Yowsa. I promised myself I'd write a post on the first song that came up on my shuffle . . . and what comes up? This iconic Beatles song that I've avoided writing about for years.
Received wisdom has it that John Lennon (who by the way was married at the time) wrote this song after a baffling evening with a liberated woman journalist. And with the pressure on for the Beatles to be more "Dylanesque," John was no doubt reaching for allusive cryptic lyrics and social commentary. So here was an obvious target: A Girl Who Wouldn't Play By the Rules -- a chick who was even more elusive than the guys who wanted to make time with her -- for the Beatles, working-class kids from provincial Liverpool, feminists like this must have seemed like a strange new breed of woman.
But I have to say -- while we were programmed to love everything the Beatles did, this song drives home a wedge of doubt.
And it's not just John. Though for years John claimed this song was totally his, evidence has it that Paul (yes, my Paulie, my true love) conspired to write the middle eight: "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." So now she's the bread-winner and he's the free spirit, and that sounds just fine to me -- but I'm guessing that the Beatles couldn't go for that.
What if John -- trapped in that spare Danish Modern flat with this clever liberated woman -- simply could not handle her feminism?
"So I lit a fire / Isn't it good / Norwegian wood?"
Seriously? That's arson. Because she was a "nasty woman"?
Anybody have another take? Because it's a beautiful song and I sure would like to continue loving it....