Getting Better - The Beatles

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"Getting Better" - The Beatles (1967)

There are two versions of the origins of the origins of “Getting Better.”

When Jimmy Nicol - the drummer who replaced an ailing Ringo on one of their tours, was asked by Paul and John after every show how he was getting on, Nicol would say “It’s getting better.”

The second version comes from a conversation McCartney had with author Hunter Davies who was writing a book about the group. As they were discussing the weather, McCartney said: “It’s getting better” and then cracked up, thinking of the old joke.

According to Davies, when John visited that evening, Paul asked him to help write a song around the theme.

In 1980, Lennon revealed:

“It is a diary from of writing. All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart form the things she loved’ was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically…any woman, I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and hit. I hit women.”

As usual, McCartney’s view of the track was the complete opposite:

“It’s an optimistic song. I often try and get on to optimistic subjects in an effort to cheer myself up and also, realizing that other people are going to hear this, to cheer them up too. This was one of those.”

In the opening guitar riff - George Martin played it by striking the strings inside of his piano with a mallet.
The musical focus is on the elaborately detailed arrangement and the conjuring of a particular Pop/Jazz/Rock aesthetic fusion that was a McCartney specialty. Paul’s bass line is active and upbeat.

The song also mixes in perfectly played bongos, at the time- an uncommon instrument in rock or pop.
It shows the brilliance of The Beatles’ backing vocals which always vary emotionally to fit the song’s mood. It starts off taking the form of a “confessional” address to the audience on how the narrator used to be “mad at his school and that the teachers who taught him weren’t cool, but in the end, it turns out to be a love song, as it’s getting better/since you’ve been mine.”

“Getting Better” could be interpreted to be about personal transformation. The speaker had once been frustrated, angry, cruel, violent, and mean, but now, since getting “the word” he’d changed his “scene” and everything was getting better.

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