You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

Help! album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 18 February 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 6 August 1965 (UK), 13 August 1965 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: bass guitar
George Harrison: acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, maracas
Johnnie Scott: tenor flute, alto flute

Available on:
Anthology 2

One of the highlights of The Beatles' Help! album, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away was also the first of their songs since 1962 to feature a session musician.

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The song also demonstrates the increasing influence of Bob Dylan upon John Lennon's songwriting in 1965. Interestingly, The Beatles were beginning to record with acoustic instruments at the same time that Dylan was picking up an electric guitar.

That's me in my Dylan period again. I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Like the title track of the Help! album, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away was a chance for Lennon to lay bare his emotions in song.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is my Dylan period. It's one of those that you sing a bit sadly to yourself, 'Here I stand, head in hand...' I'd started thinking about my own emotions. I don't know when exactly it started, like I'm A Loser or Hide Your Love Away, those kind of things. Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would try to express what I felt about myself, which I'd done in my books. I think it was Dylan who helped me realise that - not by any discussion or anything, but by hearing his work.
John Lennon

The opening lines of The Beatles' song bear a resemblance to I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Have Never Met), which appeared on Dylan's 1964 album Another Side Of Bob Dylan.

Here I stand, head in hands
Turn my face to the wall
If she's gone I can't go on
Feeling two foot small
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
The Beatles
I can't understand, she let go of my hand
And left me here facing the wall
I'd sure like to know why she did go
But I can't get close to her at all
I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Have Never Met)
Bob Dylan

During the recording Lennon mistakenly sang 'two foot small' instead of 'two foot tall'. "Let's leave that in, actually," he told his childhood friend Pete Shotton. "All those pseuds will really love it."

It has been suggested that the song was written for The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, who was a homosexual. Lennon and Epstein went on holiday to Barcelona, Spain together in April 1963; upon their return rumours began to spread in Liverpool that the pair had shared a sexual experience.

Although this was always denied by the pair, The Beatles' biographer Hunter Davies later claimed that Lennon did admit to him, off the record, that an encounter took place in Spain. "John wasn't a homosexual but he was daft enough to try anything once," Davies wrote in The Beatles, Football And Me, his 2006 autobiography.

Whether the song relates to the incident, or even to Epstein, is debatable. It has also been claimed that You've Got To Hide Your Love Away was about an affair with a woman that Lennon was having at the time.

In the studio

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away was recorded in the afternoon of 18 February 1965. The Beatles taped nine takes, only two of which were complete.

Anthology 2 featured take five, the other full version recorded. It also incorporated a count-in from the aborted take one, and John Lennon saying that McCartney had broken a glass in the studio.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away was the first Beatles song since Love Me Do to feature an outside musician. Johnnie Scott, a flautist and musical arranger, first recorded a tenor flute as The Beatles taped their parts. He then overdubbed an alto flute part to complete the song.

They told me roughly what they wanted, ¾ time, and the best way of fulfilling their needs was to play both tenor flute and alto flute, the second as an overdub. As I recall, all four of them were there and Ringo was full of marital joys; he'd just come back from his honeymoon.
Johnnie Scott
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

26 responses on “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

  1. B,n

    Lennon played a 12 string on this, it would be nice if you wrote how many string all guitars in all songs had (except six string guitars, they are unnecessarily to note specifically)

  2. SD

    It’s not an all-acoustic recording because Paul is definitively playing bass on it (rather than guitar)… watch the scene from the “Help!” movie and listen to the record!

    1. Mike

      Although you are correct about the bass, the scene in the movie proves nothing. Scenes are set-up for cinematic purposes, not accuracy. One scene in the Bahamas (“Another Girl”? – can’t remember which song) shows all four swapping instruments throughout. Meaningless.

  3. SD

    The 4-track-recording features:
    – the rhythm track with Lennon’s strummed acoustic twelve-string Framus, Paul’s bass and Ringo’s brushed snare (left channel on CD)
    – Ringo’s overdubbed tambourine, Harrison’s acoustic guitar and maracas on a second track (right channel)
    – Lennon’s vocal and one flute on a third track
    – second flute on the fourth track
    (Tracks 3 and 4 are mixed in the center)

  4. shekespeare

    Es uno de los mejores momentos de Lennon en plan Dylan. El primer verso es realmente impactante
    Here I stand head in hand
    Turn my face to the wall
    If she’s gone I can’t go on
    Feelin’ two-foot small…

    1. Tweeze

      That’s debatable. He sings off-key in many instances — BUT he apparently did so on purpose to achieve the Dylan-effect and ultimate sincerity. It is definitely John projecting fully into the song.

    2. Richard

      And this makes me wonder if the source of this depression was his marital status, “officially” locked to Cynthia and Julian, even though he was hardly faithful, and that exposed to all his friends and entourage. I doubt the loss of Julia play much of a role in the song. It’s one of my favorite Lennon compositions. The cover, by “The Silky” was a huge hit in the New York area, when I was a teen, and still very palatable today.

    3. Mike

      Best-ever? Not really. Off-key in spots and tired/lazy. It does add to the effect and mood, and may have been done on-purpose. But not the “best” by any means.

  5. trum

    I think Harrison’s part is incredibly underrated in this song. The part he plays on six string really brings the whole song together, it took me years to notice what he was playing. He’s not playing straight chords as Lennon is, he’s playing a melody. It’s beautiful, and the song would be incomplete without it. Doesn’t trouble me to say that the day I properly noticed what he was playing I just burst out crying. His guitar is way low in the mix. I always just heard the Lennon chords. Listen for the Harrison guitar. It’s worth it 🙂

  6. Cole

    I feel like John may have been talking about the days when he had to hide Cyn away from the public. It seems like it was really embarrassing for him to be married and also to have to hide it from everyone.

    1. michael

      All the guitars are tuned in E minor? Where on earth did you get that idea?

      Nobody tunes a guitar to an open minor chord (at least experienced guitarists don’t). There’s not even one minor chord in this song!

  7. Steve

    Sorry, to clarify. The tuning is a lowered tuning.
    The guitars are tuned down half a step to D?-G?-C?-F?-A?-D? / E?-A?-D?-G?-B?-E?.
    This makes the song in the key of Gb.
    Gives it a much more melancholy sound than the standard tuning.

    Lots of artists/bands have used this tuning routinely e.g. Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.
    See Shifted Tunings on this wikipedia page for more examples.



  8. Graham Paterson

    I loved this song when I first heard this on The Love Songs compilation and then later when I got a copy of Help!, the album it originally was off. I love the scene with this song on it in the film Help! Whilst John Lennon was influenced by Bob Dylan, this was still very much his song and a real step forward in his writing. I just love the opening of this song and its whole feel. A song he was justifiably always proud of.

  9. DarrenS

    When I first saw help in the early 80’s, this was the one song that jumped out at me. I loved it instantly. Still do. It is so well done, easy to play on guitar and nearly perfect (to me). Might be my favorite of theirs attributed solely to John. Just beautiful.

    Not sure about the tuning. When I play it along with the recording, I use G to start and it seems fine.

  10. spudis

    The article says “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away was recorded in the afternoon of 18 February 1965. The Beatles taped nine takes, only two of which were complete. Anthology 2 featured take five, the other full version recorded.”

    I’m wondering if this is true because on the Anthology video, there is a version of this song with only John and his guitar, as a tribute to Brian Epstein after the documentary covers his death. This version has a completely different vocal from either the released track or the Anthology CD release. Anybody know where this comes from?

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