Top 5 Anti-Feminist Beatles Songs

I think Beatles fans who are honest with themselves will agree that The Beatles could be major assholes — especially towards women, and especially in the early days.  There will be more on this later if I ever fucking finish those posts about Yoko Ono that I promised forever ago.  Anyway, the misogyny, particularly but hardly exclusively John’s, often came out in their songs.  What I personally see to be the lowlights are below.

1. Run For Your Life

This is a song that requires no introduction. And the misogyny is a special shame considering the fact that it’s a pretty good guitar riff and a good vocal by John.

Shorter John Lennon: You leave me, I’ll kill you. It’s a simple as that — but with rhyming!

2. You Can’t Do That

Even the title makes me cringe.

Shorter John: Now Cynthia, don’t you remember when I accidentally knocked you up and then I bought you down at the registry office?  I own you fair and square, goddammit, and property does what it’s told — especially when it pertains to other potential buyers.

[Interesting tidbit from the YouTube video page: “You Cant Do That was performed in the concert scene of “A Hard Day’s Night” but was eventually cut from the film. The producer thought the song was too menacing for the cuddly moptops to be singing in their movie.” Good for you, Dick Lester. At least someone had a bit of sense.]

3. You Like Me Too Much

This song reads like a textbook domestic violence case.

Shorter George Harrison: Oh, you think you’re going to leave, do you?  Now we’ve been through this many times before, and we both know I won’t let that happen.  You’re mine, you hear me, MINE.

4. Martha My Dear

Contrary to popular belief, this song is not in fact about Paul’s dog.  Everyone wants to believe that it is since a.) his dog was named Martha and b.) it sounds like he’s talking to a fucking dog.  Sure, it’s weird that he’s calling his dog his inspiration, but it’s a million times better than the alternative, and back when I convinced myself into believing this I actually kind of liked the song.  Unfortunately, though, he apparently wrote it about ex-girlfriend Jane Asher.  Worse, the lyrics are supposed to be a taunt about the circumstances of the breakup.  No wonder she dumped your ass, Paul. I mean, this and she caught you in bed with another woman.

Shorter Paul McCartney: Women are bitches.  Um, literally.

5. You Won’t See Me

Yet another really catchy song ruined. Good harmonies, too.

Shorter Paul: If you refuse to respond to my unwanted attempts at contact, it just means you’re immature.  Now answer your phone, or something bad’s going to happen.

Oh and by the way?  Yes, The Beatles were in fact apparently all stalkers. Jesus.

And just because I need to end on a happy note, a video of the Beatles not being assholes towards women, complete with George looking really cute, John and Yoko in matching capes, Paul looking like an axe murderer (2:44), and a kick ass bass line:

I know that I had to drop a couple of picks, so what are your top 5?

Previous installments:

Top 5 Beatles Rock Band Songs
Top 5 John Lennon Vocals

0 thoughts on “Top 5 Anti-Feminist Beatles Songs

  1. evil fizz

    The thing that gets me about “Run For Your Life” is that it’s so peppy and really doesn’t sound threatening if you’re not paying attention the lyrics.

    It also won my vote for most inappropriate song ever played at a wedding reception. I think the DJ was really not paying attention, because we also got The Wanderer.

  2. earlgreyrooibos

    I shudder every time I hear “Run for Your Life” – and I used to hear it very often, because according to my mom, Beatles > Jesus (not that I consider that a bad thing) and she pretty much plays everything without any sort of critical thought to what it’s actually saying.

    I think that “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is a pretty deplorable song, too.

  3. Cara Post author

    I think that “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is a pretty deplorable song, too.

    Really? Why? I love that song, and the lyrics are pretty meaningless.

  4. Anna

    Oh gosh.

    I hadn’t heard most of those songs except “You Won’t See Me” – but I think the version I have is sung by Anne Murray.


  5. L. E. Hairstylist

    See, Run For Your life and You Can’t Do That were the only ones I had bothered to think of in that light before. I thought You Like Me Too Much was kind of saying, “Man, for soul mates we’re pretty crappy at this being together thing, huh?” And I though You Won’t See Me was more a pathetic cry for attention than a stalking attempt. But Martha My Dear?! Oh, Paul. Why do you do this to me? I declare this Discontinuity in my Personal Beatles Canon.

    (On the subject of that Something video, I showed it to my two-year-old niece yesterday and she loves it–the John and Yoko bits are her favorite parts; she adores Yoko already.)

  6. Cara Post author

    Seriously, WTF is with Martha My Dear? I mean, I used to hate the song. Then I heard that it was about Paul’s dog. And I’m thinking “well, that’s a little weird but much better. On second thought, the song is silly, but not so bad after all!” Then I was reading in Mark Lewisohn’s book The Complete Beatles’ Recording Sessions (total Beatles Bible in my book) that the rumor is wrong, looked it up, and oh dear god Paul. Now I can hardly stand to listen to it.

  7. Lemur

    I clicked on the links to the lyrics and then read down to the comments on the songs. Wish I hadn’t.
    Also, I’d never heard any of these, being a mid-level Beatles fan. Why dost thou forsake me, Beatles, by singing this misogynistic stuff?

  8. Cara Post author

    SORRY LEMUR. But I have to stress that diving deeper into the Beatles catalog will reveal far more wonders than it will misogyny!

  9. Paul

    Like Lemur i’d never heard of these either – partly explainable by the fact that most oldies stations only play the biggest of the biggest hits – there are loads of 60s-80s hits by all artists you never hear today and the audience no longer being fifteen is only part of the reason.

    The professional historian in me wants to bring up that forty years ago was a pretty different culture and time and that the Beatles were shaped by the 40s and 50s and that context is all important when discussing history – none of that is an excusal of course but it does go some way to explaining it.

    The term “historical relativism” is often misused by the non-historian in these things sadly.

  10. Jennifer

    What, no “Getting Better?”

    I used to be cruel to my woman
    I beat her and kept her apart
    From the things that she loved
    Man that was mean
    But I’m changing my scene
    And I’m doing the best that I can…

    For shame!

  11. Cara Post author

    Jennifer — I honestly didn’t even consider Getting Better. In Getting Better there is a (real) confession of misogyny and condemnation of it. I don’t think the bridge is misogynistic so much as about misogyny.

  12. zooeyibz

    Coincidentally, I was listening to John Lennon while out running this morning. Strikes me that Jealous Guy is pretty reprehensible, which makes me sad, because it’s a beautiful melody spoiled by the ‘it’s your fault I’m behaving like a dickwad’ rationalising.

    And I hadn’t realised how damnably patronising Power To The People is:
    “I gotta ask you comrades and brothers
    How do you treat you own woman back home
    She got to be herself
    So she can free herself”

    though I should have guessed that *people* doesn’t include women…

  13. Cara Post author

    Uh oh. I should have known this post was going to start some shit 🙂

    I actually disagree. I just reread the lyrics to Jealous Guy, and it strikes me the same as it always has, as an apology. I don’t see any rationalizing that blames it on his partner — it’s explanations for why he was being a dickwad, but all about him (feeling insecure, not reading her properly, etc.)

    As for Power to the People . . . well I’ve never much liked that song at all. I’m guessing that your beef is with “comrades and brothers” not including “women”? Because it seems like the last two lines are about “power to the women.” I think the first two comes from what John and Yoko often talked about, that in all of the radical social movements they worked with, they were working with almost all men. And so they would ask all of the men “well where is your girlfriend/wife” and it was her job to do cooking for the cause or whatever. Of course women were in fact involved in many social movements, but I think there’s no denying that aside from the feminist movement they were quite marginalized, not generally in decision making power, and that the phenomenon they were talking about was a real one. But yeah, there’s no denying that in that verse, the “people” he’s talking to are men.

    Not saying you’re wrong, that’s just my take on it.

  14. DaisyDeadhead

    OMG–NOT ABOUT THE DOG?!?!?!?! Are you SURE!? Maybe we’ve always found that so easy to believe, because of his heavy vegan/animal-loving vibe and everything. (ALso, wasn’t JET about a dog?)

    At least after Jane Asher left him, we didn’t have to put up Peter and Gordon records anymore. 😛

    Too many people sharing party lines
    Too many people never sleeping late
    Too many people paying parking fines
    Too many hungry people losing weight

    And damn him anyway… I heard that yesterday and now can NOT get it out of my head for ANYTHING. (I assume his knack for such catchy rhymes is how he got so BLOODY DAMN RICH!)

    Great post Cara, I absolutely love your Beatlemania.

  15. Cara Post author

    Out of his OWN MOUTH, Daisy!!! Paul said it was inspired by Jane! If we can’t trust him on it, I’m not sure who we can. And also, Lewisohn really seems to know his stuff.

    And I have no idea about Jet. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t followed Macca’s solo career closely at all. I do know Too Many People, though, because it’s filled with so many digs at John and Yoko. Not that John didn’t have it coming with How Do You Sleep?

  16. DaisyDeadhead

    I always got the impression Yoko was vetting those later songs: No, this line, change it!

    As a child, I distinctly remember wistfully hoping my own bullying male relatives would take John’s advice in GETTING BETTER… And I also remember thinking that song was just more proof of how FABULOUS the Beatles were. 🙂 Historic context, people! Nobody had said that before in a song. Nobody.

  17. Cara Post author

    I always got the impression Yoko was vetting those later songs: No, this line, change it!

    Probably! One of many reasons to love her 🙂

  18. frau sally benz

    Considering that the first song not about love or a woman wasn’t until Nowhere Man, there are a few in the bunch that are bound to be more disappointing than others.

    From this list, I had only never really listened to “You Won’t See Me.” What really makes it so annoying is that most of these are just so damn CATCHY! When they come on my iPod, I just start singing along and enjoying the music until it inevitably hits me “… damn… this is making me uncomfortable.”

    Perhaps I’ve known one too many weirdos but “I’ll Be Back” has always struck me as a little off. I realize it’s probably just a lonely, heartbroken, we break up to make up song, but just that very first line throws me off: “You know, if you break my heart, I’ll go… but I’ll be back again.”

  19. Cara Post author

    I know, the catchiness is a huge problem. I’ll even be honest and say that the only one of the above songs which I routinely turn off is Run For Your Life. I’ll often sit through the rest, even You Can’t Do That and You Like Me Too Much despite the fact that they really piss me off.

    As for I’ll Be Back, I’ve never gotten that vibe from that song . . . I just know that I absolutely love it! I think it’s definitely one of their better earlier numbers, and a superb ballad on an album that included the first ballads the Beatles had ever written.

    Oh, and Nowhere Man . . . you know, I always hear about it being the first song not about love/relationships. I’ve always thought it was Help! There’s no indication that the “you” in the song is necessarily an SO or love interest.

  20. thucy

    “Run for Your Life” is definitely awful, but Lennon often said he hated that song too. He publicly admitted being abusive to his first wife, and pointed out the sexism he absorbed growing up in a sexist society, which was reinforced by the ’60s macho rock star culture, something he tried to escape by leaving the Beatles. This may sound trite today, even self-serving, but in 1970 there weren’t very many male rock stars talking about sexism, or about the power disparities in relationships between men and women, let alone how we need to change them.

    I always took the lines in “Power to the People” to be sort of an aside to his male listeners, saying, “Yeah, you say you’re into liberation, but then you go home and beat your partner. What the hell is so liberated about that?” Still, the only thing about that song I like is the sax solo.

    I’m surprised “I’ll Cry Instead” hasn’t made anybody’s list. “…if I could see her now/I’d try to make her sad somehow but I can’t so I’ll cry instead…” Not to mention “Another Girl” — in which the narrator walks out on his lover for the simple joy of having sex with a different partner, then extolls his new lover as someone “who will love me till the end/through thick or thin she will always be my friend..” Sheesh!

    Finally, just out of curiosity, does anyone else think that “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” might have been a veiled reference to Brian Epstein?

  21. MonkeyShines

    Cara wrote:

    “”I think that “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is a pretty deplorable song, too.”

    Really? Why? I love that song, and the lyrics are pretty meaningless.”

    The song is about heroin. John wrote it while in the middle of his addiction. He saw a gun magazine with the cover headline “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and was delighted by the possible double meaning: “A warm gun means you have just shot something”

  22. Amanda Marcotte

    I’ve always considered John Lennon to be a real feminist success story—a deplorable misogynist who turned into an outspoken feminist within 15 years. Which I suppose is the point you’re making about Yoko, who is one kick ass lady. Different times, those. I don’t think many feminist women now are interested in getting with a guy and changing his mind.

  23. cola

    My abusive father prized no band higher than the Beatles and often annoyed me by doing his McCartney impression really close to my damn face.

    I hate to say it, but looking back, it makes sense.

    Of course, I still listen to a lot of Beatles songs, but none of these are in my library.

  24. mia

    hmm…. maybe I’m wrong, but only the first two seem misogynist at all to me.
    granted, they are VERY terrible, but the others seem fine. and “you like me too much” seems like they’re both stuck in a hard, but not at all abusive relationship.
    just my two cents, though.

  25. Cara Post author

    Thucy — I’ll Cry Instead was totally my number 6! Just missed out. Who knows, it may have even been my pro-John bias that gave You Won’t See Me that final boost 🙂 Another Girl just strikes me as really mean, but not misogynistic per se. And I think everyone thinks You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away is about Brian. The Beatles themselves clearly did, because they played it over his montage in the Anthology.

    Monkeyshines — I’ve heard that interpretation before. John always said that the title came form the cover of a gun magazine, and most of it is mostly gibberish, images of Yoko, and veiled sexual references. The heroin thing wouldn’t surprise me if true, though.

    Amanda — I couldn’t agree more about John being a feminist success story. It’s precisely the idea that drew me to him originally as a teenager, this idea that someone can go from being a massive asshole to a good guy, and the whole feminist twist is excellent. As for Yoko, if you’re talking about my planned Yoko posts, they are going to incorporate Yoko’s hugely positive influence on John — damn did he get lucky — but they’re mainly about the pop culture vilification of Yoko and the misogyny and racism behind it.

    Cola — can’t blame you.

    Mia — I was honestly expecting someone to say that at some point. So there you go!

  26. Keren

    I used to have sing song-sessions with my Beatles obsessed dad when I was little and I always thought the line ‘Run for your life if you can little girl, catch you with another man little girl’ was actually about 2 men running after a little girl. It really scared me at the time!

  27. Asmodel

    Two songs that have always annoyed me:

    We Can Work it Out – At first listen, it sounds like a song about trying to negotiate differences of opinion. In the end though, he really just wants her to give up her opinion, and follow his.

    Ticket to Ride – Another one where the girl is trying to leave, and the guy gets mad because he thinks that she ‘gotta do right by me’.

  28. Cara Post author

    At first listen, it sounds like a song about trying to negotiate differences of opinion. In the end though, he really just wants her to give up her opinion, and follow his.

    I think, in the end, that’s how most of us handle differences of opinion in relationships. We think that we’re better than that, but usually we just don’t get why the hell the other person can’t see your point of view and realize it’s right.

    Or maybe it’s just me and Paul McCartney.

  29. Fughzi

    She Said, She said is actually talking about a guy. I wish I had my anthology book, but the man was quite high and gibbering on and on and he annoyed John or something.

    It’s been a few years since my friend stole that book, I really want it back.

  30. crshark

    How about Norwegian Wood? A woman invites him to her place, but won’t sleep with him, so he sets fire to her place.

  31. crshark

    Re: Happiness is a warm gun. I believe it’s reported in Peter Brown’s book that Lennon was “inspired” to write the song upon seeing an advertisement for handguns with this phrase. It really blew Lennon’s mind because, to him, a warm gun means one that has been fired, and he thought it was insane that anyone would find happiness through firing a gun. So the song was meant more as a satire of those who get off on firing guns. (Although I disagree with Lennon’s interpretation of the ad. I think it’s much more likely that the “happiness is a warm gun” phrase in the ad was a take-off of a quote by Lucy in Peanuts comic strip, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”

  32. Eva

    1) “No Reply” (Beatles for Sale) makes in on my list (and takes the cake for stalker-songs as far as I am concerned). Its a typical example of a boy needing to take “no” for an answer. She’s seeing another man, not returning your phone calls, having her friends or family lie on her behalf to get rid of you.

    Particularly insulting is the somewhat threatening bridge:
    “If I were you I’d realize that I love you more than any other guy. And I’d forgive the lies that I heard before when you gave me no reply.”

    Something tells me she’s not seeking his forgiveness. Take a hint.

    2) One of my favorite Beatles songs is “Honey Pie” (White Album). I love the 1940s-style instrumentation and vocal effects. But, sadly, I have to consider it for my anti-feminist list as well.

    The Message: I have an inferiority complex about you being a successful woman. Plus, I am lazy. So YOU need to leave YOUR career and come to take care of me. That is where you belong.

    On the other hand there is something confessional about this song. He’s admitting his weakness. He’s not actually saying these things to his lover — just wishing he could. Its so campy that I want to forgive the message. But still, I struggle with the lyrical content.

  33. thucy

    Crshark: “Norwegian Wood” to me sounds more like the woman in the song is trying to seduce the narrator, who isn’t up for it (no pun intended). She invites him to her apartment, invites him to sit on the bed (there is no chair), serves him wine. He sits on the carpet instead, “biding” his time.

    “And then she said/ it’s time for bed.

    “She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh/ I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath…”

    The title “Norwegian Wood” is Lennon deliberately slurring the phrase “Knowing she would.” “Isn’t it good/knowing she would.”

    As for “lighting a fire” I think that’s more Lennon-speak for smoking a joint.

    For me the most intriguing part is the opening. He once “had” a girl, or rather “she once had me.” It sounds as though being a pop idol has finally given him a taste of what it’s like to be seen as an object, “a conquest.” In that sense, I see it as Lennon’s first taste of anything approaching a feminist consciousness.

    Best wishes.

  34. Sam

    Can’t believe “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” wasn’t number three or four on this list. How could you neglect a cute little tune about bludgeoning the skulls of women in science and education and making sure that they are dead? Joan’s unfulfilled “late nights all alone with a test tube” sets her up as easy prey. One male victim, the judge–his fate the result of being distracted by naive chicks Rose and Valerie pleading for fool boy’s freedom.

  35. Cara Post author

    Eva — I find it amusing that Honey Pie is one of your favorite Beatles songs, because it is officially my second-least-favorite. I really do hate that song. As for No Reply, I like that song a lot — but it was my #7.

    Thucy — I don’t think that I agree with your interpretation, but it’s an interesting one. The problem is that just about everyone seems to agree that “I lit a fire” is burning her house, though I did originally take it as “I was indifferent, and sat down in front of the fireplace,” the majority opinion did eventually sway me. The “Norwegian Wood” being “Knowing She Would” is quite interesting. John said in 1980 that he didn’t remember “how the hell [he] got to ‘Norwegian Wood.'” It makes a lot of sense though for numerous reasons, and certainly does put a different spin on the song.

    As for those bringing up Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, I’ve always found that song really obnoxious but just never thought of it that way before. I’ll have to think about it.

  36. Ashley

    I think that “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is a pretty deplorable song, too.

    Really? Why? I love that song, and the lyrics are pretty meaningless.

    It’s totally about heroin, with a play on words to talk about the way our society is so violent and consumerist. Definitely not meaningless, though deplorablity is debatable if you don’t like bands promoting drugs.

    As for those bringing up Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, I’ve always found that song really obnoxious but just never thought of it that way before. I’ll have to think about it.

    Maxwell’s Silver Hammer makes reference to the silver hammer they used to use to wonk a newly deceased pope in the head to make sure he’s dead. It started in the days when people didn’t understand the body well enough to know when death actually happened, but rumor has it the practice continued long after that. That’s neither here nor there on the feminist front, I suppose, but I find its sheer weirdness kind of hilarious.

  37. winston delgado

    Thanks for pointing out that some half-century old pop songs were sexist. You certainly have done your part to eradicate the stereotype of feminists as humorless nitpickers who aren’t happy unless they’re complaining about something.
    Might I recommend your next post explain how terrible ‘Under My Thumb’ by the Stones is. Not only is this song more recent (clocking in at a mere 42 years of age), but the band actually is still playing gigs and the vast majority of its members are still alive.
    -Winston Delgado

  38. Cara Post author

    Wow Winston, nice way to utterly misunderstand the post (which is really quite unserious, and hardly vicious towards a band that I would defend until my dying day), call threatening to kill your significant other for leaving you “humorous,” and then giggle about how two men died too young due to a murder and lung cancer! What an incredible win! After all, being shot down dead in front of your home does make you totally irrelevant. What was that silly old Lennon thinking?

  39. bongobunny

    Regarding “Norwegian Wood,” although I LOVE CRShark’s interpretation. I have NEVER heard the whole “burning down the house” thing. Where in the world did that come from?

    I have only ever heard about NW being a nasty gloat by John to Cynthia- basically, “I’m screwing around on you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

    Unfortunately, John did write at least one other mean song during the same time period when he wrote some of his most deep and meaningful ones: “Move over Miss L” is not a particularly kindhearted song.

  40. Erin

    Run For Your Life always troubled me the most, even after I became a huge Beatles fan as a teen. I, too, am really sad to have to let go of the Matha, My Dear=dog myth. I’m looking forward to your Yoko posts. I’ve been studying some of her work for my performance art class and I now have so much respect for her and what she was trying to do with it. She expressed so much generousity with her art and then she was so horribly villified.

  41. Zack

    Funny, as a young man I actually read myself into “You Like Me Too Much,” when it was painfully apparent that my infatuation with someone far exceeded how that person felt about me, which was usually characterized by obliviousness to the fact that I liked her and could be summed up at best with a shrug. So I guess my point is that I don’t see that song as *necessarily* sexist, you know? I see it more within the context of a relationship in general. I hesitate to suggest such a thing because I know that whenever one does take such a stance (though I’m sure it is largely over-used and more often than not wrong) it’s automatically seen as innocent/naive or as some anti-feminist/anti-structuralist, offensive idiocy. Does that make sense?

    There’s no doubt to me, obsessive over the Beatles throughout my entire childhood, that they were largely imperfect men. But it’s scary to me to see people pounce on certain things that I find obvious – “Gettin’ Better” and “Power to the People.” The proof of why those songs are not “sexist” or misogynistic is in the very lines that were quoted. With the former, it was a “mea culpa” of past misogyny – perhaps an awkward one for an upbeat pop song (it does almost sound as though it’s come out of nowhere and catches one off-guard, for sure) – and a resolution to do better. So it itself is not sexist. And with the latter, the reference to “comrades and brothers” purposely leaves out “sisters” because the lines that follow are directed *at men* – telling them to stop being patriarchal.

    Someone brought up Jet. According to an un-cited part of the Wikipedia article on it, it was named after Paul’s labrador. Haha – when I read that I realized that it didn’t bode well for the song! Though there is actually a lot less depth and more repetition to that song than I had remembered, so I don’t think we’ll find anything there. As a kid, I always thought of it as a kind of feminist song, making fun of patriarchal conservative military types and their idiotic masculinity kicks.

    (And, not to defend this Winston character, cause I thought his comment was stupid/immature, but I think his point about the Stones was, “Hey, pick on them – they’re actually still around playing this stuff” and therefore pose more of a threat or something. I don’t think he was making light of the fact that two Beatles are dead.)

    Sorry for a really long-winded and probably not that revelatory post, but I recommend people read “All We Are Saying,” the last interview John and Yoko gave; “I Me Mine” by George Harrison, part autobiography/interview, partly about the development and meanings of his songs (though not complete – he left out some Beatles ones he wrote and it was published well before his career was over), with lyrics; and of course the Beatles Anthology book. Anyway, I dig the blog, which my girlfriend incidentally turned me on to.

  42. Cara Post author

    You know, on the one hand I really do want to be really excited about the release of Carnival of Light, but on the other hand I know what it is — it’s supposed to be Paul’s Revolution 9 (though it admittedly came first).

    So I think it will be interesting and possible amusing. Good? I’d be really, really surprised. As far as unreleased Beatles’ tracks, it’s all we’re likely to ever get. But I’m still holding out hope for Now and Then.

  43. em

    I think Run For Your Life is the only Beatles song I really hate.

    There is that part in It’s Getting Better, though:

    I used to be cruel to my woman,
    I’d beat her and kept her apart
    from the things that she loved. . .

    I know the theme of the song is change but that line still always squicks me out.

    Nice post; it’s good to be aware of the misogyny even in the things we love.

  44. Eva Dozzi

    Whhoa! This post is amazingly interesting! I’ve just written a novel on the subject (the Beatles and John Lennon, misogynism, life for women in the 60’s, love, male and female sexuality, jelousy, music – and also creativity, drugs, the dark side of fame, etc), in Swedish: “Jävla John” which could translate to ”Bloody John”, or perhaps better “Fucking John”. The story is fictional, but firmly set in the framework of the real Beatles Story. I made an enormous amount of research (and no Beatles wonks have wanted to hang me so far).
    The book: In October 1963 the Beatles make their first actual tour abroad, to Sweden, where they stay in Hotel Continental in Stockholm (this is true). The first night John Lennon drinks too much and becomes sick, which forces Brian Epstein to call for a chambermaid to clean up the room (which might very well be true but I have no proof :-). The chambermaid is Katja, a tall Swedish-Russian girl who is really a very promising piano student at the Music Academy. However she is forced to work nights at the hotel to get by (this is also true but about another girl). He is besotted, and she feels strangely attracted despite the vomiting and his rudeness – and they fall in love. She moves to London and they engage in a relationship which of course has to be kept secret. Katja has a huge impact on Johns songwriting, both due to her skill as a musician and as an inspiration (many of the songs mentioned above are woven into the story, i e Norwegian Wood, You Can’t Do That, No Reply). Katja gives birth to a daughter. But the relationship, not unexpectedly, turns sour and becomes fatal to them both in the end. The forgotten child finally steps out of the shadows in an unexpected way.
    The book is quite new and unfortunately not yet available in English – so far only Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian (!). But of course both I and the publisher’s hope for a translation soon.
    This is NOT some deranged fan fiction about ”me” (a woman of 51 and mother of two) longing to be John Lennons girlfriend – noone who actually reads the book could believe that! Two publishing houses with a reputation for quality wanted to buy it.
    BUT: I was interested in examining the holes in the fabric of success and fame, find out what could be the story behind those jealous-possesive Lennon songs, and fantasize about this odd relationship. Which in fact could have happened this way … !
    For several years I earned my living as a singer and musician. I love the Beatles and have always listened to their music and sung it, though I was too young to see them in Stockholm in the sixties. Both my daughters (12 and 19) incidentally love them too …
    I will return to your interesting blog, Cara!
    Please excuse my imperfect English.

  45. thebeatlesareamazing

    i like how you zero in on the negative songs, i mean really the beatles have produced a massive amount of great music and true these songs sound a little controversial but you also have to consider that some of them were written on drugs, some were just to mess with the populous, and the others were just how they felt taken to an extreme to get their point across. you’ve never been mad after a break up?

  46. Cara Post author

    Hey, thebeatlesareamazing, the Beatles ARE amazing. Unfortunately, though, you don’t have a point. “A little controversial”? Yeah, threatening to kill your lover if she leaves you is in fact a little controversial. But don’t worry, being the greatest band of all time totally excuses threatening to kill your partner. Who cares about the welfare of women when you’ve got some kickass tunes?

    As I get nearer and nearer to finishing my Yoko posts (!), I really can’t wait to see all of the lovely responses to my pointing out, among many other things, that the Beatles were often giant and misogynistic assholes. It’ll be fun.

  47. Pingback: Yoko Ono: A Feminist Analysis (Part 1: The Ballad of John and Yoko) : The Curvature

  48. good knight

    I don’t understand how You Won’t See Me is anti-feminist. There’s nothing wrong with expressing a desire to be with someone.

    1. Cara Post author

      Nope, there’s not, Good Knight. Just with harassing someone who doesn’t want to be with you and then calling them immature for not responding to your stalking attempts. See the difference?

  49. wiggles

    Late, but, I think “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is about sexual aggression in masculinity. This is why I like the Breeders’ cover so much.
    I’ve also heard it’s about shooting heroin, but that’s not as interesting.

  50. Josh

    Although I disagree with most of the sentiment in this article, I’m surprised Norwegian Wood didn’t make the list.

    let me take a shot at a shorter john

    Shorter John: You wouldn’t sleep with me, you must be a lesbian, so I’m lighting your apartment on fire.

  51. Paul

    Hey Cara, the 1970s called, they want their feminism back. You’ve taken their lyrics EXTREMELY literal and completely ignored the time period. You can’t look back on 60’s culture and judge it with 2000’s views. There were alot of things done in the 60’s that weren’t right, but that was society, so to call them assholes and misognist for a few ditties that when taken out of context sound like they are ready to “cut-a-bitch”. Alot of these are just breakup songs that was their way of venting. I don’t think John was actually going to kill his girl in ‘Run for your life’. I find it a little hypocritical for you to call Paul an ass for calling women dogs when you call men pigs. You’ve also “conveniently” missed the plethora of love songs they have written (All my loving, And I love her, Michelle, Something, If I fell, etc…)Alot of the songs you listed don’t even come off as anti-feminist (Run for your life is if taken literally). Judging the character of a musician based on a few songs written probably during a hard breakup, or during other hard times is unfair to that person. John was jealous i’ll give you that, but if he wrote a song about being moderately jealous it would be boring, for example “If i catch you talking to that boy again, were gonna have a chat” YAWN. Your feminist views of beatle songs are unjust and a little outdated. And just like thebeatlesareamazing pointed out, THEY WERE ON DRUGS.

    1. Cara Post author


      Did I say that John was actually going to kill anyone? No. Saying “I’m going to kill you if you leave me” is still ABUSIVE and MISOGYNISTIC though, amazingly enough. It’s still a threat, even if he’s just “venting.” Then again, I see nowhere that I called men “pigs,” so clearly you’re just making shit up.

      And seriously, you’d think that Macca would have better things to do. *Yawn* Ringo would probably be a lot more interesting . . . he at least knows how to be funny on purpose.

  52. jovan byars

    First and foremost, Paul, Cara has every one of the Beatles’ albums from 1963-1970, as well as every one of the solo albums from each member after that time. So, you have no business questioning Cara’s love of the group.

    Secondly, if anything, the anti-feminist 1980s have called for you, Paul. Your extreme anti-feminist colors are showing — that is most evident in you making up things that don’t exist.

  53. Paul

    I just want to say to the Other Paul that you shame the rest of us Pauls with your blatant misogyny and general ickiness

  54. Paul

    Cara, I believe your clever “shorter” translations are your interpretation of the song if I’m not mistaken. And I quote, “Shorter John Lennon: You leave me, I’ll kill you. It’s a simple as that”. That sounds like you said he was going to kill them to me, but of course, I’m some kind of “Extremist Anti-Feminist Mysognisnist Dillusional Ass Clown”, o ya, I’m icky too (that kind of made me laugh). If making up things like “the beatles werent mysogynistic” or “writers on a pro-women website might possibly have a sort of negative view of men”, make me a mysogynist WOW. I guess feminist will just grab at every opportunity to bash people that don’t give into their views. I’m not trying to pretend that the Beatles were saints that never said anything offensive and were love love love all the time, but you can’t sum up their whole character with a few of their songs. And I’m a little surprised to be honest Cara,with your stance on mysognyny in the 1960’s. I totally think that misogyny that existed in the 1960’s was still mysogyny. I’m quess I’m just ahead of the curve and a little too forward thinking. Don’t worry, you’ll get it eventually, keep your head in there.

    1. Cara Post author

      but you can’t sum up their whole character with a few of their songs.

      Nor did I, and nor would I. First of all, their misogyny extended far beyond a few songs — it extended to their actual treatment of women in their daily lives. Secondly, you’d know that I think much more of them than “the Beatles were misogynists, that’s all” if you, you know, read the site. But I’m sure as hell not directing you to any other posts, because you’re not commenting in good faith, and by the time we get to the end of your comment, god only knows what you’re even talking about. Either you don’t understand sarcasm, or are trying to be sarcastic back for no apparent reason, and only to be met with total failure. Either way, get out of here. I have better things to do than to deal with trolls.

  55. PaulMcCartneyIsAMusicGenuis

    First of all I have been a huge highly impressed Beatles fan especialy a big John & Paul fan since I was 9, I got my first Beatles book for my 11th birthday and I had every Beatles album by age 13. I was born during the middle of their recording career and only 5 when they broke up.

    Paul McCartney has always been much more of a *music* genuis(more than a lyric genuis,although there are many examples of his lyrics being very good, in his solo career he often didn’t write deep lyrics,but he didn’t have too because even when his lyrics are very good thats not what is so great about his somngs,is usually still his *music*) ,great bass player and just about anything player,great singer with a great voice and great range,musicial composer and wrote just as many great rockers including hard rockers as great love songs.

    He still was writing and playing great music the first 5 years of his solo/Wings career, but I don’t he ever sounded as great again after the last truly great album 1975’s Wings, Venus & Mars album. He did some good stuf after this though.

    But I just want to share with you what Paul’s authorized biographer Bary Miles in the Paul authorized biography,Many Years From Now says and then what Paul says about his pro-woman songs, Barry says,

    “Paul’s ideas on love and marriage and the role of women were formed in the pre-feminist 1950’s and reflected the northen working-class attitudes of the time.However,unlike many if not most male rock ‘n’ roll lyrics from the period ,his songs were never misogynist or overtly expploitave,though they often portrayed a healthy,lusty sexuality.He could never write ,Under My Thumb or Yesterday’s Papers.His songs about women were often thoughtful and appreciative,like Lady Madonna, released on 15 March 1968.”

  56. PaulMcCartneyIsAMusicGenuis

    This is what Paul explains in Many Years From Now,

    “Lady Madonna started off as the Virgin Mary, then it was a working-class woman,of which obviously there’s millions in Liverpool. The people I was brought up amongst were often Catholic;there are a lot of Catholics in Liverpool because of the Irish connection and they are often quite religious.Whenn they have a baby I think they see a big connection between themselves and the Virgin Mary with her baby.So the orignial concept was the Virgin Mary but it quickly became symbolic of every woman;the Madonna image but as applied to ordinary working-class woman. Your Mother Should Know is another. I think women are very strong,they put up with a lot of shit,they put up with the pain of having a child,of raising it,cooking for it,they are basically skivvies a lot of their lives,so I always want to pay a tribute to them.”

    “There’s an interesting film director called Alison Anders who did a lot of small-budget films in Los Angeles,who says if you look at my songs there’s a great support for the female and that is what made her able to write feminine characters for her screen plays.And she cites many of them in my songs more than I ever knew.”

    Check out a less known Paul/Wings 1979 B-side called,Day Time Night Time Suffering it’s a very good Paul version of John’s powerful Woman is The N****r of The World.

  57. meerkat

    I for one appreciate the opportunity to talk about the Beatles’ faults with other fans! Talking about the faults of things you love with people who don’t particularly like them is not much fun, and there’s not all that much to be a fan of that doesn’t have *any* misogyny or sexism or other -isms in it.

  58. PaulMcCartneyIsAMusicGenuis

    Also Paul wrote the beautiful meaningful song Let It Be after he had a dream and he saw his mother Mary seeming real and alive in this dream,,who was a beloved nurse and midwife who died 12 years before of breast cancer when Paul was just 14 and his brother 12.

    This is what Paul says about it in Many Years From Now,

    ” This was a very difficult period. John was with Yoko full time,and our relationship was beginning to crumble:John and I were going through a very tense period.The breakup of The Beatles was looming and I was very nervy. Personally it was a very dificult time for me, I think the drugs,the stress,tiredness and everything had really start to take it’s toll.I somehow managed to miss a lot of the bad effects of all that, but looking back on this period, I think I was having troubles.One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who’d been dead for 10 years or so.And it was great to see her because that’s a wonderful thing about dreams:you actually are reunited with that person for a second;there they are and you appear to both be physically together again.It was so wonderful for me and she was very reassuring.In the dream she said,’It’ll be alright.’I’m not sure if she used the words ‘Let It Be’ but that was the gist of her advice,it was ‘Don’t worry too much ,it will turn out okay.’It was such a sweet dream I woke up thinking,Oh,it was really great to visit with her again.I felt very blessed to have that dream.So that got me writing the song ‘Let It Be’.I literally started off’Mother Mary’, which was her name,’When I find myself in times of trouble ‘,which I certainly found myself in.The song was based on that dream.”

  59. PaulMcCartneyIsAMusicGenuis & NOT A WOMAN HATER OR ABUSER!


    I was hoping that you would have said something about what I posted.

    Eminem is the worst woman-hating violent “song writer” ever a long with other much worse offenders than anything The Beatles ever wrote or did,like The Rolling Stones songs especially Under My Thumb,Stupid Girl,, Brown Sugar, etc and the the totally dreadful sounding Led Zeppelin and many other rap “artists” and heavy mnetal bands!

  60. PaulMcCartneyIsAMusicGenuis & NOT A WOMAN HATER OR ABUSER!

    No it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count, it means that there are as I listed much worse offenders!

    Thanks very much!

    1. Cara Post author

      Great. And you’re right. But this is a post about the Beatles, and not a post about Eminem, the Rolling Stones, etc. So it’s not really relevant. Comments need to stay on topic.

  61. Sandy

    You guys realize that writing music was a form of therapy for the Beatles?
    They weren’t being misogynistic, they were showing the world their true selves.
    the Beatles never wanted to lie to their fans.
    They wanted to make sure people didn’t think they were always the nice, happy little mop-tops from A Hard Day’s Night.
    In real life, the Beatles were jerks, just like everyone.
    Who here can say they’ve never done anything really horrible to someone else?
    These (and all their other songs) are about honesty, about showing the world no lies, just truth.
    The Beatles never once lied to us or tried to be something they weren’t, and I’m glad for that.
    I’m glad they decided to tell us that, no, they weren’t perfect.
    I’m glad they showed the world that they were real people, with faults.
    In real life, I’m sure many people would hate the Beatles as people.

    1. Cara Post author

      They weren’t being misogynistic, they were showing the world their true selves.

      Well I feel much better knowing that one’s true self can’t be misogynistic.

      Also, it’s good to know that if I’ve ever done a shitty thing in my entire life, I am forever banned from criticizing anyone for anything.

      A few OLD Beatles songs from the early 60’s that were writen by young boys (probably as a joke) with OOO’S and AWW’s in a world today that still stones and hangs women for adultery and what about women in Saudi Arabia who are not allowed to drive cars and many other horrible abuses against their rights as women? Is kinda sad in my opinion.

      And clearly, if there’s something worse happening in the world I’M NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE A BIT OF FUN WRITING A FUCKING TONGUE AND CHEEK POST ABOUT MY FAVORITE BAND.

      Seriously, where are you clueless assholes coming from? Because I’m fed up. If you’re not going to bother to know enough to realize how stupid it is to get on my case for being MEAN SO MEAN to the Beatles, of all people, then just get out of here. Christ. And if there’s so many other things to get upset about? Stop whining about me picking on your poor precious band. You know, my own favorite.

  62. MichelleLynn

    Sorry this is late, but I have to say this.

    A few OLD Beatles songs from the early 60’s that were writen by young boys (probably as a joke) with OOO’S and AWW’s in a world today that still stones and hangs women for adultery and what about women in Saudi Arabia who are not allowed to drive cars and many other horrible abuses against their rights as women? Is kinda sad in my opinion.

    Remember that Paul McCartny made his wife Linda a part of his band Wings..even though she was not a musician and really could not sing.

    Paul even said he grew up and became a man when his first child was born. And John Lennon did change for the better in his views of women.

    I feel no human being is perfect and people do change. Why hold past mistakes against someone who has learned from the past and grown to become a better person for it?

  63. lauredhel

    “Remember that Paul McCartny made his wife Linda a part of his band Wings..even though she was not a musician and really could not sing.

    Oh, I think this is my favourite so far. What else you got?

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  69. normalizer

    Just briefly, if you want to pick on “Run for Your Life” start with Elvis and Arthur Gunter for writing the line “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.” It’s from an old rockabilly song called “Baby, Let’s Play House.” And I don’t think you can honestly call them “assholes” for any one thing. Let’s face it, everyone’s an asshole at one time or another. John Lennon may have been an asshole more than the next guy, but that’s only because they were always in the spotlight.

    1. Cara Post author

      Trust me, Normalizer, I know my Beatles trivia. I’m well aware where John got the line; hearing it and thinking that it’s worthy of repeating doesn’t magically make things better.

      And your theory is that if everyone’s an asshole at one time or another, we don’t get to call anyone an asshole? Or do we just not get to call Beatles that you like assholes?

      For fuck’s sake. The Beatles were assholes. All of them at one time or another, but John and Paul especially. All of them were assholes specifically to women for good chunks of their lives. If you don’t like it, too fucking bad. Get over it. If you don’t know how to love someone, or just appreciate their art for Christ’s sake, without simultaneously recognizing their personal failings . . . well, seriously, I do have pity for that. I just do.

  70. Irving M. Salos

    These songs are over forty years old. The performer has been dead for over 28 years to date. You are getting awfully hard-up to scrounge something like this for material.

  71. kira

    I came to your blog recently through your excellent Yoko posts, so I hope you won’t mind me leaving a really late comment for this one.

    I would put Norwegian Wood in my top 5 Anti-Feminist Beatles songs. That whole “You won’t have sex with me, so I’ll burn down your house” thing still creeps me out. It’s such a great song, but I have to put on my tin hat and avoid thinking about the lyrics to enjoy it.

    1. Cara Post author

      Kira — any comment on this post that is not “you stupid feminist bitch, WHY DO YOU HATE THE BEATLES!!!1!!ONE!!!” is always, always welcome 🙂 (Seriously though, I still have to delete a few of those every month.)

      And yeah, if I could do this list again, I’d probably put Norwegian Wood in instead of You Won’t See Me, despite its status as a truly fucking great song. Damn that John — always more eager to put his misogyny in his songs than Paul was.

      1. Cara Post author

        …which is to say that at the time of writing this post, I was wholly unconvinced that John was referring to burning down the house with “so, I lit a fire.” But now, I kind of am. Unfortunately.

  72. Paul

    Still it was a different time – that’s the only thing that truly irritates me about amateur historians (not you Cara) – they look at a past time and magically expect people of that time to act like the modern world

    1. Cara Post author

      I think that there’s a difference between saying “hey, that’s misogynistic and really hateful and fucked up” and saying “OMG, THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.” The first is true, the second isn’t necessarily. I get really irritated when people say “it’s not misogynistic, it was the 60s, that’s how people thought.” The fact that it’s how people thought doesn’t make it not misogynistic (or racist, or colonialist, or homophobic, etc.).

  73. Paul

    I agree completely that it’s still misogynistic – i just dislike the people that have trouble accepting that the past was different to today

  74. wiggles

    I can’t deal with the rape and SA posts today, so here I am in this old-ass Beatles post thinking I might disagree with you, Cara, that John and Paul were more misogynist than George. You being way more studied in Beatles-related matters than I, you could very well know things I don’t, but I think if George got to put more of his work out there, he’d probably be at least as bad.
    You probably saw that “Anthology” doc/mini-series; I was struck by the part where George, Paul, and Ringo are sitting at that table and George is going off about Elvis having female back-up singers, like that was the most contemptible and embarrassing thing he could imagine. Even Paul and Ringo seemed to be cringing at how worked up he was about it. It gave me the impression that Paul and Ringo had grown out of a lot of the old girls-are-icky school of thought in their old age (or at least had learned that it’s bad for business to make a public production of it), but that George never got past it.

    See I was motivated to rent the “Anthology” video way back when you were doing your Yoko posts, but then it felt like too much time had passed to comment on George’s ‘women! yuck!’ sentiments. And now here I am anyway.

    1. Cara Post author

      You know, I’ve seen the Anthology several times and I’m really not remembering this part. Huh. Will look out for it the next time I inevitably watch.

      There is, though, of course no doubt about George’s misogyny. He was really pointlessly mean to Yoko, and he did indeed seem to have a problem with working with female musicians. (Check out the Concert for Bangladesh for example. Yoko could have been a part of the line up. But when George invited John, he specifically uninvited Yoko. Which is why John isn’t there. And why there are no female musicians.) I did feel that he treated Pattie somewhat better than the others treated their girlfriends and wives during that same period . . . but you know, that’s hardly saying much! Ha.

      But. I think that John definitely “wins” for his admitted emotional and physical abuse. I tend to rank Paul second because of his (later admitted) views that women were for cooking and cleaning, his constant rage, jealousy and general snottiness regarding the fact that his girlfriend (Jane Asher) had a career, and his particularly poor treatment of Yoko. But really, they were all pretty damn awful.

      The good news is that they did all mostly overcome it! John of course got together with Yoko and became interested in feminist theory and denounced his previous misogyny, George and Ringo seemed to be about 10 million times better to their second wives than they were to their first wives, and Paul is even friends with Yoko now! (That last one is a development which I really can’t get over and pleases me greatly. And totally proves that Yoko is not just full of hot air when she talks about feeling love towards everyone and not holding grudges. For real.)

      1. Cara Post author

        Also, now I’m glad that I never closed down this thread despite repeated extreme temptations to do exactly that 🙂

  75. wiggles

    I bet you saw the new comment in your mod queue and thought ‘oh shit, not another one’ (lol)

    George having no women at all in his concert for Bangladesh is pretty telling of the attitudes I suspect. The segment of the Anthology that I’m referring to, if you ever want to look for it, is pretty much all about Elvis. How he influenced them and their thoughts on him in the later years. It might be a chapter on the DVD.
    I didn’t know Paul and Yoko were friends. That is really cool. Linda and Stella must have totally schooled him (though I’m still not sure about that Heather Mills thing). I’d like to hear more about Paul’s later admitted misogyny, if you can point me in the right direction.

    1. Cara Post author

      It’s only within the past couple of years. They used to avoid each other as much as possible, and as recent as five years ago, they wouldn’t speak to each other unless they were both expected to show up to some kind of Beatles event. Ten years ago, they wouldn’t speak to each other unless one of them was suing the other 🙂

      But a couple of years ago, Yoko went out to Liverpool and saw a fashion show of Stella’s, and then to Paul’s concert afterward. She was there sitting next to him in the audience, and they seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, which was really odd. Then at the concert, Paul performed A Day in the Life, the first time a Beatle had ever performed the song live, as a dedication to John, and Yoko seemed to really appreciate that. That was the first time I remember thinking “wait, what, this is totally new.” I thought it would pass, and they’d be at each other’s throats again soon, but so far so good. They seem to show up and do a lot of things together that they never would have before. Like Paul’s Meat Free Monday initiative — Yoko flew out to help him launch that and promote it last week! A couple of years ago, Paul never, ever would have invited her (he didn’t invite her to his wedding to Heather Mills! He also wasn’t at the dedication for the Imagine Peace Tower, and while some have claimed it’s because he had a court date, I call bullshit). And if he had, she probably would have er, had to be somewhere else. Then they both ended up doing the 64 words for Aung San Suu Kyi thing. And that was totally Yoko’s deal first, and way more her area, and so I can only assume that she told Paul about it and got him involved.

      It’s kind of cool. Because, I’ll admit, I did used to get a fair amount of amusement out of Yoko suing Paul when he totally deserved it. And Paul trying to make excuses for his being a douche, and Yoko responding with gracious statements that were sweet as pie and made him look even more like an ass. But I like the two of them getting along way better. It’s probably a million times more healthy for them. It’s great to contrast the 1994 pictures of Paul and Yoko at John’s induction for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how awkward and displeased they look to be in each other’s company, and see the tons of photos of them now greeting each other with wide smiles and big hugs. They seem really genuine, and after all this time, I don’t know why they’d bother to start faking it now.

      Anyway, end of that novel. As for Paul’s admitted misogyny . . . unfortunately, as most of these things are, it’s scattered all over a bunch of different interviews and such. I’ve read a lot fewer Paul books than I have John books, though, so I might just not know a place 🙂 But there was a section in this little book all about the song Yesterday, called Yesterday and Today, where Paul talks about his relationship with Jane and how he was a dick, and while it makes the “that’s how it was” excuse, talks about how he used to feel that women were there to tend to their men and stay at home and cook and clean for them and not have jobs of their own, and admits “I was a bit of a chauvinist.” Most of the other places I know of are just other people reporting on his misogyny third hand.

      (And yes, my first instinctual thought was “oh for fuck’s sake, I’m still getting more of these????” LOL.)

  76. wiggles

    Thanks for all the explainin’ 🙂 I wonder what happened between Paul and Yoko. I guess when people get on in years, they just get tired of fighting with each other.
    I tried googling for statements from Paul re: misogyny and chauvinism and all that really comes up is this post and some MRA message board that links to this post (lucky you).

  77. Renee K.

    Interesting thread. I actually made it through all the comments. I can see your point with the songs, but I still like them. 🙂 It’s fun reading insightful posts from a fellow Beatles fan.

  78. orlando

    I’m thinking of these Beatles posts as kind of permanently in circulation, and therefore not crazy to add a comment after such a long time. It just happens that this topic has come up in my life, due to the presence for the last year of my firstborn son. You see, when he was quite new I bought a whole bunch of Beatles albums because it seemed to me that they were exactly the right music to play to suit both children and adults. You know the way the chord progressions and harmonies are almost like nursery rhyme tunes, at times? Once I started playing them all the way through I was astonished at how much male entitlement came leaking out of them. Shorter John, Paul, George and Ringo: As soon as I decide I fancy a girl she owes me her love, body and undivided devotion, or she’s a heartless, betraying bitch.

    Given how young and untravelled they were when they started writing, I’m pondering whether the lyrics owe more to their musical influences than their life influences. You can tell that they probably listened to a lot of the American country and western songs of the period, and I wonder if they simply thought that’s what songs are supposed to be about: she broke my heart. Now let’s work on the chords.

    Now I’m torn between continuing to play them to develop my little boy’s ear, and the fear of developing his place in the patriarchy.

  79. Salome

    I’m going to have to concur with some earlier posters in terms of what I thought about “You Like Me Too Much,” about it sounding like a pair of rather confused lovers. Also, “You Won’t See Me” sounded to me more like it was about two people who were in a relationship but where the one was playing games with and confusing the other, rather than the speaker stalking someone who was clearly not interested. I guess this interpretation is colored by the fact that Paul wrote it about the rather rough patch he was going through in his relationship with Jane Asher – which, as he later admitted, was largely about him not understanding at the time her desire to have her own life that didn’t always involve him, and to forge an identity for herself apart from just being a “Beatles girlfriend.” She wasn’t really doing what he accused her of, but it’s easy to see how his then-unenlightened mind could see it that way (not defending him, though).

    I personally found that song rather consoling when I was desperately trying to get over a friend/crush who was being a dick and playing mind games with me, pretending to be my friend and then talking about me behind my back, during my senior year of high school. It vocalized a lot of my frustration at the way my “friend” was treating me and helped me to get over him pretty fast. So I suppose that the song, despite its clear misogyny, will have a special place in my heart if only for that reason.

    It’s fun to think, too, of how these songs would sound if the genders were reversed. If I ever do get a rock band started of my own like I’ve wanted to since age 12 (I’ve got the musical skills, just not bandmates), I’ve toyed with the idea of doing “Under My Thumb” with a female speaker talking about a boyfriend she’s “tamed.”

  80. Rebecca

    I am a feminist and a huge Beatles fan and I agree with your list, on the other hand I do not agree with the people that are saying Getting Better and Norwegian Wood are sexist. The line in Getting Better I have always took as him regretting his past actions towards women. It is like him saying “yes I was an abusive sexist man in the past but I realize how wrong that is and am trying to move past it and become a better person”.

    Norwegian Wood is so obviously about a women trying to sleep with him not the other way around. She implies that he sit on her bed but instead he sits on the floor. The “I lit a fire” line is not about him setting her house on fire, it is him lighting a cigarette. The lyrics are so clear I am not sure how someone could take the song as sexist.

  81. Salome

    Rebecca – I didn’t believe the Norwegian Wood story until I found an interview with John or Paul confirming that it was indeed about burning her house down.

  82. Caitlin

    Also “Another Girl” is pretty bad. They have some songs that, when you listen to the lyrics, are pretty terrible, but how can you not love them?

  83. Salome

    By the way my comment about how they would sound “if the genders were reversed” was not trying to diminish the fact that songs like “Run for Your Life” are CLEARLY about abuse, and the actions they describe are blatantly wrong no matter who is doing them. I just meant it as it would be an interesting experiment, without too much to be read into that.


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