She Said, She Said - The Beatles

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"She Said, She Said" - The Beatles (1966)

“She Said, She Said” evoked Lennon’s prickly view of the world around him.

Lennon admitted in 1968 that when he wrote it- it meant nothing, but was “vaguely” inspired by someone who had said something to the effect that he knew what it felt like to be dead.

Twelve years later, the story of that person being Peter Fonda (pre-”Easy Rider” fame) comes into the fore with Lennon claiming the song was written after an acid trip in Los Angeles with The Byrds and Peter Fonda who whispers in Lennon’s ear “I know what it’s like to be dead.”

After an argument with McCartney over how the song should be performed, McCartney left the studio in a huff and didn’t play on the track with George overdubbing the bass part on Paul’s Höfner.

The song has been defined as an example of “oral poetry” rotating around itself. It’s been described as a “schizophrenic composition”- built on two seemingly disparate pieces, fused together to make a deeply unsettling, yet addictive, whole. Its greatest achievement lies in the masterstroke of word painting which lends real pathos to an otherwise undistinguished text.

The backing track has a heavy feel applied to everything including the drums that make the track sound as if recorded surrealistically too close up. Ringo literally holds the song together with a complex, free-form style which includes “circular” patterns and slow-cresting crash cymbals. His disembodied drum beat, all taking place in a different universe to everything else in the music but still slotting in perfectly.

There is a certain circularity in George Harrison’s lead guitar responses to Lennon’s vocal lines as the song is musically without development and rotates around itself. The lead guitar follows John’s vocals through an euphoric path of the song. John will sing a line and the guitar will follow, each note mirroring the inflections of John’s words. The guitar and John are saying exactly the same thing but in different vernaculars.

The texture of the song enables John to convey his thoughts from his very warped subconscious to the listener with his eerie and dreamy style. It is lyrically cerebral, which forces the listener to think about its effect in order to absorb and feel it.

Musicologist Tim Riley interprets the main storyline of the song in this way: After a woman tells the singer she knows what it’s like to be dead it makes the singer feel like he’s never been born. His thoughts become scattered, and the confrontation sets off nagging worries and renewed aggravation.

Riley concludes:

“Her smugness makes him feel small and defenceless. Because Lennon so obviously feels these emotions as he plays and sings them, the music is a direct connection to his psyche.”

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