This week on #askNat I’m responding to a question from Uwe in Frankfurt, Germany who has this to say:
After The Beatles break-up, the individual Beatles occasionally wrote songs about, or addressed to, their fellow Beatles or the group in general – such as “How Do You Sleep” (John), “Here Today” (Paul), “All Those Years Ago”, “When We Was Fab” (George) and “Liverpool 8” (Ringo). I assume there must be more songs like that – for instance, I seem to remember that Paul wrote an answer to “How Do You Sleep”, but I forgot which one that would have been (maybe “Silly Love Songs?”). Can you enlighten us about those autobiographical songs?
Good question Uwe! A lot of the references you mention however are subject to the listener’s interpretation as to whether they are referring to one or more of the other Beatles or not, but often enough they are unmistakably there. I can name a few that come to mind and discuss them but it certainly won’t be all of them. If anyone else reading has further examples then hopefully they will speak up in the comments and add to the list. The lyrics to any of the songs I mention are easy enough to ‘Google up’ if you’d like to review or have a look.
First of all, the song you refer to that is Paul’s answer to John’s “How Do You Sleep” is the closing track on Wild Life written in the form of a letter to John, aptly titled “Dear Friend.” The lyrics are short and abstract, but the sentiment is Paul’s own proclamation of a truce. One may agree it was Paul’s place to do so, since he began the digs at John with certain lyrics from his earlier Ram album. Paul admits to jabbing John with the lyric in the too many people preaching practices verse of “Too Many People” but there are other lyrics on the album that are arguably digs at John as well and only a casual listening of it can reveal why John took it that way.
I think most Beatles references of this sort probably come from Ringo. Many of Ringo’s songs contain Beatles references right up to his most recent material. The b-side for Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy” single called “Early 1970” is probably the earliest of these with a separate verse for each of The Beatles. This song can be found now on the 2007 hits compilation Photograph: The Very Best Of Ringo. Another of Ringo’s singles, released in 1972 while The Beatles were still at odds over the break-up litigation, called “Back Off Boogaloo” contained the lyric: wake up meathead, don’t pretend that you are dead, get yourself up off the cart – get yourself together now, and give me something tasty, everything you try to do, you know it sure sounds wasted. Many feel that Ringo is referring to the “Paul is dead” hoax here and calling out to him about his recent output in a not-too-complimentary fashion.
In later years Ringo has plenty of references on his Ringo Rama album (2003) to include “Instant Karma” on the track track “Instant Amnesia” (2003) and “Cry Baby Cry” on the track “I Think, Therefore I Rock ‘N’ Roll”. The album also contains his heartfelt song for George Harrison “Never Without You” (written after his death) which has references to George’s Beatles track “Within You Without You” and “All Things Must Pass” as well as plenty of George-like guitar riffs played by Eric Clapton. He also mentions “Yesterday” in the track “Write One For Me” and sings someone’s knockin’ at my door on the track “English Garden.” Hmmm… I wonder what that may be a reference to.
On the Choose Love album Ringo mentions both “The Long And Winding Road” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” in the title track and on Y Not refers to John & Yoko’s Bed-In for Peace on the song “Peace Dream.” On his latest album as of this writing (Ringo 2012), the song “In Liverpool” is an autobiographical account of his early days through meeting up and playing with The Beatles.
While I believe George Harrison has fewer of these “Beatle-isms” and references in his songs, there are still a few, though they are often a bit more subtle. Besides “All Those Years Ago” and “When We Was Fab,” one might easily interpret the lyrics in the All Things Must Pass track “Run Of The Mill” as referring to the loss of friendship between The Beatles after the break-up and also the disinterest in using many of George’s compositions on Beatles albums. George’s track from his Extra Texture album “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)” is obviously a sequel to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” His lyric I won’t upset the Apple cart, I only want what I can get from his 1979 self-titled album track “Not Guilty” (written in 1968 originally for the White Album) is a direct reference to The Beatles own Apple Records.
The final one that I will mention here before turning it over to anyone else who wants to contribute is John Lennon’s 1980 track “Cleanup Time” from Double Fantasy. His the kings is in the…, the queen is in the… lyric structure is a direct reference to his similar lyrics for “Cry Baby Cry” from the White Album.
Thanks for writing in Uwe! Have something to add? Comment here.
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