Girl

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 November 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 6 December 1965 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead acoustic guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Rubber Soul
Love (iTunes bonus track)

The last song recorded for Rubber Soul, Girl was mostly written by John Lennon. It explored the notion of the ideal woman, and touched upon John Lennon's feelings towards Christianity.

Download on iTunes
This was about a dream girl. When Paul and I wrote lyrics in the old days we used to laugh about it like the Tin Pan Alley people would. And it was only later on that we tried to match the lyrics to the tune. I like this one. It was one of my best.
John Lennon

Of the Rubber Soul songs, musically it is most closely related to McCartney's Michelle, with its acoustic instrumentation, minor chord changes and skillful vocal harmonies. Part of the music was actually written by McCartney while on a Greek holiday in September 1963.

In the song Girl that John wrote, there's a Zorba-like thing at the end that I wrote which came from that holiday. I was very impressed with another culture's approach because it was slightly different from what we did. We just did it on acoustic guitars instead of bouzoukis.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Lyrically, meanwhile, it presented a femme fatale figure, 'the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry', whom the song's protagonist finds himself helplessly drawn towards.

Girl is real. There is no such thing as the girl; she was a dream, but the words are all right. It wasn't just a song, and it was about that girl - that turned out to be Yoko, in the end - the one that a lot of us were looking for.
John Lennon
Anthology

The sharp intake of breath during the chorus was either an approximation of lascivious heavy breathing, or a none-too-subtle reference to marijuana smoking. Much of Rubber Soul was recorded during The Beatles' heaviest pot-smoking phase, and by late 1965 they had become adept at inserting drug references into their songs.

My main memory is that John wanted to hear the breathing, wanted it to be very intimate, so George Martin put a special compressor on the voice, then John dubbed it.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The group's fondness for innuendo extended to the middle section's backing vocals, in which Lennon and McCartney repeatedly sang the word 'tit'.

It was always amusing to see if we could get a naughty word on the record: 'fish and finger pie', 'prick teaser', 'tit tit tit tit'. The Beach Boys had a song out where they'd done 'la la la la' and we loved the innocence of that and wanted to copy it, but not use the same phrase. So we were looking around for another phrase, so it was 'dit dit dit dit', which we decided to change in our waggishness to 'tit tit tit tit', which is virtually indistinguishable from 'dit dit dit dit'. And it gave us a laugh.

It was to get some light relief in the middle of this real big career that we were forging. If we could put in something that was a little bit subversive then we would. George Martin might say, 'Was that "dit dit" or "tit tit" you were singing?' 'Oh, "dit dit", George, but it does sound a bit like that, doesn't it?' Then we'd get in the car and break down laughing.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

After The Beatles split up Lennon claimed that Girl was inspired in part by his feelings towards Christianity. In March 1966 the journalist Maureen Cleave conducted an interview in which Lennon asserted that the group were "more popular than Jesus now", a remark which jeopardised The Beatles' career in many countries.

While considerably more subtle, Girl nonetheless betrays Lennon's fascination with religion. He later told Rolling Stone that his opposition to the church was due to his upbringing.

I was just talking about Christianity in that - a thing like you have to be tortured to attain heaven. I'm only saying that I was talking about 'pain will lead to pleasure' in Girl and that was sort of the Catholic Christian concept - be tortured and then it'll be all right, which seems to be a bit true but not in their concept of it. But I didn't believe in that, that you have to be tortured to attain anything, it just so happens that you were.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

Girl (LOVE Version) [iTunes Exclusive] - LOVEOn 8 February 2011 the Love album went on sale on Apple Inc's iTunes Store. Two bonus tracks were also made available: Girl and The Fool On The Hill.

The remix of Girl was the less adventurous of the two, but featured acoustic guitar from And I Love Her, drums from Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!, and a tambura drone.

In the studio

Girl was recorded on the evening of 11 November 1965, on the final night of recording for Rubber Soul.

The rhythm track was completed in just two takes, with a number of overdubs then added. These included a fuzz guitar part played by George Harrison, which was left off during the mixing stage.

27 responses on “Girl

  1. SD

    Both, Lennon and Harrison played acoustic guitars on the basic track. In addition, George overdubbed the acoustic 12-string (muted -though leaking – through the first two verses but remaining for the third verse).
    George also sings backing vocals.

  2. Roberta

    The feelings I had when I heard “Girl” for the first time are seared into my memory. I was 16 and I remember John’s sexy, SHOCKING intake of breath into the microphone while singing about a girl he admired for being able to torture him in this bad relationship. All of “Rubber Soul” was the first time that complicated, adult relationships were offered to us by anybody, and who better than the Beatles-who always respected their audience- to do it.

    1. Happiness is a warm gun

      Odd for me to read a comment like this because I *literally* grew up with this song and had for many years a child’s view of John not as a sexy music idol but more like an uncle I’d never met. “Sexy” is just not something I think when I hear John sing, no matter how much I love his voice, and I’ve heard this song so many times ever since I was a very little I’ve never given that breath much thought–it was just part of the song to me. The song’s very musical to me in a very charming, lovely way. It’s an old favorite of mine, but like many thing that you’ve had as part of your life that long, you get overly familiar with it and don’t think too much about certain details until someone else points them out to you.

      1. Rachel

        When I first put on a Beatles record as a little girl (it happened to be Beatles for Sale), sexy was the first thing I thought when I heard John’s voice. I guess it didn’t hurt that my parents also had a Herman’s Hermits album lying around. He put all those 60′s teenybopper voices to shame. They just sounded like dorks in comparison.

  3. carlos

    After the last verse an unusual instrument can be heard as a solo (along with the 12 strings acoustic guitar middle strings), it`s like a greek instrument, but it might be a 12 strings acoustic again with a studio technic work, if somebody knows…

    1. George Demake

      Hi Carlos, the instrument is called a bazouki. Interestingly enough there was a group from Greece during the 60s called “Trio Bel Canto”, who had a very western approach to greek music, and modeled their arrangements in similar fashion to the beatles who were their (and everyone else’s) biggest competition at the time.

  4. Joe Brooke

    Hello:
    I sincerely wish to ask about the Beatles’ song called, “Girl”.
    I am trying to find out the names of the bands that had played the latest or later versions of that song.
    I remember that in the very early 1980′s and maybe before, I did hear that song on radio stations that plays only instrumental versions of that song, such as KJAX in 1980 (in Stockton, California).
    I do really remember the instrumental versions of the Beatle’s song “Girl” played by bands that were not Beatles themselves–I was so fascinated and awestruck and would really love to hear such later instrumental version(s) of it.
    Can you find out who are the major instrumental bands that played that song??

    1. 2much4mymirror

      Allmusic.com is an excellent site that allows you to search any song and find virtually all the cover versions ever done of it. Many of the songs have samples you can listen to as well.

  5. Edward

    My opinion is that doesn`t matter what John may want to say about his inspiration for the lyrics, but definetely “the girl who came to stay” could not be anybody else but Cynthia, who being the mother of his child would be with him till death. And understanding that his “story” was “all about” her, well, that is. Can’t find another reason for her having to stay.

  6. FrankDialogue

    Beautiful arrangement, soulful vocal, wonderful song, nice Greek style guitar passages.

    I can relate to Paul’s lines about ‘A man must break his back to earn his day of leisure’ as I’m sure most men can…

    These songs really stand the test of time…Just compare with some current tripe like ‘You Can Blow My Whistle Baby’…LOL, what have we become!?

    1. Vince

      That line you’re referring to is most likely John’s, not Paul’s. John more than once spoke of these lines as his own critic against the catholic church. Then Paul, after four decades of memory-manipulating pot smoking suddenly claims he wrote them. Who do you believe? I can’t see such clever writing coming from him anyway.

      1. paulsbass

        I don’t see a reason not to believe Paul.
        If he says he added this “working like a slave for that woman” stuff, why should he lie?
        Could you give us the excact John quote about this line, or what “lines” are you talking about?
        And sorry, but your last sentence doesn’t sound as if you were much interested in the truth anyway because of a very clear bias against Paul.

        1. Vince

          I agree the last sentence sounds a bit harsh, i have no bias against Paul. I just don’t like it when the wrong guy gets the credit for someone else’s work, which i believe may have happened in this case. I don’t believe Paul’s been intensionally lying about it either. Pot smoking does that (manipulate) to your memory.
          And here is why i believe this is what happened in this case(from wiki):

          “According to McCartney, he contributed the lines “Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure” and “That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure.”[2] However, in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon claimed that he came up with these lines as a comment on Christianity which he was “opposed to at the time”. He explained: “I was just talking about Christianity in that – a thing like you have to be tortured to attain heaven. [...] – be tortured and then it’ll be alright, which seems to be a bit true but not in their concept of it. But I didn’t believe in that, that you have to be tortured to attain anything, it just so happens that you were.”[6]

          Funny he didn’t mention that he didn’t actually write this himself then, don’t you think?

          1. Cristina

            I see no contradiction. John could well have come up with the idea of what he wanted to say, and Paul with the lyric. The song doesn’t say “was she told when she was young you have to be tortured to attain heaven”, does it?.

      2. Ben Ramon

        Why must everything become a John v Paul debate? They most likely wrote this song together, with John having the bulk of lyrical and musical ideas and Paul helping out and fine-tuning. Also to suggest that Macca never writes clever lyrics is selling him extremely short.

        1. robert

          I want to know why it’s always called a ‘John v Paul debate’! I think in all fairness it should be called a ‘Paul v John debate’ – at least 50% of the time – I mean after all!

          1. FLFIORE

            Girl’s melody, the part “when you say she’s looking good, she acts…” is very similar to “Young love”, a song from the early sixties (or late 50s?) that may have been known to the Beatles, given that it was later covered by Apple artist Mary Hopkin. This is a very fine recording as well, worth listening to. Anybody agrees?

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