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A few possible song inspirations
27 December 2015
11.42am
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leoc
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Okay, here are some apparent sources of inspiration for a few of the Beatles' songs which have been on my mind for some time but which I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere or haven't been able to confirm (or disconfirm). I'll lay them out here in case anyone would like to argue about them. I don't have a deep Beatles library so it's perfectly possible that some of these have been in black and white somewhere for ages.

(Sorry if this is in the wrong section, but there doesn't seem to be a more obvious place for it and I didn't want to split it into separate posts for each song.)

  • "Can't Buy Me Love ": This one is something I'm pretty sure I didn't notice myself. I'm sure I recall one of the Beatles in the Anthology video saying that "Can't Buy Me Love " was a conscious attempt to write something in the style of Peggy Lee's "Fever", but I haven't been able to confirm it. I didn't imagine that, did I?
  • "In My Life ": There's a resemblance between the words—not the original "bus trip" lyrics, but the version that actually got recorded—and those of "Non, je ne regrette rien" which may or may not be more than a simple coincidence. The telling bit is the new-lover conceit—"And these memories lose their meaning/When I think of love as something new" and so on—which is introduced with the second verse. This doesn't seem to have any precedent in Lennon's actual life up to then—obviously he was over a year from first meeting Ono, and he never seems to have loved Cynthia like that—but it does echo the ending of "Non, je ne regrette rien": "Because my life, because my joys/Today, they start with you" ("Car ma vie, car mes joies/Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi"). On the other hand it's clearly not impossible that Lennon could have come up with the idea completely independently: for one thing he was already yearning for some kind of ideal woman, and for another it's a relatively obvious way to give the lyric resolution and steer it back into safe love-song territory. (Shirley Bassey actually had a small top-40 hit with a version of "Non, je ne regrette rien" in mid-'65, but I assume it probably wasn't a factor.) If you do assume that "Non, je ne regrette rien" was an influence on the lyrics, then when you squint at the "In Your Life" melody it's not too hard to imagine "Non, je ne regrette rien" as a possible starting-point for the work on that too. It certainly doesn't seem more of a stretch than the reported Smokey Robinson influence.
  • "And Your Bird Can Sing ": Little uncertainty here: lyrically it's Lennon's take on "The Nightingale" by Hans Christian Andersen. Cut-and-pasting myself from elsewhere:
     

    It has to be mostly about “The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen. The narrator is the nightingale, the person he’s addressing is more or less the Emperor of China, and “your bird” is the singing mechanical bird. In Andersen’s story, the mechanical bird can be understood by the rational, analytical mind, which is why the emperor’s music-master, a clever intellectual, likes it so much. The nightingale represents real beauty and creative genius, which cannot be owned, controlled or even fully understood; but it’s he who returns to save the emperor when the mechanical bird is indeed (partly) broken and the emperor is deathly ill. It’s easy to see how Lennon, a creative but mostly unschooled songwriter—and someone who felt himself an outsider in the world of the wealthy and educated—would want to identify himself with Andersen’s nightingale.

  • "Across The Universe ": Musically it's clear this was developed from "Over the Rainbow", particularly the middle eight and the famous "If pretty little bluebirds fly..." coda. (Not only was "Over the Rainbow" one of the Beatles' old cabaret-friendly numbers ("we thought it was Gene Vincent, so we were happy to do it") but it was Lennon who sang it!)

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28 December 2015
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Where is this information from? It's interesting. You've started a great thread.

Only music can save us.

29 December 2015
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leoc
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Thanks! The information on Lennon singing "Over the Rainbow" for the Beatles comes from the Anthology book. This is the translation of "Non, je ne regrette rien" I quoted from. As I mentioned, I think the "Fever" connection is acknowledged in the Anthology video, but I'm not able to confirm or disconfirm that at the moment. The other three possible connections are my own speculation. But more broadly, there doesn't seem to be any dispute that the Beatles (perhaps Lennon especially?) sometimes wrote songs by starting with someone else's song, or at least the musical idea or hook from someone else's song, and working from there. The "You Can't Catch Me "/"Come Together " bother seems to be the most obvious proof of that.

29 December 2015
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leoc
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My goodness! I knew I was forgetting something:

  • "Your Mother Should Know ": "Puttin' on the Ritz". "If you're blue and you don't know where to go to ..." It's not just a song based musically on "Puttin' on the Ritz", to a large extent it's a song about "Puttin' on the Ritz". Irving Berlin's song first became a hit in 1929, 38 years before Magical Mystery Tour  and so just about long enough to have been "before your mother was born".

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leoc said
<snip> But more broadly, there doesn't seem to be any dispute that the Beatles (perhaps Lennon especially?) sometimes wrote songs by starting with someone else's song, or at least the musical idea or hook from someone else's song, and working from there. The "You Can't Catch Me "/"Come Together " bother seems to be the most obvious proof of that.

*sings* I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man... 

Yep. 

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5 January 2016
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This is a theory only... I post it here because it seems like the appropriate thread. I'm curious if anyone else has thought of this.

"Revolution #9"

John Lennon was watching a movie called Arabesque when he came upon the idea to compose Revolution #9. In the movie, Sophia Loren demands of a drug-addled Gregory Peck where to find the 'cypher'. He responds that Number Nine has it, right before entering a mind-altered drug 'trip'. The movie was made in 1966.

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5 January 2016
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Yoko has a Twitter acount and answers questions from time-to-time. Maybe you could ask her.

I wish we could ask John 🙁 [sniffle]

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While John may well have seen the film, I doubt it had any influence on Revolution 9 .

Firstly, it has to be remembered, that R9 wasn't really composed but rather constructed around the last six minutes of take 20 of the original recording of Revolution  (which would go on to become Revolution 1  after the single version was recorded).

Secondly, the recording was not in any way meant to represent a drug trip, which is the connection that seems to be being made, but rather an audio representation of the sound of a Revolution , as John commented to Rolling Stone in 1970:

Revolution 9 was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of a Revolution . All the thing was made with loops. I had about 30 loops going, fed them onto one basic track. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects. One thing was an engineer's testing voice saying, 'This is EMI test series number nine'. I just cut up whatever he said and I'd number nine it. Nine turned out to be my birthday and my lucky number and everything. I didn't realise it: it was just so funny the voice saying, 'number nine'; it was like a joke, bringing number nine into it all the time, that's all it was.

Nine was a recurring number in John's life. Remember, one of his early songs was One After 909  and in the solo years he'd do #9 Dream. John would often point out the significance of the number to him in interviews over the years. Joe has an interesting article on John's relationship with the number.

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7 March 2018
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leoc
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I think "Here Comes The Sun " may owe something musically to Mason Williams' "Classical Gas", which had been a hit in 1968.

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8 March 2018
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leoc said
I think "Here Comes The Sun " may owe something musically to Mason Williams' "Classical Gas", which had been a hit in 1968.  

Very astute. I'd never thought of that, but as I recall in my mind, "Classical Gas" has a few resemblances to "Here Comes The Sun "  -- example, the syncopated play with meter in terms of an acoustic guitar doing bass-note-punctuated arpeggios which evokes the "Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes" part. 

 

I'd have to listen more closely to cmopare and find other similarities.  The two are of course different in tone, the former is more driving while the latter is more lilting.

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2 May 2018
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leoc said

    • "Your Mother Should Know ": "Puttin' on the Ritz". "If you're blue and you don't know where to go to ..." It's not just a song based musically on "Puttin' on the Ritz", to a large extent it's a song about "Puttin' on the Ritz". Irving Berlin's song first became a hit in 1929, 38 years before Magical Mystery Tour  and so just about long enough to have been "before your mother was born".

 

The Magical Mystery Tour film takes the conceit or joke even further: the Beatles actually put on the Ritz for the song about "Puttin' on the Ritz", the song about putting on the Ritz.

14 September 2018
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Pineapple Records said

I'd never thought of that, but as I recall in my mind, "Classical Gas" has a few resemblances to "Here Comes The Sun "

I assume that nearly every young guy with an acoustic guitar and a collection of pop records in 1968 had mucked around with trying to play "Classical Gas", including Harrison.

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4 October 2018
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All My Loving seems to have been unconciously inspired by a melody line from Kathy's Waltz, a track from the Dave Brubeck Quartet album Time Out. I've never seen the connection mentioned in any Beatle book, but you can hear the similarities here:

https://www.whosampled.com/sam.....9;s-Waltz/

4 October 2018
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Tony Japanese said
All My Loving seems to have been unconciously inspired by a melody line from Kathy's Waltz, a track from the Dave Brubeck Quartet album Time Out. I've never seen the connection mentioned in any Beatle book, but you can hear the similarities here:

https://www.whosampled.com/sam.....Waltz/  

I can't imagine this was where they got it from. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think they were big jazz listeners (aside from Jim's influence) and considering that Paul wrote a melody to fit pre-existing lyrics with their own phrasing it's a very different circumstance to say, Yesterday , on which Paul came up with the melody before the lyrics and so was worried that he'd subconsciously plagiarised it. 

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