"She Loves You" / The Beatles
In this book I've been reading, Please Please Me, Gordon Thompson does a fantastic job of analyzing Lennon & McCartney's songwriting process (for that alone this book is worth reading, and I haven't even gotten yet to the section on Ray Davies). But there was one thing Thompson wrote that's really bugging me. He mentions that "She Loves You" -- one of those early Beatle hits that's so familiar, I hardly ever listen to it anymore -- was patterned after a snazzy Tony Hatch song, recorded by Bobby Rydell, called "Forget Him" ("Forget him, if he doesn't love you / Forget him, if he doesn't ca-a-a-are..."). Thompson then describes "She Loves You" as a message song, in which the narrator is at a psychological distance from the relationship he's talking about. Now, hold on, Mr. T -- am I missing something?
The way I've always heard this song, the narrator is NOT at a distance from this relationship. When he sings, "With a love like that / You know you should be glad," I hear envy just hissing out his ears. That's certainly the scenario in the Rydell song -- the punch line of the chorus is "Forget him and please come home to me." In "She Loves You," though, the soap opera's a bit more complicated. The narrator been turned into a go-between -- "You think you lost your love? / Well, I saw her yesterday / It's you she thinking of / And she told me what to say." I see him as a sort of Cyrano here -- he's delivering the message, but even as he advises them on how to get back together, a part of him wishes desperately he could get her for himself.
Lennon & McCartney underscore that rhythmically and harmonically; "with a love like that" comes out all punchy and staccato, on a dissonant C minor sixth chord, only to melt longingly into the fluid, sinous line "you know you should be glad," which shifts from D to D7 and finally resolves into G, like an escaping sigh of desire. It's as if he's saying, "what's wrong with you, you jerk, that you don't appreciate this amazing girl?" And just hear that lonesome E minor chord on the first "She loves you" -- this news that they're getting back together does not makes him happy. I'm betting that when he saw her yesterday, he was getting ready to make his move -- until she started confiding in him, and there he was, stuck in the role of a comforting shoulder to cry on. Love can be cruel.
This kind of emotional complexity was a big part of what made the Beatles special. "If I Fell" is full of dark warnings about to his potential new girlfriend about not hurting him the way his ex did. "Another Girl" is all about the old girl, really. And I can't think of a pop song that gets all the ugliness of a dying relationship down as well as "For No One." And here's the kicker -- I don't even think they were conscious of doing it. John and Paul were always madly scribbling these songs, in the front parlor or on a tour bus or in a hotel room. (Like Paul's grandfather describes their existence in Hard Day's Night: "I've been in a car and a train and a car and a room and a room and a room..."). These weren't intensely polished, conscious literary creations; this was just what came out.
Man. I forget sometimes how great they were. Then I start listening to them again and I'm completely blown away, all over again.