Song for Bob Dylan: Ten Songs Which Name-check Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan Releases ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. This Day in History, 24/07/1965.

1.  David Bowie ‘Song for Bob Dylan’

(from the album Hunky Dory, 1971).

2.  The Who ‘The Seeker’

(single A-side, 1970).

3.  Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins ‘The Charging Sky’

(from the album Rabbit Fur Coat, 2006).

4.  Belle & Sebastian ‘Like Dylan in the Movies’

(from the album If You’re Feeling Sinister, 1996).

5.  The Auteurs ‘Chinese Bakery’

(from the album Now I’m A Cowboy, 1994).

6.  John Lennon ‘God’

(from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970).

7.  T-Rex ‘Ballrooms of Mars’

(from the album The Slider, 1972).

8.  Stephen Malkmus ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’

(from the album Stephen Malkmus, 2001).

9.  Wilco ‘Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard’

(from the More Like the Moon EP, 2003).

10. Syd Barrett ‘Bob Dylan Blues’

(recorded in 1970).

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Seven). “‘Cause I’m the Taxman, Yeah, I’m the Taxman”.

Taxman by The Beatles, from their 1966 album Revolver, is undeniably one of the greatest album openers in music history.  A quick, sharp song informed by a pounding bassline which has inspired generations of future musicians, a unique and beautifully executed lead guitar line and topical lyrics which slated Harold Wilson’s government and in particular, their taxation policies, have made Taxman one of The Beatles’ many finest moments.

Written by George Harrison, and becoming one of his best known works for The Beatles, it is the only Harrison-penned track to take premier position on a Beatles album, testament to how strong the main songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney knew it was.  In fact, this was a time when Harrison’s song writing for the band was at its zenith, acknowledged by three of his songs, the most on any Beatles album apart from The Beatles (1968), being featured on Revolver:  Taxman, the Indian-tinged Love You To and the beautiful I Want to Tell You.  Taxman was actually one of the first songs that Harrison had written but became the sixth song to be featured on a Beatles record.

Musically, Taxman was inspired by the theme tune to the 1960’s TV series Batman (1966 – 1968), of which Harrison was a big fan.  Take for instance, the way in which the word “Taxman” is sung in a similar manner to “Batman” in the TV theme.

The Batman theme was originally written by conductor and trumpeter Neal Hefti and covered by surf rock group The Marketts, who released the song as a single in January 1966, reaching number 17 in the US singles chart.  It could be said that Harrison humorously draws comparisons between the ‘civil servant superhero’ in the song and Batman himself.

Over the years, there has been some confusion as to which of The Beatles’ played the lead guitar part on the song.  According to various interviews, McCartney played the distinctive lead guitar part.  In addition McCartney also played the song’s much imitated bassline, which itself is said to imitate the work of bassist James Jamerson, famous for his work on many 1960s soul records, including Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour (from the album In the Midnight Hour, 1965).

In a 1984 interview with Playboy, McCartney stated, “George wrote that and I played guitar on it”.  In a 1977 interview with Crawdaddy, Harrison said:  “I helped out such a lot in all the arrangements.  There were a lot of tracks though where I played bass.  Paul played lead guitar on Taxman and he played guitar – a good part – on Drive My Car [Rubber Soul, 1965]”.

Seth Swirsky, who worked as a staff songwriter before producing the Beatles documentary, Beatles Stories, said in a 2010 interview with Songfacts:  “I think Paul McCartney was one of the greatest guitar players of the ‘60s.  Nobody really recognised him as an electric guitar player, or an acoustic guitar player, but his leads on Taxman and on different songs that you think George played, they ripped.  I think George is great, but when Paul played lead on some songs, they tore.  They were just very unique.  There’s no one like Paul McCartney in the history of the world”.

In his book, Here, There and Everywhere:  My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (2006), Geoff Emerick said of the recording session for Taxman:  “There was a bit of tension on that session, though, because George had a great deal of trouble playing the solo – in fact, he couldn’t do a proper job of it when we slowed the tape down to half speed.  After a couple of hours of watching him struggle, both Paul and George Martin started becoming frustrated.  This was a Harrison song and therefore not something anyone was prepared to spend a whole lot of time on.  So George Martin went into the studio and, as diplomatically as possible, announced that he wanted Paul to have a go at the solo instead.  I could see from the look on Harrison’s face that he didn’t like the idea one bit, but he reluctantly agreed and then proceeded to disappear for a couple of hours.  He sometimes did that – had a bit of a sulk on his own, then eventually came back”.  Emerick then dubbed McCartney’s eventual guitar solo onto another piece of tape and cut it into the end of the song; therefore, the guitar solo in the middle of the song is exactly the same guitar solo which features in the song’s fade out.  In a 1987 interview with Guitar magazine, Harrison said, “I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on Taxman.  If you notice, he does a little Indian bit on it for me”.

Additionally, Lennon remembers Harrison asking for assistance in the song’s lyrics.  In a 1980 interview with Playboy, he said:  “I remember the day he [Harrison] called to ask for help on Taxman, one of his first songs.  I threw in a few one-liners to help the song along, because that’s what he asked for.  He came to me because Paul wouldn’t have helped him at that period.  I didn’t want to do it … I just sort of bit my tongue and said OK.  It had been John and Paul for so long, he’d been left out because he hadn’t been a songwriter up until then”.

Lyrically, Taxman attacks the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson.  Of the song’s lyrics, Harrison said, in his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine:  “Taxman was when I first realised that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes.  It was and still is topical”.  As their earnings placed then in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, the Beatles were liable to 95% supertax, something that had been introduced by Wilson’s labour government.  The 95% supertax is mentioned in the song’s lyrics, for example, “Let me tell you how it will be, There’s one for you, nineteen for me, ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman”.  “One for you, nineteen for me” refers to the fact that for every twenty pounds the band and other ‘super-rich’ people earned, nineteen was taken by the taxman.  This high rate of taxation, which added a full 15% on top of the tax for less wealthy people, eventually led to The Beatles starting Apple Corp.  By channelling their income through Apple, they could pay the much lower rate of corporation tax.  The supertax was also the subject of The Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon, from the album Face to Face, released in the same year as Revolver.

The second verse continues the slating of the supertax and referring to the five per cent left over after the taxman had had his cut, “Should five per cent appear too small, Be thankful I don’t take it all, ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman”.  The line “Be thankful I don’t take it all” could be seen to echo the famous remark made by former Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, in 1957, that “most of our people have never had it so good”.  Whilst the British economy of the time was strong, many people had considered this statement to be dismissive and condescending.

The final two verses of the song move into the territory of exaggeration; such was Harrison’s frustration with the supertax.  Firstly, there is the verse, “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat, If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”.

Following this, the songwriter questions where the where the money the band paid was going, with the taxman feeling that he does not have to give an explanation:  “Don’t ask me what I want it for, If you don’t want to pay some more, ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman”.

The lyrics in the final verse of the song, “Now my advice for those who die, Declare the pennies on your eyes …” refers to the way in which, in Greek history, pennies would be put over the eyes of a dead person as payment to the ferryman carrying the body to the underworld.  In this verse, Harrison is suggesting that the taxman is so ruthless that he would even go as far as taxing those pennies; which in effect, would cause your body to drift into some sort of purgatory.

The backing vocals in the fourth verse of Taxman, “Haha, Mr Wilson” and “Haha, Mr Heath” were suggested by Lennon upon Harrison asking him for help writing the song, with “Mr Wilson” referring to Harold Wilson, prime Minister and leader of the Labour party and “Mr Heath” referring to Edward Heath, the leader of the Conservative Party.  Wilson had nominated all four Beatles as Members of the Order of the British Empire a year before the release of Revolver.  As heard on Take 11 of Taxman, featured on Anthology 2, released in 1996, the spaces in the song which came to feature the chanted names were originally filled by the lyrics, “Anybody got a bit of money?”

As with a vast majority of Beatles songs, Taxman has had a lasting legacy on British music, with bands often just stealing parts of song’s innovative composition for their own.   For example, on their 1980 album, Sound Affects, The Jam included Start!, which pays homage to McCartney’s bassline and guitar part.  Start! reached number one in UK singles chart in August 1980.

The Jam also used the bassline from Taxman on their previous single, Dreams of Children, a double A-side with Going Underground (1980), which also reached number one in the UK singles chart.  This time, the bassline was played as the lead guitar riff.

Interestingly, the Batman theme which had partly inspired Taxman, was covered by The Jam on their debut album, In the City, in 1977.

Meanwhile, Harrison would later allude to Taxman on his 1988 single, When We Was Fab, from the album Cloud Nine (1987), in the line “Back when income tax was all we had”.

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Two). “And So It’s My Assumption, I’m Really Up the Junction”.

Up the Junction is the eighth track on, and third single from, Squeeze’s second album, Cool for Cats (1979).   The song became one of Squeeze’s most successful singles, reaching number two on the UK chart and has become one of their most enduring and recognisable compositions. The tale of working class life set in the band’s native South London is notable for not having a chorus, instead using key changes to its base progression in order to mirror the dramatic arc of its storyline.  ”.  Structurally, the song is similar to Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street (1965), which songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have cited as an influence.  In a piece written for The Guardian on the 5th May 2015, Tilbrook stated “There’s no chorus because I thought a repeated section would spoil the flow of Chris’s story”.

Lyrically, the song is well-known for its use of half rhymes.  For example, “ready” and “telly”; “kitchen” and “missing”.  The title of the song is not sung until the final line.  Difford has been known to cite Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain (1972), which similarly only has the song’s title in the last line, as the inspiration for this.

Difford has acknowledged that the song takes its title from the 1965 television play Up the Junction, aired as part of The Wednesday Play series, directed by Ken Loach, and the subsequent film version, released in 1968.

The play is, in turn, based on Neil Dunn’s collection of short stories of the same name, first published in 1963. The film version of Up the Junction featured a song named also named Up the Junction by Manfred Mann, which is unrelated to Squeeze’s song.

Although Squeeze’s Up the Junction is not a retelling of the play, it does include several parallels.  Firstly, both the play and Squeeze’s song are a portrayal of daily life in the Clapham area of London, the song beginning with the lines “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.  The “Junction” in both the song and the play refers to Clapham Junction railway station.  Clapham is seven miles southwest of Deptford, where the band is from.  The term ‘up the junction’ is English slang meaning without hope, or taken at its crudest level with another English colloquialism, ‘screwed’.   In turn, ‘screwed’ is also a colloquialism for someone who has just had sexual intercourse, thus linking in with the theme of pregnancy in both the play and particularly in the song, in which it is a main theme.  The use of colloquial working class language is prominent in both the song and the play.

As the song continues, the “windy common” mentioned as the place where ‘it happened’ between the song’s protagonist and his love interest is a 200 acre park in Clapham which has sports fields, freshwater ponds, a bandstand and its own tube station.  Further into the song, following a verse of flirting between the couple, we find the lines “We moved into a basement, With thoughts of our engagement, We stayed in by the telly, Although the room was smelly”.  Here, the protagonist and love interest are living together and thinking about marriage.  They are living very modestly but happily, staying at home and enjoying each other’s company and watching the television.  Further to this, in the following lines, “We spent our time just kissing, The Railway Arms we’re missing, But love has got us hooked up, And all our time it took up” sees the couple loved up and starting a new way of life away from the local pub, “The Railway Arms”.

In the following verse, the protagonist tells of how he “got a job with Stanley, He said I’d come in handy, And started me on Monday, So I had a bath on Sunday”.  The first day of a new job being a special enough occasion to have a bath is a reflection of the economic situation of the characters in the song.  Additionally, the idea of having a bath as and when needed is an example of the humorous self-defacing attitude towards British working class life prominent in the song.  For further examples of this, see the line “She dealt out all the rations, With some or other passions” in the first verse.  This line not only depicts the love interest playing hard to get but is also a comment on rationing in post-World War Two Britain, which didn’t end until 1954.  If we were to take the song to be set in the same era as the play, with the book on which it was based having been published in 1963, then although rationing was finished, it would have still been very fresh in the memories of the characters involved.  Also, the couple live in a “basement”, which has connotations of them being at the bottom of the property ladder.

In the next verse, “I worked eleven hours, And bought the girl some flowers, She said she’d seen a doctor, And nothing now could stop her”, we see the change in circumstances which informs the rest of the song.  Interestingly, after the love interest finds out she is pregnant, the song’s tempo speeds up, perhaps referring to the passage of time taking on a new speed and evoking the chaos which the couple are thrown into.

For the next verse, “I worked all through the winter, The weather brass and bitter, I put away a tenner, Each week to make her better, And when the time was ready, We had to sell the telly, Late evenings by the fire, With little kicks inside her”, the song shifts from a major to minor key in order to simulate the passing of time and circumstance and the change of season.  The “brass” is another British colloquialism from the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.  It is derived from small monkeys cast from alloy brass which were very common tourist souvenirs from China and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries.  They often, although not always, came in a set of three representing the Three Wise Monkeys carved in wood above the Shrine of Toshogu in Nikko, Japan.  Some sets added a fourth monkey with its hand covering its genitals.  Similarly, “tenner” is another British colloquialism, meaning ten pounds.  The fact that the couple have “to sell the telly [another colloquialism, meaning television]” shows how tight money is, particularly with their new arrival imminent.  The couple also live in cramped conditions; note how their living quarters is referred to as a “room” earlier in the song.  This means they would be thinking there would now be very little room for a “telly” once the baby arrived.  The fact that the couple are sitting in front of the fire in the penultimate line of the verse is telling of the coldness of the couple’s flat during the winter.

The next verse, “This morning at four fifty, I took her rather nifty, Down to an incubator, Where thirty minutes later, She gave birth to a daughter, Within a year a walker, She looked just like her mother, If there could be another”, switches back to the major key, conveying the joy of childbirth.  This joy is short-lived, as the next verse explains:  “And now she’s two years older, Her mother’s with a soldier, She left me when my drinking, Became a proper stinging, The devil came and took me, From bar to street to bookie, no more nights by the telly, no more nappies smelling”.  In this verse, the stress of fatherhood has taken its toll on the protagonist, his partner and his daughter are no longer in his life and he has succumbed to the twin vices of drinking and gambling.

The following verse, “Alone here in the kitchen, I feel there’s something missing, I’d beg for some forgiveness, But begging’s not my business, And she won’t write a letter, Although I always tell her, And so it’s really my assumption, I’m really up the junction” finds the protagonist missing his partner and daughter and his old life but admitting that it is his own fault that he is on his own.  The fact that he wants his ex-spouse to write a letter shows that the protagonist wants to make amends for his wrongdoings and have his family back in his life.  The brilliance of the song’s composition is seen in the way in which the final line, featuring the phrase “up the junction”, referring to both the hopelessness of the situation and Clapham Junction, brings the song full circle with the opening scene, “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.

And what became of the “girl from Clapham”?  She reappears in the later Squeeze song A Moving Story, from their 1998 album Domino.

The music video for Up the Junction features the band playing in a flat.  The flat is actually John Lennon’s old house, the same house where the promotional film for Imagine was filmed.  Additionally, the song is also notable for its accompanying Top of the Pops performance, for which the band, miming to the song, swapped instruments.  For example, singer Glenn Tilbrook is on drums and pianist Jools Holland is on guitar.

Song of the Day: Music About Other Artists (Day Three). Lennon vs. McCartney: “So Sgt. Pepper Took You By Surprise …”

The dissolution of The Beatles had been a turbulent affair for all involved.  Although Let It Be (1970) was the final Beatles album to be released, it had been largely recorded prior to Abbey Road (1969).  The idea for Let It Be, originally titled Get Back, had come from Paul McCartney, who made the suggestion of recording an album of new material, rehearsing it and performing it before a live audience on a one hour television special called Beatles at Work.  Producer George Martin has said that the project was “not at all a happy recording experience.  It was a time when relations between the Beatles were at their lowest ebb”.

John Lennon described the sessions as “hell … the most miserable on Earth” and George Harrison similarly stated that they were “the low of all-time”.  Harrison had been so irritated by fighting between Lennon and McCartney that he walked out for five days.  On his return to the fold, he threatened to leave the band unless they “abandon[ed] all talk of live performance” and instead focused on finishing a new album.  He also demanded that they cease work at Twickenham Studios and relocate to the newly finished Apple Studio.  His band mates agreed and the idea came about to salvage the material shot for the TV production for use in a feature film.

So advanced were the tensions within the band that Harrison invited American virtuoso keyboardist Billy Preston to participate in the final nine days of the recording sessions.  Preston received a label credit on the Get Back single, released on the 11th April 1969.  Other than Tony Sheridan in 1962, Preston was the only artist outside of the four Beatles to receive this honour.

Preston was known as a top session musician in the 1960’s, having already worked alongside Little Richard, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles.  He would go on to achieve fame as an artist in his own right, releasing the album That’s the Way God Planned It on The Beatles’ Apple Records in 1969 and scoring a UK number 11 hit with the title track of the album.

At the end of the rehearsal sessions, the band could not agree on a location to film a concert.  They rejected several ideas, including a boat at sea, a lunatic asylum, the Tunisian desert and the Colosseum before finally deciding on filming what would become their final live performance on the rooftop of the Apple Cops building at 3 Saville Row, London, on the 30th January 1969.

By the time it came to assembling an album, The Beatles were in such disarray that engineer Glyn Johns, whom has been described as the project’s uncredited producer, was given free rein as the band had virtually washed their hands of the entire project.

The band was put under further strain by the arrival of financial adviser, Allen Klein.  The need for a financial adviser had been evident since the death of original manager Brian Epstein on the 27th August 1967.  Klein had previously managed the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke.  Arguments between the band members erupted once again due to McCartney wanting John Eastman, brother of Linda Eastman whom McCartney had married on the 12th March 1969, to manage the band.  In order to appease McCartney, both Klein and Eastman were appointed but further conflict ensued and financial opportunities were lost.  On the 8th May 1969, Klein was named sole manager of the band.

Following the miserable experience that was the Get Back sessions and such was the ill feeling in The Beatles camp, Martin was surprised when McCartney asked him to produce another album.  The recording sessions for what would become Abbey Road started on the 2nd July 1969 and were equally fraught.  Lennon rejected Martin’s proposed format of a “continuously moving piece of music”, instead wanting his and McCartney’s songs to occupy separate sides of the album.  The finished format of standard individually composed songs on the first side of the album and the second side largely consisting of a medley was McCartney’s suggested compromise.

On the 4th July 1969, Lennon became the first Beatle to release a solo single, Give Peace A Chance, credited to the Plastic Ono Band.

The completion and mixing of the Lennon penned song I Want You (She’s So Heavy) on the 20th August 1969 marked the last time that all four Beatles were together in the same studio.

Lennon announced his departure from The Beatles to the rest of the band on the 20th September 1969 but agreed not to make a public announcement in order to avoid denting the sales of the forthcoming Abbey Road album, due to be released six days later.  The album sold 4 million copies within three months and remained at the premier position in the UK charts for a total of seventeen weeks.  Harrison’s composition Something was released as a single, notable for being the only Harrison song to appear as a Beatles A-side.

Abbey Road was met with mixed reviews, although the medley was generally acclaimed.  Whilst Martin describes Abbey Road as his personal favourite Beatles album, Lennon felt it was competent but lacking life.

On the 3rd of January 1970, the final song, Harrison’s I Me Mine, was recorded for the Get Back album.  Lennon, who was in Denmark at the time, declined to participate.

Klein was unhappy with the work that Johns had done on the project, and following the change of the album’s name to Let It Be, the session tapes were given to Phil Spector, who had recently produced Lennon’s solo single Instant Karma!

On receiving the tapes, Spector edited, spliced and overdubbed several of the recordings which had been intended to have the ‘live’ sound.  McCartney was horrified with the results and particularly criticised the orchestration work carried out on The Long and Winding Road, which included a fourteen voice choir and a 36 piece instrumental ensemble.  When his demands that the alterations to the song be reverted were ignored, McCartney announced his departure from the band on the 10th April 1970, just a week before the release of his debut solo album, Paul McCartney.

The Let It Be album was released on the 8th May 1970 with the version of The Long and Winding Road which McCartney hated so much being released as the lead single in the United States, but not in Britain.  The Let It Be documentary film followed later that month and went on to win the 1970 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.  Meanwhile, legal disputes between the Beatles continued long after the band’s break up and the dissolution was not made formal until the 29th December 1974.

As for the Let It Be album, Spector’s production work remained a bone of contention for McCartney for many years, until 2003 when he was the driving force behind Let It Be … Naked:  A presentation of the album in the form that he felt it should have been released in, complete with The Long and Winding Road without the production treatments which had finally forced him to quit the band.

Whilst the Beatles fought out their differences in the courts, McCartney and Lennon were also busy fighting each other on their subsequent solo releases.  On his second solo album, Ram (1971), McCartney and wife Linda made a barely concealed attack against Lennon on the opening track, Too Many People.  The song starts with the words “Piss off, cake”, a slur which McCartney would eventually admit was aimed at Lennon in an interview with Mojo Magazine in 2001:

“Piss off, cake.  Like, a piece of cake becomes piss of cake, and it’s nothing, it’s so harmless really, just little digs.  But the first line is about “too many people preaching practices”.  I felt John and Yoko were telling everyone what to do.  And I felt we didn’t need to be told what to do.  The whole tenor of the Beatles thing had been, like, each to his own.  Freedom.  Suddenly, it was “You should do this”.  It was just a bit the wagging finger, and I was pissed off with it.  So that one got to be a thing about them”.

The insults directed at Lennon on Ram did not go unnoticed by McCartney’s former songwriting partner and his wife, Yoko Ono.  They, and the record buying public, also noted lines such as “You took your lucky break and broke it in two”.  In an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon said of the damning lyrical content of Ram:

“There were all the bits at the beginning of Ram like “Too many people going underground”.  Well that was us, Yoko Ono and me.  And “You took your lucky break”, that was considering we had a lucky break to be with him”.

Additionally, Ram also featured the equally bitter song 3 Legs, in which McCartney uses the idea of a dog with three legs (“My dog, he got three legs, But he can’t run”) as a metaphor for the other three members of The Beatles, suggesting that they would never amount to anything without him.  The song also contains lyrics such as “Well, when I thought, well, I thought, When I thought you was my friend … But you let me down, ho, Put my heart around the bend” and “My dog he got three legs, your dog he got none”.

Already angry at the attacks delivered towards him on Too Many People, 3 Legs only served to exacerbate Lennon’s rage.   Also, on viewing the artwork for the Ram album, he noted the significance of the picture of two stag beetles mounting each other.  It would seem that McCartney was throwing down the gauntlet and Lennon was all too pleased to oblige.

In a game of one-upmanship which had started with McCartney pipping him to the post by being the first Beatle to publicly quit the sinking ship, Lennon penned a retort to his former band mate.  The resulting song, How Do You Sleep? was featured on Lennon’s second solo album Imagine (1971).  Particularly citing the insults directed at him on Too Many People as ammunition, Lennon pulled no punches in his assassination of his former bandmate.

How Do You Sleep? starts with the sound of an orchestra warming up in reference to The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and in particular its title track, the concept of which was introduced to the band by MacCartney.

Following this, we find the first incendiary lines, “So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise, You better see right through that mother’s eyes”.  The use of the word “mother”, a shortened version of the swearword ‘motherfucker’ is a rather direct retort to the “Piss off, cake” utterance in McCartney’s Too Many people.  This opening is also a further attempt on Lennon’s part to disassociate himself from The Beatles in order for him to be seen as an individual and solo artist.  This idea of severing all ties with his Beatles past was first seen on his song God from previous album John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band (1970) …

… which featured lines such as “Don’t believe in Beatles , I just believe in me …” and “I once was the walrus [in reference to The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus (1967)], but now I’m John”.

Following this, the line “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead” refers to the Paul is dead hoax, a conspiracy started by American college students in 1969.  The conspiracy suggested that McCartney has died following a car crash in 1967 and had been replaced by a doppelganger.  The students published articles claiming that clues to McCartney’s death could be found amongst the lyrics and artwork of the Beatles’ recordings.  This clue-hunting proved infectious and within a few weeks it had become an international phenomenon.  Clues were said to include a message saying “Turn me on, dead man” when Revolution 9, from The Beatles (1968) is played backwards …

… and the utterance of “I buried Paul” at the end of Strawberry Fields forever (1967), words which Lennon stated were actually “Cranberry sauce”.

In addition to the hundreds upon hundreds of suggested allusions to McCartney’s death, the cover photo of the Abbey Road album was said to symbolise a funeral procession, with Lennon, dressed in white, symbolising a clergyman or heavenly figure; Ringo Starr, dressed in black, symbolising either an undertaker or mourner; George Harrison, dressed in denim jeans and shirt, symbolising the gravedigger and finally, McCartney, shoeless and out of step with the other Beatles, symbolising the corpse.  In November 1969, McCartney gave an interview with Life Magazine in order to dispel the rumours.  In this line, Lennon is saying that McCartney is dead to him.

Following this, the line “The one mistake you made was in your head” is a retort to McCartney’s lines in Too Many People, “That was your first mistake” and “That was your last mistake”.  Following this, we find the song’s title sung as the refrain.  “How do you sleep?” is sung a total of eight times throughout the song, just in case McCartney didn’t get the point the first time.

The line “You live with straights who tell you you was king” are a gilded attack on the egotism that McCartney had displayed on Too Many People and 3 Legs, suggesting that he associates himself with sycophants who feed his ego.  “Jump when your momma tell you anything” displays McCartney as a ‘Mummy’s boy’.  This line can be seen as slightly hypocritical on Lennon’s part as whilst McCartney also lost his mother at a young age, the loss of Lennon’s mother, Julia, in a traffic accident in 1958 when Lennon was 17, was a major source of insecurity and fed many of his lyrics.  Obvious examples include Julia (The Beatles, 1968) …

… and Mother (John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, 1970).

This line is also a jab at McCartney’s title track of the Let It Be album which proved to be the band’s downfall, in which McCartney sings, “And in my hour of darkness, Mother Mary comes to me”.

Lennon further rubbishes McCartney’s back catalogue on the line “The only thing you done was yesterday, And since you’ve gone you’re just another day”.  The first song to be poked fun at in this double-pronged attack is Yesterday (Help!, 1965) …

… and the second is McCartney’s solo single, Another Day, released earlier in 1971.

The song’s outro begins with the lines, “A pretty face may last a year or two, But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do”.  This lyric refers to the way in which McCartney was often seen as the “pretty face” of The Beatles and suggests that McCartney is all front and no substance.  The following lines, “The sound you make is muzak to my ears, You must have learned something in all those years” are an equally debasing line which further states Lennon’s low opinion of McCartney’s increasingly sentimental songs, first expressed towards the end of The Beatles when he described McCartney’s lyrics as “granny music shit”.  The song that attracted such scorn from Lennon was Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles, 1968).  The outro of How Do You Sleep? could be read as entirely referring to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, with the words “A pretty face” also referring to a mistake that McCartney made whilst singing the song.  In the last verse, the line “Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face” was supposed to be “Molly stays at home and does her pretty face”.   Desmond.  Apparently, this mistake was kept in the song because the other Beatles, even Lennon, liked it.

To add further insult, Lennon even enlisted George Harrison to play slide guitar on the song and in the 1971 film Imagine, with Harrison playing alongside him, Lennon sings, “How do you sleep, ya cunt” before asking the engineer to stop recording.  Additionally, whilst Lennon is credited with writing the song alone, multiple reports suggest that Yoko Ono and Allen Klein, now Lennon’s manager, also contributed lyrics.  Ringo Starr visited the studio during the recording of the song and was reportedly upset enough to say, “That’s enough, John”.  However, for Lennon, this wasn’t enough.  Also note how the following song on Imagine is entitled How as if to emphasise the point of How Do You Sleep? still further.  And last but not least, the inside sleeve of the Imagine album features a picture of Lennon holding the ears of a pig, parodying the cover of McCartney’s Ram.

On the release of the Imagine album, Rolling Stone magazine described How Do You Sleep? as “horrifying and indefensible”.  In an attempt to defend himself, by the mid 1970’s, Lennon often said that he had in fact written the song about himself.  However, in his interview with Playboy in 1980, he said:

“I used my resentment against Paul … to create a song … not a terrible vicious horrible vendetta … I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and The Beatles, and the relationship with Paul, to write How Do You Sleep?  I don’t really go round with those thoughts in my head all the time”.

In his interview with Mojo Magazine in 2001, McCartney said of How Do You Sleep?:

“The answer to John was well – I was sleeping very well at the time.  Before John died, I got back a good relationship with him.  That was very special.  The arguments we had didn’t matter.  We were able to just take the piss about all those songs; they weren’t that harsh.  In fact, I have been thanked by Yoko and everyone else for saving the Beatles from Allen Klein.  Everything comes round in the end”.

Song of the Day: Movies in Music (Day Two). “Thunderball, Your Fiery Breath Can Burn the Coldest Man, And Who is Going to Suffer From the Power in Your Hand”.

Tom Jones’s Thunderball is one of the many James Bond themes to have become synonymous with the spy thriller series.  However, back in 1965, Jones wasn’t the only one who had his eye on the much coveted prize of having a song featured in one of the highly successful Bond films.  How different Thunderball, and the whole James Bond series, could have been if a song by an American country artist had been used.  Yes, it really could have happened because during the film’s production, the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash wrote and submitted his vision of a theme song for Thunderball.  Imagine if you will, Bond’s wardrobe consisting of cowboy hats and spurred boots as opposed to the very finest tailored suits that money can buy and you are just about there.

The writing of the Thunderball soundtrack was arduous to say the least.  Upon hearing what the new Bond film would be called, John Barry pondered for ages on how best to write a song with a title as vague as Thunderball before at one point, deciding that it could not be done.  Therefore, he titled the original title theme to Thunderball, Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.  This title was taken from an Italian journalist who, when Dr No was released in 1962, had dubbed Bond “Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”.

The resulting song Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was recorded by Shirley Bassey.  However, there were concerns about Bassey’s singing on the track and it was given to Dionne Warwick.  At the same time, John Barry created a longer introduction for the song so that the lyrics would not be heard until after the Thunderball title had appeared in Maurice Binder’s title design.  The song was eventually removed from the credits altogether after United Artists threw a spanner in the already complex works by suggesting that the theme song should have the film’s title in its lyrics.  To add to the confusion of finding a suitable theme song for Thunderball, when it was decided that Warwick’s version of Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang would be used instead of Bassey’s version, Bassey sued the film’s producers.  As a result, neither version of Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang appears on the resulting soundtrack album.  However, parts of Barry’s musical score for the song were later interpolated into the soundtrack.  On the soundtrack album, the remaining parts of Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang can be heard in the track Cafe Martinique played by full orchestra and jazz rhythm quartet and later as a bongo drum heavy cha-cha in the track Death of Fiona.  Interestingly, the death of Fiona scene takes places at Club Kiss Kiss.

In a last ditch attempt to write a theme song which would be deemed suitable by United Artists, Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and created the Thunderball song we all know and love in something of a rush.  During the recording of their new theme song, Tom Jones famously fainted in the studio after singing the song’s final high note.  In various interviews, Jones has said:  “I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning”.

Around this time, Johnny Cash’s self-written idea for the Thunderball theme song was making waves at production studio Eon Productions.  Cash’s Thunderball describes the film’s story with lyrics such as, “Money hungry minds need a thread to launch a scheme, But those, who hold the Thunderball, could rule the world, it seems, Cannot the peaceful world find the clue to where she’s gone. The silent sea won’t answer now but terror lingers on”, whilst the chorus of “Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man, And who is going to suffer from the power in your hand”  could only have been written by Johnny Cash.  The lyrical content of Cash’s Thunderball is put to a musical backdrop which, although as beautifully presented as always, would have been more at home in a Spaghetti Western than in a British film about a suave secret agent.  Musically, Cash’s Thunderball is similar to sections of Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to A Fistful of Dollars (1964).

And herein lays the problem:  Particularly in the early days of the James Bond films, Bond themes, always co-written by John Barry, presented a very particular brand of lyrical wordplay and lushly orchestrated and wholly British sounding musical content which Cash’s Thunderball didn’t have.  Perhaps if Cash had presented his idea for a Bond theme later in his life when the film studio was more accepting of different takes on how Bond should be presented in music, he could have easily had a Bond theme.

Cash’s poetic telling of the story in his Thunderball vision is a grand effort from the country star but musically would have fitted uncomfortably in the Bond theme canon.  Let’s just say, you can take the Man in Black out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the Man in Black.

Song of the Day: Places in Music (Day Four). “Oh Manchester, So Much to Answer for …”

Suffer Little Children, the final song on The Smith’s self-titled debut album (1984), is a chilling and sombre account of The Moors Murders, carried out by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady between July 1963 and October 1965.  It would be a further year before Hindley and Brady confessed to the murders and the full extent of the crimes that inspired Suffer Little Children would come to light.  At the time of the song’s writing and release, Hindley and Brady had both maintained their innocence and had not told the police about two of the murders, hence Suffer Little Children only including the names of three of the victims.

“Over the moor, take me to the moor, Dig a shallow grave, And I’ll lay me down”

The first victim of the killer couple was the 16 year old Pauline Reade, Hindley’s neighbour.  Reade had disappeared on her way to a dance at the British Railways Club in Gorton, Manchester, on the 12th July 1963.  On the same evening, Brady had told Hindley that he wanted to “commit his perfect murder”.  He told Hindley to drive her van around the local area whilst he followed on his motorcycle.  Upon spotting the victim for “his perfect murder”, he would flash his headlights and Hindley was to stop to offer that person a lift.

Driving down Gorton Lane, Brady saw a young girl walking towards them and signalled Hindley to stop, which she did not do until she had passed the girl.  Brady stopped his motorbike alongside Hindley’s van and demanded to know why she had not offered the girl a lift, to which Hindley replied that she recognised the girl as Marie Ruck, a neighbour of her mother’s.

Shortly after this failed attempt, at around 8pm, the couple were driving down Froxmer Street when Brady noticed a girl wearing a pale blue coat and white high-heeled shoes walking away from them.  Brady once again signalled for Hindley to stop.  Upon stopping, Hindley recognised the girl as Pauline Reade, a friend of her younger sister, Maureen.  Reade accepted a lift from Hindley.  Hindley told Reade that she had lost an expensive glove on Saddleworth Moor and asked if she would mind helping her to find it.  Reade said she was in no hurry and agreed to helping Hindley.

Reade was 16 years old, a few years older than their intended first victim, Maria Ruck.  Hindley realised that there would be slightly less commotion over the death of a teenager than there would be over a child of seven or eight.  Upon reaching the moor, Hindley stopped her van and Brady arrived shortly afterwards on his motorcycle.  She introduced him to Reade as her boyfriend and said he had also come to find the missing glove.  When questioned, Hindley told the police that Brady had taken Reade onto the moor whilst Hindley waited in the van.  After about 30 minutes, Brady returned alone and took Hindley to the place where Reade lay dying.  Her throat had been cut twice with a large knife, with the larger of these wounds being across her voice box.  The collar of Reade’s coat had been pushed into the wound in a deliberate fashion.

Whilst Brady had gone to find the spade which he had hidden nearby to bury the body, Hindley told of how she had noticed that Reade’s coat was undone and her clothes were untidy, leading Hindley to guess that Brady had sexually assaulted her.  However, Brady’s account of the murder differs greatly.  Brady claimed that Hindley was present at the crime scene and that she even took part in the sexual assault.  After burying Reade’s body, Brady put his motorcycle in the back of Hindley’s van.   Whilst returning home, Hindley and Brady passed Reade’s mother, Joan, who was accompanied by her son, Paul.  Hindley and Brady stopped to help Joan search the streets for her daughter.

Oh John, you’ll never be a man, And you’ll never see your home again”.

The second victim of The Moors Murders was 12 year old John Kilbride.  Hindley and Brady approached Kilbride at a market in Ashton-Under-Lyne in the early evening of the 23rd of November 1963.  The couple offered Kilbride a lift home, telling him that his parents would be worried about him being out so late.  They bribed Kilbride with a bottle of sherry and he got into the Ford Anglia car that Hindley had recently hired.  Once in the car, Brady told Kilbride that the sherry was at the couple’s home and that they would have to make a detour to collect it before dropping him home.  Once they were on their way, Brady suggested another detour to search for a glove which he said Hindley had lost on the moor.  Upon reaching the moor, Brady took to the child with him to supposedly search for Hindley’s glove whilst Hindley waited in the car.  Brady sexually assaulted Kilbride and attempted to slit his throat with a 6-inch serrated blade before eventually strangling him with a piece of string, possibly a shoelace.

“A woman said: “I know my son is dead, I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head.””

The third victim was Keith Bennett, who vanished from his grandmother’s house in Longsight, Manchester, during the early evening of 16th June, 1964, four days after his twelfth birthday.  Hindley asked Bennett for his help in loading some boxes into her Mini pick-up truck and told him that she would drive him home afterwards.  Once she had lured him into the pick-up truck, she drove to a lay-by on Saddleworth Moor, where Brady was waiting.  Once again, Bennett was told that Hindley had lost a glove and she had asked for his help in finding it.  Brady went with Bennett to find the fictitious glove.  Hindley kept watch until 30 minutes later when Brady reappeared, alone and carrying a spade which had been hidden there earlier.  When Hindley asked Brady how he had killed Bennett, he said he had sexually assaulted him and strangled him with a piece of string.

“Lesley Ann, with your pretty white beads”.

On the 26th December 1964, Hindley and Brady went to a local fairground in search of another victim.  They noticed Lesley Ann Downey standing beside one of the rides.  After realising Downey was on her own, they approached the 10 year old girl and deliberately dropped some of the shopping they were carrying close to her.  They asked for Downey’s help in carrying the shopping to the couple’s car and then to their home.  Downey agreed and once back at Hndley and Brady’s home, she was undressed, gagged and forced to pose for photographs before being raped and killed.  It is suspected that like the previous two victims, Downey was strangled with a piece of string.

When questioned about the murder, Hindley maintained that she had gone to fill a bath for the child and on returning found the girl dead, killed by Brady.  However, Brady stated that it was Hindley who killed Downey.  The morning after the murder, Hindley and Brady drove Downey’s body to Saddleworth Moor and buried her, naked with her clothes at her feet, in a shallow grave.

“Edward, see those alluring lights?  Tonight will be your very last night”.

The final victim of the couple was 17 year old engineer Edward Evans.  On the 6th October 1965, Brady had met Evans at Manchester Central Railway Station.  Hindley had driven Brady to Manchester Central Station and waited outside whilst Brady selected their victim.  After a few minutes, Brady reappeared with Evans, introducing Hindley as his sister.  Brady invited Evan’s back to the couple’s home at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in Hattersley, Manchester for a drink, where Brady beat him to death with an axe.

This murder was to prove to be the couple’s undoing, as now becoming cocky and complacent, Brady had attempted to recruit Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith into their murderous plans.  When the couple had arrived home with Evans, Brady had sent Hindley to fetch Smith.  On returning with Smith, Hindley told Smith to wait outside for her signal, a flashing light.  After the signal, Smith knocked on the door and was met by Brady who asked him if he come for “the miniature bottles of wine”.  Brady led Smith into the kitchen and left him there, saying that he was going to collect the wine.  A few minutes later, Smith heard a scream followed by Hindley shouting loudly for him to come and help.  Smith rushed into the living room to the sight of Brady repeatedly striking Evans over the head with the flat of an axe.  He watched in shock as Brady then throttled his victim with a length of electrical cord.  During the process of killing Evans, Brady had sprained his ankle and the body was too heavy for Smith to take to the car on his own.  They therefore wrapped the body in plastic sheeting and put it in the spare bedroom.  Smith agreed to help Brady to dispose of Evans’s body the following evening.  He went home and, horrified at what he had witnessed, told his wife, Maureen, what he had seen.  The couple called the police from a public phone box at 6.07am the morning after the murder, the police searched the house and found the body of Edward Evans and Hindley and Brady were arrested.

When interrogated about the events, Hindley said “Whatever Ian has done, I have done”, alluded to in Suffer Little Children with the line “Wherever he has gone, I have gone”.  Upon sentencing the couple to life imprisonment, the judge, Mr Justice Atkinson described Brady and Hindley as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”.

“Oh, find me … find me, nothing more, We are on a sullen misty moor …” 

Initially, the police were only aware of three killings, those of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride.  The investigation was reopened in 1985 after Brady was reported in the press as having confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett.  Hindley and Brady were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor to assist the police in their search for the bodies of Reade and Bennett, by then having both confessed to their murders.

Hindley was characterised by the press worldwide as “the most evil woman in Britain”.  She made several attempts to have her life sentence overturned, claiming that she was reformed and no longer a danger to society, but was never released.  Hindley died in 2002, aged 60 years old.  Brady was declared criminally insane in 1985 and has since been confined to the high security Ashworth Hospital.  He has made it clear that he never wants to be released and has repeatedly asked that he be allowed to die.

At the time of the murders, Morrissey was a child himself, being 4 years old in 1963, making the youngest victims not too much older than him.  The reaction in Manchester was one of horror and disbelief that such acts could happen and also that one of the perpetrators was a woman, perhaps why the song focuses more on Hindley than Brady.  In Suffer Little Children, Morrissey may allude to the shock felt that one of the perpetrators was a woman in the phrase “Hindley wakes …” Hindle Wakes is 1910 play by Stanley Houghton (which has since seen various film versions).  The play criticises the patriarchal society’s view that women, unlike men, are not governed by the laws of nature, primarily those related to sexual desires.  Therefore, by referring to the title of the play with the phrase “Hindley wakes”, Morrissey may be extending this criticism to include many peoples’ beliefs, particularly at the time of Hindley’s arrest, that a woman is not naturally capable of horrors such as the Moors Murders or that she could not have been a conscious participant, instead being manipulated by the man.

Morrissey wrote Suffer Little Children after reading Emlyn Williams’s book Beyond Belief: A Chronicle of Murder and its Detection (1967).  It was one of the first songs that lyricist Morrissey wrote with guitarist Johnny Marr.  The title of the song is taken from the Gospel of Matthew 19:14 in which Jesus rebukes his disciples for turning away a group of children by saying, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven”.

Suffer Little Children caused much controversy at the time of its release, particularly when placed in context of an album on which the opening song, Reel Around The Fountain, was said by many, including the press, to allude to a homosexual and potentially paedophilic relationship (“It’s time the tale were told, Of how you took a child, And you made him old”).

Similarly controversial at the time was track 5, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, which the press also suggested was about paedophilia.  These claims have been strongly denied by the band.

Suffer Little Children cause more controversy when it was featured on the B-side of the single Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (1984).  The single featured an image of 1960’s pools winner Viv Nicholson who bore more than a passing resemblance to Myra Hindley, something that many newspapers picked up on.  As a result, the single and album were both withdrawn from sale by some retailers, including Woolworths and Boots.  Despite this, Morrissey later struck up a close friendship with Ann West, the mother of victim Lesley Ann Downey, after she accepted that the band’s intentions had been entirely honourable.