The Beatles are one of the most successful bands to walk the earth. Even if you don’t get the ‘Beatlemania’, we have some lyrics that anyone with a soul could recognise as pure genius.
The Beatles have had their fair-share of musical gimmicks, of bad songs and even worse press conferences. But at the heart of this transcendent band are a set of individual creative geniuses. They have produced funky philosophy and playable poetry—always intimately representing the experience of life. They write the kind of material that Walt Whitman would be proud of (if Walt Whitman could go wild on a drum kit, that is).
Five Lyric Picks from Four Brilliant Men
Doesn’t have a point of view‘Nowhere Man’, Rubber Soul
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
In Nowhere Man, we are assured that inexperience and unpreparedness is not a shameful quality. Lennon speaks often of the self-inflicted complications of humanity. Less-so like a philosophical figure, and more-so like a good friend, Lennon reminds us that: ‘It’s alright to merely exist. It’s alright to not know it all. It’s alright, because we are the same.’ Thanks, John. I needed to hear that.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.‘The End’, Abbey Road
Paul McCartney claims this couplet was inspired by Shakespeare. The lyrics straightforwardly and powerfully handle themes of love and life. The End was written as their finale to Abbey Road (with ‘Her Majesty’ as an added bonus), and these lines were written as the epitaph of The Beatles. The End was the last song they all worked on together. It’s the kind of thing a wise parent might say: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” “Give as much kindness as you receive.” Paul McCartney might be our collective Dad, and I’m not mad about it.
Words are flowing out‘Across the Universe’, Let it Be
Like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe.
These cosmic lyrics are like something out of a Walt Whitman anthology. The imagery is crisp and fascinating. The movement from the small-scale ‘paper cup’ to the infinite scale of the ‘universe’ almost makes you dizzy. As with most of Lennon’s songs, this is about himself and his own experience of creativity— Writing about writing is only done well by a select few, Lennon being one of them. And let’s be honest, it’s just poetry to our ears.
Picture yourself on a boat on a river‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
The imagery in these lines is just breath-taking. It’s both tantalising and calming; the kind of words you want to hear whilst meditating or preparing to sleep. These lines convey perfectly how lyrics can –like a good book— transport you to elsewhere. You can travel the cosmos, you can wander the deserts, you can fall in love, you can be in the sky with diamonds. Especially if you’re called ‘Lucy’.
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away‘Yesterday’, Help!
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Yesterday’s lyrics were rendered by Paul McCartney. It’s believed he was writing about his mother, who died when he was just fourteen. These lines, whether contextualised or not, speak of the fundamental human desire to return to a safe place—even if that place is no longer accessible. This song is about about preservation, as well as loss. There is a gentle reminder that ‘today’ will inevitably pass and become ‘yesterday’— Just as all human life eventually passes away. McCartney explores how, even with losing a loved one, you can recall your affection for them. Whilst they only exist within the borders of ‘Yesterday’, you can still ‘believe’ in what they meant to you and what they represented.
So, what’s all the fuss?
For me, the Beatles represent confidence, humour and love. Beatlemania isn’t required in order to recognise their genius. You don’t need to know a lot about the world to relate to their songs— we are all nowhere men after all. What could be better than philosophical poetry that touches the soul? Putting it alongside a tune you can sing-along and dance to. They are musicians and they know how to rock-out (“I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”).
What’s your favourite Beatles track? Have you got any better lyrics that we’ve missed off? Are you lucky enough to have your name in a Beatles song? Let us know in the comments.