5 Hidden Parts of Beatles Songs You’ve Probably Missed

If you only count the music they released while they were still together, The Beatles‘ catalog consists of less than 200 songs. Considering how beloved the band is, and that we’ve had over half a century to obsess over their music, you’d think their fans would know every nook and cranny of their material.

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We’re willing to bet, however, there are specific nuances and hidden aspects of some of these songs of which you might not be aware, even if you do love the band. Let’s see if you’ve noticed these five subtleties within the music of the Fab Four.

Some Sexual Innuendo on “Please Please Me”

This one is hiding in plain sight. The early Beatles cultivated an air of innocence that was part of their draw. They were also clever in writing wish-fulfillment songs to their female audience, with songs like “Thank You Girl” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sounding like direct messages to the girls screaming for them. But the lyrics to “Please Please Me” often get overlooked as nothing more than catchy words that fit the meter well. Inspect them closely, and you’ll discover a narrator complaining of sexual frustration, in part because the girl he’s dating is not, shall we say, reciprocating when they’re alone together.

An In-Joke in “What Goes On”

“What Goes On” might just be the oddest song on The Beatles’ 1966 album Rubber Soul. First, there’s the strange writing credit: Lennon-McCartney-Starkey. By most accounts, John Lennon wrote the bulk of the song, but Ringo Starr, who sang lead, changed some lines here and there. Lennon also plays some seriously deranged rhythm guitar throughout the track. But the part you might have missed comes at the end of the second verse, when Starr sings, Tell me why. Listen real close in your headphones, and you’ll hear Lennon yell, “We already told you why,” a reference to the fact the Fab Four had already released a song called “Tell Me Why” in 1964.

The Sneaky Rhythms of “A Day in the Life”

Can you imagine there’s any stone left unturned in the analysis of this hallowed song? Well, here’s one. In the first three verses, the musical backing is subtle, almost weightless, as it’s mostly confined to Lennon’s acoustic guitar, Paul McCartney’s steady but unassuming bass, and some quiet piano chords. Starr’s drum fills heighten the drama but don’t sustain a constant beat. Then comes the wild crescendo, leading into McCartney’s Woke up, fell out of bed part, where there’s a steady piano pulse beneath him. After the modulation back into the final verse, that jumpy beat and bouncy piano from the middle section is now accompanying Lennon, as the musical elements from the different part of the song magically cohere.

The Unresolved Ending of “I Am the Walrus”

Most of the discussion surrounding “I Am the Walrus” focuses on its lyrics, as Lennon had some fun with all the would-be interpreters of his work by fashioning words that were purposely meant to mislead. But the music of “I Am the Walrus” also deserves a lot of recognition, as it places those wild lyrics in a surreal setting. As the song fades out to its conclusion after the final goo goo goo joob is uttered, you might get distracted by the crazed messages of the backing vocalists or the Shakespearean interruption. Don’t overlook the fact The Beatles created a variation on a Shepard tone by having the strings rise and the bass fall, making it seem like the song is going out in a never-ending spiral.

Lennon Sped Up and Slowed Down on “Across the Universe”

“Across the Universe” never quite got a fair shake from The Beatles. The beautiful Lennon composition suffered from a thrown-together first version, featuring distracting backing vocals from untrained singers. Then producer Phil Spector gave it a somber, overly lush production on Let It Be. What you might have missed is Lennon’s vocals are never reproduced at their actual speed on either take. On the version first released on a World Wildlife Fund benefit album and now found on Past Masters, Volume Two, his vocals are slightly sped up via VariSpeed in the production process. On the Let It Be take, Spector slowed them down. To hear Lennon’s vocal at the actual speed in which he sang it, check out the Let It Be… Naked version.

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