The Story and Meaning Behind “I’ve Got a Feeling,” the Beatles Song that Mashed Up Paul McCartney and John Lennon

The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney evolved during The Beatles’ amazing run. By the end of the band’s time together, the pair were mostly a collaboration in name only. But on “I’ve Got a Feeling,” they once again melded their talents for a fascinating hybrid of a song.

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What is the song about? How was it assembled? And why was it an accurate representation of where the two songwriters were at that point in their lives? To get all the answers, we have to go back to a somewhat fraught time in The Beatles’ history: the making (and unraveling) of their Let It Be album/film project.

Up on the Roof

The original idea behind Let It Be (or Get Back, as it was originally known) was for The Beatles to rehearse and learn new songs for a concert that would allow them to debut the material. All the while, cameras would track their progress. But their best laid plans soon turned to mush, forcing them to improvise.

When George Harrison temporarily quit the band over a spat with Paul McCartney, the only way he could be coaxed back was if they moved out of the soundstage where they had been working and returning to the more natural environs of the recording studio. In addition, since they could never agree on a location for the live show, they finally threw up their hands and did a quick but memorable show on the roof of the building that housed their Apple label.

To their credit, the four men (and special guest Billy Preston) performed marvelously that day, especially considering the windy, cold conditions. “I’ve Got a Feeling,” a song they had rehearsed at length during the sessions running up to that January day, was performed so flawlessly that the live version is the one you hear on the Let It Be album, which was finally released in May 1970.

A Fab Four Mishap

“I’ve Got a Feeling” is somewhat unique in The Beatles’ catalog in that it consists of two separate songs that were kind of jammed together. (“Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” a 1967 B-side, also came together in this fashion.) Paul McCartney worked on the main “I’ve Got a Feeling” section, while Lennon was writing a separate track, which would became the Everybody had a hard year part. Lennon and McCartney found that the two separate pieces worked well as one.

Many people have noted in the past how McCartney’s sunny optimism and Lennon’s dour pessimism complemented each other so well in their songs. But in the case of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” the contrast came not so much from personality, but rather from the circumstances of where the two were in their lives when they wrote and recorded the song. McCartney explained as much in the book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present:

“It had been a rough year or two for John. The breakup of his marriage. His estrangement from Julian. A problem with heroin. And there was the generally poor state of affairs in the band by this time. That’s encapsulated in the combination of the phrases ‘Everybody pulled their socks up’ and ‘Everybody put their foot down.’ Those lines refer in some way to the state of the nation, or the state of The Beatles.”

What is the Meaning of “I’ve Got a Feeling”?

It’s fair to say the balance the two songwriters bring to “I’ve Got a Feeling” is what sets it apart. McCartney, in a voice that’s somehow bluesy and joyous all at once, sings about realizing what a wonderful thing he’s found. The bridge, bellowed out by McCartney at the top of his register, explains his sudden bliss: All these years I’ve been wandering around / Wondering how come nobody told me / All that I was looking for was somebody who looked like you.

Contrast that to the first words Lennon sings, which, in the context of the song, really sting: Everybody had a hard year. That suggests that McCartney’s pronouncements are a kind of relief after a long period of turmoil. After that cold slap of an opening line, Lennon’s later comments about a good time and a wet dream seem hard to believe.

“I’ve Got a Feeling” stands out as one of the highlights of the star-crossed Let It Be album. It’s a song that proved that Paul McCartney and John Lennon could still make magic together, even if their process was a bit different from back in the old days.

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