuana (it
was not at the time John wrote the lyric), or as a revision of an
original apocryphal title "Knowing She Would" (no historical support
for this has ever been found). It apparently refers to the singer
burning down the furniture or apartment of the woman in question.

"Strawberry Fields Forever"
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John says "cranberry sauce" at the end of the song, not "I buried
Paul" or "I'm very bored".

"Sun King"
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There's some mock Italian/Spanish at the end of this song. See
Nems II FAQ note for further discussion.

"Tell Me Why"
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The high, unintelligible falsetto is "If there's anything I can do".

"Tomorrow Never Knows"
----------------------

An oft-misheard line is "That ignorance and hate may mourn the dead".
It is not "day".

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Any other curiosities, uncertainties, queries? Please send them to
saki (saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu) and I'll include them here.


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