Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Scary Beatles - Four Songs About Not So Lovey-Dovey Things

On Monday night I had the privilege of getting some passes to see Sir Paul McCartney perform in the middle of Hollywood Blvd for the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Yes, that is correct, Hollywood Blvd was shut down and Macca, The Beatle, performed some of his most beloved songs for over an hour to the joy and wonder of thousands of happy onlookers. It was quite exciting standing on the dotted line and hearing “Hey Jude” blare over the crowd to a chorus of thousands of “nah nah nah”s. 

Now, you may be wondering “Rg, what does The Beatles have to do with horror, and why are you rambling about Paul McCartney on your site?” Well, I assure you it has little do with simply wanting to brag about it (although, I’d be lying if that isn’t some part of it), I thought it would be fun to look at the other side of The Beatles. While yes, they were all about peace, love and happiness, some of the most beloved Beatles songs are about murder, beating women, arson and have fuelled some of the most grisly murders America has seen. They just sound so wonderfully happy that you never even question it! 

So here we go! Let’s take a peek at some of the darker things that The Fab Four sang about in their day:

1. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – Paul McCartney 

Released in 1969, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was written (and primarily recorded) by Paul McCartney. While it was originally written be included on The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), it was left out due to timing issues and was included on their final album Abbey Road. While the light and happy music was described by John Lennon as “more of Paul’s granny music”, the lyrics hold a much darker message of a man named Maxwell who decides to (literally) kill anyone who stands in his way with his trusty silver hammer, starting with his girlfriend, moving on to his teacher and ending with the judge sentencing him for the previous crimes. 

The chorus, “Bang, bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head. Clang, clang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead”  is one of those choruses that no matter how dark it may be, you would never assume that sweet little Paul could ever write about actually killing someone, much less 3 someones.

2. Run For Your Life – John Lennon

John Lennon had a tendency to be a bit angry, and that is showcased on the 1965 track Run For Your Life. The title alone should tell you plenty about what the song entails, it was released on the studio album Rubber Soul and was so nasty, in fact, that John Lennon claimed that it was his least favorite Beatles song. He went on to revisit the same theme, only in a more apologetic tone with his post-Beatles tune Jealous Guy

The introductory line, “Well I’d rather see you dead little girl, than to catch you with another man” is only the beginning of this allegedly misogynistic song, the chorus is where the real meat and potatoes lies, “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’a little girl”. It doesn’t stop there, we even get a nice (and very direct) threat on the girls life in third verse, “Let this be a sermon I mean everything I’ve said, Baby I’m determined and I’d rather see you dead”. Eesh, I think I’d regret that one too.

3. Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown) – John Lennon/Paul McCartney

This has always been one of my favorites, which is saying a lot considering it’d be damn near impossible for me to name a favorite song, much less a favorite album. Released in 1965 on the album Rubber Soul, it is the first rock song to incorporate the use of a sitar, which was played by George Harrison. It’s a pretty little song, with a folk-inspired, finger picked acoustic guitar part that intertwines with the sitar as Lennon sings about an affair that he had while married to Cynthia Lennon. 

The song isn’t so much about murder, or death, as some of the others in this list, but it’s more about the story behind it. Lennon began writing the song while on holiday with his wife Cynthia, which makes it all that much funnier that it happened to be about an affair that he had. What makes it even better is that he couldn’t even remember which affair it was, he just knew that he didn’t want Cynthia finding out about the true meaning of the song. When he approached Paul to help him finish the lyrics, it was Paul who came up with the title of Norwegian Wood and when stumped with how to end the song, it was also Paul who thought it would be fitting to burn down the harlot’s house. That’s right, they burn down the poor girl’s house. 

“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. And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown. So I lit a fire, isn't it good Norwegian wood?”
The moral of the story? Don’t cocktease The Beatles. They will light all your shit on fire. As Macca said when asked about the lyrics, “So she makes him sleep in the bath and then finally in the last verse I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as revenge, so we did it very tongue in cheek. She led him on, then said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." In our world the guy had to have some sort of revenge… so it meant I burned the place down…”

4. Helter Skelter – Paul McCartney

Another song that, lyrically, has little to do with murder. Mayhem, yes, but murder, no. When The Who released I Can See for Miles in 1967, Pete Townshend went on to call it the “loudest, rawest, dirtiest song the Who had ever recorded”. Now, being Paul McCartney, he took it as a personal goal to outdo The Who and write the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song ever recorded period and Helter Skelter was the end result. Released in 1968 on The White Album the song depicted everything the title meant; mayhem, disorder and it was a slap in the face to the critics who claimed that McCartney was only capable of writing ballads. 

It was a fantastic song yes, but some folks took it a little too literally and in 1969 Charles Manson termed a coming “racial war” after the song, which he later used to manipulate and use a group of young derelict kids who were looking for some kind of hope and purpose in life. Termed the Manson Family, he began a killing spree that shocked the nation when he sent several members of the family to various houses where they killed in cold blood, sprawling “HELTER SKELTER”  and other obscenities on the walls in blood. The most notable of these murders was that of Sharon Tate, the famous actress who was married (and pregnant with the child of) to Roman Polanski. 

Manson may have believed that he was the 5th Beatle, or he may not have, he was a master manipulator. But one thing is for certain, he loved The Beatles.

So there ya go. A few Beatles songs that aren’t necessarily about peace and love, but the exact opposite. Now, most importantly The Beatles were about love, peace and acceptance and that is why they will always be my favorite band. This article is in no way meant to slander their name, or the beautiful music they created, merely a fun article reflecting a different side to the band that we all think we know so well. So go, make love and all that other hippie dippie shit. I got some horror movies to watch.

- Rg Lovecraft


  1. Fantastic post; I knew about some of it but not all. You're also going to be responsible for me playing The Beatles all night!

    1. Cheers! There's nothing wrong with that, I don't think I've gone a day without spinning a Beatles record or two in months. As always, thanks for reading!

      - Rg