The song with which The Beatles began the Rubber Soul sessions, John Lennon’s ‘Run For Your Life’ was based around a line from an Elvis Presley song.

‘Baby, Let’s Play House’, recorded by Presley in 1955, had been written the previous year by a 28-year-old songwriter called Arthur Gunter. It was loosely based upon ‘I Want To Play House With You’, a 1951 country and western hit for Eddy Arnold, written by Cy Coben.

Now listen to me baby
Try to understand
I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
Now baby

Come back, baby, come
Come back, baby come
Come back, baby
I wanna play house with you

‘Baby, Let’s Play House’
Arthur Gunter

Gunter’s song was a fairly straightforward statement of desire. Lennon, meanwhile, took the words and turned them into a menacing threat full of possessiveness and jealousy.

I never liked ‘Run For Your Life’, because it was a song I just knocked off. It was inspired from – this is a very vague connection – from ‘Baby, Let’s Play House’. There was a line on it – I used to like specific lines from songs – ‘I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man’ – so I wrote it around that but I didn’t think it was that important.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

Lennon later expressed his dislike of the song, saying he “always hated” ‘Run For Your Life’. In 1973 he described it as his “least favourite Beatles song”, although he did claim that it was liked by George Harrison.

Just a sort of throwaway song of mine that I never thought much of, but it was always a favourite of George’s.

It has a line from an old Presley song: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man” is a line from an old blues song that Presley did once.

John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The lyrics recall Lennon’s previous excursions into misogyny, ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ and ‘You Can’t Do That’, both from A Hard Day’s Night.

John was always on the run, running for his life. He was married; whereas none of my songs would have ‘catch you with another man’. It was never a concern of mine, at all, because I had a girlfriend and I would go with other girls; it was a perfectly open relationship so I wasn’t as worried about that as John was. A bit of a macho song.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for Run For Your Life

In the studio

‘Run For Your Life’ was recorded on 12 October 1965, the first session for the Rubber Soul album. After four incomplete attempts The Beatles recorded the backing track on the fifth take.

Onto this they overdubbed tambourine, acoustic guitar, electric guitars and backing vocals. The session took four and a half hours from start to finish.

Previous song: ‘If I Needed Someone’
Next album: Revolver
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