Ten Times The Beatles Songs Were About Sex & Drugs
We all know that pop songs have a love-based theme for the most part, so, naturally, this will lead on to talking about making sexy-time at some point.
So we look at the filth of the Fab Four. Remembering that during the 1960's it was a time to be sexually open in counter-culture circles, in Carnaby Street, and at Woodstock. However, despite the psychedelic romanticizing of these days, in conventional and mainstream media and culture, it was still very straight-laced.
The Beatles were ground-breaking in every sense. They were technically creative, inventing techniques and sounds in the studio that are used today and moved the industry on, with the help of George Martin, Ken Scott, and many other creative minds and engineers in the Parlaphone studios, and later in Abbey Rd.
They bought many aspects of the sixties into the foreground. As is well documented, many of the songs were soaked in drug-references. Including the popular misconception that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD. It would have been believable but John Lennon denied it. Many did not believe him. You cannot question a man who openly wrote a song about his struggles with heroin addiction, even releasing it into the charts. So if he says he did not mean LSD I think we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Clearly if he was happy to write about heroin, why would he have shied away from admitting a song about the far-less demonized substance that had only just been made illegal?
The songs are about sex and hard drugs. I will leave out Cold Turkey as that is too literal. Also, it is very admirable that he could be that honest. This list is the hidden, or not-so-obvious ones.
Today it is not just drugs though. We are talking about the times that John, Paul, George, and Ringo sang about sex. The times they (ahem) inserted a reference or two to the cheekiest of cheeky acts. The battles with the censors, the establishments frowning, and the why's and wherefore's of the cases in question, and how they were much more daring then than they would be today. There is little controversy in Nicki Minaj or "Fiddy" making erotic insinuations. That has been done a million times before and they are just running with the baton passed down and diluted in its irreverence since the heady days of post-war prudes and frigid fuddy-duddies from the fifties.
10 Long Tall Sally | (US Album release only) The Beatles Second
Not a Beatles original composition, but release as a cover of Little Richard's original, Written by Little Richard along with Enntris Johnson and Robert A Blackwell. See lyrics in question:
' I 'saw Uncle John With long tall Sally He saw Aunt Mary comin' And he ducked back in the alley.......
...... Well, long tall Sally's built Pretty sweet She's got everything that Uncle John need'
A common understanding is that this song refers to gay sex with a drag queen. The lyrics above do a more than capable job of giving that traction. A standard in The Beatles set from Hamburg days, and also featured on "The Beatles Second Album" (U.S Release only). In Germany, the show was, due to the speed-fuelled days and thanks to Hamburgs' prostitute-filled Reepherbahn (red-light district) much rawer and free-spirited.
The band would be able to play drunk, high, after no sleep and in six-day-old clothes and slouched over the kits. Not something Brian Epstein would have tolerated at the Palladium!
A song that has interestingly been often shown, inaccurately, in movies as John Lennon singing. Something the somewhat stuffy Paul McCartney takes regular exception to in interviews (link 1)
9 Polythene Pam | Abbey Road
A reference to S & M practices from the medley-style final studio album. Not as you would know it, but the band was at this time not getting along due to legal battles and interference from outside influences. Yet to many, Abbey Road was and still is a favorite album. Classics like "Something, "Carry that Weight, and "Here Comes The Sun" assured it was the masterpiece fans were used to. Yet here we look at a much less-well-known track: Polythene Pam. Lyrics go:
"You should see Polythene Pam/she's so good looking though she looks like a man."
The song is said to be a reference to an old fan of the group from the Cavern Club days, a girl called Pat Dawson (link 2)
Here John has turned it into a perversion and fetishist calling card in his noun-rich and acerbic style. A relief for many, showing he had not lost a step, as many feared, from his marriage to Yoko Ono and his colossal levels of drug-abuse which of course now included heroin.
8 Happiness is a Warm Gun | The Beatles
The undeniable highlight of the "White" album, according to many. A superb folk-style four-section song with bluesy phrases that have very often been cited as being about heroin (John was enjoying the drug at this time). This is understandable, with lyrics like: "I need a fix 'cause I'm going down, down to the bits that I left up town." Lennon denied this and it has since been understood to mean something else
The 'Mother-Superior' is said to be a reference to Yoko Ono, and 'jumping the gun' a euphemism for sex. Many of John's compositions were known to be peppered with shadings of sexuality from his new, and very adventurous, relationship with Ono. His liberation at this idyllic mix of a strong and forceful woman and a passionate and liberated physical love-life was not something the couple ever really kept quiet.
Also the line "man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnail boots" is allegedly a reference to a Beatles acquaintance who boasted of wearing this at music events and crowded public places to look up the skirts of female patrons. The inclusion of such a thing in demonstrably non-pejorative perspective is a clear sign of how times have, thankfully, now changed.
7 Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey | The Beatles
A pretty gibberish sounding, but lyrically rooted song, based on a basic Spanish riff.
It is in the use of the word "come" in a repeated way, that is said to be John Lennon digging away at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian spiritual adviser they had put so much faith in only to be disappointed at his aggressive money-grabbing (link 3 and alleged spurious claims at celibacy (to be addressed later). It may appear a bit tenuous to call this a sexual link, but given the famous story of the relationship between the Fab Four and the guru, it rings very true.
The man, Yogi, who eschewed material possessions had already been trying to garnish The Beatle's income, in fact between ten and twenty-fire per-cent deposited in a Swiss account in his name. This was disappointing for them, as it was a tactic that would have been forced on others, with presumably more success. The Beatles sought spiritual enlightenment and saw the guru as a person beyond worldly possessions. It appeared this was not only incorrect but a total opposite of the truth. Add to this he tried to make money off their name, and despite repeated attempts to make him desist by Apple insider Peter Brown via ABC lawyers on behalf of the Beatles, he still did the same. Even after being confronted by McCartney and told to stop, he continued the false claims. (link 3)
Once again to return to a labored point, Paul McCartney believed that John was also boasting his heroin habit by the use of the word "monkey" (having a "monkey on your back" was colloquial speak in drug circles for having an addiction, but was particularly linked to heroin)
6 Maggie Mae | Let it be
Another non-original composition. this time a crude, old traditional arrangement, used in the old days as a warm-up track for both The Beatles and The Quarrymen before them. One movie made about John Lennon showed them perform it at the infamous Wooton St Fete where John and Paul first met. This, it has to be said, is likely to be artistic license according to witnesses and history.
It is a pub-style raucous ditty about a low-down prostitute who works Liverpool's Lime Street and steels wages and tools from clients while providing her service. The pre-decimal currency monetary amounts mentioned and the type of language used dates the song immediately. That is what gives it such charm. It belongs where it stays, but you can trust it with The Beatles.
It gives a very grotty image. The lyrics are bleak and in no way whatsoever, sexy or exotic. After all, this is a bottom-rung whore working by a big-city train station.
5 Why Don't We Do it in the Road | The Beatles
This is a raucous blues number from the "White" album (as are many on the list) and is sung by Paul. This is often a surprise because it is (according to Paul ) "A very John song" (link 4). Considering the more rock n roll sound, which was where John was rather than Paul, and its obvious lyrics of explicit and controversial nature, the assumption and comparison is not a surprise.
Many also thought the shocking rawness in the title was a red herring and that was actually a reference to The Apple rooftop gig. Rather an absurd theory unless The Beatles knew they were going to do it as it was recorded the year before.
Since this, Paul has conceded that he wrote the lyric after seeing two monkeys casually copulating in the middle of the road in Rishikesh, India. (link 5)
4 Sexy Sadie | The Beatles
Here we return to the story of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This was the Indian guru, the man who taught transcendental meditation. The Beatles saw him at the London Hilton. They were so immediately impressed they went to Bangor, Wales to hear some more. It was here that they sadly received the news of the death of Brian Epstein through an overdose.
After this, they decide, John and George especially, to travel to Rishikesh, India to attend the Maharishi once again.
After this, the rumors surfaced of Yogi trying to coax young and attractive female attendees in the Beatles party to have sexual relations to increase their chances of enlightenment. This was the final straw for The Beatles and they left immediately. John especially was furious. In true John style, he wrote the song "Sexy Sadie", in the taxi going to the airport. The lyrics would become: "Sexy Sadie, what have you done/ you made a fool of everyone? (x2)". However, as one would expect, John Lennon was going to be more direct in truth. The original lyrics were: "Maharishi, you little twat /who the fuck do you think you are (x2)...oh you cunt?" These had to be changed for legal reasons.
Even to this day, some believe The Beatles side, and some believe the Maharishi. McCartney did not agree, but John was hurt, how could he follow a letch, was his justification. Some said a bitter ex-guru planted the lies, some say it was Mia Farrow. What is not under doubt is that it is not a sensible choice to embarrass John Lennon when he has a songwriting pen in hand. His ruthlessness was matched only by his acerbic wit and caustic humor. It would certainly have been interesting to see how events would have panned out if the original choice of lyrics were used
3 Penny Lane | Sgt Pepper (sessions only single release)
A song that was famously excluded from Sgt Pepper though it came from the same sessions. A decision lamented by Sir George Martin in years to come. (link 7)
It is a staccato piano style piece with very evocative lyrics. If Strawberry Fields Forever was John, this song was very much Paul. It spoke fondly and literally of the place in Liverpool for which it was named. It set it in "Blue suburban skies" and delivered vigor and romantic fondness in the lyrics that nostalgically remembered hairdressers, firemen, nurses and the idyllic tranquility of post-war English suburbia.
Little surprise then that it is said to be John who contributed the line "four of fish and finger pies in summer". The line is a crude schoolyard type reference to youthful sexual encounters in a very much "Behind the bike sheds" enforced public setting. John was raised by his proper and often strict Aunt Mimi (real name Mary Smith) and would not have ever been allowed to bring girlfriends home for heavy petting. I don't think you have to be Dr. Ruth to figure out the vulgar parallels drawn to the female anatomy.
2 Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown) | Rubber Soul
The song is a definite pinnacle of the career that had already passed for the band. Rubber Soul as an album is often seen as being where it all started. Leaving behind the Mop-Tops and approaching the mature politics and psychedelic-sophistication of Revolver. This folkish e major/ e minor with the intriguing lyrics and impeccably neat turn on the double-backed sitar by Harrison make it a total winner.
As is well known now, the lyrics are purported to be about an adulterous sexual encounter that John Lennon with a journalist. It was rumored to be Maureen Cleeve, although this may have been simply deduction since Lennon and Maureen were very close, and of course, it was to her that he was to give the career-changing "Bigger than Jesus" interview.
So the identity is not known of the lady in question. It is known that it is a cheeky,, innuendo-laced, and typically Dylan style composition ('or should I say, she once had me' and 'she said, it's time for bed') is a sign of John craving a powerful woman that would be sexually adventurous and characteristically domineering.
The following year the Beatles changed the world of music and culture with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Looking back, it is clear where there were songs that, in hindsight, were blatant conduits to what was coming. Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown) with the bending Sitar and the Dylan-esque wordplay is unquestionably one of them, maybe the clearest case. It is no surprise it remains to this day one of the band's most popular album tracks.
1 Please Please Me | Please Please Me
This is the Roy Orbison-inspired track that was to become the band's first UK number-one single. It was also regarded to be a homage to fellatio. Specifically in the sense of (excuse the phrase) 'tit-for-tat' repayment for given cunnilingus. Before anyone says it, yes, it was a John song!
That is not to call it vulgar or novelty. It was an excellent piece of contemporary pop, rewarded in its inevitable climb to the top. Indeed, it was met with praise by many. George Martin said, upon wrapping up, that this would be going to number one. Also, one of the band's, and particularly Lennon's, harshest critics, his Aunt Mimi had a positive stance on it. She had famously said the oft-lamented quote: "The guitar's all right John, but you'll never make a living at it" (link 8) and was no fan of the previous hit; 'Love Me Do'. This time though, she said upon hearing it; 'That's more like it. That should do well.'
It is also worth remembering that in the more conservative America, the EMI outlet in the states, Capitol, refused to release it due to the lyrics and it is so raucous, obviously sexual, and raw. So it was released through Chicago's Vee-Jay label, thanks to swift action by the savvy Brian Epstein.
So while the main bulk of this list of filth comes from the later years, particularly the 'White' Album, as you can see, they had lust in their hearts from the start!
Unless stated all details come from the book 'Revolution in the Head' by Ian Macdonald published by Pimlico (all sub-references cited where applicable)
link 2 A Hard Days Write by Steve Turner
link 4 Hunter Davis The Beatles p 468
link 5 Barry Miles; Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now - p.499
Link 8 John Lennon Michael Heatley page 13