The Word - The Beatles

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"The Word" - The Beatles (1965)

Lennon said that “The Word” was actually about “getting smart” which probably meant “seeing the light” either with or without the aid of drugs or pot.

This was the first song Lennon had written with the intention of imparting knowledge. A “gospel” song- if you will.

McCartney remarked:

“This could be a Salvation Army Song.”

Some Beatle scholars contend that while the composition was first perceived as simply another love song, it is generally understood now to mean that John was singing about “freedom” and “light” in a very evangelistic sense. It was an attempt to define love on a universal, spiritual level, rather than the personal, erotic sense.

In fact, “The Word” only nominally directs its attentions to a specific love interest. Love is presented as a spiritual idea- an attitude that moves one closer to God. The repeated final lines transform the word into a mantra, a method of attaining higher consciousness. The song declares love to be “so fine/It’s sunshine,” promising listeners that if they, too, spread the word, it will set them free.

The track has an instantly attractive melody and a truly fantastic groove. It blends in jangly-pop verses with an unusual type of three-part harmony which The Beatles didn’t do all that often- but when they did- it was a real treat. Equally sprinkled throughout are well-cued shakers and timely tambourine playing.

McCartney’s razzle-dazzle piano playing in the introduction gives listeners a taste of what is to come in the coming years of Beatle music with Ringo supplying a steady stream of backwards fills. On the bass, McCartney delivering a spectacular, spontaneous lines- perhaps the most interesting one he had created to date.

Beatle author Jonathan Gould describes how the verse features a simple bluesy melody set to a rolling heartbeat of bass, drums, piano, and syncopated squawks on guitar:

“Later, in the solo break the shrill whine of George Martin’s harmonium joins the song, sounding like a church organ in the throes of a crisis of faith.”

Gould called the lyrics “an affectionately parody of the marriage of sacred and secular” which he believes lay at the heart of all soul music.

The centrality of interdependence as a theme for the Beatles’ work makes a powerful emotional statement about their own interpersonal orientations. Viewing relational connection as an innate social virtue, the group creates a roadmap on how to reach the ultimate goal of a fulfilled life.

The Beatles consistently espoused the view that all things are fundamentally interrelated and part of a single, underlying reality. In many of their songs- particularly on “The Word,” this commitment to metaphysical monism comes through as it accentuates the unity and interrelatedness of all things.

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