Recorded in February 1965,c" was the Beatles’ attempt to mimic the three part harmonies of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. They would not take another stab at a three part vocal harmony until Because on Abbey Road.
Lennon said it was him trying a rewrite of the earlier song “This boy “but it didn’t quite work.” McCartney commented “It was a very fine song of John’s a ballad, unsual for him. I was there writing it with John , but it was his inspiration.”
An under-appreciated and overlooked song it features clever lyrics, a sharply charachterized mood, and a rich, harmonic palette. This was the first Beatle song where they used guitar effects with George employing a tone pedal on the track which uses an effects pedal to add a Nashville sound to it as well as an eerie, almost otherworldly quality to the overall production.
Whereas Harrison had once needed Lennon’s help to mask the envelope of his guitar signal in this new device did that electronically as the volume/tone pedal could alter the tone’s dynamic (or, as in a wah-wah pedal, harmonic) profile after its articulation by the hand.
The singer states his wish to avoid painful memories of a previous relationship. He appeals to his current girlfriend to not wear red, since this would remind him of the “other” girl and all the plans they had made. The song incorporates strong emotions but washes them in personal reservations.
Says Beatle scholar Ian MacDonald: “The tone is postively 19th century in its haunted feverishness, its Poe-like invocation of the color scarlet, and its hint that the lost lover of the lyic is dead. Though Lennon was often brusquely unfeeling with women, his behavior hid an idealist who believed in destiny and the One True Love. “
It’s been suggested that the song is about Lennon’s late, red-haired mother Julia and ties in with the creeping nagging sense of death that permeates throughout as Lennon castigates himself to his inability to forget this idolisation in the presence of a woman who could make him happy if he could lose his ideal.
Musicologist Alan Pollack praises the song for the “manner in which the tyrannical, debilitating power of . . . memory is contrasted with the simple, mundane objects and sensations of life which are capable of triggering such hot flashes.”
Professor Ken Womack adds:
“Performed in the darkish hues of a minor key—so dark, in fact, that listeners might understandably wonder if the speaker’s former love had died, rather tragically, in youth, instead of merely dumping him summarily, the song cautions his beloved’s successor that wearing a red dress will conjure up powerful memories of the past, a painful nostalgia for which he has no antidote.“I could be happy with you by my side,”he admits, while claiming that his indefatigable pride in the face of a public breakup apparently prevents him from moving forward. Yes It Is clearly exists as one of the Beatles’ more mature pre-1966 compositions about nostalgia’s potency.”