The Trespassing, Photo-Robbing Fan That Inspired The Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”

When most people get their houses broken into, they file a police report. When it happens to Paul McCartney, he writes a song. Indeed, the meaning of The Beatles’ “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” is far more factual —and illegal—than many realize.

Videos by American Songwriter

“She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” one part of a 16-minute medley featured on the Beatles’ 1969 record ‘Abbey Road,’ sounds like the typical imaginative musings of McCartney and his bandmate, John Lennon. Their decision to place the track alongside songs like “Polythene Pam” and “Mean Mr. Mustard” only reinforced this idea. 

But as it turns out, the “she” in question had a name: Diane Ashley.

A Scruff Shimmying Her Way Into Paul’s Apartment

The meaning behind “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” starts with the Apple Scruffs, a group of devoted Beatles fans who regularly waited outside the band’s homes and frequented locales for a chance to interact with the Fab Four. One such scruff was Diane Ashley, who decided to pay Paul McCartney a visit in May 1968. 

The only problem, of course, was that Paul wasn’t home. Ashley describes the impromptu visit in Steve Turner’s book A Hard Day’s Write (via BeatleseBooks): “We found a ladder in his garden and stuck it up at the bathroom window, which he’d left slightly open. I was the one who climbed up and got in. I had a really great time!”

Thus, the seed for McCartney’s semi-autobiographical song was planted. The song begins, She came in through the bathroom window, protected by a silver spoon. But now she sucks her thumb and wanders by the banks of her own lagoon.

How A Fateful Cab Ride Helped Inform The Beatles’ Song Meaning

Two clues in the song’s second verse offer even deeper meaning to the Beatles tune. The first of which pertains to the lines, So, I quit the police department, and I got myself a steady job. According to McCartney, he gleaned inspiration from a taxi ride to JFK airport during a Beatlesmania tour in New York City. The cab driver displayed his identification on the dashboard, which read, “Eugene Quits — New York Police Dept.” 

In Kenneth Womack’s Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles, the musician relates, “So, I got ‘so, I quit the police department.’” This was the great thing about the randomness of it all. If I hadn’t been in this guy’s cab, or if it had been someone else driving, the song would have been different. Also, I had a guitar there, so I could solidify it into something straight away.”

The Lyrical Connection Behind A Stolen (And Later Returned) Photograph

To understand the meaning of the Beatles’ second half of the second verse, we must revisit the Diane Ashley incident. After Ashley shimmied through the bathroom window and unlocked the front door to let her fellow Scruffs inside, a precious family photo went missing from McCartney’s apartment. Margo Bird, a fellow Apple Scruff who occasionally acted as a dog-walker for the famous Beatle, offered her side to Turner. 

“I knew there was one picture he particularly wanted back,” Bird recalled. “A color-tinted picture of him in a Thirties frame. I knew who had taken this and got it back for him.” McCartney translated this theft into the lyrics, Though she tried her best to help me, she could steal, but she could not rob.

McCartney later wrote about the photograph in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. “I’m still amused by the description of the woman who could steal, but she could not rob,” he wrote. “A nice distinction if ever there was one. And that, of course, goes back to the fact that a woman did actually sneak into my house through the bathroom window that was a bit ajar. As far as I can recall, she stole a picture of my cotton salesman dad. Or robbed me of it. But I got the song in return.”

(Photo by Les Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Photo courtesy of Michael Ward's Facebook page

Former Wallflowers Guitarist Michael Ward Dead at 57