For all the impish cheeriness of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘Good Day Sunshine’, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, the Beatles also wrote some goddamn dark songs. And I’m not even talking about ‘Helter Skelter’ allegedly having been an inspiration for Charles Manson.
There’s ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, whose thoroughly jaunty tone belies a rather unsettling chorus:
“Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer / Came down upon her head / Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer / Made sure that she was dead”
Then there are the troublingly specific plans of the title character in ‘Rocky Raccoon’:
“Rocky Raccoon checked into his room / Only to find Gideon’s Bible / Rocky had come, equipped with a gun / To shoot off the legs of his rival”
Just the legs? As you probably recall, things worked out even worse for our hero, Rocky.
And then there is this all-time creepy champion: Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics to ‘Run For Your Life’? It’s opening two verses are:
“Well, I’d rather see you dead, little girl / Than to be with another man / You better keep your head, little girl / Or you won’t know where I am”
“You better run for your life if you can, little girl / Hide your head in the sand, little girl / Catch you with another man / That’s the end, little girl”
Huh?? And it continues later with this menacing stanza:
“Let this be a sermon / I mean everything I’ve said / Baby, I’m determined / And I’d rather see you dead”¹
I mean, this isn’t some obscure tune from an unreleased album, or a little known B-side from a rare single. This was the closing track on Rubber Soul, what many consider to be the Beatles finest overall album, released at the peak of their popularity. I found one online comment remarking “This must be O.J.’s favorite song.” Ouch. Fortunately, not long after this they would “Take a sad song and make it better” and thankfully they did revert from the original song title of ‘Hey Juice.’²
¹Some rock historians suggest that these lyrics were lifted from, or were at least written with a nod to those from Elvis Presley’s 1955 hit ‘Baby Let’s Play House’: “Now listen to me, baby / Try to understand / I’d rather see you dead, little girl / Than to be with another man.” Maybe so..But still!?
²That’s obviously not true